ENTRY CONFIRMED – MINI TRANSAT 2015

Entry opened at the Paris Boat Show last weekend – with over 50 entries within half an hour!

Since starting my campaign at the beginning of the year, I’ve been working towards the Mini Transat 2015. With my qualification miles complete and entry open, I now have a confirmed entry, starting in Douarnenez on 19th September 2015.

Both my boat and I have returned back to the UK where I will base myself over the winter, working on the boat as well as my campaign logistics and the all important money hunting! In the new year I hope to get on the water as soon as possible and build on the numbers of sailing hours.

Classe Mini AGM

During the boat show the Classe Mini AGM was held where we all voted on key issues/rule changes. Among other discussions there was a vote about the introduction of sat phones within the Classe. 100% for no sat phones!

We also elected the new committee, and I’m pleased to announce that I am now one of 11 on the board.

This year also marks the 20th year since the beginning of “Classe Mini.” We all celebrated at the annual Mini party on a barge on the Seine Saturday night!
 

PARTNERS & SPONSORS

My team is growing by the day, but I’m still looking for a title sponsor to get me to the line.
Please get in touch if you think you can help, or can give me any pointers!
All greatly appreciated.

Les Sables to Azores ! Leg 1 Report

This summer saw my first major solo offshore race. Starting in Les Sables d’Olonne, sailing 1,270 miles to Horta in the Azores, with a short pit stop there before returning back to Les Sables. Thanks to a last minute sponsor it was possible for me to enter, racing under The Blue Project. A great foundation aiming encouraging everyone to love the sea, and in doing so look after it.

Starting in Les Sables all 33 boats line up on the iconic “Vendee Pontoon” where those competing in the Vendee globe start and finish. A truly amazing and breathtaking atmosphere! Not such a bad place to be finishing off my last minute preparations. My friend Matt joined me out in Les Sables and soon put his rope and rigging expertise to great use, pimping out my boat – Boreal was looking better than ever.

Somewhat unexpectedly I had a major problem with my AIS and with David’s technical and diagnostic help we worked through the problems. Eventually requiring to change the whole unit and set up of both the AIS and duplexer. I had great difficulty finding new parts with such short notice, so a big big thank you to Martin who very kindly leant me his for the race and David for all your help.

A couple days before the start we had a small prologue race in the bay, I was lucky enough to share the day with 13 year old Laure who lives and is learning to sail in Les Sables. We had a great day on the water, trading French for sailing lessons. I must admit she was a lot better at the sailing than I was French!

Packages of kit arriving every day, rope, electrics, food! A bit like the finish of a ground force episode, everything pulled together last minute. With my new Solent from One Sails and spare autopilot motors arriving the night before departure by special courier service of my Grandad and Dad who had both come out to support me and watch me off.

 

Leg 1
Come start day we sail out through the channel, friends, family and members of the public cheering as we go, even more surprising as by now it was chucking down with rain. I’m pretty sure they cheer for everyone but even so it’s an amazing place to start a race.

I had a shocking start but with 1270 miles to go I wasn’t fussed and kept pushing on with spirits high. The first night I was battling next to Damian (833) and Tanguy (835), the wind kept building. Now with my drysuit on, ballast in, a reef in my Solent and two in my main. The sea state was building and waves were throwing the boat around all over the place.

Venturing below I discovered my water ballast tube was spurting water EVERYWHERE!! The join between the tank and tube was leaking badly. I took another reef and quickly emptied the 200L tank to release the pressure and started brainstorming how I was going to fix it. With little sail up now in attempt to keep the boat under control, I was loosing ground quickly. Kitchen paper, acetone and sikaflex at the ready I started drying the tube and tank as much possible before resealing. Now to let it dry…an almost impossible task. NB: take underwater putty next time!

Typically as soon as I finished the job the wind had shifted and dropped and we were downwind and I didn’t need it! Kite up we’re surfing towards Finnistere, the wind increasing through the day. Midday came and it was time to test my SSB (world radio), everyday Denis the race director broadcasts across Monaco radio to give us an updated weather forecast and the ranking. With an arial taped to my rigging, I managed to pick up a perfect signal and heard everything very clearly – perfect! Vingt knots – Nord Ouest, Deux, Zero knots November Oscar!

By now I can’t see any other boats on the water or on AIS, as I approach the Spanish Coast and start preparing for the gybe out to the edge of the TSS. Then suddenly two white sails appear, MAX in 614! With no kite up he starts me doubting if I should be gybing with mine, but I continue and go for it! Woop adrenaline high, after a successful gybe. George the autopilot takes over so I can tidy up, sorting the pole, and finish stacking below. As I’m below the boat spins out and broaches, thanks George!!! I scramble back on deck, dumping the kite sheet, but there’s a big squall and she won’t come up, the leeward deck is practically in the water and George is beeping repeatedly. I dump the tack line and let the kite sky rocket and depower and we come flat. George is back in control and we’re on course, I bear her away and start grinding the tack line back in. Very conscience there is an overload of pressure on both the mast and the spinni pole. Pheeew all back in and we’re off again surfing down the waves.

Once past Finnistere and the TSS my next stop is Horta in the Azores in 900 miles, pretty much due West. For the rest of the race weather conditions were pretty consistent with the wind oscillating through the day. Generally I was upwind at night then as the sun came up and moved west the wind would swing left and by lunch I’d have the kite up.

Some of the best sailing I’ve done I was in my element, albeit going a little crazy talking to myself, but who doesn’t?

Approcahing the Azores was like something from Pirates of the Carribbean, volcanic mountain peeks peeping out the top of the mist. Then as the sun rose, just breathtaking.

I rounded the first island in 30 knots, 2 reefs in the main, 2 in the jib, screaming towards Horta and the Azores. With 6 miles to go I jumped below to prepare/find my fenders and mooring lines and get myself ready to meet land! As I came on deck, the wind had literally disappeared to absolutely nothing. I proceeded to then sit drifting for 6 hours before the afternoon breeze filled in and I crossed the line.

BLUE

Jacques Cousteau once said that “People protect what they love” so our mission is to develop innovative ways to encourage greater care for our blue environment. Our journey started with a small group of sports people who derive a large part of their inspiration from competing in the natural environment. We decided to share their stories, images and content with a wider audience and set up the Blue Project to communicate beyond their own fanpages. Next up was to create a simple, fun and competitive way to involve more people.

www.bluefoundation.org.uk

I’m racing for The Blue Project for my Les Sables Azores race, starting tomorrow at 13:02 (12:02 UK time) we will set off from Les Sables D’Olonne, racing solo down to Horta in the Azores, and back again.

The course covers 2600 miles and expected to take 10-12 days per leg.

Follow Blue Project and myself on the race tracker.

QUALIFICATION

On Saturday 7th June I set off from La Trinite-sur-Mer on my 1,000 mile qualification passage.
Early Monday morning I finished my passage in Douarnenez having sailed 1,100 miles in 8.5 days. The course took me up to Coningbeg off the South East corner of Ireland, down to Rochebonne and Ile de Rhe, off La Rochelle, then back up to finish in Douarnenez.

I had a mix of conditions, I drifted for the first two days, only managing 12 miles in the first 18 hours. I then sailed a very Western route across the Channel in search of wind and I found it. With winds up to 32 knots with a massive swell, nose diving was frequent. Having rounded Coningbeg and returning back South, I sat drifting 3 miles off the Scillys between the rocks and the TSS for nearly 20 hours. Once clear of the Scillys I had a great run down to Ile de Rhe, where I passed under the bridge and began my trip back North to Douarnnenez.

I learnt a about Boreal on my trip and tackled through my problems as we went along. The biggest problem was a crack on my rudder mounting, which was opening up quite substantially, particularly in the swell in the Irish Sea. I got the epoxy out and lashed it together – thankfully it held together for the rest of the trip. Along with the rudder, I had a leaking bow fitting, and was having to empty 1 or 2 buckets of water out my crash box every day. The gate on my water ballast was also blocked, and so to fill my tanks I needed to fill both then empty one – I think I spent the whole trip bailing and sponging the boat out!! While in the Irish sea I lost my wind data, I have a spare halyard line mouses out and taped up the mast. The line broke and the top half flew up and tangled itself around the anemometer. Needless to say I was kept busy during my trip.

It was a great trip and I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I’m very much looking forward to my next adventures.

Video and photos 

Les Sables Azores 2014
aving completed my 1,000 mile solo passage and over 500 miles of racing.
I have now officially qualified for Les Sables Azores starting on 20th July 2014.

 

Mini Fastnet 2014
Today sees the start of the famous double handed Mini Fastnet 2014, starting and finishing in Douarnenez, rounding the Fastnet Rock.
 

I will be sailing with fellow SORC sailor Myles Perrin, who’s about to find out just what Mini sailing is like.

 

Mini Transat 2015

Providing I complete the Mini Fastnet, I will then have all my miles and be qualified for the Mini Transat 2015.

Entry for the race opens in December, and I will be able to sign up and claim my place on the day!!

Fuel Cell Systems UK Solent 6.50

On Saturday 3rd May, 5 Mini’s set off from the Royal Southern Yacht Club in Hamble in what was my first race of the year and first race in my new Mini. With a mix of both Solo and Double handed entries, as well as Series and Proto we were divided into 3 classes. With 3 Series boat opting to sail double handed, then two of us sailing Solo, one Series, and one Proto (me).

I’d been homebound the week previous with a nasty throat infection, but dosed up on Penicillin I was able to prepare for the race. I’d created a road book (bible) with everything I needed to know during the race – with screenshots of charts, for all the important sections, waypoints, tides and weather data. Opting to eat fresh food for the race, I had separated and vacuum sealed portions of tortellini and gnocci, and rationed up my snacks and fruit. As the race neared I was feeling much better and my energy returning – pheew!

Race morning came and we got towed out to the start off Royal Thames. We headed out West through the Needles and then south across the Channel, round the corner and down to finish in La Trinite-sur-Mer, a course of 310 miles.

It was great to see everyone supporting the race, with friends and family all out on the water in ribs and yachts to watch the start. A big thank you to Jon (LPB Arieal Imagery) and Warwick who came out to take pictures.

There was very little wind at the start, one hour before HW the tide was due to turn shortly after we started. I had a good start on the committee boat end, opting to start closest to the mainland, with a little more breeze, and chances of a bit of favourable tide in back eddy of tide off Calshot. Once round the corner I stayed high in order to reach the channel, watching impatiently as the others bore off and hoisted their gennekers. Once in the channel I hoisted my genneker, although only briefly as the sea breeze was building from the SW and we were now beating towards Hurst and the Needles.

The forecast for the race was due to be very light across the channel on Sunday. I opted to tack offshore and head South as soon as possible. I wanted to cross the channel as quickly as possible and hug the French coastline, in hope of picking up some thermal wind the next day.

As forecast the wind died overnight and I spent the night drifting the wrong way in the East going tide, switching between the solent, genneker and code 5, what seemed like every 5 minutes, in attempt to keep the boat moving. With everything stacked in the bow I made camp up on the bow and cooked my dinner and enjoyed a short nap in the moonlight. As the tide swung the gradient wind filled in and I could head along the rhum line towards the TSS and the Channel du Four – with that magical feeling of reaching 2 knots of boat speed for the first time after drifting!

I reached the Channel du Four at 5am on the Monday, storming in with the genneker, if only that had stayed! The wind spun round to the SE and I was now tacking up through the channel in the dark against the tide, in 25-30 knots. Just as I had arrived at my first waypoint for the Channel, the drama begun – my GPS turned off and wouldn’t restart, I quickly got my back up hand held out found my waypoints. Shortly after I heard a big bang and the main started flogging, my heart jumped a beat as I looked up at the mast! Phew – it was ok – it didn’t take long for me to realise that the shackle holding my mainsheet block to the track had gone. I quickly found some dyneema and lashed it back down, not an easy task while the main is still flogging, all while trying to avoid the rocks and stick within the channel. As always, distasters always come in threes. Next on the hit list was my wind data on my instruments, which meant my pilot no longer worked. I needed to unplug the wind data from the bus in order to use compass mode. All a bit full on – it certainly made for an interesting passage!

Once clear of the channel I was on a mission to fix everything, I started heading in towards the Brest coast my original routing plan towards La Plate and the Raz but I couldn’t get the boat to stay on a straight course. I tacked over and managed to get her to sit on a course just off the wind, I guess I’m going outside the Raz.

By this point I could see “Mojo”, German team, Morten and Felix in their Series who were catching me quickly. I watched as they sailed inshore towards the Raz, knowing full well I was going to loose out heading offshore – a frustrating feeling, but I was determined to fix everything.

The GPS I fixed quickly, having found a corroded and rusty fuse I removed it from the circuit and soldered the two wires together. I then checked all the connections for the wind to see if one had come loose and caused it to short out. Unfortunately not, the problem was at the top of the mast. I unplugged the data, which was causing the system to fail, so I could then use the pilot on compass mode.

While downstairs I noticed a fair amount of water, and soon discovered my ballast tanks had a small leak. Something I tested on land before I left, but with the waves and motion were now causing me problems. I tightened up the hatches as much as I could and kept an eye on them, sikaflex at the ready.

Life onboard was now somewhat more chilled, I was back on the helm and 10 miles from the cardinal marker off the outside of the Raz. Itching to get round and start heading South as I knew every extra mile I sailed West I was loosing out.

It wasn’t long since I rounded the cardinal that my pilot went down again, this time showing errors of instantaneous current too high. At first I thought I had too much power, with both my solar panel and fuel cell running. I turned both off and kept testing the system, but no change. The wind had now swung round to the West and there was a confused sea state, it was very difficult to leave the helm to fix anything. Now stuck on the helm, I realised the last 100 miles of the race was going to be very tough.

While others were frustrated on the final night when the wind died to nothing, I was pleasantly happy. I ran down below, changed into some dry clothes, cooked up some gnocci and pesto gathered everything I might need for the rest of the race and put it in the cockpit pockets, at arms reach. My road book, food, head torches, spare batteries, charts, water – I was set for whatever was to come!

Almost as I put the last bite of dinner in my mouth the wind filled in and I hoisted the kite and started making progress towards Quiberon. The wind gradually built until we had probably 20 knots. We were screaming along surfing down the waves at 12/13 knots. Possible a bit too keen earlier, I’d stacked everything forward in the light winds, so then when the wind filled I was somewhat bow heavy! Not an ideal situation to be in when trying to gain height for your waypoint. Regardless that night was probably my best sailing moment of all time. It was pitch black with phosphorescence everywhere lighting up the sea. The waves crashing over my bow, my wake behind and white horses across the sea, were all lit up, such an amazing feeling. Made even better when a pod of dolphins came to play, I could see their tracks swimming along under water beside me.

The wind kept building and I was struggling to hold course, digging the bow in. By this point I was starting to feel my tiredness and found myself dosing off on the helm. I decided to play safe and drop the kite early, 20 miles from Quiberon, and white sail reach. Still doing 9/10 knots it wasn’t “too” slow!

As I approached the Quiberon channel I could see a red light chasing me – another Mini no doubt! Visibility was poor by now and the rain coming down hard. I’d planned my route into the bay before the race and had my waypoints in the GPS. I was checking through the SI’s before I got there and got myself confused over one cardinal marker. At this point I was very tired having not slept for over 24 hours and being stuck on the helm. I decided it would be safest to follow the other Mini in, rather than getting the charts out and checking my original waypoints.

Onto the final stretch, the final 6 miles across the bay to the finish, just as the sun was coming up.

I finished at 6:55am, 3rd boat to finish, 1st Solo, behind the Brit duo Toby and Pip on Minkata and Morten and Felix on Mojo.

What a race! A tough 310 miles with numerous problems, but I’m pleased to have worked through them and to finish the race.

RACE SEASON BEGINS

I’ve just got back from Genoa, Italy, where I’ve been competing in the Classe Mini, 540 mile double handed race with Romain Mouchel on his proto Follow Me (759).

It was a tough race with very mixed (med) conditions, the first 2 1/2 days consisted of absolutely no wind, sailing only 80 miles in the first 50 hours. Then due to strong winds the course was shortened to 300 miles and we turned around back to Genoa – sure enough we were shortly hit by 30+ knots. It took us 3 days to get to the turning island, then just less than 1 to get back. When we rounded the turning island we were 27 miles from the leading pack, in 4th position, We hoisted the kite and surfed back reaching speeds of 17.5 knots. We never gave up and kept pushing the boat, taking miles off the leaders.

We finished 2nd, less than an hour behind the leader, quite an impressive catch up in 21 hours, if only the course was a little longer perhaps we could have caught them!

It was great to get out there and get into race mode ahead of my season, I’ve come back to the UK in a new frame of mind and ready and raring to get on the race circuit.

I’m busy preparing for my races ahead, looking through nav, creating road books and making sure the boat is ready to go and up to date on all the new rules for 2014.

I’m still desperately looking for financial sponsorship, please get in touch if you think you can help!

This Saturday (26th April) is possibly the most important race of the year (in terms of bragging rights anyway).

Boat on boat I go up against my dad on Voador his J105, among 32 other boats in the SORC Round the Isle of Wight Solo.

A 7 O’Clock start off Cowes, the forecast is looking like a Southerly with 15-20 knots. Bets open for the winner…!

Track us on AIS Voador vs Boreal

 

On 3rd May my first Mini race of the year will start from Hamble, finishing in La Trinite, a course of 380 miles solo. Unfortunately we only have 6 boats and I’m the only Proto so not much competition for me to play with. None the less it will be good practise to get out on the boat solo for 3 to 4 days.

Once in La Trinite I will stay there for the rest of May. I have another 500 mile solo race starting on 20th and then a 300 mile double handed race on 29th May.

ONE MONTH TO GO!

Over the last month I’ve been crazy busy, and not just with the boat…

Official Launch

On 15th March I officially launched Boréal at the Royal Southern Yacht Club. It was a great day with around 100-150 friends, family and Royal Southern members there for the occasion. Most of which now think I’m completely mad to sail such a small boat so far, without even a real cooker or a toilet, let alone a washing machine!

Working

Earning some cash has been a high priority recently – I can finally sympathise with every other boat owner who’s complained about their “girl” taking all their money! However many hours I rack up at work there always seems to be a hole in the pit.

Over the last 3 weeks I’ve been working with Grapefruit Graphics, helping them paint sails for a Volvo 65 project! Long hours and lots of paint fumes later, my hands are now multicoloured, but a great experience. After painting both sides of 7 sails with the same design, I can safely say it gets quite repetitive, and music and sugar is vital to get the job done.

Working at Grapefruit in the days and at the King and Queen in the evening and weekends, there hasn’t been a huge amount of time for the boat or sponsorship hunting, or even sleeping! I’ve spent a week just catching up on everything I should have been doing all while trying to recover from the dreaded lurgey!

Talks

I’ve given two talks this month about my campaign, how I’ve got to where I am now, and what’s to come. One down in Weymouth at Castle Cove Sailing Club, for their Z Class Dinner, and the other at Royal Southampton Yacht Club. It’s amazing to see how much enthusiasm and interest everyone has for my campaign, and although I’m a solo sailor it never feels like I’m doing this all by myself, which is a great feeling.

SAIL 4 CANCER

Over the weekend 20-21st March, 39 cadets from the Warsash Maritime Academy braved the weather and spent 24 hours in a liferaft, floating in Hamble river – all in aid of the charity Sail 4 Cancer.
Conditions were tough with gusts of 40 knots over night, hail storms and torrential rain, but they all braved it out and managed to raise over £11,000 for Sail 4 Cancer. I joined the support team for a meer 5 hours of their epic challenge, their perseverance and attitude was inspiring. It’s not too late to donate.

With only 37 days to my first race, it’s now back to boat work and getting everything sorted and ready to go while still looking for sponsors to fund it all!

NEW YEAR – NEW BOAT – NEW CAMPAIGN

Since the frustration and disappointment of not making the start of the Mini Transat 2013, I’ve been planning, and working on the next project. The Mini Transat 2015, and this time I’m taking no risks – I’m starting now, 2014 sees the beginning of a two year campaign.

I’ve now left the Artemis Offshore Academy and returned my good friend “Basecamp” (Mini 438 – Pogo 2). Although it ended in disappointment of not making the Transat, it was a great year and full of memories and experiences I will take with me. Now with a years experience in the Mini class under my belt I’m keen to get going this year and see what I can do.

MY NEW BOAT
“Borèal” Mini 741, designed, built and sailed by Rémi Fermin, who victoriously sailed her into 3rd place in the 2013 Mini Transat. Borèal is a prototype Mini, but unlike most others her hull is glass with carbon appendices and has 2*200L of water ballast with a fixed keel rather than the usual swing keel. Simple, reliable and fast!

Boréal and I will be based in the UK this year, training and getting as much time on the water as possible before the race season kicks off in May. I’m going to be based in Hamble, working in the King and Queen so come say hi if you’re around.

The main aim for this year is to compete in the Les Sables Azores race and to qualify for the Mini Transat 2015. Unfortunately as I’ve now changed boats I need to start again, completing my required 1,000 race miles and 1,000 mile non stop passage.

RACE CALENDAR
04th May – UK Solent – 300 miles solo/double – Lymington to La Trinite
20th May – Mini en Mai – 500 miles solo – La Trinite (start and finish)
29th May – Armen Race – 300 miles double – La Trinite (start and finish)
20th July – SAS – 2560 miles solo – Les Sables – Azores – Les Sables

 

OFFFICIAL PARTNERS & SUPPLIERS

With a new campaign comes new partnerships and I’m very happy to announce and say thank you to everyone who’s onboard for this project. I’m still looking for a title sponsor and more funding partnerships to reach my goal, please get in touch if you’d like to join the team. It’s going to be a very exciting two years.


THANK YOU TO MY SUPPORTERS
Lloyd, Jo, Richard, Fiona, Tony, Stuart, Steven, Alex, Sue, Will, Chris, Kay, Nicola, Catherine, Geoff, Nigel, Simon, Caz, Andrew, Paddy, Andy, Martin, Chris, Kate, Bex, Charles, Bob, Pippa, Glen, Chris, Katie, and Paul.

Every single one of you helped me reach my 2013 goal, and your continued support has helped me moving forward.

A particular thank you to those who have helped kickstart my new 2014/5 campaign:
Rémi, Dave, Pete, Tom, Jane, Simon, Coral and James.