Transatlantic reflections

Just over seven days since our nerve racking, forstayless  beat to the finish of the AG2R in St Baths and i think I’m over the fatigue/ jetlag. It felt like a shame to only spend two and a half days in the paradise that is St Baths but with such a short gap between this finish and the start of the single handed Transmanche in Brittany on Friday it seemed important to come home for some rest. The only hitch  with this plan has been that I ended up going Farr 45 sailing in the Solent for three of my five days at home! At least I had the pleasure of helming and being able to hoist sails by shouting ‘hoist!’ or gybe the boat by shouting ‘gybe!’, very restful in comparison to solo sailing.

Coming home, and especially sailing in Hamble, it’s been amazing to see how many people were following the race. The level of support is really inspiring but would knowing how many people were watching the tracker at have lead us to some different tactics? well, once past the Canaries the whole fleet headed South to make the most of the trade winds but by heading slightly more west earlier on we would have technically been closer to the finish and thus higher up the rankings. At the time we thought this was the slower option but in hindsight it might have been faster AND we could have spent a few days in the lead on the score boards! This isn’t the way we wanted to sail the race but I could see how a team under pressure to get publicity for a sponsor could factor this sort of thinking into their decision making. There’s probably an argument that you could get some sort of energy boost from buzz of being in the lead too.

Here’a a run down of the most common questions  people have asked since I’ve been back:

Did you enjoy the race?

Yes thank you. The first few days were hard work and very wet and things were a bit hot in the middle of the day down south but in general life on board was very pleasant. Trade wind sailing in Figaro is hard work in less than about 14 knots and very enjoyable when it gets above about 20 knots and we got more a the latter.

What was the best bit?

For me the most exciting part was the storm we had on the second night with 45 knots in the pitch black and some big steep waves crashing over the boat, literally holding on for dear life. Other highlights included regular dinner time sunset happy hours in the trades when we listened to ‘Desert island discs’ and ate what we liked as well as any time we got good news from a position report.

What was the worst bit?

Any time we got bad news from a position report and blowing up both our big kites. Plus the time spent below decks in the heat patching them back together.

What did you miss most?

Having dry shorts! Bum rash from helming sitting down for 12 hours a day got pretty tiresome but we did a good enough job of the food that no real cravings came up.

Would you do it again solo next year?

Probably yes but it would be a whole different ball game. I don’t quite know what you would do about sleep and some of the nicer aspects of sailing with a friend would disappear. It would certainly be a full adventure.

Didn’t you and Sam fall out?

The closest we came to falling out was when one or other of us wouldn’t wake up for a watch. The agreed system of acknowledging a wakeup deck bang by knocking back from below went to pot if someone was too tired and went back to sleep after replying. This lead to slightly frayed tempers in the full heat of the afternoon sun from time to time.

What about sleeping?

Generally speaking an hour on an hour off worked well for us both. This was very flexible in that if you felt fresh it was sometimes up to two hours but the general principal was to give up before you got slow. There were times when we got a bit tired when we would hallucinate down below thinking we were driving the boat and imagining seeing the underside of the deck as the night sky above us. This is most annoying when you look at you watch and think ‘great, time for bed in ten minutes’ only to realise it’s time to go on watch in ten minutes!

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