AFLOAT: Mason's joy after first solo effort

Dorset Echo: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: Richard Mason relaxing after the challenge MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: Richard Mason relaxing after the challenge

HAVING enjoyed every second of it, I am happy and relieved to have finished my first solo offshore race in one piece.

Being my first attempt, I was really unsure as to how it was going to go.

The amount of things you have to manage is truly monumental, there wasn’t one second during the 43 hours we were racing that I wasn’t doing something, be it boat speed, sails, navigation, tactics, other boats, sleep, eat, breakage, unmarked fish farms and unpredicted tide turns.

Solo sailing is a constant bombardment of information and endless decision-making.

“What makes it even harder is that the results of these decisions might not pay off until hours later (ie when to rest) and may mean a short-term loss in the first instance.

Trying to make the right decisions means you are physically and mentally drained at the finish.

After crossing the finish line, I had no idea what time it was. What I did know was that it was about an hour and a half after low tide, whenever that was.

The Solo Maître Coq itself was a complex combination of very subtle high-pressure weather systems, island roundings and tidal considerations.

Without doubt, the best bit of the race for me was the first very light spinnaker run down to Ile de Yeu, which was actually quite similar to the dinghy sailing that I am so used to.

I had never lined up with more than 10 Figaro before (there were 38 in the fleet) and I had no experience at all in the very light conditions that we had on this leg.

So to sail through the fleet and into the top 10 by the second mark, I was thrilled.

This gave me a confidence boost, knowing that the decisions I was making were the smart ones and meant that I could trust myself through the whole race.

The most difficult part of the race for me came just a few hours after the best.

At 2am, around the leeward side of Ile de Yeu, I was completely becalmed and could do nothing but watch as boats sailed past me.

With 0.00 knots of boat speed I was powerless to do anything about my predicament, I had to sit tight and be patient.

I used the time to plan my attack on the fleet, I knew I was going to be spat out somewhere near the back but, buoyed by the thought of my previous downwind leg, I was sure I could make substantial time back again.

The rest of the race seemed to go very quickly, as I was so pre-occupied with everything I had to do.

This race was a mere 200 odd miles (shortened from 320 because of the lack of wind).

My next race is the Solo Concarneau Trophée Guy Cotton, which starts on May 1.

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