A Rookie's First Solo Experience
Matt Smith GO's SOLO for the first time

Matt Smith has only been sailing for 3 years and this year he competed in his first solo race with SORC, to Le Havre & Back, in his new Sun Fast 3200 R2 "Full Circle". Here Matt recounts his highly memorable experience, which we hope will inspire more Rookie's to give solo yacht racing a go!

Matt Smith – Full Circle Jeanneau SunFast 3200 R2 – SORC Channel Weekend Aug 2017

The time had come for the watching of videos and dreaming of Offshore Racing Solo to become a reality….

In July I took delivery of my new Jeanneau Sunfast 3200 R2 “Full Circle “and spent the weekend testing sails, setting up the electronic systems. (with a huge amount of very much appreciated help and time from SORC Director Nigel)

My first planned races were the SORC Channel weekend comprising of a dash across the Channel overnight to Fecamp, a short hop to Le Havre the next day and then a return trip back to the Solent the day after.

The weather forced the already depleted fleet for a slight re-think and the race was delayed 12 hours for a front to pass over and decided to head straight over to Le Havre.

All was set for an early start Saturday. A nice meal was had in Cowes on the Friday night before I returned to Full Circle prepared my route and set in for the night.

I nervously slipped lines with the other 4 remining members of the fleet, Fastrak, Roxanne, Mustigo and Dehlerious,  at 6.00 for a 07.00 committee boat start  which was excellently done by Donald on  Dehlerious. We were to head east of the Solent, down to Bembridge Cardinal and across to Le Havre.

My plan was quite simple: Don’t hit anyone, don’t fall in and finish as close to the 2 other Sunfast 3200’s as possible. I was slightly cautious and stuck to a main and Jib whilst Fastrak hoisted her S4 and Roxanne her A2 heading east towards the forts. Heading down the east side of the Isle Roxanne held her A2 and Fastrak peeled to her Code zero and both began to pull away. The time for caution had evidently passed as my new Code Zero was being hoisted for its first ever outing right on its wind limit in an effort to stay in touch. This proved successful …well for a while anyway as I twice wiped out so away it went and a 50 mile drag race started under main and J3 pointing straight at the finishing mark.

Pretty tired but very pleased my ropes were taken in Le Havre by Nigel, Simon from Roxanne and Marie Claire who was our ever helpful and fantastic host for our stay. I managed a Wispa bar and some fruit pastels on the passage over so the 12” baguette Marie Claire handed over as I tied up was made short work of before a very nice meal in town…. Mission accomplished!

The race home was tightly contested until the wind shut down as we approached the Isle of Wight, Mustigo’s westerly course paid dividends and was able to sneak in on the tide, take line honours and be the only boat to finish -  great effort! After 2 hours of bobbing around in zero wind I reluctantly advised on the radio my intention to retire shortly followed by the rest of the fleet.

If I were to summarise how my first offshore Solo races were for me in a few words I would say it was nerve racking, challenging, rewarding, addictive and if you are wondering if it is for you, you’ve got to give it a try. For people who feel they may lack experience SORC organise workshops and training days to help with all aspects from navigation to sail trim and boat handling. Personally, I have been sailing 3 years and this was my 3rd ever offshore race. (With or without crew!!) so it really can be accessible to all levels of experience. 

SORC is a very well-run club and I have been made to feel very welcome by everybody from the onset. Any of the members are always happy to help you with advice, tips or pointers which are invaluable to new comers or experienced sailors alike. All abilities and types of boat are accommodated.  At the end of a good day’s racing there is always somebody there to take your lines and the evenings are filled with good food with like-minded company over a few drinks. I got home and was looking at the next SORC races I could fit in this season… I was told before I raced be careful Solo Offshore Racing is addictive…They weren’t wrong and I’m hooked!

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Sunset on Full Circle