The solo Figaro circuit for me has come to an end and this month has been all about bettering my abilities for next year. After some deliberation I have decided that what really gets me up in the morning is the prospect of racing in another Solitaire du Figaro, so I’m using all my time with this in mind. August has been a busy month with plenty of racing and time spent around boats, not much time spent behind a computer writing and finding sponsors, that is the focus for September.
The RYA’s Offshore Yachtmaster qualification is a challenging training and examination process that I should really have gotten before doing the 1500 mile offshore Solitaire du Figaro. Essentially it is two days on the water being scrutinized as you attempt to prove your skippering abilities around the Solent in various scenarios. For example, sailing onto a mooring buoy and your engine braking or blind navigation, which is my personal favourite where you simulate an extreme fog by going below and directing the boat without seeing your position. I was very worried that my inability to traditionally plot my boat on paper charts and work out tide depths without a computer would result in a fail; I did a lot of cramming in the nights leading up.
I felt very tested spending most of my time as skipper in the night with very wet and windy conditions making parking and avoiding shipping particularly difficult. I was the first of three being examined to sit down after a gruelling couple of days to hear my fate; before I could be seated he told me I had passed. He boosted my ego further by saying I was an almost faultless skipper, his words not mine.
Basically the biggest week in the sailing calendar, Cowes Week attracts hundreds of yachts in all shapes and sizes to fill the Solent with racing and create nightmares for ferry drivers. There was no time for celebrating my achievements as I was straight into preparing marques and Figaros for my first corporate Cowes Week. The weather was absolutely stunning and an incredible example of sailing to the guests we took out on the water, most of whom had done very little yachting, and they left thinking about which boat to buy.
We had seven Figaros on each start and as ever the racing was tight, which again showed the guests how extreme and fast paced this style of sailing can be. Winning the racing became very difficult as I was trying to teach people how to sail and very patiently explain how sailing directly into the wind with the sails flapping wasn’t fast. My co-skipper, Rob Bunce, and I came 2nd when the week was finally over, after a controversial disqualification in race one. I had different guests every day and without fail they came off the water with big smiles, windswept hair and slightly sun burnt faces. It was a delight to have people on to help and chat after all that solo sailing, all of them where delightful, enthusiastic and very interesting people.
‘Big August’ was too large for one post, to be continued.