Tips for singlehanded sailors

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Sailing alone is more rewarding than difficult. It is also the best way of getting to know your boat well. It is not a question here of describing the methods used by the big ocean racers, who have to keep one eye open at 30 knots on one hull, pulled by a 300m² gennaker... What interests us is cruising sailing, close to the coasts, or on the high seas. Sailing alone can be a choice, a challenge to be taken up, but also an obligation. A delivery trip when no crew is available, or much more often, when cruising as a family. At sea, with young children and mum looking after them, or with a group of friends who know nothing about sailing, you have to handle your multihull alone... A statement of the obvious, to begin with. Don't overestimate yourself. If your experience of sailing is limited to a few courses and three weeks' charter, you are not ready. Sailing alone is not however reserved for old sailors who have sailed round the three capes. It's just a question of mastering the boat, and yourself.  

Training outing

There is nothing better than testing yourself ‘in situ', with an inactive crew, or really singlehanded. Don't look for difficulty. The aim is just to go out for a few hours' sail in good weather on your multihull (which is good condition, obviously), to take stock of your aptitude, the difficulties encountered and the pleasure felt. Certain sailors appreciate sailing singlehanded, others get bored, as they cannot share their emotions. Again, be humble. You can't be dishonest with the sea... especially when you are on it alone! The person who hopes to do a real two to three week ocean crossing will train over a three or four-day route. Remember that a little 28-foot catamaran is obviously easier to manage singlehanded than a Lagoon 500. But the bigger of the two is also the safer.

Preparing your sail

Don't leave with just your enthusiasm! A solo sail must be prepared quietly at home or in the harbour. Study the route, therefore, on the chart or the plotter. Read the sailing guides to the area attentively (Imray, Reeds, Bloc Marine...) familiarise yourself with the dangers which stud the chosen route (which will obviously be easy). Harbour entrance and exit, other possible shelters, breakers, wrecks, firing areas: you must integrate all this data before leaving. Why so much anticipation? So you don't, in the case of an emergency, have to dive back into the charts and books. You must be able to find the right solution immediately thanks to your knowledge of the area. Preparing all the route's waypoints on the GPS or the plotter is very useful. So is a recce of the point of arrival, in a car.  

Weather: choose the right window

To sail alone serenely, make sure you choose a good weather window. Sailing a few hours before a forecast gale is to be avoided absolutely. What you need is some good settled weather, a calm to slight sea and a reasonable breeze. As you acquire experience, you can allow yourself to face slightly tougher ...

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