It’s all happening in France……………..

I am writing this on the ferry returning from a trip to Brittany and full of inspiration for the coming year.

St Malo is overflowing with ocean racing yachts in the final countdown to the Route du Rhum single handed trans-atlantic race, which departs on Sunday 31st October.

The sight is amazing with the inner docks crammed full of Open 60’s class 40’s HUGE trimarans, with the latest in modern technology and designed, nestled comfortably under the ancient walls of St Malo.

I have been helping with the preparations for friend and competitor in the race, Marco Nannini. It has not been a tough job, and the days work yesterday involved taking his class 40 UniCredit out for a blast with his preparateaur and classe mini veteran Paul Peggs while a helicopter buzzed overhead taking photographs.

I must admit to feeling more than a twinge of jealousy looking at the whole experience from the outside.

On returning to the dock we had to wait for the tide and ended up moored outside the harbour with a growing number of awesome race boats and skippers as they arrived in time for scrutineering and the race preparations.

The race organisers squeezed as many as possible into a packed lock and it was almost too much to take in – boat heaven – including the two latest open 60’s and Foncia with Michel Desjoyeaux himself (arguably the world’s greatest solo sailor). The lock sides became crowded very soon with passers by taking pictures and gauping at the spectacle; and this is the atmosphere with over a week to go.

Earlier in the week I took a trip to Douardenez, Port Le Foret and Lorient to have a look at some of the mini’s there and get some ideas how to set up my little potting Shed.  It was great to see so many of the boats all together and I now have a massive job list to start on when I get back to Warsash.

While in Lorient we were lucky enough to clap eyes on the mighty Banque Populaire returning from a training session. What a weapon.

They are on standby from the beginning of November for a Jules Verne attempt (fastest sailing boat around the world fully crewed) the record is 48 days. Good luck to them.

CHOSEN FOR THE ARTEMIS OFFSHORE ACADEMY

What an October I am having.

I have been selected to join the Artemis Offshore Academy as an associate sailor, taking my boat along to train with them in the south of France over this winter.

Over 50 up and coming solo sailors applied for this privilege, 32 of us where chosen to attend selection trials in September and out of those a squad of 11 sailors has been chosen to benefit from a tailored, intensive training programme designed to produce a potential winner of the ultimate race – The Vendee Globe (non stop single handed around the world) in 2016.

It is a massive boost to my campaign. Not only will I have access to a training programme, experts, support and advice but I will be sailing alongside some serious talent, giving me a chance to learn from them and getting me one step closer to achieving my own success.

And so now the work starts, I have less than a month to organise delivery of the boat to the Med, accommodation, travel and the hunt goes on for a title sponsor.

My programme of the winter will take up around 50% of my time; during the remainder I will be working to fund my costs in France.

I am unbelievably excited at what the next few months will bring, it is going to be tough to make it all work and I will have to dash between France and the UK balancing my work commitments and my training schedule but this winter is sure to make me a better sailor and improve my chances in the mini transat next year.

ROUND BRITAIN AND IRELAND REVISITED

It all seems like such a long time ago but last weekend, Phil and I finally went down to see old friends at the Royal Western Yacht Club in Plymouth and to receive our prize for winning the Two handed Round Britain and Ireland yacht race earlier this year.

What a great night.

A reunion, a celebration of short handed offshore racing, a meeting of adventurers and a lot of a party. Laughing, smiling, swapping stories, making plans for the next great race or adventure; a chance to acknowledge talent and strength of character and determination.

For me the trophy is less important – I will always be able to say that in 2010 Phil and I won this race overall. I will always have the memory of the effort we put in, the hard work and determination that was rewarded at every stopover as we pulled further ahead of the fleet, the painful moments when we thought we would lose it all as the wind died and our competitors hunted us down; the final feeling of crossing the line and knowing this achievement could never be taken away from us. You cannot embody this in a cup or trophy other than our names will be engraved in a place they will stay as long as the race does.

Looking to what I have achieved over the last years and what I hope to do in the future one thing is entirely clear. These opportunities to race and to meet a challenge are only possible with the passion and commitment of a group of people who want to make it all possible.

Phil said on one occasion when we were complaining about something the committee had said or done, ‘don’t knock them – it takes a certain type of person to organise an event like this and they are here working for us now.’

This has been my second legendary event with the Royal Western and I owe them a huge thank you for being so passionate about short handed ocean racing, for wanting to keep these classic events alive and providing us with the chance to live our dreams, indulge in our crazy passion and race against each other.

How many people would give up their own free time for well over a year, travel massive distances, sift through nit picking emails just to watch us having a good time?

Thank you to you all – you have given me the opportunity to be myself (and be by myself).

ENGLISH BRAIDS SPONSOR THE POTTING SHED

Many thanks to English Braids who have come onboard as official rope suppliers to ‘The Potting Shed’ for my 2011 mini campaign.

I met the guys at the boat show and Anto Stopps took an instant interest in my crazy little boat and before I knew it The Potting Shed was entirely kitted out with sparkly new dyneema.

This naturally is a great boost to my campaign but is not all one sided, as part of the deal I will be supplying English Braids with an on the water test bed for new and exisiting products ….. and the mini will be a hard task master.

English Braids

English Braids