The 19th of June had seemed so far away but now it is just round the corner. At 3 o’clock, French time, 39 skippers will leave the comfort of Deauville and start the adventure that is La Solitaire. It’s been quite the build-up, not only with the 8 months of training but the last week alone has been intense. More hype than any event that I have taken part in, there is so much more to do than race the 1,500 mile course.
The ball started rolling on the 10th when the fleet sailed the few miles from La Havre into Deauville harbour; they called this the parade of sail. The trickiest part of this was keeping the kids, which were put on my boat, interested for the slow downwind sail. They eventually found the solitaire card game on the laptop which kept them occupied while I practised some gybes amongst the most Figaro yachts I’d seen in one place.
The next day we had the Prologue race, basically a practice race that covers a short inshore course. After a shocking start in the very light winds I absolutely loved sailing through the fleet of 39 boats and finished 20th, 3rd Rookie. It was the perfect warm up for the race to come; it filled me with equal parts nerves and adrenaline that I have been running off all week. That evening we were introduced on stage to the modest crowd of onlookers, fortunately I didn’t have to answer any questions in French.
To split up the last week of briefings and inspections, that have been seriously time consuming, the team drove inland to get some time off and away from the boats. We were let loose in some French woods that had been strung together with wires and obstacles high above the ground. It was here I found my love for zip wires, an easy and fast mode of transport from tree to tree that I’m sure could be recreated in a city centre. I slept soundly, away from Deauville, on a stomach full of Norman delicacies prepared by our Norman coach.
Now the boat is pretty much ready, only food and water needs putting on the boat. I only start getting really nervous when this part happens so I now tend to put it on last minute, what a disaster it would be if I ran out of food. The boat is however clean as a whistle and shining brightly between rain showers so I am looking forward to racing her towards the shores of blighty. I get to race past some very familiar shores of England; I’ll be getting particularly excited as I cruise past my home of Swanage and my favourite university town of Falmouth.
So here’s to a successful leg one of La Solitaire Bompard Le Figaro. If you didn’t know I have made a video on what this race is all about if you’d like to know more.