You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore
Big changes have already happened this very beginning of 2021 and the first one and most important one is that I’ve moved to France!
With very little work on the horizon and with the mini based in La Rochelle I took the opportunity to start the year here in France where I can train, learn and improve with the Pole of La Rochelle (a group of 25 minis training together with the same objective of finishing the Mini Transat).
Since I’ve arrived it’s been all about getting the boat ready for training, mainly minor repairs until I found a broken strand on the forestay, this means I am now waiting for a new cable before being able to go out sailing. But it’s part of this beautiful hobby, lifestyle, passion… called sailing.
Once the new forestay is installed, it’s busy busy! We’ve got a lot of trainings planned ranging from Mental preparation, nutrition, weather routing, maintenance and, of course, offshore training. So spirits are high and hopefully we’ll reach the racing season (starting April) fully prepared and ready to give our best on a very competitive Class.
I would also like to thanks everyone who has contributed in this adventure so far, it’s been amazing to see how many of you are following me and makes me really proud and motivated knowing I’ve got you all behind this too!
These are the updates for now but believe me it will start getting real very soon and I’ll keep you all up to date with all the prep and training coming ahead!
It’s been great to be back sailing big boats and to have the opportunity to train on a Class 40 for the winter
So after what was the end of the racing season for Skeiron and some work confirmed with the expedition company Rubicon 3 for the month of October, it was time to head back to the UK and leave Skeiron 911 in La Rochelle.
After the mandatory self-isolating period after landing in the country, I joined the Clipper 60 yacht “Starling” for a trip that would take us through some different ports in the South coast of the UK.
It was my first time sailing big boats again since my last job back in February. “Starling” was supposed to be the yacht I would have sailed from Australia to South Africa from August to November if it hadn’t been for this Pandemic, so it was really nice to be able and have the luck to go out sailing on her even with the current situation.
It is impressive how big the difference makes to sail on a 6.5 m boat compared to an 18 m one!! It took me a couple of days to get used again to the load of the lines and the heavy equipment onboard, but I was back quickly on my comfort zone.
I was 1st mate with my mentor Emily Caruso as Skipper, I’ve sailed with Emily countless of times and we’ve sailed together across the Atlantic, around the spanish coast, Norway, Abu Dhabi and many other places around the world, so it was great to be back sailing big boats with her in charge.
After getting the boat ready we had the crew joining us and to be Covid safe we created a “bubble”, with every member of the bubble having tested negative. Shoutout to Rubicon 3 to organise a safe environment and allow us to go out sailing!
We spent a couple of weeks exploring the south coast of the UK, sailing and training while enjoying being outdoors, socialising and having fun.
After our arrival to “Staling’s” home port of Gosport, an amazing opportunity presented itself thanks to the help of Emily. It consisted on helping Neil Payter (the only British to finish the stormy 2017 OSTAR race) getting his Class 40 ready for the next OSTAR race starting on May 2021.
A Class 40 is basically the same as a Mini boat but double the size. The systems all run the same way, they have the same sails, the same steering system, the same down-below space… although the Class 40 also count with water ballast. So with the lockdown in France being very strict and the lockdown in England ending any possibility of another job, I took this opportunity without thinking about it.
So this last few weeks have been all about getting to know the boat, trying different sails, reaching speeds of almost 20 knots and learning a lot with the experience of Neil as a single-handed sailor.
The plan is to keep helping, training, sailing and learning with Neil and “Cariberia” during this winter months and get some double-handed miles while getting the most out of this opportunity.
It’s been a great opportunity to see what we need to work on. An amazing overall experience with a great taste of the circuit
Alex Laline about the Mini en Mai
Well what an amazing experience!! Skeiron 911 and I have just finished our first single-handed race, a 500nm loop around the difficult coast of Brittany where big tides and unpredictable weather were the highlights of this infamous race.
The month before the race wasn’t as expected with a few problems onboard that didn’t allow us to go out training. So after 4 weeks getting everything we could possibly get ready onboard and getting Skeiron 911 some new toys like a Solar Panel, it wasn’t until the very last minute that we managed to sort out the problem with the rudder that kept us from sailing for so long.
So, together with some other minis from the Pole of La Rochelle, we pointed the bow to Trinitee, from where the race would start in a few days. After a long upwind delivery, we managed to tie alongside and immediately after started doing all the mandatory safety checks required by the FFVoile (French Sailing Federation).
After we got the thumbs up and debriefed about the race by the race committee, we were ready to head out to sea. With a light wind start and some difficult passages on the course, it was looking like a very technical race. I’ve sailed a few times in the Brittany coast with other boats but I’m not even close to have the experience some of the other mini sailors have in this coast. So with that in mind, I knew that it would be a tough challenge to do well, but the motivation and spirits never dropped.
The day arrived and the tactics were clear in my mind: stay close to shore for the big tides in little winds. With big nerves, we sailed off the dock and started to visualise all the course.
We didn’t have the best start and after the first night we were more towards the back of the fleet than the front. It was at that moment were I decided to have a change in attitude and really start enjoying the race and having fun.
The first tactical decision came with one of the most famous passages in the world, the Ras du Sein. Having the tide against I made the decision to stay as close to the shore as possible to try and avoid getting swiped out by the incredible strong current, specially with the little winds we had and having to tack through the Ras. It made the crossing extremely difficult but the decision seemed to work and we made our first big gain of the race, overtaking over 15 minis just at that point.
It was by the end of that second day that we finally started having the conditions which this boats were built for: big downwind surfing. We had up to a F6 with the big spinnakers, having a few broaches at night that made you feel very small in occasions. We changed to our smaller kite, being cautious and trying not to break anything onboard. Which seemed to work when you hear the problems in some of the other boats!!
After that big downwind night, we started having more reaching conditions, which Skeiron seemed to love, making again big gains on the leaderboard.
We could have had an amazing result if it wasn’t for the last day which, after not rationing properly my sleeps and breaks, I was very tired. We kept losing position by position and by the end of that day we had dropped again in the rankings.
Being the first race and the first time we were able to match other minis (64 total) we were quite cautious in some occasions and mainly focused on finishing our first race. At the end we finished 28th out of 47 boats in series so I am really really happy as there’s still huge amounts to learn and improve!!
Now the racing season has finished for me and Skeiron, but we have very clear in mind what are the points we need to work on for next year and we will try to be fighting more at the top of the leaderboard and trying to be as competitive as we can.
Thank you so much to all of you have have been following our progress and have contributed in any possible way, without all of you non of this could have even started.
If you want to help me and Skeiron 911 to qualify for the next Mini Transat, follow this link. Any small contribution helps!
If you want to know more about the project and about this whole adventure, follow this other link
Keep following us cause this adventure has just started!!
There are currently 83 Minis confirmed to be at the start line so it will be a very stressfull and exciting start!
Alex Laline talking about the Mini en Mai
Well it’s been an interesting last couple of weeks!
After the start of the first race of the season which unfortunately we couldn’t be present (check it out here) we had a very good idea of what was missing onboard, so I got all hands on the job!
I’ve been very busy getting Skeiron up to day with all the requirements and repairs she needed before the first race in September…
Unfortunately I got caught up with the holiday season here in France which meant the yard that built Skeiron and usually helps us, Prepa Nautic, was shut. This hasn’t slowed us down but it has meant that the big jobs have been placed for the last.
I haven’t been able to go out training due to the missing part of the rudders that we are awaiting, so it has been a bit frustrating. But this is sailing! And adversities are part of our day to day.
The good news is that Skeiron is now fully equipped and has all the necessary safety equipment to do a B race.
What is a category B race? Easy! Basically, Classe Mini divides the different events of the calendar into 4 different categories:
Category D: Day event
Category C: Event with no Leg of more than 300nm
Category B: Event with one or more Legs of more than 300nm
Category A: Event with one or more Legs of more than 1000nm
The higher the category the more requisites you and your boat will need.
The race we are getting ready for right now is the Mini en Mai, Category B, 500nm single-handed with the departure date set for the 8th of September. There are currently 83 Minis confirmed to be at the start line so it will be a very stressfull and exciting start!
So I can say it’s been a month of learning a lot. Stripping down Skeiron and re-doing many jobs has helped us really understanding where everything is and how everything is set up.
We have one more week to get the last big jobs done before we deliver the boat to Trinitee so we’re gonna be busy busy starting from tomorrow, so wish us luck!
If you liked this post check out how I got involved with the mini project following this link
So first of all it is with great news that the qualifying passage has been accepted by Classe Mini!! Which takes us a step closer to be qualified for the Mini Transat 2021. Check out the project in this link
So back in La Rochelle we had the chance to go to Les Sables d’Olonne and watch the start of Les Sables – Açores – Les Sables, which due to the Covid 19 will take place in the Bay of Morlaix instead. I went there 3 days earlier to help other minis get ready and I took the chance to see what are we missing onboard and other ways to get Skeiron on top level before the first race in September.
Julien Pulvé (2nd in the Mini Transat 2015) took us with the rib of the Pole La Rochelle and after helping towing some of the minis out the harbour I had the privilege to watch the start from the water. With 72 minis on the start line it was great to see what to expect for the upcoming race!
Now I’m back in La Rochelle and the whole month of August will be focused on getting Skeiron 911 ready for the Mini en Mai (500 miles) starting the 8th of September.
Here’s a list of things I need to do so you have an idea what I’m working on:
⁃ install the emergency lights
⁃ Get a new Solar panel and install it
⁃ Fix the bowsprit
⁃ Fix the rudders
⁃ Change the position of the radar reflector
⁃ Fix the jib
⁃ Offshore training
– Get new running rigging
⁃ Scrub Skeiron till I can see my face on her
This is the list of the most important jobs without taking in account all the safety parts needed to take part in the race.
So it’s looking like a busy month but luckily we have Bastian (Mini Transat 2019) who will be helping us getting ready for the racing season.
I am also proud to announce that I’ll be joining the amazing team of la Pole La Rochelle, with Julien Pulvé as the coach. There will be 25 minis training together in preparation for the Mini Transat and sharing and helping each other.
This is the beautiful things about the Classe Mini and sailing in general, the community that shares and helps each other in any given time!
Through this month I’ll be sharing with you how the preparation is going and how Skeiron 911 is getting her new toys and how I’ll be getting ready physically and mentally.
Finally myself and Skeiron found ourselves alone, in the middle of a very dark night. Uncomfortably comfortable.
After a long period in lockdown and after getting everything we could possibly get ready while in confinement was done, there was one thing left to do: go sailing. That’s when the whole operation “get to the boat” started.
As soon as France started relaxing lockdown measures, I jumped on a train to Paris in order to reach La Rochelle and before nightfall, I was back on Skeiron, with her new bottom ready and nicely moored alongside with the help of Yann and the Prepa Nautic team.
I spent the next day getting her ready for an idea that has crossed my mind while in lockdown: to cross the Bay of Biscay in preparation for the qualifying passage.
What is the qualifying passage?
The qualification passage is a 1.000nm course set by Classe Mini that takes us around the Conningbeg buoy in the Irish sea and back to La Rochelle. The course has to be single handed and a series of requisites have to be accomplished, like the use of Celestial Navigation and SSB radio. If you get the passage done, you’re a step closer to be on the start line of the Mini Transat.
The idea of crossing the Bay of Biscay was perfect: I would get a few days sailing with Skeiron and getting to know her a bit better before the qualifying passage and I could sail to Coruna, not only was the only place in Spain which had recently lifted the lockdown, but were Maria (the creator of the website and my love) lives.
After a day well spent getting Skeiron ready, we slipped lines at 6am and pointed Skeiron’s bow towards the entrance of the bay. I had it pictured in my head as a nice warm summer morning, sailing with the wind in your face and getting tanned. Instead we found ourselves sailing in the middle of a raincloud beating against 25 knots of wind. It took a lot longer than expected to reach open water but it was a nice feeling mixed with the first bit of sunshine once we did.
After a few hours with the wind gusting up to 27 knots, the first problem appeared: one of the rudders had disconnected from the tiller. Luckily it was the rudder on the windward side which meant Sir George (the autopilot) was still happy to steer the boat while I fixed the problem.
Throughout the day the wind started to ease, allowing us to shake out the reefs and get a bit more comfortable onboard and allowing me to get some rest. We couldn’t have asked for a better first night: clear skies, nice breeze and fishing boats ALL over the place, so after a bit of slalom and tacking between trawlers, finally myself and Skeiron found ourselves alone, in the middle of a very dark night. Uncomfortably comfortable.
The following days were all spent sharing the same BIG detail: beating upwind. From 2 to 20 knots, from no sea state to 2m swells, from my happy face to my grumpy face in a matter of minutes.
It wasn’t until the 3rd day when the news came that there was a weather front coming towards us. It’s not only that we don’t like weather fronts in general, but imagine being on a 6.5m boat, after beating upwind in all kind of winds, where everything around (that isn’t that much) is all over the place, having had not much sleep…. The decision was obvious: we would make a stopover in the North side of Galicia: Viveiro.
I had been to Viveiro before so it also made me confident to chose it as a port of refugee, and a bit of begging after being rejected entrance due to work on the marina, I was allowed in. It was perfect. A one day break before heading to Coruna.
From yacht deliveries, to instructor, explorer and Ocean racer.
On my return from sailing round the world (check it out in this link) I never went back to a “normal” life. I was determined to sail, to race and to discover. And that’s exactly what I did right after getting my Yachtmasterqualifications.
I started by doing deliveries, which was a great way to sail lots of different yachts from 30 to 80ft and to explore different parts of the world. Although a great experience and great fun for while, I didn’t feel the same passion I felt when racing.
I joined the Royal Yachting Association and shortly after I became a Cruising Instructor, teaching Competent Crew and Day Skippers on 40ft yachts. That period didn’t last long, cause it was around at that time when I decided to go back to big yachts and do something different.
In 2017 I joined the Clipper Race Training Team, starting as a 1st mate and developing into skipper over the years. I always felt very comfortable on those boats, which allowed me to be calm, confident and comfortable with a high pressure job.
Till the date I’ve trained over 950 amateur race crew to go and race round the world with the Clipper yachts. During this period I’ve met amazing people and made friends for life.
While working for Clipper on my first year, I was put in contact with an expedition company and after having a chat with them I was really attracted by the itinerary, they were sailing to places like Honduras, Morocco, the Baltic, Cuba, the Arctic Circle… I was really excited.
At the end of 2018 it’s the time I joined Rubicon 3 and, like Clipper, I would start as a 1st mate and through the years I would start skippering some of the trips.
I’ve sailed to the Norwegian Fjords and climbed a glacier, to the Lofoten Islands and swam while in the Arctic Circle, to the Faroes and realise there isn’t actually that much fog in the UK, to the Hebrides and saw how beautiful is Scotland, I’ve explored the Caribbean and drunk rum in rum shacks, visited and explored the Azores, Madeira and the Canaries, sailed and explored the coast of Morocco while avoiding fishing boats, crossed the Bay of Biscay over 14 times, crossed the Atlantic 4 times, I’ve crossed the Panama Canal 3 times, I’ve been to Abu Dhabi and matched race 2 Volvo 60’s…
The job with Rubicon 3 gave me the opportunity to explore places I never thought I would have the chance to discover. All that together with learning the hard way when things don’t go to plan and when things need to be fixed in the middle of nowhere have brought me a wide range of experience. Check it out here
To this day I’m still skippering for Clipper training, I’m still exploring remote places with Rubicon 3 and when not training or exploring, I’m racing with 911 to achieve the goal of competing in the Mini Transat 2021. Check out the project in this link
A sailing voyage around the world that taught me the importance of respect, honesty and humility
The Clipper Race is like a social experiment, putting together 20 people who have never met before in a confined space with an extreme environment
– Alex Laline
The opportunity to be part of the Clipper Round the World yacht Race was something I was not gonna let slip. It was racing on big yachts round the world…. It was perfect. Learn about my story in this link
I left Indonesia and moved to the UK, where the race would be departing from in just a few months. I got allocated my team “ClipperTelemed+” and we started training and getting everything ready.
The crew varied from a wide range of ages, nationalities, professions, lifestyles and backgrounds. There were people who were there to accomplish a dream, people who wanted a challenge, people who wanted to win and people who were just happy to finish in one piece.
On ClipperTelemed we were proud to have the oldest crew member of the race, a woman from Texas called Linda who at the time had 69 years of age and also the youngest crewmember of the race who had just turned 19, me.
Getting a yacht ready to race round the world it’s not an easy task, you need to take in mind all the food and water you might need, all the spares and equipment you might use, medical equipment, etc. specially when there’s 23 people onboard.
After months of training and getting the boat ready, the time arrived. The time to slip lines from London and point the bow of “ClipperTelemed+” towards Brasil, the first stop of the race, was here.
It’s a strange feeling, to wave goodbye to your loved ones knowing that the next time you’re gonna see them will be in 11 months, after having sailed round the world… it’s unthinkable.
The first days of racing it’s when I realised this was nothing like the kind of racing I was used to. I was used to sail in close proximity to other boats, always comparing your speed with other boats and always motivated to get the extra knot…. This was completely different, we had just left London a few days ago and we already couldn’t see any boats … and we still had more than 3 weeks before arriving to Brasil. It’s when I understood that this wasn’t a race against the other 11 yachts, it’s when I understood that Ocean racing it’s not about you racing against them…. It’s about pushing yourself to go quicker against something you can’t see.
You’re tired, you’re wet, you’re cold, you’re scared… all you can think is about reaching your destination, you think about a warm bath, about having a steak with fries, about sleeping for hours uninterrupted… but the only thing you can think about after you arrive back on land, it’s to slip lines again, to go back to the Oceans and be at the mercy of the elements again… it’s like a drug.
I realised how monotonous Ocean sailing can be sometimes and how quickly your body adapts to the conditions. How you become a part of this “bubble”, where nothing apart from sleep, eat, sail and repeat is relevant. You are completely isolated, you don’t know what’s going on in the world… it’s freedom. I got used to the rhythm of pushing the boat while being tired, to cook while the boat was heeling at 30°, to sleep through loud noises, to have rain showers, to get guided by the stars…
I’ve always respected the Ocean, I’ve always known that it has the last word, but now I realise that back then I was still a bitover-confident and that on the Ocean, as soon as you turn your back to the elements, they bite you back. That’s what happened when we were for the first time in the Southern Ocean… a block holding the Spinnaker halyard broke at the top of the mast and the only way to take the big sail down was to send someone up the 30m mast while the big sea state was throwing the boat up and down. That someone was me, so after a long night-watch, at dawn, I put the harness on and went to the top to get rid of the sail. Everything was going according to plan, the sail came down and I just had to come down, but then is when things started going wrong. I started getting very tired and I was struggling to hold onto the rig, it was at that point when a big wave hit the side of the boat, making it lean to her side and sending me flying out of control. I swung for a short period of time before I managed to grab hold of a spreader, but the problem was that the lines I had gone up with were twisted around the mast and I couldn’t come down… what followed next was amazing. A bunch of people who hadn’t met before, all scared, all wet, all tired… started working together to come up with a plan on how to get me down. It was spectacular to watch, although I wasn’t paying much attention on what was going down on the deck from the top of the mast to be honest.
The crew managed to get me down and after checking if I had broken anything and making sure I was fine we restarted racing. I was lucky to come out with only a few scratches and bruises.
We went through big storms, moments of tension, moments of absolute pleasure, moments of thinking about giving up, moments of anger, moments of sadness… sailing pass Cape of Good Hope and Cape Leewin, through the Bass Strait, sailing in the South China and North Sea sailing across the Atlantic, Indic, Southern and Pacific Oceans and 11 months after the race started, there we were, sailing into London after having circumnavigated the world…. even to this day it’s still hard to believe what we achieved
The Clipper Round the World wasn’t just about the sailing, it was all about the people around you, taking care of each other in extreme conditions. Every one of us was outside their comfort zone but together we managed to push and give the best of each other.
In the middle of the race I knew I wanted to do this, I wanted to devote myself to sailing, I wanted to explore places and I wanted to race on a more professional level. So as soon as I got back to London I knew this was just the start of my sailing career. Check out what followed in this link
The path of a kid obsessed with the Ocean, with sailing and with the feeling of freedom. From dinghies to the challenge to qualify for the Mini Transat 2021
Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.
– Oscar Wilde.
I started sailing at the early age of 4 and, like many other kids at that age, I went through the process of dinghy sailing. It wasn’t long after when I realised I was completely hooked to sailing, completely hooked to racing and completely hooked to the Ocean and the feeling it gave me.
After racing in some of the National championships with lasers, I started racing on an Archambault “Grand Surprise”, a 32 ft racing yacht, winning trophies all around the Spanish coast and gaining valuable experience on slightly bigger yachts.
It was during that time back in 2007, when the first ever “Barcelona World Race” was held. I remember watching the big 60ft Imocas disappear on the horizon knowing that the next time they would step back on land again would be when they were back in Barcelona 90 days after having sailed around the world, it impacted me, it made me feel something that I had never felt before…
Since that day it wasn’t just the “Barcelona World Race” I would follow, it was the “Vendee Globe”, the “Transat Jacques Vabre”, the “Route du Rhum”, it was the Solitaire du Figaro and, of course, The Mini Transat. I would look at those people and think of them as superhumans, mad sailors chasing adventure and loneliness on the immensity of the Oceans.
While following all of this races, life took a turn and I ended up living in Indonesia. Despite not much sailing, the Ocean was still there, and it kept calling me. With 14 years old, I would finish High School on a tropical Islandand surf up to 8 hours a day. That experience gave me the maturity to treat the Ocean with respect, to enjoy the loneliness and the spirituality.
It was a couple of years later that the opportunity to be part of the Clipper Round the World yacht race came up. I didn’t hesitate. (Click here to read about it!)
Racing around the world at the age of 19 gave me the experience and confidence I needed to go further, to push myself harder and to see how far I could really go. It was like my university.
In my return, I had already made up my mind that I would pursue a life sailing, a life on the Oceans, racing and exploring to places no-one had sailed to before. Click here to find out did that go!
That experience gave me the maturity to treat the Ocean with respect, to enjoy the loneliness and the spirituality.
– Alex Laline.
While I was gaining tons of experience teaching, racing and sailing to exotic locations, solo-sailing had always been at the back of my head. Racing being my passion and solo-sailing being what attracted me most, I started asking myself the same question over and over again: How could I get into the elite of solo sailors and experience what they did?
The answer had always been in my head… The Mini Transat. The “mad” race for solo sailors. The race with 6.5m boats. The school for solo sailors.
I became really focused on the Mini Transat, almost like an obsession. I had to be on the start line of the Mini Transat. So the process to find a boat started there, but as we were approaching 2018, it was too late to try and find a boat for the Mini Transat 2019 so the objective now focused in The Mini Transat 2021. Learn about the Project
It took me over a year to find the right boat and even more time to get everything ready but as soon as I saw her I knew that 911 would be my boat. (Know more about the boat in this link)
I had managed to fund the boat myself after years of work and will. And now, the time had finally come, the time to slip lines and connect with the Ocean on a way I had never experienced before.
Many times, while I’m training with 911 I look back in time and remember that kid, the way he used to see the “mad” mini sailors and how they impacted him…. And here I am alone, on the Ocean, pursuing that little kid’s dream.
So these last few weeks have been all about the preparation, all about having everything ready to jump onboard Skeiron and not worry about “not sailing” related stuff.
What does that exactly mean?
Making sure we have the website up and running
Making sure our social networks and crowdfunding sites are up and running
Making sure we have all the appropriate paper charts
Making sure we have all the appropriate publications
Making sure we have all the appropriate tools for Celestial Navigation
Making sure we have all the lines, winches, jammers, sails, steering, etc. In order and in good shape
Making sure that Skeiron has a new bottom fro the racing season
Making sure that all the inscription fees for racing are up to date
This is just some of the examples of what is going on right now, which wouldn’t be possible without the magnificent help of Maria Astorga (Maria is our PR, photographer, web designer, supporter, motivator and most especially, the person whom without her help none of this would be possible)
Many of you might be wondering what’s next? Well, as soon as everything is ready, myself and Skeiron are gonna go for a period of familiarisation. It is a requirement in order to qualify for the Mini Transat to do a 1.000 nautical miles qualifying passage, with no assistance, with a sextant and with all the excitement, we’ll leave La Rochelle, head NW towards Ireland, go around “Conningbeg” (a mark in Irish waters) and head back to La Rochelle to complete this familiarisation course with Skeiron.
So spirits are high, negativity is low and myself and Skeiron are ready to get going!!