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