A TRIO of up and coming sailing stars have qualified for one of the toughest solo events in the world, the Daily Echo can reveal.
Today marks the one month countdown to the start of the gruelling Solitaire du Figaro – and newcomers Rich Mason, Sam Matson and Alan Roberts will all be on the startline.
The 2,000-mile race is among the most feared and respected in offshore sailing, and is considered the training ground for the Vendee Globe non-stop round the world race.
Mason, Matson and Roberts qualified for the Solitaire under the tutelage of the Artemis Offshore Academy, Britain’s first and only elite offshore sailing school.
The threesome will join four other Hampshire-based sailors lining up for this year’s race – the most Brits the race has ever seen.
Among those returning to the race are Southampton sailors Sam Goodchild and Jack Bouttell, who both set records in last year’s race.
Goodchild finished 11th overall, the highest rank ever achieved by a British sailor, while Bouttell became the first Brit ever to win the ‘rookie’ division for newcomers.
Lymington’s Mason, 26, Southampton’s Matson, 23, and Roberts, 24, have spent the last six months training for the Solitaire, which starts in France on June 8.
Mason said: “We’ve been training hard in the Figaro for the past eight months, and to be selected to compete in the Solitaire this year means that our efforts on and off the water have paid off.
“The Solitaire du Figaro is what we’ve all been working towards, and I’m really excited to take part in prestigious race and take on this huge challenge.”
Roberts added: “To compete in the Solitaire du Figaro means everything, it’s everything we’ve been working towards with the Academy since we started in training.
“We are still on a huge learning curve, and the 2014 mile race will be one of my biggest sailing challenges to date.
“It will be an experience and I'm proud that I’ve earned my place to compete.”
The Academy, based in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, is on the hunt for 2014-15 squad members and is accepting applications for the selection trials taking place between July 14 and 16.