As I write this, Bodacious Dream is safely moored in La Rochelle, along the mid-western coast of France, halfway between Bordeaux and Nantes. I made the delivery here this past weekend to prepare for our upcoming race -¬†The Mondial Class 40 World Championships¬†-¬†but more on that in a moment.
One of the unique things about many of the harbors in France is the dramatic range of tides that make them virtually inaccessible during low tides. In order to make this work, locks are installed which keep the water in the basin where the boats are, while the tide changes. Here in La Rochelle, the tide can be in excess of 10 feet, and so with tides ebbing and flowing (high and low) twice a day, the locks are only open twice a day.
La Rochelle at High Tide¬†
For this trip from Lorient to La Rochelle, that meant I could only get into the harbor at 3am or 3pm – and only for a two-hour window.
Coming into a strange harbor on your own in the dark of night is not considered good practice, so I opted for the 3pm option.
Lorient to La Rochelle is about 140 miles. Class 40′s sail so easily that it’s not uncommon under pleasant conditions, to reach speeds of 9 or 10 knots. Friday’s weather offered a nice 15 knot breeze from behind for most of the day until evening, at which point the wind died down to nearly nothing. Upon completing my calculations, it became apparent that if I sailed the boat hard and motored when there was no wind, I’d get to La Rochelle just after the locks closed in the early morning, and would have to wait 12 hours for them to open again. With the forecast for a pleasant night and decent weather, I jumped at the chance to just sail in super relaxed mode.. a chance that doesn’t come along very often when you are in a race.
I left Lorient at noon on Friday and sailed with the A5 spinnaker, as I wanted to see that it had been repaired properly after being damaged during the¬†Queb√©c-St. Malo race. The afternoon progressed quite nicely with the auto-pilot keeping us skipping along at 11 knots. Sunset came about 8pm, and with it the anticipated dying breeze. Typically, I’d work harder to keep the spinnaker flying and the speed up, but with so much time on my hands, I just rolled up the spinnaker and let the sails relax their way towards La Rochelle.
Through that very quiet evening and night, I had time to reflect on what an amazing journey this past year has been. Gliding along at little more than 4 knots of speed, I took in the canopy of stars, and gazed out the transom at the glowing phosphorescent trail from the rudders. From where I was, I could see the lights of the French coast twinkle on and off as I sailed by. Napping on occasion, snacking on some cheese and crackers, allowed me some time to relive memories of the past 12 months.
It was just about a year ago that I made my first trip to New Zealand to see work on the hull and deck of Bodacious Dream coming together. From there, sailing to Nelson on the South Island of NZ, to Auckland and onto the ship that brought Bo Dream to Ft. Lauderdale. Then up the coast to The Atlantic Cup Race in May and the great fun of winning the offshore leg. Then the delivery to Queb√©c City for the¬†Queb√©c-St. Malo race, which took us up the beautiful St. Lawrence and across the Atlantic for this extended stay in France. The Normandy Channel Race followed, and now down to La Rochelle to compete for the World Championship. Any one of those events would be reason enough to consider oneself a most lucky person. Toss in all the wonderful people I’ve met along the way, and “lucky” just doesn’t seem to cover it. “Incredibly fortunate” is perhaps more accurate.
So, as I prep for the World Championships, my plan is to send out a few more updates – finishing the story of the¬†Queb√©c-St. Malo race as well as more on the Normandy Channel Race. Stay tuned for those now past due updates.
And keep a look out for news on the¬†Mondial World Championships¬†that start October 3rd here in La Rochelle. The format here will be ‚Äúcourse‚ÄĚ racing. There will be a series of races each day and point totals will be added up at the end of the event on Saturday with the title of World Champion going to the lowest point total. First place gets 1 point, second 2, third 3….and so on. We’ll be up against some of the top talent in Europe in this event, so we (and my crew of 5 experienced New Zealanders!) look forward to some fun and exciting racing. The coverage won‚Äôt be like the tracking of the long distance races, but there will be updates on the¬†Mondial¬†website each day.¬†(The site’s in French, so if you can figure it out, use your browser “translator.”)¬†But we‚Äôll also be providing updates on the BD website as well as on Facebook and Twitter, so that you can follow our progress that way as well.
And thank you all for being part this amazing adventure. Remember, life is a grand adventure, live it all, live it always!!