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.

Round the Island for Water Aid

I took the weekend off from mini sailing and instead competed in one of the world’s oldest and biggest sailing regattas; The Round the Island Race.

Again teamed up with Ash Harris my co-skipper for the mini fastnet and the Archepelago race, we took a team from Herbert Smith, sailing to raise money for Water Aid, on this wild ride in some very tricky conditions.

It was an exciting day; windy with big seas and lots of boats losing control.

I am happy to report we were not one of them and we finished the race in 7h and 3 minutes to gain 3rd place in our division 1B.

A fantastic result for all.

That winning feeling – ACCEPTED for the Mini Transat 2011

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Thursday was a big day for me; the dream became reality. I received official confirmation that I have a place in the 2011 mini transat.

On Thursday, the organising committee of the race announced that they would allow another 12 boats into the race, bring the total of entries to 84.

Prior to then I had been number six on the waiting list, believing that I would make it in as others would drop out closer to the event, but still without that certainty of a confirmed entry.

Now I can shout about it, and I am.

There are only two British entries to this prestigious ocean race, and I am very very proud to be one of them, along with Dan Dytch who will race in the prototype class.

I still haven’t stopped smiling. This is it and I am so proud to have got into the race from such a late start.

The mini transat has always been a prestigious and popular race, and true to form this year it is more popular than ever. The competition has been unbelievably fierce just to get an entry into the event and on the water it will be tougher still.

As testament to the events importance and popularity all 84 places are now full. Classe mini have encouraged those who are not going to make it to cancel their entries early but despite having five people drop out, the waiting list is currently still nine strong with even more hopefuls waiting for a dropout place before the start.

It was a huge effort to qualify in the way that I did. I pushed myself, my boat, my van and a lot of friends and family to the limit to finish the first three races of the season and it paid off.

WE ARE IN!

There are 97 days to go and I am on a serious mission to pull it all together and make the best effort at this race campaign I can.

It is time to shape up the boat and myself, organise a mini refit, get my new sails made, raise the rest of my costs to get the boat to the line and back from Brazil, then start my routing and navigation preparations.

I am so excited, it is hard to focus, I have been running round in circles picking up things and putting them down, struggling to work out what to do when and get it into a sensible order.

I need a slap round the face or a stern school teacher to put me on the right path, there is no time for faffing; the race to the start line is well and truly on.

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!

Lonesome me……

I went for a sail yesterday.

The first time in the mini since the Fastnet; it was great to be out on the Solent on a windy day, dodging the sandbanks, ferries and corporate racing fleets; but boy, did I feel alone.

Not another mini in sight.

For now I am grounded in the UK; my funds have run out and I cannot carry on with the rest of the racing and training that is going on in France.

The MAP single handed race starts tomorrow from Douardonez and I am feeling pretty miserable that I am not there to profit from the racing, training, experience and be with the rest of the crazy people who will be sailing across the Atlantic this September.

Over the next couple of months, I will be working and making a big push to try and find the rest of my expenses through sponsorship to cover my race costs and if possible to return to France and carry on training with other mini’s in the build up to the start.

Until then I will stay in the UK and I realised yesterday how important it is that I make a proper structure for my training and make the most of what I have here on my doorstep. It would be very easy to go out everyday and just sail up and down without purpose; but I need to define what I want to achieve each day and make sure that I have learned / practiced something and there is a way to self debrief and benefit from each day on the water.

I have decided to run my days much as we did at CEM, with exercise first thing, a morning of work writing and following up sponsorship leads, then take to the water after lunch with an objective in mind.

Though I cannot compare my boatspeed with others the areas I feel I can work on are manoeuvres, sail selection, boat settings – though I cannot compare my speed against another boat I will have to be meticulous about recording my own data, speed, wind angles, wind speed etc, fitness and familiarity around the boat, sailing at night.

I will also be able to start looking at and analysing the weather for the race, listening to the broadcasts from meteo france on the SSB and starting to make my road book for the big event.

So enough moping! Yes, I wish I was with the others; but this is me, here, now. I will make the most of where I am and the people I have around me.

I will keep a diary of what I do each day to monitor my progress; I believe I can self coach and prepare my self in isolation from the other boats, it’s just going to take discipline and motivation…… what this space!