1000 Miles

Yagiza Race Team
Laurent Courbin/Philippe Falle
Thu 12 Jan 2023 20:04
This is my first blog in many years!  For one reason or another I have lacked the inspiration to put pen to paper and write, despite much active encouragement from many loyal supporters.  So please forgive me if my grammar and structure of content is not up to scratch! 
This is now my Transat number 11, the last being aboard Hugo Boss with Alex Thompson, a voyage that took little more than 5 days!  We are now approaching day 5 and are only just a third of the way across the pond.  On that crossing we broke the 24 hour world record setting a benchmark of 542 mile, so far our best daily run is about 250!  Last night there was much excitement as the speedometer touched just over 21 knots with the smallest kite (spi or spinnaker) and a reduced size mainsail (1 reef), on Hugo when the dial maxed out at 37.8 knots it was met with no more than a satisfied smile.
When I finished that crazy crossing I was confronted with many mixed emotions, it had to be (in some ways) the highlight of my sailing career. It was intense, epic, tough, scary and daunting.  There are many more adjectives I could use to describe my emotions through that crossing and after but I will leave you with the answer to all the questions I asked of myself.  It was 4 years ago and I have not sailed in the Atlantic since and certainly have not attempted to race cross it!  I made a decision that it was to be my last and I duly left the Hugo Boss project.
In the years that passed I met Laurent, a delightful and charming Parisian, who by chance had just committed to buying a Beneteau First 53, a boat that was still in the shipyard being built and without even a name.  Fast forward 18 months and after the Middle Sea Race in 2021 Laurent’s enthusiasm for his new found sport of offshore racing was so fired up he asked if we could race across the Atlantic the following year.  I had to think about the question for no more than 10 seconds before answering, with a delighted smile on my face, “yes of course.”
Such was my enthusiasm for the this project that with one questions from Laurent I was dragged out of my self imposed exile from ocean sailing and in particular Transatlantic racing.
Life on bard could not be more different!  Gone is the terrible freeze died food cooked in a jet boil (if anyone could be bothered to cook) and incomes Jo and Amancio, who have been relentlessly preparing us gourmet lunches and dinners cooked with the fresh food from Lanzarote.  When that finishes (today) it is replaced with delicious boil in the bag foods from Le Bon Bag (a French supplier specialising in high quality expedition foods).  The milk is stored in the fridge, the wine in the cave de vin and baby wipes for washing have been sacrificed for fresh water showers!  Down below the sails for sleeping on whilst traveling at break neck speeds have been replaced by high quality spring mattresses and we even have goose down pillows on board to rest our weary heads.  The in joke is “where is the kettle.....its in the microwave” is no exaggeration.  And yes, it is an electric kettle and you wont therefore be surprised to hear that we have an espresso machine on board too!  Just in case you believe this is all luxury then don't be fooled – despite the comfortable beds and fresh water showers we still sleep on the sails when the distribution of weight requirement dictates and we are travelling much too fast for the air conditioning to function.
However, here the dissimilarities end! Don't be fooled, we are not on a cruise.  Yagiza has been meticulously race prepared by a dedicated team over the past 12 months.  The new rudders were even built by double Vendee Globe winner and French legend – Michel Desjoyeuax.  Every aspect possible has been improved with one goal in mind – performance gains whilst not sacrificing the beautiful design and aesthetics of our stunning boat.  Yagiza is sailed by a mix of talented pros and high aspirational amateurs who all give it everything and strive for success. Our team is quite unique and special, there is a camaraderie developed over the last year with the Transatlantic and Caribbean racing being the primary focus.  On our journey we have won the Voile de Saint Tropex and are now placed well as we pass the third of the way mark.
A big cheer has just gone up as we pass the 1000 mile mark, not a bad achievement in just 4 days! The smallest kite has been flying for over a day now, with a reef in the main sail and the trimming is relentless as we try and keep Yagiza tracking in the right direction at a rapid pace.With a 3 metre swell and winds gusting 27 knots the concentration levels are at a maximum and the physicality is somewhat tiring.  All this is with big smiles and a continual banter as sheer pleasure grips everyone on board.
For team Yagiza, we are relishing every moment and giving it our all.  I am in awe of every member of the team as everyone strives for the best.  Laurent, the owner was seen yesterday at the end of the bow sprit whilst flying along at over 15 knots, I don't recall ever seeing an owner on the foredeck, let alone at the end of the bow sprit before.  Whatever the experience of any one member of the crew we are a united team, learning form each other and sailing our hearts out as we eat up the miles.
For me, the intensity is not too different to my previous crossing, but we are not on the edge of self destruction every second of the day.  Am I happy with my decision to move way from ocean exile – absolutely 100%.  The allure of the oceans and being a part of such a team never diminishes.  The magic never really fades, it just hides for a while.  Will this be my last one?  I very much doubt it – Laurent, Yagiza and this team have inspired me – my passion is back and it feels special!
26 38N 29 32W