The purpose of Skill is to make a dream a fact

Pips Brochure
Last week I went to the offices of the Leepeckgroup in Southampton to pick up the final version of my newly designed sponsorship proposal and to personally say Thank You.

The reception of the office was just exactly as you would expect a creative and PR agency to be. Tasteful, modern, comfortable with thought provoking material on the walls and the tables around.

I was flicking through a book on ‘sideways thinking’. A volume of quotes, photographs, and ideas designed to jump start our brains into a little creative thinking and the pages fell open on a list of quotes.

At the bottom of the page larger than the others was ‘the purpose of skill is to make a dream a fact’.

I like that. It’s true and it really made me think about everything that I am doing and have done.

In 2009 when I started solo sailing it really all was a dream; I had ideas about what I wanted to do, I thought I knew how to make it work and I launched myself at the problem.

My sailing skills have allowed me to sail over 20,000 miles single handed in the last three years. They have won me trophies in international events and made me competitive.

My boat building, project management and general maintenance skills have allowed me to campaign two different boats through three major campaigns.

My writing skills have developed along the way giving me the ability to share my story.

As a solo sailor you are required to have many many skills; to be self sufficient and to think your way out of every problem. But I am now getting to the stage where I can no longer do everything well. If I want to focus on improving my own specialist skills then I must enlist the help of other specialists to do the things in my campaign that I am not able to do well.

Over the last month the Southampton based Leepeckgroup has given a whole new look to my Pip Ocean Racing campaign literature, they have used their specialist skills to create a document that exactly captures the spirit of my campaign and I hope will help to convey my message to future sponsors.

So I’d like to say a massive thank you to Sue Thomas and her team at Leepeckgroup whose skills will help make my dream become fact.

I am on a massive push to find a title sponsor for my campaign; without which my campaign for the transat 2013 will not become a fact.

If you are interested in receiving a copy of the campaign brochure, then please send me an email at


In Brittany the crowds will be descending on Concarneau today for the start of the next big transatlantic race, the AG2R.

16 teams will race in 31ft Figaro 2’s from Brittany, through the Canaries and then on to St Bart’s in the Caribbean.

It’s a tough race attracting some of the top sailors from the Figaro class; the competition will be full on, identical boats pushed by identically driven and talented sailors all with the sole goal of making it there first.

Among the entries this year is our own British Team of Sam Goodchild and Nick Cherry, sponsored by Artemis and trained through the Artemis Offshore Academy; these guys have been living Figaros for well over a year now.

Like me, Sam and Nick’s primary focus has been on Solo sailing, the main event of the year will be the Solitaire de Figaro but double handed racing runs alongside most single handed campaigns. With all the dedicated solo classes having double handed races as well; they provide a different dynamic, a chance to compete alongside instead of against some of your competitors and keeping the calendar alive and interesting.

So what is it that makes a good double handed crew? Naturally a good balance across the board of all the skills it takes to make a distance sailor and expertise in different areas is primary, however after that most of it comes down to personality.

A small annoying tick can escalate to mammoth proportions after a couple of weeks together in a small boat; an inability to communicate can destroy team spirit, ruin strategy and potentially lead to basic mistakes. Losing trust in a co-skipper will result in lack of sleep, a culture of blame and ultimately this will have a detrimental affect on the boats performance.

So how will our Brits get on? Here’s my take from the outside.

Two very different people driven by a common goal; Nick Cherry has a mind which goes in a thousand different directions at a time, slightly chaotic but very effective. He is dedicated and interested in many things, lives life at a breakneck pace and gives his all. His sailing credentials are impeccable and he will take to this campaign a mentality that will always be looking for ways to improve, to go faster to push harder.

Sam Goodchild the youngest of the pair has a slightly calmer air; equally talented but with his experience lying in short handed and offshore Sam is unbelievably focussed. His attention to detail is never ending; having already suffered a retirement from the TJV last year he is leaving no stone unturned and no eventuality unconsidered to make damn sure they will make it across the pond this time. Sam’s dedication to the sport is immense and seldom does he allow his gaze to ever waver from the end goal; the Vendee globe – and I for one am sure he’ll make it.

So these guys have complimentary and diverse skills, they know each other well having trained and lived together for over a year but above all of this they are friends.
Yes we are professionals, we are all serious about what we do; driven to succeed and take the investments of our sponsors seriously but that does not mean we don’t have fun.

We sail because we love it and sailing with friends is some of the best fun that can be had.

I believe that Sam and Nick are a fiercely strong team, they are motivated and I believe capable of winning.

However more certain than that I am also sure they are going to have a blast.

Good luck guys, I look forward to seeing the videos when you get in.

La Demi Clé Race

The Atlantic mini season has kicked off with all the promise of a wild year ahead; a closely competitive fleet, a demanding course with tide, rocks and some interesting navigation, all topped off with a wind which built to over 30 knots through the night. What more do you expect this is mini racing at it’s best.

As those who follow my blog will know I was not racing in my pogo 2 for this race but instead teamed up with another British mini sailor Jake Jefferies to race in his prototype ‘Mad Dog’ a super lightweight carbon machine that he has designed and built himself in the UK.

It was a fight to get to the start, measurement and Jake’s first time at a mini event meant that there were a lot of extra jobs to do pre event, kit to buy and rules to comply with. After a last minute dash to my boat to borrow some equipment and a late night inspection by the committee we were off the dock a little late in the morning but never the less ready to go.

The wind at the start was light and variable. The fleet remained close together and positions changed often.

When the wind filled in and we eventually got to bear away to do our first tour of the Ile de Groix I had just about got to grips with the canting keel and the winchless system for sheeting the jib onboard; and was then treated to what it is that makes you sail a proto.

Weighing in at just over 700 kilos the minute Mad Dog is off the breeze it flies – quite literally flies. The easy speed is incredible and made me laugh from the start; I could go miles like that.

As the night arrived the wind started to build and the temperature dropped to a bone chilling 3 degrees. As we hacked along the volume of ice cold water coming over the decks rose with the waves and toes, fingers, noses were all frozen and aching. It really is a struggle to find any sort of clothing that will actively combat conditions that wet and that cold and yet will still allow you to move around and be as physical as a mini requires you to be.

Problems onboard with halyards gave us a frustrating stop start race, we shredded the outer on a jib halyard at the beginning of the race which then got jammed in the mast meaning we had to do slow bare headed changes with the one remaining spinnaker halyard, losing places all the while, only to accelerate when we had the new sail up, overtaking boats with an easy long stride until the next sail change.

In the dead of night and at the coldest wettest moment we then lost the mast head spinnaker halyard as the block it was lashed to, to avoid chaffing on the forestay broke away from the jib and leaving the halyard free at the top of the mast.

The only way to get this back was to climb the mast which would have meant dropping the main and drifting rapidly out to sea in the building offshore breeze; not a sensible option and far from ideal conditions to attempt such an exercise.
We opted to sail bareheaded again until the dawn came and so still making 6 knots under main but watching the little mast head lights of the fleet behind us catch up and bob past us; we waited cold and wet for some glimmer of light.

In the end we new we had to find a way of hoisting the jib or returning to Lorient while we were still in striking distance. The offshore wind was building and forecast to get stronger and Mad Dog was slipping slowly sideways through the water so safety and a port of refuge getting further away.

I’ve never abandoned a race; it’s not in my nature and neither is it in Jakes. Not to mention completing this race was a vital step in his qualification process for the mini transat in 2013. So we worked together, cutting away small amounts of the outer jacket of the shredded jib halyard and trying to pull it and winch it out from the mast.

Eventually after an hour of graft and numb fingers we had the core of the halyard stripped and free and we were ready to sail again.

We came from nearly last and managed to overtake around 15 boats in the final run into Pornichet; picking our way between the islands of Hoaut and Hoedic through the rocks to gain a tidal advantage and overtaking boats all the way.

We arrived into Pornichet happy to be at the finish, the last prototype to cross the line but feeling like we had made it to the top of the mountain. First race done; and what a race it was.

Due to lack of battery I am photo negative from this race but take a look at the event photographers website for some fantastic photos of the event.

For me though I loved the speed of the Mad Dog I am looking forward to getting back to my own pogo 2. The series class is hotting up and it was interesting to listen to the race unfold over the radio, Justine Mettreaux, skipper of Team Work winning but the chasing pack hot on her heels.

I can’t wait to get back in the mix.

Something Different

It has been a strange old week; things have not been following the grand plan and I have found myself in different places doing different things with different people, going with the flow has been the only direction and it seems to be a good one.

Training finished last week and I pulled my boat out of the water to give it a bit of loving pre the first event of the year the Demi Cle.

In the meantime the rest of France was gearing up for their big Easter event, Spi Ouest which is equivalent to Cowes week in Calibre and this year was no different. Fleets including 118 J80’s lined up in conditions varying from 25 knots to flat calm to battle it out in long days on the water.

I headed over to La Trinite to check out the action and before I knew it a last minute tummy bug from a visiting British crew put me on the rail of Quokka the British Grand Soleil 43 and previous winners of the IRC nationals as a replacement mid bow.

It was strange to sail on a fully crewed boat again, and especially at the front as normally you’ll find me hanging round the backstay or at the very least in the cockpit, but I enjoyed the different view, sailing with a good team and the total lack of decision making required from me.

The competition was tough and the podium position the crew coveted slipped from our grasp after a difficult third day but we finished the regatta with a 4th place overall in IRC 1 and I spent some good time on the water, listening, watching and enjoying sailing.

On return to Lorient plans went slightly off course as my transfer of the race entry fee for the Demi Cle, having been lost in the international piggy bank of some financial institution or the other eventually turned up late, so as the event is over subscribed I had been bumped to the waiting list.

I have to admit I had a bit of a strop over this; just so disappointed after all this preparation and stopped by a fault that was not of my own, I stood down my co-skipper and cancelled the launch of my boat and had a bit of a sulk on.

This was put to a stop by the appearance of Jake Jefferies, a British mini sailor; in Lorient with his new proto type Mad Dog.

Jake is campaigning for a 2013 mini transat entry in a boat he has designed and built himself. First step on this path is the crucial stage of measurement before he can gain official mileage in mini races.

Over the last two days I have been helping Jake with this task, interpreting between him and the class mini measurer Joel Gate, and watching as the never ending tests where performed.

Looking from the outside this has been an interesting experience and I will write about the various measurements and how they were made in another blog but most excruciating has been watching Jake go through it all.

On the outside Jake has had a ‘what will be, will be’ attitude. He designed and built the boat to conform as he believed with the rules but I know he had some niggling worries and after all this hard labour and time.

It must have been a very heart in mouth experience, just the chance that it might not pass and to have to accept criticism of something you have put your heart and soul into must be very very hard.

Most nerve racking for me was the test of stability where the keel is canted to the ‘wrong’ side of the boat, the mast is cranked over onto the dock and 48 kilos of lead is hung from the mast head. Then when the mast head is placed on the water the boat must deliver a positive stability.

It’s worrying to watch as a spectator; of course the implications of the mast not coming up are not good; on the first day of measurement in 25 knot gusts we decided to put the test on hold and managed to complete it this morning in flat water and sunshine, finishing with an upright boat and permission to race providing Jake makes a modification to his liferaft launching system.

While all this was going on frantic phone calls where being exchanged between Jake and his co-skipper about travel arrangements and timings all of which ended up with me agreeing to step in as his co-skipper for this race which I was very happy to do.

In the meantime the race organisers rang me and informed me there would be a place for my boat in the race, however without a co-skipper, proper preparation and a boat in the water I have decided to stick with the plan and sail with Jake.

It’s going to be great to be a British team, to sail on a proto and to help Jake get through his first event, which can be quite a minefield of paperwork and certificates and complying with the tiniest of rules.

I’ll take the go pro and lots of pictures and let you know how it is on a proto when I get to the other end.