Saturday 20 January 2018

Damian Foxall blog: Home to see the family ahead of busy schedule

Damian Foxall's team in competition earlier this year
Damian Foxall's team in competition earlier this year

Damian Foxall

So that’s that then.

Second place for Oman Air Musandam in the Routes des Princes race around Europe.  If you’d offered that to us six months ago we would have been pleased with such a result.

But after winning two of the four stages and narrowly losing a third, we know we could have achieved so much more.

It’s really a measure of just how competitive these new boats are and how little margin for error there is, in every sense.  From Spindrift capsizing off Dun Laoghaire to seconds separating finishing-line places after 1,000 miles, attention to detail is critical.

Seb Josse and the guys on Gitana are deserving winners.  They out-performed everyone on the inshore races in Valencia, Lisbon and Plymouth and their results improved steadily in the offshore stages.

We learned from them – too late – that their set-up of the mainsail, the powerhouse of these 70-footers made an enormous difference.

It might not be immediately obvious to the naked eye, but how the sail is shaped and twisted in the various conditions affects the speed of the boat and the result can be seen over the course of a stage in the race or when the boats are pacing each other.

Of course, we had our rig tuned up as well but they obviously had much deeper insight and that was a crucial edge for the outcome of the race.

It’s something that our skipper Sidney Gavignet and I will be working hard on over the next few months as the pair of us prepare for the two-handed Jacques Vabre transatlantic race from Le Harve to Itajai in Brazil.

Having our rig tuned up fully would have made a big difference in our result for leg two into Dun Laoghaire that we led until the breeze went light in sight of the finishing-line.  We scored third for that leg; a win would have placed us level with Gitana by the end of the series.

And the four points we lost in the protest room over a pre-start incident in Lisbon cost us dearly in the end but “that’s yacht racing” as the saying goes and even the outcome doesn’t take away from what was overall a fantastic race from Valencia to Morlaix.

Musandam is due to be hauled out of the water and undergo a refit to re-configure her for two-handed racing so that Sidney and I can begin training for the Transat.

We have a qualification passage of 1,500 miles to complete in order to participate.

We also have some unfinished business in Ireland after two failed attempts; the 20 year old circumnavigation record still stands even through we sailed up as far as Wales in March to have a go and were also due to go around as part of the Routes des Princes.

In the first attempt, there was simply far too much wind for safety; in the second, there was too little.

At least in the Autmn, we’ll be able to judge the timing a little more reliably and we can leave from the team base in Lorient and be in Dublin Bay at fairly short notice.  The passage to and from Dun Laoghaire plus the round Ireland course gives us the required distance and Sidney is hooked on the prospect as a “must-do”.

This is exactly the type of reputation that will draw major international teams and events to Ireland as once they visit, they are instantly hooked.

The MOD 70-footer is easily capable of breaking the record, even sailing two-handed so there’s also a prospect of creating and breaking records on the trip.

But first, there is the more pressing matter of a family sailing holiday back in Canada.  I haven’t seen Suzy-Ann and the kids in over six weeks so most of July will be a mix of family-time and some work preparing for a busy late-Summer schedule.

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