Tomorrow afternoon I will set off on the first of four five hundred mile legs that make up this year’s Solitaire du Figaro. The start port of Deauville has been kind to us but right now I can’t wait to get to sea and get stuck into the racing. It’s going to be a long hard sail to Plymouth with some patches of light, tricky wind and at least three channel crossings to contend with and recovering quickly for the next leg will be vital. By the end of the month I will have sailed just over two thousand miles single handed.
Since getting hold of the boat (Redshift) just six weeks ago things have been seriously busy. Starting with sailing her back from Belgium, refitting her in Cowes and then sailing to France in a bit of a storm before attempting one race as a warm up. Having only done two days of training might not have been the ideal preparation for a race like this but I’m confident that this almost new boat is now in great shape.
On the personal side I am hugely excited just to be on the start line at all this year. There’s a certain amount of confidence that comes with having done the race twice before but I’m well aware that most of the other thirty seven competitors have a lot more experience than that. I was pleased with a 6th place finish in the prologue last weekend but I’m really going into this race with no expectations other than a desire to push myself right to the limit. Offshore sailing can be a fickle beast at the best of times and so long as at the end of the race I know I’ve sailed my best then I’ll be happy. Whatever happens I’m sure the next month will be a real adventure and I can’t wait to get stuck in tomorrow.
You can follow the race tracker soon on the event website here
and there will hopefully be some updates on my facebook and twitter and wordpress pages.
Thanks for the support, more updates from Plymouth.
Driving into Plymouth under the A38, past that distinctive looking supermarket (Sainsbury’s?) yesterday morning I was strongly reminded of making the same journey to the Optimist nationals in 1995. Whilst this time it was only a day trip, not a memorable two week family camping holiday in the rain, the feeling of excitement and anticipation were pretty similar. With only 64 days (or about 93700 minutes) until the start of this year’s Solitaire I took the opportunity to go and join in with the Artemis guys as they met with Plymouth big wigs and did some training inside the sound. Great preparation for the start of leg two, which should be a bit stadium sailing like as we jockey around in front of the Hoe on our way out the Fastnet rock. As a ten year old from Birmingham I remember how much of an adventure it felt to be sailing on the open sea in my oppy for the first time and I still get a bit of that same feeling back setting off into a dark stormy night alone on a Figaro as a grownup.
For me this little dip back into training, alongside some solo sessions in the one Artemis boat in Cowes, was absolute gold dust as the boat I am looking to charter in June won’t be available until eight days before we get locked away in Deauville for the start. Most of the competition will have been training hard in their boats all winter so there’s no denying I’m starting on the back foot. One of the things I like about solo sailing though is how much of a part preparation plays. Without the distraction of a boat to manage and look after I am free to work on other stuff like doing my navigation homework in advance, making sure I’ve got the right food and kit as well as being as fit as humanly possible.
Maybe ‘as fit as humanly possible’ is a bit of an exaggeration but I have been doing quite a bit to get myself into shape for a tough summer. I think that what drives me to want to race around rocky coast lines by myself for days on end is probably the same thing that makes the idea of running quite a long way in one go sound wise. Having injured myself running a road marathon a few years ago I’ve dabbled in running a bit further and slower and on more interesting paths. Ultra running turns out to be quite addictive; for every daft challenge you hear about there is always someone who has done something much longer and harder and lived to tell the tale (like this guy). The upshot of this is that I’ve entered a 100 mile race in October which I’m aiming to run in one go in less than 24 hours. Training started a while ago and this weekend I’m toeing the line of a 50 mile race with 400 other runners.
The benefits in fitness and endurance etc for offshore racing will be positive I’m sure but at the moment I’m just excited for the challenge of running further than I’ve ever run before in one go. Provided I’m getting some phone signal on the south downs way tomorrow I’ll try and twitter tales of blisters fatigue, and sh*tting in the bushes from the trail.
With the Figaro racing season over for the year my focus over the past couple of months has been on training and improvement. Not so much my own but the new intake of Artemis Offshore Academy recruits. Now into into it’s fourth season of Autumn training the academy is really starting to mature and its nice to see the four guys on the full time program so committed to putting in the hard work needed to learn single handed sailing. Thinking back to the when I started with the academy in 2010 I can remember how little we knew about Figaro racing so it’s nice to see how the lessons we have all learned are being applied in putting together their training program. From what I’ve seen on the water there has been a lot less carnage and destruction during the tricky early stages of single handed sailing.
Whilst coaching might not be quite as productive towards my goal of getting a good result in the Solitaire next year as actually going sailing it is still a useful process. Sitting in a tiny rib, getting washed over by the vicious Solent chop, watching other people sail, analysing their performance and then giving feedback really focusses the mind. Having to explain something to a group of people means you have to be very clear on it yourself.
Over the next few months my primary focus will be working to secure funding to go back to the Figaro circuit next year. There’s plenty of work to be done but memories of long nights blasting through the dark on the edge of control are all the motivation I could need.
Since the end of the solitaire my long awaited few weeks to chill out at home and catch up on life haven’t really materialised. I spent a week catching up on post race (and post race party) fatigue, then there was there was a week of corporate hospitality on the Figaros in Cowes, Ed Hill’s stag do before heading back out to France for the 470 worlds. You can see a brief round up video from the event here. Whilst we didn’t win it was a great couple of weeks living in a tent, eat, sleeping and breathing sailing. If nothing else it gave us a good perspective on the enormity of the challenge of getting to the top of an Olympic fleet.
From here I went straight to the start of the Fastnet where I sailed with up-and-coming Mini sailor Lizzy Foreman against a fleet of nine double handed Figaros. Coming off the back of two weeks hard sailing and an overnight drive probably wasn’t perfect preparation and it showed as we made some really basic errors to finish a disappointing 5th in class. Still it was good to support the Figaro entry in this race and a useful process getting used to sailing Sam’s boat, no85 which is to be my steed for the Tour de Bretagne this week.
The Tour de Bretagne is a great race on the Figaro calendar. Every two years it gives you the chance to sail with a friend over short costal legs around the Brittany coast with a couple of days inshore racing thrown in too. The unofficial tag line for the event is that ‘even the crabs wear helmets’ owing to the fact that the extra hands and short legs mean sailors take the chance to push in even closer to the jagged rocks with a lot of tales of disaster in the races history. Having had to pull out of the race two years ago due to the death of my father, finishing the course this year takes on a little extra significance. I’m excited to be teaming up with James Mchugh, a talented Etchells sailor with experience in the tough ‘Cinq Jours’ race (five days of double handed laps of lake Geneva) and ambitions to get more seriously into short handed sailing. The first leg from Paimpol to Perros Guirrec starts on Sunday morning and the race goes on for a week. I’ll keep you posted along the way.
Britain’s Nick Cherry lies 10th on the opening leg of La Solitaire du Figaro
Nick Cherry made an impressive start to La Solitaire du Figaro in Bordeaux on Sunday in his attempt to become the first Briton to reach the podium in an event regarded as the preserve of gritty French seadogs
Read more from the Telegraph link below: