Wallowing home

Last night, as I was powering down to the Barcelona turning mark under spinnaker, all was right with the world.

I had made a great time around the track to date, it was simply a question, of round the mark and home; I had already visualised my finish, sometime late today, and decided that though I was close to the fastest course time for a series boat (7 days and 6 hrs ish I believe) it was not quite in my grasp, but close enough to gain some satisfaction. Happy Days.

However; my stunning ability to visualise success did not quite match up with my total inability to tally up what was actually feasible with the current forecast and I have to admit this has lead to a foolish amount of disappointment today.

Key learning point – in order to sail fast, there must be wind!

The Barcelona turning mark is in the approach channel to the port, and I arrived there around midnight under spinnaker and pretty exhausted, having still not managed to catch up from Big Monday.

The return course was going to be upwind and I desperately needed some sleep so took an offshore tack to get away from the ships and the annoying beep beep of the radar target enhancer.

A couple of miles off the coast, I felt secure enough to put in a serious nap. The boat was going well and I knew from the way I was feeling a quick 10 minutes would not do the job so I set an alarm for a couple of hours.

I woke around 4 in the morning, from a very deep sleep, hearing the radar alarm. I ran up on deck; there were no ships around, but no land around either.

The wind had died a lot, and we were bobbing along at 3 or 4 knots, with an unpleasant swell knocking the breeze out of the sails and the boat of her course. Not my favourite conditions at the best of times.

I tried tacking for the shore, but the tacking angles in these conditions were huge.

A quick plot on the chart confirmed we had made hardly any ground up the coast and if current conditions stayed it would be a mammoth trip back to La Grande Motte and I would be lucky to get there by Friday morning.

I had totally underestimated this last leg of the qualifier, being so buoyed along by my great progress to date; to bump into these extra days on the water as a reality was quite a shock to the system.

When morale is that low, there is only one way to deal with it; tea and chocolate.

I must say that tea stocks on the potting shed have dwindled considerably during today, as ongoing therapy has been required, with every further hour the breeze did not fill in; but now having turned the corner into the golfe de lion and effectively on the home stretch to La Grande Motte, big spinnaker flying, morale recovered; I can confirm the great restorative qualities of tea!

I have a light wind night to get through, but it should all be downwind, with any luck I should be tied up and getting the Capitanerie to sign my logbook around lunch time.

The Artemis Offshore Academy are racing in the Figaro’s today; it will be one of the indicator races, to decide who eventually gets the Figaro scholarship this year.

They set off this morning into not much breeze and are heading down towards Marseille on a 180 mile course; I know we will all be working hard tonight trying to find that extra 0.1 knot of speed in what little breeze we have; them, trying to get to the start of the Solitaire, and me trying to get the finish of my qualifier.

This time, I think my visualisation is a little more realistic, less marching bands and civic receptions, more me nurturing every ounce of speed out of the spinnaker, right up until the finish, and quietly arriving, very tired but very content with the world.

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