Bringing mini madness back home to the UK

Too tired to write properly at the moment, but I just delivered the pogo 2 of Australian transat skipper Geoff Duniam back to the UK; sailing through two nights in feezing conditions, 30 knot winds and driving rain…………………… IT WAS BRILLIANT!!

More writing later, meanwhile here’s the piccies and videos

Two Hulls Missing

When my mini arrived back in Lorient after the mini transat last year I was not there to collect it.

So it was moved for me to a yard upriver at the town of Hennebont, and there it has stayed until I came here to give it some love and get it back in the water.

The first impressions of the yard are that of a small and sleepy graveyard for old cruising boats; a typical out of the way home for forgotten boats and people with small budgets, over grown with brambles and rotting fibre glass.

But drive down the road a little, and swing in between the two large sheds and you start to get the impression there is something else going on here.

The place is littered with old racing tri-marans in various states of repair some with the hulls stacked neatly one against the other and leaning on bushes at the end of the yard. Others with beams on, just resting on the grass alongside the river bank almost as though they were beached there.

But most incredible of all is what lies behind the doors of the shed on the right. It’s a tri…… it’s enormous and I have no idea how they got it past the central post of the Shed. I don’t know what it is having only glimpsed tiny amounts as the Shed door rolls up a small amount and back down again. But it looks cool.

It is incredible to see so many racing machines just lying around. My good friend Paul Peggs, one of the UK’s mini veterans and founder of the Base centre for Short Handed Sailing in Gosport, came to help me with a little work today and was wondering around the boats in awe.

Sitting outside in my mini, I feel a tiddler among giants and at least two hulls short to be in the gang, but there are re-enforcements.

Round the back of the Shed’s is what we call the garden, where mini’s fresh back from the transat are resting on tires in the grass, keels off waiting to be put back in order. When I arrived the garden was full but slowly these little boats have been picked and towed away so now there are only two left.

The Shed on the left is the real mini army. Roll up the shutters and inside are crammed the protos; being re-tweaked and refitted ready for the new season.

David Raison arrives every day to work on his legendary transat winner 747, now owned by GianCarlo Pedote who has returned after two years in the Figaro to give the mini transat another crack. David will train with GianCarlo and race in the Demi Cle as his co-skipper to make sure that the transition goes as smoothly as possible.

Today I loaded my boat onto the road trailer and have left the yard, bottom newly painted and sanded. I am now sitting in Lorient in the pen at AOS and feeling more at home than ever. Around 50 mini’s and figaros sit side by side, masts up just waiting to go sailing, most of them my friends from last years events; it feels like home.

My boat will have to wait a little longer as tonight I am going sailing in someone else’s boat.

Fellow pogo 2 sailor and competitor in the 2009 mini transat, Geoff Duniam, has asked me to deliver his boat ‘Mad Spaniel’ to Lymington ready for the UK events later in the season. I will leave tonight and although cold will not quite describe the temperature out there I am really looking forward to the trip.

Once again out in the open in a little boat; the forecast is promising a fetch to the corner and then a day and a half of hooning down the channel with the big spinnaker. I’ll take the cold; I just want to get back out there.

Waving the Flag for Flag Marine Paints

Tomorrow I am booked on a ferry to go back to France.

My little mini is waiting in Lorient and the first training of the season starts in less than two weeks and I need to be there.

There is not too much to do to get her back in the water, I have checked the mast and running rigging, the rudders and pole are back on so really the only remaining job before relaunch is to take off all the flaky orange anti-fouling from the keel and rudders, sand the bottom of the boat back and then antifoul her as she will be in the water now for a few months.

Most readers to my blog will know one of my long term sponsors has been Flag Antifouling, and last week I actually got to meet the whole team and have a look around the factory when I drove to Burnham on Crouch to pick up paint for this year.

I am a curious person by nature so I wasn’t going to turn down a look around the factory; if I had thought about it I would have imagined large vats with mixers and men in white coats………. And well that’s exactly what I got.

The two main pieces of equipment were described to me as multi thousand pound ‘magi-mixes’, the ingredients are added, the paint is mixed and then transferred into large vats with taps on the bottom for dispensing into tins. And that’s it!

In another part of the factory more industrial and complicated a series of wax boilers, bubble away making wood care products and mould release agents.

But I suppose we all know the most crucial part of anything involving a magi mix is the recipe and the man in charge of that John was indeed in a lab coat!

Upstairs John has a sample of every batch of every paint made, which is analysed and then stored; new formulas are created and then properly tested for effectiveness before going on sale. This is where it all really happens.

Great to see it all in action and to meet the people who given me such great support. From the moment David Lewin of Flag answered the phone to me early in 2009 and identified I was the crazy lady he had just read about in the paper for sailing single handed non-stop from South America, they have supplied my campaigns with Antifouling.

Thank you Flag!

Wake Up

I have been quiet for a while; this space has been blog free.

Returning back to the UK mid winter, after the finish of the Mini Transat last December was difficult to deal with; the stark contrast between a bright and colourful Brazil late spring and grey England close to mid winter was like a plunge in an ice bath, every sense in shock.

I stumbled through December, catching up with friends and family, and started off 2012 at the London Boatshow giving spinnaker handling demonstrations, making presentations in the Knowledge box about the mini transat and visiting my trade partners who supported me through the 2011 campaign, thanking them personally and re-establishing our continued partnerships for the next years.

Then January slid by.

It’s not really a question of adjusting back to life now; my life has never been that uniform for me to settle back into a routine. I have always been self employed, taking work where and when I can, making the most of opportunity not knowing when it will turn up next. The winter is always a tough time for UK based sailors, and I have been hibernating.

February has come and I was jolted back to life last week when I went mountain biking in Wales.

I lost a lot of muscle mass in my legs during the mini transat and my Cardio vascular fitness is not what it was. Unsurprising really when you consider the mini is only 6.5m long and most of your time is spent sitting down while sailing the thing; and if you go for a stroll it is a matter of strides before you reach the water at either end. So I have been running and biking to try to get this fitness back.

I took a day off from sponsorship proposals, emails and accounts to drive to Wales with my friend Iain and we spent a beautiful day in the snow following a black trail in the Mountain bike park at Brechfa.

The park was amazing; with 10cm of snow on the ground in places we were totally alone with the elements.

The ground crunched under the weight of our wheels, puddles with thick ice over them cracked or not to reveal muddy freezing water. The amazing contrast between the bright white snow, the green moss and lichen and the grey stone of the drop offs and brown hard packed earth on the switch backs assaulted my senses.

Screaming down hill, the icy air colliding with my face woke me up from hibernation and made me focus on my journey ahead.

Mountain biking is just like running an ocean racing campaign. It is an uphill slog, it takes effort, skill and determination to get to the top, sometimes you have to get off and push but you will always get on again and keep pushing because the prize is the downhill – over in a flash but so good it’s worth climbing a hill for.

I know what I want next!

I want to again represent Britain in the 2013 mini transat. I want to race hard and gain a top five result.

I am part way up the hill, I have the boat, I have continued support from my trade partners, I have a transat under my belt and I am already qualified for the 2013 race.

The next two years will be climbs and descents of training and racing but to make it all work I have to give everything I have, work as hard as I can on improving my skills, staying fit, learning more about every aspect of Ocean racing, improving and competing. This will all be offset with a full and busy race schedule.

The big uphill for me is finding sponsors to support me in this campaign; and that is going to be a hard slog but I to date I have never failed on reaching my goals. I am rested and recovered from the aftermath of 2011; I am already on the path and pedalling hard.

Mini Transat 2013 – It has started!