The penultimate sail before the Transat was the prologue event which was sailed on Wednesday. The scene was set for a great spectacle with nearly all the boats racing with three people onboard and a lot with local children also ready to enjoy the thrill of mini sailing. I was sailing with Clemency Williams and John Parker, two extremely confident and experienced Mini sailors to ensure there were no last minute stresses!
Unfortunately the weather did not deliver. We drifted out of the marina in a flat calm but glorious sunshine. The race committee set a 12 mile course to the south of Ile de Re and tried to get us off on time. There was not a breath of wind and rather predictably around 50 boats rafted up all around the committee boat. With no way of seeing through the melee the start was abandoned although not before Adam Courier from the USA ended up onboard the committee boat to fend his boat off……..only in France.
After a short wait a very light and shifty breeze filled in from the west. We made an excellent start from the pin end but unfortunately we could not quite work our way over to the right hand side of the course where we expected the breeze to fill in from. After dropping away and becoming very patchy the breeze did indeed fill in from the right but too soon for us. We were down in the 20s somewhere when the race committee decided that enough was enough and finished us at the first mark after only 1.8 miles- not exactly what we had in mind but a fun day out, everything worked and there was no damage.
Now the last formality is out the way we can really start to get ready for the big one. As far as the boat is concerned I am very happy and can’t leave soon enough. Although I am naturally very confident I am starting to feel a bit tense, I just want to start and focus on what I am here to do. The last few days have been a bit strange as I have had France 2 television (equivalent of BBC1) following me around. They were on the boat when we were sailing yesterday, then they filmed Tobias from Complete Freight and I having a beer in a local pub which was very weird as people looked at us trying to work out if we were famous…….a lot of confused faces. They also followed me in a car while I was cycling home the other day, all a bit random but I guess it is great on the PR front but I am not totally relaxed with it.
The boats are all crammed into the old port in the centre of La Rochelle and a race village has been erected around the port. This gives a fantastic atmosphere with the hi tech boats nestled in ancient surroundings with music blaring out; there is definitely a carnival feel to it all. On Saturday at midday as we pass through the lock, all the skippers are introduced to the crowd and their chosen song will play, guaranteed to get the pulse racing. I am determined to love every minute of it as it will be one the best moments of my life. This is an attitude I want to take into the race too. Even if things don’t go according to plan I will still be having a great adventure and living a dream.
The forecast is promising some big downwind breeze for the first night which should sort the men from the boys and will definitely show who is truly up for it and ready for the challenge. Although it is very important to remember it is not a sprint and that the most vital thing is keep it all in one piece, this first night is going to be a great opportunity to make some big gains. I can already envisage a sleepless night on the helm ‘sending
Thank you all for your help support and backing. I will do my best and stay safe.
Best Regards, Nick