To say my first few weeks with the Academy have been tough would be a massive understatement; the guys and I have been beasted in the gym and tested in the class room. It is however a rewarding process as we have all seen measurable progress in our performance and feel we are ready for some of what the sea has to throw at us. For myself I have seen improvements in my fitness, you could say I’m better, faster and stronger, along with more competence around the boats. It has also been a useful time to learn some essential skills and pick up a range of certificates in sea survival, VHF and first aid that can be put towards a yacht master qualification, a kind of advanced driving licence for sailing.
To round it off we were set a race west out of the Solent and in to Poole Harbour, about 25 miles away by boat. The plan was to meet up with the rest of the Artemis Offshore Academy, new and old, to have an end of season dinner and celebrate the Academy’s most successful year to date. Although the dinner started around 6pm the World Cup Rugby semi-final match started at 4pm which became our timing goal and so effected the start time, unfortunately official yacht races don’t discuss such important matters. Mary and Will sailed Artemis 77 while Andrew ‘Hammy’ and I controlled 23, just the two boats turned things into more of a match race and consequently the leader off the start would be in the controlling position. We were not the leaders off the start, so we spent the whole race trying to find ways around Mary and Will, which fortunately only lasted under 3 hours.
Although we did come 2nd, or last, it was an interesting ride particularly around the Shingles sandbank at about half way where 20knots of wind against a strong tide created some steep breaking waves. Tactically the advantage was to cross straight over the bank however to avoid a shipwreck we had to tack upwind until we were brave enough to clip it as close as we could closely watching the depth on our instruments that often read zero, we did just scrape by. So far I can only imagine what this scenario would feel like alone, at night time with 10 knots extra, it might be brown trousers time.
Some time off for now and then early November will hit us with nonstop on the water sailing excitement, and then around mid-November there’ll be a 300+ miles sail to Lorient. This will be my longest sail on the Figaro to date which does make me a bit nervous, but I plan to enjoy it. With a lot of sailing in the Solent to do first I’m sure there will be plenty of stories to write about.