After months of training I have finally been let loose to sail offshore in our first longer training race of 2016. We have small races here and there in our training but the offshore is a more organised affair, with the course given out a couple of days beforehand and everyone given time to examine the weather systems. I was very excited to get out there and have a proper long race against the other rookies so that I could demonstrate my potential for this year.
For January we had some beautiful weather which had me scrambling in the cabin for sun cream and a hat, however very little wind. It was a downwind start which is unusual and the wind had decreased to almost nothing, unfortunately while getting my kite ready I had misjudged my time and distance putting me behind by a few minutes at the gun. I drifted faster than some to catch up with the fleet. Expecting the wind to increase from somewhere the big decision was made to gybe away which created a split in the fleet, this turned out to be a great decision. I got into the new wind earlier and managed to pull away into second place. At the first gybe mark I manage to get inside of veteran Figaro sailor Nick Cherry, however with us moving slowly Justin Mettraux, a Volvo Ocean Race sailor from Team SCA, sneaked inside both of us at the mark. With our three boats alongside I managed to get myself above and in front of the others for the 8 mile broad reach.
I suddenly felt a weight of pressure as I led the race, but also excitement and a determination to extend away from the others and make things easy for myself. The next mark was a big lighthouse; miles offshore it had a few scarily big breaking waves hitting it. I ‘paddled’ my 33ft surf board over the top of a big one and felt a familiar spray as the wave continued to loudly break behind me. With the potential of hitting the rock and a confident Nick Cherry behind me I boldly rounded up to sail upwind and keep the lead.
For the next 3 hours I did everything I could to keep ahead and stick to my game plan as we sailed up wind to round Ile de Groix, an island off Lorient. After another test of courage in choppy waters alongside steep cliffs I could finally turn to make my approach into the finishing line. A stunning day came with a stunning sun set and I felt sure of my first place as my lead extended, playing the kite for the last few miles. I radioed in to record my finishing time as I passed the red blinking buoy that marked the end the race. I let out a series of loud cheers that no one heard and bounced happily around the boat which also fortunately no one could see.
I believe the mental game in sport has a big part to play; this win is now not only in the head of my competitors but has given me a lot of self-belief to achieve things that perhaps I didn’t think I could. I completely enjoyed this race and I’m honestly looking forward to the next, its hard work out here but there is a payoff.