Follow British yachtswoman Pip Hare's preparations ahead of the Mini Transat 2011

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Monday 28 February 2011:

Packing and Training

The last two days have as expected whistled by, with a combination of boat preparation for my qualifier and two handed training leading up to my first race in March. On Saturday my co-skipper for the Archipelago race, Ash Harris, flew out to La Grande Motte for a couple of days of two handed training. See pics.

I had tried to pack up everything I needed for the qualifier before he arrived so we could concentrate on sailing for two days, but inevitably the two things merged into one and so he has been roped into a fair amount of boat work in the last couple of days.

The training has been brilliant.

Kicking off with sitting down in a French yacht club and watching the English show them how to play rugby.

La Grande Motte then showed its best side and we had two days of training in glorious sunshine with winds ranging from 12 – 30 knots.

It’s great to have someone else on the boat for a couple of days. Ash’s questions and observations really made me think, and my having to explain manoeuvres to him acted to reinforce them in my brain.

With an offshore breeze our first training was downwind sailing, feeling where the limits of control where with the spinnaker and finding where the best place for two people to sit and stand were.

All of a sudden there was no room in my little cockpit, I went to sit in my usual place and there was someone else there! How come he always gets to the best spot first?

Next a drop and then the long slog back upwind, trying all combinations of sails, reefing the main and the solent and sailing with the storm jib so Ash could get the feel of the boat and it’s systems.

Having been hammering downwind at 15 knots, this was quite a long session prompting the comment, ‘it’s a lot of upwind for not much downwind!’

Gybing was next, with gusts of 30 knots offshore, we started tucked into the shore, gingerly negotiating the manoeuvre and hoping for the best.

Success, time for another, and another, all the time working away from the shore and into more and more breeze, until the wind and the boat decided we were far too big for our boots and in a gust I caught the backstay around a tiller during the gybe which resulted in a fairly spectacular wipe out and the breakage of a guy.

Still training is not just about getting it right. Emergency kite drops came next and as we broke two more guys during the training we became really quite good at them.

The two days have whistled by, some great lessons learned but it is time for me to get my cockpit back again.

I am taking my sails to the Voilerie for a final overhaul before they do 1000 miles with me. I’ll spend the day tomorrow packing and worrying and wondering what I have forgotten to take or to do. Then I get to go sailing!

Tuesday 1 March 2011:

I have been sitting in front of this lap top for 20 mins now.

Trying to write about my preparations, the equipment I am carrying, the food I am taking – the many boxes and dry bags that have been carefully loaded onto the boat; all labelled so I can find them when I am tired:

Clothes 1
Clothes 2
Sail repair
Electrical repair
Spare rigging

I have tried to cover all the bases, to finish the qualifier is my aim. I do not want damage to force me into port and to have to restart the whole process again.

Such a lot of thought has gone into getting ready. But I cannot write about it; I am so distracted.

Many last minute tasks are running through my head, have I done everything to comply with the rules, have I covered all the bases.

Then a wave of nerves passes over me, my stomach flips over and I am staring into space like a rabbit in the headlights.

I don’t know why I am so nervous, I have sailed many more miles than this alone before, but this is the first long passage in my mini, and it is a passage I MUST finish or I will not qualify for the transat. I guess as well I have a great respect for the sea and I know well the cost of a breakage and the consequences of under underestimating the power of the weather.

I know I will meet a mistral at some point in the next 10 days, I will need a strategy to deal with this monster possible 50 knot wind, I will need to be on the ball and listening to all the weather reports I can.

All of a sudden this 1000 mile cruise of the med has turned into a voyage of significance and too important for me to mess up.

Follow my progress on my tracker at