The Solo Maître Coq was a massive learning experience for me, not just in terms of sailing the boat and the ups and downs out on the course, but also the hours of boat, race and mental preparation that comes before a race. Most of the French are well practiced at this now, not even showing their faces on the dock in the days before the race. Meanwhile we’re busying ourselves with last minute checks of the boat, the course, our kit, much too apprehensive to be able to sit back and relax ahead of the start.
Before taking part in any Class Figaro event, your Figaro must go through ‘jauge’ or measurement. This is a series of strict checks and measurements carried out on the boat to make sure it adheres to the strict one-design rules set out by the class to ensure no one is at an advantage and the boats are safe. Jauge can be pretty nerve wracking as you can come out the other side with a long list of jobs to do just days before a race. However, I managed to get through it fairly unscathed, which meant the boat was already in fairly good shape. Now I have been through this process of measurement and know how the pre-race programme works, I realise that the best idea is to try be ready well in advance to allow, like the French do, maximum focus on the ever changing variable that is the weather.
The conditions forecast for the Solo Maître Coq were very light, so light that the 320 mile course was changed to 270 miles and reversed just 24 hours before the race. This was great in a way, as it put all of the competitors in a similar position ahead of the race, but it was also tough as it meant another night of hard work, prep and research when we should have been resting ahead of the start. However, with support from our experienced Event Coach Marcus Hutchinson and weather expert Christian Dumard, we were able to pick apart the Solo Maître Coq course and analysis the predicted tides and unstable weather conditions for every hour of the race.
My main aim was to keep the race simple, I wanted to first see how I lined up against the rest of the fleet in terms of boat speed and then I wanted to stay as close to the competition but push to what I believed would be the gain side of them in order not to make large losses if things went wrong. For the first 12 hours I managed to stick to the plan, but after losing touch with the fleet on the way south from Île d’Yeu in a two hour long park up in zero knots of wind, I sailed round by myself for the rest of the race making targets and attempting to make gains back. I was very aware that in those conditions anything could happen, including another park up that could have given me the opportunity to get back in the game, so I never gave up fighting for miles and minutes (unfortunately the park up did not happen). I kept racing hard and managed to pick off a couple of boats around the course, which was good motivation.
My toughest moment was sailing in no wind for a couple of hours and having to kedge and up anchor to move forward in gusts, then drop anchor again in the next lull - this is something I have never done before. As a result, I misread the situation trying to stay out the tide on the island shore and missed the little one-knot gusts coming in from offshore.
Ultimately yes, I am disappointed with my result, but more so I am happy to have finished the race and I am pleased with my boat speed when I was with the fleet. Now we’ve got another month of sailing and prep to before the next race, the Solo Concarneau Trophée Guy Cotton.