Solo Basse Normandie 2015
The first race is done, a short but tough race, with lots of corners turned, rocks negotiated and fronts tackled. I have now had a couple of days to recover and reflect back on the race.
Going in my aim was to learn and use some of the tools available to me more (feeling more comfortable with the boat and having learnt more), particularly the AIS as a tactical tool, monitoring the other boats more closely to see the what is happening around the course and how I am doing relatively and the Auto pilot - more to gain reassurance in it (after having a lot of problems earlier in the year).
I made the decided to use the Flux gate compass (an older one due to problems with the newer regatta gyrocompass) for the race and had no problems with the pilot even through some pretty challenging conditions.
With a change of course with in the last 24 hours before the start of the race due to safety reasons by the race officer (30-40 knt winds forecast in the channel over Saturday would have made for a fun passing through the Raz Blanchard with tides at times reaching double figures) to put it in prospective only one of the sailors competing had been through in over 30 knts in a crewed boat... considering most of the fleet has over 15 years experience (some 40) sailing around this area and offshore there is probably a pretty good reason people don't go thought this area in that much wind.... it can get rough! It was a busy lead up with course preparation charting out all the rocks and running routings.
Main take outs/ points from the race from me was I was a bit late on dropping the small kite on a reach while the wind was heading during the first night loosing on the guys that dropped before me (only a question of a minute too late made a huge difference Course made good.
secondly on a kite reach with the large spi, I sailed most of the leg using the Auto pilot as it seemed to be coping alright , giving me time to plan for the next leg and change the head sail down to the smaller Solent. Looking back it seems that the guys who hand steered gained a lot on this leg, I stayed equidistance from other boats that used the pilot.
My rounding of Jersey was pretty good, understanding of the current change and wind effects around the island helped me gain a huge amount beating up (in some pretty lumpy conditions)the shore, I also have been feeling pretty comfortable with my upwind speed this year.
Unfortunately for me on the last tack around Jersey in the waves my port kite sheet got washed out the boat and trapped its self between the now leeward rudder and hull locking out the steering. I clipped myself on to the boat and hoped over the transom to attempted to pull out the rope from the rudder by pulling the rudder to the side to open up the gap, but in 30-33 knts and a decent sea, this proved to be quite difficult and I had no luck. after 5 mins I decided to grind out the rope , this took about 7 mins as I had to grind through 7-8 meters of sheet. by the time i was up and going i had lost 1.5 miles on the guys I was with. this was extremely disappointing having worked so hard on the beat that night.
I found myself with Corentin Horeau (placed 3rd in the Figaro last year) 2 sail reaching south to the main land. this was then followed by a spi VMG down wind to the mark off Granville where Corentin managed to get the better on me (straight line speed) .
Again I played a good beat and found myself back with Corentin , Adrien Hardy and Alexis Loison rounding the last mark which i brushed with my main sail and took a penalty for putting me just behind this pack. a gusty final run-in to the finish presented an opportunity to attack , and I managed to overtake Alexis, but Adrien and Corentin snuck away in some nice puffs.
A good start to the season with some good points to improve on and some good experience taken away.
Interestingly the positioning in the results pretty much directly relate to how much experience people have(with a few exceptions as ever) this is a game you have to keep playing and learning ... like everything time & experience is key and I am playing catch up at the moment been only my second season of offshore let alone single handed. I am happy with the improvements I am making and slowly understanding the boat and the game I am playing, just have to keep going and never give up!