1000nm Qualifier – Part 1

Reffen vor Land's End / Reefing the Sails while rounding Land's End

Îles de Glénan

Îles de Glénan

Almost two weeks have passed and I finally find the time to do a write up on my 1000nm qualification course.

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.



The first little shock came short after sunset, I was in the Bay of Audierne heading towards the Point de Raz (most western tip of France), when the power onboard went out entirely: no autopilot, no lights, no nothing. Luckily it turned out I had accidentally hit the main switch with my foot while climbing into the cockpit.
On came the power and we passed the Pt. de Raz at slackwater at around 12pm on Saturday night. This must have been the most relaxed time I have passed this cape which tends to make a rounding stressful with currents of 4 knots and plenty of waves.

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”.

Seenebel auf dem Weg nach Irland

Fog on the way to ireland.

Spirits are good on board but directly after the coast of cornwall disappears behind us the mood changes. The High pressure system that was supposed to be positioned over Ireland and was the reason for the nice winds we had so far is expanding into the Celtic Sea – and that is where we are!
The result are fickle, heavily veering winds of 2-3 knots that slow our progress down significantly for the rest of Easter Sunday. At night the wind finally dies down entirely, we have 1-2 knots of wind with a remaining swell. And to make things even worse a dense fog with a visibility of about 150 meters surrounds us. It is freezing cold so I spend a lot of time below deck and it’s not like I can see a lot upstairs anyways. I keep an eye on the AIS and my radar warner and try to avoid looking at the GPS: The next waypoint, the lighthouse “Coningbeg” is not coming closer.
Result of the second day: 55nm, an average of 2 knots. No Comment.

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.

close to Coningbeg, Irish Coast

close to Coningbeg, Irish Coast

But as I come back on deck after 20 minutes we are back in the dense fog with almost no wind: turns out the high pressure system did not move away, I sailed through the high pressure and now have to sail back through it on the way south again.
This time it will take me 30 hours with fickle winds, about 9 hours absolute calm and a lot of swearing before I see the coast of cornwall appear at the horizon on thursday morning.

Reffen vor Land's End

Putting a reef in at Land’s End

The closer we come to Land’s End this time, the wind increases and I put a reef into the main, then a reef into the solent, then another reef into the main, beating against the force 7 easterly winds (25 knots with gusts of low 30s).
After rounding Land’s End with the last sunlight on thursday night it turns out this was not a cape effect so we continue our way onto the channel. First beating, then happily the wind turns slightly to the north allowing us a two-sail reach towards Ushant doing 6-7 knots.

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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