The first leg was a pretty rounded leg with a bit of all conditions. Transitions from super light beats, to light reaches, to windy beating and then to windy runs a couple of times over.
The Inshore component in the Gerome was great with an English start (reaching). I started at the boat end of the line and blasted through the fleet rounding the first mark in 4th. Dropping a few places on the 25 mile exit of the Gerome due to splitting to the wrong side of the river and not being so hot on the borderline kite/ Genoa reaching, I exited in 10th place. Having a good beat out of the south channel I pulled back a lot of distance into the leaders, making a good transition from the flat water of the river to the choppy wind against tide at the mouth.
My biggest losses of the event were made at the end of the first night in an area of sailing I always find quite difficult in the Figaro, reaching in very light winds (sub 4 knts). It is hard to know whether you want to be higher and faster or trying to find some depth. I tried to sail a pretty straight course, but the top guys seemed to be playing around quite a bit with high and low modes in between kite and genoa.
A big shut down in the middle of the Bay of Biscay saw us bob around for half a day, so concentration on trying to keep the boat moving in sub 1 knt was key. Any little puff you can hold makes a huge difference. I got myself back in to the tail end of the pack that was ahead just in time for when the new wind filled in.
At this point in the race the boats started to split up quite a lot, and unlike you guys following on the tracker, I can only see boats around 4 miles from me using the AIS (if their AIS is working properly!). That night it was hard to know where the fleet was and what my relative position was to them as I could only see about 4 boats. Playing with the weather forecasts I had (from before the race, and some synoptics I can receive during racing) I had elected to head south and try to keep the boat moving. This seemed to pull me through in to a good position!
Rounding Cap Finisterre was great, with 25 knts downwind and 3 metre seas. It was lots and lots of fun! With boat speeds consistently between 12 and 16knts we trucked around. I played inshore looking for a bit more tide and wind, which I found, but came out even on the guys that went offshore after a pre gybe broach. Sailing on starboard had been quite hard for the autopilot and when I had turned it on to prepare the boat for the gybe it had been unable to cope with the bizarre cross waves in by the shore that were about 4.5 metres high.
The arrival to the finish had looked straight forward. I was expecting the wind to moderate to sub 10 knts, so had not slept since before Cap Finisterre(although had managed to get a fair bit in relatively over the first couple of nights). I had not expected the complete shutdown that awaited for the final 10 miles of the course. A slow painful beat / downwind / reach to the finish (depending where the random gust filled in from at different points in time) I battled with Gildas Mahe, Adrian Hardy Corentin Horeau and Claire Pruvot. I had good speed though ,except for a small time when I fell asleep on the helm (having not budgeted for the extra night at sea and expecting to be in a nice bed that evening at 2200, I found myself sailing backwards 50 meters which equates to a good 30 minutes of sailing time…)
Finishing the Leg just before sunrise in Spain was nice, 24th overall and as ever, so many lessons and tricks learnt!
Figaro also appears to be a great way to accelerate the aging process...!