CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Devon Life today CLICK HERE

Going solo

PUBLISHED: 11:13 10 June 2014 | UPDATED: 11:13 10 June 2014

Sam Matson, 23, graduated from the University of Plymouth with a first class degree in navigation and marine science and then set sail for a lifetime of adventure.

Sam Matson, 23, graduated from the University of Plymouth with a first class degree in navigation and marine science and then set sail for a lifetime of adventure.

Tom Gruitt

Devon sailor Sam Matson tells CHRISSY HARRIS about the challenge of ocean yacht racing

There is nothing plain about sailing a 33ft boat single-handedly across more than 2,000 miles of open sea.

Up to 45 yachtsmen and women will be doing exactly that when they take part in La Solitaire du Figaro race in June, considered to be the world championships for solo sailing.

This year’s race is making history by stopping off in Plymouth for the first time, to the delight of the people and businesses that have campaigned to win this prestigious event for the city.

Thousands of spectators are expected to line the waterfront to witness the awesome sight of 45 beautiful yachts sailing by.

Among the race’s competitors is local lad Sam Matson, 23, who graduated from the University of Plymouth with a first class degree in navigation and marine science and then set sail for a lifetime of adventure.

Devon Life caught up with Sam and his fellow competitors ahead of the four week-long Solitaire, which arrives in Plymouth on 11 June.

“I absolutely love sailing into Plymouth,” says Sam, who lives in Exmouth. “I always have a big smile on my face when I come back here and sail past the Breakwater and see Drake’s Island. There’s no place like home and it’s great that we’re stopping off here.”

Sam is now training full-time with the Artemis Offshore Academy and has been a member of the squad since 2010.

He managed to combine his passion for yacht racing while studying for his degree - but that was nothing compared to the challenges he has faced since.

“There’s nothing else like it, it’s a massive learning curve,” says Sam. “You spend three or four days by yourself, racing a boat, sleeping for ten minutes or so at a time. You are pushing yourself to the max constantly. The hardest part is the sleep deprivation. All the scariest moments I’ve had have been sleep related.

“It happened recently when I had a quick nap and realised I was on the wrong side of an island. I wasn’t facing the way I thought I was. When it’s three or four o’clock in the morning and pitch black you have to think quickly.”

Just living aboard one of these boats is tough, let alone competing to win a race.

The cabin inside Sam’s yacht is basic, to say the least. There is one spot where there is just about enough space to stand, if you don’t mind holding your head at a slight angle (more if you’re Sam’s height)..

There is a very basic stove, for heating up freeze-dried food and a computer – Sam’s lifeline to the outside world.

“You do get used to the lifestyle and, luckily, I don’t mind being on my own,” says Sam.

“There is always a lot to do to keep you busy. I reckon competing in a race like this is like having your own Formula One car and having to do all the pit-stops yourself.”

Needless to say, much of the action on this vessel happens up top. Sam took us out for a spin past the Breakwater and became a Gor-Tex-clad blur in a web of ropes and sail-cloth.

This yacht racing at a world-class level is definitely not as easy as it looks.

“It’s physically and mentally very demanding – there’s no sport like it,” says Sam.

The Solitaire sailors will stop over in Plymouth on 11 June, where they will take part in a short race inside the Breakwater.

Sutton Harbour master Pete Bromley says he’s delighted the city can be a part of such a prestigious event: “It’s going to be great for Plymouth. We’ve got the ideal location here in Sutton Harbour. We can control the tide times and it’s sheltered. But most importantly, people can come and see it all happening. It’s how you get people interested and how you breed the next generation of sailors.”

Matching yachts

La Solitaire du Figaro, Eric Bompard Cachemire 2014 is considered the unofficial world championship of solo offshore sailing.

The Class Figaro circuit is known to be a training ground for ambitious skippers looking to take on the Vendée Globe – a non-stop, around the world, solo race.

La Solitaire du Figaro is raced in 33ft boats, called the Figaro Bénéteau II.

The boats are all identical, bar their branding.

The smallest gains in speeds during the race can mean the difference between first and last place.

The 2,014-mile race will start in Deauville, France on 8 June.

You can learn more at, and


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Devon Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Devon Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Devon Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from People

Friday, December 7, 2018

Devon Life received this heartfelt letter from Mr Michael Thompson, of Torbay, which is felt particularly poignant to share with our website audience at this time of year

Read more
Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Bursting with festive inspiration, KATE WILLIAMS seeks out the best presents for a perfect Devon Christmas

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Devon has had more than its fair share of high achievers over the years but how well do you know our county’s singers, authors, sportspeople, explorers and TV personalities? This is an edited version of a quiz compiled by MARGARET BRECKNELL in the December 2018 issue of Devon Life

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

PHILIP DALLING recalls two Exmoor legends who shared a deep love of the moor and its natural resources, and gained national fame through the media

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

In the month when we mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, STEVE ROBERTS highlights the terrible cost in human lives it inflicted on the county of Devon

Read more
Friday, November 16, 2018

Actor Tom Burke talks to JUDI SPIERS about his production of Don Carlos staged by his own theatre company Ara, in association with Exeter’s Northcott Theatre

Read more
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

In the latest in her series throughout 2018 profiling inspirational women, KATE HASKELL talks to England Women’s Cricket Captain, Heather Knight

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

There is more to Georgia Toffolo than an award-winning TV show, as HOLLY EELLS discovers

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

Striving to be the best in the world, homegrown Devon professional squash player Lyell Fuller is seeking sponsorship to help reach his goal. KATE WILLAMS finds out more

Read more
Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Tavistock Rugby Club in Devon is celebrating after being awarded a grant of £2,500 to fund private showers for referees at their Sandy Park ground, as part of rural energy provider Calor’s annual funding scheme

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Devon’s Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, also known as The Black Farmer, tells KATE WILLIAMS about his new book, Jeopardy, encouraging the embracing of risk to enrich life

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

As five members of Dartmoor Search and Rescue Ashburton celebrate 125 years of collective volunteering, we look back on their time with the organisation

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

CAROLYN SEAGER reveals how long after her mother’s death she discovered her amazing career in the service of her country

Read more
Tuesday, September 18, 2018

An author known for her novels depicting life on the Channel Islands is nonetheless happiest writing from home here in Devon

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search