THE dress rehearsals were well and truly over for 2014 Artemis Offshore Academy rookie Rich Mason (Artemis 77) yesterday as he set off on his first ever solo offshore Figaro race – the Solo Maître Coq.

Starting from the iconic sailing port of Les Sable d’Olonne, Figaro first-timer Mason, along with fellow Academy rookies Sam Matson and Alan Roberts, made his way out of the famous Vendée Globe canal to the start line.

This is a path trodden by British offshore greats such as Dame Ellen MacArthur, Mike Golding, Alex Thomson and French legends Michel Desjoyeaux and François Gabart, to name but a few.

Previously a 470 sailor training at Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, Mason has come a long way since starting his solo Figaro preparations just five months ago.

Lined up with the 40-boat fleet docked on the famous Vendée Globe pontoons in Les Sables d’Olonne, Mason was raring to go ahead of the race.

He said: “I can’t wait to get out there now, this race is what we’ve been working towards.

“The atmosphere in Les Sables d’Olonne has been great and it is going to be pretty special sailing out of the famous Vendée Globe canal to the Solo Maître Coq start line as we take our first steps in the Figaro, which is the first rung on the ladder towards one day taking part in the Vendée.”

Taking with him enough pre-made fajitas to feed a small army, and also plenty of water, Mason should finish the race, which spans 320 miles between French islands île de Ré, île d’Yeu and Belle île sometime before lunch on Saturday.

Conditions for the race are expected to stay light with sunshine for the duration, which will make for a tactical and at times frustrating race demanding intelligent sailing.

You can follow Mason’s progress via the live race tracker and news section at artemisoff