Waka's White Island Race Experience
21 Dec 2007
Thanks Josh for the following report and congratulations for a outstanding effort to win not only the SSANZ trophy for the Two Handed Division but also to win overall on PHRF !
White island race 2007
With a forecast of dying westerlys, then Variable 5kts and the chance of afternoon seabreezes for the next 4 days it was looking like it could be a long race?.
Being the smallest boat in the fleet at 8.5m and also one of the few shorthanded entries, we knew this forecast although painfull could potentially be good for us to get a result.
Myself and Jonty Cullinane, Waka's owner and skipper, had put plenty of preparation into this event as it was going to be our training run and qualifier for the
We set up snuffers on all the kites, re-cut some of the older headsails, installed an autohelm, reinforced the forestay chainplate, prod rotating system and the rudder gudgens, ordered our self heating freeze dried meals and stripped the boat of all excess weight.
On start Day we were confident that we had done all we could to be prepared.
A 10-15kt westerly for the start, saw kites set straight off the line for the run out to channel island. We nailed the start right on the line with the gennaker up but unfortunately ended up getting windshadows from all the much bigger boats and decided it was better to just let them sail thru and come up to optimum sailing angle after they had passed. As we sail much higher than the other boats due to only a gennaker off a 3m bowsprit it is sometimes hard to find a good lane of clear air when everyone else wants to sail lower than us. We have learnt the hard way, many times, that it is better to just not get involved with the bigger boats.
After crossing gybe's with Viva, powerplay and cosmic cruise right down to the noises we decided to head offshore in hope for some better wind and larger waves to surf on. I don't know if we had any more than the other boats but we certainly got a pleasant surprise when the wind built to 18, 20 then 22kts with nice long waves. Boat speed steadily rose to regular surges of 16-17kts down the waves and the boat felt great. As night fell and the conditions required intense concentration, we lost track of the other boats inshore of us. All we knew is that we were going fast!
14NM out of channel we gybed at what we thought was about the right angle. For this gybe we decided that seamanship was going to be better than "gung ho" so we snuffed the kite, gybed and pulled the snuffer up again. A sure way to pull off a gybe in any conditions. We soon realized we had gybed way to early and decided after listening to the nowcast of 26kts at channel, that we should gybe back early before the wind built too much more. This time we decided to pick a wave and chuck it into the gybe while at maximum speed, sure enough the perfect wave turned up and I turned the boat thru the gybe at about 16kts, we got the gennaker thru but I just couldn't get the main across while also holding the tiller so we ended up goose winged with the 33sqm mainsail on one side, the 120sqm gennaker out the other and the boat out of control- not much fun! We finally got the main thru and settled back into the rhythm, by this stage the wind was a solid 22-gusting 25kts and things were really starting to get quite hairy! We were quickly approaching the gybe angle again and the waves were becoming short breakers. The boat was regularly screaming down one wave and into the back of the next, sending water right over the cabin top and slowing the boat speed from 18+kts down to nothing very quickly. The prod was spearing straight into the next wave, so much so that we had to ease the tack line up to avoid dragging the gennaker tack under water!
Just as we started planning the gybe we noticed a lull so decided to chuck the boat thru the last gybe without the snuffer, amazingly we pulled of a glamour and came out at pace. After the gybe we saw a large keelboat cross just in front of us and carry on past the layline, we latter learned it was the legendary 55ft Starlight express. We really must have been going fast down the run!
After rounding channel we heated the angle up as high as we could sail with the runner and were screaming down to starlight express below us, far from laying thru colville channel and pretty much heading for great barrier island, at pace.
We then had a call from Starlight and a "full and frank discussion" on the VHF regarding our course past Channel Island - fortunately we had our track on the GPS plotter so, with a quick change to the fractional reaching gennaker (well as quick as you can do 2 handed in the pitch black), we got flying again and started pulling them in. They say that every dog has its day, but there is something special about rolling a 55 foot boat to windward at 15-18 knots when you are half the size.
Just when we were both starting to think this was just too good to be true, the wind died and we came to a complete standstill, wallowing around in no wind and a large swell. It didn't take long before we had most of the fleet on top of us and all within a few hundred meters of each other. Sails were lit up everywhere as keen crewmembers shined torches on the sails to try and catch any little sniff of wind.
The wind eventually filled in from the south at about 10kts and we started the tight reach to cuvier. Tight reaching is about our weakest angle as waterline length is the biggest factor and we were only 28ft!
We hung in and went around cuvier with bushido and just ahead of Zora who slowly rolled overtop of us as we came on the wind after cuvier. For a good while we only had 1 boat behind us, pawn broker and the bigger boats were pulling away.
Slowly the wind died out and we ended up hard on in about 2-4kts which seemed to suit us nicely and we past Zora, bushido, whitebait and almost viva before the wind totally died. This dying breeze was the turning point for a lot of boats as we watched powerplay, rantan, and andar turn around and head home.
Eventually the wind filled in with an ENE sea breeze that slowly clocked to the N and built to 10-12kts, at this stage we were just ahead of cozmic cruise and couldn't see where starlight was. It was a beautiful sail that afternoon down to white island, first with the MH reacher then the big runner.
Dinner consisted of Freeze dried sweet and sour lamb. We only had 2 flavors for this race so by the end of it we were seriously looking forward to a decent feed! Desert was a chocolate flavored EAS meal supplement bar. Midnight snacks were meal replacement milk shakes, kindly given to us by EAS. These were very handy and probably the thing that kept us focused for almost 3 days.
Cosmic slowly passed us sailing slightly deeper but the same speed and we went around white island just before dusk with cosmic about 150m ahead of us.
The wind continued to swing aft and by daybreak we had the small fractional gennaker up in 8 kts of wind, within an hr we had peeled to the masthead reacher and then to the runner. As the wind died right out we changed back to the flatter reacher as it sets better in the light. That's 4 spinnaker changes between daybreak and 7.30am!
We were very pleasantly surprised to find that we had cosmic cruise just on the bow and starlight express inshore up to windward. It had been a very good night for us. I guess the hiking on the rail all night worked! There was no off watch on Waka, you either had to trim or sit on the rail. Needless to say I got very good at sleeping on the rail! In fact I only went below during the race 5 times.
The next 4 hours were the most painfull of the race. We had not a breath of wind till about 1pm.
Up went the MH reacher and we sailed straight at channel island. As we expected the wind died out completely and we all ended up drifting with the tide until starlight, cosmic, us and the 2 handed Corinthian entry oracle were all parked up side by side 2 nm from channel. For me this was the hardest part of the race as sleep deprivation and bordom kicked in. it was very hard to concentrate and even keep my eyes open, another shot of EAS meal replacement woke me up and had me on the ball again.
Rounded channel island at about 4am with cosmic right on our transom. Still close enough that I could hear the snoring of the crew downstairs..
By daylight we had a 8kt southerly and we were tight reaching towards home with the main and #1 jib. Slowly the wind went aft and we hoisted the MH reacher again and started making good speed, after about 20minutes it tightened right up and we ended up on the wind to motuihe passage with cosmic about half a nm ahead and oracle 1 nm behind.
We were laying thru to bean rock nicely after motuihe but then the wind died completely (again..) and we ended up drifting by browns island for about an hour before we picked up a very light thermal breeze off the eastern beaches which was just enough to get us to the finish line at midday, almost exactly 1 hr behind cosmic and 3rd on line overall.
It ended up being a very good race for us, taking out overall PHRF, first in 1st division and 1st shorthanded.
Next up, the