Over the past month we have transitioned from sailing double-handed to solo. The most noticeable difference for me between the two is how exhausted you are after a five hour session on the water, especially aftertraining in 35-40 knots!
We started our solo training with a week of coaching from Nick Cherry, a former Artemis skipper. Nick put us through ourpaces with a series of solo boat handling exercises, each day focusing on a new area–winwardmark rounding on Monday, leeward mark rounding Tuesday… and all the time putting in multiple tacks and gybes on the whistle. Later in the week we started to play around with speed testing and different sail combinations. This is a key part of Figaro sailing as I found out later on.
At the end of the week the decision was made to change the planned solo round the island race for a double-handed race due to heavy conditions and the new course saw us sailing from one end of the Solent to the other. I sailed with Sam Matson and after a good start, we split away from the fleet and ended up rounding the first mark last due to some experimentation with our sail selection. With the pressure on but little to lose, we sailed hard and played the long leg back into the Solent against the tide well, which saw us pull back up to second. Unfortunately by this time the race leaders Tom and Rich were too far ahead and despite our best efforts, we could not catch them after having already reeled them in a considerable amount.
With our second race in the bag, the following week we became our own coaches. Managing your own training is difficult, but I feel we had ourselves a pretty productive week of training, again focusing on manoeuvres, time and distance and speed runs on different days.
For our last week of our three week training block, 2013 Solitaire du Figaro and qualified sailing coach Ed Hill took to the RIB to coach us and I found his lessons on set up and speed really valuable. The weeks training was pretty tough, starting with 25 knots of wind on the first day, followed by a couple of 40 knot training days. It was a great experience sailing in these conditions as in most yachts you might shy away from sailing in such strong winds, but I soon realised that the Figaro can cope with a battering from the weather. When sailing the Figaro in such strong winds, safety and planning on the skippers part becomes key.
We ended the week with a couple of days of light airs, contrasting our practice earlier in the week. As you would imagine the way to sail and manage the Figaro changes dramatically between 4 and 40 knots, but out on the Solitaire du Figaro race course we will need to be ready for every eventuality, ready for every thing the rugged Atlantic coast line will throw at us.
The lessons I have learnt during our month of training and will take forward are as follows;
1) Keep it simple
3) Get as much time out on the water/ on the boat as possible – get to know your boat and how to sail it.