17th - 21st September

The week (6 days) in La Rochelle seemed to whizz by.  There were plenty of things to be done on the boat in terms of on-going jobs, safety checks of all the standing rigging and mast and lifejackets etc – which have to be done every time we stop – and also once a week while we're on the move too – and fixes of things that we've noticed don't work.

The first day in port was taken up mainly with the deep clean – which entails getting all the sails up on deck, getting all our kit packed up and up on deck and cleaning every inch of the boat with hot soapy water and anti-bacterial spray.  All the floorboards come up, the bilges underneath are cleaned, the food comes out of all it's many storage places which are then checked for water leaks and cleaned.  It then all goes back.

My main job after the deep clean was to carry on with my job of making foul weather covers for the cushions in the saloon.  Apart from being quite big job in itself I was hampered by the fact that a sail bag is not the easiest material to handle and just finding enough of an area of usable material without reinforced patches, grills and straps. I also had the yacht sewing machine to work with, which was old and had already suffered the slings and arrows of circumnavigating the globe twice.  Add to that it was just blatantly grumpy and refused to work even when we had finally got it set up correctly and my task was indeed and uphill struggle!

We were all allowed 2 days off during our stay in La Rochelle and when not on those were expected to do whatever was required to help get the boat ready for our first Ocean crossing.  That also includes doing everyone's laundry which Mike R and I were nominated to do for our watch one afternoon.  It's funny that only a few weeks before I'm sure most of us would have been fairly reserved about giving our dirty laundry to someone we barely know and also being ok about everything all going in together – no sorting of whites from darks or general items from delicates – in it all went with washing powder, no softener – and was tumble dried (whether it should be or not) as that was the only way it would get dry!

Saturday came and we all had a day off.  There had been some talk of all going on a cycle ride over to the Ile de Re – an apparently gorgeous little island joined to the mainland by a 3km long bridge. However the plan was foiled by the fact that the cycles we could hire were not allowed over the toll bridge – and the cycles that were allowed over were only allowed to be hired by people who could prove they had been resident in La Rochelle for a year or more!  This turned out to be just as well as having gone out for a team meal the night before – during which a significant amount of wine was consumed (when in France...) and then continued on to what had become our favourite little Bar – Les Tetes Brulees - owned by a jolly nice French chap called Jerome – there weren't many of us in a fit state to go on an outing that day… or do anything for that matter!

A shower (courtesy of Mike B – who was letting the rest of the crew dive up to his hotel room to make use of the bathroom) and une sandwich, des frites and a large quantity of water later, I just about felt ready to make use of the day, so persuaded Chloe, Emma and Vic that we should amend plan A a tad and have a girlie pootle around town on some hired bicycles. I was confident some exercise would help cure my head – it had always worked in France when I'd worked as a chalet girl and would ski off a hangover!

We had a lovely afternoon exploring the town (more often than not going the wrong way down the one-way streets), cycling along the sea front and then through a gorgeous park with a River running through it – it was a tiny bit like a scene out of the Sound of Music – apart from the fact that we weren't wearing lederhosen made out of drapes.  Nonetheless we sang “Doh-a-deer” at the tops of our voices  as we cycled along – much to the amusement of the locals!
The afternoon finished up with some delicious French ice cream while we gawped at lots of French people excitedly taking photos of a supposedly famous actor... who we think might be a star of the French version of Coronation Street!!

Before long the 6 days had passed – and we all agreed we were more than ready to get going on the next race.  We were to sail not spend time on land in a town – no matter had beautiful it was or how welcoming the locals had been.

The Monday evening before we left brought the prize-giving awards where the top 3 places from the race to La Rochelle were announced and the skippers and crews were presented with race pennants for first, second and third place.  Although we had finished in third place behind Team Finland and Cork we were subsequently given a time penalty of 2 hours 15 minutes for some mistakes we made on the course on the way down. This resulted in us lying in 6th place overall. The judgement was fair but we all felt very subdued after the presentation and more than a little determined to learn from our mistakes and do much better in the Race to Rio.  We would be out to prove we could live up to our boat song and be “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger