Journey to the center of the earth

Although slightly tenuous I think the Jules Verne reference  in the title is a little bit relevant to my recent trip to Lorient. For a start the first thing on the horizon when we got near the dock was the towering mast of the Jules Verne record holding maxi tri Banque Populaire, there are a lot of big boats in the harbor, but this thing is just huge. Secondly Lorient IS the center of the of the earth for two young aspiring solo offshore sailors. Our walk down to the boats from the hotel takes us past the offices of every company that makes any of the important bits of our boats, all the big anonymous looking sheds or WW2 U-boat bunkers are full of Open 60’s or Figaro’s getting a winter tickle and the one bar within reach on foot is the regular watering hole of most of our offshore sailing heroes on a Friday night.

Getting here has certainly been a trial. After lots of early interest, finding delivery crew willing to spend two days at sea, midweek, in deepest darkest January proved too hard. In the end Sam and myself opted to take on the bonus solo practice and do the trip alone. Although the route involved crossing plenty of shipping and navigating the rocky NW French coast line we did manage to get a reasonable amount of sleep thanks to AIS and a ‘watch system’ involving regular radio chat and alternate half hour naps down below with the other one watching out for ships getting too close. The two worst things about this trip were the bone chilling cold on the first night and the nights lasting longer than days. The best things were, good stars, regular dolphin visits and finishing up in Lorient.

Since our arrival last week we have spent most of our time trying to get ahead on all the little boat jobs that make things work better or help in terms of reliability. We start training on Tuesday with a small but experienced group of French sailors and coach Yann Eillies and things will get hectic pretty quickly. Having everything perfect before we line up against these guys will hopefully give us a better chance of making a good impression.

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