The past week included 2 days on the water training with Sam Matson, an academy Alumni. The focus was to practice sail changes when turning marks of the course, a difficult manoeuvre when sailing solo. There are many more tasks to do than time available so a compromise needs to be made. What tasks are the most important and should be done first?

We sailed around a short racecourse to practice this in a cold Northerly 20 knots. I wore my full winter gear to begin with. After the third one I felt like I had run a marathon, it was unbelievably exhausting! Although it was our day off from the gym I felt like I had an even harder and longer workout. I was completely overdressed and had to take off all my base layers before getting started with the next mark rounding. We tried a different ways to make it easier each time, occasionally completely getting it wrong and stopping the boat altogether.

I had only one close encounter with the metal channel marker we were rounding. While trying to ease the sails I wasn’t quite looking where I was going and ended up steering straight towards the mark. Hugh who was sat at the back of the boat filming thankfully spotted this and shouted as me at the last second to avoid. The manoeuvre still went well, but Hugh won’t usually be on the boat to tell me when I am going to smash the boat up! A link to the encounter here: Near Miss!

After the 2 days sailing and 20th loop of the course, things were looking much slicker and we had worked out an order of importance for turning round a mark. It was good to hear from Sam an experienced Figaro sailor exactly how he manages to get everything done while not crashing into 30 other Figaro’s during a race. Even he was exhausted from the 2 days coaching!

We also learnt about abandoning ship during our Sea survival course this week. A routine I hope I never have to practise. We had a session in the pool with an 8 man life raft and full sailing gear to make it more realistic. I was given a commercial lifejacket twice the size of a normal one to see the difference between the two. We practised swimming about, getting into the life raft and staying together. All of these I found much more difficult due to my huge lifejacket, I could hardly swim in a calm, flat and warm swimming pool. Even more worrying was it took me a few attempts to even climb the ladder to get into the life raft. In a storm at sea it would seem near impossible. Its good to practise this routine as although its unlikely to be used, you want to be prepared as possible should it happen. I am glad we carry the normal sized lifejackets on our Figaro and it was clear to see bigger isn’t always better…

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We have one more week at our training camp in Southampton. The gym sessions continue to be intense as ever and we are all desperate to get into the sailing now. Learning so much about sailing from a classroom just makes us want to go out there and put it into practice…. everything apart from the ‘abandoning ship’ part.