Triumph in the Fuel Cell Systems Solent 650


It has been tough trying to pull everything together this year.


The season started late due to the stupidly cold weather; don’t forget it was still snowing in April. Moving the boat to theUKhas taken me away from the amazing mini community inFranceand trying to juggle my new job with the RNLI with running an offshore race campaign has thrown up its challenges.


However, all the late nights and long days paid off in dividends when I secured my first ever victory in theSolent650 this weekend.


This was the first time this race from Lymington toPlymouth, via Wolf rock has been raced solo and as I always new it was one of the toughest I have ever competed in.


I walked the course a couple of weeks ago with Pips HS in her Class 40 for the Normandy Channel race and was reminded of all the hurdles this stretch of coast can through in your way and we got everything over this race.


Short tacking up the shore of the Isle of Wight in a band quarter of a mile wide to find a back eddy, crossing tacks with a double handed boat, just ahead each tack but getting more an more tired as the tacks grew into double figures and then the 20s.


Making it around the Poole Bouy in second overall, then rounding the next headland into a windless hole, anchoring and seeing the whole of the rest of the fleet storm up and park right next to me.


Thick, thick fog off the Jurrasic coast, 20m visibility at times and the same short tacking in the shallows accompanied by the eerie and Omni directional sound of waves, breaking on invisible rocks.


The fog lifting in Lyme bay and seeing Jake Jefferis in his proto ahead of me and chasing him all the way to the finish.


A wonderful moonlit blast under spinnaker past start point and then down to Wolf rock in every greying conditions as the new weather system moved in.


And then a dramatic finish, exhausted from a race that had never provided conditions stable enough for me to get a long sleep, pushing hard but with no idea where the rest of the fleet was and how I stood in the rankings.


As I turned into Plymouth sound I learned over the radio that I had overtaken Jake as he had sailed a little too low to get into Plymouth and was having to beat back upwind to make the final headland, but I still didn’t know where the rest of the fleet was.


I came round the corner to the now familiar and friendly finish line of the Royal Western, the club which has set me off on the OSTAR, finished me on Round Britain andIreland, a mini fastnet and the lastSolent650. The buzzer went and a rib came out to meet me with Ash in it.


‘How did I do?’ I asked.


‘Really well’ he said


‘Yes, but where was I? Was I third?’


‘No, you won. You have won overall; you are the first boat in.’


I can’t tell you what an amazing feeling that was. To have won overall, including beating the double handed boats has made me feel on top of the world.


Everything I love about single handed sailing has shown itself in this race; it was a question of pushing hard, never giving up, thinking hard and a direct result of the effort put in paying rewards back.


Thank you to Fuel cell systems for sponsoring theSolent650 and for their continued support of my mini campaign and thank you to everyone who posted such kind comments and support on my facebook page.


Right, time to put this one to bed and get ready for the next; it’s the Fastnet on Sunday and I will be racing with my roundBritainandIrelandco-skipper Phil Stubbs. Time to get focussed and go racing again.




Fuel Cell Systems Solent 650

It’s the morning of the Solent650; my first solo mini race of the year.


Amazingly for a May bank holiday the sun is shining but the penalty to pay for this weather is a lack of wind which according to the latest forecast will see the fleet drifting around off the Jurassic coast for most of Monday.


I have definitely enjoyed the benefits of competing on home turf; getting the boat ready to race has been a day time exercise, based from home and with all the things I need to hand. It’s quite a contrast to turning up with a trailer and a van full of tools and I even had time to wash the boat yesterday which I found very therapeutic.


However all that feeling of serene preparation is gone this morning and I am dogged by my usual race nerves.


It’s strange how the mind will trip you up and I have got used to mine racing overtime before the start of a race, tripping over itself to inform me of all the things I could have done, all the possible outcomes and trying to make me change well found decisions made days before.


This morning is no exception and I have a bus and train ride to get to Lymington to start the race which means plenty of time to stew.


The course for the Solent 650 is reminiscent of the Normandy Channel race I did a couple of weeks ago; start from Lymington, around the Isle of Wight, into Poole Bay and then past numerous headlands and tidal gates down to Lands End where we turn around Wolf Rock and head into Plymouth.


I know this coast and I know how mean it can be, if there is a lot of wind then overfalls are viscous and can be boat breakers, but without wind you could be battling for hours to make fractions of a mile headway against theEnglish Channeltide.


I need to keep my wits about me and my head straight to line up against this coastline. Although I feel the nerves now, I know once I get out there it will fade away. After all, it’s just me, my boat and the sea and this is what I dream of.