SOUTHAMPTON’S Jonny Malbon knows how little time he has left to prepare.

Arguably the newest sailor in the 30-strong fleet, Malbon and his new Lymington-built boat Artemis missed out on racing in the key Artemis Transat in the early spring.

They only just managed to be ready to compete in the Artemis Challenge round the Isle of Wight race during Cowes Week.

Now, with just three weeks left until the start of the 24,000-mile epic adventure, Malbon is facing up to the reality of his biggest challenge yet.

“There’s a huge amount of trepidation and fear of the unknown,” he said. “The longest amount of time I’ve spent onboard the boat is three weeks so three months is going to be a huge leap but I wouldn’t be putting myself through it if I didn’t think I could cope with it.

“I’ve done about 7,000 miles on the boat on my own which is a lot.

“I’m comfortable with the programme and with what I’ve got to do.”

Malbon has years of experience and has been involved with a host of top-name campaigns.

He has been boat captain for both Ellen MacArthur and fellow Vendée Globe competitor Brian Thompson before joining the Ocean Village-based Artemis team in 2006.

Realising his potential, bosses elevated him to skipper in 2007 – but is that enough to compete in the Vendée Globe?

“Well, that’s the big question,” he said. “I don’t know the boat well enough and I haven’t pushed it in the conditions that I need to. What I know I’m good at is being safe and getting the boat round, and when maybe half the fleet aren’t going to finish that can be a good option.

“I’ll take a leaf out of others’ books and sail conservatively, and hopefully the guys who are going hell for leather will fall by the wayside.

“There’s two ways of racing, both competitive and adventurous, but I will be going for the slightly more conservative approach for sure.

“We’re certainly getting there. We’ve got a lot to do but we’re feeling pretty good about it.

“I’m going to be short of time but that’s something I have to accept and I will have to learn along the way.”

As with all solo races, one of the hardest points is kissing goodbye to loved ones.

Countdown to the Vendée Globe. Skipper profile – Jonny Malbon MORE than 2,500 people have climbed Mount Everest. 450 have been into space. But only 60 people have sailed single-handed, non-stop around the world – and survived.

The Vendée Globe sailing race is largely regarded as the single most difficult sporting challenge on earth.

Three months alone at sea covering 24,000 miles, a wind-chill of -20C and 5,000 calories of freeze-dried food a day are just some of the challenges the skippers have to look forward to.

The race has been dominated by the French since its inception in 1989 – but now, for the first time, seven of the 30 skippers are British, and six of them are from Hampshire.

With just three weeks until the start of the race, SailSolent takes a look at solo sailing newcomer Jonny Malbon.

Newcomer Jonny is ready to learn en route to finish “The start will be horrendous, the scariest thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “Leaving family, friends and the team will be awful.

“It will be a real test for me, but I’m excited by it now. We’ve had a difficult year and now I just want to get on with it.”

When you talk to Malbon, one thing is clear – he is a realist who knows he does not have the experience of others such as Mike Golding.

But that does not detract from his dogged determination to sail the race of his life.

“The Vendée Globe is the biggest challenge of my life,” he said. “It’s been a challenge just to get to where we are, it will be a challenge to get to the start line and to finish the race would mean everything to me.”