There can be only one!


The one design aspect of the series class, was something that seriously appealed to me when I made my decision to buy a pogo 2 for the mini transat.

Though there are several different designs of boat within the series class we all have similar and specific features; fixed keels, no ballast, aluminium spars.

This makes perfect sense to me, the race is played out more on the water and less in the design office before hand, which is better for me as I have already mentioned, I am not a great tweaker, so all the innovation of moving keels and ballast and tweaky rigs would be wasted on me until I have learned a bit more.

However one aspect of the series class that is open to development and new designs is the sail wardrobe; and this is something I have greatly enjoyed working on over the last couple of months.

It has been a great privilege once again to team up with John Parker, sail designer from OneSails GBR on this project.

I already worked with John for the OSTAR when he guided me through the decisions I needed to make to convert my 39ft round the cans racer cruiser, to a single handed ocean racing boat.

This time we are working with a very different beast but John has bought with him a wealth of knowledge from past solo projects, including the mini transat campaign of fellow East coast sailor Nick Bubb.

What I have learned over the past 10 months of training in the mini is that there is a great data bank of experience floating around from the many years the pogo 2 has been around.

This I find is a double edged sword as at times, people can be a little too prescriptive over things like sail design; and sail makers will offer a ‘pogo 2’ package which of course is a result of development and careful design and is the best sail plan in their opinion for the boat; but leaves little room for input from the sailor.

With OneSails, I have been involved in my sail programmer from the start; John has come sailing on my boat, has listened to my experiences and taken note of the way I sail and my thoughts on what is important.

I have gained a lot of knowledge through our discussions of the various sail designs and though at times I am sure John has artfully steered me away from any stupid ideas, ( ‘well Pippa in my limited experience of these things, you ought to think carefully about that.’) I feel I have been an integral part of deciding my sail plan and as such I own these decisions and I am setting off to race across the ocean with a full knowledge of what is in my wardrobe and why.

So here it is………. The sail wardrobe.

Mainsail – 24.5 m2

The mainsail is made from Dimension/Polyant top quality woven polyeter, with their very firm HTP coated finish, and as with my previous main, is carrying a large head.

The principle differences between this and my previous main have been to lift all the battens a little higher in the sail, so providing more support for the fat head; to cut the clew of the sail a little higher to keep the boom out of the water when I am reaching (though I have to admit the extra head room in the cockpit when manoeuvring has made a bit of a difference as well), but also great attention has been paid to the inboard end of the battens to produce a system which will allow me to hoist and drop the sail easily and will not damage the bolt rope after a long time reaching or running.

The solent – 15.2 m2

The solent is made from Dimension/Polyant scrim style laminate containing Pentex (a refined Polyester) yarn that is arranged within the laminate specifically for building sails with a cross-cut panel layout.

Some of you may remember from a previous blog that this headsail decision has caused me a bit of grief over the last few months.

The current fashion within the fleet is to go for an ‘inter’. This is a sail, between the size of an overlapping genoa and an inboard sheeting solent, which has a foot length long enough to require a sheet lead outside of the shrouds yet the leech is profiled with enough concavity to bring the leech of the sail ahead of the lower spreader.

I have sailed with both the solent and the inter, but found my windward performance in upwards of 15 knots of breeze to be poor and the balance between the main and the headsail in these conditions difficult to get right.

I am much more comfortable with a solent, the boat feels right and I have a natural instinct of how to depower it in wind and waves. This could be because I have sailed many more miles with a solent than an inter, or it could be that the inboard sheeting lead for the solent allows the boat better balance in these conditions.

A futher advantage of the solent configuration is that if the sail designer correctly positions the clew it is possible to use an ‘in hauler’ to reduce the sheeting angle and gain better pointing in winds around 8-12 knots True. And not surprisingly this is the case with my sail.

However, what ever the reason, I have decided that it is more important to be comfortable with the sail that I have than to go with a sail that someone else suggests is the best sail for the race.

So I have made the seemingly gutsy call to go with a smaller headsail but one that I am very happy sailing with.

In reality we have measured both my new headsail and my old inter and the difference between the two is around a metre squared, but I feel I have gained signficant performance to windward particularly in breeze and waves, such as I could meet on my exit from the bay of Biscay.

But most significantly I have gained piece of mind and my solent is a sail with which I am instantly at one, I understand it and I can feel the boat well when I am using it.

Code Zero – 23m2 – fractional

This is again a laminate sail, made again from a laminate containing polyester yarns.
Unlike some of the other boats I have chosen to fly this from mid bowsprit, it is slightly smaller and a little flatter as a sail, meaning that I can make great vmg to windward in the lighter airs, and as the breeze starts building I can bring it out to the end of the bow sprit to use in big airs as my downwind bullet proof chicken chute. This is probably my most versatile sail.

A5 – 40 m2 -fractional – 0.9oz???
This is my small reaching kite, and is for designed for reaching in medium airs and for going downhill in the bigger breeze, one step before I start to use the code zero. I can see that when the conditions are a little difficult or marginal and perhaps I want to get some hassle free sleep, this would be my spinnaker of choice.

Combi – 54/65 m2 – fractional and mast head

This is the sail that has caused the fuss!

Designed to be a replacement for my big spinnaker should I lose it; but also to be the medium spinnaker for those in between times, when I have just too much for the big kite, or perhaps I am too tired to concentrate on flying it.

The spinnaker was originally designed with a removable reef which is attached to the bottom of the sail with a zip and and velcro.

There were two tacks and two clews on each part of the sail.

For reasons which I am not going to start ranting about this sail was approved and then disallowed by classe mini………. I’m not going to go there!

So now, with three days to the start it is being modified at the OneSails loft in Levington and it will arrive back with my friends on a plane tomorrow, with a reef that rolls and zips into the bottom of the sail. A slightly more conventional solution.

Finally A2 – 75m2 – masthead – 0.6oz

Theoretically this is the sail that gets me the most miles, it is this sail that we all dream of screaming through the trades with, the biggest sail area = the most miles.

This sail had a very specific design spec; I wanted the biggest sail area that was sensible and a sail that was very easy to manage alone; and that is exactly what I have.

It has a shape that will encourage me to soak down, and keep looking at my best vmg to waypoint (as I have discovered it is really fun reaching off all over the place with your kites, but sometimes it is quicker to square the pole back and soak a little bit down the waves). However, when I do want to heat it up and increase the apparent wind a little the shape is very forgiving and I have found out on my trial sails off La Rochelle that I can comfortably sit helming the boat with the sheet on the winch next to me and when I start to lose control with the rudders, it is easy to dump a little sheet, resulting in a curl, to the leading edge of the spinnaker, but not a full collapse so you can sail on the edge, but without losing control.

John explained , ‘giving a single hander an asymmetric designed for a fully crewed boat, usually results in them overtrimming it to keep it full, as it is unreasonable to expect them to keep it trimmed as constantly as a full crew.

Therefore the OneSails designed single handed spinnakers are a more forgiving less critical and more stable sail shape.

In practice this means a shape that is a little deeper in terms of overall camber than it’s fully crewed equivalent and that the cross sectional profile of the sail is a little more rounded’

And for those people out there who identify cars by colours (just like me) all my spinnakers are white, with chevrons down the leading edge.

There are a couple of reasons for this decision – one, it is simple to make them and repair them, but also should someone wish to paint their logo on the sail it is a clean sheet just waiting.
Two, – at night time it will be easier to see these sails and so trim them.

Three – if all my sails are plain white then from a distance it will be close to impossible for a competitor to ascertain which sail I am using. (This was something I had not considered but my experienced sailmaker had and of course it makes perfect sense.)

So all in all I am very happy with my wardrobe, I feel a girl could not be better dressed for the Atlantic- I really do have an outfit that fits, for every occasion.

Problems, problems

I’ve just picked up my last sail from One Sails; an A5 – it’s perfectly flaked and folded in it’s bag in the hold underneath me and I am flying back to La Rochelle, dying to try it out.

This weekend I spent racing a Sunsail F40, for Cazenove Capital Management, in the Jersey regatta; it has been a fantastic friendly event, with amazing weather, dolphins in the bay and some great racing.

The sail back overnight on Sunday was windy and we made it from Jersey to Port Solent in 14 hours.

Now I am happy to be escaping a wet and windy Britain and on my way back to my reality.

The next few days will be spent with the other sailors from CEM (Centre d’Entrainement Mediterranee) – there is only one sailor from our winter coaching group who will not be competing in the transat – with our coach Guillaume Rottee getting us up to pre race speed.

The programme is to include, exercise, sailing with the boats fully loaded for racing ( including all water, safety kit and food), practice on listening to and interpreting the French weather forecast, check lists for the race, mental preparation.

We are lucky to be part of such a group and to be able to benefit from the support from each other and from a coach. At this stage, one little problem or insecurity could easily escalate and dealing with things sensibly and methodically is essential.

My problem of the week is all about shipping.

In order to get my boat back from Brazil, I need to send out a cradle to ship it back in.

I have a cradle, it was cleverly built as part of my road trailer, a centre piece that is removable and will stand alone as a cradle.

Unfortunately I have discovered that this cradle is too large to fit in the container and ship out to Brazil, therefore I need to magic a collapsible mini cradle out of thin air to La Rochelle by 22nd September.

I have found a possible cradle, at the Artemis Offshore Academy in Cowes, but currently the shipping costs are coming out more than the value of the cradle……….. another solution is required.

Like I said……… keep calm, breathe deeply and don’t let a little problem grow.