Demi Cle Race

April 17, 2012 posted by admin

April 17, 2012

Race day was shaping up to be a warm sunny day.  Everyone was down to the boats nice and early, which was good as we were scheduled to be towed out at 0830 for a 1000 start.  No engines here in France!

The forecast was for light winds at the start then building to 20+ knots overnight.  As the race was only 150 miles long, that meant finishing on Sunday anywhere from early morning to late in the afternoon.  The course was set to start off of Locmiquelic with a very quick up wind leg to get us off and then turned to go around the Ile de Groix once and then North West  up the coast to a turning mark then south east around the outside of Ile de Groix and in to Pornichet.  There were lots of rocks along the way, steep tides with the potential for big current and lots of options of different islands to choose which sides to go around, along with their outlying rocks.  Our prime objective was to finish and go fast along the way.  Keep in mind…the boat has been out of its container just a week at this point.  It has been a long week of putting her back together again.  We were excited to get going!

The start saw us off in light 5-8 knot winds.  There were 50 minis on the line and nobody was worried about being aggressive on the start as this was the first race of the season on the Atlantic side. Off we went in light, shifty stuff just like back home….but also some current.  We got to the weather mark and then made a left turn toward Ile deGroix.  As we got to the island it was clear that local knowledge was a key factor.  Some of the boats passed so close to the island that we thought they might put a fender out to make sure they didn’t rub along the rock face!  We played it a little safer and left about 100 feet between us and the rock face.  We were in 15th place at that point and five boats slipped inside us!  Hmmmmm……local knowledge…… always key!

Next we finished our lap around the island and turned North.  The wind started to fill in and as is typical in the Bay of Biscay, there were scattered showers on and off all day.  Going into the night the wind started to settle in from the North East and the temperature plummeted to 3 degrees.  How do you stay warm on a fiberglass shell in 3 degrees with wind and waves pounding on you?  Hmmmm.  I still don’t know…..  We had thermals, base layers, mid layers, fleece layers (at least two) and then top layers….and we were still cold.  Throughout the early part of the night we switched back and forth from the Code 0 to the deeper lighter spinnaker, but by night fall the conditions really called for the Code 0 again and we had it up and flying.  We were working our way along nicely with that fantastic code 0 driving away, when all of a sudden there was a big bang on deck and a whole bunch of flogging!  There was our nice little power house of a sail bashing around beside the leeward side of the hull!  Upon inspection we found that the bowsprit had somehow spun around to leeward.  We tried to grind it back out but it just wouldn’t go.  In the dark, flashlight pinned between my teeth, frozen finger tips and a sail flogging around like a cat on a hot tin roof, I peered into the darkness to suss out the situation! Upon deep inspection with that fantastic flashlight we found that the cover on our old bowsprit’s pole guys had been eaten away by the clutch it ran through.  The core was holding its strength, but the core won’t hold in a clutch.  So the whole cover gave way and slinky’d up.  In the meantime, the code 0 was crashing and bashing around and all the lines got thoroughly tangled.  Taking that thing down was difficult.  We had to bear off and go deep down wind.  Down wind was a pile of cardinal marks defining a mass of rocks to be avoided less than a couple miles away!  Once we wrestled the code 0 down we had to put the pole guy back together.  Carefully working the cover back to where it split and painstakingly stitching the cover back in place, we were good to go.  The stitching wouldn’t hold forever, but at least we had the pole guy available to use again.  Meanwhile, the code 0 was in a massive heap shoved in the boat.  The code 0 is supposed to be rolled up in a nicely furled tidy little package.  Ours was this massive pile of soggy wet and salty sail cloth, completely filling the v-berth of the boat, with furling lines running back and forth in a massive heap of disarray.  Nice.  Our best hope was to hoist it during the daylight and then furl in place.  So for the rest of the night we were sailing along with a full genoa instead of a code 0.  This was not fast.

We made it to the most northern turning mark, got around and started to head downwind as fast as we could go with our Genoa up.  As the sun started to come up we were approaching Belle Isle to the West and Houat to the East.  This was the last tactical navigation opportunity of the event.  You could choose the “inside track” around the North side of Houat, or the “outside track” along the South side.  The inside track had a very narrow channel that lead into a bay with shallows, hazards and a most specific significant rock that was mentioned in the skipper’s briefing.  This rock of course is uncharted!  If everyone knows about it then why isn’t it on the chart?  The inside track had great potential for wind with more sheltered wave action, funneling current and faster speeds with less up wind work.  Let’s talk about that rock again shall we?  Where was it?  Hmmmm.  We chose the outside track with greater wind, bigger waves and deeper water.  Deeper water would be the key here.  By now the wind was pocking anywhere from 22 knots to 25 knots.  As we plodded our way along, the waves were nicely slamming into us slowing us down each time we hit them.  We made the turn East to Pornichet and the slamming continued.  The last moment of opportunity for local knowledge now fell into place.  As we approached a shelf with a clearly marked North cardinal mark, we decided to take “the high road” and go hi and outside.  This was an area where we could easily run aground depending on what the tide was doing and if you knew where to plug your way through.  The two boats behind us cleanly snuck their way across the North side of the lighthouse and inside the North cardinal mark.  We safely tacked our way around the North cardinal mark keeping lots of water between the keel and certain death.  Unfortunately that let two more boats in.  Bottom line…we finished the race safe and sound.  So let’s review.  What was the goal of the race?  Finish, gaining the qualifying miles and going fast.  Well, we finished achieving our primary goal, and we had moments where we were fast.  In that first trip around the island we had glorious moments where we were beside some very fast prototypes.  What else did we get out of this race?  An AMAZING amount of knowledge.  We saw some fantastic ways of setting up running rigging systems onboard, got to really see what racing is like in the Bay of Biscay for those who  grew up teething on it like these folks did, and we got to see a whole new level of competition.  A new bar has been set and new targets are in sight!  On to the next race!

2 Responses to “Demi Cle Race”

  1. Jane Ansara Says:

    Great story Diane. Congrats on a good race completed.

  2. John Globemasterone Says:

    I think you and Nick are “locals” now….SO WHERE IS THAT ROCK ? Well done…wonderful detailed story Diane. “Boat in a box”….now there’s a marketing concept. Carry on…..

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