War stories from the Solo Arrimer 2013
War stories from the Solo Arrimer 2013
I am currently writing this on route to Charleston, America where I am taking a busman’s holiday to compete with Torquay based 'Red Sailing Team' at Charleston Race Week. On reflection there were a lot of positives to take from my first race of the season the Solo Arrimer on my new boat, where I ended up 18th overall (and 3rd on the unofficial foreigners podium!).
One positive to my whole campaign recently has been the acquisition of my new 'Official Clothing Partner' for 2013 and beyond, Zhik - pronounced 'Zi-K' if you’re english or 'Zee-K' if you’re French. Getting the deal done before the start of this race was a bit of a rush, but when I arrived in Les Sables d’Olonne a box of fresh sailing kit was waiting for me which was very exciting!
So race wise, I came home in 18th, a ten position progression from last year where I finished 28th. During the race I saw the most wind I have ever seen while at sea - a hefty 52 knots! It was amazing to be racing in that stuff, I was side by side with five boats, all of us sending it and pushing the boats to the max. With every single wave we charged over, rolling white water poured over the decks. The Figaro turns boys into men, fact. Nights like that toughen you up a notch or two without a doubt. Just safely getting a boat through those conditions on your own is a big job and with the element of competition in the mix as well, you can see why they call Port La Fôret (where I train in Brittany) the valley of fools! I love it though, and everyone else competing does too. The weary but crazed eyes of all the skippers as we tucked into soup and crepes after the finish said it all. We all knew we had experienced something pretty cool during this race, something that not everyone will ever get to experience. We had made it through, all with a story to tell, and some with a result to show for their work as well.
Back to the war stories, twice while driving I got washed off the helm by a wave breaking over the back of the boat and both times I ended up to leeward in a sprawled mess by the life raft, feeling lucky to just be alive and still on board! After that I changed to being properly attached to the boat, rather than just looping my lifeline over the winch, which came off! So when the second wave unseated me I was stopped half way by my harness and fell into the tiller, a slightly more painful experience, but I appreciated the bruises compared to the thought of going over the side to the pretty much guaranteed death that would have awaited me in the Atlantic! It was the first time that I’ve ever been wary of the potential for being washed over the side on a Figaro, rather than just falling over. It was also the first time I considered not pushing the boat to it's limits, I say considered, I just carried on as normal of course! It’s not often that serious Henry has anything to say, but during the 52 knot squall and after a succession of three enormous waves of solid white water shooting back at me from the bow I remember thinking, “Wow you've got a lot on here buddy, keep it together!”
I also had issues with a part of my ballast system. The gullatine, which stops the water we fill from the sea and put on the high side falling to leeward, was broken, so the water was doing exactly that. So rather than helping performance, it was actually doing the complete opposite. It took me a while to realise this at first and at one point I had both tanks, both windward and leeward, full! I eventually realised and started pumping the water constantly from the leeward tank to the windward one. This put the pump under a lot of pressure though and I wasn’t keen on breaking that too. I thought about demounting the pipe and blocking something in it to stop it falling to leeward, but after sailing for about three to four hours without any ballast at all and a reef in the main, I tried again a few more times and got it holding to windward so just left it down for the rest of the race, filling and emptying each side individually rather than transferring between the two. It meant I lost a lot of time, which was frustrating, but everyone has problems and dealing with them (and noticing them for that matter!), while maintaining performance is one of the many many things the good guys do so well. I was talking to Fréd Duthill after the race, he had no pilot for it and for all his sail changes he lashed a rope to the tiller, round the winch and took it on the bow with him, pulling to bear away, easing to head up, all in 30/40 knots! I'm not going to claim that I would have won had my ballast worked, but for sure I would have gone a bit better, which is encouraging. An extra 220kg on the high side in 40 knots would have been nice!
Anyway in other news, the sponsor hunt is still ongoing. The objective at the moment is acquiring the best set of sails I can for the Solitaire du Figaro, which is now under six weeks away! At the moment I have until 5 o’clock on the 19th April to place an order for a new set in order for them to be ready in time for the start of the race, as they are made to order. Time is running out on that, i.e. five days... Option two is to buy demo sails (what sail makers use to sell sails to the guys who can afford them!) They are around 40% cheaper, but have quite a bit of wear on them. There is also option three, which is buying sails off the guys with the big budgets who buy multiple sets of sails, test them all and decide which one they are going to race with. Although, these sets are not always technically 'For Sale'.
Life is good though, things are going well and I am excited to be heading to a warm country for a week in the sun and sailing as part of a team again after my very cold shower in the Bay of Biscay the other night by myself!
Bye for now,