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Leg 2 RNZ report from Surreal

10 Mar 2012

       

2012 Round New Zealand Two handed Race Leg 2. Mangonui to Stewart Island

 

After a dream ride to Mangonui it was interesting to watch the faces of the various crews when Bob McDavitt presented the weather forecast at the briefing. The key point being a gale warning for Thursday!. SW rising to 35 gust 50kts, swell increasing to 4,5 occasionally 6m. Friday would see 30 gusting 40kts with 5-7m swell.

 

Oh well. Guess it won't be pleasant but happy to be on the big Beneteau. On the wind would be our best shot at Krakatoa II and Revs.

 

So what happened ? Start was scheduled for 1pm Monday 27th Feb but unfortunately the wind died resulting in a postponement. Steve managed to find a brief zephyr of wind to get the fleet away shortly after. Exiting the bay Surreal went left as I said this is the same conditions as the last RNI and left paid big then! Danaide initially came with us before stating they were going where we were going as Cameron always goes the right way !.... then they gybed back  at us resulting a few negotiations (couple of rums at Stewart Island) in return for letting us cross their bow. We were amused to look back in 20 mins to them a few miles astern after stating that they were going the same way as us !

 

Sailing along Cape Karikari we debated about going closer to the coast (as this worked in the RNI) but unfortunately we decided the breeze looked steady this time? Of course the breeze then died and Danaide came back into the picture as well as Revs who went on to take the lead. Krakatoa II started to stretch her legs and was soon harassing Revs for the lead.

 

We arrived at North Cape just on sunset. Krakatoa II leading over Revs with Surreal not far behind then followed by Truxton and Danaide. Interestingly the wind continually lifted as we sailed around first North Cape and the Cape Reinga meaning we didn?t tack even though changing course by over 120 degrees! Surreal went well when we got some upwind conditions with pressure, lifting inside Revs and Krakatoa II to take a narrow lead. However when the breeze lightened they would manage to get back ahead. It was a great 3 way ding dong battle.

 

And so it went on right down the length of the North Island. However the first gale was soon to put in its appearance. The seas built and got more confused and we changed to No2 Genoa and then progressively added more reefs before switching to the Trisail. Our biggest issue was slowing the boat down as any speed over 5.5knots resulted in launching the boat off waves and crashing down risking structural damage. Revs seemed to be taking a similar cautious approach where as Krakatoa II sailed lower and faster. It was at this point we discovered the wave phenomena now known though out the fleet
(and Half Moon Bay School)  as the "Body Snatcher" Typically these were larger waves of 6-7 meters that as you neared the top another breaking wave of a further 1-2 meters suddenly reared up from a different angle washing right over the cockpit trying to tear any bodies away!. Our tactic to deal with them involved diving towards the windward side of the cockpit holding the wheel to try and turn into the wave whilst getting down low. As soon as the wave passed you had to quickly turn the wheel the other way to prevent a crash tack. Typically it took 20-30 seconds for all the water to drain away.

 

As the weather started to moderate a little we got concerned as the forecast seemed to be changing from the predictions to something worse. However although another gale was now forecast just ahead it would be no worse for us than the one we had just been through BUT the key was to get south ASAP as anyone left much to the north was in for a hiding. So after a short discussion where we decided they we were both in good shape (not too tired) the boat was good and the weather would be best for whoever was furthest south we elected to push on. It was around this time we heard reports of other boats seeking shelter and Krakatoa II withdrawing. We also managed to escape from Revs a little? I guess due in part to their alternator issues.

 

Life was looking pretty good, watching our lead extend, when the breeze started to die just out from Westport. By the time we got to Greymouth we were parked ! It seemed to take forever to get level with Hokitika. After another very light sloppy night we struggled to maintain steerage the breeze started to build. Once again we soon found ourselves hard on the wind under Trysail and No.4 which progressively got furled. Once again we were in another gale and having to slow the boat down. We figured the coast would provide some shelter from the sea state so tacked in. It was amazing to have such strong winds with perfectly clear blue skies. Going into the coast gave us amazing views of the Southern Alps, Glaciers and later on the Sounds.

 

Unfortunately we had yet another parkup. At one point it was impossible to sail on the making board as a wave would stop the boat and the following one would push it backwards. It was quite a frustrating sail down the West Coast as it felt like we were always parking up first and for longest giving the others a chance to catch up? and when we got wind it came with nasty waves that forced us to slow the boat down making it hard to extend our lead.

 

Finally when we approached Fiordland the breeze clocked aft and started to build, weather intell was for a Storm Warning of Puysegur. We initially ran a gennaker but once the Beneteau roll became increasingly likely to spin us out we changed to a poled out genoa. Within a few hours even this combo was dodgy so we furled it away proceding under full main. Within 2 hours we had both reefs in and were charging hard. Particularly big waves just north of Dusky Sound saw a new speed record of 21.3 knots set by Tim. For some reason he wouldn't let me drive until after the big waves were gone.

 

We passed Puysegur Point late afternoon and from here on the wind continued to moderate and we soon found ourselves with the genoa fully deployed and the reefs shaken out. At this point we were doing 8-9 knots straight at Stewart Island with a ETA of 0200hrs. Tim had a good conversation with Maureen on Bluff Fishermans Radio and jokingly said he couldn?t wait to get off the boat and away from the crew. She replied "Ahhh, we had a crew like that last race too !"

 

Another park up off Solander Island ruined our ETA but we did get going again to round Stewart Island just on dawn. We bore away slightly, set the gennaker and were contemplating our first rum for a week when the breeze died. We continued our stop/start run down the coast before parking up once again within sight of the finish line. At this point we got quite concerned about the 1.5 knot current that threatened to push us straight past Half Moon Bay ! Luckily a new breeze filled in and we charged under gennaker to the finish doing 7-8 knots. A quick snuff and pull the sails down before being directed to the wharf. Here we found the local school had come to meet us and welcome us with a Haka ! Amazing ! Tim got presented with some champagne which he proceeded to squirt everyone with. The schoolboys ran up with their tongues hanging out trying to catch as much alcohol as possible. After this I decided it was my duty as crew to perform the traditional ?Throw the Skipper in the piss?. Apparently the water is only 12 degrees here? Awesome to take the gun in the big cruiser! But fellow cruisers "Sunstone" and "Vingalot" both had an amazing leg to finish ahead of "Revs"

 

The boat was then put on a mooring before we introduced to our hosts. Hang on? Hosts? Yep Tim and I were going to be split with separate hosts. Tim couldn?t understand why then thought "oh no! they thought I was serious on the radio!"

 

Our two hosts have been absolutely fantastic looking after us extremely well. The reason for different hosts has now become apparent... Carla, Tim's better half, arranged with the race organisers a surprise visit. It seems everyone on the island was in on it. The look on Tim's face when he went to have a drink with the SSANZ committee only to bump into Carla was priceless.

 

We have gone to the local school and given a talk about our adventure and had the kids onboard the yacht. They are really excited about the race and have so many questions. It's also apparent that they have a lot of knowledge about the sea.

 

Anyway, time to sign off. Another feast and party awaits!

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