The French trip
I hate writing. Enthusiasm doesn’t come off well when you write it down. Most of the times you get a candy-coated story leaving the reader ironically a bit sour afterwards. It makes no sense to write something about last few days somewhere in the north-west of France. But I should tell you a little more anyway, as I am not too keen on losing these thoughts, and have feeling this might help.
I really don’t have enough experience to talk about France in general, as I only visited Paris 12 years ago, and have just now spent two extra days on the road crossing Europe in half. But for me it might just be that this country is somewhat similar to drinking. If you get into it in a bad mood its probably going to make it worse, and contrary if you enter happily, you get out thrilled, wanting to dance and thinking of sleep as a secondary need after all. My two experiences vary. Concerning Paris, it was far too popular to be interesting to an outside visitor and the time I spent there is now just impossible to recollect from the back of my mind with no real impressions left behind.
But, a week ago we got off to a much better start. While we were closing the distance between us and our destination, nature around us slowly appeared to change into something that can only be described as wild in a tame way. Filled with small towns with small houses with small windows that appeared and reappeared in their obviously charming smallness. I saw similar sights in Scotland but much more scarce and in many ways less calm than scenery here.
Our destination, the town of Crozon is something like a collage made out of impossibly long and wide and deep and farstretched beach in the middle of about 30 brightly coloured houses on the bayside, along with a fairly big marina and wildness of cliff-like rocks and tundra-like greenery around. If you haven’t seen it, you can’t imagine it by yourself. This town hosted Area C of Grand Prix Ecole Navale, comprising of J80 fleet, Seascape18s and 24s. GPEN is big big big event, hosting regatta for 13 different fleets on over 6 places spread around Brest, here on the Atlantic coast of France.
We, and by we I mean my surprisingly fun head-of-sales-and-marketing-half-boss Tomo and me, came here to for both business and pleasure. Business was obviously different for both of us, but sailing the regatta on a Seascape18 was planned and executed as mutual pleasure.
This 18 was already a friend of ours as we have been driving, eating and sleeping with him and another 18 for two days at that point. Perhaps acquaintance is a better term, as we had to get to know each other much better, firstly during the process of setting him up. This took us few hours and the help of our French dealer, Francois and his brightly-shining-ever-following-shadow Sebastien. Tomo, I and our french-standard-seascape-18 were a team missing the fourth member to make a proper crew. Our French friends helped us out again, and to my honest surprise next morning we had a delivery of one french skipper accompanying with dreads in the hair and silver reflection sports glasses. Wearing flip flops as you apparently should if you are a French skipper. Smiling happily, looking calmly through the crowd. Manu is more or less what you would get if you could enter a build-your-own skipper model on some website and print him out on a 3D printer. He was well received by both us and our 18, making us complete for the regatta.
From then on, the next three days, our little 18 felt like the exciting member of the family you didn’t know you have because your mom hid him from you for 20 years fearing that he is a bad influence. It turns out, he definitely is. The more time you have with him, the more time you want. If it means postponing obligations, you postpone them. If it means being wet through everything you have, you’ll be wet. It’s far from intentional, not even a real decision, more like a story you want to listen through, but the end is not really coming.
Three days of sailing in France actually means three days of sailing. Three or more starts a day actually mean three or more. A very exciting change for casual Croatian not a very often participant of the races. These three days brought three days of different weather conditions, which was perfect for our new family as we could get to know each other through all this better. From 10ish knots in the sun on the first day to 15-25kn in the rain on the second and very shifty sun-cloud-wind-calm third day. It was pure fun to enjoy each of them in their own way.
Tomo is fertile ground for any kind of advice, and he grows as quickly as steady. This is hard to notice when everything is working properly but if he gets tired at the end of the day, the sheer number of little things that suddenly don’t happen is surprising. Manu, on the other hand, is what you get when you mix the right amount of racing spirit with a dad-like care for growth and well being of your children. His spirit is like the sea itself, making them into almost inseparable sight. And our 18 is very young and happy in the Atlantic waters, dancing joyfully to the rhythms of the race. The four of us had so much fun, that its boring to write about it. The fun was spread around like spring pollen, catching on to people breathing the same air as you do.
These people… The sea enables you to converse with people in a different way, this I am sure. The crews here were colourful as I am used to by now on the Seascapes, from families to friends, from beginners to pros. I guess you can call someone pro when they go half the race course in front of others? Even if you don’t call them that you should definitely meet two British teams that took over the top part of standings. If you aren’t impressed with their unmatched sailing performance these three days, their humour amplified with a gorgeous accent might be enough. The mix of British and French accent itself makes a simple soul happy. Whenever French people talk I get overwhelmed. These girls and guys here were the warmest arguments ever against of stereotyping French personalities. They were more than friendly, open and properly honest. And they connect to sailing in much more private and quiet way than what I am used to. The way that sort of makes you want to peek in their heads and hands while they are on the boat.
All of this accompanied us through these few days and brought us to the end, which was celebrated in Ecole Navale which is really grand in size and impression, as well as the number of people that came there connected by sailing alone. And after there is the party, and after party, there is the afterparty, as fortunately there are always enough people who like to dance the end away.
Looking back to all of this as Tomo, I and our empty trailer hang out in the Paris traffic, I would like to tell you this one more thing. Comfort zone is a tricky thing. Never get out of it and you will never drive across Europe with double-decker trailer, with co-worker proud of his new license to steer the car that tolls that weird double thing, sleep in the middle of nothing, and make it all worth for the beauty that is community of the ones that would do the same. If it’s out of your zone, then, and only then, when you go somewhere you wouldn’t usually go and do something you wouldn’t usually do, is that you get to think what you usually don’t and become more than you usually are. Or to put it simply – small boats, big challenges and great people.
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