On returning home from Rio, my plan to compete in the Vendee Globe has firmly been set into motion. After a few initial setbacks, finally it feels like we are getting off the ground, and “Hannah Stodel Racing” is now officially up and running.
Jumping straight into the Imoca 60 has never been on the cards, as its too high risk, and my learning curve to transition from Paralympic short course racing to offshore racing is already pretty steep.
Luckily enough, a chance meeting on LinkedIn lead to me hitching a ride onboard “Fortissimo” a Class 40 owned and operated by Dream or Two sailing based in Portsmouth.
One day sail later, and I was well and truly hooked….
Since then, James and Martyn (The owners) have been kind enough to let me tag along on a few more rides, as well as offering her up as a training boat whilst I search for sponsorship to buy my own!
The Class 40 is a perfect training boat as a stepping stone to the Imoca 60, and my dream of competing in the Vendee Globe; they are lovely fast, smooth little boats, and they can easily be sailed by 2 people, and later on just by myself! The other benefit is that the boat doesn’t need much in the way of changes or adaptations like my 60 will need; there’s no pedestal, so I’m getting on just fine, which is a nice boost to my confidence on this journey…
As well as Fortissimo, I’ve been jumping at the chance to get on pretty much anything that floats, and recently that included nipping across the Channel to France, and more specifically Douarnenez, to race in the Grand prix Guyader onboard “Fujifilm” one of the earlier generation of 40’s.
The racing itself was pretty epic… Bay-based courses, with all the instructions in French to make matters even harder!! It was not tres bon pantalons trying to undertsand the VHF calls at times… At one point the racing mark was missing and I thought I was loosing the plot, but it turned out the Race Committee just wanted us to go round an “imaginary” mark using the former coordinates!!
However it was a really great learning expereience, and its definitely something I want to get into once I have my own boat. The short course racing was fought hard with crews never letting up, and the boat from Oman proved how hard everyone was pushing, as they threw their rig over the front of the boat in a rather breezy afternoon leg down towards the edge of the bay…
After the racing was done, Ari, the owner of Fuji let myself and a few others deliver her back round the coast to Caen, some mileage that was greatly appreciated.
We saw some pretty epic sunsets and sunrises, and had some awesome sailing, as well as some pretty tough sailing, but it was nice to sail the 40 in a less stressful environment, and to be able to chill and enjoy ourselves taking in the sights along the way.
It was also great to skipper a passage of that length, especially through some of the trickier areas that side of the channel, and although I made a few mistakes, I learnt a lot, and I was definitely outside of my comfort zone at times…
After a pretty hairy night around the Alderney Race, we made the call to pull in to Cherbourg as the boat was taking a battering with the wind against the tide and the forecast only getting worse. Waking up with my boots underwater following a small armageddon style wrecking of downstairs, including the use of our last baguette as an oil mop, and my iPad drowning, I knew it was the right decision, although a little disappointing as we needed to get the boat all the way to Caen. Sadly everyones schedules meant we had to grab the ferry back to the UK for work, so a massive shout out and thanks to Lee Gallacher for heading over and finishing the job for us!!!
So for now the team BTS are continuing to search for a suitable 40 for me, and of course the hunt to raise sponsorship continues….
Stay tuned over the next few weeks though, you might see a class 40 being filmed in the Solent 😉