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.


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