Phil Sharp successfully completes tough qualification for The Transat bakerly after getting hit by a severe gale.

Last Tuesday Sharp cast off from the docks of Lorient, France to begin his maiden voyage with his newly acquired Class 40 race boat. This 1,000 mile offshore qualifying passage is mandatory before starting The Transat bakerly race. The routing took him 300 miles offshore of Bay of Biscay, and up into the Celtic Sea, before heading past Land’s End and back across the English Channel to the ‘Warm Up’ race town of St Malo.

On the second night, heading up into the Celtic sea, Sharp found himself in the centre of a severe and unpredicted low for over six hours. The brutality of which all the major forecasts had failed to spot.

“It was a serious test for me and the boat. Both the weather models I was using predicted a maximum of 25 knots of wind, but I soon found myself sailing in over 35 knots, and was forced to change to the storm jib. The wind kept climbing, gusting to 45 knots, and the sea quickly started to build. The boat was slamming very hard into short, steep waves, and I have to say it was pretty unnerving for my first time offshore in this boat. However, the Mach Class 40 held up well in the storm, and the low eventually headed east, which was a great relief.” Commented Sharp.    

After four nights at sea, a somewhat withered sailor reached St Malo at dawn sporting a black eye having been knocked face-first into one of the winches during the storm. In addition to completing the qualifier, Sharp’s intentions to put the boat through some testing conditions were duly met, to give him confidence in facing such typically harsh, relentless conditions of the North Atlantic.

“In hindsight it was seriously valuable to get such a kicking from the outset. It reminded me just how quickly the weather can deteriorate in the North Atlantic this time of year. There is no underestimating just how large and powerful the seas can be out there, and this will definitely help with our preparation to ensure we have all in place for heavy weather sailing.” Commented Sharp.

Today, Sharp received official confirmation from the race organisers that he has completed the necessary sailing qualification requirements to start The Transat bakerly.