Solo Basse Normandie 2015

13th of 24. My official result at the Solo Basse Normandie, the season opener for the Figaro Circuit this weekend.


© Guillaume Godier

It was a challenging race. More hours of darkness than daylight, freezing cold, wet, bad visibility rounding Jersey at 0300 in the morning and short 20nm legs than meant little to no chance of any sleep. (I managed two 10 minute naps in the 30 hour race.)

I got a good start off the pin end, and then as we peeled off managed to tack and get a good lane, crossing the majority of the fleet. Here we dragged race to the first mark of the course some 50nm away.


© Guillaume Godier

Speed initially wasn’t great. I adjusted my rig after trying a setting which had previously worked in similar conditions but didn’t appear to be doing me any favours here, it felt all wrong and after the change, my speed was back. Note added to my endless document of ‘Figaro tricks’.

We then had a VMG run under kite. I slowly leaked places here, which was frustrating. I tried jib up and lost more, and tried cleaning my keel numerous times for weed but nothing seemed to work. The loss wasn’t drastic, but was definitely there, and so as a last resort I broached the boat twice to be absolutely sure nothing was on the keel. It seemed to do the trick, even if mentally, and for the last 4nm I stayed with Isabelle and Jack who had passed me on the run. Another note added, do this much earlier, especially at night when you can’t see the keel to check it…

Cxdapture© Guillaume Godier

Next up were the fun times. A 130-140 tight kite reach in 22-28kts. It is (now) a particularly strong point for me and I managed to overtake both Isa and Jack and put some distance on them both as well as change my jib for the smaller one, and crucially get back in touch with the leaders once more. As we then started to bash our way upwind in 22-26kts, I was now back in touch again with Nick, Gwenole and the back of the lead back. I drove all night, and worked my *** off to just keep the boat going. I had good height and every time I went to check the AIS I was making small gains, which was hugely motivating, especially coupled with the harsh-ish living conditions we had on board.

A tack inshore towards Jersey gave me the cross on Nick and Gwenole and as the sun finally rose, we reached towards St Malo neck and neck. Nick under Genoa got back in front as I changed from Solent back to Genoa, (another note added). After 2 hours tight reaching, Nick rounded the mark off St Malo 55 seconds in front of me. (Yes I counted, previous notes from ‘Figaro tricks doc’ told me chasing better delta’s are good sources of motivation to grind down opponents.)


© Guillaume Godier

By the end of the 18nm VMG run, I was just a few boat lengths behind Nick, pace under kite VMG seemingly restored. Sitting in 9th place now, all that remained was a simple 18nm windward leeward, but simple it didn’t turn out to be.


© Guillaume Godier

A cloud came over, which gave a 40 deg right shift and then a 50 deg lefty which I got completely wrong and ended up loosing 4 places in the meantime. It was a harsh lesson in fleet management. My tacks were perhaps a minute late for the first shift and 3 minutes early for the second but it was game over, it shocked me how quickly you can loose distance upwind, and having made such great gains upwind during the night, it was hugely frustrating. (More notes added…)

All in all however it was a solid performance I feel and a good one to start the season off with. A top 10 would have been nice, but now I am even more motivated for the next one. The boat speed still has many areas of improvement needed for sure, but progress has definitely been made. Bring on training next week and the Solo Maitre Coq in a few weeks time, the first official race on the Figaro Circuit for 2015 which counts towards your overall ranking at the end of the year.



ROCKFISH – Title Sponsors of Henry Bomby


South West Figaro sailor Henry Bomby is delighted to announce a Title Sponsorship agreement with ROCKFISH, for the 2015 season. Supported by the Seafood restaurant chain since 2013, Henry has had a long term commercial relationship with its owner Mitch Tonks since 2010, but this is the first major Title Sponsorship agreement between the two.

“Our support of Henry’s sailing projects has grown and grown over the last few years from a relatively modest initial investment. But Henry has delivered some great results not only on the water but off it too. Our decision to become Henry’s Title Sponsor for 2015 came after news that the race is visiting Torbay, which with the opening of the new 140 seat restaurant in Brixham, will mean we will have two restaurants in the Bay.


It was a ‘no brainer’. We plan to have many great events, parties and promotions in the restaurants throughout the season. We get a lot of comments from staff and visitors of the Rockfish restaurants in support of Henry and we are all excited to get behind Henry and follow his successes in 2015, together.’

Last week, Mitch and Henry christened the Rockfish boat in Torquay, which will be the UK stopover for the 2015 Solitaire du Figaro. The race will be hitting the Devon coastline, Henry’s home, in June, from the 17th to the 21st June.

Henry says, “Mitch and I have worked together since I was 18, not always financially but always with help in terms of planning my campaigns and projects and how to go about looking for money. Over the years we have managed to carry out some great sponsorship activations for both Rockfish and others. It is great to see Mitch’s belief in all that we do both on and off the water come to fruition with a Title Sponsorship deal for the 2015 season.’


Henry will be competing in all events on the Figaro Circuit leading up to the Solitaire du Figaro at the end of May. Including the first race of the season in a few weeks time, the Solo Basse Normandie, a 150nm race starting on the 26th March.

2015 Season:

26th -28th March – Solo Basse Normandie

18th – 26th April – Solo Maitre Coq

5th – 10th May – Solo Concarneau

May 30th – 23rd June – La Solitaire du Figaro 2015

Pirate life


Recently I sailed from Torquay to Granville with the founder of the Rockfish Seafood chain, Mitch Tonks and The Seahorse, Dartmouth chef, Jake Bridgewood.

Below is an account, written by Mitch, that I can neither confirm, nor deny, as accurate.

‘Local sailor Henry Bomby nearly had his Figaro dreams cut short by French customs officials as he blatantly flouted any regard for international maritime law. French officials had a tip off that Bomby and his crew, sponsor Mitch Tonks and wonder chef Jake Bridgewood, were in fact sailing illegally as pirates. Meaning their vessel was unregistered, and was most likely involved in drug or people trafficking. A crack team of customs officers shadowed the vessel over night and monitored it’s every movement on AIS. When it docked the officers, who were fully armed waving guns from their hips and in full blue combat uniforms insisted no one left the vessel. Bags and safety equipment were searched. The officers hopes were raised when it was revealed that Bomby had what looked like ‘hash’, packed neatly in tin foil in the side of his bag, but lab reports later confirmed it as Bomby’s Mums delicious chocolate biscuit mess. The officers were now even more suspicious and all passports were confiscated and waved in the air. The crew were terrified as the officers only spoke French but made it clear they were not to leave and were to be confined to the tiny cockpit area, that wouldn’t be big enough to even lie down in should they be detained for a longer time. Mr Bomby was detained on a grey prison boat whilst officers checked his nationality and ownership of the boat. The crew were warned that cash was going to be needed to secure Bombys freedom and were sent into the local bank to collect an undisclosed amount of cash which was handed over to the Police. Under duress and without legal representation, the whole crew were made to sign confessions written in French before their passports were released. Mr Bomby was released some time later and charged under international piracy laws, once released the crew and Bomby sped off in a car commandeered from a local, they were dropped at an unnamed petrol station where they rendezvoused with Europcar who provided an escape vehicle. The boat remains impounded and under heavy guard. It is believed the crew escaped France smuggled into a luxury ferry cabin and are due back soon, the whereabouts of Mr Bomby currently remains a mystery after eating and drinking for 9 hours in a St Malo restaurant where he was believed to be escaping the horror of the ordeal. Bomby was last sighted purchasing a skull and crossbones flag from a gift shop in St Malo, it is believed he will try to escape and be more open about his pirate status by flying the offending flag from his forestay. Meanwhile the crew are back safely in the UK after undergoing counselling in the on board restaurant and bar. Their condition is now said to be hungover, but are expected to make a full recovery. It goes to show how important it is for the French authorities to keep themselves in work by making these minor situations into international exchanges, everyone visiting France should be warned about this gunslinging attitude, which could turn fatal at any second.’

Phaedo3 Delivery

Sitting here in Antigua airport waiting for my flight back to London, life is good having just blasted across the Atlantic in just under 9 and a half days on board the new Phaedo3 MOD 70, one of the fastest sailing boats ‘in the world’…


I originally joined the team just for the day to help take their race sails over to Portsmouth for painting. When I got back to France however my name was next to a bunch of jobs on the job list! I agreed to help out for the week as I heard talk they were going sailing on the Friday, and I was hoping I could tag along to grind for the afternoon if I was still around!

Tag along I managed to do and the next day I was asked if I fancied joining them for the trip across the Atlantic. I was super excited but hesitant, it would mean missing a weeks training in the Figaro and also (and much more importantly of course) mean missing a long planned Valentines weekend away with my girlfriend.. Fortunately coaches and Soph agreed it was a fantastic opportunity, and so it was sorted!


Arriving in Antigua

We were to be five on board. Skipper Mr Brian ‘easy cool, cool easy’ Thompson, the most laid back man on the planet, Sam Goodchild fellow Figarist currently enjoying a side project while on standby with Mapfre. Romain Attanasio, another Figarist (and Volvo ‘WAG’!), and Warren Fitzgerald, the boat captain fresh off the Hydroptere project and me. We would be two watches, the roast beefs and the frogs, with Brian floating in between.

The first night we got straight into it and ripped across the Bay of Biscay at over 22kts. Rounding Cape Finistere within 15 hours. The boat as I said, is pretty remarkable…

2015-02-17 17.11.13

Shortly after leaving the sun went down, and we were straight into the watch system, Sam and I alone on deck of this 70ft machine which quite frankly scared the crap out of us in 25kts of breeze! We joked that Brian clearly had way more confidence in us than we had in ourselves as two young Figaro guys tore across Biscay in the pitch black. I broke my own personal speed record during our first watch, 30.7kts, with two reefs in the main and the J2 up, certainly ‘not pushing’ hard in anyway. Apparently?! The whole watch all I could think of was Brian’s last words before he went down for a nap ‘escape is down, escape is down, escape is down..’. On multihull a broach is a capsize, and you always need to know where your escape route is, 125 TWA is down , 95 TWA is up, as a very general rule. Anywhere in between is just terrifying!

After two days motoring South down passed Spain and Portugal we were soon into the trades, 16-23kts and downwind VMG sailing all the way to Antigua. This thing punches out 500nm days like its nothing. At the beginning Brian was telling me how on Bank Populaire during their Jules Verne record attempt, 30kts by the end felt slow, and how in a weeks time, 20kts would feel pedestrian to me too. I couldn’t believe him, but it was true. You do get used to the incredible pace these machines chuck out, and its hugely addictive, you just want more and more.

2015-02-12 09.35.43

Sam on the hand pump water maker while we repaired the permanent one on board.

It’s worth noting that the MOD70 is probably the 7th ‘ish’ fastest boat in the world. This thing, would eat up the latest new 100ft monohull ‘Commanche’ at every angle of sail pretty much.

100-foot racing yacht COMANCHE under sail - Photo by Onne van der Wal

Commanche, the latest and greatest 100ft Monohull

It struck me massively on this trip why aren’t trimarans more common? Especially for offshore racing? Maybe now with the Americas Cup in multihulls it is the turning of the tide. I for one, am completely sold by them. To me they are faster, and definitely more dangerous which suits many offshore events which label themselves ‘extreme’, meaning they really do need the very best sailors in the world to sail them. They are also dryer, comfier and have the potential for foiling which is definitely the way professional sailing at least, is going. In fact Gitana already has t-foil rudders fitted to their MOD 70 and is currently in the shed to develop full flight for this season.


By the time I am 40 years old I am sure the boat taking on the Jules Verne record will be a fully foiling machine, therefore learning to sail these machines at any possibility is vital experience. I am therefore unbelievably thankful to Brian and the guys for allowing me to jump on board with them. My eyes have officially been opened and dreams now become even bigger! Exciting times ahead in sailing that’s for sure..


ROUTE DU RHUM Playbook 2014

So weather news for the start of the Route du Rhum 2014 is that the first 24-36 hours are going to be pretty lumpy and upwind in 25+kts.


This is due to a well formed low pressure system that is passing over the north of the British Isles, with an associated cold front on its southern side that the fleet must cross. The Azores high pressure system (HP1) is also well formed, stable and is currently positioned over the Azores, helping create strong trade winds to the south.

The teams will be crossing the cold front early tomorrow morning, and will experience strong upwind conditions (gusting 40+kts) in the English Channel tomorrow afternoon/evening.


Ensemble routing showing the 3 different options. Split 3 North, 12 Middle, 5 South.

There are then 3 options for the skippers to choose from once crossing the front on Monday and they all centre very heavily around the activity and movement of the Azores high pressure (HP1) over the coming days.

Option 1 is the northerly option, and is the ‘upwind hog’ route. As you can see from the ensemble routing above for the IMOCA 60’s, only 3 of the 20 routings have the Northerly option paying. This northerly route will ONLY work if the trades don’t come in as strong due to an unsettling of HP1, AND if this coincides with a strong low pressure system forming off the north American coast. Creating Westerly, not Southerly winds in the North Atlantic allowing the teams to get south later. This is by far the riskiest option of the lot and crucially only has it paying over the southerly or rhum line options by an hour. Huge risk, for minimal reward. Hopefully someone will take the flier for our interest, but don’t expect it to be a favourite.


Northern option. Risky for little reward, but lets hope someone tries it.

Option 2 is the middle of the road, or the ‘rhum line for rhum’ route, and is one most boats will follow at least initially. The GFS 1.0 ensemble forecast of yesterday afternoon has this play currently favoured with 12 of the 20 routings heading this way. This option has the Azores high moving very far West towards the coast of America, allowing the skippers to point their bows almost directly at Gaudeloupe while still passing to the East of the high pressure in downwind conditions. After crossing the front on Monday, this is the safest most conservative route by a long way. Sailing less distance, AND still with the option to go south without losing too many miles if more accurate forecasts later give HP1 moving back East.


The heavily favoured option, conservative and flexible whilst sailing the least miles.

Option 3 is the southerly route, or the ‘sunshine happy holiday’. Here the boats would look to slide down the corridor between the coast of Portugal/Morocco and to the East of the Azores high pressure (HP1). These forecasts have HP1 staying located over the Azores rather than heading West as in Option 2. Currently with only 5 of the 20 routings taking you this way, it again is a riskier option as you will be forced to commit early on to sailing more distance, with less ability to adapt your routing to the changeable forecast if needed. It will however be the most enjoyable ride, so expect some skippers to commit to this route early in the hope to make the most of the gains if it pans out this way.


HP1 is unsettled but stays at the Azores, leaving corridor open for southerly route. Downwind, sunshine and gets warmer quicker, expect some skippers to commit to this early.

So what should we be looking out for on the tracker?

Well following the location of the Azores high is going to be the biggest player for all the fleets here. A disbanding of HP1 favours the northerly route, a maintaining, stable HP1 moving West towards America favours the rhum line route and HP1 staying over the Azores favours the southerly option.

What we know for certain is the first night will be a long slog upwind on port for all the boats.. Getting away cleanly will be the primary objective for all the skippers here. There will be a huge amount of boats out on the water creating a lot of funky chop, which added to the tide which will be underneath them for the first 5 hours could cause a pretty nasty sea state. Finding a nice lane to get ripping along for the first 3 hours could be tricky, but hugely beneficial if you can get it. Expect the best skippers, especially in the packed Class 40 fleet, to be doing everything they can to achieve this.


When the boats tack on Monday will give us a big indication into which option they will take.

We will get an indication on which option the skippers are looking to follow by when they choose to tack on Monday. A tack in the early hours of Monday would suggest the southerly route, where as a tack late Monday afternoon/evening would be for the Northerly ‘upwind hog’. Expect in the big fleets like the Class 40 a bit of cat and mouse action going among the lead boats as the skippers position themselves not only to the latest weather files, but crucially themselves amongst the fleet as well.

The first night will most likely be the hardest part of the race for the ULTIME class, certainly the most stressful. In particular for one man, a certain Mr Yann Guichard, where dockside rumours have it that he might struggle to tack the mighty 40m Spindrift alone and will be trying to gybe around instead to preserve the boat. The Spindrift story is going to be a fascinating one for us to follow, here’s hoping he can keep it all together and simply demolish the fleet.

In the next update we will take a look back at the start – who’s got their nose in front, and who’s fluffed it. As well as looking in more detail as to how the skippers will deal with the Azores high pressure, with more accurate forecasts at our disposal.

Till then,


VOR Leg 1 – Ice gates and getting South

The big news of yesterday was the introduction of an ice gate by Race Director Jack Lloyd. Designed to take away the temptation for the teams to dive deep south in the search for better pressure and a better angle to Cape Town. The Ice Gate is placed at 42 deg South between 20W and 10W, seen on the screenshot below.

ice gate and cape town

The Fleet, the ice gate and Cape town. With a rough outline of the fleets routes over the next few days

Over the past few days the weather models are now in better agreement, giving a more reliable forecast and therefore more reliable routing options for the teams. This allows them to commit to a certain path to dive South, although how far South is still unclear. In the screenshot below is an ensemble routing of GFS 1.0 deg, at 0600UT this morning. The top of the red box depicts the ice gate, to be left to Starboard. I made it into a box so it is easier to see.

The addition of the ice gate reduces the options for the teams, which is good news for the front runners and bad news for the teams behind. What we will likely see is the fleet sailing along this ice gate in order to be as far south as possible, in order to make the most of the left shift on Saturday afternoon.

Ice gate ensemble

Ensemble routings, GFS 1.0 deg, 0600 UT 29th October 2014. Almost all the routings are still taking the boats south of the ice gate to be left to Starboard. (Top line of the red box shown here)

An ensemble GRIB is a really useful tool for gaining confidence in a weather model and its reliability. Ensemble GRIBs are currently only available through the American GFS weather model, and gives the end user (i.e. the navigators on board) the breakdown of the 20 different forecasts that make up the end GFS forecast we all normally see, downloadable via Squid or uGRIB etc.

Once we have all 20 breakdowns we can then do routings on each one, as you can see in the screenshot above. If the routings are scattered, you have little confidence in the forecast, and therefore the best option is to stay middle of the road. To be conservative and with the rest of the fleet until the model becomes more aligned.

If the forecast is debating between two options, split with 10 routings going South and 10 North for example, then you know one of two scenarios are going to play out. Or like now when every single one says to get South within the next 100nm, you can be confident that this is the way to go. Over the last week Dongfeng and Alvimedica seem to have played this conservative, middle of the road game well, and in doing so have made gains on the front trio.

getting south

Fleet gybing South over the next 100nm

It is interesting to note how DFRT and Alvimedica made these gains. In the last blog I spoke about trying to cut the corner to Cape Town, sailing closer to the Saint Helena high, in lighter winds, but sailing less distance. Over the last few days we saw Abu Dhabi and Brunel make big gybes out to the West, accepting the loss and that they had gone too close to the High Pressure. This allowed the others to eat into their lead. It must have been a painful call for the navigators on board, sailing almost exactly 180 degrees the wrong way to Cape Town! Mapfre and SCA appear to have gone too far West, and paid the price for sailing too far. Who would be a navigator?!


SCREENSHOT – Fleet before they head South

We are now perhaps into the final plays of Leg 1 and its good news for us fans that we have 5 boats back in contention. Dongfeng and Alvimedica need the others to make mistakes and for them to time their gybes over the next few days perfectly to take the lead, but a podium is on now if they get these next decisions right. Alvimedica seem to have found some great pace over the last few days it is worth noting.

So keep an eye on the boats gybing South over today, and then crucially when they time their gybes back to the East to not infringe the ice gate, that is the major decision over the next few days. The boats out West are coming in hot, with Brunel currently leading the way to the East. If Brunel can make their shortcut stick (not gybing West as much as Abu Dhabi did) then they could hold the lead for the next few days. What is exciting for us is that with 6-8 days to go, the race is now a 5 boat contest!