Tomorrow morning I will be starting my 1000nm qualification passage in order to compete in the Mini Transat 2013.

During the 1999 Transat over half the fleet retired or abandoned the race and many EPIRB’s were activated. Due to this a number of precautions have been put in place to ensure every skipper is aware of their own level of sailing and what is possible. The 1000nm passage is one of the main steps to qualifying for the Transat and improving seamanship.

The 1000 miles must be completed with no stop over (unless severe weather warnings are issued) and to be completed on one of two courses. One in the Atlantic and the other in the Mediterranean – I will complete the Mediterranean course.

I will be starting my qualification passage from Roma, half way between Zannone and Elba. I will complete the course in an anticlockwise direction. Passing the 6 compulsory marks in the following order: Elba, Gorgona, Jeaune Garde, Cabo d’Artuxt, Isola del Toro, Zannone then back to Elba.

As well as completing the course I must complete a number of tasks of which I will submit to Classe Mini upon my return.

– Pictures of the marks with the skipper and/or the boat clearly identifiable
– Pictures of the GPS with the date and position identifiable when rounding the marks,
– GPS tracker or satellite beacon statement with the detail of the followed course (positions and dates).

Logbook including:
– At least two celestial navigation sights must be computed and plotted on the chart
– At least one weather report a day (lets hope my French, Italian and French is up to that one)!
– 8 logs a day including the time, position, compass course, log and weather observations.
– Sails and changes of sails
– Any relevant observations (special marks, damages, etc…)
– The associated marine chart(s) covering the whole course with at least two plots a day

The forecast at the moment is looking somewhat perfect for my departure tomorrow at midday. The above track is a prediction of where I could be in 6 days if I were to leave Friday 22nd at midday. Which places me just to the west of South Sardinia very early on 28th March. 90% of my route is looking downwind and with no extreme weather systems coming through which is ideal – it could be a quick passage.

The boat will be launched tomorrow morning and assuming all goes to plan I will set on my way.

The whole passage is expected to take around 10 days, I will then continue on to Genova where my next race begins on 13th April.

In total I have provisioned to be at sea for 14 days.

For my hot meals I have 17 wet pouches that can be eaten hot or cold, which I will use for dinners. With a mix of: Steak and Vegetables, Lancashire Hotpot, Chicken Casserole and Sausage and Beans. As well as the hot pouches I have copious amounts of Oats So Simple porridge to keep me going through the night and early morning. For lunch I have a mix of risotto and soup options picked up from the local supermarket here in Roma. I was quite disgusted by the lack of meat options, so I’ve picked up a secret ingredient to mix in with them all and to keep me happy. Any guesses what it could be?

I’m not usually a hot drink drinker but since I’ve been in Italy I’ve grown accustomed to the regular coffee breaks and so have added it to my rations. Whether I’ll bother to drink any, I have no idea – I’ll let you know when I get back.

One thing I always crave when I’m offshore is fresh fruit and vegetables, especially peas!! So if someone could bring me a bowl of birds eyes petit pois to the finish that’d be grand! In the last race the Solo Roma I experimented with tinned peas, which I will admit did taste quite good while offshore. The problem was they went absolutely everywhere. I’m still finding peas in the rope bags and in the cockpit. They seem to have hidden in every little nook and cranny. I have a couple of tins left over in the van – I’m yet to decide whether they will join me on the adventure. Maybe a daily game of hide and seek with escape-‘PEA’s could keep me entertained?

The one thing I’m dreading the most while offshore isn’t the potential for mistrals/storms, it’s not the food and it certainly isn’t the lack of contact or solitude – it’s the dreaded nappy/salt rash! Having spent the last 2/3 days of my 2010 Round Britain and Ireland adventure standing up I know it will cause me problems. Especially as the Mini is such a wet boat, it’s almost inevitable. I’m leaving armed with plenty of baby wipes, sudocrem and anti chafe stick but who knows how long I can hold it off, it’s only a matter of time!!

I’ve still got a lot of jobs to do before I set off; including loading up everything I’m taking, launching the boat. Once she is in the water I have a couple of jobs up the rig then I will be saying my farewells to Achab Yacht Club, my home for the last two weeks.

For the next two weeks my home is the horizon.