Clemency Williams reports from the Open Demi-clé. Sailing with Nick Bubb she finished eighth from an international fleet of 59
The 7th edition of the Open Demi-clé race – doublehanded qualifying race for the Mini Transat to La Rochelle – finished at the weekend.
Sailing with my co-skipper Nick Bubb (whilst his boat is back in the boatyard undergoing final preperations for the Mini Transat), we headed out to the start knowing we had left no stone unturned in our preparation for the race.
Our achilles heel was in our sail inventory; the new main, jib and gennaker were not ready to race with so we were using the old sails.
The forecast was dominated by yet another high pressure ridge pushing into the Channel indicating light northerly winds with strong sea breezes developing.
After discussing where we wanted to be on the startline and our position on the first beat, we hit the line at pace on the gun. To our amazement no other boats chose the pin end, they were all bunched up by the committee boat. We stuck to our plan and headed up the left-hand side of the course still unaccompanied, the rest of the fleet were hugging the shore. After a few minutes it became clear that our plan was working, we were leading the fleet! We held onto the lead for the next couple of hours until losing two places as we approached the top mark.
We were then heading downwind to the finish 100NM down the coast at Port Bourgenay. Flying ‘Mr Big’ we made speedy progress south, sailing low and sticking to the rhumb line. It was at this point that the fleet started to separate as some skippers decided to head offshore in search of a theoretical favourable wind shift, whilst we decided to sail as few miles as possible and stay closer to the coast.
During the night the wind went right and we had worked our way through the full sail inventory and ended up with the gennaker. There was not much time for sleeping as we were under continual pressure from Isabelle Joschke on Synergie. We eventually managed to pull away her as the wind increased and she struggled to hold her bigger gennaker.
It looked like the last 20NM to finish were going to be relatively straight forward but no; the wind died then built slowly through a 180 degree change in direction and then headed us so we ended up with a light airs beat in lots of chop to the last mark off Port Bourgenay, 8NM south of Les Sables d Olonne.
We crossed the line and discovered we had finished eighth. We were slightly disappointed not to have finished higher up the fleet as we had such an excellent start. It seemed that during the night there was a little more breeze further offshore, however, the boats that had decided to go far offshore in favour of the favourable shift never found it and ended up mid fleet. So, overall we sailed a fast and sensible race and were rewarded with a top ten result.