44 Days to go and I am packing

I have started to pack.  This might seem a little strange with 44 days to go to the start and my personality is swinging between an over organised school teacher, making labels and lists and an over excited six year old getting ready for their first holiday.


But it is important.


The preparation for this race has been such a contrast to the last one when I was full time sailing so in the evenings when nothing else can sensibly done I am packing a clothes, food, tools and spares some to come to France with me on the 4th October and the rest will come out with my Mum and Dad to the stop over.


Food has been a big part of this, I have calculated how many calories I will need for each leg, how many days I expect to be at sea and my race food is now pretty much in place.


Food intake on a mini is pretty basic, it has to be good quality calories and easily heated in a jet boil – freeze dried food is the obvious choice but can you imagine 3 weeks of eating nothing but that?


The advent of microwaveable pouches has added a totally new dimension to my mini sailing, weight wise they work out the same as the extra water you need to carry for freeze dried and the food that comes out of them heats up super quick and tastes amazing.


I am a vegetarian and have always eaten a lot of lentils when I sail, they taste good, are a great source of calories and protein and something I eat in everyday life not survival food.


With this in mind I wrote to Merchant Gourmet as one of my favourite lentil suppliers and was over the moon this week when they got in contact and said that they could sponsor me food for the race.


I was like a kid in a sweet shop (well actually a 39 year old vegetarian woman in a lentil shop) choosing my meals for the legs, lentils, cous-cous, quinoa. I am sure there are people reading this and rolling their eyes but I am genuinely excited.


Easy to cook, no fuss, tasty and familiar food – what could be better to have, hot in your hand after a wild night in the Biscay.


Thank you very much Merchant Gourmet.


Coming together

I loved my bank holiday weekend, but three days doesn’t seem to last like it used to.


PooleHarbourwas manic with traffic on Saturday and Sunday so after finishing all my little jobs on the boat I went straight out and stayed out until the hoards had gone home.


The breeze was perfect for testing me and the boat, gusty, strong at times with plenty of opportunity to but change sails, heat things up or slow them down.


It was so good to get on the water, not just blowing out the cobwebs but realigning myself with reality, why I am doing this, how close I am to the start and actually the feeling that the boat is not all that far from being sorted.


Sailing seems at times like an indulgence but there is a practical reason for taking the boat out as much as possible; I need to push it hard to try and break things now rather than two days into the mini transat when the stakes are high.


I am fully aware of the job list, it hasn’t grown which is a great thing, in fact it is getting shorter and the boat feels good – almost ready to race.


I am very pleased to say things all seem to be coming together.


With my mini refit at the top of my mind I have been in touch with my long time sponsors Flag Finishes to order my anti-fouling for the race. In 2011 I used Performance Extra and finished in Brazil as one of the few boats that had not grown weed over the course of the race so I am using the same again this year.


I have also had a further donation of £1000 to the race fund and so I am really pleased to say I only have £5900 to raise – a really heart felt Thank You for that.


I am off to Sunny Cornwall for a couple of days now to pay a final visit to the SwimSafe programme which I have been working on for the RNLI over the summer and which is in it’s final week this week. We should see our 2000th child come through the scheme today and it has been a real pleasure to work on such a beneficial programme.




Fit to go

There are a huge number of hoops to jump through to take part in the Mini Transat; it is not just a case of rocking up to the start and having a go.


Most of it is about qualification miles, racing, making sure the boat is fit to race with all of the right safety equipment and making sure the competitor is really aware of what it is like to set out alone with thousands of miles of ocean ahead of you.


Last week I jumped another hoop in my preparations which was to get my medical sign off to show I am fit and healthy enough to take part in the race.


This is one part of the whole mini lead up that I was not looking forward to; it bought back bad memories from last year when with only six weeks to go I went for my medical and the doctor who was on duty that day wrongly told me I had a heart murmur.  This was pretty serious and potentially might stop me from doing the race, so immediately I sought a second opinion and on the way to that appointment for the first time ever in my life I crashed my van.


Everything turned out in the end, no heart murmur and I was pointed in the direction of Dr Tommo of Medical Support OffShore Ltd, who provides medical support for racing sailors, including Volvo Ocean Race and Vendee skippers, I cannot tell you what a difference it makes to sit down with a doctor who understands who we are and what we do, what we put ourselves through to get there and what we look forward to when we are out there.


So this year, to avoid crashes and extra stress I went straight to MSOS, sat down with Dr Tommo, exchanged pictures of the boats in our lives and I have been declared fit to race; my blood pressure is a little high but that is a pre-race state, the remedy being to go sailing.


So it is 50 days to go and the total to raise has come down again thanks to a donation through my website…..Thank you!!! It’s now  £6900 to raise.


And this weekend I will mostly be sailing. Hooray!!



Investing in Safety


Emergency kit is a funny one. You shell out money on all this kit that you really hope never to use, and then mount it and leave it to get abused by the salt water environment until it its time to change the battery or service it, all the while relying 100% that it will go off when we need it the most.


I went to visit the Orolia Ltd yesterday, the home of McMurdo and Kannad to learn about their new AIS MOB beacon system, which I have to say was pretty impressive, and while I was there I took the opportunity to drop off my trusty old EPIRB bought in 2009 for the OSTAR and with many miles now under it’s belt.


On a tour of the factory, we passed through a room where all the old McMurdo models were being serviced and having batteries replaced and I was delighted to hear how they continue support old products, which is becoming less and less the case in our world of every improving technologies.


So my five year old EPIRB will get a new battery and a bit of a spruce up before the big race; the investment I made in my safety all those years ago is still current and valid.


Yesterday was also a sailing day; I rushed down after work to meet my partner Ash and we rigged the boat and ran out to join Thursday evening racing on a wonderful, warm and windyPoolenight.


Racing wasn’t so successful as due to the stupidly strong tides and lack of wind atPooleHarbourentrance the race committee gave us a harbour course. Being more than a little under prepared and not a regularPooleHarbourracer I had only come with a buoy list for outside and so the course read in the secret code over the radio at the start was all Spanish to me and Ash so we settled for a blast around the harbour. Wind in our faces and getting a bit wet.


But believe me that is enough to feed your soul on a work night. This weekend is the real sailing.


51 days to go and only £7000 to raise. Do you notice something about that figure? Oh yes it has gone down! Anyone with any other ideas to help me chip away at it please let me know.

52 days to go

I booked my flight back from theCaribbeantoday. Woo Hoo! That makes it real! 52 Days to go.


I am now starting to hear back from friends who are planning on coming to the start of the race; it’s wonderful to have such support and I am determined this time to enjoy the start a lot more and not be the big quivering ball of stress I was in 2011.


As more money goes flying out of my account I am also starting to lean hard on the interest free credit card method of race funding. This is a system that served me well during the last transat and in July I finally paid off the last instalment from my credit cards for the 2011. Just in time to get another for this year’s race; it’s another form of commitment.


After work each day I rush out to my van and drive the five minutes down the road toPortofPoole Marina, where my boat is sitting in a huge berth. The evenings are spent bimbling and tweaking, going through every inch of the boat to service and look for problems.


Last night I was measuring up sail space and hull space for sponsors branding and re-tracing my autopilot wiring and try and remind myself of the days when I installed it.


But a balance has to be made, I can’t stay there all night and eventually I must go home and sit in front of this computer, writing to people searching for clues to try and find the rest of my sponsorship money.


I am resisting the urge to check my emails and phone every five minutes to see if any of the requests for sponsorship my friends and I have sent out over the last couple of weeks have come back. I limit it to once an hour and even then I have to close my eyes while the messages load up so that I don’t get excited by the message header and then disappointed by the content within. It is a crazy way to live your life on such and emotional see saw.


Still I am looking forward to this weekend, when me and my boat get to go sailing. Mission – to find leaks, test electronics and generally poke holes in everything. I can’t wait.



The lists are becoming endless; every time you close a door in my house you will find another list on the back of it.


There are 53 days to the start of the mini transat and I am desperately trying to keep on top of it all.


One list is for items to fix, service, install on the boat before it goes over toFranceat the beginning of October; there is one for first leg food, one for the second leg. A bag to pack to give to my Mum to bring out to the stopover, paperwork to be signed off and sent, accommodation and travel arrangements to make.


And the big one, £8000 still to raise.


The lists are covered in notes and random lines, phone numbers, useful suggestions to self. Sometimes I feel organised and on top of it all – things seem to flow, contacts come good and it all happens.


At other times I am swallowed again by all that emotion that comes with a two year build up to an event; worry that something will go wrong and I will let people down, panic at the pace at which I need to work through my jobs, oscillating hope and despair when chasing up ever last sponsorship lead I have.


Over the next 52 days I am going to write a blog every day and share with you these moments of madness and excitement; it’s a way for me to keep a record and prove that I am moving forward but also to share with all of you the incredible feelings leading up to this incredible race.


And not least it will give me a chance to introduce my sponsors, and the people who are supporting me to be on the start line once again for the mini transat.

Whirl Wind Cowes week

It came and it went in a flash; Cowes week 2013.


We have been having some amazing sailing weather in the UK over the last couple of months and Cowes was no exception. Wind and sun making it a grand total of over 10 days I have sailed in the UK in my shorts this year which is more days than for the previous four years put together.


Yet again this year I was short -listed for the Ladies Day award for special services to the sport. The ceremony was incredible as a few of my sporting heroes turned up to support women in sailing including Sam Davies and the Volvo SCA women’s team and Dee Caffari with her amazing Omani women’s sailing team.

I was also delighted to meet Natasha Lambert a plucky 16 year old girl with Cerebral Palsy who sails a mini using the ‘sip’ ‘puff’ method of control. Just incredible and I am really hoping to sail with her next year when the transat has been and gone.

The trophy was won by Para-Olympic gold medal winner Helena Lucas; another truly inspiring woman.


So after all of that female solidarity it is back to Poole and back to my own project.


There are 62 days to go…. yes only 62 and such a lot to do.

At the moment I am in full frenzy trying to tie up the last of my sponsorship, things are getting tight so if anyone has any ideas then please do get in touch.

The boat is being sailed as much as possible, electronics are being serviced and I am trying to find as many faults as I can to fix before the big race.

The next two months are pass by at a frightening rate; I will not be able to grab the hours that fly away from me to slow down time and try and get everything done. There are endless lists of arrangements, jobs, shopping, travel, stop over plans and it goes on.

Who would have thought it would be time to race again so soon.