Training in the Solent

Summer has arrived in the Solent and I have been making the most of the sea breeze to test my settings and sails with French coach Guillaume Rottee who has come over to England to help me. 

There has been the atmosphere of a little training camp in the UK with many of the artemis academy members in the UK at the moment; last week I went out on speed tests with Sam Goodchild, Conrad Humphries and Nigel King as they readied themselves for the upcoming Figaro Solitaire.

This week it was my turn to test the boat and each morning we have looked at settings and boat set up, then headed over to the Artemis Academy base in Cowes to pick up the rib and go out sailing. 

I have been mostly interested in sail shape and relative speed, and spent a whole day following Guillaume round in the RIB while he sailed my boat, changing the shape of the sails as I requested, pulling on backstay. 

This may seem an odd thing to do as I am the one who will be sailing the boat across the Atlantic but it was an invaluable day, as I was able to watch, record with photographs and video the different sail shapes, and we tracked the difference in speed and course using a GPS tracker on the mobile phone. 

With this information I can build up a clear picture of which sail shapes are fast in which conditions, and exactly how I will replicate those sail shapes when I am racing. Now I have seen the sail shapes from the outside of the boat, it gives me more of a three dimensional idea of  how they should look and when I am in the boat and will help me to understand what shape I am trying to create, instead of just moving the ropes in or out like a robot. 

Yesterday I worked on my helming, trying to focus on the angle the boat was heeling at as a priority; I spent the afternoon helming with my eyes closed, feeling the boat and feeling my way forward. As I progressed with that skill Guillaume announced I must then helm the boat with my eyes closed and facing backwards so that I could not feel the wind on my face………….. I am still not clear at which point in the race this will be a winning strategy; but hey, if the French coach says it works!! 

I am however, not the only one who has been at work. I owe a huge thank you to Ian Couper who has given my online life a bit of a much needed dust off and brush up. I now have a Pip Hare Ocean Racing Facebook page, so will be able to put up some more pictures and video of my training this month. 

Tomorrow I am having another ‘mini break’ and am proud to again be the skipper of the all female team entered in the Polypipe regatta in Portsmouth. 

This is a regular event for me and a big fundraiser for selected charities; every man that we beat in the regatta must pay up, and I have a good feeling about this year, we intend to lighten a few wallets.

Not just for racing

josh and zac

I have spent the weekend glued to my computer watching the results of the solo race in Brittany, the MAP, unfold and wishing I was there.

But being back in the UK has it’s advantages and one of them I experienced last week when I was able to take my Godsons out sailing in the sunshine on ‘The Potting Shed’.

I have always enjoyed sharing the adventure and beauty of sailing, which is why I get great satisfaction from my work as a teacher and a coach.

I normally only work with adults, but have taken great pleasure from sailing with Josh and Zac since they were babies and introducing them to the mini was the next step in their sailing education.

It was fantastic to see the other friendly face of my sometimes aggressive little red boat; to just relax and enjoy basic sailing, while a seven year old competently helmed and a four year requested endless trips to the foredeck to watch the water splashing up the bow.

Sailing is FUN! At times it is easy to forget with the enormous stress of pulling a campaign together and the hard work and emotion that goes with it, so just to kick back and not worry for a day is a fantastic medicine.

This week, my nose will be back to the grindstone; I have a deferred Open University exam from last year to sit on Tuesday (in amongst all this I am in the middle of a BA in modern Language Studies!) I am sailing with John Parker from Quantum East on Wednesday top discuss and decide my wardrobe for the transat; and some time during the week I hope to hook up with Olly Bond who formerly raced the Artemis mini in the 2009 transat, to give me a hand with my rig settings, especially the rake.

Time to crack on!