With 3,000 miles sailed and another 2,000 to go, Emma Richards is starting to feel at one with her boat. She talks to us from mid-Atlantic
After two weeks at sea, Britain’s Emma Richards admits that she is getting into the rythmn of single-handed sailing and is starting to coax better speeds from her Open 60 Pindar. Richards is more than halfway across the Atlantic on a southerly route between the UK and Newport on her qualifier for Around Alone, and it is her first single-handed test since the Europe 1 New Man STAR in 2000.
When we spoke to her this morning, she had shifty but good conditions, sailing downwind at 12 knots under Code 5 gennaker and full mainsail. To get below a spreading Azores High, she has gone further south than originally intended, which has extended her crossing to 5,000 miles. But she is happy with that and says that the extra time at sea is turning out to have unexpected bonuses.
“At first it was a case of getting there safely and soundly. I was racing during the day, definitely, but I made a pact that at night I’d change down a little, purely not to break anything or crash gybe. But the extra ten days of sailing means I’m learning more about the boat. I’m gybing two, three, four times a day and working on technique.”
Richards is chartering Josh Hall’s former Gartmore but got the boat only in June, so this has been her first proper opportunity to get to know it. “I’ve tried different sails and different angles,” she says. “At first I had no idea if I should heat it up by 10° or put in a bit of ballast and I’ve got a better idea now. During the day I’ve been doing a lot of handsteering when I’ve needed apparent wind speed. But I have no idea how I’ll do against other boats; there’s no measure, so you can’t tell.”
Richards admits that she never enjoyed single-handed sailing before and the last two weeks have been an effort, but says that is changing. “I was joking with Josh yesterday that I was feeling more at one with the boat. The first couple of weeks went so slowly, until this weekend. I don’t know what changed. Maybe the time I’ve been out here and because I know more.
“I’m a lot more relaxed than before I left,” she adds. “I’ve been accumulating 4-5 hours’ sleep at night and I feel fitter. It was all so rushed before we came out.”