1000nm Qualifier – Part 2

Sonnenuntergang bei Belle-Île / Sunset at Belle-Île

It’s friday morning, we rounded Pt. de Raz at 1am against the current and now the wind blows directly from the Point de Penmarc’h, the southern edge of the Bay de Audierne and obviously our next mark. After a short leg towards Audierne the fatigue kicks in and I tack towards the open sea to get some rest. The autopilot is in apparent wind mode (which is great for speed upwind) but unhappily the wind makes a 30 degree shift and the pilot diligently follows it. When I get up from my nap we are heading northwest (instead of southeast), grrrr….

As the sun comes up we round the Point de Penmarc’h and the wind turns back and decreases in strength. My next waypoint would now be the Plateau de Rochebonne offshore of La Rochelle but my tacking angle is so poor in the light winds with remaining swell that I opt for the inshore tack instead which brings me close to the coast and the Îles de Glénan. So close to shore I can use my cellphone to pick up a weather forecast which forecasts 20-25 knots from southwest, veering south. This doesn’t sound too bad, at least the southwest bit as it would mean a tight reach, so I tack offshore and head for the Plateau de Rochebonne, some 150nm away.
I am keeping a bit right of the line to have some buffer should the wind turn south earlier than expected to reduce the amount of beating upwind I’d have to do.
At dawn the wind picks up but stays on SW and as the sun comes up again we round the first markers of the Plateau de Rochebonne at 6am – some 4 hours earlier than my routing predicted. What a quick night that was only briefly interrupted my some cargo vessels but otherwise meant a lot of sleep for me.

After rounding the SW buoy of the Plateau de Rochebonne I can bear away, hoist the medium spi and am treated to absolutely dream conditions: sunshine, 16-20kn Wind from SW slowly turning S. We are making 10 knots surfing along the southern coast of the Île de Ré towards La Rochelle.
One spi gybe and we approach the large bridge that connects La Rochelle and the Île de Ré when I get a bit cocky and keep the spinnaker up going under the bridge. A mistake cause on the northern side of the bridge a channel-effect causes 20 knots to blow from the west but after a bit hectic drop some 5m behind the bridge we are on the road again going upwind towards the northwest and Les Sables d’Olonne.

This has been the last official waypoint of my qualification and I am in good spirits: only 100nm left!
The Île de Ré disappears in the dusk and I can hoist the Code 5, then quickly switch to the big kite and we are cruising north doing 5 knots, me already calculating my ETA in Lorient.

Around Les Sables d’Olonne I have some close encounters with fishing vessels (a bit too close for comfort) but after 2 hours I finally have the sea back to myself and am trucking along with the big Spinnaker as the wind starts to drop. At 11pm I end up in a total calm (again!) some 20nm south of the Île d’Yeu. I am going to spend the night below deck sleeping on my big spinnaker with the alarm clock waking me up every 30 minutes to check for wind.
But it is going to be a long night: a 7 am we finally get steady 1-2 knots of wind and off we go again.
Not long after we can hoist the big spinnaker again and have great sailing: 12-15kn of wind propel us with 6-7 knots towards Belle Île and we can easily avoid the cargo traffic around St. Nazaire.

Early afternoon, we are able to lay Lorient, the sun is shining and I open my final good food thinking we’ll be home soon as the calm hits us once again. It will be another couple of nerve-wrecking ours of drifting south of Belle Île with no wind whatsoever, no clouds and Lorient so close I could smell it. I spend the time ranting into my GoPro camera and considering other hobbies.

In the early evening we finally get some wind again, of course it blows directly from Lorient: So a final couple of hours beating upwind in a freezing wind until we arrive at the dock in Lorient at 6am on Monday morning – 8 days and 17 hours after setting off.

Here are some pictures from the qualifier. Some photos are stills from videos where I talk which might explain the funny faces.

This post is also available in: German