Single-handed ocean racer Pippa Hare shares her top tips
Most of the hard work in a race is done before you even cross the start line - in the preparation of the boat and the navigation. Crews that just turn up half an hour before the start seldom get a good result! My build up to each mini race starts the week before - however, for a race such as the Transat Race my build up will take four months.
- Make sure you have all the books and charts you need onboard and spend some time looking at them - and mark up tidal atlases.
- Load waypoints into your GPS or chartplotters beforehand - it makes inputting a route quick and easy when you hear it announced over the VHF.
- Get familiar with your chartplotter or GPS, make sure you know how to change routes, zoom in and out and input waypoints quickly in case there are any changes - definitely worth reading the instruction manual!
- Run your weather routing for offshore races from a couple of days before the event so you can monitor any strategic opportunities arising from changing conditions.
- Don’t let a great race be spoiled by kit failure. This is especially important in offshore racing. On the Mini Fastnet I check everything twice before leaving the dock and carry enough spares to get me through everything.
- I use a Raymarine SPX 5 GP tiller pilot on the mini - it’s a vital piece of kit, I’d be lost without it when I race across the Atlantic. I carry a back-up pilot and two spare rams.
- Silly little problems can halt you when short-handed sailing, for example a loose connection in the power supply, so make sure you know how to change over pilots quickly.
- In the Select recently I swapped to a new ram before the beginning of the race and checked it was working by plugging it in and watching it move in and out on the dock. When I got on the water the pilot kept turning the boat in the wrong direction and stalling out. It took me a while to work out that the new ram had the opposite drive direction to the old one and I needed to swap the positive and negative motor wires over. A simple problem I could have picked up if I had watched which way the ram was moving when I changed them over on the dock.
- Take spares. We retained our first place in the recent Mini Fastnet by carrying a spare spinnaker pole.
- Make sure items such as snatch blocks, change sheets and spare winch handles are in easily accessible places and all the crew know where they are.
- If you need to pass a safety inspection have all of your kit ready, available clean and clearly marked for the inspector, this will leave you and them stress free and get that box ticked nice and early on.
- All winches, blocks, jammers should be fresh water washed after every race and should be well serviced. This takes less than an hour and will pay you back in dividends.
- A clean ship is an easy ship to sail… I think I should take that advice onboard!
Check the bottom of your boat - it makes a big difference
- Pay attention to the state of the bottom of your boat - it should be smooth and weed free. If you are in the water and antifouled it’s a good idea to use a burnishable ani-fouling and rub the boat down before a big regatta - you can use a scrubbing post if necessary.
The morning of the race
- Eat a proper breakfast - porridge is excellent for slow release energy- and drink lots of water.
- Look at the weather - do the conditions match the forecast - is there any indication of local effects?
- Get to the boat early enough to go out and do a couple of practice manoeuvres to warm up - a couple of tacks, a hoist gybe and drop.