A walk down the dock
PC Course (Race HQ to us English speakers) is buzzing quietly, people making the most of the coffee machine, looking at lists on the wall; details of rules, who has passed which check, the order in which we must hoist our flags.
I leave the building and head for the gangway making for my little red boat which is parked on the end at the right.
The dock is swarming with people and it is a long journey to make which could take some time; there’s a lot of people and a lot of boats to get passed and the French stop to kiss at every opportunity, this is not going to be a speedy manoeuvre.
First on the corner is Marie ; she is one of the group that I have trained with at CEM. Always ready with a smile, Marie seems stress free, her Tip Top is coming together quickly thanks to the help of the dedicated Hubert and life seems good.
Passing Marie the music starts, the first speaker is blasting reggae and as I move up the pontoon the genre’s will change until I finally reach Jean Claude, a 60 yr old doctor who is opposite me on the pontoon and is normally playing opera.
Skirting around someone drilling holes in a new pole I receive a loud Chau from Andrea and his Father Roberto. Andreas Ginto is immaculate, he also trained at CEM, and has not spent a single second of this year thinking about or doing anything but his mini campaign.
People are now crowding the pontoon, splicing ropes, lying out sails, tools are precariously left close to the water, passing between boats and shared between competitors. I weave in and out, kissing hello as I go.
Next a big hug from my favourite two competitors; Ysbrand and Christa. This is a husband and wife dutch couple who are racing in identical D2’s. Despite the stress of some last minute hull reinforcement to Christa’s boat, they are always smiling and with good reason; it has been a long journey for these two to get here and they are happy.
Just in front of them is Remi Fermin , trained at CEM and one of only three designers who are racing their own boats. Remi has no formal training as a designer; but his boat is beautiful and immaculate.
I am half way down now and ducking as people rush past with mainsails over their shoulders on the way to get them measured.
Radoslaw the Polish entry calls me over to ask about Pilot books; he wants to buy some English ones as he does not speak French and unlike some who are just buying the books to meet the rules, he actually would like to be able to navigate into an unknown port should he lose his rig or have some other problem.
American Proto sailor Emma Creighton, sits on the side of the dock cross legged on a beanbag and whipping rope ends.
Dan Dytch the other British entry, in his prototype Soitec, is in his cockpit, surrounded by safety kit facing a man with a clip board. There is no hello from him this time, he like the rest of us is making his best effort to get one more box ticked off and get himself closer to that permit to race.
We have all had our safety kit ready for days, but the judges attention to detail on every small item puts stress on everyone and inevitably there is something we have missed.
I am on the final stretch now the music is French Rock, and the place is a mess; the serious prototypes are covered in Preparateurs, tweaking and polishing like proud owners of race cars.
The less well funded projects are heaving with girl friends, wives and mates all busy with string and tools; you would hardly think this was to be a single handed race.
I am nearly home now; my phone goes, it is the teacher of a local school in La Rochelle who wants to arrange a visit for the students to my boat. They will come and meet me and talk with me, then track me as I make my progress across the ocean. We arrange it for Thursday at 10.30.
Just a step away, Susi is parked next to me in a Pogo 2 and Giaccomo with a Ginto, the youngest competitor this year at just 21 yrs old. We are all from CEM and have shared this whole campaign together.
Suzi is frowning and talking to our coach Guillaume, she has problems with her sails, and the stress is showing on her everyday; after putting so much into the campaign it is so sad to see her badly let down.
Giaccomo is busy fixing wood into the back of his boat to meet the new flotation rules, in a world of his own.
My little boat is patiently waiting for me, waiting for some of that attention to be focussed in it’s direction.
The big job today is to change my rudders; during refit we discovered cracks in them so I have bought two new ones and I will take one as a spare.
I role up my sleeves ready to start the job and realise I have forgotten to fetch my second tool bag from the van.
I stand up, turn around, take a deep breath and try to look for a clear path back down the dock……….. it’s going to be a long day.