Pip Hare on the Mini Transat: A First look back at leg one

Pip Hare on the Mini Transat: A First look back at leg one

Thursday October 6 2011 Author: pips74 Location: Portugal

A first look back Well, I’m here!

First leg over and what a leg that was; the most complicated weather systems the first leg of the transat has seen for years – and didn’t we just know it. It’s been demanding, more than I ever expected; it has taken every ounce of effort and emotion and I have not spent once second reflecting on anything other than this race for the last ten days.

There is too much to write about in one go, so I am just going to start with an overview of the leg; to let you know how I feel and will fill in the details later. Overall; I am afraid my biggest emotion is disappointment.

That is the first feeling that comes to the surface and it stings me regularly and it’s still fairly raw, as I know I made a big mistake and there is no way to rewind and put it right; I let myself down.

The first four days of the race were so good; I was pushing, I was thinking I was in the top ten most of the time and sailing well, sticking to the plan. It really was hard work, but great. I was loving the challenge and loving the competition; carefully juggling all of my tasks, keeping the boat going and keeping me going. After such a great start my goal was to hang onto the guys in the front and with every position report and every radio schedule I was pleased to find out I was still there. Effort put in seemed to be giving me a result I could be proud of.

My big mistake occurred after a difficult night, over strong winds and lumpy seas. I had been on the helm all day and all night as the conditions were difficult and I decided I needed to use the human touch to guide the boat through the waves and keep up the boat speed. This worked well and as I came into the morning and the wind died I was still within reach of the class leaders.

I had some work to do on the boat, among other jobs the wind intrstuments had started to malfunction and I need to stop sailing the boat and spend some time working and putting everything right. The wind instrument problem I traced to a nick in the wire, which had allowed water to progress up the cable into the shield and was giving an interrupted signal from the mast head.

During the time it took me to put everything right on the boat I dropped back from the pack and ended up in light breeze sailing to windward. Then I made my mistake. I had been awake for around 26 hrs; I was tired and not thinking straight.

I made a tactical decision to go east and I followed it which lost me 20 places in the fleet. There is not a lot I can say really. My mistake was to make a big decision like this when tired. I should have known better but I did it anyway and it cost me.

Enough said. But don’t worry, I am not morose or morbid about things. I did spend about half a day beating myself up, a few tears were shed and general anger flowed around the boat; but as night follows day, so every tantrum must end and after waking up in 35th place I set my new goals to slowly catch up and this is what I did.

The last few days of the race have been glorious spinnaker runs, sun shine, dolphins and boat speed and during this time I made it my mission to gain time on every one around me and to study this downwind sailing ready for the next leg.

I set about quite a scientific analysis of speeds, times, distances. I started to time my sail changes and work out how much ground I lost in each and so how much time it would take to regain this distance once the new sail was up. And slowly but surely I climbed back through the fleet. In the final 350 miles, I gained six places and for this I am proud. In truth I am not sure now if my goal of top fifteen is achievable, as the finishing times between the front of the fleet and myself are great; but I will keep on trying.

The race so far has exceeded my expectations; the competition is outstanding, the boats are formidable, gains are small and hard fought and losses when they come are a massive blow to the stomach.

Yes, I feel I have let myself down through one decision but with over 3,000 miles still to go the race is not over. I would not be anywhere else, doing anything else; I did not enter into this race because it would be a walk over, I entered it for the challenge; and this I have found.

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