It Works

Just back from a 24hr shake down sail; tired, sunburned and totally satisfied.

All those brains, and hands and hours that have worked so hard to make all those different components of this little boat come together, did a good job.

The boat felt great, the sails looked great, the charging system now a fuel cell and a solar panel worked spot on, all the electronics are calibrated and working perfectly; the bottom of the boat is slippery, there is no play in the rudders, all my running rigging is running smoothly through blocks and jammers; my noisy alarm wakes me up. All is right with the world.

It was so gratifying to sail off into the night on a boat that is so together.

Originally I had planned to go out with the two protos, but instead of chasing them around I sailed my own course; gently pushing my boat and myself and becoming reacquainted with the little things.

Now the majority of the boat work is done I know it is time to turn to myself and start preparing for the 30 odd days of solitude that lie ahead.

I guess you forget what it is really like to be alone; how often does it actually happen in our everyday lives; being out of touch, all alone with no interruptions.

As I steered over the waves, remembering the comfortable places to put my feet and arms, how the boat slams when you get it wrong, the feel of the tiller in my hand; thoughts crowded into my head vying for airtime now the cacophony of day to day life is left ashore. That’s the problem when you are really alone, the rest of the world will not let your mind be.

And yes I acknowledged all these small worries, and questions and outstanding niggles, but only long enough to banish them from my head.

My preparation is like a sort of meditation, I need to clear my head of all other matters; my job is to sail, to think about my boat, to think about the way ahead, the weather and the race.

This is my privilege, and it is time I got myself ready.

And so I sailed happily through the night and in the morning watched another beautiful sunrise. I know it’s only light, and I’ve seen so many before but they really are significant.

Get it right

It’s been time to slow down a bit. I am all at some crazy speed, trying to get as many jobs done in a short a time as possible so I can get out on the water with my new sails from Parker and Kay East; but it’s not the right way to go about things.

There is a ‘Zero’ at the end of the dock, just in front of the gangway when I walk down to the boat.

The Zero is a series boat, interesting because it has a Cathedral rig; this is where the top spreaders are bigger than the bottom spreaders, with separate shrouds, which allow a large genoa with a good inboard sheeting lead.

This zero looks in good condition, it arrived with the owner the other day and we helped him put his mast up, stepping it using two other mini rigs.

The boat is sponsored, by whom I am not sure but the logo on the side of the boat says, ‘Get it Right’.

It’s good that this boat is there, because it has really made me think and really put the brakes on.

Yes, it’s true; I want to go sailing, I feel that every waking hour I should be out there, melding with my boat and becoming happy to be at sea.

But there are jobs to be done, and these jobs need to be done well., which means doing them slowly.

So I have backed off the gas and in the last couple of days I have installed my new EFOY fuel cell from UPS systems one of my new trade sponsors, I have also installed the extra loud and annoying alarm made by Andrew Wood of solo sails, who a mini sailor himself has a first hand idea of just how easy it is not to wake up.

Every wire I have installed has been soldered first, then pulled and twisted to check the strength of the connection.

In installing the fuel cell I have had to re-sight a compass, and with that drill new holes and properly fill old ones; snip cable ties, and re-secure them in better places, rather than just adding more.

I have noticed loose or corroded electrics on the way and put them right.

This little boat is going to Brazil; it’s a long way and there may be some rough water to cross in the interim.

I need it to hold together. I need it to work as hard as I will be; so as much as the inside of me is screaming that the breeze is great, the harbour entrance is just there and I should be sailing; the head on my shoulders is staying calm, looking at the Zero as I head back and forth to my van; getting it right.

Welcome back to France

It really is great to be back; the trip down went hitch free apart from I got stung for the overhang of my mast on Britanny Ferries! Can you believe that? I was going to insist that no cars were allowed to park under my mast as I had paid for the space, but life is too short for that sort of carry on.

Driving through France is always restful; big open roads, fast moving traffic and the knowledge that my destination is a special one.

When I arrived in La Rochelle and was just starting to panic about getting lost in the city with a big red boat on the back of the van, a moped driver pulled up alongside me and started gesticulating wildly.

I ended up with my own personal escort to the marina, who never even stopped to say hello, just tipped his helmet and was gone.

The minis are special here.

After dropping the boat off at the boatyard, I hooked up with Mathieu of the GPO who is organising the skippers, to say hello and let him know I was here.

I took the rest of Wednesday off to visit Sable D’Olonne where the Figaro fleet had just arrived on a stopover, the race village was buzzing with activity and I managed to catch up with the Artemis Academy Scholarship winner Sam Goodchild for a bite to eat and a general gossip.

The rest of the week has been a slow plod of getting the boat in the water and the mast up. Unfortunately I have come down with a mega lurgy and so any work has been a struggle, fighting against, a cough, no breath and aching limbs in temperatures well over 30 degrees.

I have a cosy bed made up at the front of the mini, and am making the most of it to sleep off my illness, and if everyday I can achieve a little, step by step I am getting closer to the transat.

Final Countdown

It’s really happening. I am leaving on Tuesday to go to France and for the final 39 day countdown to the start of the mini Transat.

I cannot believe it has come round so quickly – well I can actually; I knew that this year would slip through my fingers like sand and my time would be impossible to hold on to. This geographical move is such a mile stone for me. It is the start; it is when I will leave behind all other life and thoughts and demands on my time and dedicate everything I have to my mini; the kind of dedication I wanted to put in from the start.

I had a quiet five minutes while delivering my boat back after Cowes week, a chance to reflect and to make an assessment of all the things I need to do but also all the things I have done. In some ways I am struggling to believe this is me; a dream I had when I was 20; an idle comment made has become reality. This transat is not something I have gone into on a whim, it is a dream I have nurtured for eighteen years and the emotional realisation that I am actually going to do it packs quite a punch when I linger long enough to let it.

It has been a very long journey, to end in a very short one; a life time of thinking about it, a too short ten month campaign followed by a four week race. Life is mad. One thing is for sure, I did not make this happen on my own.

There are too many of you to list individually but I sincerely wish that you all understand just how grateful I am for your help, support and sacrifice over the last couple of years.

Thank you to those who have pushed me, listened to me, believed in me, given me money, given me equipment, loaned me money, worked for me and with me, created my website, maintained my website, followed my tracker at 3 in the morning, listened to my moaning and shared my laughter, driven me to hospital, sailed with me, coached me, fed me, advised me, drove me across Italy while I slept in the passenger seat, promoted me, sent out endless brochures and letters, offered your help unconditionally and free of charge, wanted me to succeed.

There is so much more to thank you all for, and because I am soft I am getting all teary while I am writing this.

The start is on the 25th September from La Rochelle and I would love to see any of you there, if you can make it; there is a little band of people organising to come and I can put you in touch with each other if you wish. If you cannot make it for that day then come along before hand.

I do not have time to say thank you or goodbye to you all personally and I am sorry for that.

Thank you, bye bye.

Pip x

Cowes Week with Sunsail

It’s over, and I have the traditional sore throat to prove it has been a tough week.

I hate to think how many Cowes week’s I have raced in; more than I have fingers that is for sure. Sunsail Racing are one of my sponsors and this year I was skipper for one of the Sunsail F40 boats and what a week it was.

Several days of big breeze, new novice clients every morning and an ultra competitive fleet meant I was working my socks off, all day and exhausted every evening.

We had some great results including an early 1st and a 3rd; my clients Cazenove Capital Management, who are now in their 6th year of sailing in this event with me, all loved the experience and after a couple of hours instruction on the water, were racing the boat like a well oiled crew, including pole less spinnaker manoeuvres and some super slick mark rounding.

I’m not a hundred percent sure they knew these manoeuvres were either difficult or slick, but I certainly lavished praise on them as the spinnaker came down yet again hitch free and dry.

All this is done by having an extra eager and attentive crew who do just what they are told, when they are told to do it. It’s just like single handed sailing in a way, you break down the task and then give instructions to each person of how and when to deal with their sail or rope.

This year I was treated to the luxury of a mate onboard, and Phil Stubbs who was my co-skipper for the two handed round Britain and Ireland race, joined me for the week and was ever on hand to avert disaster and generally run around when things went wrong.

To be honest as the week went on my mind started to wander a bit from rounding marks in the Solent.

I am leaving for France on Tuesday and the countdown to the transat is now 41 days. I have so much to do and have to admit to becoming a little distracted towards the end of the week.

I was sleeping on one of the boats and every morning for the last four nights of Cowes week I woke up at precisely 0630, in a sweat and a panic and hit my head; with job lists reeling round and round in front of my eyes.

Going to France is a cut off point for me and a big mental corner. I have agreed with myself that once I am in La Rochelle the mini is going to be the only thing that matters in my life.

It is time to say goodbye to those friends who will not make it to the start; to tie up loose ends in work; to moth ball my faithful big Shed and to look to the 25th September.

I’m on my way!

Fuel Cell thanks to Fuel Cell Systems

Many thanks to UPS Systems who have this week helped me out with a Fuel Cell for my mini.

This is going to make a massive difference to my campaign.

I am off to Cowes Week tomorrow so will write about Fuel Cells when I get back………… for those that haven’t yet heard about them.

(Blog links: Cowes Week, Fuel Cell, UPS Systems)

Sunsail Racing – New sponsor onboard

Yesterday Sunsail Racing officially announced they are coming onboard as one of my sponsors for the mini transat.

I am delighted.

When I first made my way down to the Solent at the tender age of 18, with a dream of working on boats; like so many others my first job was with Sunsail. Though then they had 15 boats ranging between 32 and 35 feet and no GPS’s! (Am I showing my age?)

Well, we have both moved on, me to a 21ft crazy little boat I am going to race across the Atlantic and Sunsail to a brand new fleet of First 40 yachts, one of which I will be racing at Cowes next week.

Many thanks to them for their support, it is great to feel that they are behind what I am doing and that as a company Sunsail supports sailing as a sport as well as a business.


(Blog links: ‘Sunsail Racing sponsor Pippa Hare in the 2011 Mini Transat’, GPS, The Solent)