Mini Transat 2011 Series Class starring leading lady Pip Hare

Pip Has now converged closer to the bunch of the fleet tracking in 9th position in the Série Classe and continues to star as the ‘Leg 2 Leading Lady’. The Italian Suzanne Beyer follows close behind in 11th place ahead of the next lady, Christa ten Brinke from the Netherlands, in 27th place.

Lady of the Night

The conditions were tough In the vicinity of the Canaries. The wind strengthened from the north/northeast to 20 knots with sudden gusts of 30 knots or more in some areas coupled with a very choppy sea-state. This put extra strain on the boats which are still in ‘heavy mode’ comparatively weighed down with the majority of their food and drinking water consumables still intact.

Pip and two others were commended in the official race reporting for their skill in taking a course through the Canary Island Group which involved night sailing in difficult conditions. Pip identified in her blog that she thought gains could be made overnight as many of the opposition tend to have a night sailing regime which is less attentive than during daylight hours. This approach certainly paid off and Pip jumped over 10 places during this phase of the race.

More Fleet Damage

During the difficult Canaries phase of Leg 2 there was yet more serious damage reported.

Andrea Caracci (ITA 757 – Speedy Maltese) and Tiziano Rossetti (ITA 542 – Una vela per Emergency) both dismasted but safe ashore in Palma. Sergio Frattaruolo (ITA 769 – Bologna in Oceano) put into Candelaria and Giacomo Sabbatini (ITA 554 – Scusami Spall) into Santa Cruz, Tenerife.

Guo Chuan (487 – Vasa) the Chinese entry is safely ashore at La Gomera after breaking a rudder. Renaud Chavarria (FRA 596 – Béziers Méditerranée) is dismasted and sailing under jury rig south west of the island of Hierro (Canary Islands).

IGNORE THE REST – I AM GOING MY WAY

For Leg 2 it looks like Pip has a creative game plan and is sticking to it.  Over night Pip and Chuan Guo (China)  were the only two boats to track between Palma, and Tenerife.  Palma is the eastern most island in the Canaries group and the rest of the fleet passed to the east of Palma. This caused Pip to drop down the rankings but at 10:00 (CET) she was tracking at over 4kts faster than the ‘bunch’ which includes the current leader Eric Llull (France).

Pip is now heading to east of the island of Hierro which is suffering from the effects of an offshore underwater volcano. The erruptions have been continuing since last Monday and 600 people have been evacuated from the southernmost town of La Restinga.  The effect on the sea is shown in this video clip: Hierro Offshore Volcano

Decision making continues to be difficult as the conditions are un-seasonable and the fleet is banned from carrying met equipment to give a longer term prediction so it is not practical to make quick decisions to move to apparent better air near by as Pip found out the hard way in Leg 1.

It willl be fascinating to watch Pip’s plan unfold particularly when the fleet approach the doldrums

What did Pip get up to in Madeira?

Pip had plenty to do during the Madeira stop-over. There wasn’t much time to spare but Pip and the boat seemed to leave for the start in good shape.
Pip had a problem with wind data on the first leg. She found a nick in the cable that runs up the mast to the windvane so cut the damaged section out during the passage. The problem persisted so she rang Raymarine from Madeira. They suggested that water may have penetrated the cable and so sent out a new one with Pip’s mum Mary, who arrived on the 8th. One of the auto-pilot rams broke too, so Mary also bought out one of these. We replaced the mast cable and the ram and the pilot computer and Pip got towed out on the day before the start to do the circles necessary to calibrate it all. Success !
Apart from the obvious bailing out,(lots of water gets into minis) washing kit and cleaning the boat we also serviced the winches which had started to run backwards, and checked and re-spliced the halyards and guys.
On Saturday 8th we took part in a race with about 30 other minis, aimed to give the local children the opportunity to go sailing, and we steered round the course by our very own 10 year old !
Towards the start Pips mum, Mary, did no end of printing and laminating of met. and navigation data, which saw the local printer cartridge shop do the best business it had known for years ! Her Dad arrived on 10th and was also kept very busy !
(Thanks to Ash Harris for this update)

Pip had plenty to do during the Madeira stop-over. There wasn’t much time to spare but Pip and the boat seemed to leave for the Leg 2 start in good shape.

Pip had a problem with wind data on the first leg. She found a nick in the cable that runs up the mast to the windvane so cut the damaged section out during the passage. The problem persisted so she rang Raymarine from Madeira. They suggested that water may have penetrated the cable and so sent out a new one with Pip’s mum Mary, who arrived on the 8th. One of the auto-pilot rams broke too, so Mary also bought out one of these. We replaced the mast cable and the ram and the pilot computer and Pip got towed out on the day before the start to do the circles necessary to calibrate it all. Success !

Apart from the obvious bailing out,(lots of water gets into minis) washing kit and cleaning the boat we also serviced the winches which had started to run backwards, and checked and re-spliced the halyards and guys.

On Saturday 8th we took part in a race with about 30 other minis, aimed to give the local children the opportunity to go sailing, and we steered round the course by our very own 10 year old !

Towards the start Pips mum did no end of printing and laminating of met. and navigation data, which saw the local printer cartridge shop do the best business it had known for years ! Her Dad arrived on 10th and was also kept very busy !

(Thanks to Ash Harris for this update from Madeira)

The Sailing


Leg one of this years Charente Maritime, mini transat race was complicated to say the least.

What we all signed up for was a bit of a beat out of the Golf of Gascogne, then turning the corner an into the influences of the Azores high, to set the big spinnaker and surf those waves to the finish.

Such was our luck that the Azores high was missing this year and instead had been replaced by an ever changing system of lows, high’s, ridges and troughs.

The weather reports given daily over the SSB radio by class mini always started with ‘the general situation is very complicated’ and would follow over the crackling reception with a string of number corresponding to pressures, longitudes and latitudes of various systems and times they were expected were.

We had the full range of conditions and every sail in my wardrobe got to play a part, except the storm jib, which happily remained in it’s bag; sliding around at the front of the boat.

We started with light airs, and downwind sailing. Two days of willing the boat forward; coaxing every ounce of speed out of it.

The nights were black with only a slither of moon; but sail trim in these conditions has been made a lot easier for me by the use of luminous draft stripes on the main and the jib from Glowfast.

These are something I have not ever used before and only applied to the sails just before the start; previously I had always used a torch to periodically check sail shape.

Now at night time my sails take on the appearance of a computer 3d model with some lines blanked out. I can see the shape of the sail always with no need of a torch, which benefits in two ways, one so I can trim the sail without the aid of a torch and secondly to remind me to trim the sail, as I can always see it.

I believe that night time is one of the key times to gain an advantage on your opponents so this has undoubtedly been a useful tool.

After Finnisterre and some thick fog banks, we turned south and into head winds.

Beating in a mini is just not fun. It is brutal; like riding a bucking bronco endlessly, all day and all night.

The boat must be well stacked with all of your kit and water on the high side of the boat, giving you maximum righting moment. This is a back breaking job and one I particularly hate.

With little moonlight to show us the path, night time in breeze was violent, the boat seemed to be careering through waves at breakneck speed, then suddenly halted with a shuddering explosion as it crashed into an unseen wave.

Every forecast I hung on for news of a north wind, but not until the last three days of the course did this happen.

I felt greatly relieved and justified in my decision of a smaller headsail as these conditions were exactly why I had made that decision.

Eventually when the following winds came, I got a taste of the leg to come.

Beautiful, brilliant down wind sailing, surfing waves, changing between kites in squalls; dolphins along side the boat and the absolute joy and pleasure of steering and trimming to gain every ounce of speed in these conditions.

If this is the second leg then Bring it on!

A first look back

Well, I’m here!

First leg over and what a leg that was; the most complicated weather systems the first leg of the transat has seen for years – and didn’t we just know it.

It’s been demanding, more than I ever expected; it has taken every ounce of effort and emotion and I have not spent once second reflecting on anything other than this race for the last ten days.

There is too much to write about in one go, so I am just going to start with an overview of the leg; to let you know how I feel and will fill in the details later.

Overall; I am afraid my biggest emotion is disappointment. That is the first feeling that comes to the surface and it stings me regularly and it’s still fairly raw, as I know I made a big mistake and there is no way to rewind and put it right; I let myself down.

The first four days of the race were so good; I was pushing, I was thinking I was in the top ten most of the time and sailing well, sticking to the plan.

It really was hard work, but great. I was loving the challenge and loving the competition; carefully juggling all of my tasks, keeping the boat going and keeping me going.

After such a great start my goal was to hang onto the guys in the front and with every position report and every radio schedule I was pleased to find out I was still there. Effort put in seemed to be giving me a result I could be proud of.

My big mistake occurred after a difficult night, over strong winds and lumpy seas.

I had been on the helm all day and all night as the conditions were difficult and I decided I needed to use the human touch to guide the boat through the waves and keep up the boat speed.

This worked well and as I came into the morning and the wind died I was still within reach of the class leaders.

I had some work to do on the boat, among other jobs the wind intrstuments had started to malfunction and I need to stop sailing the boat and spend some time working and putting everything right.

The wind instrument problem I traced to a nick in the wire, which had allowed water to progress up the cable into the shield and was giving an interrupted signal from the mast head.

During the time it took me to put everything right on the boat I dropped back from the pack and ended up in light breeze sailing to windward.

Then I made my mistake.
I had been awake for around 26 hrs; I was tired and not thinking straight.

I made a tactical decision to go east and I followed it which lost me 20 places in the fleet.

There is not a lot I can say really.

My mistake was to make a big decision like this when tired. I should have known better but I did it anyway and it cost me.

Enough said.

But don’t worry, I am not morose or morbid about things. I did spend about half a day beating myself up, a few tears were shed and general anger flowed around the boat; but as night follows day, so every tantrum must end and after waking up in 35th place I set my new goals to slowly catch up and this is what I did.

The last few days of the race have been glorious spinnaker runs, sun shine, dolphins and boat speed and during this time I made it my mission to gain time on every one around me and to study this downwind sailing ready for the next leg.

I set about quite a scientific analysis of speeds, times, distances. I started to time my sail changes and work out how much ground I lost in each and so how much time it would take to regain this distance once the new sail was up.

And slowly but surely I climbed back through the fleet. In the final 350 miles, I gained six places and for this I am proud.

In truth I am not sure now if my goal of top fifteen is achievable, as the finishing times between the front of the fleet and myself are great; but I will keep on trying.

The race so far has exceeded my expectations; the competition is outstanding, the boats are formidable, gains are small and hard fought and losses when they come are a massive blow to the stomach.

Yes, I feel I have let myself down through one decision but with over 3,000 miles still to go the race is not over.

I would not be anywhere else, doing anything else; I did not enter into this race because it would be a walk over, I entered it for the challenge; and this I have found.