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Kit Guide

7 Days In The Sun…

By 30th September 2020
I had only been back home from Mexico for 5 days before I beated a hasty retreat to a slightly warmer climate than the UK. I spent last week training from Ile des Embiez, an island just off the south coast of France, where there is a training base run by Sail Coach. I was training with Annalise Murphy (IRL), Nathalie Brugger (SUI) and Manon Luther (SUI). We trained for 4 days from the island base, working on boat speed and handling and each day teamed up with the Irish Youth squad and the Sail Coach Team sailors to do some short course racing. We had one day of breeze, with big waves and the added element of a cross swell which helped to keep things interesting (it was all too easy to end up going very fast to one side of the downwind and then have a very slow angle back to the leeward mark). The rest of the days of training were in light winds but the swell from the first day stayed in and this made it very tricky to keep the boat on a consistent heel on the upwinds. On one tack it was hitting the boat side on meaning that the boat wanted to tip over to windward, causing you to slip sideways and loose height and on the other tack it was hitting the boat right up the stern, so if you timed it well you could get surfing upwind. Having the cross swell really did make light wind training much more challenging than normal. There wasn't much to do on the island, there was no TV and the internet in the apartments wasn't working for the majority of the week, so we had to revert to good old conversation and Cosmopolitan magazine!! On the first night I was there I went and sat outside a bar on the island that was closed but had a working internet connection. It was freezing and even though I was well wrapped up I soon decided that I could probably make do without Facebook for a few days! A couple of times during the week I escaped to the mainland with the Swiss girls in their coach boat to go and use the internet in a restaurant where we could sit inside and drink coffee! There was no gym on the Island so we had to go by rib to the mainland and drive to the gym which was about 10 mins away. I did yet another spin class in a foreign language, last time was in Spanish and this time in French. Yet again I had absolutely no idea what I was supposed to be doing! One evening Nathalie and I went to the gym to do a weights session. By the time we had finished it was dark outside which wouldn't have been a problem except for the fact that we had no lights on the rib to get back across to the island and we weren't all that familiar with the harbour. We very cautiously drove back across, taking care not to run over any of the yellow buoys which marked the ferry channel. The next night a big group of us went out for dinner on the mainland. On the way home the coaches decided that they wanted to race the ribs back across to the island. The crossing that Nathalie and I had done so cautiously the night before was done at break neck speed, right off the dock, it was like a scene from a James Bond movie! At the weekend (26/27 Feb) we travelled across to Hyeres where the South French Laser Mediterranean Cup was being held. There were 81 entries in the Radial class and we raced as a single fleet which made for some fantastic big fleet race practise. The sailing instructions were all in French so I didn't really pay any attention to them which in hindsight was an error. I along with many others sailed the wrong course and was subsequently disqualified from the first race! As this was only a training event it didn't matter that much as I still had a good race against Annalise and Nathalie and about 30 other boats who also sailed the wrong course! There was around 10-15 knots of breeze for the first day of racing, so my legs finally got a good workout. The wind was pretty shifty and there were some big differences in pressure across the course. It was important to keep your head out of the boat and concentrate on getting the correct shift and always sailing in the most pressure rather than relying purely on boat speed. The start time for the first race on Sunday was 10am, this meant that we had to be leaving the Island at 7.30am. I had to take all my luggage with me for the day as I was flying home from Toulon Airport, which is handily located about 10mins walk from Hyeres boatpark! The plan was to leave by rib at 7.30am so I set my alarm to get up at 6.45am. The plan to go by rib was foiled by the strong 'Mistral' wind which had come in overnight. At 7am Rory (Annalise's coach) came to our apartment to tell us that we could go by rib but we (and all my luggage) would probably be soaked by the time we got to the mainland or we could catch the ferry. The ferry was due to leave at 7.15am and it was about a 5-10 min walk from our apartment. Still bleary eyed and only half way through my coffee I suddenly realised that what Rory was trying to say was that we need to leave…NOW! I had to run with my suitcase, head on into a gale to catch the ferry...that very quickly woke me up!

This was the view from the ferry as we left the island at 7.15am on the Sunday. The conditions for the second day of racing were even shiftier than the first. We managed to do one race in a reasonable breeze, then just before the start of the second race the wind shifted around 90 degrees and the whole course had to be relayed. We eventually did the final 2 races (after many black flag general recalls) in light onshore winds. Manon won the event, Annalise was third, I was seventh and Nathalie was collecting letters in her score line!! See the full results here. It was yet another week of great training with a top group of sailors and even though it was still cold, I'm sure it was better than training in weymouth! I have now done a really good stint of training, interspersed with some racing which has allowed me to put everything I have worked on recently into practise, so I am now going to take 2 weeks off sailing and hit the gym hard. I will next be racing at Stokes Bay Laser Qualifier. I'm hoping it will be a sunny weekend as I have become a bit of a wimp in the cold from all the warm weather sailing I have done recently. I have been checking out the latest in the Rooster winter clothing range, I've got my eye on the Rooster Hot Hands…if they work as well as the Rooster Hot Socks do I will be one happy little sailor!

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