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.
I left readers in my last article with an insight into the solo yacht races, including the SoloFASTNET, I have lined up for this year. However, I have three major hurdles to overcome before my first race. Will I make it to the start line?
I am recovering from major shoulder surgery
I had surgery to my rotator cuff last September. My surgeon says it is a 12-month recovery period, but my physio is more optimistic than that and I am hoping to be able to ease myself back into sailing after seven months.
As luck would have it, my friend Lucy [Tighe] is a musculoskeletal physiotherapist and lives near me in Croyde. She also happens to work for the Australian Olympic Sailing Team, so she knows a thing or two about building strength for sailing. Lucy has worked with medallists Tom Slingsby, Tom Burton and Matt Belcher and has me on a fast-track rehab programme to get me strong again for the season. She definitely has her work cut out as, at the time of writing, I still cannot raise my drinking arm above shoulder height…
I have to set up and learn a new boat
In a fit of utter madness I sold my (perfectly good) boat in order to fund a new sailing project, unconnected with my 2018 race campaign. So, I will have to find and set up an entirely new boat. My old [very good] boat was a 2014 Sunfast 3200. I have done just over 10,000 miles racing in 3200s and I was just starting to get to know the boat, so having to learn a new boat all over again is a daunting prospect. I spent a good deal of time on the boat working with Carbon Yachting [in Hamble] with Chris Prevost and Andy Greenwood (ex-Figaro sailor) getting her set up just right. Knowing your boat is sometimes more than half the battle, and a level of trust takes time to develop.
I have a new boat…
So, there you have it… I am entering this season with the knowledge that not only do I have to set up a new boat, but I have to bring her back from Holland and rebuild her too. She is a J105 and she is quite old (2001), and full of problems. She is in the capable hands of Yagra Yacht services who are going to deal with some soft bits in the hull, seal several leaks, re-rig the mast and fixing a worn engine among a heap of other jobs before I attempt to sail her back across the North Sea (with a wounded shoulder) and finish the job of setting her up to make her race-ready in Hamble. Did I say I like a challenge?