Time flies when you’re having fun…

Another busy week at the Academy and with winter fast approaching, there definitely isn’t enough light hours in the day to get everything done. We’ve now been in Cowes for two weeks and the pace is still full on.

The beginning of the week saw a trip to Chichester University for a lesson in strength and conditioning with Academy Physiologist Paul Wallis. We ran through techniques needed for lift training and ended with a typical weights session. Paul will now be putting together a programme for each of us to work on over the next few months, until we meet again.

Now the boat is in the water I’ve finally managed to get out sailing. Thursday and Friday graduate sailor Nick Cherry joined us to do some coaching. We looked through Adrena and the electronics on board the Figaro’s quickly in the morning and then hit the water. This was to be my first sail aboard Artemis 483 with Lizzy. With a steady breeze, we tacked all the way up to Newtown Creek and came back down with the kite before joining in with the Figaro’s for a quick race. On Friday we had a lot more breeze and again we tacked up towards Yarmouth and Lymington, hoisted the kite and flew back towards Cowes. It was great to get out in a bit of breeze and see what these boats are really made for – surfing downwind.

On Saturday Artemis graduate sailor Aaron Cooper came over to Cowes and we spent the morning looking at rig tuning both on the Figaro and the Mini while the wind filled in. In the afternoon we went out and did some sail testing on the Mini’s new Doyle main sail in what little breeze there was. Getting back into harbour proved interesting, with little wind and strong tides, our little 2.2hp outboard struggled to make headway.

It’s amazing how responsive and sensitive the Mini is, it’s like sailing a dinghy. Where you sit and move around makes a huge difference to your performance. You can even rock the boat to move through the water, ideal when you’re trying to get into harbour with no engine.

Gale Browning describes mini life:
“Life aboard a 6.5m (21ft) sailboat in the big ocean can be very miserable. There are no accommodations below deck. In order to keep the weight down, I probably won’t even be installing a bunk to sleep on. I will be navigating with the chart on my lap and using a bucket for my nature calls… The salt water will attack my skin and I will more than likely have salt water sores to contend with. Sleep will come in 10 to 15 minute catnaps… I will be battling autumn gales in the Bay of Biscay and flat calm seas in the doldrums interspersed with severe thunderstorms and high winds.”

The more I get out on the Mini 6.50 the more I love it. Academy graduate Becky Scott, who had previously sailed for the previous two years, came over to the Island this weekend to run through the boat and hand over; talking through procedures, electrics, sails and general boat maintenance. Hearing the stories from her adventures has only exaggerated my enthusiasm for the boat, although it probably should be the opposite! I can’t wait to get offshore and try it out for myself.

Vendee Globe
This weekend also saw the start of the Vendee Globe, the squad gathering in the office at Academy HQ to watch it begin. The atmosphere in Les Sables-d’Olonne was phenomenal, with the dockside lined with supporters coming to see the 20 skippers set off. It was surprising to see how close the line was, everyone eager to start with 5 boats being OCS.

Eighteen hours on there have been two incidents already. Bertrand de Broc returned before the start having damaged his hull colliding with a support boat, he’s now all fixed and has joined the race again playing catch up on the fleet. Unfortunate for Marc Guillemot on Safran, who was forced to retire after his keel broke off during the first evening of the race. This highlights just how tough the Vendée Globe is.