Moving into week 3, it was clear two things were playing on everyone’s minds at the Artemis Offshore Academy. The final fitness test of the training camp, and the Race to Poole.
We had completed a fitness test 3 weeks prior at the start of the camp, so now it was time to show our improvement from the intense time in the gym we have had.
Everyone was speculating on their scores for each of the five tests which consisted of “plank”, push-ups, single leg squats, incline rows and finally the dreaded 4-minute row. The 4-minute row is my both my favourite and worst test. I am quite good at it because of my height. But I will spend weeks before, worrying about whether I can beat my previous score. This week was no different and every time someone mentioned the upcoming test I hated it.
Come the morning of the test I was still a little sore from yesterday’s final gym session, a bad start. I ate very little of my porridge as I know the high probability that I would see it again straight after the test. We arrived at the gym and completed the four initial shorter tests. Everyone did very well and beat most of their previous scores. I managed to beat all of mine except the push-ups, which I was one short on (I’ve put that down to sore muscles).
Then it was time for the 4–minute row…The test is measured in electrical watts displayed on a screen in front of you, telling you you’re current and average watts. I decided I wouldn’t look at the screen at all during the test and instead just row as hard as I could. The test was going well for the first three minutes; I had found a pace I could only just about keep up and everyone was shouting support.
Going into the final 30 seconds I heard Hugh shout “you’re on 399 Watts!” 400 Watts has been a target I have had for a long time and when I looked at the screen to confirm that Hugh was correct, I knew I would be gutted to miss it by 1. I rowed as hard as I could, now driven by the number on the screen. In the end it came down to the final five seconds when the average number just flicked from 399 to 400 at which point I collapsed.
I was really happy with these results as it was much more than I had achieved before and didn’t expect it at all.
Out on the water, Saturday saw the start of a double-handed race between two Figaros from Cowes to Southampton. I was paired up with Mary racing against Hugh and Hammy. The forecast was 15-20 knots from the south-west, which resulted in a steep and choppy sea, regularly chucking water over the deck.
A two-boat fleet means the key to winning the race is to cover your opponent, even if you are sailing in the wrong direction. We weaved around each other as we waited for the start gun to try and get the controlling position. Short-handed yachts are not easy to do this in and both boats ended up too close to the line just before the start. We both had to turn around and sail the wrong way as the starting gun went…not a good moment for any of us. But, thankfully we were the controlling boat when we turned back around on our proper course.
We raced out through the western Solent, never more than a few boat lengths apart. If Hugh and Hammy changed course to try to get round us we did the same. We always had to have one person keeping an eye on them while the other sailed the boat.
As we approached the Needles we could see the waves breaking on the shallow shingle bank to our right, blocking our direct route to Poole. Both crews decided to go left of the bank to stay in the better tide that was pushing us forward at four knots. Unfortunately it was also aggravating the sea state and, even in the deeper water where we could cross the bank, there were huge breakers.
Mary and I were both nervous as we crossed the line of breakers as the depth dropped down to within 1m of the bottom of the boat. It would be terrible to run aground on our first race with the Academy. After a minute or two of being thrown around uncontrollably we broke through the other side of the bank and breathed a sigh of relief.
It appeared we had pushed it a bit harder than Hammy and Hugh who were now 0.4 of a mile behind us. It was now a reach across the wind all the way to the finish in Poole and we maintained our lead.
The race marked the finish of the three-week camp and I have gone home for a few days to catch up with family. Something I haven’t done since finishing my exams in June. I’ll be returning to Cowes on the 1st November to get stuck into some on-the-water training and take my boat across to France for some love and affection.