Greetings from France
I am sitting at the Transat Jacques Vabre race headquarters in Le Havre, France on a rainy Monday, with some of the world's leading solo sailors around me, researching the weather on the internet before the start of the race on Saturday, November 5th. The boats outside in the Paul Vatin Basin are an incredible collection of monohulls and multi-hulls, and the French public is clearly crazy for this sport as thousands of people crowded the docks for a peak at the boats over the weekend. I feel very lucky to be here, as only one short week ago I arrived in Cherbourg after a long flight from Boston to find the boat still in the shed in a hundred pieces. We encountered a significant problem with our canting keel during the delivery of the boat from Boston to Cherbourg, and it took all of three weeks to solve the problem. That set us back quite a bit in our race preparation schedule and we had to really scramble once the keel went back on to get the boat in the water, the rig in the boat, sails on, systems tuned and underway from Cherbourg to Le Havre - all in about 24 hours!
Luckily we had some good weather for a few days as this Normandy region of France is known for high winds and nasty weather at this time of year. We had a good sail up from Cherbourg overnight and arrived in Le Havre just before the reporting deadline of Friday at noon. We then sailed in the Prologue Race on Saturday, which was a quick spin around the buoys in the bay outside of LaHavre. As my co-skipper Josh Hall wrote a story about the race, I won't reiterate all the details, but the bottom line was we were leading the race when we were disqualified for rounding a mark the wrong way. Fortunately our archrival Artforms made the same mistake and fouled out as well, allowing a French boat with a female skipper - Servane Escoffier on Vedettes de Brehat - to win, which was good for her on her home turf. It would have been nice to win the prize of a new Renault car, but I suppose we have a larger goal in mind for the TJV.
We are now down the home stretch in our preparations of Gryphon Solo for the race. Our shore crew of Laurent Meyer and Matthiue Theron are going over every detail of the boat so she can withstand the pounding of a 4,500 mile, three week voyage across the Atlantic. Josh and I went through the safety inspection for the boat last night with the race organizers and have only a few minor items to clear up for full compliance. The butterflies are starting in my stomach as the race start approaches, as I know it will be a very challenging voyage. The fleet that is gathered here is made up of some of the most technologically advanced boats in the world, driven by very experienced skippers. I am definitely running with the big dogs here and I hope I don't get left on the porch, as they say! It promises to be a very exciting event that I hope you all can enjoy vicariously from the warmth of your living rooms as we bash out into the inhospitable North Atlantic this weekend!
Thank you all for tuning in!
Skipper, Open Class 50 - Gryphon Solo