James Goes Solo – blog#1

James Hardiman will be writing a regular blog for All at Sea giving readers a glimpse of what it is like to compete in an offshore solo race series whilst keeping up a busy working and family life.

In my blog I will fill you in with all the highs, the lows and the emotional strains whilst giving an insight into the hard work and attention to detail that goes into a solo offshore race campaign.

I will be writing about the big events that I have got lined up this summer, for which my physical training and boat prep started in earnest in January.

I am an amateur solo sailor with seven years’ solo racing experience and 15,000 solo miles. I will be racing against some of the best and most experienced Corinthian (and professional) offshore solo sailors in the UK and France; which is a tough gig in itself, but no less than trying to juggle sailing with my family and business commitments in London, France, Greece and Austria. Even on paper it sounds like a challenge.

I have been sailing boats and racing dinghies ever since my early school days. My pathway into solo sailing was paved by the dreaded admin of having to organise crew for racing, and that was 11 years ago. Now I race the Ocean Elements race yacht whenever I can and for my ‘downtime’ I like to race an RS100 and an Aero at North Devon Yacht Club in Instow.
Going out on a yacht, solo, for the first time is always a daunting task. So I began by picking the calmest days to venture out in my J109 and my confidence quickly grew. I then hooked up with SORC a couple of years later and I have been racing with a great bunch of solo sailors for about six years on and off. Now I am properly hooked!

Like most solo sailors you will meet, the interest is in the challenge. Little compares to the feeling of achievement at having ‘done it all yourself’ whilst often beating fully crewed boats in the running. As a one-man navigator, driver, bowman, trimmer, cook and general dogsbody it is easy to see where the satisfaction comes from.

Having now successfully completed some big shorthanded and solo races like the AZAB, SoloFASTNET, countless cross-channel races, races to Ireland and various inshore/offshore series, I am racking up the miles but never bored.

With all my challenges ahead, this season is not starting so easily for me. At the end of last year, with the first race of the season a little over three months away, I realised I had three very major hurdles to overcome:

1) I am (still) recovering from major shoulder surgery

2) I have to set up and learn a new boat

3) And did I mention? I actually have no boat for 2018!