Nouvelles du bord – Pip Hare - Vendredi 10 mai 2019

"The start of the Bermudes 1000 race could not have been more perfect conditions for a nervous rookie on the start for the first time. The breeze was enough to keep the boat going but not enough to make life hectic. The fleet beat out of the bay of Douarnanez in close contact, crossing tacks with friendly waves – smiles all round.


Fairly soon we have created a pack of boats of similar age and performance and for the first part of the night we sailed within sight of each other, I was chuffed with Superbigou's upwind performance and instantly became fixated on not loosing ground agains Alexia and Miranda who were both within a couple of miles.


Just after midnight the wind changed and it was time to fly the spinnaker. I was tired, having only managed two fifteen minute naps and it was tempting to make an excuse, to say there would be less risk waiting until day break but buoyed up by my proximity to the rest of the fleet I determined to go for it. I would take each step gently, not rush, use my high powered torch to check all lines and fittings and the lead to the top of the mast.


First opening the sail locker in the bow I climbed in, pulled my small furling spinnaker to the top of the pile and then posted it up through the hatch onto the deck. The night had been colder than I expected and I felt bulky in my many layers, soon I was sweating with the physical effort of moving sails around. I stripped off my hat and top coat feeling an instant chill as the moisture on my skin evaporated into the night air.


It was a slow process hoisting that spinnaker, I was cautious. There were many trips up and down the deck to release lines and check furlers. But when it was eventually prepared I went to the mast and pulled the sail up, using my whole body weight against the rope, feeling every muscle in my body engage. I am still a rookie when it comes to dealing with the loads on Superbigou. The last three months of training have definetly made me stronger – though lighter as well which is a double edged sword. The physicality of sailing this boat is always going to be a challenge, however it is something I am growing to love. Using my strength and my brain to manage this boat alone certainly gets me my kicks. But I am sure I will look back on this cautious and slow hoist with amusement in the future. I did it but with a distinct lack of style.


Since the early hours I have lost ground on 'my pack'. I decided to bank a longer sleep, taking 40 mins in the super light morning air and I missed the optimum time to gybe. I am now totally on my own, there's nothing on the horizon and  no blips of life on radar or AIS.


I can't help the sneaking disappointment that creeps into my pschy when considering these lost miles. But I needed to sleep, the last month of preparations have taken their toll on my energy levels.  I could have stayed up to stay in touch with the fleet but doubtless would have crashed out at some point later. It's in my nature to be competitive, I don't take lightly knowing that I could do better but I need to contain my inner winner and remain focussed on what this race is about. It's about getting to the Vendee Globe race in 2020. I have to finish the race and no more to gain those qualifying miles.  Breaking my boat or myself by pushing too hard or making basic mistakes would be a bigger disappointment than losing six miles during the night.  


With Superbigou now moving steadily north under spinnaker I am in my happy place, writing and sailing. I am already starting to enjoy the orchestra of noises that accompany life below decks, the humming of the daggerboard, which changes pitch the faster you go, a lapping of water against the hull, at times so load it feels like it's inside with you and the drumming of the autopilot ram reassuringly never missing a beat.


Aside from managing my expectations of myself the only major problems onboard are to do with IT. My boat computer is crashing about every half an hour, losing all of my routing information and making it difficult to rely on  AIS for situational awareness. There is nothing that can be done out here for this sick little PC so I am working around the issue and will just have to get by. I use the radar when I am not on deck to alert me of vessels in the area and I am using a combination of tablets, phones and the PC to manage my weather and routing. It's not really a suprise that these issues have arisen. I have been so focussed on preparing the physical things on Superbigou in the lead up to this race the IT has rather taken a back seat. I have fired it up and checked it worked but not put anything under continuous use. It's the first item on the job list for when I return to Poole.


The focus for this race is to finish and to learn so I can start working on performance later  this year. This is the first step on a mammoth journey that finishes with a race around the world. I am feeling at home, I am reassured of my determination and my passion for this beautiful sport."