Downwind video

Hi Guys, the link to my video given on sailing anarchy got suspended by dropbox as too many people were looking at it. So I have now uploaded it to youtube.

Here is the new link:-

End of term for Classe mini

Day six has not quite broken at the training camp in La Grande Motte and I am alone in the communal kitchen (with a few thousand ants) slurping tea and hurriedly trying to get  few words down before we move onto Stage Figaro, which starts with a training session at the swimming pool.

Mini training was fantastic; I have learned a huge amount, become a lot more confident in my little boat and most importantly, with the help of my coach, I have an understanding of what I do not know and a set of defined goals to work towards.

I have a few decisions to make in the next month or so, not least of which is about my sail selection. Currently you are allowed a combination of six sails and two storm sails in the mini. I have only four, including a Solent (jib), a mainsail and two spinnakers; but this has left me with no arsenal for reaching; so I need to buy some second hand sails to have a go with so I can decide what I want my in final wardrobe.

Days have been well structured and full; starting with a group physical training session at the gym where our coach has assessed our areas for improvement and written us an ongoing programme. For me this is weight training and core stability as due to my running I am in pretty good cardio vascular shape.

After the gym we are straight down to the boats with an hour to prepare our ships for training, then to a debrief on the exercise of the day before (mostly in French); our coach Paul is no soft touch and normally we all get a telling off.

Then a briefing for the day and straight onto the water for a sail, all the time our every move being logged on gps trackers, which will be replayed in a debrief at the end of the day, normally to one or more sailors great embarrassment.

Evenings have been spent, fixing boats or doing homework, preparing for the day ahead, though yesterday was Italian skipper Suzi’s birthday so we did manage a ‘classe mini school trip’ into Montpellier for a quiet beer and to enjoy the Christmas lights.

It has been decided by the centre manager Franc Citeau that my next progression should be the double handed training in the Figaro class, which starts next week.

I was a little unsure about this as this is a very tough class and the sailors are top of their game, but when I questioned his decision, Franc firmly told me he knew what was best for me and that I need to concentrate on boat on boat tactics and a week ‘en double’ in the Figaro would be the next logical progression for me.

I have to admit to a lot of nerves, I saw the ‘figarists’ arriving in their sign written vans yesterday and felt very small – still Franc promised me my co-skipper looks like Brad Pitt so there has to be an upside to all of this!

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La Matossage

It’s ten to eight and I have ten minutes to write this before it all kicks off again.

Yesterday was fantastic.

We started with group musculation! A run followed by a weights session where our coach asked us all to find our max on each machine so we had something to work against. I have never ‘done’ weights before and so struggled a little with the technique and was stunned by Marie who is a small French tip top sailor; comes up to my shoulder and can push 5 kilos more than me on every station!

Our morning session was on manoeuvres, talking through the sequence of events and adapting the lists we had looked at the night before. At times I was concentrating so hard to understand the words in French I must have looked like I was in pain with my face screwed up and staring intently at the coach, he stopped and asked me if I was ok.

Then the fun bit. It was blowing 25knots, gusting 30 and our exercise for the day was a short upwind leg, a mark rounding and then a 10 mile downwind, round a buoy and back home again.

The start was poor for me.

During the night I think my boat overheard I had come to La Grand Motte to master it and so obviously felt it was time to remind me exactly who was in charge.

The gusty conditions had me in a complete mess with every pre tack manoeuvre with backstays flailing around, hooking round the wrong side of the main or not releasing and pinning the main in so with each gust the boat reared up on its side uncontrollably trying to throw me out of the cockpit.

Things just seemed to escalate as I got closer to the start and eventually I just had to stop, sit hove to, take a few deep breaths and tell my little boat, I understood I was merely a passenger and please could we just work together and start the race.

Tacking in the mini is frantic, you must steer the boat, release the old backstay, swap the jib sheets, then pull on the new backstay hard, be ready to release the main in a gust, pull on the fine tune for the backstay, and don’t forget to duck while you are doing all this. I am finding my knees are the best option and I have already gone through a pair of foulies.

The downwind leg went a lot better, I had been out in the UK with Mark Rushall on a coaching day and he showed me how to sail in apparent wind mode downwind and keep the boat arced up on the edge of wiping out all the time.

This is a lot of fun. We went flying off into the med, five little minis, with water rooster tailing down each side, weaving in and out of the waves as they started to build the further offshore we got.

Occasionally one of us would wipe out; the sail would flog, the boat would lie on it’s side, we would be patient waggle the rudder and ‘row’ the boat back upright and off again.

Most of the time I was laughing manically.

Round the bottom mark and back upwind again was not so much fun, these boats are designed for the wind behind them and with little weight on the rail they just fall over in gusts.

I ended up with a reef in my jib and two reefs in the main and carefully carved my way through the aggressive Mediterranean chop.

By the time we got in it was late, dark and cold. We had a 10 min debrief where our coach pointed out the immediate areas to work on – for me a got a proper telling off for not stacking.

In the mini as it is so light and wide you must move all of your kit around downstairs to make sure the weight is in the best place on the boat to aid your performance. To be honest I did not even consider this, I had a lot on and stacking is not natural to me as until now I have raced under the IRC handicap system where stacking is strictly not allowed.

Main lessons learned are get stronger, get tougher, and stack, stack, stack.

Right- now another day begins we are off for a team 10k run before training this morning!

First day at school

I have come a long way…………. The mad panic to build a trailer and pack up ‘The Potting Shed’ (my pogo 2 ) in the snow in the UK seems such a long time ago.

Today was the first day of mini training on the Mediterranean at CEM (Centre Entreinment Mediteranie) in 10 knots of breeze and bright sunshine, I amused the other French and Italian sailors by sailing in a T shirt – they have no idea the temperatures I left behind in the UK.

Our class is small and mostly series boats and sailors who intend to do the transat next year, three Italians, one French and me. Lessons are conducted primarily in French with the odd smattering of Italian and English thrown in for those who don’t quite get it.

The session today was about manoeuvres, we sailed short courses, tacking hoisting, gybing and dropping, under the critical eye of our coach Paul Meilhat – top French Figaro sailor. The little boat had a good go at showing me who is boss, it is amazing how when under pressure the cockpit floor turns into a snake pit, I hit myself in the face with a winch handle and got numerous smacks on the head from the backstay.

This is the first time I have lined up against any other minis and so was going to be a great indication of how much work I have to do over the next year to get up to speed.

My boat speed in the conditions today seems to be good, manoeuvres alternate between complete farce and reasonably competent. I am definitely lacking consistency. On the whole I came through the day quite pleased with myself – nothing that a lot of practice and some time with a good coach and other sailors can’t make better.

My devois (homework) tonight is to go through the other sailors list of events for manoeuvres and add some comments of my own – the catch is the lists are in French. I have spent the evening sitting with a huge dictionary and managed to produce a list of sailing words that were not in it.

Luckily a French man wandered into the communal kitchen and was able to translate them all for me – his name is Vince, I have no idea where he came from but he has gone again now!

Tomorrow we have a ‘musculation’ session at the gym first thing, the whole class must attend, then we will watch the video and debrief our sailing today – then out on the water.

The forecast is for 25 knots and Paul says he wants to see us with the spinnakers and our focus will be on manoeuvring with the pilot………….. I think I am ready. I guess I will find out tomorrow.