After a couple of pleasant days spent in the charming town of Deauville, we were ready for the start of the second stage of the Calvados Cup. This time the race consisted of two crossings of the English Channel, plus a longer passage to the south of the Isle of Wight from East to West. Overall the race track looked like a big triangle, starting and ending in front of Deauville. The weather was more complicated than in the first race. For the start it was forecasted very light wind, which gradually built in intensity as we headed out north. Then during the second day, as we were navigating our way along the southern coast of England, the wind grew in strength as we met the last remnants of a big depression that had been stationed above Ireland for some days. These conditions implied a very long upwind leg in winds between 20 and 25 knots, formed seas of 1,5-2,5 meters high, and opposing current of 3 knots for about 6 hours. During the second crossing of the Channel, the wind gradually decreased and the finish was supposed to take place in very feeble breeze.
Since we did not break anything in the first race, we did not have many things to take care of during our short stay in Deauville. This allowed us to plan carefully the course and prepare the boat and then to enjoy the beautiful Norman town. After two days of rest, we started the race with a lot of confidence, hoping not to make the same mistakes like in the first race. This time the start was also broadcasted live on Youtube and since I shared the link with my family and friends back home, I really wanted to have a good start, similar to if not better than the one in the first race. We aimed to be high on the starting line and sought a clearer area closer to the pin-end of the line. Then 30 seconds before the start, we realized that we were too close to the line, decided to take a short dive and come back at full speed to cross it. But as we dove below the line, the wind died completely. All of a sudden we could not climb back to the line. And all the boats that were closer to the line, got in front of us and completely blocked any whisper of air. We lingered below the line for another 10 minutes and managed to finally cross it among the last 5 boats in the 40 boat fleet. Not the best best place to be in for my first ever live start!
And our early adventures in the race were far from over. After we barely managed to glide to the first upwind mark, the current was stronger than the wind and we had to perform several tacks just to get above the mark. After a strenuous fight, as we were heading back inshore, towards a big dark cloud, we were struck by a squall which caught us with all the sails up, full main, jib and gennaker. As usual, when we are in the most desperate need to reduce sails, they stubbornly refuse to obey. Such was our most charismatic furler that did not want to comply with Vincent’s efforts to roll back the gennaker, as I was fighting on the tiller to keep the boat downwind and off the course. The only solution was to drop the gennaker on deck like a regular spinakker and secure it until the wind subsided. Once we managed to get the sails in order, the rain started and accompanied us for a few hours, as we started the first crossing of the English Channel towards a cardinal mark to the East of Isle of Wight.
After the disastruous start, the first part of the race was pretty good. We decided to stay closer to the direct route to sail a shorter distance and this helped us win back a few positions during the first night. The second day turned out to be the most difficult for me in all the races that I have done since 2015. For 14 hours we battled against the wind, the waves and the reversed current to cover the 60 mile leg to the south of England. The motion was so severe on the boat that I could hardly get changed inside. Urinating was daunting and scary, a reason sufficient for me to abstain from drinking much, which did not help me either in those conditions. Fortunately this ordeal lasted only 14 hours, because in the evening we changed the course and pointed our bow back to Deauville. I do not want to think how one could have endured those, and even stronger upwind conditions, on a Mini for several days in a row. I particularly thought of my friend Victor Mathieu who was doing his Qualif at the same time and headed towards Ireland where the big depression was located. I later learned from him that he experienced winds in excess of 35 knots and for one hour he was afraid he would lose his boat. Testing, pushing oneself and the boat is part of the learning process, but it must be done gradually if one wishes to get back home and try it again in the future. Far from being actually dangerous, this day was really tough phisically and mentally, because we (and especially Vincent) were also wet and cold. I was well out of my comfort zone that day, I remember I kept asking myself what the heck I was doing there, but now I’m glad I had the chance to experience it.
In the end we finished the race well, on the 22nd position of the 33 boats that were present at the start. This was the last race of the 2022 Mini season for me. Now I will start the preparations for the next season. There are lots of things that I need to upgrade on the boat and I will work with my friends Vincent Wurth, Maxime Dagorne and Victor Mathieu from Concarneau to get the boat in optimal shape for the next season.
Race tracker: https://solusport.solustop.com/calvacupc2/carto
Start replay: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bynfTTECXQU