Solo sailor Pip Hare, author of our Advanced Sailing Series, shares her experiences with Yachting World in this blog

23rd April 2012

In Brittany the crowds will be descending on Concarneau on
Sunday (29 April) for the start of the next big transatlantic race, the AG2R.




16 teams will race in 31ft Figaro 2’s from Brittany, through
the Canaries and then on to St Bart’s in the Caribbean.




It’s a tough race attracting some of the top sailors from
the Figaro class; the competition will be full on, identical boats pushed by
identically driven and talented sailors all with the sole goal of making it
there first.




Among the entries this year is our own British Team of Sam
Goodchild and Nick Cherry, sponsored by Artemis and trained through the Artemis
Offshore Academy; these guys have been living Figaros for well over a year now.




Like me, Sam and Nick’s primary focus has been on Solo sailing, the main event of
the year will be the Solitaire de Figaro but double handed racing runs
alongside most single handed campaigns. With all the dedicated solo classes
having double handed races as well; they provide a different dynamic, a chance
to compete alongside instead of against some of your competitors and keeping
the calendar alive and interesting.




So what is it that makes a good double handed crew?
Naturally a good balance across the board of all the skills it takes to make a
distance sailor and expertise in different areas is primary, however after that
most of it comes down to personality.




A small annoying tick can escalate to mammoth proportions
after a couple of weeks together in a small boat; an inability to communicate
can destroy team spirit, ruin strategy and potentially lead to basic mistakes.
Losing trust in a co-skipper will result in lack of sleep, a culture of blame
and ultimately this will have a detrimental affect on the boats performance.




So how will our Brits get on? Here’s my take from the
outside.




Two very different people driven by a common goal; Nick
Cherry has a mind which goes in a thousand different directions at a time,
slightly chaotic but very effective. He is dedicated and interested in many
things, lives life at a breakneck pace and gives his all. His sailing
credentials are impeccable and he will take to this campaign a mentality that
will always be looking for ways to improve, to go faster to push harder.




Sam Goodchild the youngest of the pair has a slightly calmer
air; equally talented but with his experience lying in short handed and
offshore Sam is unbelievably focussed. His attention to detail is never ending;
having already suffered a retirement from the TJV last year he is leaving no
stone unturned and no eventuality unconsidered to make damn sure they will make
it across the pond this time. Sam’s dedication to the sport is immense and
seldom does he allow his gaze to ever waver from the end goal; the Vendee globe
– and I for one am sure he’ll make it.






So these guys have complimentary and diverse skills, they
know each other well having trained and lived together for over a year but
above all of this they are friends.


Yes we are professionals, we are all serious about what we
do; driven to succeed and take the investments of our sponsors seriously but
that does not mean we don’t have fun.




We sail because we love it and sailing with friends is some
of the best fun that can be had.




I believe that Sam and Nick are a fiercely strong team, they
are motivated and I believe capable of winning.




However more
certain than that I am also sure they are going to have a blast.




Good luck guys, I look forward to seeing the videos when you
get in.

Demi Cle race

16th April 2012

The Atlantic mini season has kicked off with all the promise
of a wild year ahead; a closely competitive fleet, a demanding course with
tide, rocks and some interesting navigation, all topped off with a wind which
built to over 30 knots through the night. What more do you expect this is mini
racing at it’s best.


As those who follow my blog will know I was not racing in my
pogo 2 for this race but instead teamed up with another British mini sailor
Jake Jefferies to race in his prototype ‘Mad Dog’ a super lightweight carbon
machine that he has designed and built himself in the UK.




It was a fight to get to the start, measurement and Jake’s
first time at a mini event meant that there were a lot of extra jobs to do pre
event, kit to buy and rules to comply with. After a last minute dash to my boat
to borrow some equipment and a late night inspection by the committee we were
off the dock a little late in the morning but never the less ready to go.




The wind at the start was light and variable. The fleet
remained close together and positions changed often.




When the wind filled in and we eventually got to bear away
to do our first tour of the Ile de Groix I had just about got to grips with the
canting keel and the winchless system for sheeting the jib onboard; and was
then treated to what it is that makes you sail a proto.




Weighing in at just over 700 kilos the minute Mad Dog is off
the breeze it flies – quite literally flies. The easy speed is incredible and
made me laugh from the start; I could go miles like that.




As the night arrived the wind started to build and the
temperature dropped to a bone chilling 3 degrees. As we hacked along the volume
of ice cold water coming over the decks rose with the waves and toes, fingers,
noses were all frozen and aching. It really is a struggle to find any sort of
clothing that will actively combat conditions that wet and that cold and yet
will still allow you to move around and be as physical as a mini requires you
to be.




Problems onboard with halyards gave us a frustrating stop
start race, we shredded the outer on a jib halyard at the beginning of the race
which then got jammed in the mast meaning we had to do slow bare headed changes
with the one remaining spinnaker halyard, losing places all the while, only to
accelerate when we had the new sail up, overtaking boats with an easy long
stride until the next sail change.




In the dead of night and at the coldest wettest moment we
then lost the mast head spinnaker halyard as the block it was lashed to, to
avoid chaffing on the forestay broke away from the jib and leaving the halyard
free at the top of the mast.




The only way to get this back was to climb the mast which
would have meant dropping the main and drifting rapidly out to sea in the
building offshore breeze; not a sensible option and far from ideal conditions
to attempt such an exercise.


We opted to sail bareheaded again until the dawn came and so
still making 6 knots under main but watching the little mast head lights of the
fleet behind us catch up and bob past us; we waited cold and wet for some
glimmer of light.




In the end we new we had to find a way of hoisting the jib
or returning to Lorient while we were still in striking distance. The offshore
wind was building and forecast to get stronger and Mad Dog was slipping slowly
sideways through the water so safety and a port of refuge getting further away.




I’ve never abandoned a race; it’s not in my nature and
neither is it in Jakes. Not to mention completing this race was a vital step in
his qualification process for the mini transat in 2013. So we worked together,
cutting away small amounts of the outer jacket of the shredded jib halyard and
trying to pull it and winch it out from the mast.




Eventually after an hour of graft and numb fingers we had
the core of the halyard stripped and free and we were ready to sail again.




We came from nearly last and managed to overtake around 15
boats in the final run into Pornichet; picking our way between the islands of Hoaut
and Hoedic through the rocks to gain a tidal advantage and overtaking boats all
the way.




We arrived into Pornichet happy to be at the finish, the
last prototype to cross the line but feeling like we had made it to the top of
the mountain. First race done; and what a race it was.




Due to lack of battery I am photo negative from this race
but take a look at the event photographers website
for some fantastic photos of the event.




For me though I loved the speed of the Mad Dog I am looking
forward to getting back to my own pogo 2. The series class is hotting up and it
was interesting to listen to the race unfold over the radio, Justine Mettreaux,
skipper of Team Work winning but the chasing pack hot on her heels.




I can’t wait to get back in the mix.

Who pays?

A recurring question left on the comment page of my website
over the last year or so has been the question as to how I am funding this
sailing campaign.




Running a full time sailing campaign is something many of us
dream of doing, and only a hand full will ever make happen. It requires a
massive amount of dedication, organisation, an ability to globally manage a
project, sacrifice many other aspects of your life and of course in addition it
requires money!




A mini campaign is an interesting case to study as there is
a sliding scale of funding with which to fund your campaign and I have a
spreadsheet with five different budgets labelled starting with ‘I’ll just make
it to the line’ and ranging to ‘full time racing campaign’.




Regardless of talent funding and management of your budget
do have an end effect on your performance and of course whether or not you even
make it to the line.




Money is not something that I have ever focussed on in my
blogs; I guess I have felt that it’s sort of a tainted subject, it affects us
all and raises most of our stress levels – I am lucky to be doing what I am
doing and no one wants to hear about my financial stresses and strains, they
want to read about sailing and for some it is an escape to a different world
for a couple of minutes.   




However I am sure that there are those out there who would
like to make the jump; who dream of doing something else or who are just plain
curious about how I have made it happen. So here it is a guide to a series mini
transat budget.




First of all you need to have a boat; there are three
options here you can buy a boat, you can get a sponsor to buy, lend or give you
a boat or you could charter one.




The average cost of a racing mini all kitted out is between
55 and 62,000 Euros. I bought my boat using my life savings; I have always
lived on a boat rather than a house which has kept the cost of living down a
lot over my life time and enabled me to make this investment now.




I bought a boat that had not been raced so it was cheaper at
the outset but I needed to kit it out to racing spec. For this I have been
incredibly fortunate to work with some amazing trade sponsors who have helped
me equip the boat at minimal cost.




The boat of course will depreciate as you use it but with
racing mini’s of a high standard, as long as you look after them you should get
a chunk of your money back at the end.




Once you have the boat you need to decide where on the
sliding scale your campaign will fall, and this will determine your budget.




Over the two years it is possible to organise qualifying,
training and racing around a full time job, strategically using holidays and
getting extra time off  for the big
event itself – the bonus of this of course is that you are able in some way to
keep afloat in everyday life and mortgages, phone bills, road tax can still all
be paid. However the down side is of course less sailing and you often need to
employ others to work on your boat and move it around if you cannot take the
time off.




At the complete opposite end of the scale are the full time
professionals, who dedicate their whole lives to training, working on and
racing the boat; this way of running a campaign naturally requires an income
from another source to pay for every day life; either private funds or a salary
from a sponsor. However it is giving the sailor the best chances of success, to
improve their skills, develop their boat; normal life just ticking along ,eyes
and mind focussed on the end goal – a result in the mini transat.




This is never cut and dry and though at the moment there are
quite a few full time campaigns on the track, most of whom I am currently
training with in Lorient; the mini circuit is huge, over 350 sailors took part
in events last year and all of those will have been managing their lives and
budgets in different ways.




For me at the start there was little choice about the work /
sailing balance; I had decided to run a campaign to the transat in 10 months
and that meant I had to qualify by competing in the first races of the season
or risk making all the investment in the boat but not getting to the race.




I had a great kick start training with the Artemis Academy
in La Grand Motte and then after that I was on my own, driving up and down
through Europe busting a gut to get qualified.




To give me the flexibility I needed to make this happen I
took out a personal loan against the value of ‘The Shed’ the Lightwave 395
which has been my home for the past ten years.




This process of qualification took three months and it was
three months where I could do nothing else. But it worked.




Once qualified I returned to the UK with the boat and then
attempted to balance the elements of working as a professional skipper and
sailing instructor, preparing the boat, training where possible and finding sponsorship
to get me through the transat itself.




It’s a fine balance and one which I am sure will ring true
with any other sailors trying to make it work. Do you invest all your time in
the search for a sponsor, so neglecting your training and if you come up with
the funds risking your performance? Or do you train and sail focussing on your
own performance but at the expense of finding the budget to actually get there?




Again it’s that sliding scale and in truth sponsors require
a lot more than just a good sailor to justify their investment in your
campaign, you need to start thinking of yourself and your campaign as a
business and the sailing is just a part of it; like with any business time and
resources need to be split between investing in the assets you already have and
speculating to find others who will invest in your campaign.




Last year I found my balance and until the summer kept
investing in my campaign by taking out further loans against my boat and
working as hard as I could in the interim. In the last two months in the lead
up to the race I was fortunate enough to sign three sponsors, whose injection
of cash enabled me to buy new sails, finish the refit of my boat and get to the
line in reasonably good form.




The trade off had been a complete lack of training over the
summer, in the absence of any programme in the UK I sailed alone in the
evenings and on days I had no work and though I turned up to the transat with a
reasonable mileage in the mini, through 2011 I had no boat on boat training with
other mini’s and this definitely affected my performance.




Fast forward to 2012 and I am now three months into my 2013
transat campaign. My personal funds are all run out; ‘The Shed’ is up for sale
to cover the loans from last years transat and the realms of what I can achieve
on personal funds are very curtailed.




Taking the positive outlook and believing I can make it work
I decided at the beginning of this year that the investment I would make in
myself would be early in the season in the form of training in Lorient with one
of the best mini coaches there is; this has already paid off in spades, my boat
speed has improved I have learned an enormous amount and am on the water with
guys who were in the top five last year; watching them, chasing them, aspiring
to sail like them.




To fund being here I have downsized my life. I rounded up
all of my possessions and identified the things I can live without and have
sold or am selling it all to pay for training and living expenses during the
months of March and April while I will be in France. I am living in my van or
on the mini and think hard about every mile I drive and every item I purchase.




This may seem a little extreme but early season training is
a set up for the whole of the rest of the year; my objective for this campaign
is to improve on the skill I already have, not just to do the miles but to
achieve better results, to increase my level of competition and move forward.
With that goal in mind, a good start to the season is high enough a priority to
demand such a sacrifice.




For the rest of the year the balance will adjust to reflect
the different needs of the ‘business’ adjusting to the circumstances I am in
and heavy on the hunt for sponsors. Without a sponsor I will not be able to
carry on, so strategically I am hoping this early boost to the training will
take me through any lean sailing months ahead where the demands of real life
may keep me off the water.




It’s a complicated equation and of course one that involves
risk. I have risked spending my life savings but at no point will I ever regret
the decisions I have made. One of the great pleasures in life has to be
developing a skill and attempting to excel in that field. Aside from the
immense pleasure I get from sailing in general; to push myself to the limits in
solo sailing and compete at an international level has been one of the greatest
achievements of my life to date, I am proud of what I have done and though I am
determined to carry on with this career if it does not work out I will have no
hard feelings.




For anyone reading this blog and wondering when, how or if
they can make the jump in any sport or project my advice would be that actually
taking the jump is the biggest step of all; but it is only a tiny percentage of
people who will get offered a deal without making an initial investment
themselves.




If you really want to do it then don’t hang around waiting
to be given something; go out and start on whatever terms you can, it may be a
small beginning but at least it is a beginning; your own circumstances and
personal goals will shape the course of your project and whether you succeed or
not, whether you find a sponsor who will invest in your campaign or you go as
far as you can on your own steam, the action of actually trying and investing in
yourself is something you will be proud of for the rest of your life.

The Calendar

The Calendar


2012 from whatever angle you look at it is going to be a
massive year for sailing. The finish of the Volvo, the start of the Vendee and
of course the Olympics in the summer polarising the focus of the world on two
short weeks of competition that have been fed by years and years of dedication.




Though the mini’s are in their ‘rest’ year from the
bi-annual transat race. Rest is far from my mind when I look at the race
calendar for the year ahead. It’s full, in fact it is bursting at the seams and
my foot is hard on the gas looking forward to a year of learning, development
and hard competition.




The season starts for me in the Atlantic with the Demi Cle,
a double handed coastal race which is notorious for Spring storms and tricky
navigating. It is the first race of the season for the Atlantic boats, a chance
to flex muscles after the two months of training in Brittany fog we are putting
ourselves through at the moment; bravado has lead to boats on the rocks and the
fierce competition sets the scene for the season ahead.




Where the Demi Cle ends, the Select starts and Pornichet
hosts one of the biggest single handed races of the season. A fleet of close to
70 boats battle their way around Belle Isle, down to Les Sable d’Orlonne, up to
‘the poxy’ Isle de Groix (as some know it) and back home. This race is a
floating test of your stress levels; as if it wasn’t hard enough to navigate
300 miles of tidal and rocky coast alone; to race with close competition
breathing down your neck at your every move sets the heart rate thumping and
will punish those that sleep!




After the Select we have a choice and of course I am going
all British.




This year is the first year that Britain will host two
official classe mini events and it is a really important progression in the
development of the class in our country.




In early May the new Solent650 will depart from Lymington
via the Needles Channel, race down to the Poole fairway buoy and then on to
Wolf Rock and back into Plymouth as a feeder race for the UK Fastnet.




This new cat C race will allow British boats to qualify for
the UK Fastnet cat B race without leaving the country and runs at the same time
as a Cat C feeder race to Plymouth from La Trinite in Brittany. Anyone curious
about mini’s should catch us rounding the Poole Fairway buoy on the 6th
May in the afternoon. I will be sailing with fellow transat skipper and great
friend Christa ten Brinke; come and give us a wave!




The UK Fastnet is one of the favourite races in the mini
Calendar due to the hospitality of the home club The Royal Western. Well let’s
face it; the race wouldn’t be a favourite for the course.  Slogging upwind from the Eddystone to
the Fastnet rock in grey cold, bone chilling damp; the British weather at it’s
worst, but at least we should have a blast back via Conneberg (if we can find
it! Some had trouble last year) under spinnaker which made it all worth while
last time.




After all this double handing I think I will be ready to bin
my co-skipper again and the MAP out of Dournonez is the next race on my
calendar at the end of May, and it’s single handed. This course is shorter than the Select but just as
competitive, last year I did not manage to enter but this year my form is in
and I am on the list already. No hesitation!




Next another crack at the Fastnet; it’s a shame I can’t do
it with RORC as well; just to make sure I was properly familiar with the form
of the lighthouse.




Again it’s a new race for me but the buzz around the mini
Fastnet race is legendary; it’s simple. A full on drag race across the
approaches to the English Channel from Dournonez to the Fastnet rock and back,
accepting along the way whatever the weather sends at you. Last year the poor
forecast changed the course and kept the little boats on the French side.




And then the Ocean race of the year, to the Azores and back
from Les Sables. This is the race I am really looking forward to. Single handed
ocean racing, facing the Atlantic fronts in all their fury. The last Azores
race saw a front pass over the fleet and continued wind speeds of over 30 knots
for a few days. Record speeds were recorded and rigs were lost.




After the Azores things tail off in the Atlantic so I shall
be heading down to the Mediterranean where there is still some great
competitive racing on offer in the back end of the year.




All new this year is the AIR race which stands for Around
Islands Race. Starting from the incredible Americas cup Village in Valencia,
this is a drag race out to Mallorca, round Ibiza and back again. Like the
Solent 650 this is an important progression in the mini calendar for Spain as it’s
their first Cat C race and will feed directly into the mini Barcelona Cat B
race a couple of weeks later.




The race organiser is promising a massive welcome and
strategically this race will be important in the scheme of qualification for
anyone coming into the Classe later this year to get their miles in ahead of
the Atlantic boats and so get onto the entry list for the 2013 transat.




Anyway can you see a down side from racing from Valencia
around the Balearics and back?? I can’t!




So after that the mini Barcelona……….. or maybe not…….. other
plans may be afoot…….


Fiddling with the fit-out

It has been a long day of fiddling, getting my boat back up
to racing spec and noting down all the wear and tear caused by our headlong
charge across the Atlantic. Frustratingly, every little task seems to take a
thousand steps. I keep finding a hundred things that are not quite perfect,
mostly due to corrosion, the boat owner’s nemesis. That’s what happens when the
boat is left damp over Christmas, I suppose.


One problem was with my autopilot system. I fired up the
computer and it worked fine. But when I plugged in the ram that had taken me
all the way on leg two of the Transat, there was no action. I tried the second
ram. Then the third. Still no life.


The first tool I reach for in these circumstances is the
multimeter. Even on a boat as basic and tiny as the mini, a multimeter is an
essential piece of kit – I take one everywhere with me. A failure in the
electrical system could mean no pilot, no lights, no navigation system, no
communication. Course, I would be fine to carry on without any of these, but
losing such electrics tends to blunt your competitive edge.


So, I dug out the multimeter from the plastic box that has
been its home for the past few months. It flatly refused to power up. Nor did a
new battery help. It had got wet – game over for this piece of kit. A quick
sprint to plug in the autopilots became a marathon; a van safari to the closest
DIY store then getting lost in French rush-hour traffic en route.


By the time I had returned to the boat, a thick fog had
rolled up the estuary and was sitting heavy over the submarine base here. It
was late in the evening, so the clouds had an eerie green light, made all the
more spooky by the hulks of the submarine silos looming over me in the murk.


I was alone on the boat, water dripping off the shrouds and
rigging. I dropped a tool and the clatter from my boat, travelled into the open
silo opposite, bounced around off the walls and came back at me as a boom.


It was quite a change from this past week. The Figaros have
been out training and Banque Populaire is in the middle of the marina. All
around us 40s have been lifted in and out to be weighed. And all the time the
minis buzz around, often being towed behind other boats and always active.


It would be fascinating to set up a time-lapse camera to
create a day at the base. Actually, scrub that – there are enough jobs on my
electrical ‘To do’ list as it is.

A treasure trove of trimarans




When my mini arrived back in Lorient after the Mini Transat last year I was not there to collect it.

So it was moved for me to a yard upriver at the town of Hennebont, and there it has stayed until I came here to give it some love and get it back in the water.

The first impressions of the yard are that of a small and sleepy graveyard for old cruising boats; a typical out of the way home for forgotten boats and people with small budgets, over grown with brambles and rotting fibre glass.

But drive down the road a little, and swing in between the two large sheds and you start to get the impression there is something else going on here.

The place is littered with old racing tri-marans in various states of repair some with the hulls stacked neatly one against the other and leaning on bushes at the end of the yard. Others with beams on, just resting on the grass alongside the river bank almost as though they were beached there.

But most incredible of all is what lies behind the doors of the shed on the right. It’s a tri…… it’s enormous and I have no idea how they got it past the central post of the shed. I don’t know what it is having only glimpsed tiny amounts as the shed door rolls up a small amount and back down again. But it looks cool.

It is incredible to see so many racing machines just lying around. My good friend Paul Peggs, one of the UK’s mini veterans and founder of the Base centre for Short Handed Sailing in Gosport, came to help me with a little work today and was wondering around the boats in awe.

Sitting outside in my mini, I feel a tiddler among giants and at least two hulls short to be in the gang, but there are re-enforcements.

Round the back of the shed’s is what we call the garden, where mini’s fresh back from the transat are resting on tyres in the grass, keels off waiting to be put back in order. When I arrived the garden was full but slowly these little boats have been picked and towed away so now there are only two left.

The shed on the left is the real mini army. Roll up the shutters and inside are crammed the protos; being re-tweaked and refitted ready for the new season.

David Raison arrives every day to work on his legendary transat winner 747, now owned by GianCarlo Pedote who has returned after two years in the Figaro to give the mini transat another crack. David will train with GianCarlo and race in the Demi Cle as his co-skipper to make sure that the transition goes as smoothly as possible.

Today I loaded my boat onto the road trailer and have left the yard, bottom newly painted and sanded. I am now sitting in Lorient in the pen at AOS and feeling more at home than ever. Around 50 mini’s and figaros sit side by side, masts up just waiting to go sailing, most of them my friends from last years events; it feels like home.

My boat will have to wait a little longer as tonight I am going sailing in someone else’s boat.

Fellow pogo 2 sailor and competitor in the 2009 mini transat, Geoff Duniam, has asked me to deliver his boat ‘Mad Spaniel’ to Lymington ready for the UK events later in the season. I will leave tonight and although cold will not quite describe the temperature out there I am really looking forward to the trip.

Once again out in the open in a little boat; the forecast is promising a fetch to the corner and then a day and a half of hooning down the channel with the big spinnaker. I’ll take the cold; I just want to get back out there.

Pip Hare is author to our new 12-part series on Advanced Sailing Techniques. In the second video, professional sailor and coach Pip Hare guides you through what to do when you start to broach. To get the best out of this series, combine this video with the detailed feature published in the March 2012 issue of Yachting World.
 
The new video player, located in the side bar on the right hand side of the website, allows you to watch the clip instantly by pressing play button or you can watch the video in full-screen mode.

WATCH the video of Pip Hare demonstrating how to avoid a Chinese Gybe, or what do do when you start to broach. 

An incredible journey




I am sitting on the TGV on my way back to Lorient after
quite a tour of Europe in the last couple of days and looking forward to home;
in the back of my van parked next to the mini.




I left last Tuesday night from Lorient to take the pogo 2 of
Geoff Duniam ‘Mad Spaniel’ to the Solent for training and to be made ready for
the two UK races in May this year.




It was my first time afloat in a mini this year and so
despite the long dark nights and the promise of a cold and wet crossing I was
very much looking forward to getting back out there alone in a little boat.
Remembering what it was all about.




The trip didn’t disappoint and in stages I was reminded of
all things mini and my body still knows about it.




A little passage planning and a favourable wind up to Brest
allowed me to hit the tidal gates through the Raz de Sein and Ushant just
right; with flat seas, a fantastic speed over ground of 15 knots at times and
even a visit from the dolphins in the early hours of Wednesday morning.




As I passed Ushant the cloud that had slowly been rolling in
bought with it the wind that was promised and before too long I was screaming
along with the code 5 (little spinnaker) doing a steady 14 knots.




This was the first time Mad Spaniel had been sailing for a
while and so I was constantly checking running and standing rigging to make
sure everything was as it should be and conscious that I should not push her
too hard.




As the wind gusted up to 30 knots my decision to take the
spinnaker down was prompted by the appearance of a cardinal marker I had not
been expecting to see; I spotted it at two miles on the horizon, and expected
it was a North Cardinal marking the shape of the coast to keep large vessels
off the rocks.




At 14 knots two miles disappears quite quickly and before
long I could tell this was no Northerly…. It was a westerly and I was heading
East.




My heart jumped inside the many jackets I was wearing and I
was gripped by a searing panic…. I wasn’t sure I wanted to throw the boat into
a gybe under spinnaker in that much wind and what ever was on the other side of
that buoy was coming at me way to fast.




There followed the fastest spinnaker take down in history,
all the more impressive due to the fact I was wrapped up like the Michelin Man
so moving was quite and effort.








The sail came down; I gybed the main headed sharp north and
dived below to check the chart.




Common sense had told me I was far enough from the coast not
to worry about rocks and I was right. There was not danger and as suspected
this was a cardinal designed to keep large ships from getting too close to the
corner at Ushant, however instead of being north as I expected it was a
Westerly to reflect the gentle curve of the coast to the South. I was not
heading into danger; just a scare but with it a stark reminder that single
handing through the British Channel and around the coast of France and the UK
is a very different ball game from the open and empty Atlantic.




I wasn’t complacent before, but remained on high alert for
the rest of the trip, edgy and on constant look out.




The rest of the trip passed by well, offering a dark wet and
windy crossing of the shipping lanes with less than half a mile of visibility
but made possible and safe with a great AIS.




On my boat currently I have an AIS transponder but do not
have a screen to show positions of other vessels and this is something I will
now be looking to change immediately; I would not have been able to cross those
ships without it.




I remembered the feeling of the boat underneath me and fell
straight back into a system of ten minute naps like I had been at sea forever.




The spinnaker went up again with the sun on Thursday morning
and I enjoyed a very relaxed sail into Lymington for the rest of the day; I was
tired, bruised completely full of tea and remembering what life is all about.




After a weekend working in the Solent my next trip was by
plane to Valencia where I have been to test sail the new RG650. This is an Argentine
designed boat which hopes to be the new series boat on the block by the end of
this year………. It’s bold, it’s new and I’ll write more of that another time.




From Valencia to Montpellier by overnight bus a quick coffee
in the square and now I am on the train heading back to Lorient.




I would say I’m looking forward to my own bed, but the place
I sleep at the moment takes many forms, buses, trains, the back of a van and a
wet cockpit; the comfort might not always be there but when I close my eyes
sleep is never far away.

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Demi Cle race
  3. 3. Who pays?
  4. 4. The Calendar
  5. 5. Fiddling with the fit-out
  6. 6. Page 6
  7. 7. Page 7
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