“And then I found that the boat enters the water”

Irina Gracheva shares details of the first phase of the transatlantic race Mini Transat from La Rochelle in Gran Canaria – in an interview with Andrei Petrov

– Irina, congratulations on the successful completion of the stage! As a whole race? Opened for you something new, or you have experienced it exactly with what was expected and what was preparing?

– Thank you for the congratulations! With regard to the reality and expectations: this is not my first such a long race, passed alone. At the stage of preparation, last year I participated in the regatta of Les Sables-d’olonne to the Azores and back, and this is 2 times in 1300 miles. Then, on the passage of the first part of the race it took me 13 days, so the experience of a long stay in the ocean I already had. However, not everything was for me familiar.

To begin with, which is quite unexpected for me at the very beginning of the race I was very seasick, and the first two days I felt very bad. This feeling is not new, but during this long season I’m precaches, and did not feel much discomfort. And here such an unpleasant surprise! I think it happened due to the fact that Biscoe at this time, there has been a wave left over from the previous cyclone, the direction and a large size which does not quite correspond to the wind, where we were going. These unusual conditions body reacted on its own. In the end, I barely lasted the two days and are unable to concentration change of weather fronts, missed the opportunity to compete for a tactical advantage in this first leg of the race.

But then came the pleasant surprises. I with some trepidation waited for a strong tail-winds from the coast of Portugal, knowing in my experience that to carry full sail I will be able only in case if she’ll steer. To trust the boat to autopilot at the time, when I raised the Spinnaker, it is prone to bracing.

Before I always had to choose to go without rest and carry full sails or lose in speed, windage reducing. However, this time, despite the fact that in the gusts the wind reached 30 knots, the boat behaved much calmer and full windage endured quite confident. We were preparing to this segment of the path immediately beyond the Cape of Finistere, where the expected increase of wind up to 40 knots. The gain did come, though not as big as predicted. I took him out of the corner – it was the right thing, and we had originally planned. At this time, and it turned out that the boat is going under a storm Spinnaker code 5, glissirovat with the waves and the autopilot copes well with her. It was difficult to go with less wind (about 20 knots), but under the big Spinnaker. Here already had to completely switch to manual control. There was a time when I had been walking continuously for over 20 hours, including work with sails, and taxiing. On the one hand – not so much, but I’ve been at this for several days, and there are several…

– How do race conditions, to cope with the fatigue? In the same way as does a motorist, when, feeling excessive fatigue, stop for 15-20 minutes to sleep?

– Well, the option “stop” is certainly not about us… But Yes, reduce windage, put on autopilot and go to sleep. In that situation, which I told him I was relatively easy to survive so long without sleep, because I knew that soon this wind will end, and I can relax. It was only a matter of time, it only required patience. Overall, probably the right will give rest to your body, if you continue waiting for more complex conditions. If you know what’s ahead will be easier, then it is a good strain and work. Correct and athletic, and from a psychological point of view.

With sports clear – speed is important. But psychologically, it turns out that when you give, give everything for the race and know what you are doing all you can, then make even more. But when you give up, give yourself some slack, it later proves very difficult to negotiate with them: you start too hard on myself and to blame for this weakness. For singles it is very important to be able to negotiate with yourself. To listen to your body to decide when to let him rest, and most importantly – determined to relax, then do not blame yourself for that.

– In General, power for the whole race enough?

– Yes, and it is now clear that I acted properly. The selected race strategy I also liked: how to go after the Finistère, the moment of rotation, such as passing a gate, where to meet wind, etc. it All worked.

Serious technical problems have been avoided?

– Well, not quite. Miles in 300 to go I found that the boat enters the water. It turned out that she enters the hull through a crack in the transom. The fact that the attachment of the feathers of the helm to the transom from the inside is additionally reinforced by plates. The load on the supports during movement is large on the bottom, for example, about a ton. At some point there was a detachment of one of the plates, and the wheel began to push plastic. A crack that over time expanded. To go had for a long time, and I had to decide what to do: look for a way out right on the water or head to shore for repair. There’s not only a matter of eliminate the leak – if the steering is not at least one pivot point, it is no longer working, broken, because of the skewed traction, which ensures the synchronism of rotation of wheels. Get in repairs – a huge waste of time. And what can be done on the go? Greatly reduce sail area to relieve the load on the wheel… But, for example, in tacking or galfvind even that won’t help flow to fix will not work.

When there was a cold front, I have tried to increase the load on the front of the sail and at the same time a little sharefile grotto, and inside the case made emergency tiller stops under the plate. I must say, guard was kept on parole, literally, on pure friction, but it worked! Managed to pull the gap and stop its spread in the body, although it was evident that the whole system is broken, “breathe”. I think your problem is related to improper fixation, which was held at the boat before me: the previous owner had already reinforced the transom under the pillars, but it is made was not the best way. And I, in the end, it normally reached the finish line, and loaded the boat is already full. When engaged in elimination of accidents, feared that significantly lag behind its closest rivals, but it turned out that lost in this moment just a couple of miles.

– Do you already have an idea how to repair?

– Yes, I understand that and how to do it, but I will not myself do it, and to entrust the work to professionals. Still, it is a very loaded and responsible, so I want the repair was carried out responsibly, beautifully and professionally. Using the necessary equipment, tools and materials. The question, really, small but the consequences can be very serious.

Sounds like the transom is a weak spot on a “mini”? Several boats encountered serious problems with this constructive part…

– I wouldn’t say that. The problems were all different and just localized to the transom. And in the case of Paul Rubalon generally clashed… a Common problem of the first stage I would call an electrician. On many boats because there is a problem with the power plants, many went and finished “hands”. Manifested these problems in different ways. Someone battery is not charged, someone was denied the main power supply. At serial submarines equipped with lithium batteries, it is forbidden to have a generator running on methanol, so many go on the solar panels. But often those who could take a generator, give it up, so that the supply of methanol it gives a huge weight. In the end, solar panels to people is not enough, because during the day they are not always under the effective angle, and the resulting charge is not enough for night work. On the one hand, you can be proud of those sailors who were forced to steer on their own and showed good results – in such moments, even their own achievements begin to feel less significant. But, on the other hand, I understand that to a certain extent, the problems with electrics is the result of insufficient attention to this issue during training or a conscious choice between weight savings and reliability.

– Back to the passed route: long distance fleet there are quite. How often were you in visual contact with other participants?

– Constantly! Within five miles there is always someone was. This is not surprising, as the strategy of passing along the coast were all about the same – stick to the West. So at least a few opponents on your Aisa I always watched. On the last year’s regatta, which I have already said, the riders had a lot of options on how to get to the Azores, so all dispersed in different directions, and I generally didn’t see anyone. And then everything was different. To be honest, I feel sorry that it happened: I like to walk alone, and then, upon crossing courses, enjoy unexpected meetings on the way.

– In General, what information about their situation, about the position of rivals you have in the race?

We don’t know who and how it goes – I can only assume. We see ourselves relative to the General line of the received radio data about their place and places rivals, which are determined by the distance to the finish line. But this is very conventional information, not allowing to judge about who-where exactly is and where it’s heading at the moment. But it helps to navigate. It gives an idea of how successful certain your decisions, when you compare the change of their position relative to their closest rivals.

– Something interesting, unusual happened to encounter on the way?

– Yes, there was another pleasant surprise associated with the sails: I was able to significantly improve the speed performance of the boat when moving under the big Spinnaker. For example, in the backstay, with an average power of the wind 10-12 knots, I was able for a long time to go, keeping up with new production boats of the project “Maxi”, something it never used to happen. In addition, I noticed a significant difference when driving in a strong wind now and spring, when the air was cold. If earlier I can barely stand medium Spinnaker in the cold wind at 20 knots, now – and I mentioned this above – the boat is stable was under a big Spinnaker even in stronger winds. I don’t fully understand the physics of the process, but experienced riders attest to this fact: warm and cold air at the same speed as the wind exerts different pressure on the sail. They say that in the second stage, when crossing the Atlantic, the air even warmer, and the wind in 30 knots no problem.

– And what, in addition to repair, you are going to do in the remaining before the start of the second stage time?

– I would like to have a good rest! Since I was here, in the Canary Islands, allow yourself a small trip to Tenerife. And I’ll be ready to move across the ocean.

Andrei Petrov

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