La Matossage

It’s ten to eight and I have ten minutes to write this before it all kicks off again.

Yesterday was fantastic.

We started with group musculation! A run followed by a weights session where our coach asked us all to find our max on each machine so we had something to work against. I have never ‘done’ weights before and so struggled a little with the technique and was stunned by Marie who is a small French tip top sailor; comes up to my shoulder and can push 5 kilos more than me on every station!

Our morning session was on manoeuvres, talking through the sequence of events and adapting the lists we had looked at the night before. At times I was concentrating so hard to understand the words in French I must have looked like I was in pain with my face screwed up and staring intently at the coach, he stopped and asked me if I was ok.

Then the fun bit. It was blowing 25knots, gusting 30 and our exercise for the day was a short upwind leg, a mark rounding and then a 10 mile downwind, round a buoy and back home again.

The start was poor for me.

During the night I think my boat overheard I had come to La Grand Motte to master it and so obviously felt it was time to remind me exactly who was in charge.

The gusty conditions had me in a complete mess with every pre tack manoeuvre with backstays flailing around, hooking round the wrong side of the main or not releasing and pinning the main in so with each gust the boat reared up on its side uncontrollably trying to throw me out of the cockpit.

Things just seemed to escalate as I got closer to the start and eventually I just had to stop, sit hove to, take a few deep breaths and tell my little boat, I understood I was merely a passenger and please could we just work together and start the race.

Tacking in the mini is frantic, you must steer the boat, release the old backstay, swap the jib sheets, then pull on the new backstay hard, be ready to release the main in a gust, pull on the fine tune for the backstay, and don’t forget to duck while you are doing all this. I am finding my knees are the best option and I have already gone through a pair of foulies.

The downwind leg went a lot better, I had been out in the UK with Mark Rushall on a coaching day and he showed me how to sail in apparent wind mode downwind and keep the boat arced up on the edge of wiping out all the time.

This is a lot of fun. We went flying off into the med, five little minis, with water rooster tailing down each side, weaving in and out of the waves as they started to build the further offshore we got.

Occasionally one of us would wipe out; the sail would flog, the boat would lie on it’s side, we would be patient waggle the rudder and ‘row’ the boat back upright and off again.

Most of the time I was laughing manically.

Round the bottom mark and back upwind again was not so much fun, these boats are designed for the wind behind them and with little weight on the rail they just fall over in gusts.

I ended up with a reef in my jib and two reefs in the main and carefully carved my way through the aggressive Mediterranean chop.

By the time we got in it was late, dark and cold. We had a 10 min debrief where our coach pointed out the immediate areas to work on – for me a got a proper telling off for not stacking.

In the mini as it is so light and wide you must move all of your kit around downstairs to make sure the weight is in the best place on the boat to aid your performance. To be honest I did not even consider this, I had a lot on and stacking is not natural to me as until now I have raced under the IRC handicap system where stacking is strictly not allowed.

Main lessons learned are get stronger, get tougher, and stack, stack, stack.

Right- now another day begins we are off for a team 10k run before training this morning!

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