After a day and a half of delay, the long awaited race started on Saturday morning, April 9th. It turned out to be a beautiful day, 24 hours of respite between two depressions that swept the Brittany coast. We started very early, at 6:30 AM, because the Organising Committee sent us a new shorter route the previous night and we had to revise the waypoints on the GPS and discuss the strategy. At 8 AM we left the dock under sail, in very light wind. Soon afterwards we raised the big spinnaker and glided towards the starting line. We had a downwind start, a first for me, that we completely missed. Without a watch (I left my Garmin Quatix at the hotel since smartwatches, phones, laptops, tablets are all forbidden by Classe Mini), I did not have an accurate timer, and the start caught us quite far from the line, and given the very light wind, I guess it took us another 5 minutes just to start the race.
The first part was very tricky because we could not find the proper trim to make the boat sail fast in the light conditions. After a few hours, we found ourselves at the back of the fleet, not a happy place for Nico and I. But we kept our good humor and persevered, waiting for our chance to get back in the game. Nico was tireless with the sail changes, trying to take advantage of every small increase in speed that we might get. I have to admit that I felt lazier than Nico, and in a couple of situations I was tempted to just chill and enjoy the scenery. But Nico reminded me several times that we are in a race, that Minis were built for racing and not for cruising, and thus our immediate purpose was to try to sail at the maximum potential of the boat at all times. And this being only a very short race (in fact the shortest offshore race in the calendar) of only 100 miles, that implied committing ourselves fully for 24 hours.
After the night came, the wind dropped completely and we found ourselves floating aimlessly for a few hours. Although a beautiful night, with a partial ascending moon and a billion stars ahead that I forgot they existed as they never twinkle above our city, quite a spectacular scene if we were there cruising, these moments were excruciating. With the sails flapping from one side to the other in the rolling swell and partly falling asleep at the tiller, I was watching mesmerised how the boat was rotating on its track, covering maybe 2 miles in 3 hours on its way to Belle Ile, our final waypoint before turning our bow to Lorient. With shifting wind conditions we had to continously move the weight in the boat from the bow to the middle section and then to stern, from one side to the other. And to go from jib to big spinnaker, then to gennaker. At one point in the morning I asked Nico to continue these changes as I was completely exhausted.
And then the wind came, and we had the best surfs ever on Cirrus Minor :)) After we broached four or five times under big spinnaker and reefed main, we decided to reduce sails. Nico was in favor of the medium spinnaker, but I was anxious of more spinnaker drama, and accepted to use the gennaker instead. The wind was now 16 to 21 knots, at 110-130 TWD. With reefed main, full jib and gennaker we sailed constantly between 10 and 12 knots, with peaks of 13-14 knots in the longer surfs. I discovered that Naciras are fantastic boats in stronger conditions, very stable and agile, capable of high speeds in total control. In these conditions we managed to win back a few positions, catching up with some of the boats that were faster in the light wind the previous day. We had a close race until the finish line. The last couple of miles were a tough upwind inshore race, where we lost against our main competitor, Adelaide, a similar Nacira.
Because of the intense nature of the race I did not have time to film much. But I put together a short clip that reflects some of the pre-race and race moments.
Race track and results: www.lorientgrandlarge.org/fr/evenements/plm-6-50/cartographie
In the end we finished 40th out of 53 participants in the Series division. Personally I think it is a good result because, first of all, we finished the race, we kept fighting until the last moment (although here I must thank Nico since he mantained the fighting spirit onboard especially in the last hours of the race) and we discovered how the boat sailed in varied conditions. I learned quite a few things about the boat and about myself.
By far the most difficult aspect of the race for me was to stay motivated and energetic for the entire period. When you have a crew, you can take some moments off from the race and rest. But when you are short-handed or solo, you have to learn how to rest while sailing the boat, preparing the tactics and the navigation, and trimming the boat non-stop for optimum performance. Because if you don’t do this, the other skippers will do it, and you will not have a chance at getting a good result. I especially thank Nico for showing me what the Mini spirit is all about, an attitude that I will have to adopt and display in the next races!