Concise 2 Blog 27.10.2015

im going to keep this short as we have a bit going on out here, but hello from a wet and wild Concise 2.
it’s kind of ironic that we started this race as a driftathon,i feel so sorry for all the people who turned up to see the spectacle of multi,s, 60s and 40s mixing it
on a short course and were treated to a boat park.
Well it’s not like that now. The last 48 hours have been a build up to this which is us bashing our way through the bottom of a low pressure system in 30+ knots of
wind, freezing squalls and messy aggressive waves.
The strategy from the start has always been to head as far west as possible before being clobbered. The leaders of our fleet have been heading just north of west for
the fastest wind angle and must been spanking their boats like crazy to try and get round the centre of the low. We with around half the fleet have taken a more
conservative route to allow us to settle into the race and try not to break anything early on.
Concise 2 is a wet boat. When you step into the cockpit you are being instantly hosed with litres and litres of water at a time. The full force of a wave rolling down
the deck will push you sideways out of the steering position so one arm needs to be anchored round a stantion and always harnessed on,
Down below we are set up well, every ounce of weight on the boat is on the high side and we are sleeping in our foulies crashed out on a bean bag ready to leap into
action should the other one need us.
As i am writing we are bouncing over some big waves, the boat is launching into thin air and then crashing down hard. On the bigger waves i am actually being thrown
into the air so it’s a good idea to stand up when you hear a big wave coming and take control of the situation.
in a couple of hours we should meet the wind shift which will allow us to finally go south. All of the boats kit, which must weigh around 500kg must be moved down
below from one side to the other while we are crashing around. Well that is going to be fun isn’t it?
we are fine, finding our rhythm and dealing with what ever is thrown at us. We were gutted this morning to hear Team Concise has had to head for Ireland with damage.
Just gutting for them after so much preparation.
We are glad to be out here, keeping it steady and dealing with what ever comes our way

TJV – Start day

I slept on the boat last night – well if you can call it sleeping. I lay on a bean bag with a million things whirling round my head. Lists and thoughts and imaginings of what the next three weeks at sea is going to bring.

The forecast is intimidating. It would be a foolish person that looked at an incoming low pressure like the one we will encounter in a day and a half’s time and didn’t get that feeling in the pit of their stomach.  Concise 2 is a strong and well prepared boat, of this I am sure but the chances are we are going to see some full on conditions to test her out early in the race.

The noise in the port started at 5am – Monsiour French announcer who has been the sound track to our basin lives for the last week started to chat at 5.30 as the first of the multi hulls got ready to leave.

By the time we were off at 0800 the dockside were already lined with French well wishers. The crowds on the pontoons saying good bye were thick and the past weeks build up is definitely coming to the point of explosion.

We start at 1330 for those that want to watch it live the link is here http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xlj3v9 if not then the tracker is now on the TJV webpage here http://tracking.transat-jacques-vabre.com/fr/

 

The start is all 44 of us en masse – we have one line with a French military vessel as committee boat in the middle, multi hulls to one side and mono’s to the other. A short 10 mile course along the French coast and then we are off. I will be blogging and sending pictures throughout the race to share Pips and my experiences as we take on the 5400 mile legendary Transat Jacques Vabre.

Transat Jacques Vabre 3 days to go

It is wet and windy in the race village but that is not keeping the feeling of excitement down. The past week has shot by with a blur and every day the build up to the start if the Transat Jacques Vabre grows and grows.

We arrived in Le Havre separately to each other and the boat but were all soon re-united on Saturday morning for the prologue event which was a knock out regatta in J80 boats. Both of us felt like we had been thrown in a bit at the deep end, having only just wrapped up our jobs in the UK and rushed over on the ferry for the start. Pip was a day later than Pips and stepped straight off the ferry and into her sailing gear to make the first race of the day. But all went well and we won the first race of the day by a decent margin which meant we automatically qualified as one of the six boats in the final and left us feeling buoyed up. We later were the first knocked out of the final leaving us 6th overall in the prologue with the boys on Concise 8 coming 4th. All round not a bad result.

Just being in the race village is an incredible experience, the racing machines surrounding the basin are examples of incredible engineering and design, they tell the story of Ocean racing as do their skippers. With Concise 2 we are one of the older class 40s in the pack and ourselves rookies to the TJV but the boat is looking fantastic and holding its own against the others, we are getting so many comments on how good the HedKandi branding looks.

The week so far has been made up of a mixture of official events, briefings and time for us to ensure the boat is in top condition so naturally there is a job list but it is steadily getting shorter. Paul and Scott have been rolling up their sleeves and giving us a great amount of help with preparation.  We are trying to juggle media interviews, school visits and our own packing with getting through jobs ourselves. The day before yesterday we had the France 3 television crew on board filming while we were interviewed by some local students from Le Havre.

The safety briefing yesterday was long but relevant and we were really struck at how engaged the French search and rescue services are with us Ocean Racing sailors.  One of the main points they made was around looking after each other and that is so important when there are only two of you on the boat.  When we have finished dropping south and start making our way into the middle of the Atlantic we will be hours from any assistance.

We have been watching the weather all week and are starting to get a pretty consistent picture of what it will be like at the start and there is little question we can expect a lot of wind when we pass Ushant and head out into the Bay of Biscay.  It is pretty normal for this time of year but looking at those grib files does make you realise exactly how tough the race ahead is going to be.  We are pretty sure the boat is up to it and as a team we also know that the two of us have seen a lot of weather and bad conditions but no one ever really looks forward to meeting 30 knot winds.

The start is getting so close and the next couple of days will fly by. Tomorrow Tony and Ned will arrive as well as Phillippa’s family and some friends and the time will disappear before we know it. Next stop the start.

The Pips

 

 

 

Nine Days to the Start

I’ve just completed my final commitment in the UK and finally I feel time it’s time to let the handbrake off, and charge full flight, arms flailing at the incredible race that lies waiting in France.

It probably seems crazy that the excitement and the build up to such a great event as the Transat Jacques Varbre has not been in my every waking thought for the past couple of months but this time it has not been like that.

A combination of being a co-skipper, the speed at which Pips and I have put this campaign together and the fact that Concise 2 is a well prepared boat that has been regularly raced by Pips through the season, has all led to my minimum input to race preparations and allowed normal life to carry on a pace with this massive Trans-Atlantic race seeming on the horizon and never getting closer.

It’s been an odd feeling – not being in control.  I am not sure if I like it or not.  With all of my previous campaigns I have used my own boat, I made decisions about the sails, I wired the electronics and rubbed down the bottom, I chose and bought the kit, I took on all that responsibility.  With this campaign I have been very much on the back seat. Phillippa knows Concise 2 inside out, she has exemplary experience of maintaining a race boat while sailing round the world, she has prepared for many races before and this year Concise 2 has been her boat she just hasn’t needed me.

Stepping back has taken some of the reality away from the race; my primary role in the campaign has been to seek sponsorship to cover the cost of shipping our boat back to the UK after the race which of course brings with it pressure, but it’s not quite as tangible as organising or physically working on the boat.

Now I am on the train on my way back from London; at lunch time today I spoke as part of Diversity week at UBS in London about what it is like to be a woman in the world of Ocean Racing.  I was joined by a team of women from UBS who Pips and I took out sailing on the Class 40 just over a month ago as part of a team building and internal mentoring programme.  It was an amazing opportunity to meet up with these ladies again and hear from them how much they got out of sailing with us for the day and the best way to wrap up my ‘normal’ life before heading off to France.

The TJV is not remote anymore, I suddenly feel like I can let go of the rest of life and the closer this train gets to the coast the bigger my inner smile is growing.  Tonight I am booked on the overnight Ferry from Portsmouth to Le Havre and tomorrow morning I will get off the Ferry and head straight to the race village where I will be jumping into a J80 and lining up against some of my all-time sailing heroes in our prologue race.

Pips and I have been working separately towards the same goal because we have had to. We do not live in the same place, we still both need to earn a living and manage separate commitments in separate lives.  We are lucky because we know each other and we trust each other.  It has been hard for me not to be in control but I have had to adjust, it is a valuable lesson to learn.  I am enormously grateful to both Tony Lawson owner of Team Concise and Phillippa for making me part of the team for the TJV with what seems to me to be so little input.

From tomorrow I will be shouldering half of everything; half of the responsibility, pressure, workload, form filling, scrutineering, money chasing, tea making, pain and nerves.  But with that will come a full complement of unadulterated exhilaration, excitement and the full on adrenaline fuelled 5400 mile race. It can’t come soon enough.