ED HILL: The debrief

ED HILL: The debrief

Thursday March 14 2013 Author: Artemis Offshore Academy Location: United Kingdom

Artemis Offshore Academy skipper Ed Hill gives the low down on his first ever solo Figaro race...

Now that my boat has been lifted out of the water and the rig is out, I have time to reflect on my first ever solo Figaro race, the ICOM Cup Méditérranée. As with every offshore that I do, the highs are really high and the lows are low. Offshore sailing is one of the toughest endurance sports you can do and I can promise you that doing it solo just makes it 100 times harder! That said, this is why I love the sport and after promising myself I would quit about 100 times during one night, now I cannot wait for more. (See Ed's onboard video diary here)

Rather than just giving a boring race report, I thought I’d just share some of the happy, funny and sometimes despairing moments from my first race, the ICOM Cup Méditérranée.

Leg 1: La Grande Motte to Marseille, 160nm – The podium:
This leg was a real confidence boost for me. I know from training that I am quick upwind in a breeze, but to not only survive massive steep waves and 35kts, but also being able to climb on the fleet was really pleasing. I found just keeping the boat going and looking after it was the key, but the amount of times I was thrown from the helming position in waves and slammed against the winch became uncountable! Also, I made two notes to self during the race; you cannot adjust the rig in 30kts on the leeward side and getting washed down the deck trying hurts. By setting up well for this leg and putting myself to the south of the fleet, I was in an excellent position to take advantage of the new breeze when it came in.  For sure I did not expect this to be as big an advantage as it turned out to be, but really it all came down to doing the simple sailing well for the eight hours before in the big breeze.  

Leg 2: Inshore race, 10nm - The protest
I was quick off of the start line all week and this race was no exception. However, I think I was sat in just a little too much dirt and lost my chance of getting away from the fleet. That said, I pushed hard, but sadly got the wrong end of a shift, which left me dropping from 3rd to 8th up the first leg. The race was incredibly tight though and after a really nice gybe set I ended up in 6th with just the finish line left to cross. Well, that is what I thought! It turned out that some special yellow marks that were not on the course diagrams were supposed to be rounded as well. I missed out one of them, as it was unclear where the marks extended the course, but some boats missed out rounding all of the buoys and gained significantly, whereas I did not, but I was still penalised. Subsequent protests into the night reduced the deficit to 1 minute 30 seconds and I was dropped from 6th to 10th in the standings. It was painful. Sitting in a French protest room is not something I want to repeat and was not ideal preparation for the final leg. It was a frustrating way to end what was really not a bad race, but it pleased me to have beaten the other two Academy skippers on the water, even if I hadn’t on paper after the protest.

Leg three: Marseille to La Grande Motte, 195nm - Madness
The final 195nm leg had an unclear weather picture, with the only certainty being a wind shift to the north west by daylight. My strategy was to stay with the fleet, but making sure I was to the north of the other boats. Half way into the first night my tactics were working, I was in a good position and was placed well within the fleet, but this is when things went wrong. My Laptop decided to play up and kept on crashing. I lost all of my GPS data and electronic charts and I think I panicked slightly. Instead of just driving and staying with the fleet, I tacked north and tried to fix the problem.  A few hours later the problem was fixed, but I had lost all of my AIS (automatic ship identification) info and it was unclear where the fleet was. In my fried brain I still wanted to be north of the fleet, so kept on pushing. The computer still kept cutting out and I just didn’t take five minutes to re- evaluate my position. Once I realised that I was miles from the fleet and out a massive limb, the expected right hand shift came in while I was on a 10nm reach back down to the mark.  Watching the whole fleet sail past me and onto the next leg was one of the most demoralising things to have happened to me, they were absolutely miles and miles ahead of me. My dreams of a podium finish overall shattered (I was then third overall) and it took me a long time to pick myself up.

This experience is something that I hope never to repeat. I spent too long feeling sorry for myself and it took a long time to get the bit between my teeth and keep pushing again. Interestingly, I learned that a little bit of music does an amazing job in helping to pick yourself up, it gave me a real boost! For me leg three was a huge lesson learned and what was satisfying was just focusing on reeling in the guys in front. I sailed really hard on the second night and stopping for just 10 minutes of sleep, I finally overtook the two boats in front. However, luck was really not my friend during this leg and one of the boats caught the final new breeze first, but at least I got a place back - a small victory!

In the end I finished the ICOM Cup Méditérranée in 7th overall, which is not too bad of a result. My results for the first two races were pretty decent and I think I showed that I can be competitive, which has always been my goal.  Every time I race I experience so much and just need to keep going on that steep learning curve that is the Figaro. After competing in my first race, I now have some really solid points I want to work on in training and I can't wait to get to northern France and add tide and proper waves into the equation! But for now, a week off to recharge the batteries in the snowy Alps beckons and then I’ll be back to focused training for the next event, the Solo Arrimer in April.

Ed Hill


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