This June I started in my first Classe Mini-Race this year: The Mini Fastnet.
Because of problems with the join-bar I was not able to start in the Mini en Mai so this race would become even more important: It would be the final missing piece to complete my Transat qualification.
The final days before the start were quite relaxed. The boat was prepared and ready to go so my crew Björn Freels (mini transat participant from 2011) and myself focused on preparing the navigation and getting some “nice to have” things done on board.
Saturday June 13th there was an official prologue race in the bay of Douarnenez where we did two rounds on a triangular course. This was a good opportunity for me and Björn to figure out or roles on board, after all it had been two years since we had sailed together. We finished on a 10th place which was nice.
The start for the real race was Sunday June 14th at 4pm. We were a bit late at the line but still managed to find a spot and started the beat upwind in around 10 knots. However we were a bit reluctant to opt fully for the right-hand side and stayed in the middle which turned out to be a big mistake. The current slowed us down and when we left the bay we were in the 2nd half of the 48 boat fleet.
Next came the Chenal du Four where we made our next really big mistake. Due to a mistake our Roadbook told us that the current wouuld be pushing us already so we did not join the rest of the fleet rock-hopping each ever so tiny bay. Since the current was still against us for a while this again pushed us further back a couple of places in the fleet.
When the sun went down we were clear of the Chenal du Four and left for the long beat over the Channel.
We had almost the entire fleet to windward of us but by pinching a bit with good speed we managed to get back in touch with it. Andy&Craig (587) and Becky&Hester (807) were 0.3nm away so we felt in good company.
Monday was still upwind, then a bit of Code Zero before the wind died down entirely for a couple of hours. Luckily the fleet was still kinda compressed and the cargo vessels passed us in a safe distance.At dusk on tuesday morning we arrived at Land’s End (still upwind) where we’d have to leave the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) Scilly’s East to port. This was the moment of our second really big mistake. We had planned to pass Longships Lighthouse really close in order to get a good angle towards the NE-corner of the TSS.
Tuesday night we only have one other Pogo2 in sight: the fleet has spread out in all directions. Since a cold front has been forecast the question is whether it will pay off to sail a bit deeper (more easterly) until the front hits where you would tack and possibly be lifted towards our next waypoint: Stags, a rock with a buoy at the south irish coast.
We choose a more conservative approach and stick close to the rhumb line. The closer we get to “Stags” the more the wind picks up to 18-23kn (gusts of 27kn) and during our upwind beating we meet 4 other boats. Our upwind speed is underwhelming and another 3 boats pass us as we round Stags on Wednesday night.
After a couple more hours of beating upwind we finally round Fast Rock glowing in the disappearing sun at around 10:30pm.
Right after rounding the rock we hoist the Code 5 to pass the TSS Fastnet on the western side and enjoy 20 minutes of sleigh riding, doing 9 knots with 13 in the surfs.
Once clear of the TSS we switch to the big kite and bear away towards Ouessant. The wind still in the 16kn range we are looking forward to a quick ride doing 8-9 knots but about 20 minutes later the wind drops to 6-8 knots and we have to sail a bit tighter (TWA 150-155). To make matters worse the wind shifts to the NW, i.e. exactly from behind.
Thursday and Friday are very similar days: blue skies with some clouds, wind between 4 and 12 knots from NW, an impressive swell from the atlantic. After a long leg left of the line we finally decide to stick closer to the line and gybe our way towards Ouessant, no boats in sight or on the AIS.
We finally cross the finish line on Saturday morning at 06:28am, having sailed 714nm to finish the 600nm course.
Once docked we find out that it was a real “the rich get richer”-race: the earlier you rounded Fastnet Rock the longer you had good pressure going downwind and less calm. Andry&Craig (remember, 0.3nm ahead in the channel, 0.8nm at Land’s End) finished Friday at 4pm, 14h ahead of us!!!
Knowing that we left some potential untapped Björn and myself still come up with a relatively positive result: We had some really nice sailing (when was the last time you could keep the big spi up for 2 1/2 days?) and our speed was ok most of the time. We did not have a single ever so tiny problem on board, nothing to fix or repair.
The boat is now in the yard to get some new shiny bottoms and some cosmetic repairs, then we will do a minor electronics refit and get the boat configured for the big race in september: The Mini Transat!