It’s been about a week but I think I am ready to write about my experiences during my first ever competitive solo offshore race. Not only the first solo race but also the longest I have spent out at sea and the furthest distance covered in one voyage, 340 miles over 2 days, both records to be broken later this year. Stress and nerve levels had been high during the lead up with so much to get organised and a relatively untested boat to prepare, it was never going to be a smooth ride.
Getting off the dock and sailing was a struggle in its self, the scrutinising and French protocol seemed endless. It became apparent that the sailors had gone to some lengths to cheat in the past. I must have given off a dodgy look as I was chosen for a closer examination along with the weighing of all my kit, a limit I was about 2 apples under. Full Race mode could be engaged after a security seal was placed around my prop to prevent any cheeky motoring time, it was all wind power from then on.
I was heavily punished for small mistakes during the first 6 hours of the race as the fickle winds seemed to avoid me or take me in the wrong direction. I tried so hard to get back into the race but I was just clinging on. Like losing the slip stream in a cycling race I got dropped, and I wondered how much deeper I could dig to find my speed again. I spent too much time sailing on my own, the wind had carried the pack far ahead and the race became a test of how strong I was psychologically. A tricky test when the temperature plummeted in the night and the sea fired icy waves into my face at every opportunity.
Using the power of hindsight it was impossible to visualise a race with so many new experiences, enduring for 48 hours while things go wrong and break all around you became an exhausting fight. The race as a whole has however done wonders for me; I am stronger in every area of my sailing. As a result, 17th out of 23 isn’t a complete disaster, but it is far from the goal I have set myself this year. Although it’s a slow start I can feel my momentum for this season seriously increasing.