Solo Normandie- the last offshore before the start of the Solitaire du figaro.
Grey, foggy & wet explains the start at Grandville! Starting in a northerly wind, we had a short windward mark 0.5 miles away, before cracking off and heading to the next mark. At the start I was battling for the pin with Alex Loison. I came off alright, but he pulled the trigger a little earlier and therefore had marginally more speed off the line, allowing him to role over the top of me. Despite this, I still managed to arrive at the first mark in 4th place. A little disappointed not to be at the front, I tacked on the line of the boats ahead in what I though was clear air, but was apparently not!
This meant I dropped back and was consequently rolled by Damien, giving me even more dirty wind. For the second time this year I dropped from the top of the fleet to 2nd from last. Hopefully now this is lesson learnt... DIRTY AIR IS A KILLER!! (And it stretches a long way from the figaro ahead!) From then on it was a battle to get back to the front of the fleet. Knowing that there was the chance of tidal gates that would compress the fleet, but also extend the leaders going in to Cherbourg, meant some hard work needed to be done but kept me fighting. I decided to be a little more active in my decision making process in this race. With the tide being the governing factor over tactical decisions, I endeavoured to keep a close focus on tidal effects when deciding how to position the boat for wind shifts.
The accuracy of forecasts can vary. By analysing the different models in the days leading in to the race, you tend to have a pretty good idea as to how accurate and realistic the forecast will be i.e there are times when all the models agree on timings, wind strength and direction. This gives you confidence in the forecast, but other times they will completely disagree. In this case, you have to formulate your own ideas on what you see and feel on the boat at the time as to which forecast (if any) you think is most likely. Also with the ability to receive basic weather information with the use of a meteo fax and from contacting the coastguard, you can track the advancements in the forcast. I was pretty happy to make some good decisions whilst sailing fast, to work my way back up through the fleet (which seems like the story of my year!). Having had bad starts or bad first part of the race means I have had to work hard in all the races to get to a good position. However, I will have to get off the line well for the Solitaire as there are a few more top boats in the fleet it will be much harder to work my way up. One stand out point in this race was the passage of the Raz Blonchard, one of the most tidal headlands in the world. Having done a good job balancing the tide, wind and islands I arrived at the Raz in 1st place with Damien (Safe Rail) within 2 boat lengths of me (to leeward, windward or in front and behind me!) as we passed whirlpools and confused seas, with the current changing direction several times over a 100m stretch. I found this particularly difficult, not knowing which direction to point the boat to get to the other side. I now know that you just point the boat directly at the other side (crossing the tide at 90 degree angle) and take the hit that your COG will be 50-70 deg lower than where you really want to go. Once on the Cherboug peninsular, we took an incredible ride through the rocks passing through gaps as small 50m wide, and inside the lighthouse only 10m to leeward as I sailed upwind in a back eddy. Having had little or no time to sleep up to this point, I started to feel the effects of sleep deprivation and fatigue. Just before Cherbourg, I traded tacks with Alex (FIVA) but had a patch of the "slows". I really struggled to get the boat moving over 6knts meaning i dropped off from Alex and was passed by Damien. After a couple of times going through my checklists, I managed to get the boat going again. However, by this time I was in 3rd place and on a single tack to the finish line, meaning there were minimal tactical options remaining in the race and boat speed was key. I am extremely happy to have my first offshore podium in the figaro and I can see great advancements in my figaro sailing. The next race 'Allmer Cup from Le Harve starting on Monday 23rd May' is short course and coastal racing to get my boat handling up to scratch before the Solitaire Bompard du Figaro.