As time in the year 2015 is running out, we at the Artemis Offshore Academy are working on transporting our little blue boats to our main training hub in Lorient, France.
It’s a distance of about 300 miles if you do it non-stop, which we didn’t, and covers some very interesting coastline around the top left of France. If your geography is a bit rusty it might be useful to see a map because we zig-zagged all over the place.
The atmospheric pressure systems recently have been whipped up into a frenzy, producing all sorts of funky weather that has made my life very disjointed and forced me to spend a lot of my time staring at forecasts.
Our mission is to deliver our training and racing boats safely and soundly to their destination for the winter lay-up. To achieve this we have had to find a metaphorical window in the weather for us to jump through. However the windows that we had been presented with have been slim, resulting in us cutting up our 300-mile voyage into little bite-sized chunks. The first chunk being Cowes to Plymouth.
Our weather window was opening up at around 10pm and so, in the dark, Hammy and I on board Artemis 23 made the dash to Plymouth alongside Will and Mary in Artemis 77. A trip that would take just a few hours in a car took us 18 at sea as we battled against the wind and large, storm-matured, waves to safely arrive into Plymouth harbour on a Thursday night. After a long discussion the next day we decided to wait out Britain’s first named storm, Abigail (A-big-gale, met office banter), and found our next window appearing on Monday.
Plymouth is not a long train journey away from my Cornish university town of Falmouth, a great place to visit friends and get away from the boat for a couple of days. So I caught that train to have a good catch up with mates over one or two drinks.
My brief time in Falmouth made me realise how lucky I am with my sailing adventures and my relatively clear direction in life. But also how I would love to spend future training sessions sailing out of Falmouth along the beautiful coastline and be with friends who have decided they are not going to leave Cornwall.
It was quickly back to business in Plymouth, however, as our desperation to get the trip finished got us up at 2am to make the jump for France across the Channel. The gap in the storms was shorter than we expected as we experienced high winds in Channel, and our two little yachts were being launched off some waves and crashed down into others.
It was getting dark when we saw the coast of France and it was getting darker still as black clouds built, blocking any illumination from the night sky. After a few technical problems, and a wind much stronger than forecast, the decision was made to bank our gains and make for the port of Roscoff, unfortunately the wrong way into France.
Once ashore, we ended up travelling to Lorient using the French public transport system to make use of the waiting days. The time on land only confirmed to us that our decision to stop was a prudent one as we would have been hit with high winds rounding a dangerous section of the French coastline.
Our final opportunity arrived a few days later as only 20 knots of breeze was blowing from the north meaning we could sail mostly downwind, a faster and more comfortable angle of sail. It seemed that when God was making France he got bored and instead of leaving a well-defined steep line into the sea, he littered the coast with half-finished islands and rocks. The result is a really good challenge for navigators and I scanned the chart for rocks and watched the massive tidal flows through the Famous Raz de Sein as we completed our delivery.
Although it was a windy and technical trip, we finally made it into the dock at Lorient, alongside Class 40s and 60 foot round-the-world racing machines where we will train alongside the best in France.
It was long, difficult and at times quite uncomfortable, and a journey that will have to be undertaken once again with the next pair of boats still in Cowes as soon as the weather lets up. The uncertainness of departures and arrivals has been an eye-opener and reminder to me of how well-organised you have to be in this business.
Even finding the time to write a blog is difficult…