Ever since last fall my plan was to do my qualifier as early in the year as possible so all preparations were pretty much finished and the boat packed up since end of january. It would take another two months until the stars would finally align and I would find both a nice weather window for at least 4-5 days and my job would allow me to take a week off.
Saturday, April 4th I decided to sleep in and have a relaxed breakfast, then I did some final grocery shopping and cleaned up the boat.
After the harbormaster in Lorient had stamped by logbook, Nicolas d’Estais pushed me from the dock and we were on the road. On the way out I met a couple of minis doing training, then I headed west towards the Îles de Glénan. With full main and solent at first the wind veered further towards southwest and soon I was making good progress with the medium spi, enjoying the sunshine.
Once I was clear of the Île de Tevennec (right north of Pt. de Raz) at around 3am I dropped the spinnaker and put a reef in. The wind was turning more westerly again and had picked up to 14-18 knots. On a tight reach with no boats in sight or on the AIS I went downstairs for a couple of naps.
Right in the middle of one nap I wake up as the boat seems to feel different so I want to go on deck to check if everything is alright as I notice the GPS indicating a speed over ground of 13 knots (that is pretty quick!). I jump on deck but everything is fine, the wind has picked up to a steady 20 knots with gusts of 27 so I put another reef into the main and we are cruising with a comfortable 8kn, the pilot steering – me sleeping, across the English Channel.
Sunday morning the wind drops down and we can hoist the big spinnaker again, still doing a comfortable 6 knots directly towards Land’s End which we round around lunchtime in the sunshine.
In the first 24 hours we log 161nm, an average of 6.7 knots, not too shabby considering I was in “cruising mode”.
Finally, at Tuesday morning around 4am we finally get a little wind and as the sun comes out the fog disappears. We are tacking upwind in the sunshine, everything is on deck to dry out and we get a lift and are able to lay Coningbeg. Life is starting to be fun again!
We round Coningbeg, make the obligatory photos of the mark and myself, then up goes the big spinnaker for the way back south. To celebrate the occasion I open one of my two beers on board and treat myself to some crackers and ham, then a nap below deck.
Cargo traffic is heavy this time: we have to dodge a couple of ships and I spend some time on the VHF with “Ushant Traffic” and the Cargos themselves to find a safe route through this heavily frequented waterway.
Friday around lunchtime we pass Ushant with the Code 5 doing 5-7 knots and although it is freezing cold we have something to celebrate: the first 500 miles are behind us. My ETA at Point de Raz looks perfect until the wind decides to rain on the parade by disappearing completely again.
For the next six (!!!!) hours we drift towards the rocks south of Ushant before a new wind sets in from the south.
Within minutes it goes from dead calm to 18, then 25 knots of wind and we go back to 2nd reef in the main and one reef in the solent, beating upwind.
Night falls and I decide that although we are going to be late for the tide, I will try to go through Point de Raz (rather than go outside around île de Sein which is a detour of 11nm).
Things get a bit interesting as during my final tack in front of the La Plate lighthouse the shackle on the solent tack breaks, we crash-tack and with the main sail blocked by the backstay we drag the leeward lifelines through the water in the pitch black.
Again some swearing, then I shake out the reef in the solent, sort out the mess and off we go again.
At 1pm on friday morning we are finally south of the Point de Raz and return to the bay of Audierne, still beating upwind.
(to be continued…)
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