The Roscoff stopover was the longest and the best. The race organisers and some Figaro friendly locals ensured we had a lovely bike ride/ lunch excursion on a nearby island, we had drinks receptions on cruising boats, excellent pizzas and gorgeous weather to top it all off. Funnily enough come the day of the start I wasn’t totally geared up mentally for the leg. Something about the process of leaving the dock and the general pre race faff left me not really feeling quite in the game. I took myself aside, had a little lie down on the deck, a can of Redbull and gave myself a good talking to. Something must have worked because I came off the starboard end like sh*t off a shovel and even after over laying I still went round the first mark in 5th. Unfortunately my boat handling wasn’t totally on song at this point and after very nearly losing one of my only two shoes on board at the spreader I then hoisted with the kite halyard inside the topping lift (for non yachty readers, this is a total F-up that stops the big balloon shaped, colorful sail doing its business and makes me look a tit in front of all the cameras).
With only a few more little sail handling errors I managed to get round the inshore course and off into the deep blue sea with the rest of the fleet, somewhere fairly comfortable in the middle. Rounding the top left corner of France we enjoyed a very interesting tour of all the other short handed racing classes in the area coming up against the mini Fastnet race (not very chatty on the radio, except Nick Bubb), some solo class 40s (worse than us for being on deck), about a hundred double handed mixed types off across the Atlantic as well as several thousand fishermen all leaving port at the same time and hammering across our paths. Needless to say sleeping wasn’t the most restful of activities on night one. As a result morning two’s big shut down near Belle Ile which spanned into morning three (yawn!) was quite a tricky affair. More than once I found myself waking up from an extended micro sleep at the helm feeling a little confused.
I love to argue that these big park ups where the whole fleet forms up into a tight pack all moving at less than three knots before boats sail off towards glory at the finish one by one are like a big group lottery. That the chosen few who get the wind first just get lucky and if I’m left over then its a tough break but nothing I could do. Unfortunately we’ve had a few of these now and the best guys seem to get the luck a lot more often so I think I’m going to have to concede there’s some art to coming out alive. I don’t know what the answer is at the moment but I’m keen to find out and get better next time.
Days three and four all merged a little bit after the great shut down off Belle Ilse. Sailing out to a weather buoy in the middle of Biscay was fairly featureless with several exceptions:
1) Excellent radio banter from all the brits and a few Frenchmen too. Items up for discussion included, the best way to sabotage your own boat (or person) to bring about an early finish, what we’d eat and drink at the finish and what all the sleepy flies all over our boats were up to.
2) Great stars. Literally thousands of them and no moon or clouds to get in the way. Some of the best stars I’ve ever seen.
3) This is probably a race/ lifetime highlight, glow in the dark dolphins! Strong phosphorescence combined with a real glut of dolphins made for some incredible viewing as they played around the boat perfectly outlined in luminous green. Every now and again you’d see a little pod coming from a different direction like a torpedoes changing direction at the last minute to join in the game or one dolphin get distracted by what might have been a small phosphorescent fish coming the other way. Leaning over the side watching this display whilst listening to ‘Dark side of the moon’ was probably a bit of a distraction from the race but it was unforgettable, just a shame that it doesn’t show up on camera.
The rest of the race passed by with no major events except for plenty of naked sunbathing as I couldn’t see any other boats for a while and getting lucky on the final leg to the finish. Most of the boats ahead of me sailed into a hole which I was luckily able to see on AIS and managed to avoid. A nice lifeline to let me back into the race and save me losing too many hours on the fleet. Thank you karma and also maybe a slight vindication for plugging away at the back and not doing anything too rash.
In terms of debriefing myself on this leg I did something that i’m very proud of at the last stop over and wrote a bit of computer code that made my computer into a sleep timer/ recorder. Instead of using my usual egg timer on the boat when I went to sleep in this race I just pressed ctrl+alt+s on my keyboard and the program set my nav software as a sleep timer and made a note on my track, stopping the note when it woke me up. This all added together to show me a slept for 17 hours in four days. More than I expected but maybe that’s a symptom of being at the back by myself for half the leg. Next leg I’m going to try and sleep less and win more.