Conrad latest blog: Review of Solo Concarneau

Conrad latest blog: Review of Solo Concarneau

Tuesday May 10 2011 Author: conrad Location: United Kingdom

Later this afternoon, I head down to Lorient to join up with the Artemis Offshore Academy Squad to do some training with French Figaro coach, Nico Berenger.  First on the agenda is a debrief on La Solo Concarneau and to understand the important lessons learnt from this second qualification event. We then will be two-boat testing the new North Sails in order to make a final selection on sail design for La Solitaire du Figaro. I plan to race the Solo Basse Normandie next week (20th-22nd May) with these new sails.

So what did I learn from the event this weekend? Here is a quick overview:

Start to Basse Spineg (Penmarche)
Average start, but had a clear lane and wind, so managed to keep in the main bunch. Tacked  early to hit the right and found a nice lift on starboard to take me into the windward mark in 10th position.  Lots of boats piled in on port tack,  so I was pleased to have the right of way.  Speed and height generally good.  Settled in pretty quickly and made a good job of my first spinnaker hoist.  Kept pace with the leaders along the tight spinnaker reach and rounded Basse Spineg in 12th place.

Basse Spineg to Ile de Belle Ile
First tactical error after rounding Basse Spineg. The weather route indicated it was good to head south (port tack) but the leaders all tacked off immediately towards Ile de Belle Ile. My head said to stick with the fleet, so I tacked onto starboard and settled in with great height and pace on the boats ahead and to the left. After an hour, I noticed my mainsail had a tear about 20cms along the foot, so I immediately put a reef in and set about making a repair with duck tape. It didn’t take long, but once I’d finished, I noticed the boats that had stayed on port were now enjoying a huge 20degree lift and literally the back markers where now the leaders. My position in the top third was now firmly at the bottom third!

Ile de Belle Ile to Sud Banc de Guerande
By late Friday night, we had all reached Ile de Belle Ile and the wind was dying. I’d managed to roll over quite a few boats, including Sam Goodchild (who later admitted to be struggling with upwind pace).  The wind had dropped to less than 5knts and the fleet had compressed to only a mile or two. I decided to tack off early onto starboard and look for some better breeze and found 10knts more offshore. The problem, was that I was sailing into more wind that was lifting me on starboard. At some stage, I knew that I would have to take a painful port tack to stay with the fleet. My port primary winch then failed, so I had to strip it down and re-build it (taking the broken bits out) which prevented me from tacking back on to port. After a few hours, I checked the grib and could see a short right hand shift that if materialised would allow me to cross the fleet and get back into the hunt. The shift never came and I ended up having to take a bad one back into Sud Banc de Guerande. I rounded the mark with at best one or two boats behind me and just behind Sam (although at the time I couldn’t quite make out his boat).

Sud Banc de Guerande back to Concarneau (Linuen Buoy)
Downwind all the way back to Concarneau.  Missed the tide gate at Ile de Belle Ile, so fell behind a bit more to the lead group, but by now they were long gone. I kept focused, but struggled with lack of boats around. Still only half way to go and time to get back into the fleet, but motivation dipped. Slept a little and ate most of the chocolate onboard! Arrived late evening at Concarneau in 25knts. Dropped the kite and managed to blow up the vang blocks in a bad (sleep deprived) gybe. Managed to lash the vang together and carry on.

Second lap to Sud Banc de Guerande
The front arrived just after arriving at Ile de Belle Ile. There was a huge thunderstorm which bought with it an ugly sea state. I changed down to the Solent and put a reef in as the first squall hit with wind of 35knts. Breaking waves everywhere and at times whole boat was swamped. All I could think about was turning the corner, putting up the spinnaker and roaring back to Concarneau at pace. I imagined the leaders doing 15knts back to the finish. Sadly, I arrived at Sud Banc de Guerande as the wind dropped to 20kts, so the downwind sail back was a little pedestrian like and more time was lost to the leaders.

So overall, I was pleased to finish what was a great Figaro test event, with lots of transitions and sail changes. It was a very tough event with little time to sleep and eat. I must learn to back my own plan and not get seduced by the leaders, but at the same time, when you are in the bunch don’t head off on your own unless you are convinced they have it wrong…chances are they have it right. Need more quick fix energy in my diet to deal with the high energy demands and lack of sleep. Chocolate still provides the best pick up when times are tough. Good to qualify and put that question to bed, now the hard work begins. I need to work hard on fitness and more time nailing the manoeuvres and transitions. Overall,  I’m pleased with my pace and level of fatigue induced after three days racing and don’t feel fazed by just how challenging the sailing is. Lots to work on.



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