Solo Basse Normandy

The water around the Chanel islands at this time of the year is positively blooming with sea weed and what better tool to clear it up with  than a Figaro 2, or sea rake. Of the four possible weed grabbers under the water the prop shaft is the worse to get weed stuck on and the rudders the best. Rudder weed can sometimes be dealt with using a hook shaped stick slid down the leading edge or alternatively by getting your whole arm wet reaching in by hand. Clumps on the keel can sometimes be removed with a knotted rope thrown over the bow but anything round the prop has to be reversed off. No mean feet when you’ve got a spinnaker up and the engine is sealed.

In the first few hours of last weeks race I felt sorry for two of the front runners who lost a good half mile each either backing down or diving on to clear weed. Karma made sure I got a taste of their pain on the second night though when after a long period of the slows I had to reverse myself to clear an unidentified forrest on my keel. I never actually confirmed what it was but the boat certainly felt better afterwards. Even if it was purely psychological it was worth doing.

After sleeping prolifically on night one in expectation of a harder second night I was pleased to make some gains at dawn whilst tacking up the shore along the top of the Cherbourg peninsular. Tacking up a rocky shore against the tide in 20-30kts is one of the best and worst parts figaro racing. The rewards can be high for sneaking inside a bunch of sharp, semi submerged rocks but the risk of writing off your boat in a collision is ever present. There were a few moments (shown on my track below) where having committed to a very narrow channel of underwater rockiness in a big squall I really wasn’t sure about whether or not I wanted to be there. The issue is that with the propeller shaft sealed and not enough space to turn around, once you’ve started there is no turning back and some conciliation for the terror is a handy 50 meter gain on the boats around you.

This was the last race before the season’s major focus: the Solitaire du Figaro starting on the 24th and it was a helpful confidence builder to end up in 3rd having been last in the nine boat fleet at one point. Between now and heading out for the buildup on the 13th I have got a busy schedule of eating, sleeping and relaxing as well as maybe boning up on the set phrases for French opening ceremonies and prize givings etc.

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