Tuesday February 26 2013 Author: Artemis Offshore Academy Location: United Kingdom

Full-time Figaro sailor Jack Bouttell reports on his first solo 24 hour practice race and the build up to his first competitive race of the season, the ICOM Med Cup...

With just eight days until the start of our first regatta, we have come to the end of our on the water training down here in La Grande Motte. The week ahead includes a lot of boat work, some off the water training including weather, NKE and electronics and making final preparations. Very kindly the weather has been absolutely Baltic for the last couple of days while working on the boat, to the point that while doing some wiring inside the boat, I have had the bar heater inside my jacket to keep warm!

Last Wednesday we set out on our first 24-hour race. The course was set with 32 marks, yes, 32 marks! Sailing a distance of 140nm. I re-entered the course around five times and it was very easy to miss a mark as we rounded the same marks a number of times. Setting off from La Grande Motte I made one of the biggest rookie mistakes I’ve made so far, putting me into last position of the eight-boat fleet rather quickly. The propeller under the boat folds in half when not in use, but due to the light winds it didn’t fold and so I was around a knot slower than everyone else. It was stupid not to check the propeller after I turned the engine off, but it was a big lesson learned and once I had it folded away I was on a mission to get back to the front.

Four marks later, I had worked my way back up into fourth position, but the forecast had the wind completely dying out and filling in from the opposite direction. As it got dark the wind did completely drop off, but we at least had a group of dolphins for company. After a quick bit of food, the wind slowly started to fill in and after around half an hour it was up to around 10-12kts. With a solid northerly wind now reaching speeds of up to 20kts, we were ticking off the marks quicker than ever. The time started flying by and before I knew it, I was onto the longest leg of the race running down to a fairway buoy off of Sete, which is around 25nm west of La Grande Motte and also marked the half way point.

Towards the end of the leg, the boat was sailing along nicely with the kite up in about 20-24kts of breeze and the pilot was steering the boat well. It was at this point that I had my first happy hour, well 30 minutes, of the race. The music went on, as did another course of food, some cookies and me singing like an idiot. Anyone who had seen me at this point would have thought I had a screw loose, walking around singing and tidying up the boat, but I was having a great time. Coming into the Sete mark at around 02:00, I had to complete two gybes and avoid a very large ship coming across my bow. Bar a few hairy moments avoiding the ship, all went well and I rounded the mark in second position.

It was a freezing cold morning, so I was wearing everything I had brought with me and I decided to have another happy hour around breakfast time. I have never been so happy making food than I was huddled over the gas stove warming up a bit. I learned a huge amount during the race, especially about pushing myself over a set period of time. During the race it was hard to try relax and there were some really tough moments, particularly on the final upwind leg, which was very light and shifty and very hard work as I hadn’t slept at all during the race. It will be very interesting now going into longer races where sleep will be much more important and working out how best to manage it.

Overall, my first solo 24-hour race was really enjoyable and coming in first was the cherry on top.


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