I love the intensity of this Figaro fleet and the revised Transmanche Course was brilliant to focus on speed, manoeuvres and quick decision making. Whilst I finished 15 of the 21 starters, there were some good moments in this race where everything came together. I’m sailing the boat much better, it’s taken from March this year to get the boat handling slick, but my decision making at crucial moments is still rusty. My head is still inside the boat, focusing on my speed or next manoeuvre, rather than absorbing what is going on around me. The speed differences in this fleet are tiny, so it’s crucial to be always thinking “Where do I want to be next” and visualising the legs ahead. This is the area that I need to focus on over the next 6 weeks before La Solitaire.
I had a good start, tacking out of the narrow river mouth and positioned myself well for the reaching leg to Amar le Ross. I was 6th around Libenter with Sam just behind me and Nigel at bit further down. On the short spinnaker reach to Amar le Ross, I found I couldn’t de-power the main as I had shortened the vang too much. A couple of broaches cost me two places. I rounded Amar Le Ross in 8th place. The next leg was upwind towards the traffic separation zone west of Ushant. A straight 50 miles and really good to compare speed with the other boats. I was nicely positioned with Jeanne Gregoire just ahead (5th in 2010 Figaro) so had a great target to keep with. The wind was very unstable, constantly changing speed and direction, which meant constant trimming and working the mainsheet, traveller and backstay. Normally on this sort of leg, you would find time to get a little rest, but the wind was changing all the time. I managed to stay with Jeanne, at times was even a little faster and over 4 hours we closed up further on the boats ahead… until darkness arrived when she suddenly found another gear and shot ahead. I rounded the mark in 9th place. Nigel passed me by the mark and Sam was just behind. The closeness and intensity of Figaro fleet, means that too often I’m focus on what is around me rather than what is ahead. This is one of harshest lessons in Figaro sailing and why it’s such good training. I arrived at the traffic separation mark and had not prepared the route. The big picture was that the wind would shut down during this leg and the new pressure would arrive from the south west. My race plan was staying just west of the rhumbline. I gybed on two nice shifts and made gains on Nigel and Sam. Both headed more south whilst I choose a route closer to the rhumbline. When the shutdown arrived, I was left of the pack. Rather than thinking where the breeze would come from next and position myself more to the south west, I carried on down the rhumbline. Sam and Nigel managed to sail around the fleet like a pair of Buffalo Girls and made huge gains to lie 2nd and 3rd around Chausse de Sein. I eventually broke free of the no wind and rounded 30 mins behind….ouch! So the biggest lesson from the Transmanche, worry a little less about boat speed and making tiny gains on those around you and ensure you are fresh (enough) to make the next big decision. Well done Sam, Nigel – buffalo girls did great.La Solitaire here we come! Cheers