'The Greatest Race in the World'
'The Greatest Race in the World'
Ah, La Solitaire du Figaro 2012 - or as most sailors and skippers who have competed in it will tell you, whether this year or in the 43 editions prior, the 'greatest race in the world'. And it's with no exaggeration, I can tell you, having just arrived back home in Dartmouth after my month of adventure, I really do feel the power and draw of the race.
Last night I slept for 12 hours, earlier this afternoon for 2 hours, and after writing this I will be ready for at least another hours kip before dinner and another 12 hour beauty this evening. Exhausted doesn't even cover it.
Even with this however, I am already tingling with excitement about the prospect of coming back next year. In order to do so I have an almost unthinkable amount of work to do. Finding a boat and a sponsor just for starters. Then putting together my training programme for next year, what have I learnt from this year that I can improve on? What are my weakness's? What will I be doing better this time around? So many questions, but that small flame that I thought had gone out come the end of Leg 3 is already started to rear its ugly (or potentially very beautiful) head.
So looking back at La Solitaire 2012 what did I learn? Well I learnt that when you put absolute everything you have into something, it makes the bad times incredibly painful and the good times just about as good as orgasmic nirvana. So what were the high's and lows?
My pilot and electrical problems on Leg's 2 and 3, for me this really scuppered my race in many ways. But I have learnt a huge amount from it, not just about my system and how to troubleshoot and problem solve, but also how to prepare your boat better and importantly, what place you need to be in mentally to do it all when everything is kicking off and your all by yourself.
My decision to go East of the high during Leg 1. This decision lost me more time overall than my electronic problems, sitting there while the fleet sailed off into the distance, out of range even for AIS was painful. 5 hrs 30 lost on the leaders and 3 hours on those who I would consider my main rivals, something I never recovered.
The worlds itchiest bum for the final 24 hours of Leg 2 and not being able to sit down for longer than 20 seconds?!
This list will be longer for sure. Number 1, sailing along the south coast of Britain. I did some of my best sailing, performance wise, along the south coast, and the sunshine and 20 knots downwind really put the icing on the cake. I finally felt I found where I belonged.
The heart warming support I was shown from other competitors on the VHF during my problems, feeding me with suggestions of things to try and taking time out of their own races to help me. Without Yoann Richomme, I would not have finished my first Solitaire, thank you.
Prologue race, just getting round the course was hard work. 44 knots was the most wind I saw and I came 12th and 1st rookie. A tricky day on the water but I was delighted to start on such a high.
Finishing just 22 minutes behind the mightily impressive Yann Elies in Leg 3, and ending up 2nd rookie, despite having electrical problems for the first 12 hours.
On that note, witnessing first hand the rise back to glory of one of the nicest men you will ever meet, Yann Elies, the most popular winner you could imagine. When a video of him crossing the finishing line to win the final leg and claim La Solitaire 2012 as his own was shown to everyone on the final evenings soiree, the place erupted, a great moment.
Bay of Biscay dolphin fest, as Nick Cherry described it, 'there were more dolphins than sea' And he wouldn't be far wrong...
Finishing every leg. However bad I felt I did, there was always some level of achievement in there somewhere.
Reading all my notes in my food bags each day from friends and family, was awesome, thanks guys!
All the support I have had from everyone start to finish, its been great, its been 'emotional'.
Getting my pilot up and running again in Legs 2 and 3, building my confidence with electronics and all things black and red.
My brother coming out to the start of Leg 1 in Paimpol. A huge surprise, he had been away travelling round the world for 9 months, very special.
'Etape 4' (Leg 4) - The 4 days after Leg 3 finished to prize giving on Sunday. All 37 skippers in a weird place of extreme fatigue and a willingness to party!
Meeting so many incredible people. Considering how unbelievably competitive it is, the Figaro has to be one of the friendliest racing circuits in the world. Being a part of that family now, having just finished my rookie season, is something I am very proud of.
The feeling of accomplishment and desire to come back next year lying on my bed as I write this. It's a strange thing La Solitaire.
If you fancy a shot at doing this race, you might for this, of interest.