Luminaries gather for launch of Transatlantic race

Some of the greatest stars from the world of solo sailing gathered in London yesterday for the official launch of the 13th edition of the oldest solo race in history. Formerly known as the OSTAR, the Artemis Transat will start from Plymouth on 11th May 2008.

It is an event rarely seen in the sporting world of solo sailing, the gathering of many of the great solo sailors from the past, present and future – Dame Ellen MacArthur, who won the race in 2000 aged 23 years and went onto finish 2nd in the solo Vendee Globe, stood alongside Mike Richey (aged 90) who competed in every edition of the race from 1964 onboard the famous Jester.

The first edition of the race in 1960 was founded by Lt Col Blondie Hasler and Sir Francis Chichester (Gipsy Moth III, shown in the picture above) who was the first to reach New York after 40 days – it now takes the modern-day IMOCA 60 racing machines a little over 10 days to cross the 2800-mile course to Boston. “I think the reason The Artemis Transat is so special is that it is THE race that kicked off and started solo sailing,” commented MacArthur. From the other side of the channel came French legends Loick Peyron, who won the race twice in 1992 and 1996 – only he and Eric Tabarly hold that claim to fame – and Florence Arthaud who achieved unprecedented levels of acclaim in her home country for her participation in this race and the solo Route du Rhum.

Britain’s Mike Golding OBE (Ecover) who won the race in 2004 has every intention of defending his IMOCA 60 title but he will be facing tough competition from the other skippers representing one of the strongest field of IMOCA 60 solo skippers in the history of the race. Fellow Brits Brian Thompson (Pindar), Jonny Malbon (Artemis Ocean Racing), Dee Caffari (Aviva) and Samantha Davies (Roxy) all pose a strong threat, whilst the combined force of the very best of the French solo sailors including Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia), Seb Josse (BT), Vincent Riou (PRB) and Roland Jourdain (Veolia Environnement) to name a few, will make the IMOCA 60 title a hotly contested affair.

Alex Bennett (Fujifilm), who will be racing in the smaller Class 40 fleet, carries the hopes of the host city Plymouth on his shoulders and he will be racing against up to 15 other Class 40 skippers including Italian maestro Giovanni Soldini and, hopefully, Florence Arthaud.

The Artemis Transat will start on Sunday, 11th May, 2008 from Sutton Harbour Plymouth and will finish at Rowes Wharf, Boston Harbour Hotel, Boston whilst the smaller Class 40 fleet will finish at the Corinthian Yacht Club, Marblehead. 2008 entry list for The Artemis Transat at 15.2.08:

Akena Veranda – Arnaud Boissieres (FRA)
Artemis – Jonny Malbon (UK)
Aviva – Dee Caffari (UK)
BritAir – Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA)
BT – Sebastien Josse (FRA)
Ecover – Mike Golding (UK)
Foncia – Michel Desjoyaux (FRA)
Pakea Bizkaia 2009 – Unai Basurko (BASQ)
Pindar – Brian Thompson (UK)
PRB – Vincent Riou (FRA)
Roxy – Samantha Davies (GBR)
Veolia Environnement – Roland Jourdain (FRA)
Generali – Yann Elies (FRA)
Cervin En R – Yannick Bestaven (FRA)
Gitana Eighty – Loick Peyron (FRA)
Groupe Bel – Kito de Pavant (FRA)
Safran – Marc Guillemot (FRA) Class40
Appart’City – Yvan Noblet (FRA)
Fujifilm – Alex Bennett (UK)
Groupe Partouche – Christophe Coatnoan (FRA)
Mistral Loisirs-Elior – Thierry Bouchard (FRA)
Ocean Eleven – Louis Duc (FRA)
Prevoir VIE – Benoit Parnaudeau (FRA)
Telecom Italia – Giovani Soldini (ITA)
Miranda Merron (UK)
Patrick Carpentier (FRA)
Halvard Mabire (FRA)