Shane O'Brien joins a transition year sailing programme in France

07 June 2016
Shane O'Brien joins a transition year sailing programme in France

Howth junior sailor Shane O'Brien reports on a transition year programme that he took part in recently and eloquently recalls the experience in this report which includes taking in some big Laser events in France along the way:

Bcademy is a programme run by sailing coach Thomas Chaix. The programme is aimed at transition year students, it is all about developing our skills in sailing/fitness but also teaches us life lessons about looking after others and ourselves. Bcademy began with a 20-hour ferry ride from Rosslare to Cherbourg France. We were travelling with 12 sailors 2 coaches and 2 vans. Each van had a trailer with boats on each. We had to pack these trailers ourselves which was a challenge but will help us packing our own boats in the future. When we arrived at France we had an 8-hour journey to Loctudy France. Halfway through that journey we had are first problem, one of the trailers broke. We had to all work together and temporarily fix it using ropes and pulleys. Eventually we got to Loctudy. Our main focus at Loctudy was to train up for the French nationals in Fousant. We trained in Cercle Nautique de Loctudy for the first week and a half and went sailing every day for 4hours+ there was also an element of cycling in this trip for fitness.  Here is a picture of my first of many cycles. This cycle was 24k.

After a week of training we went to our first event in Fusan, the French Nationals. This event was a tough event with hard competition. On the first day of racing I pulled a 9th, 13th and a 11th. This put me 9th overall. The next day was not a good day as the conditions were not in my favour and I got 29th and a 25th. I had dropped off in the overalls but the experience I was getting from racing with the best in France was worth it even if the results were not to my favour. The last day came and this day was by far the toughest day I have ever had out sailing. 25knts+ the waves were huge. We had to launch off a beach with no shelter. This beach launch took 30 minutes or so in huge waves.  Here is a picture:

We got out to the racecourse and I was told by my coach to give it everything because there was only going to be 1 race. I raced the race the wind picked up even more. In that race 25 of the 40 competitors finished and only 2 Irish I was one of them. I got on land only to be told one Irish sailor had been brought to hospital via ambulance due to hypothermia it was a wild day racing. I finished 21st overall. The next day we loaded up the trailer and headed on a 12 hour drive to Nieuwport Belgium. We got there and unloaded the boats. We had a day off and decided to go to an indoor waterpark in Sun parks Belgium.  That was a lot of fun. For food we all changed and were given money to cook for 14 people that was a fun challenge and filled in for the 4th year cookery module that I missed! Our main challenge of training in Belgium was to compete in the Europa Cup. We had a few good training sessions in Belgium. When it came to the event day the waves were huge - I had a disappointing 26th in the first race but was happy to pull a top 15 in the second. The next day was much lighter and the waves were small. I started the day with a 9th, which was really good, then I dropped down to a 31st which was disappointing. Here is a picture:

The last day was cancelled due to no wind and a massive 7knts of tide. I finished 19th overall. We then once again packed the boats and headed for Hyeres South of France. This drive was 2 days long so we stopped in Beaune overnight. We went for a 24km cycle in Beaune through the vineyards it was truly breath-taking. The next day we continued on our journey to Hyeres. When we got to Hyeres we left the boats on the trailer and had a day off. The next day was just a cycle day.  We did the mammoth 100 km which was one of the toughest things I have every done here is a picture from that.

The next day we went on a mini trip to Marseille to do a Med Cup. The first day of the Med Cup was a very light day and was a disappointment for me - I only bagged a 31st and a 29th. The second day was a whole different story the wind was blowing and the waves were huge I managed to bag a 7th and a 6th and climbed up to 17th overall which I was happy with considering my first day. We then got back to Hyeres and began a five-day training session. Here are some photos.

We then packed the boats and to finish off Bcademy we did a 24hour cycle race. We were competing against some pro cyclists including Tour de France cyclists. We were in a team of four racing around the Circuit Paul Ricard. It was extremely hard I was racing sometimes in the middle of night in lashing rain. It was an hour on and an hour off. We eventually finished after 24 hours of cycling. My team finished 100th out of 180 cycle teams. Our stats were 680km combined with an average speed of 28km/h. This was by far the toughest thing I have ever done and when it was done we got in the vans drove back to Cherbourg and got back on the boat to go home 6 weeks later. I have taken so much from the experience and would easily do it all over again.

Shane O'Brien - HYC Junior sailor