60 National Solos are making the journey to Carnac to contest the 2022 Nation’s Cup and with most of Europe basking in sunshine, the competitors can look forward to temperatures of 38 degrees and a predicted wind strength of 13-16 mph on Saturday, the first scheduled day of racing.
I am writing this report from the luxuriousness of my hotel room, a massive upgrade on my last experience at the infamous Portland Lodge, Weymouth, from where I had covered the Pusinelli Trophy. Hotel Licorne is just five minutes from Carnac YC and a stone’s throw from the town’s Casino which, according to Greg Swift, who is also staying here (I might add in another room with his wife Janet) plays music until 2.30 am. I doubt very much the Solo fleet know what 2.30 am looks like so some ear plugs may be required for those who stay close to the club.
My journey to this lovely part of France started with a train ride from Paignton to Portsmouth via a single transfer at Westbury. Sounds simple until you factor in the disintegration of my sandals as I boarded which required me to change into my sailing trainers, the only other footwear I had packed. Now any sailor will testify that the aroma created by sailing footwear, especially when still damp from last week’s sail is as powerful as any nerve agent. Fortunately (for me) despite the train carriage being full to capacity, the perpetrator of the foul stench could not be detected. Had I been wearing standard hiking boots I would surely been ejected somewhere near Warminster.
I disembarked at Portsmouth Harbour, the whiff of stale cheese following me and boarded a taxi to the International Ferry Port entrance and awaited my ride to Carnac. Being rather dark of skin it did seem ironic that a single male of some mystical ethnicity was waiting to board a ferry toEurope. After 30 minutes Chris Brown of CB Coverstore Tours arrived and, with Class President Patrick Burns and Vince Horey as fellow passengers, we joined the generously long queue for the St Malo ferry. We had several choices of route to the passport booth, left, right or up the middle but Chris, current Inland Champion held his lane and who are we to question his tactical guile….
The port authority, fortunately for us the very well proportioned Julia did pay particular attention to the length and height of the trailer but it was definitely only 1.5 metres high, even if it is a triple stacker!
Safe to say we entered the jaws of Bretegne pretty much last so as a tip, don’t follow Brownie up the beat.
The crossing was smooth as one of my chat up lines (pre 1998, when I met my wife) and the passengers seemed to enjoy the cabaret, or was it Karaoke? With a number of lagers under our belts we split up into our berths for the remainder of the journey, Vince had drawn the short straw and would have to contend with my footwear, I did suggest earplugs, ‘no, not for the ears, the nostrils mate” and we finally slept.
After what seemed like an age we were awoken by the sound of an alarm, musical in it’s rhythm and as effective as a wet sponge in its delivery. I lurched across to grab my phone, the pitch black cabin providing no help in sourcing its exact location. It was not my phone. With the room now illuminated we ascertained the noise to be coming from Vince’s IPad but soon discovered it was not that either. Finally, we discovered that this was in fact the ship’s Tanoy system and the French way of saying ‘get up, we are almost here”. Maybe they should have started with that.
The final part of the journey would see me jump aboard with Ian Firth and Nigel Davies and we were in Carnac approximately 2.5 hours after departure. The CB Tours group were not so lucky, having to wait until all vehicles had disembarked before the roof could be raised to accommodate the 4 metre high trailer before experiencing the new European Import Tax check. I do think the internal inspections they faced was just one step too far but Chris assured them it was all part of the CB Tours experience.
The club was not exactly busy, a school sailing lesson had just finished and some of the club officials were laying out AstroTurf and impromptu coffee tables in front of the boat park. As an aside, the coffee in France is exceptional and by that I mean it is a big improvement on my normal Nescafe instant granules. We were greeted by some of the competitors who had already been acclimatising,
Sailors played with rigs and floor applications as the flags surrounding the compound licked and flicked like butterfly wings and sense of anticipation grew in my stomach…or was I just hungry again?
The highlight of the evening entertainment was two-fold, Chris Brown buying two rounds of Sambuca, clearly the 2022 Inland Champion is intent on corrupting his rivals, and the sight of Vincent van Horey actually buying a round of beers.
The event has not yet started and the social activities, which I will be actively reporting on has already begun.
Friday will see all the fleet arrive ready for action on Saturday and with 38 degrees and 13-16 mph predicted, it could be ‘voile au champagne’.