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Vendée2020Vision: The final four

by Whitecap 29 Jun 2017 21:20 BST 29 June 2017

In its quest to determine the best candidates to follow in the footsteps of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, Dame Ellen Macarthur, Mike Golding and Alex Thomson as Britain's next top singlehanded offshore racing star, Vendee2020Vision has further refined its squad of sailors down from six to four.

The scheme, run by Whitecap Ltd in Southampton, provides vital training for its candidates in their goal to win singlehanded offshore racing's ultimate event: the Vendée Globe. The quadrennial solo non-stop round the world race is next due to take place in 2020 and throughout its history has been French-dominated. British sailors have finished second twice (Alex Thomson in 2016-17 and Dame Ellen Macarthur in 2000-01) and twice finished third (Mike Golding in 2004-05 and Alex Thomson in 2012-13), but ultimate victory has eluded them.

The Vendee2020Vision squad of four for this season comprises:

Andrew Baker – 27, from Saintfield, Northern Ireland

Like all top sailors, Andrew has a solid dinghy racing background and represented Ireland in the Olympic Laser dinghy at European and World Championship level. His aim was always to graduate up to yacht racing and he fulfilled the first step of his dream when, in 2014, he was selected for the Artemis Offshore Academy. In 2016 Andrew competed in his second season of racing in the Figaro class.

Lizzy Foreman – 26, from Surrey

Lizzy came from a strong dinghy racing background, making her transition to yachts via the RYA British Keelboat Academy before getting selected for the Artemis Offshore Academy. Lizzy spent several seasons developing her skills, racing in 21ft long ocean-going Minis before completing the class' premier event, the Mini Transat in 2015 from France to Guadeloupe.

Sam Goodchild - 27, from Falmouth, Cornwall

Sam grew up sailing with his family in the Caribbean and in 2011 was among the first wave of recruits into the Artemis Offshore Academy becoming the academy's first graduate to be selected to compete in the Figaro class' ultimate event, La Solitaire, which he has now raced four times. For his age, Sam has unprecedented offshore experience and over the last three years has transferred his skills to Volvo Ocean Race boats, MOD70 trimarans, Class40s and IMOCA 60s competing on round the world and Atlantic race tracks. He has also been part of several record attempts on board the modified Volvo 70 Maserati and the MOD70 Phaedo. He is also a key member of the Spindrift racing team.

Will Harris – 23, from Weybridge, Surrey

Will benefitted from elite level coaching from an early age, when he won a place in the RYA National Youth Squad aboard a 29er skiff. While still attending Southampton University Will was selected as a part time member of the Artemis Offshore Academy. After graduating, he became a full time sailor and started to train solo in the Figaro class. In July 2016 he achieved his best result, winning the competitive Solitaire du Figaro Rookie prize becoming only the third ever British sailor to win this trophy.

A new training program on shore has been developed this year, with meteorology tuition coming from Volvo Ocean Race navigator Libby Greenhalgh, who has been coaching the sailors in round the world race routing and meteorology. Medical and self treatment training, equipping the sailors with skills to resolve medical issues on board, has been provided by Dr Mark Tomson of Medical Support Offshore (MSOS). Physical training, management of individual programs and evaluation has been delivered by Chris Szchedlak of Southampton University. Finally, Alec Wilkinson of Elite Sports Media, has been carrying out media training, helping the sailors fine tune their skills, in order to communicate their stories more effectively to media and fan audiences.

Among other events, this season the Vendee2020Vision sailors will get to compete in the Rolex Fastnet Race on board the scheme's IMOCA 60, Artemis Ocean Racing. Subject to additional funding, two will then go on to compete in the challenging doublehanded Transat Jacques Vabre race from Le Havre in north France to Salvador de Bahia in Brazil starting in November.