29 days until we set off for Portugal on the first leg of the Solitaire and only 21 till we have to be up the river in Bordeaux. I am feeling very excited for the month of racing ahead. As ever there is plenty to do to get ready but things feel a little calmer this time round compared to last year. Now, I know what to expect and I’ve been thinking long and hard about how to do things better since I finished my first Solitaire in Cherbourg last July. Everything from a sneaky way to cook and eat a boil in the bag and a freeze dried meal at once to save time and water to using a gopro with a wifi link on a stick to see weed on the keel. Doing well at this type of racing demands that you get the details right. Every movement on the boat needs to be as efficient as possible and every inch gained makes a difference to the all important cumulative finish time.
Last year I finished a credible but not earth shattering 25th position. Having not spent as much time as I’d have liked training before the first race of the season I haemorrhaged places overnight to end up a disappointing 19th. My goal from now is to improve on these two results. Ideally by a good margin and I think the biggest area for improvement will come from managing sleep and pushing myself. My worst moments in both these races have come at times when I have been too sleepy to sail the boat properly. Waking up at the helm with the sails flapping in a minor broach isn’t fast and no matter how much I want to keep my eyes open sometimes it’s not possible. I had a similar problem in French debriefs after sailing in Lorient last year (embarrassing in a very small group) that could only be solved by a well timed coffee. Something I have previously been keen to stay awayfrom in the Figaro for fear of the inevitable crash after the initial high. In reality there are times when you absolutely HAVE to be awake that are usually followed by some chance to rest a bit at some stage. So for this next race I’m planning to load up with tea bags, red bull and pro plus and see how far I get.
On a similar theme is the subject pushing yourself or the ability to man up and get stuck in. As with most forms of offshore sailing (and probably sport in general) making a Figaro go really fast over a long period involves doing a lot of things that are hard work/ boring/ unpleasant for a tiny tiny improvement in performance. Keeping up the motivation to stack every last halyard tail, check for weed every 15 minutes or do that headsail change that you’ve been putting off for half an hour is easy at the begging and the end but to keep subjecting yourself every minute of every hour of the leg isn’t always easy.
Between the Solo Concarneau and the Solitaire I will spend a few days in the UK before coming back to deliver to Bordeaux and do some final bits of work onboard. Hanging out before the start in Bordeaux without many planned boat jobs will be a treat. Obviously things always come up that need doing but the more time available for relaxation and getting on with weather homework and mandatory race things the more enjoyable the whole experience will be. Which after all is the main aim of the exercise, after winning.