160 Miles To Ile D’Yeu And Back

March 23, 2013 posted by admin

March 23, 2013
What an excellent 160 mile training run.  We were 9 mini sailors all solo on our boats, doing what was probably going to be the last distance training run before the first big race of the season.  Our route would take us from Lorient out to Ile D’Yeu and back again.  The weather window was shaping up to be a fantastic test.  From the start we would be off the wind by about 135 degrees and in a balmy 12 – 15 knots.  The forecast predicted that the wind would get significantly lighter and move forward, giving us a prime opportunity to do lots of sail changes and really work through the different wind ranges on our sails.  My gennaker is totally shot, so it’s always a bit of a guessing game when to put it in play, depending on the wind conditions and angles.  Slowly but surely I’m mapping it out, though.  Rounding Ile D’Yeu, the weather was set to build.  It would hold steady out of 150 degrees but it would start to increase in velocity…hitting 30 knots!  Dry suits were the attire for this event, along with lifejackets, whistles, tethers and flashlights.

A quick group meeting under the crane and we were off!  It was a sea of beautiful kites all blasting off to the east!  Pink, red, blue and green!  Almost every colour under the sun!  Shortly after, the first radio call came in.  “I’m having trouble with my pilot”, came from one boat.  Then we were 8.  My big beautiful blue kite was up and charging along nicely with the others.  Slowly the wind started to shift forward as we made our way past Belle Ile.  Next up came my sad blown out gennaker.  But, it went up just fine and did it’s job.  As predicted, the wind started to ease up to a mere 6 knots….and move forward, while the sun went down.  The wind should have built back up before we got to Ile D’Yeu and would have made for a tricky passage through the narrow depth gap between the island and the main land.  Technically there was lots of space, just not lots of space with enough depth.  As it was we were going through in the dark, while the water was only twenty five to thirty feet deep.  In this rocky country, that always makes me nervous!  Fortunately the wind didn’t build in until after we got around the island, so really, the only tricky navigating was all of the fishing boats!

Now we were on the leg home.  The night navigation was finished and it was going to be a fantastic kite ride for the first part of the leg back….or so I had hoped!  My next effort was to get my small spinnaker up.  Although we were right down wind, the wind was building to 20 knots.  I set the spinnaker up, bent the sheets on, flung the pole out and hoisted.  We’re UP!  And the boat speed started to climb.  Next job was to trim the sails and keep the boat balanced.  WOOSH!  A gust came in and slammed us on our side before I had a chance to even drop the jib!  This of course was then followed up with an accidental gybe as the boat got back on her feet.  Unfortunately, the pole had been cranked over to “the original” weather side and now as it dragged through the water on the wrong side, it completely rotated into the side of the boat while I was trying to get back through to the original gybe.  Now picture this….all of the spinnaker is hanging at the side of the boat.  The boat swings through the wind again and the kite fills….but….it fills by flying BETWEEN the forestay and the mast.  NOT ideal to say the least!  Of course this is all fixable, but now we have a new added feature .  The kite is now pointed directly at this very large cardinal mark.

For anyone not familiar with a cardinal mark, it’s whole purpose in life is to warn you of a dangerous area.  It’s yellow and black. The yellow signifies the caution, and the black signifies to which side of the caution the mark is located.  This is the mark that I was now heading towards at a very hi rate of speed.  Now don’t panic, everything turned out fine, but it’s important to appreciate the urgency to which I needed to rectify the situation!  So, first priority was to get that kite down.  While all of this had been going on, the autopilot had been knocked off of its little pin.  I reset the pilot and with a bit of luck, I managed to get the boat to turn down wind.  With the main covering the spinnaker and collapsing it a little, the boat gybed back through and we turned away from the fast approaching mark.  Luckily enough, the spinnaker also swung back through the rig!  After bashing and crashing around for at least twenty minutes, the ordeal was over.  Even with all of the sheets in a total mess, I was able to pull the kite into the boat and recover.  By now the sun was well up behind a thick set of clouds and so was the wind speed.  Thirty knots!  This was definitely not spinnaker flying weather for me.  I put two reefs in the main to settle the pilot, got a reef in the jib and proceeded to clean up the mess.  There was a ton of water in the boat from the spinnaker, and lines snaking their way through anything possible.  By the time I got the whole mess cleaned up, the wind was constantly at thirty knots and I was ready for a nap!  The rest of the run back was gentle and tame in all of that wind.  This wasn’t a race, and I wasn’t going to try putting the kite up in thirty knots again, without some more training first on hi wind kite flying!

The last “event” of our training run was some concern for my VHF radio buddy.  I could hear one boat chatting with her, but I couldn’t hear her.  Throughout the whole event, everyone stayed in constant radio communication for safety.  People compared sail configurations, boat speeds and pilot settings.  But now I could hear one boat consoling my radio buddy?  What had happened?  Why couldn’t I hear her or raise her on the radio?  Well it turned out that something had gone very wrong with her new boat batteries and she was now sailing in total black out with a handheld VHF only giving her a range of about 2 miles.  She had zero power and zero navigation instruments or pilot or anything!  So, after receiving a call for help, a very good friend of hers turned his boat around and sailed back upwind (in thirty knots) to find her and guide her in.  This is why training runs are so awesome!  They put you and your boat to the test in real situations, but also take the pressure of a race off of you, so that you can deal with situations as they come up, with a little more caution.

Other than our fantastic little wipeout and a few little details to be knocked off of the jobs list, we’re ready for our first race!  OH, this is what I looked like after 160 miles…in a dry suit.  I had been wearing my lifejacket for so long that I couldn’t even tell anymore that I had it on.  While I was walking down the dock, Katrina asked me if I was going to wear it all the way back to the yard and then promptly took my picture!


5 Responses to “160 Miles To Ile D’Yeu And Back”

  1. Karen Brown Says:

    Wow! Amazing sail! Thanks for the great updates.

  2. Michelle Says:

    Hey Diane, Thanks for the vicarious trip. I could feel the wind gusting and the icky sticky of salt spray in my hair.Get a good night’s sleep and we’ll follow you again next time.

  3. Carol Says:

    Wow, what a great adventure. Thanx for the post. Loved it.

  4. cinthia Says:

    Amazing you rock! Go Diane go!

  5. Elizabeth Reid Says:

    Fantastic!! Keep it up girl :>)

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