Solo Concarneau – Fantastic and Difficult

by Hugh Brayshaw|

Solo Concarneau – Fantastic and Difficult

I’m back to writing things down again after a whirlwind of various other social mediaing. Now there has been some racing it is about time I explain what happened in them. The 2nd race of the season, and my 2nd Solo Concarneau, on reflection was a wonderful race for me. I am slowly getting towards the finishing results I would like and coming away from races much happier. The sunny weather may have made a difference I suppose.

The forecast was for no clouds and lots of sun, but also very little wind. A challenging prospect tactically for the fleet of 37 as we looked at navigating the 270 mile course as fast as possible. The start line was tightly packed with veterans of the class including two returning Vendée Globe skippers. I was determined to attain a good fast start which was going to plan until I got caught up with 2015 Champion of France Xavier Macaire. In my attempt to prevent him from stealing my space I ended up losing all my boat speed which was a slow death in the slight wind. The first 7 hours where intense as I raced in the tightly packed fleet, tacking up wind through the rocks of the French coast and into the first night.

start line
A tricky and unsuccessful start 

The fleet made the assault through the Raz de Sein at around 10pm. A small gap between the main land and a group of rocks where the tide compounds and whips the water into a frenzy. Fortunately, the tide was in our favour, but my boat was still thrown around, lifted then aggressively dropped off each wave, I vividly remember gripping the boat tightly till the maelstrom passed. 20 miles of straight line racing passed till we gybed around the most northern mark and hoisted our kites. A manoeuvre I executed well which allowed me to pass another boat in the dark at 1:30am. I wish I could take a worthy picture of the starry evenings because being out at sea underneath a cloudless sky is an image that would help in explaining my love for offshore racing.

night time
Sailing through the night

The kite came down at 3:30am and we began the 85 mile slog south east to the next mark siting in 26thposition. During this time, I was expecting some significant changes in the wind that I hoped I would make an advantage of. To be honest I never gave myself a clear plan and was working off about 90 minutes sleep by mid-morning. Needless to say I had conflicting ideas in my head. As I suspected the wind died away and returned from it’s new direction, rewarding some and heavily punishing others. Although I felt hard done by, at 9:30pm I finally rounded the mark in 24th having passed 2 boats.

Looking for the wind

There was still to be 12 hours of racing ahead of me however the passing opportunities had exhausted themselves. I pushed myself through the night to advance on the next boats and tried to find a way around them, I gained and lost in equal measure finishing in my 24th place. After 2 days and 270 miles of racing I finished just 57 minutes after first place, the fleet was so compact and competitive you really had to fight through every mile.

Team picture with our prizes

The first two races are now completed and I have a month or so before I tackle the main event, the Solitaire. Getting this far has been a huge effort, and it is down to a lot of help from others that I’ve got here, thanks to all of you. It’s important to enjoy the little victories, I received a prize for first amateur, as technically I am not a fully paid professional sailor, which did make me feel good inside.

I will be writing up the excitement of the Solo Normandie race that occurred in March but for now thank you for reading.


Prize giving

For more from Hugh follow here