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Ocean Elements 2018

James Hardiman Blog 3: Solo sailing and race preparation issues...

by James Hardiman 2 May 16:00 BST
James sailing with his son at Club Mayotte, Bordeaux © Ocean Elements

I've had the most disappointing start to a race season in the last 10 years! I seem to be plagued with boat problems, which is not a new phenomenon in the world of yacht racing but at least many readers of have sent supportive messages. So, thank you.

As a re-cap, this blog is an insight to my solo racing campaign. For which I intend to take a new (but 16 year old) race boat, set her up from scratch and race an entire offshore series with SORC (Solo Offshore Racing Club) which includes the SoloFASTNET in June.

Readers may remember my three hurdles: I'm recovering from major shoulder surgery, I have no boat (she's in Holland undergoing a major rebuild), and I'm not exactly time-rich being the MD of a largish skiing and sailing holiday company, Alpine Elements.

Apologies for the radio silence [since my last blog] but frankly, I've got little to report - having done almost no sailing or significant race prep, (as the boat in question is still laid up ashore), I find myself in a disconcerting position with my first offshore race a little over two weeks away. Will I make the start line?

First: The shoulder

On a happy note, I'm making a good recovery from my rotator-cuff surgery and after seven months of rehab it's still feeling weak but I'm getting back into sports again. Last weekend I decided to chance my 'first sail' since the op in September in my racing dinghy. I tentatively took my RS100 out for a light wind spinnaker session (see my attached photo) which was a nerve wracking session but at least I feel like a 'sailor' again.

Buoyed by this achievement, I took the executive decision to enter a race the next day at my local club, North Devon Yacht Club, Instow, mainly because I've entered the Blaze Nationals in June but I've never actually sailed a Blaze before! Notice the theme here? Clearly I need the practice... So I managed to borrow a Blaze to get learning the boat and came away with a respectable 7th and no major shoulder troubles in spite of nearly being thrown out of the boat a few times. So far, top marks to the surgeon!

Second: the race boat

Sadly, the prep for my new (old) J-105 is not going so well and is a month behind schedule. Fluke IV should be safely tucked up in Hamble by now, having her final race prep for the start of the solo inshore series this weekend. Instead she's still in Holland where I bought her last October receiving major surgery in pretty much every area.

I will now miss the first inshore races which would've been a more sensible inauguration for her to the world of offshore racing, but what can I do? Since my target is to race a full offshore campaign, I'll have to be satisfied just to make it to the start line for the first offshore race on May 11th. If I make it, then she'll be far from ready – still waiting on the delivery of sails (!) and a computer-generated IRC number.

Third: North Sea delivery

I'm planning to sail Fluke IV back across the North Sea during the next two weeks. She's had a lot of hull work, brand new rigging, complete new electric system, all-new navigation equipment and a new engine and gearbox - so the yard have rightly advised me to test the boat before sailing her back. All that seems to remain of the original boat are the settee cushions and the loo! Well, at least that's two less things to test...

Next blog...

My next blog entry in two weeks should be a little more interesting after I've managed to (hopefully) bring her to Blighty... wish me luck!

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