Thompson third in Mini-Pavois
The former PlayStation helmsman had shown the 65-strong fleet of 21-footers the way out of La Rochelle on Saturday. "We port tacked the fleet and were in the lead at the start. Ten miles away we had to go under a bridge and we were still leading there." Up the west coast of France they were sailing upwind or reaching in around 8-10 knots of wind. Thompson was in a group of four boats including Sam Davies' Aberdeen Asset Management. "Then we got to a headland, around 50 miles further up the coast and were sucked offshore by the sea breeze."
Another group of boats, including the eventual winner Ronan Guerin, were further inshore at the time, fared better and took the lead. "I managed to hang on to the leaders, but most of our group lost out." At Pointe de Pen'Marche just south of the Raz de Sein, the four leading boats escaped and Thompson was left on his own. "For two whole days I didn't see another boat. I didn't see any rounding Ouessant, crossing the Channel, rounding the Eddystone. I only saw them again at Portland Bill."
For almost the entire race Thompson says he was sailing upwind with the wind around 15 knots, but occasionally up to 25 knots. Asked what it was like on board sailing on board such a small boat in these conditions Thompson says it was not too bad: "It's not very comfortable down below with all the stuff stacked up on the high side. There's nowhere comfortable to sleep. It's wet below with all the ropes bringing the water in." He says he was happy with the strength of the boat even when she was leaping over waves. Nothing broke on board, other than the electronic compass (which provides heading information for the autopilot) that became detached and was fixed by being Sikaflexed to the floor.
In short Mini races skippers work in more or less complete isolation and have no information about their progress in the fleet. As a result they tend to be highly pessimistic about their performance. "I worked really hard last night, but when I came into the dock and saw only two boats there I couldn't believe it!" This is the third major race for Thompson in the Mini class - to date he has won his first race, come second in his second and now third. Continuing this sequence he felt confident. "The fleet's pretty big, so I'm probably good for another 70 races!"
When madforsailing spoke to Thompson he had already fallen asleep once on the dock. "I'm really knackered. I had one hour's sleep during the whole race. I'm new to this singlehanded game. I've done the OSTAR, but I have to practise this short course stuff." Of the racing, Thompson says he's really enjoying it. "It's really fun as the racing is so close. There are some really good sailors doing it."