This might be a bit too late for a blog about a race that happened two weeks ago but I’ve been busy.
It’s difficult writing a report about a sailing race to strike the balance between something which is detailed and informative enough for the super keeno sailor end of my target audience, like Rob Gullan who’ll complain if I don’t include rig settings, tidal streams etc on a leg by leg basis, whilst still illuminating the process for my grandmas, neither of whom are known for their seafaring. I considered writing about the race from the perspective of Pat the penguin but since she’s confined by race rules to an area just above the chart table (with any ventures above deck strictly monitored by regular photographs to prevent cheating) and with her furry coat making her immune to the cold I don’t think there’s much she can add. As such I’m just going to keep things fairly sailingy but use bullet points so you can pick and choose what to read.
- The start. This part of the race went particularly well for me as I hit the port end with reasonable pace on a heavily port biased line with the fleet strung out behind me. If I’d been slightly more on it I would have tacked on the gun and been in first place for a while pointing towards the first mark fifty miles away. As it was I waited a bit taking the slightly worse/ low risk option before tacking over and joining 50 mile speed test that was leg one.
- Leg one. This was a fetch that turned into a reach with everyone hoisting spinnakers for a bit in the middle before dropping again for the last ten miles. My speed felt pretty good early on against everyone except Yann Ellies who had one of his regular moments of being just a bit faster. Demoralizingly he chose to wander around his boat with pilot on in order to show the rest of us how easy it is for him.
- Lost in the dark. The first buoy was in a position a mile from where it was charted as well as being un lit which made it a bit of a miracle the leaders found it in the first place. Coming round in 6th I only spotted it when Paul Melihat tacked just in front of me. In the end everyone went round the same mark which is nice but I do wonder if we all went round the wrong one?
- The rest of the first night. Being March and night time and raining quite a bit things were pretty chilly on board during the night. I took the opportunity to bank two fifteen minute sleeps on the first 30 mile running leg, waking up both times stiff and cold, annoyed I forgot my warmest jacket. After this we had a really gritty beat around the far side of Jersey with the breeze gusting nearly 30 knots and a savage short chop kicked up by the opposing tide. Coldness, laziness and a strong sense of optimism that this was just a headland squeeze led me to put off changing to the smaller jib for the whole of this leg. This might not have been great for the life span of my big jib but in the short chop I was struggling to leave the pilot to drive in any sensible fashion and most of what I lost while over canvassed I made back once the wind dropped and other people were slow to change back up.
- Not finishing. After the night things were pretty straight forward all the way back to Granville. I sat just ahead of Henry Bomby and vowed to keep him there or ideally leave him behind a bit and with the conditions fairly stable this wasn’t too stressful. I just sat at the helm and got on with sailing fast in a straight line and not falling asleep. As we reached the final mark though it turned out the race committee in what must have been a fit of cruel rage had elected to send us round the extra lap meaning a) we weren’t finishing now and I was really tired and b) after the next lap we’d have to sit around waiting to get in the harbour for four hours due to the tide being out.
- The last lap. Being the super hard solo sailor I am I quickly got over these gripes about the longer course and got stuck into the 20 mile beat ahead of me. Tiredness gave the motivation to get the boat set up to drive fast under pilot so I enjoyed the very smug feeling of getting in a 15 minute nap and waking up further ahead of a guy who’d been sailing hard the whole time. Needless to say I had a couple more of the same and felt much better which was lucky because after this the wind went a bit crazy doing two big long shifts first to the right by about 40 degrees and then to the left. I got mostly on the right side of these and passed two boats but let a couple passed doing well on distance but maintaining my position in the fleet.
- After finishing a creditable 9th we then had to wait outside the mariner for about four hours for the tide to come up enough to get in. This was by far the worst part of the whole thing. I was cold, tired and getting a bit hungry and with so many other boats milling about doing the same thing it was hard to get any sleep. Without an audio book of hitch hikers guide to the galaxy to keep me going I think I might have got quite upset with life at this point.
Here ends the writing. Over all I was quite happy being 9th and beating the other british lads. Hopefully there’s more left in the tank but it was a good start to the year.