The Race – report 2

With one minute to go to the start, Triple Lindy had lined up at the boat end, and started building speed to the line. We shut out boats attempting to squeeze their way in, and at the gun, we were front row in the fleet and off down the eastern channel, and past the Lindy supporters on “Majestic”, making a suitable amount of noise. Fourteen helicopters and small planes  circled overhead as we reached the first of two turning marks. A beat in light breeze out of the Heads, surrounded by spectator boats, and we reached the open sea. Up went the fractional zero, and then down it came as sheets were rerun (oops), then back up again and off we sped. Speed now in the high teens as the fleet stretched out – we were neck and neck with another Cookson 50, Mascalzone Latino, for most of the afternoon and into the evening. We switched into the watch system at dusk – 3 on, 3 off, and either worked the boat, or tried to wedge into a spot somewhere below on the windward side to snatch a few minutes respite.

Through the night and next day we drove the boat on, or hung on, and were getting used to the boat motion, noise, and amount of water sweeping the decks. Snacks and water were snatched when we could – this was not the old boat where we’d gather for an evening meal in the cockpit. Sleep was proving to be difficult for many – but down below there was the opportunity to take off wet foulies and warm up. Before you knew it you were shaken awake for the next shift, climbed into wet gear and hopefully dry boots, added sunglasses or head torch depending on time of day/night, and finally into lifejacket. Emerging into the cockpit and clipping in you were faced with the boat hurtling along and most of the crew in the stern to help keep the bow up.

The second morning and we were approaching Tasman Island in a stiff northern wind. As we reached under the famous Organ Pipes (Australia’s largest cliffs), the wind eased. We switched sails to jibs and sailed into a calm area (the only one of the race). Five minutes later a Southerly breeze quickly filled in, and again we were off and running under spinnaker. A few gybes later we passed the “Iron Pot” – a light on a rock, and then were in the Derwent River. A few more gybes and we were approaching the finish, and fast running out of runway – the spinnaker came quickly down as we crossed the line, followed by grins all around.

The reception in Hobart is justly famous, and unlike the other big ocean races. The boat is announced to the crowds along the long dock, and as you motor slowly along the waterfront, the crowds erupt into cheers. For sailors it is quite bizarre to be cheered at the finish. As we entered the marina, our shore support team were there to welcome us with hugs and champagne.

So what to make of the race? We made errors in each of our roles as we learned the boat – Brad, Sammy and Giancarlo were patient teachers and helped us sort out issues. Racing on such a fast race boat was new to most of us – there was lots to get used to that will help greatly in the next race. We took way too much food – barely had opportunity to grab something, and meals were pretty much out of the question. Weight placement (on deck or down below sleeping) was critical. Sleeping feet first was necessary – as the boat drove into waves it would quickly slow by 10 knots or more. Driving required great concentration, but was exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure. Going forward on deck often required crawling – and it felt pretty exposed. But – 25 knots of boat speed is highly addictive.

Our results were good, and we know we can improve as we dial in the performance of the boat, and get better at our jobs.

IRC Overall: 22nd  out of 81

IRC Division 1: 12th out of 24

2nd American Boat

2nd Cookson 50

The programme requires lots of input and effort from a large group of people, led by Joe. A big thanks to all for a successful and safe race across one of the most challenging bodies of water in the world.