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"Greystones Are Go" at 32 knots in the Bay of Biscay

14th May 2021
The Leyton Ocean 50 – Pam Lee took her to 32 knots
The Leyton Ocean 50 – Pam Lee took her to 32 knots

While the Figaro fleet in Concarneau were watching the meteorological scenario go down the tubes as the start time for their Transatlantic Race approached, further south in the Bay of Biscay, at La Trinite sur Mer, Round Ireland Two-Handed record-holder Pamela Lee (32) of Greystones was one of three selected sailors who found enough of a weather window to make full use of the Leyton X Magenta Project and its Leyton Ocean Fifty Trimaran.

Leyton – whose area of international operations is in financial advice to optimise the tax situation in R & D projects - is promoting the Magenta Project to provide support for women sailors who aspire to get involved at the highest level offshore, and the Greystones sailor was selected to take part in the first module, along with Kass Schmidt (52, USA) and Cassandra Blandin (30, France).

After such an intense experience, it will take a while to fully process everything that you have taken on board, but as a first step Pam has put together her initial thoughts for Afloat.ie

Helming at +30 knots SOG


Getting to helm at over 30 knots boat speed was a first for me. It's certainly an addictive experience and you can really feel the acceleration as she lights up, there's a definitive jump forwards and a change in motion after 20 knots. It's interesting too as the information you're using changes slightly when you're going faster than the actual wind speed. It's all about apparent and feeling the boat is really important, as these multi-hulls can get very powered up very quickly, and so it's about control as much as anything. Sailing on edge, as fast as possible, but without losing control. Knowing where your eject button (the traveller or main sheet) is at all times is essential and there was pretty much always someone on trim, ready to ease.

On top of the job….Pam Lee stowing the mainsail after the 24-hour session in the Bay of Biscay   On top of the job….Pam Lee stowing the mainsail after the 24-hour session in the Bay of Biscay  

Playing the Piano


The pit on Leyton is fondly nicknamed 'The Piano', although I feel it is actually more aligned with a church organ. There are several rows of cleats, jammers and constrictors, through which well over 30 lines, from halyards, tack lines, trim controls, foil controls, to the main sheet, feed through into the central pit. From here there is a choice of 4 winches which connect to one central grinding pedestal. I love running the pit, so this was a dream come true for me. It's an amazing setup because pretty much everything is accessible from the centre of the cockpit, although this does add a level of complexity…. especially at night, travelling over 30 knots….and in French.

A cockpit of potential total confusion…….A cockpit of potential total confusion…….

……..can have manners put on it when all lines are led through "The Piano"   ……..can have manners put on it when all lines are led through "The Piano"  

Avoiding fishing boats


Avoiding French fishing boats in the Bay of Biscay is the bane of any offshore sailors' existence in this area. We've all heard the numerous stories of how it can go wrong pretty quickly, especially at high speed – this year's Vendee Globe a prime example! Well, this game of cat and mouse is taken to whole new level when taking the decision to bear away to avoid a meandering fishing boat means an immediate dramatic acceleration at the same time. There's certainly no second guessing your decision at that point.

21 Questions


I've been lucky enough to sail with a list of great boats with encouraging skippers and supportive crewmates, however onboard any racing boat it isn't always the best time to ask detailed questions about the inner workings of a pedestal system or halyards locks, most of the time it's largely a learn on the job situation. Being onboard Leyton with Skipper Sam Goodchild and Team Manager Aymeric Chappellier at full disposal was an incredible resource. Both were completely open and happy to answer any questions I had from trim, mechanics and nav, to their personal experiences and habits offshore.

Still talking to each other after some very intensive offshore experiences with Leyton are (left to right) Team Manager Aymeric Chappellier, Pamela Lee (Ireland), Cassandra Blandin (France), Kass Schmitt (USA) and Team Captain Sam Goodchild.   Still talking to each other after some very intensive offshore experiences with Leyton are (left to right) Team Manager Aymeric Chappellier, Pamela Lee (Ireland), Cassandra Blandin (France), Kass Schmitt (USA) and Team Captain Sam Goodchild.  

Some things I learnt...

I have an iron stomach

The motion onboard the multihull was certainly different from being offshore on a monohull. Added to this is the fact that when offshore, you are driving underneath a cockpit cover to help protect from spray and the constant attack of the apparent wind. This new motion, perhaps combined with the lack of visual on the horizon, saw several of the crew stricken with severe seasickness, including the media-man. Luckily for me, I've never had a problem with seasickness and so was able to make the most of the entire offshore session. However, it was certainly something that caught a few by surprise.

With sudden course alterations of course around fishing boats a regular challenge, the simplicity of tiller steering was welcomeWith sudden alterations of course around fishing boats a regular challenge, the simplicity of tiller steering was welcome

Some things are the same


I was pleasantly surprised by how many of the systems were very similar to what I've used before, in most cases just bigger and more powerful. This was a comfort and confidence boost as I realised that so much of what we learn on any boat is very transferable. It also meant that this training session had extra value in that everything we learnt could be applied to any high-powered boat. I've since sailed with Leyton again, and it has been great to see how quickly the systems become familiar, especially through repetition.

Some things are different

There were certainly some differences immediately apparent too, first being the very different motion onboard. It was also clear that the powerful multi-hulls often feel like they are on the edge and too much heel can lead to disaster pretty quickly. It was also interesting to learn more about the use of the foils in adjusting the lift of the hulls in relation to control and also using the mast rotation to adjust to the apparent wind direction.

Language isn't a barrier


Everything on the boat is labelled in French (if labelled at all) and a lot of the session was through French by default. I've been sailing and training through French for the last few months in the Figaro 3, but when I'm actually onboard it's been through English with my double-handed teammate Kenny Rumball. I realised onboard Leyton that I had absolutely no problem actually sailing through French, with French sailors. Because the context is so specific and you're all on the same page to start off, it felt like there was really no language barrier at all. I'd certainly encourage any sailors to not be discouraged by potential 'language barriers' when taking on sailing opportunities.

Bigger Picture

Aside from the amazing sailing and tremendous learning opportunity onboard Leyton with Sam and Aymeric, this session really went far and beyond with the effort put in by the Leyton communications and shore team as well as The Magenta Project and Elodie Mettraux who ran the programme. We were so welcomed and looked after from the moment we arrived and the thought and detail were fantastic – from an exclusive visit to the Maxi Trimaran Sodebo, guided by Skipper Thomas Coville himself, to coffee, croissants and chats with Sam Davies. It was clear that the motive to share knowledge and give opportunity to female sailors was central to the project. Interestingly, I've since been working at another Ocean50 base at Lalou Multi in Port Medoc, Bordeaux and all the skippers here knew all about the LeytonXMagenta project. So, I hope that I've been a part of something that sets a precedent for more such initiatives going forward and also demonstrates the possibilities to potential sponsors in Sailing.

On top of the job….Pam Lee stowing the mainsail after the 24-hour session in the Bay of Biscay

 

Published in Greystones Harbour
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

Email The Author

William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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