My First Figaro
My First Figaro
Having completed my first, and hopefully not my last, Solitaire du Figaro a couple weeks ago, I have had the chance to reflect on the experience. As far as results go, I found the event a bit disappointing, partly from the expectation I started with and partly from feeling like I didn’t sail my best. Despite all this, it is by far the most productive month of sailing I have ever done. The attraction of the class is the diversity of skills it takes to get to the top. The key four areas that I have identified from the race for me are boat speed, tactics, personal management and pilot management.
Boat Speed - The Figaro Beneteau 2 is a very simple boat, the speeds are relatively low and the differences are minimal. The class has a strict one-design rule, and we are very limited in what we can do to the boat, however we all still go to the nth degree to make the boat as fast as possible. On the water I found that most of the time my boat speed was comparable to the fleet, however the differences and my losses came when ‘changing gears’. This is where the top guys make some gains, they are so much more in tune with their boats that adapting to a course, sail or weather change is almost instinct.
Tactics - This was an area that was majorly highlighted for me, and an area I need be more confident in. Being the biggest event I have competed in, I learnt a lot of lessons on my mental approach. In the training races leading up to the Solitaire du Figaro, I always had in the back of my head that if I made a big mistake, ‘It was ok because it’s just training’. Even though this makes no difference to how you sail or think, I found when I got to the Solitaire du Figaro I had a permanent paranoia of making a mistake or wrong decision. On quite a few occasions, I found the end result of this was a lack of commitment to any tactical decision anytime there was a split in the fleet, which meant never going the right way. Leading up to the event, it was very easy to tell myself ‘its just another sailing race’ but, once on the water I found it hard to forget the fact it was La Solitaire du Figaro, the race I had been training for since joining the Artemis Offshore Academy.
Personal Management - Before the Figaro this was one of my biggest worries, especially the sleep factor. Sleeping too much means you don’t sail the boat enough and not getting enough sleep means that you are too tired to make rational decisions and sail the boat competitively. The hard bit about this is that you don’t know you haven’t had enough sleep until it is too late. This is something that only experience can teach you. Speaking to a few of the more experienced sailors and from a few trial and errors in training, I found that for a leg of the Solitaire du Figaro (3days) I needed a minimum of 3 hours sleep in the first 48 hours. Normally the boat wakes me up, but to be sure I always set an alarm for a maximum of 15 minutes. This worked well for me during this race, however as I get more experience of 48+ hour races I am sure I will adapt these patterns to ensure I am performing at my best throughout the race.
Pilot management - The autopilot is your best friend onboard, the key thing, which I struggled with at times, is the settings. There are about 5 different variables to play with to try and make it react as best as possible to the conditions. This is something I plan to spend a lot of time working on this winter. The other element of the pilot is knowing when to use it, deciding when it is faster then you because you are tired, or at times like two-sail reaching. Generally it’s quicker not to use the autopilot but, you also have to sleep, trim sails, manage the boat, eat, make navigational and tactical calls…and this is when nothing is going wrong. Needless to say, when I should make the call to use the autopilot is something I am working on!
Competing in the Solitaire du Figaro has given me a springboard into the solo offshore racing world, and lining up on the start line against some sailing legends has really inspired me to train as hard as I can this winter with the Artemis Offshore Academy.
This weekend is the start of the Tour de Bretagne, which is a double-handed event around Brittany. I am competing with Laurent Pellecuer, who has done the Solitaire du Figaro 15 times and finished 8th this year so, I am looking forward to learning as much as I can from him.
All for now,