September the 9th. Despite the difficult situation caused by Covid-19, 7 crews meet in Le Brusc to give life to the third edition of MIRAVAR, the now famous Mini Raid Var, strongly desired and organized by Lorenzo.
This year we chose the "Challenge" option (a daring variation to the classic program, conceived by Lorenzo and Remi) which includes the first three legs outside the Archipelago and therefore less sheltered and more exposed to the effects of the weather.
The tiny seaweed beach of Le Brusc is the scene of the final preparations of boats and crews. Someone arrived a day ago, someone - like us - at the last minute. Having traveled the 450 km that separate us from Turin, we have just the time to unload MIRA from the car, rig her, prepare everything and launch her. The departure must in fact take place early, as today we'll sail against the wind to round Cap Sicié. And as everyone knows to round a cape, it almost always reserves surprises.
The route: to turn the Ile des Embiez and to go south-east to round Cap Sicié and therefore go north-east to a sheltered bay suitable for the night. If it were a direct route it would be about 10 miles… not a lot, not a few.
The weather: a nice breeze blows from the South-East, exactly opposite to our target, but of sufficient intensity to make us hope for a decent average. It is expected that it will then decrease at sunset. But at that point we will have arrived, or else we can use alternative propulsions: engines or oars. In anyway it goes, today it is certain it will be a busy day!
Finally on the water. A bright sky is the backdrop and a nice, lively breeze makes us all run loose. Someone has already taken a preventive reefing. Turned the beautiful Ile des Embiez (and its nice rocks) we find ourselves as expected with the wind on the bow and in choppy waved sea. Here the long upwind begins.
We sail well, even if the wave is fairly annoying. The passage on the wave tends to slow down the hull which must therefore restart every time. This is very penalizing for MIRA, the lightest boat of the fleet, but anyway she still defends herself well. Fantastic in these conditions the two Pathfinders, which proceed with great ease.
However, conditions are deteriorating and the beautiful light with white clouds has given way only to threatening clouds. Here and there around us we see downpours of rain. Then, towards the north, a lightning show lights up, fortunately not very close. But finally comes, the gust or as they call it here "the grain".
It promises to be a couple of strong gusts that force me to promptly release the sheet of the main, followed by a rain that becomes pouring rain in a minute. On MIRA Nic and I are quite close to the rocks of the Cape, which is not very beautiful .. Here comes the blow: the wind increases suddenly and we are upwind with the sail completely foiled .. it is the only way to keep the boat right. The boat is suffering .. we are no longer moving forward but we are just drifting. (Later we will know that on Azzam the anemometer has risen to 30 knots, but perhaps it has not reached that much here). With difficulty we lower the whole sail and finally the situation on MIRA stabilizes: with dry sail, only thanks to the surface of our bodies, we travel at low reach at 2-3 knots, escaping from the rocks. I can even steer with the rudder .. Waiting for this end-of-the-world to pass, I see Astrid materialize leeward of us, with reefed sails, on a white sea covered by a fluctuating veil of pulverized water .. an apocalyptic image. In a few minutes, everything is over. All crews respond to VHF .. anyone missing!
The dance of the maneuvers begins on MIRA: put two reefs in the main, hoist the sail, but ..the wind has almost disappeared, drops everything, releases the reefs, hoist it again, re-sets everything, bail out the water (rain) which has filled the hull.. After a while we are on course again, easy but painful (a lot of waves and little wind), so we accept a tow from Gui Gui which - motored - offers to give us a ride.
Finally we are at the gulf of Saint-Asile beach (a name, a program), well protected from the waves and the wind. Time to cook a hot meal, get the boats ready for the night and enjoy a well-deserved sleep. Today we have covered 16.2 miles.
|[The arrival of Azzam, the flagship of the fleet]|
|[MIRA lying on the seaweed is ready to be armed]|
|[Europe, Sarah Louise e Azzam ready to leave]|
|[Europe. In the background the Ile de la Tour Fondue]|
|[the weather becomes unstable]|
|[MIRA upwind towards the "grain"]|
|["Astrid" expertly led by Lorenzo]|
|[From MIRA towards the stern: clumps of rain]|
|[The Cap Sicié. Tack after tack slowly approaches]|
|[Nic and I after the gust of wind]|
|[Sunset of day 1]|
|[Last miles towed by Gui Gui]|
|[Remi, first landed, leads the others' arrival]|
|[Mira touches the ground]|
|[The track of MIRA]|
September the 10th. It is incredible how it's possible to sleep well on board MIRA, despite the limited space. I wake up rested (Nicola slept aboard Astrid, hosted by Lorenzo). During the night it also rained but not a single drop passed through the cloth. This morning the police came by to the beach asking "Avez-vous the authorization?" Not knowing how to answer to our counter-question "Autorisation pour quoi?", they said that the mayor himself would come, who then didn't show up. I think to myself: this is a classic surreal dinghy cruising scene! However, a native local admitted that he had never seen so many boats together in that marina!
Calmly the crews wake up, prepare breakfast and - as is customary - invite each other aboard. A bistro located right on the beach side opens its doors providentially and is immediately visited for a reinforcement of the breakfast. Here is the point: today ia a real gray day with closed weather. The weather forecast does not seem to offer too much hope of wind. Someone seems to be disheartened .. However, finally optimism prevails and Lorenzo announces that the original program is confirmed, that is to cross the Grand Bay of Toulon and aim for the west end of the Giens peninsula, which offers some protected bays. On a direct course it is about 9 miles .. Even if there is little wind, it will be a joke for our dinghies!
Around 11 we are all back to sea struggling with an inconsistent breeze that still allows us to proceed at some knot of speed. Needless to do it on purpose .. it is full windward again! Yesterday's annoying wave dropped and eventually the wind stabilizes, allowing us to advance at 3-4 knots. What could you want more? Several crews spot dolphins. We on Mira see three going back and forth at the very tip of the Saint-Mandrier-Sur-Mer peninsula.
The Rada of Toulon is very busy. Boats and ships of all kinds pass by. It hits a military ship that - probably in practice - proceeds in a zigzag with sudden changes of direction. Some military aircraft in formation also pass.
Bluto, William's brand new RoG, started a little quietly with little wind, now sails with a remarkable speed and good bow and catches up on us and Sarah-Louise of Bruno and Carole.
One after another we reach the chosen destination, the beautiful Calanque du Four à Chaux. Being that there are some people on the beach, we anchor at the entrance to the bay, keeping some distance and dedicating ourselves to the delightful practice of snorkling. We still have several hours of sunshine ahead and we enjoy the remaining part of the day.
In the evening, we are on the beach cooking and sharing dinner.
|[Awakening on MIRA]|
|[Awakening on Gui Gui]|
|[Awakening on Europe]|
|[The fleet awakens]|
|[A look back: Cap Sicié and the Deux Freres islets]|
|[on MIRA, in navigation]|
|[Upwind in relax]|
|[The brave Nic at the helm]|
|[Sailing on Astrid]|
|[At anchor. The sun comes up and the cream is spread!]|
|[Jack and AZZAM, the flagship]|
|[the splendid Pathfinder Astrid, by Lorenzo]|
|[Bluto, William's impressive RoG, this year's revelation]|
|[MIRA, this year the only GIS present]|
|[Europe, Remi's new Pathfinder]|
|[Sarah-Louise, Bruno and Carole's fantastic Romilly]|
|[The huge Romilly cockpit]|
|[Clothes hanging on Europe]|
|[Paolo exhibits a valuable piece, just before sacrificing it]|
|[First imperceptible effects of alcohol]|
|[Track day two: 11.7 miles traveled]|
September the 11th. It has been a quiet night at the Calanque du Four à Chaux. Today it's still gray sky and little wind with scattered rain showers. In spite of the unfavorable conditions, we continue to sail using the weak breezes, rounding Pointe des Salis and sailing towards the East. On board with Nic we amiably discuss everything, interspersed with some VHF calls from the fleet and two rainbows, one exactly on the 'horizon and one at the Azimut.
Under the Ile du Grand Ribaud comes flat calm and at this point, some rowing (MIRA and Bluto) or motoring (all the others), we aim at the established goal, the famous Plage du Langoustier.
Upon arrival in the bay I am immediately struck by the lines of a catamaran at anchor. So with Nic we go to see it and - having met the owner - we are invited to visit it. This is Wharram 28, the first example, built in Cornwall in the nineties. It is always fascinating to see one of these very special catamarans with a concept almost opposite to the modern cats.
Between a swimming and the lunch we return to the sea for the last part of the day. Porquerolles welcomes us by assigning us to a new dock, more accessible than the usual one of the last two years. We are back in civilization! Porquerolles seems not to have been too affected by the Covid situation and the port and the town are fairly animated. After mooring and a shower, the appointment is at the Cotè Port bar for a round of aperitifs before dinner at the L'Aventure restaurant, organized by Ingrid.
The long day could end here, with our navigators falling asleep one by one and sleeping the sleep of the righteous, wrapped in their sleeping bag. But no! At the dock, things take a different turn.
Probably due to the considerable reserve of Rhum available, some participants find themselves aboard the RoG Bluto, where there is a lively discussion on the performance and characteristics of the boat. Time passes and other unsuspecting participants in transit on the dock find themselves on board. At some point I realize that we are .. nine! The cockpit is flooded, but the stability still does not seem compromised .. While the Ruhm - which according to William guarantees 3 years of protection from Covid - has its effect, a handful of heroes drop their moorings on Bluto to make a tour in the port. They say it was 4 in the morning. Nobody remembers further.
|[The trail of day three, 9 miles]|
|[Little wind, .. yet they move]|
|[Bluto and Azzam]|
|[Rainbow on the horizon]|
|[hoping not to be reached by the "grain"]|
|[Arrival at the Plage du Langoustier]|
|[Moored at Porquerolles]|
|[at the aperitif]|
|[riso con carne, ricetta creola]|
|[Night navigation in the port]|
September the 12th. Finally a good weather is forecasted for today. Yesterday afternoon we were joined by Erick, David and Thomas on Bricole and various family members via the comfortable ferry from Toulon. So the group - in anticipation of the weekend - has expanded again and today there are several alternative or complementary activities, namely: sailing (obviously) but also visiting the island (and the various coves along the coast) on foot or by bicycle (easily hired here) visit the museum of modern art - Carmignac Foundation - or the winery, Domaine Perzinsky. In fact the group is divided into small groups, which then at times unexpectedly and randomly find themselves in different places and times of the day.
Nic, MIRA and I are enjoying the morning breeze sailing along the north coast of the island. Spotted the two Pathfinders, we find ourselves moored in a small and charming beach just before passing the Pointe du Lequin. Later the guys from Bricole also arrive and then Bruno and Carole on their "Sara-Louise" and finally William on Bluto.
Then, back at the sea, we stop at the Plage du l'Alycastre (very beautiful but very crowded) and walk to the castle of the same name, unfortunately not open for visits. There is still wind and time to reach the northern tip of the island, Cap Mèdes and try some freediving. But Nic and I let ourselves be intimidated by the anchoring prohibitions and finally we desist from our intent to return slowly (the wind has dropped) to the port.
In the evening, the planned tournament to play the local game of petanque jumps calmly, while on the contrary the aperitif time is always very attended (a couple of crews are actually very prepared) and so the restaurant. Even tonight the camping stoves remain in the hold while we repeat yesterday's success by returning to the Adventure again.
Better not to be too late tonight: tomorrow is already the last day, that of returning to the continent.
|[Veduta mattutina di Mira e Sara-Louise]|
|[Erick, always active!]|
|[A seagull observes the behavior||of this strange group of bipeds]|
|[The true spirit of Miravar!]|
|[William illustrates his RoG, Bluto]|
|[MIRA alla Plage de l'Alycastre]|
|[Nic at the Alycastre castle]|
|[The crowded Plage de Notre Dame]|
|[Cap Mèdes, the northernmost point of the island]|
|[The trail of day four: 7.5 miles]|
|[... introspective moments]|
|[The new generation of Miravariens]|
|[David and Jack]|
|[Miravariens year 2020]|
September the 13th. High pressure declared for the last day of the Miravar, with the fleet busy returning to the mainland, destination La Londe. Lots of sun and very little wind. It looks like the photocopy of the last day of the last edition. So voice to the engines for those who have them or all to the oars, for us and William. In reality, on Mira we sometimes manage to sail at some speed, but it is a pain. In addition, as it is Sunday, the gulf is busy with motorboats of all sizes and we navigate continuously under the effect of the crossed waves ... a pain: nothing to do with the first days spent sailing alone.
However, the day is dense and demanding because in addition to the 8.5 miles to go we have to haul the boat, load everything into the car and go home. The same is true with minimal variations for all crews. Therefore it is forbidden to waste time. With Mira it goes like this: we arrive first (of the fleet) at the launching ramp of La Londe, skillfully dribble the other users of the same ramp (inflatable rafts, jet skis, etc.), we pull Mira ashore, dismantle and load everything into the car, including rooftopping the hullt. All in a very short time, only possible thanks to the experience and automation gained over years of car-topping. Completed the work Nic and I feel really cool. Only at this point do we notice the immovable bar that blocks the boat and prevents the car from leaving the marina! Moments of dismay ensue. But it is Nic who cleverly reverses the situation by stealing the secret code from a passing marina employee to lower the mobile bollard and get around the bar! (actually I think he said something like "out of pity, give us the code, we'll do anything!").
|[Alternative propulsion on Bricole]|
|[The bar, mockery of fate]|
|[Nic digits the magic number]|
|[Mira is hack home]|