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Alan Roberts is a professional sailor who has sailed a variety of dinghy classes, sports boats and keel boats where he has gained a reputation for being a hard worker with a very focussed, methodical mind-set.

Leg 2 -Top 10!`

June 14, 2015

 

 

There was an interesting start day (and night!) which saw us postponed for the safety of the fleet, with winds of 40 + knts around Cap Finistaire. Large seas and one rig down meant the fleet took shelter in La Coruña.

 

 

In brief, we started from Sanxenxo in a decent sea breeze of 15 knts. 

 

The wind dropped on our way to mark one (2 miles away) to sub 4 knts, which then further continued to drop to sub 2 knts... This saw us bobbing about trying to get out from the inshore component for several hours.

 

I managed to sail well getting myself in to the top 10 before heading out for the offshore section of the race.

 

Dense thunderstorms at night meant random patches of wind and very dramatic skies.

I had been doing a good job negotiating the lulls, gusts and shifts, sailing my way up the fleet until I hit the mother of all holes, which I thought was 18-20 knts that i had spotted by the shore! It wasn't just me that got caught out by this, with a small group of us dropping from top 5 down to the 20s.

 

The new wind came in quickly as the thunderstorms passed, and very quickly the wind became 15 knts , 20 knts, 30 knts then in to 35 knts. The seas built as we beat around the coast. It was then that I received the call from the race committee to pull in to La Coruña.

 

I was pretty thankful to be spending my night in a nice hotel bed rather than a sleepless night around the Cap!

 

Leg 2 Reset

 

The biggest decision I had was which head sail to use at the start of the reset race. I selected "solent" - it was the right call and with a wind bend on the right around the headland I found myself 3rd to the first mark, although a slight knock at the end caused me to hit the mark and I had to take a penalty.

 

The grib files we had received had two wildly different predictions for this offshore leg across the Bay of Biscay. One showed a bow down to the NW on starboard tack, where as others showed tacking around the coast and heading NE with some potential large splits. Following this, three bunches appeared, an East group, North West group and a middle group. I positioned myself NW of the middle group. It is important for you to know that unlike on the tracker I cannot see all the boats on my AIS, only seeing the boats within 2-4 miles of me. This means I very quickly lost touch of the bunches only finding out how they are doing by a daily update (which tells us distance to finish and not position of the boats).

 

Knowing that the wind was dying throughout the night and transitioning from VMG upwind to downwind as we passed through a ridge, I knew that this would be a tricky time. I have been having a mental block with first nights in light airs where kites were needed. Tackling this night well rested and ready was key for me, so I forced myself to sleep on the first day, and armed with food and drink I took on the first night and came out of it in a good place!

I found myself for the first time with some good pace in the light downwind, which really gave me the confidence to start playing with the modes of sailing and attacking some shifts and advancing through the fleet.

 

The miles slowly clocked down as I gybed my way across the Bay of Biscay. On my way I had a lovely visit from lots of dolphins in pods of 20 or so, and the pleasure of seeing them in phosphorescent, which is still one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. They shoot in like torpedoes towards the boat and play around under and around the hull. Words cannot describe how magical this is and unfortunately photos and videos cannot capture it either.

 

There were a couple of great head to head battles on this stage for me. Firstly with Robin Elsy, who I found my self buddying up with initially when going downwind, until l managed to get some leverage on a nice shift to leave him, then later with Charlie Dalin (champion of France 2014) and Jeramie Beyou (winner of solitaire du Figaro Eric Bompard Cashmere 2014). I had periods of great pace downwind, but unfortunately let Charlie get the right side on a shift where he managed to cross me. I did manage to keep Beyou behind me to the finish to nip in just in the top 10! 

 

I am extremely happy with this result and what I have learnt, and after a short day of rest its time to get back out there and going again. Next stop Torbay, England!!!

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