The longest goodbye


In all sport, and particularly in endurance events visualisation is important; when you are in a bad storm, being able to visualise coming out the other end, being able to think through and manage manoeuvres in the dark is also an important skill as well as preparing yourself for the ocean by imagining what it will be like on your own out there.


My visualisation of the start day on Sunday had been keeping me going for a long time. All through the incredible battle to get to the start I had in my mind the picture of leaving Douarnenez, with my friends on the shore cheering and waving and sailing off towards the horizon.


I was way off the mark.


After all this waiting and preparing the weekend has been a bit surreal and yesterday morning I was left with a whole heap more logistical problems from my well planned starting preparations and really not sure when we will leave.


The problem is not the wind next to the French coast which would be fine to leave but the weather we would expect to meet off Cape Finisterre.


Finisterre is renowned among offshore sailors as a place which can punish in the extreme. Here wind acceleration zones caused by the mountains on the corner of Spain combine with the proximity of the continental shelf to the land to make viscous breaking seas which would challenge the most experience sailors no matter how large their boats.


Had we left on Sunday we would have reached Finisterre at the same time as a large depression swept buy offering us 4 metre seas and 40 knots of wind.


Quite sensibly the race committee decided not to send us out to meet this so the start was postponed.


The start of the min transat in France is a big deal. People travel from miles around to come down and watch and of course all of the supporters, friends and families of the sailors turn up as well.


The postponement was signalled quite early on and so a lot of people did not show up, however to keep the spirit alive and put on a show for all the people (including my own rent a crowd) all the boats left on Sunday and sailed around the bay in light breeze in front of a large crowd that had assembled on the harbour wall.


Due to an early start I had not managed to say goodbye to many of my friends and was towed out to sail thinking I would not see them again until December, however after a trip around the bay in the sunshine when I got back to the shore I was delighted to find they had changed travel plans and were all still there in Treboul (the port opposite Douarnenez which is now our home).


We had time for a quick drink together and then bizarrely, one by one I hugged them, they wished me luck and said goodbye and they left.


That is just not how it was supposed to happen; I am the one that is supposed to leave.


Finally I was left in limbo, wondering what is going to happen for the next few days.


Thankfully Ash has changed his plans and is staying out until Wednesday; I sent my van back to the UK as planned but in the meantime with no accommodation – except a race ready mini with no cushions or sleeping bags, no transport – except a race ready mini which is not going to get Ash to Paris, and no way of getting my printer, computer, my remaining non race items back to the UK when I eventually do leave we are left with some more of those crazy logistical problems.


The fleet is currently on very real standby in the port of Treboul.


We had a weather briefing last night which showed a difficult set of conditions for at least the next week as low after low will be pummelling Finisterre and not allowing any time for small mini’s to slip past.


We currently have two options- firstly we may start at 1300 tomorrow on Wednesday and sail a short leg to Gijon in Spain just to get us across the Biscay which the wind might allow us to do, but not around Finisterre. We would then hold up in Gijon until there is a clear window to creep around Finisterre and south – this would be the first time the mini transat had been sailed in three legs but at least it gets us out of here.


If the weather will not allow us to do even this then we will be here for up to another week.


It is a waiting game.


Everyone is asking me how I feel but in truth I do not feel too different. Yes I want to go and the extra stress of having to spend money on accommodation and sort out the logistics which I thought I had organised so well at the start is a pain.


However in terms of the actual race I am a little numb. I cannot do anything about the weather or the wind. I respect 100% the difficult decisions that the race committee are having to make and so there is no point in wasting emotion on something that you can’t change.


My task for today is to make my new roadbook for the trip to Gijon, which of course I am not prepared for and is a port I have never been to before. I will go down and check my boat, drink tea and try to work out what to do with my bags at very short notice if we get sent off tomorrow.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *