Catastrophic errors and consequences

Catastrophic errors and consequences

Wednesday January 23 2013 Author: edhill1 Location: United Kingdom

Although it is a very quiet French holiday resort out of season, for us sailors things are never quiet in La Grande Motte. This last week was characterised by medium to high wind speeds and intensive short course racing and training. Mistakes proved easy to make and were costly.

I thought that it would be in my first few weeks of training while getting used to sailing the Figaro that I might damage it (if at all), not a month into my training. By the end last week my spinnaker was in three pieces and my carbon spinnaker pole was not longer a pole. Both breakages were a result of two completely separate incidents in the space of three days! I found racing around a mile long course in 20kts of breeze and trying to round the marks cleanly a huge challenge. The pressures of boat handling on such a short course in relatively windy conditions resulted in a few catastrophic errors on my part.

On the other hand, this high-pressure training is proving to be effective and my boat handling has improved a lot. For those of you who have never raced solo, it is incredibly tough doing the job of eight crew on your own and doing it all in a fast and efficiently. I’ve learnt that sailing solo is very rewarding when it all goes well, but very messy when it does not.

On top of our daily Figaro training, Mark Andrews and I have spent the whole weekend pouring over charts as we prepare for our Yachtmaster Offshore exam later this year. Passing this exam is a condition of our entry to the Solitaire du Figaro and although at times the revision is tedious, it makes a huge amount of sense for us to have this qualification for safety reasons. Although I have skippered a lot of race boats in the past, I’ve always had someone on the boat with a Yachtmaster qualification that I could lean on when I was unsure on a safety aspect. Funnily enough, I have not used a real paper chart for over six years, so it was great to refresh and learn some new techniques just in case a critical situation, like losing power to all of my computers and batteries while racing, should arise.

Although there is currently no snow on the ground, those in the UK will be glad to know that the south of France is still anything but warm. We’ve had light snow whilst training and have been sailing in sub zero temperatures, that’s before you even add in the wind chill factor. That said, I’ve worked out that dropping the spinnaker in the water instead of on the boat is very fast way to work up a sweat and keep warm, although it is not so good for boat speed or the equipment. We’ve now got another week of cold and windy conditions ahead of us. Here’s to hoping for less damage to 37 and better boat handling from me. I’d much rather be cold and in control, than be dragging sails out of the water.

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