Portland sailor Mark Andrews is among six new recruits to pass a gruelling selection to join a prestigious offshore academy.

Andrews, is best known for Finn Sailing in the Olympic classes Skandia Team GBR development squad, working as a training partner for Ben Ainslie in the run up to the home Games.

The 26-year-old took on the Artemis Offshore Academy 2013 Development Squad selection trials as a way to move into short-handed offshore racing, with his sights set on one day competing in the Volvo Ocean Race.

Sixteen hopeful candidates were put through their paces in the 52-hour selection trials, which included a range of activities at the Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy plus fitness testing, psychology, high and low rope activities at Wokefield Park, Berkshire.

Alongside Andrews, the six new members selected include Dyfrig Mon, 24, from West Glamorgan, Southampton’s Jack Bouttell, 21, Alex Gardner, 22, and Ed Hill, 29, and the sole female sailor Nikki Curwen, aged 23 from Bournemouth.

They will line up alongside existing squad members Robin Elsey, Lizzy Foreman and Sam Matson to complete the 2013 development squad.

Their training is due to start in early November at the home of the Artemis Offshore Academy in Cowes, Isle of Wight before they move to France, ahead of their first solo race in spring 2013.

Andrews, of Castletown, said: “It is great to have been given this chance to prove myself as an offshore sailor.

“We have some good sailors in the squad and it would be great to be able to play the French at their own game and win.”

The panel of judges and experts, including record-breaking sailor Dee Caffari and former Royal Yachting Association CEO, Rod Carr, the field of play manager at the 2012 Olympics sailing competition, were looking for candidates who not only demonstrated technical sailing ability but also mental toughness.

Performance director John Thorn said: “The 2012 selection trials have been the toughest yet and we are really pleased with the standard of applicants and their performance during the trials.”

The development squad is split between full and part-time members.

The pinnacle race of the 2013 season for the majority of squad members will be the Solitaire du Figaro and with limited places available the full-time sailors will be competing for a spot on the starting line next year.

As well as offering intensive coaching in short-handed offshore racing, the development squad will receive training in meteorology, navigation, onboard systems, boat maintenance, sponsorship procurement, French language and fitness.

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