I was lucky to be one of the first 20 boats to be towed out and was out at about 10:30 am which gave me ample time to calibrate my instruments and get a feel for the wind.
The start wasn’t so bad and I tacked to get some clean air on the right side when we got a lift and I stayed on the right until the end of the bay. Unhappily I didn’t manage to use the cape-effect the locals used and ended up without wind for quite a while – with other boats passing just 50m from me.
After Pointe du Raz it was downwind running towards Cape Caval and unhappily it showed that these conditions are not my sweet spot. I had huge issues to get the spinnaker standing properly and it took me until Iles-de-Glenans to stop losing on the other boats. I had lost a lot but the race was still young so I decided not to sleep until Ile de Groix to try and catch up a little.
The plan worked out alright and at Ile de Groix I had some boats ahead and was even able to overtake some. But then I got the current wrong and screwed up the marks north of Ile de Groix so I lost almost a mile there.
After leaving Ile de Groix to starboard it was foggy and we had very instable winds of 8 to 12 knots which was shifting a lot. The autopilot was struggling to keep the course so I had to steer manually, not too great as I had planned to catch some sleep. To make matters worse I also burned myself with boiling water while preparing tea – what a way to start the day.
At the southern mark I had overtaken one boat but I could feel the others breathe down my neck. After rounding I screwed up my spinnaker hoist and lost quite a lot again.
Now was THE decision to be made: offshore or inshore?
My plan was to go offshore but the wind was not as predicted so I didn’t trust the prediction and decided to stay about 4 miles offshore. Unhappily this meant plain downwind running again – and I had the same problems as before.
At 9 or 10 am on friday, the wind decreased a lot and I made some ground on a pogo2 ahead of me which finally went inshore – then the wind died down entirely and it was hard on my nerves to see the other boats disappear behind the horizon and see the boats offshore pass while we were idling around without any wind in perfect sunshine.
This was an interesting situation, the other pogo2 about 1,5 miles inshore of me and Alan with his Nacira about 1 mile further offshore.
At about 6pm the wind finally picked up and the race was on with a easterly wind of about 8 knots. The pogo2 inshore had a better angle and could sail higher and was soon about half a mile straight in front of me. I was able to sail higher and faster and at sunset I had managed to catch up about 200m on windward of him. I was happy: On the layline to the next mark (Chausee de Sein), I had wind and had the chance to eat something then we suddenly slowed down a lot. The wind had shifted by 60 degrees to the south. We both hoisted our gennakers but I had a major f***up and it tooke me two minutes longer to set it. By then the other pogo2 had won half a mile and we was pulling away: I simply couldn’t get the boat trimmed.
To make things worse, Alan was now able to sail upwind and in these conditions, pulled “up” to me onto the layline – as well half a mile in front of me.
I was tired (I hadn’t slept at all for 40hours), the wind died down and turned further so I even had to change to the spinnaker while the boats ahead of me pulled away with the Jib up. The tide was tricky and I had to be careful not to be pushed onto the rocks.
After passing Chaussee de Sein early morning we turned upwind to the buoy north of the entrance of bay de Douarnenez which was directly in wind direction so we had a long tack ahead of us. I turned the autopilot on to finally catch some sleep but after a minute my GPS and AIS turned off, the VHF was beeping like hell. I quickly figured out the cause: the batteries had 11.9 Volts – they were flat.
I was puzzled on why there were in such a bad state but had no time to investigate further: With a Red Bull and a Snickers I steered manually and waited for the sunrise to charge my batteries enough to at least use the navigation equipment until the finish line.
The tack was long and hard – my sleep deprivation now showed and it was hard to focus on my strategy. I was sure I was last and it was tricky to keep spirits up and keep going. About 2 miles before rounding the mark I suddenly spotted Alan in the bay and when he tacked for the buoy, I tacked onto the same line as him.
“If i’m going to finish last then at least not by much” I thought and was determined to catch up or at least not lose any more on Alan.
We were beating upwind in 10-12 knots and I relentlessly trimmed by boat and was able to point a degree higher and as fast or even a little faster than Alan and made good some ground. Then I screwed up the tack into the bay of Douarnenez (tacked back accidentally) and lost at least a minute. So I had to start all over again. The wind now turned a little south and we were able to lay the finish line, a short tack to round the final buoy, then it was a 12nm drag race towards the finish. We have a 1-1,5m chop, 16kn of wind at 50 apparent doing 6,5 to 7 knots. The AIS is great because I can see whether I am catching up on Alan. And I am in fact able to catch up – by trimming each gust (up to 23 knots in the bays) and about 2nm to the finish I am 2 boat lengths behind.
Now it is a close fight, Alan luffs me from time to time and we both have big smiles on our faces in this close race.
On the last half mile one unpleasant surprise: the germany cruising yacht “Kairos” decided to enter Douarnenez and motor right in front of us while we are approaching the line. My lack of sleep shows, I yell and am unfocused: and lose 1.5 bl within seconds.
Being one bl behind Alan, his mainsail suddenly opens up and starts flapping. I think his clutch gave way but he stands up and takes his head off to me. I open up my mainsail as well but I have some speed left so we both drift across the line me finishing first by 3 seconds and being sad that we didn’t make it to finish at the same time. The guy on the finish boat is shaking his head confused.
When I ask Alan about this later he tells me that he was so happy that we had such a great race and that I would not have deserved finishing last. What a great sportsman!
Back in Douarnenez we find out that we were not the last competitors so I finished as 45. out of 49 boats to finish.
Given that this was my first race in 2012 and my first solo race ever, this is ok. I learned a lot and know where I have to improve.