Solitaire du Figaro 2015, Third time's the trick
As per normal, time has disappeared and the 2015 Solitaire du Figaro – Eric Bompard Cachemire is coming up fast. I only arrived in France in February, and since then it’s been non-stop. I finished my last race ahead of the Solitaire last Saturday and I’ll be heading off to Bordeaux this Saturday. I’ve not had much time to sit and chill out on a beach somewhere, but luckily that sort of thing isn’t really for me. This week has been a good prep week for the Solitaire and a chance to get the last little bits organised so that I’m in the best possible position once I arrive in Bordeaux.
It has been a great season so far with three warm up events and a very good training programme at Pôle Finistère, the training centre I am involved with this season. Even though I don’t yet have a title sponsor for this season, things seem to be rolling a lot smoother. No. 19 is a great boat and I have been able to enjoy the events and sailing instead of having to fight fires and always being a bit on the back foot. I’m not saying it has been straightforward, but I am really trying to enjoy the good moments as they happen this season. I find that with the Figaro, both on and off the water you are so focused 100% on the task ahead. You only stop and think once it’s all over, which I don't think is a good thing as you’re missing what is happening in the here and now. So that I have the best experience, I have really tried to make sure I have enjoyed the process leading to the Solitaire, as it requires a huge amount of effort and is not an everyday thing to do.
It is scary how quickly time has passed. Two years ago I was sitting exactly where I am now in Port la Forêt about to sail to Bordeaux for my first Solitaire. I had no idea what was about to happen and I felt a little stressed, nervous and anxious, but I also felt as prepared as I could be for whatever lay ahead. Now, I’d imagine you think that about to start my third Solitaire and with a bit more age and experience I’d be feeling completely different… Nope! I feel pretty much the same. A bit stressed and a bit of nervousness. It is slightly different as I know the Solitaire a bit more now having already raced it twice and I know the process of the event. I am also more experienced at measuring my own limits; I know what’s going to happen when I push myself that bit harder and further. This year I have the best food program I have ever had, so worst case I’m not going hungry!
The start in Bordeaux two years ago holds some of my best memories so far. Sailing into the city with thousands of people lining the river edge cheering, the concerts, the hype - , it is a great place to start a race. One moment that sticks in my head was when a little boy, just 4 or 5 years old, asked for my autograph. I imagine he had no idea who I was, but it was a good feeling to be part of something people are interested in and it was my first autograph, so I will claim that! Having already done A LOT of research two years ago, I also have a good knowledge of the restaurants and cafés the city has to offer. I intend to make the most of our build up week and the French two-hour lunch break!
I love the countdown to a big event and seeing how each competitor handles it. With the top teams with big budgets and Préparateurs, you won’t see the skipper until the start day. For those with less of a budget, you’ll see them heading out to the start line still bolting their boat together. I am still trying to work out what works best for me before a big start. I certainly don’t want to disappear for the week, but I also know that doing all hours of boat work is not good. This year I am planning for a quick visit to the boat each day and the chilling out, which will mainly involve eating and doing a lot of work on the weather we will see for the leg.
The start of the Solitaire du Figaro holds such a great atmosphere and I can’t wait to soak it all up before setting off on another month of adventure, racing, laughing, losing my mind and all the other great memories that go along with it.
See you in Bordeaux.