All but one of the Artemis Offshore Academy team are raring to go

British up-and-coming solo sailors are gearing up for their first race of the season.

The ICOM Cup, which starts in just one week’s time, will mark the start of 23 events in the Artemis Offshore Academy programme.

The academy provides a UK training programme of

excellence for British sailors, enabling them to

develop the solo and shorthanded sailing skills and knowledge needed to

compete on the world stage of solo offshore racing.

Jack Bouttell, racing the Artemis 77 yacht, and Ed Hill, on Artemis 37, are fired up for their first ever solo offshore race but British sailor Mark Andrews has stepped down from solo sailing to focus on double-handed Figaro programme.

Mark, who

finished seventh at the 2012 Finn World Championships, hopes his decision will give him more

time to campaign in his Olympic class dinghy.

He said: ‘I

have made the difficult decision not to pursue this season’s

single-handed offshore programme and will instead focus on double-handed

and fully crewed offshore racing that can run alongside my Finn

programme.

‘I’ve put in a lot of work in the last few months, however,

after the first solo 24 hour training race I suspected that solo racing

may not be for me and I wanted to make my decision early so that another

sailor could campaign Artemis 23 for the season.’

While Nick Cherry will take the reins of Artemis 23 for the 2013 season

after the ICOM Cup, fellow graduate sailor Henry Bomby is set to race ’23’ when the ICOM Cup Meditéranée begins on 6 March.

The three-stage race starts from the academy’s winter training centre, the Centre d’Entrainement Méditerranée (CEM),

in La Grande Motte, France, and heads to Marseille, followed by a day

of inshore racing and then a longer race back to La Grande Motte.

For Ed Hill and Jack Bouttell it will be the first solo offshore race of their careers.

Jack, of Southampton, Hampshire, said: ‘Solo

racing is something that I have been working towards for a long time.

Now that I have the opportunity with the Academy to do it, I’m really

looking forward to the challenge.’

Development squad sailor Ed, also of Southampton, added: ‘It means a lot to be competing in the ICOM Cup – it means that I am moving towards my goal of being competitive in the Solitaire du Figaro.’

In preparation for the ICOM

Cup the Academy soloists have been working hard with coach Nico

Berenger, spending many long, hard and, not to mention, cold weekends

working on their boats, learning how to use and repair onboard

electronics, familiarising themselves with the engine and carrying out

general maintenance to be race ready.

Jack added: ‘I’ve made lots of little

modifications to my boat to make life easier like re-wiring it to keep

things simple, hanging new stacking nets and getting 77 in shape for

measurement, as well as adjusting the tiller height so I can steer with

my bottom while gybing!’

The

Solitaire du Figaro, the pinnacle race of the season, will run from 2-23 June.

To view the full Artemis Offshore Academy 2013 Race Programme, click here.

Keep up with the latest news from the academy squad via its website, Facebook and Twitter.