The monster awakens – going for broke in 2017

If there is one thing I know about myself it’s that I thrive on challenge; I constantly need to be questioning and testing the limits of my own abilities both physically and mentally. I love to learn, to better myself and then ultimately to put it all to the test.

The last couple of years have been more focused on mental challenges than the physical.  Last year after seven years of study I finally gained my undergraduate degree with the Open University and since 2013 I have enjoyed a job working with the innovative Community Safety team at the RNLI thinking up new ways to save lives around our coasts.  But in the middle of last year I realised the challenge had gone from my life; I was starting to feel at a physical and intellectual standstill and so it was time for a change.

So here we are in 2017 and I have got challenge in spades.

Firstly at the end of last year I was asked to skipper the 3rd generation Class 40 ‘PHOR-TY’ and I jumped at the chance to get back into competing at international level, offshore racing.  The purchase of the yacht went through in early December and then saw me hightailing it from France to the Caribbean over Christmas and New Year so we could attend our first race of the year, the Caribbean 600 last month.

six17-2355

Despite having to learn on the job and only just getting to know the boat the team were lucky enough to be joined by the super talented Sam Goodchild for this race and after four days of battling it out in unusually light winds managed to win our first race by a 40 minute lead against stiff competition.

At the end of this month I will head back out to the Caribbean with a delivery crew to deliver PHORTY back across the Atlantic for a full programme of double handed offshore and ocean racing in Europe – all finishing with my second attempt at the Transat-Jacques Vabre from France to Brazil, one of Ocean Racing’s most prestigious events.  I am really looking forward to the amazing competition the Class 40 fleet will offer and to immense amount of learning and adaption that will be required to race this boat at the level of which it is capable.

You find out more about team PHORTY here.

I suppose you might think a full programme of Ocean racing would give my brain, my heart and my body the fix they are looking for but there is another project which has really got under my skin and has also come to fruition this year.

final interviewSince doing the amazing 3 Peaks Yacht Race for the first time in 2013 I have upheld this event to be one of the toughest endurance challenges I’ve ever come across – and it’s exciting and fun.  Last year I was lucky enough to, for a second time, win Line honours in the event with the incredible bunch of female athletes that made up team Aparito.  In both of these events I was struck by how similar I felt in mentality to the runners and subsequently listening to an interview with Lowri Morgan on the Tough Girl podcast I felt it could have been me talking about sailing.

In 2014 I had a crack at running an ultra-marathon, finishing but in a disappointing time due to injury and this led to the creeping, sneaking feeling that I fancied running in the 3 Peaks Yacht Race.

At some point between 2014 and 2016 I decided that just running wasn’t going to be tough enough and started to wonder if it would be possible to do both.  The race has always required a crew of five with two runners for each mountain, this gives the runners time to rest and recover while the sailors race between legs.  I started to think about the practicalities of taking on this course with a crew of two  – it would be possible but would absolutely push the limits of human endurance – and so the idea took form. I just needed a co-skipper and a water tight proposal to put in front of the committee.

From June 2016 this crazy idea grew in stature, I found my co-skipper in the hard core fell runner Charles Hill who ran for our entry in 2013 and is also an accomplished sailor.  At the beginning of this year we submitted a proposal for a double handed entry to the Three peaks yacht race committee and I am delighted/terrified to say they accepted our entry.

A chilly and windy Snowdon recce in February

Now every spare minute I can find is being spent training for the big one, trying to run as much as possible, to practice on hills, to recce the courses and of course not to injure myself in the process. Just thinking about the race gives me butterflies; I know it can be done but I also know this is going to be the hardest event I have attempted to date.

As an added bonus Charles and I have decided to use the event to raise money for a project being set up by my sister to create a much needed outdoor space for children to play, relax and just be safely outside in an area deprived of any such facilities.  You can find out more and donate to The Big Playground Adventure appeal here.

I must admit to wondering at what point this monster inside me that craves pushing to the limits will be satisfied.  I have always been a big dreamer and inevitably when a dream becomes big enough I will put it out into the world and then chase it down until it becomes a reality.  It is this thing that makes me feel most alive.

One thing is for sure, the Three Peaks Yacht Race double handed has never been attempted before, and is my biggest challenge to date; this is definitely enough to feed the monster and more.

Go Go Go

This is going to be the quickest Pip post in history.

Cowes week mad and busy but 3rd overall in Class – I am delighted with that so a massive thanks to all of the crew who put up with me nagging them for the whole week.

I then jumped on a plane and am now sitting in the familiar and friendly setting s of the Yacht Club de Grande Motte where i trained over winter in 2010.

I have teamed up with technical partners Magic Marine and Katabatic Sailing to give the all new RG650 a spin around the med and will be racing single handed in boat from here round Menorca and back.

I has been too busy to write more but you can follow the race here

 

A massive thanks to Bret Perry and Guillaume Rottee who have helped me prepare the boat.

I promise to come back with lots of stories pictures and videos

It’s been quiet

My page has been silent for a while and those that have got to know me through my blog might have gathered that things have been tough.

I had to make the difficult decision at the beginning of this month to pull out o the Les Sables- Azores race and to stay in the UK working as ever searching for a title sponsor for the Mini Transat 2013.

I has been difficult to leave the boat and press pause on the great leaps I had made with my training and early season racing but reality will come and bite you in the ankles at some point and it just made no sense to compete in this race.

The search for a sponsor at the moment is tough; I know I have a lot to offer and the feedback I am getting from my proposal is fantastic but the fact is everyone is feeling the pinch.

Still, the quest goes on, my campaign is still going forward with strength and I am daily meeting new people who are helping me to spread the word.

It makes me all the more grateful to my current amazing sponsors and to everyone who has offered help and support over the past three years of competition.

Special thanks this week goes to Steve who has been helping me in selling off some of my old electronics to fund the mini habit.  A link to his shop is here so if you fancy a spot of shopping head right there.

In the meantime I am consoled with addictive Olympics coverage, everyday seeing a new hero emerge from the sporting world. Yesterday I was bowled over by Rebbeca Adlington who’s genuine emotion was a fantastic reminder that though competing at international level in sport is indeed a business with quantifiable returns; we are not machines, we are individuals with personalities and passion plays an enormous part in success.

The purpose of Skill is to make a dream a fact

Pips Brochure
Last week I went to the offices of the Leepeckgroup in Southampton to pick up the final version of my newly designed sponsorship proposal and to personally say Thank You.

The reception of the office was just exactly as you would expect a creative and PR agency to be. Tasteful, modern, comfortable with thought provoking material on the walls and the tables around.

I was flicking through a book on ‘sideways thinking’. A volume of quotes, photographs, and ideas designed to jump start our brains into a little creative thinking and the pages fell open on a list of quotes.

At the bottom of the page larger than the others was ‘the purpose of skill is to make a dream a fact’.

I like that. It’s true and it really made me think about everything that I am doing and have done.

In 2009 when I started solo sailing it really all was a dream; I had ideas about what I wanted to do, I thought I knew how to make it work and I launched myself at the problem.

My sailing skills have allowed me to sail over 20,000 miles single handed in the last three years. They have won me trophies in international events and made me competitive.

My boat building, project management and general maintenance skills have allowed me to campaign two different boats through three major campaigns.

My writing skills have developed along the way giving me the ability to share my story.

As a solo sailor you are required to have many many skills; to be self sufficient and to think your way out of every problem. But I am now getting to the stage where I can no longer do everything well. If I want to focus on improving my own specialist skills then I must enlist the help of other specialists to do the things in my campaign that I am not able to do well.

Over the last month the Southampton based Leepeckgroup has given a whole new look to my Pip Ocean Racing campaign literature, they have used their specialist skills to create a document that exactly captures the spirit of my campaign and I hope will help to convey my message to future sponsors.

So I’d like to say a massive thank you to Sue Thomas and her team at Leepeckgroup whose skills will help make my dream become fact. www.leepeckgroup.com

I am on a massive push to find a title sponsor for my campaign; without which my campaign for the transat 2013 will not become a fact.

If you are interested in receiving a copy of the campaign brochure, then please send me an email at pip@pipoceanracing.com

AG2R

In Brittany the crowds will be descending on Concarneau today for the start of the next big transatlantic race, the AG2R.

16 teams will race in 31ft Figaro 2’s from Brittany, through the Canaries and then on to St Bart’s in the Caribbean.

It’s a tough race attracting some of the top sailors from the Figaro class; the competition will be full on, identical boats pushed by identically driven and talented sailors all with the sole goal of making it there first.

Among the entries this year is our own British Team of Sam Goodchild and Nick Cherry, sponsored by Artemis and trained through the Artemis Offshore Academy; these guys have been living Figaros for well over a year now.

Like me, Sam and Nick’s primary focus has been on Solo sailing, the main event of the year will be the Solitaire de Figaro but double handed racing runs alongside most single handed campaigns. With all the dedicated solo classes having double handed races as well; they provide a different dynamic, a chance to compete alongside instead of against some of your competitors and keeping the calendar alive and interesting.

So what is it that makes a good double handed crew? Naturally a good balance across the board of all the skills it takes to make a distance sailor and expertise in different areas is primary, however after that most of it comes down to personality.

A small annoying tick can escalate to mammoth proportions after a couple of weeks together in a small boat; an inability to communicate can destroy team spirit, ruin strategy and potentially lead to basic mistakes. Losing trust in a co-skipper will result in lack of sleep, a culture of blame and ultimately this will have a detrimental affect on the boats performance.

So how will our Brits get on? Here’s my take from the outside.

Two very different people driven by a common goal; Nick Cherry has a mind which goes in a thousand different directions at a time, slightly chaotic but very effective. He is dedicated and interested in many things, lives life at a breakneck pace and gives his all. His sailing credentials are impeccable and he will take to this campaign a mentality that will always be looking for ways to improve, to go faster to push harder.

Sam Goodchild the youngest of the pair has a slightly calmer air; equally talented but with his experience lying in short handed and offshore Sam is unbelievably focussed. His attention to detail is never ending; having already suffered a retirement from the TJV last year he is leaving no stone unturned and no eventuality unconsidered to make damn sure they will make it across the pond this time. Sam’s dedication to the sport is immense and seldom does he allow his gaze to ever waver from the end goal; the Vendee globe – and I for one am sure he’ll make it.

So these guys have complimentary and diverse skills, they know each other well having trained and lived together for over a year but above all of this they are friends.
Yes we are professionals, we are all serious about what we do; driven to succeed and take the investments of our sponsors seriously but that does not mean we don’t have fun.

We sail because we love it and sailing with friends is some of the best fun that can be had.

I believe that Sam and Nick are a fiercely strong team, they are motivated and I believe capable of winning.

However more certain than that I am also sure they are going to have a blast.

Good luck guys, I look forward to seeing the videos when you get in.

Something Different


It has been a strange old week; things have not been following the grand plan and I have found myself in different places doing different things with different people, going with the flow has been the only direction and it seems to be a good one.

Training finished last week and I pulled my boat out of the water to give it a bit of loving pre the first event of the year the Demi Cle.

In the meantime the rest of France was gearing up for their big Easter event, Spi Ouest which is equivalent to Cowes week in Calibre and this year was no different. Fleets including 118 J80’s lined up in conditions varying from 25 knots to flat calm to battle it out in long days on the water.

I headed over to La Trinite to check out the action and before I knew it a last minute tummy bug from a visiting British crew put me on the rail of Quokka www.quokkasail.co.uk the British Grand Soleil 43 and previous winners of the IRC nationals as a replacement mid bow.

It was strange to sail on a fully crewed boat again, and especially at the front as normally you’ll find me hanging round the backstay or at the very least in the cockpit, but I enjoyed the different view, sailing with a good team and the total lack of decision making required from me.

The competition was tough and the podium position the crew coveted slipped from our grasp after a difficult third day but we finished the regatta with a 4th place overall in IRC 1 and I spent some good time on the water, listening, watching and enjoying sailing.

On return to Lorient plans went slightly off course as my transfer of the race entry fee for the Demi Cle, having been lost in the international piggy bank of some financial institution or the other eventually turned up late, so as the event is over subscribed I had been bumped to the waiting list.

I have to admit I had a bit of a strop over this; just so disappointed after all this preparation and stopped by a fault that was not of my own, I stood down my co-skipper and cancelled the launch of my boat and had a bit of a sulk on.

This was put to a stop by the appearance of Jake Jefferies, a British mini sailor; in Lorient with his new proto type Mad Dog.

Jake is campaigning for a 2013 mini transat entry in a boat he has designed and built himself. First step on this path is the crucial stage of measurement before he can gain official mileage in mini races.

Over the last two days I have been helping Jake with this task, interpreting between him and the class mini measurer Joel Gate, and watching as the never ending tests where performed.

Looking from the outside this has been an interesting experience and I will write about the various measurements and how they were made in another blog but most excruciating has been watching Jake go through it all.

On the outside Jake has had a ‘what will be, will be’ attitude. He designed and built the boat to conform as he believed with the rules but I know he had some niggling worries and after all this hard labour and time.

It must have been a very heart in mouth experience, just the chance that it might not pass and to have to accept criticism of something you have put your heart and soul into must be very very hard.

Most nerve racking for me was the test of stability where the keel is canted to the ‘wrong’ side of the boat, the mast is cranked over onto the dock and 48 kilos of lead is hung from the mast head. Then when the mast head is placed on the water the boat must deliver a positive stability.

It’s worrying to watch as a spectator; of course the implications of the mast not coming up are not good; on the first day of measurement in 25 knot gusts we decided to put the test on hold and managed to complete it this morning in flat water and sunshine, finishing with an upright boat and permission to race providing Jake makes a modification to his liferaft launching system.

While all this was going on frantic phone calls where being exchanged between Jake and his co-skipper about travel arrangements and timings all of which ended up with me agreeing to step in as his co-skipper for this race which I was very happy to do.

In the meantime the race organisers rang me and informed me there would be a place for my boat in the race, however without a co-skipper, proper preparation and a boat in the water I have decided to stick with the plan and sail with Jake.

It’s going to be great to be a British team, to sail on a proto and to help Jake get through his first event, which can be quite a minefield of paperwork and certificates and complying with the tiniest of rules.

I’ll take the go pro and lots of pictures and let you know how it is on a proto when I get to the other end.

A question of money…

Thank you so much for all your kind comments on the blogs; I really get a kick from that fact that people enjoy reading these little snippets of a sailing life.

A recurring comment over the last year or so has been the question as to how I am funding this sailing campaign and so this blog is dedicated to the question of funding.

Running a full time sailing campaign is something many of us dream of doing, and only a hand full will ever make happen. It requires a massive amount of dedication, organisation, an ability to globally manage a project, sacrifice many other aspects of your life and of course in addition it requires money!

A mini campaign is an interesting case to study as there is a sliding scale of funding with which to fund your campaign and I have a spreadsheet with five different budgets labelled starting with ‘I’ll just make it to the line’ and ranging to ‘full time racing campaign’.

Regardless of talent funding and management of your budget do have an end effect on your performance and of course whether or not you even make it to the line.

Money is not something that I have ever focussed on in my blogs; I guess I have felt that it’s sort of a tainted subject, it affects us all and raises most of our stress levels – I am lucky to be doing what I am doing and no one wants to hear about my financial stresses and strains, they want to read about sailing and for some it is an escape to a different world for a couple of minutes.

However I am sure that there are those out there who would like to make the jump; who dream of doing something else or who are just plain curious about how I have made it happen. So here it is a guide to a series mini transat budget.

First of all you need to have a boat; there are three options here you can buy a boat, you can get a sponsor to buy, lend or give you a boat or you could charter one.

The average cost of a racing mini all kitted out is between 55 and 62,000 Euros. I bought my boat using my life savings; I have always lived on a boat rather than a house which has kept the cost of living down a lot over my life time and enabled me to make this investment now.

I bought a boat that had not been raced so it was cheaper at the outset but I needed to kit it out to racing spec. For this I have been incredibly fortunate to work with some amazing trade sponsors who have helped me equip the boat at minimal cost.

The boat of course will depreciate as you use it but with racing mini’s of a high standard, as long as you look after them you should get a chunk of your money back at the end.

Once you have the boat you need to decide where on the sliding scale your campaign will fall, and this will determine your budget.

Over the two years it is possible to organise qualifying, training and racing around a full time job, strategically using holidays and getting extra time off for the big event itself – the bonus of this of course is that you are able in some way to keep afloat in everyday life and mortgages, phone bills, road tax can still all be paid. However the down side is of course less sailing and you often need to employ others to work on your boat and move it around if you cannot take the time off.

At the complete opposite end of the scale are the full time professionals, who dedicate their whole lives to training, working on and racing the boat; this way of running a campaign naturally requires an income from another source to pay for every day life; either private funds or a salary from a sponsor. However it is giving the sailor the best chances of success, to improve their skills, develop their boat; normal life just ticking along ,eyes and mind focussed on the end goal – a result in the mini transat.

This is never cut and dry and though at the moment there are quite a few full time campaigns on the track, most of whom I am currently training with in Lorient; the mini circuit is huge, over 350 sailors took part in events last year and all of those will have been managing their lives and budgets in different ways.

For me at the start there was little choice about the work / sailing balance; I had decided to run a campaign to the transat in 10 months and that meant I had to qualify by competing in the first races of the season or risk making all the investment in the boat but not getting to the race.

I had a great kick start training with the Artemis Academy in La Grand Motte and then after that I was on my own, driving up and down through Europe busting a gut to get qualified.

To give me the flexibility I needed to make this happen I took out a personal loan against the value of ‘The Shed’ the Lightwave 395 which has been my home for the past ten years.

This process of qualification took three months and it was three months where I could do nothing else. But it worked.

Once qualified I returned to the UK with the boat and then attempted to balance the elements of working as a professional skipper and sailing instructor, preparing the boat, training where possible and finding sponsorship to get me through the transat itself.

It’s a fine balance and one which I am sure will ring true with any other sailors trying to make it work. Do you invest all your time in the search for a sponsor, so neglecting your training and if you come up with the funds risking your performance? Or do you train and sail focussing on your own performance but at the expense of finding the budget to actually get there?

Again it’s that sliding scale and in truth sponsors require a lot more than just a good sailor to justify their investment in your campaign, you need to start thinking of yourself and your campaign as a business and the sailing is just a part of it; like with any business time and resources need to be split between investing in the assets you already have and speculating to find others who will invest in your campaign.

Last year I found my balance and until the summer kept investing in my campaign by taking out further loans against my boat and working as hard as I could in the interim. In the last two months in the lead up to the race I was fortunate enough to sign three sponsors, whose injection of cash enabled me to buy new sails, finish the refit of my boat and get to the line in reasonably good form.

The trade off had been a complete lack of training over the summer, in the absence of any programme in the UK I sailed alone in the evenings and on days I had no work and though I turned up to the transat with a reasonable mileage in the mini, through 2011 I had no boat on boat training with other mini’s and this definitely affected my performance.

Fast forward to 2012 and I am now three months into my 2013 transat campaign. My personal funds are all run out; ‘The Shed’ is up for sale to cover the loans from last years transat and the realms of what I can achieve on personal funds are very curtailed.

Taking the positive outlook and believing I can make it work I decided at the beginning of this year that the investment I would make in myself would be early in the season in the form of training in Lorient with one of the best mini coaches there is; this has already paid off in spades, my boat speed has improved I have learned an enormous amount and am on the water with guys who were in the top five last year; watching them, chasing them, aspiring to sail like them.

To fund being here I have downsized my life. I rounded up all of my possessions and identified the things I can live without and have sold or am selling it all to pay for training and living expenses during the months of March and April while I will be in France. I am living in my van or on the mini and think hard about every mile I drive and every item I purchase.

This may seem a little extreme but early season training is a set up for the whole of the rest of the year; my objective for this campaign is to improve on the skill I already have, not just to do the miles but to achieve better results, to increase my level of competition and move forward. With that goal in mind, a good start to the season is high enough a priority to demand such a sacrifice.

For the rest of the year the balance will adjust to reflect the different needs of the ‘business’ adjusting to the circumstances I am in and heavy on the hunt for sponsors. Without a sponsor I will not be able to carry on, so strategically I am hoping this early boost to the training will take me through any lean sailing months ahead where the demands of real life may keep me off the water.

It’s a complicated equation and of course one that involves risk. I have risked spending my life savings but at no point will I ever regret the decisions I have made. One of the great pleasures in life has to be developing a skill and attempting to excel in that field. Aside from the immense pleasure I get from sailing in general; to push myself to the limits in solo sailing and compete at an international level has been one of the greatest achievements of my life to date, I am proud of what I have done and though I am determined to carry on with this career if it does not work out I will have no hard feelings.

For anyone reading this blog and wondering when, how or if they can make the jump in any sport or project my advice would be that actually taking the jump is the biggest step of all; but it is only a tiny percentage of people who will get offered a deal without making an initial investment themselves.

If you really want to do it then don’t hang around waiting to be given something; go out and start on whatever terms you can, it may be a small beginning but at least it is a beginning; your own circumstances and personal goals will shape the course of your project and whether you succeed or not, whether you find a sponsor who will invest in your campaign or you go as far as you can on your own steam, the action of actually trying and investing in yourself is something you will be proud of for the rest of your life.

2012 Race Calendar

26

2012 from whatever angle you look at it is going to be a massive year for sailing. The finish of the Volvo, the start of the Vendee and of course the Olympics in the summer polarising the focus of the world on two short weeks of competition that have been fed by years and years of dedication.

Though the mini’s are in their ‘rest’ year from the bi-annual transat race. Rest is far from my mind when I look at the race calendar for the year ahead. It’s full, in fact it is bursting at the seams and my foot is hard on the gas looking forward to a year of learning, development and hard competition.

The season starts for me in the Atlantic with the Demi Cle, a double handed coastal race which is notorious for Spring storms and tricky navigating. It is the first race of the season for the Atlantic boats, a chance to flex muscles after the two months of training in Brittany fog we are putting ourselves through at the moment; bravado has lead to boats on the rocks and the fierce competition sets the scene for the season ahead.

Where the Demi Cle ends, the Select starts and Pornichet hosts one of the biggest single handed races of the season. A fleet of close to 70 boats battle their way around Belle Isle, down to Les Sable d’Orlonne, up to ‘the poxy’ Isle de Groix (as some know it) and back home. This race is a floating test of your stress levels; as if it wasn’t hard enough to navigate 300 miles of tidal and rocky coast alone; to race with close competition breathing down your neck at your every move sets the heart rate thumping and will punish those that sleep!

After the Select we have a choice and of course I am going all British.

This year is the first year that Britain will host two official classe mini events and it is a really important progression in the development of the class in our country.

In early May the new Solent650 will depart from Lymington via the Needles Channel, race down to the Poole fairway buoy and then on to Wolf Rock and back into Plymouth as a feeder race for the UK Fastnet.

This new cat C race will allow British boats to qualify for the UK Fastnet cat B race without leaving the country and runs at the same time as a Cat C feeder race to Plymouth from La Trinite in Brittany. Anyone curious about mini’s should catch us rounding the Poole Fairway buoy on the 6th May in the afternoon. I will be sailing with fellow transat skipper and great friend Christa ten Brinke; come and give us a wave!

The UK Fastnet is one of the favourite races in the mini Calendar due to the hospitality of the home club The Royal Western. Well let’s face it; the race wouldn’t be a favourite for the course. Slogging upwind from the Eddystone to the Fastnet rock in grey cold, bone chilling damp; the British weather at it’s worst, but at least we should have a blast back via Conneberg (if we can find it! Some had trouble last year) under spinnaker which made it all worth while last time.

After all this double handing I think I will be ready to bin my co-skipper again and the MAP out of Dournonez is the next race on my calendar at the end of May, and it’s single handed. This course is shorter than the Select but just as competitive, last year I did not manage to enter but this year my form is in and I am on the list already. No hesitation!

Next another crack at the Fastnet; it’s a shame I can’t do it with RORC as well; just to make sure I was properly familiar with the form of the lighthouse.

Again it’s a new race for me but the buzz around the mini Fastnet race is legendary; it’s simple. A full on drag race across the approaches to the English Channel from Douarnenez to the Fastnet rock and back, accepting along the way whatever the weather sends at you. Last year the poor forecast changed the course and kept the little boats on the French side.

And then the Ocean race of the year, to the Azores and back from Les Sables. This is the race I am really looking forward to. Single handed ocean racing, facing the Atlantic fronts in all their fury. The last Azores race saw a front pass over the fleet and continued wind speeds of over 30 knots for a few days. Record speeds were recorded and rigs were lost.

After the Azores things tail off in the Atlantic so I shall be heading down to the Mediterranean where there is still some great competitive racing on offer in the back end of the year.

All new this year is the AIR race which stands for Around Islands Race. Starting from the incredible Americas cup Village in Valencia, this is a drag race out to Mallorca, round Ibiza and back again. Like the Solent 650 this is an important progression in the mini calendar for Spain as it’s their first Cat C race and will feed directly into the mini Barcelona Cat B race a couple of weeks later.

The race organiser is promising a massive welcome and strategically this race will be important in the scheme of qualification for anyone coming into the Classe later this year to get their miles in ahead of the Atlantic boats and so get onto the entry list for the 2013 transat.

Anyway can you see a down side from racing from Valencia around the Balearics and back?? I can’t!

So after that the mini Barcelona……….. or maybe not…….. other plans may be afoot…….

29

An incredible journey

>SANY0040

I am sitting on the TGV on my way back to Lorient after quite a tour of Europe in the last couple of days and looking forward to home; in the back of my van parked next to the mini.

I left last Tuesday night from Lorient to take the pogo 2 of Geoff Duniam ‘Mad Spaniel’ to the Solent for training and to be made ready for the two UK races in May this year.

It was my first time afloat in a mini this year and so despite the long dark nights and the promise of a cold and wet crossing I was very much looking forward to getting back out there alone in a little boat. Remembering what it was all about.

The trip didn’t disappoint and in stages I was reminded of all things mini and my body still knows about it.

A little passage planning and a favourable wind up to Brest allowed me to hit the tidal gates through the Raz de Sein and Ushant just right; with flat seas, a fantastic speed over ground of 15 knots at times and even a visit from the dolphins in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

As I passed Ushant the cloud that had slowly been rolling in bought with it the wind that was promised and before too long I was screaming along with the code 5 (little spinnaker) doing a steady 14 knots.

This was the first time Mad Spaniel had been sailing for a while and so I was constantly checking running and standing rigging to make sure everything was as it should be and conscious that I should not push her too hard.

As the wind gusted up to 30 knots my decision to take the spinnaker down was prompted by the appearance of a cardinal marker I had not been expecting to see; I spotted it at two miles on the horizon, and expected it was a North Cardinal marking the shape of the coast to keep large vessels off the rocks.

At 14 knots two miles disappears quite quickly and before long I could tell this was no Northerly…. It was a westerly and I was heading East.

For the non-sailors reading my blog a West Cardinal indicates there is an obstruction to the East of the buoy and any boats should stay to the West. In short I was heading into danger at 14 knots.

My heart jumped inside the many jackets I was wearing and I was gripped by a searing panic…. I wasn’t sure I wanted to throw the boat into a gybe under spinnaker in that much wind and what ever was on the other side of that buoy was coming at me way to fast.

There followed the fastest spinnaker take down in history, all the more impressive due to the fact I was wrapped up like the Michelin Man so moving was quite and effort.

The sail came down; I gybed the main headed sharp north and dived below to check the chart.

Common sense had told me I was far enough from the coast not to worry about rocks and I was right. There was not danger and as suspected this was a cardinal designed to keep large ships from getting too close to the corner at Ushant, however instead of being north as I expected it was a Westerly to reflect the gentle curve of the coast to the South. I was not heading into danger; just a scare but with it a stark reminder that single handing through the British Channel and around the coast of France and the UK is a very different ball game from the open and empty Atlantic.

I wasn’t complacent before, but remained on high alert for the rest of the trip, edgy and on constant look out.

The rest of the trip passed by well, offering a dark wet and windy crossing of the shipping lanes with less than half a mile of visibility but made possible and safe with a great AIS.

On my boat currently I have an AIS transponder but do not have a screen to show positions of other vessels and this is something I will now be looking to change immediately; I would not have been able to cross those ships without it.

I remembered the feeling of the boat underneath me and fell straight back into a system of ten minute naps like I had been at sea forever.

The spinnaker went up again with the sun on Thursday morning and I enjoyed a very relaxed sail into Lymington for the rest of the day; I was tired, bruised completely full of tea and remembering what life is all about.

After a weekend working in the Solent my next trip was by plane to Valencia where I have been to test sail the new RG650. This is an Argentine designed boat which hopes to be the new series boat on the block by the end of this year………. It’s bold, it’s new and I’ll write more of that another time.

From Valencia to Montpellier by overnight bus a quick coffee in the square and now I am on the train heading back to Lorient.

I would say I’m looking forward to my own bed, but the place I sleep at the moment takes many forms, buses, trains, the back of a van and a wet cockpit; the comfort might not always be there but when I close my eyes sleep is never far away.

SANY0041

Bringing mini madness back home to the UK

Too tired to write properly at the moment, but I just delivered the pogo 2 of Australian transat skipper Geoff Duniam back to the UK; sailing through two nights in feezing conditions, 30 knot winds and driving rain…………………… IT WAS BRILLIANT!!

More writing later, meanwhile here’s the piccies and videos