Three Elton club Solo sailors have traveled to two of the main Solo events this year. Robzy ‘Rodney’ Gascoigne, Steve ‘Kenny’ Restall and Adam Savage have travelled over 1,300 miles to Carnac and Weymouth, to race against some the best Solo sailors across the country and Europe.
Here’s our story!
Carnac had 80+ entrants from UK, Holland, Portugal, USA and Ireland. The plan was to sail 10 races across 4 days. We looked forward to testing our skills, but first we had to 400 mile trip to navigate.
The overnight ferry crossing was enjoyable experience for Rob who found a new audience and several unknowingly willing people for him to enforce his ‘Captain shirt’ joke on. Unfortunately for me and Steve we had to listen to ‘singers’ murder some cover songs and a far too enthusiastic entertainment manager. We got a short break from his squeaky pitched voiced when Rob took him to one side to teach him the ‘Captains shirt’ routine and give him some feedback on the nights entertainment level.
Having arrived in France in bright sunshine the three of us headed across to Carnac. Not being so ofay with French service stations, we managed to drive past the only services that was on our route, fuel was now a problem!!! The car was running on fumes…we pulled off our route to check out the local facilities
Now 10 miles off track and badly needing fuel, I assured Rob I knew France like the back of my hand, which was a lie but as a luck would have it we entered a town centre I’ve never heard of and there she was ‘station essence’. Next problem, no black pump and no word even close to resembling the word ‘diesel’. As it wasn’t my car I decided I was prepared to take the risk, it was a 50:50 guess- I liked my odds! FYI- French people don’t understand the word ‘diesel’ no matter how loud you shout it.
Fuelled up and ready to go again but the ‘kill me now’ level hangover won over so we stayed at the local cafe for lunch and another chance to try our French language skills. Deciding that was far too difficult, we just pointed and shouted at anything on the menu that sounded least like frogs legs and snails.
Fed and back on the road we carried on to Carnac, Steve seeming got fed up with the French way of driving and decided to show them which way you should go around a roundabout. I think the local’s were grateful for his efforts, which they started to show by appaulding him with car horn and hand gestures- I can only assume to thank him!
Once we arrived, we settled into our Airbnb apartment and unpacked the boats. Now one final hurdle before beers…get rid of the double-stacker in the trailer park. The next hour of my life (which I’ll never get back) was spent driving up and down Carnac sea front trying to find this mystery parking space. As this field was apparently ‘really easy to find’ and just ’round the corner’ my patience was start to wane…..It wasn’t easy to find and miles away from the club
Once we did find the trailer park….guess what?The trailer won’t fit, the mast cradle is too tall. Still being hungover, tired and in the late 20 degrees temperature we resorted to a hammer, then a bigger hammer, before kicking it. Unfortunately this didn’t work…..so in typical British style we made it fit! I liked to say, we used a mixture of brains and braun to come up with the best solution but in reality we just rolled the trialer over on it’s side and dragged it through.
A quick shopping trip (booze cruise) on the way home and and then we could head off for some pre-game hydration.
Day 1- bonnet de douche scenery but someone turned on the wave machine
We are doing triangle sausage courses of around 45 mins, the beat is long is enough for you just not to be able to see where it is. So was little hit and hope for the first race, but considering the level of some the sailors that was there we felt comfortable that there was going to be plenty of people to follow.
Feeling confident we have done the light and shifty days 100’s of times at Elton. We set off for our start line routine, sail on port….. get the compass numbers, sail on starboard….. get the compass number, set the toe straps, set the controls. Re-do all of the above after the customary general recall.
The Solo class loves a general recall, its part of the tradition! First attempt of every race, every sailor must try to cheat the OD and cross the line 10 seconds too early. It’s a little game we like to play but never discussed. Not a single OD has every fallen for it, so we pretty much do every start under black flag. Results were ‘ok’ for us all even after someone put 50p in the wave machine. All the hours of sailing in light and shifty conditions out the window…
Now as the dedicated professional athletes that we are we engaged the services of a skilled team of ground crew (6 in total) two each to be on the safe side. Unfortunately, this seemed to have a detrimental effect on the levels of alcohol consumed and with a 9am launch time the next morning, it seemed that we had once again killed Steve ‘Kenny’ Restall.
Day 2- it looks promising for Bastille Day but it goes bit croque monsieur
We started in pretty good wind, we did our routine and just to make sure the OD was watching we decided to do two practice starts under general recall and a few black flags, would be needed.
Our starting seemed to improve anyway, probably from all the practice we had under general recalls. One thing we did learn is the Dutch don’t give an inch on a start line or on port and starboard crossing.
One race in planing conditions and fulling hiking beats but huge wind shifts made for an interesting first race. Three solid results and on eager to get on.
The wind didn’t stay long thought, dropping to 4-5 knots by the afternoon and getting very patchy. Big differences in wind pressure, on both sides of the course, meant you could lose places and gain places easily. Adam wanted to test his theory about how many places you can lose up a single beat in patchy conditions. It turns out 13 is the answer (3rd to 16th)
Having sailed in 20+ degrees and three long races we knew hydration and re-fuelling would be important, but felt confident we had the best ground team in the business to get us recovered. We were advised that sleep was also an important part of recovery, so luckily a 20 minute firework displace, 100 yards from our room, starting at 11pm was just what we needed. I think we weren’t the only one who wished that they stormed Bastille in quieter more orderly fashion.
Day 3- Creme de la menthe conditions Carnac has to offer.
We used our pre race routine time to drink coffee and get the ringing of fireworks out of our heads.
Today we had enough wind to fully hike upwind and a sea state that was more waves than chop. As the temperature increase the wind decreased and we ended up back ashore for few hours to sunbathe in near 30 degs. After our short break, we launched back out in 10knots and the wind had swung under Quierbon, so much flatter. The course made the racing very tight and close, the only thing busier than the mark rounding’s was our ground crews bar man!
Day 4- Finally the fromage frais
Waiting to go sailing is my least favourite thing to do but in Carnac and 30 degrees, it ain’t that bad! After 2-3 hours of waiting for wind we finally got to go sailing in the best conditions of the week.
Throwing caution to the wind and after picking the brain of Charlie Cumbley for an hour, we seemed to master this lumpy water and we all scored a decent result. Including a top 10 finish!
Then it’s all over! Packing up always seems a effort but luckily our ground crew where on hand with beers and a helping hand. When you look down the results you can see how tricky the conditions were and it really is challenge to get consistent results in for every race. Even more so when we don’t sail in waves, that’s a skill on it own and one I would encourage every to do at some point. THE BEST PART OF SAILING!
We managed to return to England with only one minor navigation issues on the morning of the ferry back left us clock watching but we made it! Ready for the nationals in couple of weeks time.
Weymouth and Carnac could not have been more opposite stories….. My Weymouth report short summary- ouch! every part of my body hurts
They say change is as good as a rest- well Weymouth was no rest but great fun. Weymouth was just windy we raced in 25 knots gusting 30, but lost a day and half of racing when it reached 45 knots gusting 60. When you are fully hiked out and can’t keep the boat flat when your pretty much lying to….it’s windy.
Day 1- Stubborn or stupid? I’m sticking to my plan….always go LEFT there is always a gap! Except for the times you should go right…then go RIGHT
Knowing that today was the most sailable day, we decided the best tactic was not to give the rest of the fleet our usual slow start performance to a regatta. We set off to do our routine and keeping up with tradition…more general recalls, more black flags. I sometimes wonder if our watches are right and it’s the OD’s watch that’s wrong…we all seem to cross the line together in some shape.
We all managed some decent results, although losing a few places on the last run to the finish slightly made me want throw a ‘small’ tantrum, until the camera camera boat pointed straight at me……just smile Adam, don’t throw anything!
It seemed boat speed was not a problem, so errors can only be accounted for by the ‘muppet at the back’. Adam somehow pulled what can only been described as a “flash in the pan” moment rounding the windward mark 2nd and 1st in races 2 and 3. He managed to hold in the 2nd race but got out sailed to drop down to 8th in the 3rd race.
Day 2- When the van’s a rocking don’t comma…….sailing in Weymouth bay.
Having been rocked to sleep continuously through the night and the wind whistling loud enough to drown out my live Queen concert. I thought best wear two pairs of pants for today’s sailing, plus an extra pair for each gybe.
The committee boat though it would be funny to put the start right at the harbour entrance which meant a run in 30 knots and waves……now I enjoy sailing in wind but that run will be the memory between ‘you’re an idiot!’ and ‘is it late too become religious?”. Another race and another general recall and then we where away (Adam narrowing avoid a black flag, think the race committee felt sorry lack of his lack of leverage) I can’t remember much of the race it was a blur of survival- the memory must of regressed an fun I may or may not have had, through the feeling of leg pain and rope burn with every 35 knot gust that hit. Someone dialled up the wave machine to bigger just to add a little something extra.
Having been pushing black flags and having two 720’s to do, the result seemed pretty irrelevant. Only 38 boats finished the race from 70, Adam capsized to windward whilst in the top 10 and finished down the pan and Steve attempted his own ‘Kenny’ moment, when he was blown flat 20 yards from the finish- having witnessed it I can tell you the wind had very little disregard for Steve’s safety and dignity at that moment. His head first, triple summersault and knee tucked pike across the centreboard was impressive but I could only score him a 5 due to the scruffy landing and non pointy toes. Remember Steve….it’s about looking good doing it!
Some ‘OK’ results in the conditions but only one race that counted now. Who was gonna win the race to the bar? A couple of 35 knot beat a couple of miles to the shore would stop us maintaining our outstanding track record in this series. I’m happy to report that we won the first to bar race…Well done us three! We seem to have the right strategy for this one..
Day 3- Recovery is not an option, it’s a discipline!
It hydration day! It was gusting 60 knots and despite my pleas to the race team we were not allow to sail, so we used our time to engulf ourself in the culture of Weymouth.
Key summary of said culture- men dressed as women, women dressed as animals and some ‘interesting ’ facts on coastal erosion- just drive the taxi mate, I prefer my taxi drivers silent!
As you probably gather by now we take the recovery sessions very seriously……seemingly better than any other Solo sailor. Having consumered plenty of water, barley and yeast to boost muscle recovery, when prepared for the next day.
Day 4- Rob’s not watching but life’s too short to FT.
Still having a chance at a top 10 overall mean’t the little legs would need to work for one more day. As you can see, from the pictures, the gybe mark was carnage, the reaches stung the eyeball’s with spray but it was great fun….I think!
The wind built to 30 knots so we only got 2 races in, meaning we didn’t have enough for a second discard. This meant the last race on day 1 (33) and a capsize on the last gybe in race7, which cost 10 places. It wasn’t to be!
Maybe pride got in the way of not ‘FTing” for the last gybe but life’s too short to stay turn.
This maybe my last Solo adventure for a while but would encourage everyone in any class to drop your mast, pack the boat up and get on your travels. Go an enjoy the experiences and funny moments they throw up. It will make you a better sailor and you will meet new friends.
We had to good results across the 3 boats and funny moments which I will dine on for year’s to come. These events are always interesting, we don’t take them too serious but we try and get the best results we can and see where that puts us at the end of the week. Win or Lose enjoy the booze!