• Patrick Hutchings

First month of training

When reflecting on my journey so far it is crazy to think almost a month ago we left our birth at the amazing Mayflower Marina on our trip back to Lorient, to join the world-famous Lorient Grand Large training academy. I don’t think I would have believed you if you had told me all the experiences I have had over the last month, but here we are, a month into training with some of the best single-handed sailors in the world racing Figaros around France. A dream come true!

The trip over from the UK started on a Sunday morning, with a great north-westerly sending us downwind to Lorient. Generally, during wintertime, we experience south-westerly winds, which would have meant upwind the whole way to France, typically taking much longer, but we were blessed with the conditions we had and the trip took us just over 24 hours to cover the 200+ nautical mile journey, not bad for a 32ft boat! The wind peaked at over 36 knots, so it was great to see the boat in different conditions than we had seen before, providing a great experience leading up to the solitaire this year. After arriving in Lorient, it was time for a quick wash down and tidy of the boat, before heading to our apartment for some much-needed rest.

Following the speedy delivery and arriving in France on Monday, we started training on Tuesday, with myself and Andy doing the first series together. It's hard to know what to expect when starting something like this, being a rookie in this year's solitaire, and there was definitely a lot of nervous excitement leading into the first day of sailing. Typically, a day at LGL (Lorient Grand Large) consists of a briefing/debrief of the day ahead and the previous day of sailing, then followed by the rest of the day spent out on the water doing anything from racing to speed tests where we try out several different boat setups to see which ones are fastest. We steadily progressed through the week culminating in a win in the final race of the week against the 11 other boats we were sailing against, so super happy to finish the week off like this! After the first week of training, Andy and Alex headed back to the UK, leaving me to carry on training in France, it was so amazing to have them along and it really wouldn’t have been possible without them!

My first experience of sailing the Figaro was with Sam Goodchild, while I was working here in Lorient for Team Malizia in 2019 and we’ve stayed in touch since. Sam offered me some work on his Ocean 50 trimaran, in return for a new jib for my Figaro, a great deal if you ask me! It was also an amazing opportunity to work on a different type of boat and further my experience. This jib was however from the 2020 season which meant that it had to be altered slightly to fit the class rules, so after the second week of training, I headed home to do the adjustments at Andy’s sail loft, Highwater Sails. It was also a really nice opportunity to relax and reflect on the previous weeks of sailing as well as work on new sponsorship ideas.

That bring us up to this week, another week of training with LGL and another opportunity to get out on the water and fine-tune the Figaro to be as fast as possible, I also had the opportunity to sail with Piers Copham, a British sailor who completed the Mini Transat last year, so it was great to learn together and share experiences. This week was our final inshore training before races start in April, however, we still have some offshore training left to complete before we get there. This is what’s on the cards for next week, we are heading out of Lorient on Tuesday for a solo race, which should last around 24 hours. I am super excited to get out solo on the boat, and especially offshore as it's something I haven’t had much experience in the Figaro yet. We are also doing a series of short coastal races, solo, around Quiberon bay.

As well as all of this sailing, we have been spending a lot of time working on our #Sail4Sustainability project and also searching for a title sponsor to accompany us on this journey and make the Solitaire a reality. Without this, we will be unable to continue the charter of the boat and will subsequently not be able to compete in the Solitaire this year. However, we are keeping very positive and hoping we can find a business with shared passions for sustainability and high-level sport to share our story and reach our goal of competing in the Solitaire Du Figaro this year!

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