Plastimo-Lorient Race: D-9

Many things have happened in the last few days. First and foremost, I passed the World Sailing sea survival and first aid course!! The exam in French was not that scary, in the sense that I was not required to express myself in full sentences but merely to name or list certain terms 🙂 Now I am only waiting for my certificate to further submit it to Classe Mini before the start of the Plastimo-Lorient race.

Playing with flares in the second day of the World Sailing course

Once in Concarneau, I started training on my Mini 832 Cirrus Minor. On the first day I went out to test some of the sails that I will use for racing. Fifteen days before the first race, all skippers must declare to Classe Mini the list of 6 sails that they will use during the entire season. Obviously I was late declaring the sails since I have two or three pieces for each sail and I didn’t know before hand which were the old ones for training and which the better ones for racing. The complete set of a mini contains the following sails:

  • Mainsail
  • Jib / Solent – reefable
  • Gennaker for close reaching in light and medium conditions, for upwind sailing in very light conditions and for downwind sailing in heavy conditions
  • Spinnaker Max – downwind sailing in light to medium conditions
  • Spinnaker Medium – downwind sailing in medium to strong conditions and reaching in light to medium conditions (mine also has a reef)
  • Storm jib – small jib for really heavy conditions, that I hope I will never face!

The first day the wind was light and I could test some of the spinnakers.

Cirrus Minor ready for the first trials of the season; on the way back to the harbour the wind died competely leaving behind an oily slick sea at dusk

The second day I took part in a training session with Francois Jambou and some of the other skippers from CEMC. Fortunately I was not alone on the boat, Victor’s partner Maxime Dagorne (or simply, Max) sailed with me as a coach. The wind was stronger (between 15 and 18 knots), and the training was really tough for me. All the other skippers knew the maneuvers, whereas I was not sure what to do first. I could barely keep up the pace with the fleet, and only thanks to Max who took the opportunity to teach me how to tack, gybe, raise and lower spinnakers all by myself. After 5 hours of pulling, running around, slipping, getting soaked, I was completely wasted. Sadly, there’s no picture from this intense day as I didn’t have a moment to pull out my phone.

After a good night’s rest (I went to bed at 21:30!), I woke up determined to try to sail on my own and reherse some of the maneuvers that Max taught me the previous day. I was also encouraged by the weather forecast that predicted light wind that would increase to moderate (around 14 knots) in the afternoon. I borrowed an electric engine from a fellow Mini skipper who was kind enough to offer it, arranged my sails carefully, and took off all by myself. The moment I recovered the land lines and set sail was filled with anxiety and relief. It was a moment that I dreamed about for years, but also feared. The good thing was that being on my own, I had many tasks to do, tasks that back home are done by my awesome Sapajou team, and thus could not ponder much over the significance of actually sailing solo.

Everything I learnd over the years came naturally, although I took the time to do all the maneuvers slowly. The most important thing in Mini racing is to develop a routine for each maneuver, to reach a level when you perform them automatically without thinking step by step. But to get there, you must exercise them step by step, over and over again, until you no longer think of the steps. The goal for the day was to practice tacking, reefing, gybing, reaching under gennaker and sailing downwinf with medium spinnaker. Everything went well until I flew the gennaker, when I noticed that the furling sheet was out of the furling drum and thus I could no longer furl back the sail. The good thing was that, as a precaution since the wind was already in the 14 knot range, I had taken the first reef in the mainsail (the jib was already reefed since you always use the reefed jib when you are close reaching under gennaker). I had no alternative than to drop the full gennaker on deck like a spinnaker, where I had to secure it until I got back to the harbour. At this point, tired and a bit stressed from the whole ordeal of setting up, launching and then improvising a way to take down the big sail, I decided to leave the spinnaker practice for another brighter day and get back to harbour still in a good mood 🙂

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