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