RNI Leg 2 - The report I didn't want to write
There's obviously been a bit of a delay in putting our report on the blog. I would normally pen these with some zeal, but after the events of the past week that's deserted me - being completely honest. We've had so much support and so many followers though who would love to know - so the story follows.
We had a great stay in Mangonui and we started the leg relaxed and rested. If we were going to be contenders in the race overall we were looking for a good leg 2 and the prospect of some breeze, and some windward sailing gave us a lot of optimism that we could improve on our mid-fleet position.
As I posted on the blog the start was a light airs affair. As the following video shows it looked like we were going to be stuck in the doldrums again - weather that Mr. R. hates. Just before the warning signal for the race a gentle North West breeze filled in across the bay.
At the start we got away at the pin end and made ourselves a really nice lane across the bay. We held in there and were sure that our left-hand side position would pay off. We had come to learn that the probability of success of any strategy seemed to be inversely proportional to the strength of our convictions. The boats outside of us held the pressure and managed to sail around us a little until we all parked up off the headland at the edge of the bay. One by one we wriggled into the new North East breeze and the fleet stretched their legs. We were quickly delighted with the uphill performance of the boat as we managed to settle in for a nice sail to North Cape.
Of course it never works like that and before long we had some weirdness develop where there was a split breeze. Inshore there was a slightly sick South Westerly breeze and outside of us there was the fresher North-Easter. We got stuck in the middle for a while and had boats both sides of us sailing away. Eventually we punched out into the north and sailed comfortably on the wind all the way to our waypoint at the North of the Country.
As the afternoon faded into evening we found ourselves tacking along the Northern coast with a lot of boats around us. It became a circus for a while as we had a cruise liner, fishing boats and yachts coming from everywhere like space invaders. All evening the sailing was fantastic - we rumbled along the coast to Cape Reinga and bore away to head South for the first time in the race. We went around the Cape with competitors like Second Nature and Gale Force and that left us feeling like we were in reasonably good shape after the slow start.
As dawn broke we were sailing with slightly eased sails to squeeze inside of the gnarly Pandora's Bank. These shoals would give you some grief if you tried to sail straight over them. We always planned to go outside them, but true to form we changed the game plan and shot through to the East.
Once clear of the shoals we came onto the wind and settled in for what we knew would be a progressively stronger breeze. Sometimes breeze just gently rises and other times it comes in with a bit of theatre and force. This time the angry roll cloud on the horizon gave us a pretty good clue that the forecast Southerly was nearly here and we quickly shortened sail and reefed the boat down. The next video shows the front approaching. As you can see we'd learnt the lessons from previous races of doing things early and we were ready for the breeze when it came.
The front brought more wind, but nothing fresh, and some lumpier seas. Mr. R. is a boat that just loves that stuff and we settled in to a really great mode on the boat. We didn't feel overpowered with our #4 jib and a reef, the boat was going quick, we were enjoying some nice sleep on the off-watches and we were indulging in some of the little treats we had in the ration supplies. In absolute honesty - we were really enjoying ourselves and we were smitten to finally be sailing in conditions we knew were a strength for us.
The only issue that we encountered during the day on Wednesday was a small accumulation of water in the forepeak from a leaking hatch. The bilge pump kept on top of this and we found that a very short time on starboard tack seemed to clear it completely. We wondered if this should have been a concern but quickly realised it wasn't going to give us any grief.
During the day we crossed tacks with a couple of our competitors. First came Fineline, who looked pretty sorted. Even though we were both miles from anywhere we crossed within boat-lengths of them and we both gave a wave. The next boat was Second Nature. We all ended up in a three way rack-up miles offshore and we all tacked on the little shifts as they came through.
During the course of the day it became apparent that these really were our conditions and we were going very well compared to the other boats. We are a longer, narrower boat and we should have been a bit quicker. What really surprised us was how settled the boat was and how we didn't drop any speed or height as we progressively shortened sail and de-powered the boat. We didn't have to push the boat or ourselves hard at all.
At the end of that day the 6 o'clock radio sched brought confirmation that we'd done pretty well. As night fell we were going through the motions and we starting to feel hugely upbeat about our prospects on the leg.
Our last sched position before the dismasting, 1800hrs Wednesday
So at this point we were out there living the dream, but it was all about to go pear shaped...
Just before 2200 we changed watch. I'd had a couple of hours sleep and it was my turn to sail and let Matt have a rest. We swapped over and just as we'd been doing all day we tonked along doing between 6-7 knots. The breeze was about 20 knots and the seas were a bit lumpy and confused. I spent a few minutes sussing the angles of the swell and found that pinching the boat a little into the breeze gave us a better angle to the waves and slightly less speed and power when we hit a bump. I prepared myself for a couple of hours of sailing when all of a sudden we hit two waves in succession. The waves weren't large, the bumps were actually quite innocuous and not really conspicuous for any other reason other than the popping sound that accompanied the second one. I looked up at the rig and I had the most rotten, gut-wrenching feeling as I realised that the rig had failed and we had a broken mast.
My immediate reaction was surprise and I remember saying out loud to myself "there goes the race". I yelled to Matt that we had a broken rig and he scrambled out of his bunk.
As Matt came out of the hatch the rig was mostly still standing. The 'Upper' shroud that supports the side of the mast and the top of the rig had let go, but the secondary, 'lower' shroud was supporting the remaining section. Matt suggested that we try to save whatever we could of the rig and I scrambled forward to see if I could pull the headsail onto the foredeck. It only took a matter of seconds however and a second bang saw the remaining rigging break free and the mast slumped completely over the side of the boat.
In an impossibly short amount of time Matt grabbed the hacksaw, bolt-cutters and some pliers from down below. The danger of having the mast hanging over the side of the boat is that it can damage the hull - which of course can create a whole new set of problems when you're way out at sea. When it was evident that we couldn't save any of the rigging the priority became to get rid of it.
Right in front of us the motion of the rig in he swells was causing the section to shear off from the deck. The halyards, electrical cables and hydraulic lines were all that were connecting it to the boat. We furiously hacksawed, chopped and otherwise freed all these lines. The severed hydraulic line created a fountain of slippery oil that covered the decks. We had to get on our hands and knees to move around the boat.
Bit by bit everything fell clear of the vessel. We freed everything from the bow first and moved back - this wasn't planned, but it's just the way it worked out. There was a bit of stress when we realised that the mainsheet, runners and backstay were the last items attached and that they'd caused the rig to slip towards the back of the boat where the propeller and rudder might be damaged. I can remember chopping through the backstay with the hacksaw like a man-possessed. Once that was free the whole lot sank really fast.
Hacksaw in hand, I looked up from watching the sinking rig, looked forward across the decks and at that moment the reality of the dismasting sank in. Matt and I were in disbelief and we swore over and over again. We felt dudded to lose the mast like that in those circumstances. There was also a sense of apprehension that, while there was no immediate danger to us or the boat, we now had a mission on our hands to get back to dry land.
We tidied up all the sheets and remaining remnants of rigging. The oily decks and the really crappy motion of the mastless boat made this job not fun and it seemed to take an age. Once everything was clear we started up the engine. At this time we discovered that the engine controls had been mangled in the dismsating - probably from having a line twisted around them. Matt showed some engineering skills to jury-rig a manual throttle for the engine using the sailors trusty friend - VB (venetian blind) cord.
We got underway doing about 3 knots into the swell and breeze. A quick look at the charts revealed that the closest safe harbour was New Plymouth - more than 150 miles away. There are other harbours up and down that coast, but none really suitable for yachts, or bad weather.
We contacted the race organisers, Taupo Marine Radio and Matt's wife Cath to let people know what happened. Despite losing the rig and all our radio communications we had a sat-phone, which turned out to be an incredibly invaluable thing. While we had spare aerials, etc. we found the convenience and ease of use of the phone to be absolutely indispensible. I strenuously suggest to all offshore sailors to carry one of these on board during passages like this.
We originally set off south, heading for Taranaki, but after consultation with people ashore it seemed that a better option for us was to head inshore towards the western shores of Auckland. The thinking was that we may be able to cross into the Manakau Harbour, but if that turned out to be impossible we could get more diesel fuel to give us a better safety margin for a passage south.
Maintaining the slow speed to save fuel we started the long haul back towards the shore. It was wet and lumpy and the only footage we have was a 'Blair-Witch-Project' style video I took, which came out spooky because I was trying to keep the camera dry!
By Thursday afternoon we were closing in on the coast and the plan was that a tug, the Shamrock II, was going to make it's way out of Kaipara Harbour, transfer some fuel across and then stand by us for the evening. This plan was aborted however when heavy seas stopped the tug in it's tracks and it pitchpoled trying to get out of the Kaipara Bar. We were resigned to the fact that we'd be on our own for the night. We decided to stand offshore in deep water and slowed right up - so we only had enough speed to hold our course and position.
It was a long night. The evening was punctuated by aircraft flying overhead towards Auckland airport and some seriously good stars. We got the odd wave over the deck. It's quite amazing how foreign and barren the cockpit of the boat is when you don't have the usual ropes and rigging to hold on to. Trying to go nowhere on a vessel at sea without any sails is quite uninteresting and it gives you too much time to think about the cold and lack of sleep.
At day-break we were getting pretty anxious about whether we could go through with the plan to cross into Manakau Harbour, or whether we were facing another couple of days of slog to New Plymouth.
We were in contact with two people throughout the course of the morning. Evan the lighthouse keeper, perched high on the hills above the harbour entrance was relaying advice and information to us about the state of the bar. Down below Nick the salvage expert was waiting in his aluminium work boat on the other side of the bar. The picture being relayed to us was a bit mixed and up until the turn of the tide it sounded very doubtful that we could take the boat through breaking surf across the 4m deep sandbar and into port.
The change of tide brought a change of fortunes for us however and we started to get some rather more optimistic reviews from Evan about the state of the Bar. By 1130 hrs we had a bit of a now-or-never situation. We had too little fuel to wait around for the rest of the day, the breeze was forecast to come up and for the first time we had a positive review of the surf conditions - so we bit the bullet, lined up our transit points, revved up the engine and made our way towards the shore.
To say we were relaxed about this would be a lie. We know the reputation of these bars and we were expecting to get knocked around a bit. We had the wash-boards in and we constantly kept checking our line with Evan. He was awesome - it was like someone talking down a rookie pilot from the control tower ("pull up you're too low"). With some guidance and reassurance we made it through surprisingly unscathed and before we knew it we had met the other boat and we were heading in the heads of the harbour.
A combination of the relief of getting to safety, the beauty of the upper reaches of the harbour and the sudden improvement in weather conditions once inshore conspired to immediately release us from the stress and tension since the dismasting. For a while we even forgot the disappointment of the race and just enjoyed the moment.
Around the early afternoon we had made it up the harbour under tow all the way to Onehunga wharf. We tied up next to a tug boat and got the boat cleaned up. It was great to see Cath waiting for us on the dock. I was able to ring Australia and report that we were ashore.
We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Evan, Nick, Taupo and Auckland Marine Radio, the race organisers, insurers and everyone else who so willingly gave us assistance. Our predicament was never a life-and-death situation, but this sort of thing takes you a bit out of your comfort zone and the help we received was really invaluable.
I'm writing this on the ferry back in Sydney, travelling back home from the office. There's a bit of a sense of anguish about the lost opportunity caused by the rig failure. After the preparation, expense and hard work it all seems a bit cruel. We had sailed this race 100 times before we set off to do it. When you were out for a walk, commuting to work - all we thought about was the pursuit of this dream and it's really, really sad that it ended the way it did.
The upshoot of course is that we're safe and the boat will be fine. Coming ashore and learning the extent of the Christchurch earthquake was shocking and it also puts in perspective the triviality of our own misadventures.
Check back over the next few days and I'll post some videos and pictures from the boat move on the following day.
0 Comments on: Blog EntryFriday 25th February, 2011
The good news is that Matt and I successfully crossed the Manakau Bar around midday today and made our way up to Onehunga Wharf. Thanks for all your messages of support.
At around 2200 on Wednesday a shroud fitting failed and we lost our mast. I'll give a detailed account of this later, but from the moment this happened our race ended and we had to change mission to getting ourselves and the boat back to shore.
We were relieved to get back today, but now we are on shore we can reflect on a shattered dream. We both put so much into this and it was cruelly taken away. We wanted to sail into Wellington, our old home town and we wanted to win that leg.
I'll put a detailed report of our race later on.
We'd like to thank all our families, friends, supporters and sponsors who followed this blog.
0 Comments on: Blog EntryTuesday 22nd February, 2011
RNI Leg 2 - Waiting for the start
We've got out early and we're waiting for the start. There isn't a breath of wind.
We take the anchor of the bow and stow it below so we always give ourselves a bit of extra time.
The forecast is light for today and we may get a bit of southerly breeze tomorrow on the west coast. It doesn't look like we'll get anything hairy. Some breeze would be very welcome!
Everything is good otherwise. We're stocked up on chocolate, peperoni sticks and some other food. We're looking forward to seeing everyone in Wellington.
16 Comments on: Blog Entry
Posted by Paul Hardiman on 22/02/2011 6:33:40 AM
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Posted by Brent on 26/02/2011 6:08:29 AM
RNI Leg 1 Report - An Emotional Roller Coaster
We're finally away on our big race. The leg we have just sailed was a tricky one. The race overall was a bit of a emotional rollercoaster as we had a succession of wins and loses tactically.
The race start was a great occasion. The Devonport wine and food festival was on ashore. The got a really seriously good gun for the start, which had flame and smoke as well as a massive bang. 'Word' to whoever had the idea to use the howitzer for the race. I hope that it made it back to base safely and wasn't stolen by wine festival party goers.
For the start, we decided to avoid the mosh-pit at the pin and try and sneak through to leeward. This would have worked well but the tide had us sweeping down much too fast towards the line and we had to hold up bit to avoid being over early. We were stoked to be away, but left ourselves a bit of work to do after the start (Morale Reading MR = OK).
Before we knew it we had hoisted the big chute and gybed off down the Rangi Channel. There was very little breeze and it was one of those patterns where no one good get a lead because they'd sail up to the edge of the breeze and stop. This trend continued all afternoon and it was funny to have every kind of boat, from the biggest and quickest down to the oldest and slowest sailing in a pack.
The first big decision came as we approached Tiri Channel. The fleet began to split into two groups - one in the east and one, where we were in the west. There was no breeze at all in the channel and we decided to bail out and switch sides. This turned out to be a good call and when the two groups converged we had a small lead over some of our closest competitors. (Morale Reading MR = Better than Average).
We'd managed to get through all the sail changes required in the course of the day well. We calculated ten changes in the course of the afternoon. Every choice worked well for us and we were pleased with our work. It was a hot day however and we were ploughing through our water supplies replacing lost fluids.
In the early evening the breeze filled in finally and with a good ten knots of breeze and downwind sailing we could sail in a mode that is very good for Mr. R. We carried the big red spinnaker, nick-named Elmo by Emily, all the way up the coast. We seemed to play the shifts well as we sailed past the Hen and Chicks and up towards Tutukaka. We would have been in very good shape in terms of the race overall at that point. (Morale Reading MR = High).
Around dawn we started to lose the pleasant breeze that we had encountered and before we knew it boats were coming around us like space invaders. We managed to wriggle away a couple of times, but our luck ran out and a pack of them managed to pick up a private breeze and extend a mile or so out in front of us. This was a blow, because for the rest of that day it helped a lot to be in front. If you were more north you got best and first use of the breeze while the boats behind wallowed a little. (Morale Reading MR = Frustrated).
We had to work very slowly up to Cape Brett in a lumpy sea with very little wind. The combination of no wind to fill your sails and the rocking motion of the swells means it's very hard to obtain motion and keep it. We didn't really find a good set-up to get a rumble on - we tried all kinds of set-ups in the course of the day, but we found every time that sailing high, having the pole-forward and keeping the sail strapped in seemed to be the only way we could keep motion on. Some of our competitors seemed to make sailing in these conditions look easy and others looked as out-of-sorts as we were. As luck would have it the wind kept shifting behind us and we were forced to sail all the way across the face of the Bay of Islands at about 3 knots of speed. All the way we had the banging, flapping and rolling motion - which can drive you a bit nuts. (Morale Reading MR = Breaking out the euthanasia kits).
After trying everything to get the boat going to no avail we decided that we should eat and drink. After some rocking filled rolls, pepperoni sticks and a cold beer (we carry some for emergencies like this) everything seemed to be better. (Morale Reading MR = Happy campers).
As night was approaching we sailed in towards the Cavalli Islands. We could go inside or outside of these. I'd like to say we were very strategic about the decision, but if anything the breeze made up our mind for us as a wind shift made it tough to go around the outside. We rumbled in towards the Cavalli Passage in a little posse of three boats. As we got in there the other two lost their nerve and tried to tack away. We kept going and we quickly got a little break on them. The wind died as we got to the channel but the tide was flowing through and we had the good fortune of being sucked through on a little 'river' of flowing water. With a nice hot meal, a spectacular combination full-moon-rise and a sunset, plus a small gain we felt that we'd got a lucky break. (Morale Reading MR = Confident like we'd just walked out of an Anthony Robins Seminar).
As an evening land-breeze filled in the settled conditions meant we could have some watches and get some decent sleep. We managed to crank it up along the shoreline with our code 0 sail on. When the angles and breeze are right this is a quick set-up and we were really happy to chew up the last few miles. (Morale Reading MR = Stoked and Rested).
The finish at Mangonui was a bit of a mine-field for us as we had a few mis-steps trying to pick our way down the shore to the finish. There are a couple of reefs that ended up right in our way and every time we tacked to avoid them the breeze dropped out or changed direction suddenly. We finally made it into the finish around 4am. (Morale Reading MR = Relieved and Pleased).
In the wash up we were right in the middle of the fleet. When you consider the ups and downs we had during the race we were pretty content with where we ended up. We now have a benchmark and three more legs to prove to ourselves that we can do better.
On the boat we are enjoying a high standard of amenities and catering. Our crew favourite, bacon and egg pie is going down well. We consume mental quantities of chocolate and fruit. The standard of humour is high and we haven't had to repeat any sailing stories yet.
I'm writing this at anchor in beautiful Mangonui harbour. We've had a great reception here from the locals. We also had a fortuitous hook-up with Andrew, Jodie and Jack Thompson - friends from Australia who are coincidentally holidaying here this week.
Tomorrow we have a briefing at 7am and the race starts again at 10am. We'll have a good sleep tonight and make sure we're ready for a big few days ahead.
That's all for now from the good ship Mr. R.
2 Comments on: Blog Entry
Posted by Sue Woodley on 21/02/2011 6:18:09 PM
Posted by Brad Greenrod on 22/02/2011 7:29:43 PM
Leg 1 - Results
We anxiously had a look at the results and it turned out we did OK. We knew the bigger, faster boats would have done well and we suspected some of the slower boats would have got better breeze to get in - and that's how it worked out.
We ended up in the middle of the fleet (36 boats):
- 12th on line
- 17th on handicap
- 7th out of 16 in our division.
We are motivated to try and improve on these during the next few legs. We reckon we can with a bit of luck and hard work.
2 Comments on: Blog Entry
Posted by Paul Hardiman on 21/02/2011 11:45:16 AM
Posted by Cath on 21/02/2011 1:36:45 PM
Finished Leg 1
We finished a couple of hours ago and we're now at anchor in Mangonui harbour. Our result will be OK - there's a lot of boats still at sea and there's less wind out there than outer space.
The sailing this evening was nice, with just enough wind and favourable tide to keep us moving. There's an intense full moon which illuminates everything.
We're both good. We had solid two hour sleeps earlier on so we're feeling pretty fresh. However, it will be great to recharge the batteries and then set off again.
I'll put a full report of the leg up tomorrow.
5 Comments on: Blog Entry
Posted by Cath on 21/02/2011 4:50:48 AM
Posted by Emily on 21/02/2011 7:01:56 AM
Posted by Tim on 21/02/2011 7:08:45 AM
Posted by Mandy H-P on 21/02/2011 9:09:19 AM
Posted by Murray on 21/02/2011 10:13:48 AM
Leg 1 - Day 2
Last night we staged a come back and had a very good spell heading up past the Hen and Chickens. Things turned a bit funky around Tutakaka Head and a few boats caught us up and busted through.
The morning brought very little breeze as we wriggled our way up towards Cape Brett. We've found a real achilles heel of the boat is light airs running, and that's what we ended up doing all day!
Lots of people in the Bay of Islands will tell you it was an amazing day up here at the beach, but for us it was a bit excrutiating as we spent the whole day sailing across the face of the Bay.
As I write this we are working our way through the Cavalli Islands in a light, flukey breeze. You have to work for every mile in these kind of conditions. With about 50 miles to go we hope to be at the finish before day-break.
There was an amazing sunset and moon rise tonight. We enjoyed a great casserole meal and some excellent snackage. Because of the hot weather and hard work we've carved through our water supplies, but we've got enough to get us to the finish.
We've had no real events to report on the vessel. We've been busy thinking up nicknames for our competitors and cracking jokes about stuff only interesting and funny to us.
Thanks for all your messages. We love hearing from you all. Lot's of love to Emily and Freya - who will be missing their Dad like I miss you.
Tomorrow we hope to report that we've finished the Leg!
2 Comments on: Blog Entry
Posted by Mandy H-P on 20/02/2011 9:04:26 PM
Posted by Cath on 21/02/2011 1:07:04 AM
Leg 1 - Day 1
The start was great but we didn't have a great start! It's awesome to be underway.
We've been through about 10 sail changes in the past six hours. The weather has been tough, with light breeze - we gone from hero to zero and then back again!
At the moment we're sailing past Cape Rodney in a nice breeze. The fleet is still bunched up, so the big boats are only a few miles in front. There's no one in front of us who shouldn't be so we are a happy boat.
Love to both our families. Hope everyone is having a good weekend.
Stand by for more news from the good ship R.
11 Comments on: Blog Entry
Posted by Murray on 19/02/2011 5:43:23 PM
Posted by Cath on 19/02/2011 6:22:47 PM
Posted by Murray Woodley on 20/02/2011 4:53:15 AM
Posted by Murray on 20/02/2011 4:55:19 AM
Posted by James Grant on 20/02/2011 6:00:58 AM
Posted by Judy Rohner on 20/02/2011 7:36:53 AM
Posted by Paul Hardiman on 20/02/2011 7:51:37 AM
Posted by Mandy on 20/02/2011 3:53:21 PM
Posted by Brent on 20/02/2011 5:26:48 PM
Posted by Murray on 20/02/2011 6:28:55 PM
Posted by matt Flynn on 23/02/2011 8:06:07 AM
We've planned, raced and dreamed of doing this for almost two years and now it's finally here.
We've got up to a stunning day in Auckland, a great forecast and we're all good to go.
Thanks to Cath, who's been in this up to her eyeballs in so many ways. Thanks to Mandy, Emily and Freya who are home alone yet again.
We'll do our best for all of our supporters and do our best to share it with you on this site.
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
-- Mark Twain
1 Comments on: Blog Entry
Posted by Paul Hardiman on 19/02/2011 7:11:05 AM
Today we had a great briefing at the RNZYS for the race. There were a number of interesting talks about the race, first aid, life-rafts and helicopter rescues. Everything was worthwhile and relevant.
Mike Sanderson, a former RNI race winner and Volvo Ocean Race winner gave a little talk. He had some good stories.
At the end of the briefing the Westpac Rescue Helicopter came along and did a demonstration rescue in front of the club.
We went down to the boat afterwards and did the last jobs. When we left the dock the boat is 100% ready for the race.
0 Comments on: Blog EntryThursday 17th February, 2011
We've had a good day. We passed our safety inspection, did a few chores and attended the welcome function at Devonport Yacht Club. It's been good and we're now ready to go.
It was nice tonight to hear a bit about the history of the race and meet some of the people who are also participating. When the Prime Minister fires the starting gun on Saturday we'll be part of a new chapter in this great event.
1 Comments on: Blog Entry
Posted by Mandy on 17/02/2011 8:51:38 PM
Q & A
We get a lot of questions from people regarding our race, sailing two-handed and racing offshore in general. Sally from Coppelia put up a good Q&A page on their blog and I liked it so much I've ripped off the idea and put up one of our own.
The questions are in no particular order and they're all things we commonly get asked.
1. Where does the race go?
This one is a little flummoxing because it's called the Round North Island, implying a circumnavigation of ... the North Island. We start and finish in Auckland and have stopovers in Mangonui, Wellington and Napier.
2. Do you stop at night?
No. When you are racing yachts offshore you do not stop until you finish. At night you often can't see much and handling the boat is more difficult. If it's dangerous we obviously take more care. We have navigation lights so the boats don't run into each other. Lighthouses help a lot to identify headlands (great idea whoever thought of it).
3. When do you sleep?
Whenever we can, but not as often as we like. We have a bean bag or the aft berths to crash out on. Once you're tired enough you can go to sleep anywhere. Ideally we will each get some decent long off-watches to charge the batteries. When it all gets a bit ropey at night we often do short 15-30 minute shifts just to keep the whole thing going.
4. How big is the boat? How do you manage with two people?
The boat is 42ft. The sail plan isn't radical and in general things are reasonably manageable. The trick to short handed sailing is all management. If you are 'process perfect' and execute your manoeuvres carefully and accurately there aren't to many daunting tasks. If you get caught with the big gear on in a blow it starts to get interesting. You can't be lazy and it's essential that tasks get done when you have a chance to do them - like packing a spinnaker as soon as it comes down.
5. Do we keep in touch with land?
Yep. We have twice daily radio scheds where the whole fleet report their position. Well actually check in via sat-phone, but we'll tune into the fleet positions on our radio. When we're close to land we can get phone and internet coverage. We're allowed to draw on any information that is publicly available such as weather forecasts, observations and non-sailing related information like rugby scores and emails from your kids.
6. What happens when there is no wind?
Incredibly people ask this a lot. Predictably nothing really happens when there is no wind - we just go slowly insane.
7. What happens when there's too much wind?
We have smaller sails to use when it's very windy. They are stronger and a better shape for that strength of breeze. We can also reduce the area of the mainsail so it's just a hanky. We'd need a lot of breeze before the boat was unmanageable or there was any danger. When the breeze is up it isn't always comfortable and the seas can be rough. The biggest challenge we can get is if you get caught out with the big sails on when the breeze comes in.
8. What do we eat?
We have an arsenal of easy-to-prepare meals, fresh food and snackage. Our secret weapon has been bacon and egg pie, which requires no preparation and yet sustains you like a full meal. We love the Kaweka shelf stable meals when we want to do a cook-up because they take no time to prepare and taste god. Fresh food keeps you feeling healthy, but sometimes we have to resort to the sugar and caffeine to keep ourselves going.
9. Do you catch fish?
No. If we were completely becalmed we might look for a distraction, but as a rule we do not do any kind of fishing while racing.
10. How do they work out the results?
We all have a handicap, which is a number that determines the potential of the boat. In theory the boats would all finish in the order of their handicap numbers if they all sailed just as well. When we finish the multiply our time by our handicap to determine our corrected time. The boat with the lowest corrected time is the winner. They give prizes for being the first boats into port, but in reality there are only a few boats that could possibly fill those positions, so on Mr. R. we are not chasing these so-called 'line-honours' prizes.
If you have any more questions let us know in the comments and we'll answer them below for you.
0 Comments on: Blog EntryWednesday 16th February, 2011
A Virtual Race
The organisers of the RNI race, SSANZ, announced today that there is a virtual online race being run concurrently with the real race. This is what they say:
"Do you wish you were competing in the Round North Island Race but find yourself stuck at home? Don't worry!
You can now compete as well... and not even get wet !
SSANZ, in conjunction with our virtual sailing partner Sail Online is pleased to announce the 2011 Virtual Round North Island Race."
The link to the related article is on the SSANZ site here. If you are desk or home-bound for the next couple of weeks give it a go.
1 Comments on: Blog Entry
Posted by Murray on 16/02/2011 6:44:02 PM
It's been a crazy, crazy few days but I'm now getting set to head to Auckland where we will prepare ourselves for the race.
Once I am in New Zealand I'm looking forward to getting organised, finishing all the last minute things that have to be done and then having a bit of a rest before Saturday.
Getting away is never easy with work, family and other responsibilities. My week has been complicated by a computer crash that took with it all my Expedition software and other useful applications. It looked like my machine would be fixed in time, but the mac medics found some new issues and now I am rebuilding another machine. This was one more issue I didn't need and it's deprived me of a nice night in before I leave.
The forums online are full of news of people and boats arriving in Auckland. I'm not sure if it will hit home until we all finally get together for the crew function that this is actually about to begin.
Thanks to everyone here in Australia that have sent emails and texts - I appreciate your support and I look forward to sharing the stories with you when I get home.
0 Comments on: Blog EntrySunday 13th February, 2011
One of our competitors in the race is a stunning Warwick 53 called Caro Vita. I am pretty sure this boat is the most glamorous in the fleet. I suspect it goes well too in a bit of breeze.
The yacht is from Marlborough and has the distinction of having an all-female crew. Jo Ivory and her sidekick Steffi Waanders will lining up against all the blokes.
There's a great web site for their charter business and some information about their campaign at: http://www.sailmarlborough.co.nz/, so check it out.
I also thoroughly enjoyed listening to this interview with Jo on Radio Live. We obviously relate to her ethusiasm for the event.
2 Comments on: Blog Entry
Posted by Brent on 13/02/2011 3:35:52 PM
Posted by Matt on 13/02/2011 6:09:59 PM
Leg 4 - The Course
The home stretch is the second longest leg at 361 miles. This leg will decide the overall rankings for the race, everyone will leave the dock knowing what they need to do to get their desired ranking.
In many ways this leg is like the White Island race that we did in November. That race was a difficult coastal race with changeable breezes. There was interplay between the gradient and seabreeze and it was demanding on a short-handed crew.
After starting in Napier we have to sail across Hawke Bay to the Mahia Peninsula. This is the first of the big corners we have to get around on the way home. An inspection of the chart indicates that it's a bit of a minefield around there with islands and rocks in our path (see below).
We then sail across the face of poverty bay and up the East Cape. It's over 100 miles until we round the easternmost point of the North Island and start heading west again. We end up northeast of White Island so the rhumb line (direct route) across the the Mercury Islands and the Coromandel has us a lot further offshore than during the White Island race, unless of course there's no breeze and then boats will end up inshore looking for sea breeze.
The home stretch takes us past the Coromandel and its beautiful islands, around Cape Colville (with windy Channel Island) and then the very familiar leg across the Gulf to the finish in Auckland Harbour. We can choose Tiri or Rangitoto Channel to go into the inner harbour - one last decision to make or break the prospects of each crew.
We know this leg will be tiring. Everyone will want to go out with a bang so we wont get to back off at all. Any illusions about these legs being easy and uncomplicated were blown away in the Coastal and White Island Race, where we were stretched pretty heavily.
The winner of the final leg will manage their boat well, get into the gears they need to have and have a good strategy to deal with the changing conditions from night to day. Most of all you need a bit of luck - as you go up the coast the sequence of changing conditions will favour the quick or slow boats, it's rare that you can say everyone got a fair deal!
Once at the finish we'll have a party, a clean up and then we'll have to rapidly return to our normal lives - our families and jobs.
2 Comments on: Blog Entry
Posted by Murf on 12/02/2011 8:05:16 AM
Posted by Mark on 12/02/2011 8:14:15 AM
Leg 3 - The Course
Leg 3 sees us heading back north for the first time in the race. The route takes us round a series of capes notable for having quite changeable and feral weather. We've sailed in these waters before, but that doesn't mean that we're enlightened as to the local knowledge or best strategies.
Compared to the previous leg this is a coastal trip and we are likely to have a lot of sail changes and it may mean considerably less rest than you can get when things are more settled. We're resigned to the fact that this will be a sprint and we'll need to push quite hard.
Heading out of Wellington harbour we will have a 20 mile fetch across Palliser Bay before rounding the Cape itself and heading up the Wairarapa coast. There are some small fishing villages and beach-houses dotted along this coast, but no larger centres of population.
The charts say much of this coast hasn't really got accurate soundings. There are no anchorages or places to take refuge as you go up past Castle Point, Cape Turnagain and Cape Kidnappers. You need to push on to Napier whatever happens.
Last time we sailed up past Castle Point there were a lot of cray pots and some fishermen who didn't seem to register that there was a yacht race going on - instead they thought we were trying to steal their crayfish.
The leg finishes with a short 13 mile sail across Hawkes Bay (while we always call it that it says 'Hawke Bay' on the chart). The finish will be just off the heads of the harbour.
From all reports the stop-over in Napier is quite enjoyable and the club is very hospitable.
0 Comments on: Blog EntryThursday 10th February, 2011
Leg 2 - The Course
Leg 2 is the big one. At around 510nm it is a long haul around the top of New Zealand and then down the entire west coast of the North Island to Wellington. This is a long leg, only a bit shorter than the Sydney-Hobart Race or the Fastnet and it really is a big test for a two handed crew. We expect to be at sea for anything up to five days and there will be no let up.
This leg will demand good seamanship, intelligent strategy, persistent trimming, good helming and above all management of fatigue. You can't operate 24/7 for more than three days so crews that can stay rested will perform well and make better decisions. This was the biggest challenge for us in the White Island Race and we know we'll be tested again. We'll really need to do our best if we want to compete with some of the old hands in the fleet.
The route starts in Mangonui for a quick sprint North. By around nightfall the fleet will round the northern capes - North Cape, Cape Reinga and Cape Maria Van Diemen. The waters around the northernmost tip of New Zealand have many moods. Many years ago Matt and I rounded the top at night in a very fresh westerly and learnt it wasn't always hospitable in the far north.
Once in the Tasman Sea we have a long leg of 300 miles to Cape Egmont in Taranaki. The rhumb line (or shortest route) for this leg takes us 70 miles or so offshore, but if necessary we will head even further out to get the best breeze. The harbours down this stretch of the coast are not the best for deep drafted vessels, so there aren't too many options for heading in if you get damaged or you've had enough. During the last race the fleet was becalmed in this stretch of water, but those conditions are the exception and we hope for some settled offshore breeze to carry us down the course.
The next waypoint, Cape Egmont has a few sights for passing sailors - the prominent Mt. Taranaki volcano is visible by day and then the impressive Maui gas rigs that are lit up at night. The flaming flares of the rigs can be seen from about 10 miles away. They're really similar to the rigs in Bass Strait and it's quite interesting to sail by. They remind us how lucky we are to have gas because it allows technology like BBQ's and those outside heaters at cafés.
The next leg of a further 140 mile takes us down past the top of the South Island and into the notorious Cook Strait. We spent many weekends of our youth sailing between the islands, and while we haven't sailed there for a long time, it is still in a way our 'home' waters. We don't exactly know it like the back of our hands, but we know enough to expect anything when passing through the Straits - it could be glassy or it could be absolutely wild. It can change quickly and the strong tides, steep seas and gustiness of the breeze makes it quite 'gnarly' at times. After having been at sea for days it could throw up a real challenge at the back-end of the leg.
Coming around the South Coast and into Wellington is the last test for the leg. There's the nasty Karori Rip and then we need to negotiate the Wellington Heads before a short trip around to the inner harbour and finish line. We will finish off Port Nicholson Yacht Club and then probably berth at Chaffers Marina.
We'd be lying if we said that there wasn't some apprehension about this challenge, but ever since we started our programme this leg is the one we've been looking forward to the most. It's the longest 2-handed race we will have done and it will show how far we've come as a crew. For this leg, getting there is the main objective, anything else will be a bonus.
Because we're both from Wellington the idea of arriving in our home town by yacht to meet up with family and good friends has an irresistible appeal. We plan to have a decent celebration back in the home town, so be on notice that we're heading that way soon!
2 Comments on: Blog Entry
Posted by Cath on 17/02/2011 6:15:25 AM
Posted by Sue on 17/02/2011 7:08:44 PM
Leg 1 - The Course
The first leg of the RNI is a sprint from Auckland up to the coastal town of Mangonui. The leg is only 155nm long, only marginally further than the Coastal Classic race we did last year.
In 'normal' conditions, with a bit of breeze we would expect to do the leg in under 24 hours, so it's short, intense sailing with little room for rest and high consequences for mistakes or indecision.
The start of the race is at Devonport Wharf, in Auckland Harbour. There is a quick leg down to North Head where we turn North and head out the Rangitoto Channel. From here we shoot across to Whangaparoa and Kawau Island.
After Flat Rock we go past a long series of headlands, some of them well known landmarks such as Cape Rodney, Tutukaka and Cape Brett. Each time you pass these waypoints you turn a wee bit more to the North, and then ultimately into the West.
Right in the middle of the race track, just north of Cape Rodney are The Hen and Chicken Islands and the majestic Sail Rock. These islands present a bit of a tactical decision. You need to choose going inside or outside the islands. During the coastal the outside route paid handsomely (we went inside!). In many races in the past the inside track has been favourable as you stay in the high-lane with a Westerly breeze.
Here's a wee video of us sailing past the Hen and Chickens and Cape Rodney on the way back from the Coastal Classic:
After passing Cape Brett and 'the hole in the rock' we head across the Bay of Islands, where once again there are an inconveniently located set of islands in the middle of the race track. The beautiful Cavalli Islands are well known for the wildlife, diving and as the resting place of the Rainbow Warrior. It's the same distance going inside and outside of these islands so you need to choose the route with the best breeze.
Once past the here it's a 20nm sprint to Berghan Point and around the corner to Doubtless Bay and the finish.
Mangonui itself is one of the northernmost harbours on the East Coast and a great choice for the 40 boat fleet in the RNI. It's famous for it's beauty, the local beaches, possibly New Zealand's best climate and most of all, an amazing fish and chip shop that serves up some truly kapai kaimoana.
We'll get just over a day to tidy up and rest in Mangonui. The sailing instructions (rules for the race) say that after approximately 60% of the fleet have finished the leg there will be a compulsory layover of a minimum of 24 hours. Then we'll all be off again in a mass start - bound for Wellington.
0 Comments on: Blog EntryTuesday 8th February, 2011
In the days leading up to the RNI race we'll preview each of the legs of the race. First we'll look at the big picture and how the race works.
The race is run by the Short Handed Sailing Association of New Zealand, or SSANZ. This group runs the extremely popular B&G Simrad Series each year. Their excellent organisational skills and hard work was recognised by the awarding of the Presidents Award by Yachting New Zealand last year.
Because of restrictions on available berths and facilities the entries to the 2011 race are limited to 40 boats. The fleet is an eccentric mix of large offshore race boats, cruiser racers, sport boats and some old classics.
The Smash Palace web site offers this great background to the race.
The Short Handed Sailing Association of NZ (SSANZ) began in the late 80s to promote and advance short handed cruising and racing in NZ.
In 1977 37 boats completed the first Round North Island 2 Handed race, which was started from the Devonport Yacht Club by the Duke of Edinburgh. Sir Peter Blake and Graham Elder took overall line honours with a time of 8 days, 17 hours and 54 minutes. The race continued to be run by Devonport Yacht Club every 3 years until it went into recess in 1989 before it was rescued by SSANZ.
The 1980 race saw a number of boats have to retire and a trimaran Satori overturned coming up the East Coast. However the 1983 race will be remembered for the tragic loss of Phil Levy who was lost overboard from the yacht Brilliant in calm conditions off Cape Turnagain. Light airs in the 1986 race saw the race winners John Bethel and Warwick Gair legally row their way to victory (and some clever sailing helped too) in their Farr 11.6 Magic Dragon.
The first SSANZ RNI was in 1996 and was notable for the sinking of the Elliott 9.1 Sneaky Frog after hitting a submerged object in the Bay of Plenty. Wellington became a stopover for the first time in 1999 when a 48 hour stopover in the capital replaced the often frustrating sail through the Malborough Sounds.
The map below shows the four legs and the significant capes that the fleet will round. The four legs represent four races within the race. Each of the legs varies in length and represents a different challenge. The shorter legs will be just as difficult as the long ones because the competitors will push themselves and their boats harder. There is also less time to recover from tactical or boat-handling blunders.
At each stop-over port the fleet will regroup and restart the next leg together. There are compulsory minimum lay-over times at each port - 24 hours in Mangonui and Napier and 48 hours in Wellington. When 60% of the fleet have finished the stop-over clock starts.
Over the next few days we'll dissect each leg and look at the points of interest along the way.
0 Comments on: Blog EntrySunday 6th February, 2011
From the Sydney part of the Mr. R. crew:
I sailed a Blue Water Pointscore race on Minerva on Friday night and it was a great reminder about everything that is good and bad about ocean racing. Every time I go racing on the fully-crewed boat people ask how we get by with two people instead of ten and I have to do a double-take and ask myself the same question!
We had a race back down to Flinders Islet off Wollongong (yes - that's twice in one season). The weather here has been humid, hot, hazy and there's been a lot of weirdness with the breeze. In hindsight the weather forecast was never going to get it right - once we were out there we encountered some of the trickiest stuff I've seen.
Last time we did this race we were home to have a beer at the yacht club with breakfast, but this time we had an epic life-and-death struggle to keep the boat moving down the coast and didn't round the island until sunrise. Some of the usual suspects like Roger Hickman on Wild Rose made it look easy, but for us it was anything but.
On the way home we had park-ups and a weather pattern that had a nice cool seabreeze two miles offshore and a wild, blustery westerly inshore. The temperature was over 40 degrees and we went through sail changes all day.
You know you're in for a long day when two yachts can be 300m apart sailing in 30 knots of breeze, going the same direction on opposite tacks. We used nearly every sail on the boat as we went from park-ups to 30+ knots of breeze.
All of this served as a great reminder of what's in store for the RNI - especially the work-rate required to keep the show on the road. In this respect it was ideal to get in a race before our big one in two weeks time. While Matt has been able to keep sailing on Mr. R. I'm stuck over here so the best thing I can do is race on a similar sized boat. It's been ideal to race offshore here this season so thanks to the Cox family for that opportunity.
On this side of the Tasman the next couple of weeks are about getting everything in order before I leave. Over in Auckland Matt and Cath are finalising the job list for the boat. I'm really grateful for all the work that has been done in my absence and I'm impatient to get over there and help.
0 Comments on: Blog EntryTuesday 1st February, 2011
Yesterday the boat was hauled out and the bottom was cleaned and inspected. A diver will do a touch up before the race - but everything is good on the hull below the waterline otherwise.
Matt dropped the rudder out with the boat-builder to give it a check. The bearing system is really simple with a series of plastic bearings at the top and the bottom of the shaft. We had some vibration and it didn't always feel smooth so we wanted to check it. The top set was missing one of the bearings in the set and the one next to it had bent. This would have been part of the problem so the boat will stay on the hard stand for a couple of days while they make up some new bearings and replace as required.
The pictures below show the boat in all it's majesty out of the water. You can see it doesn't carry a lot of beam aft and has a fairly deep draft.
1 Comments on: Blog Entry
Posted by Matt on 3/02/2011 7:56:26 AM
February 2011 (22 Entries)