Thanks to everybody who sent me “well wishes” and “congratulations messages” prior to me setting sail and then completing the Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht race.
Race Day came on Boxing Day and although I took it pretty easy celebration wise on Christmas Day and drank tea every time I had the urge for a wine or a beer and went to bed early, I spent all night sailing in my head and was up for about four nervous pisses, so didn’t get much sleep at all prior to the big day.
Boat call was 8.30 so I was there early to drop my bags off and then to the boat to help rig her prior to the start. That didn’t take long as we had the full crew of 16 there to rig up all the sheets and safety equipment. The boat was pretty much ready to go by about 9am.
11am came and it was time to go, start time was 1pm, but we had to sail passed the start boat with our storm sails up to show that we had them and get the OK from the starting committee. After that we sailed over to Tailors Bay to put up our racing sails and just cruised around there and had some lunch and dodged the other boats until it was time to head to the start line. In that time we also put our wet weather gear, life jackets and tethers on. Also on us we all carried a torch, a knife, a strobe light and a personal EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radion Beacon).
The start was pretty hectic with 109 yachts starting and yachts going every where so we did a few tacks and bearing-aways to find a clear passage to the heads.
Once we cleared the heads and our rounding mark we had a NE wind behind us so we hoisted the spinnaker, that breeze stayed with us for the next 8 hours and had us going at speeds of upto 19knots which was great.
By 9pm we were at around Jervis Bay and we could see the predicted Southerly front and it was Black as, so we prepared our sails. We brought the Main down to the second reefing point, pulled the spinnaker down and hoisted the No.5 storm Jib and ploughed headlong into the storm and it didn’t “pussy foot” about, it hit hard and fast from the very start with winds constantly blowing at 35knots with gusts 45 plus.
I was “on watch” until Midnight and just hung on as hard as I could as the sea and wind did it’s best to shake the crap out of us and all praise to the helmsman for keeping the boat upright.
When Midnight came I was so glad to go “off watch” and get down below, but that was a task in itself, just trying to get to the companion way and finally having managed that, mostly on my bottom, then there was the even trickier prospect of climbing down 6 steps, I made it to the second last and lost my grip and fell back onto another crew member who broke my fall.
My next watch after a sleepless 3 hours in the bunk was from 3 to 6am and I wasn’t looking forward to negotiating the stairs again, but managed to get to the top and scramble to a spot to hold on to for the next 3 hours. As it turned out I was first in line to be hit by any water that came over the bow and there was plenty of that going on. The bigger waves would lift you up and try and drag you with it. The water was quite warm though. Having survived that 3 hour watch it was back down below for another roll around the floor and a crack at getting a bit of a snooze in.
Down below, every thump through a wave is a crash sound, you hear every noise and thud up on deck and the winches grinding and you hear ever stay, bolt and chainplate creak under the strain and you feel the hull twist and you are laying there thinking “man is this boat going to hold together or what?”
When it came to do my next watch at 10am a safety concern was raised with me (and for those who may not be aware, I have a prosthetic right leg) and my ability to negotiate the stairs in these rough conditions, so it was decided that I should stay below until conditions improve…… I didn’t argue.
The rough seas and strong wind stayed with us for 36 hours and we all have some cracker bruises, but no major injuries and best of all no damage to the boat.
Monday morning and I was back into my ‘On watch’ and we were approaching Bass Strait and to welcome us a pod of twenty dolphins came and played beside Kayle for a half hour or more.
Crossing Bass Strait was pretty smooth in a light breeze that was coming from the north which was good because it was behind us so we had the JT up and doing a reasonable 9 to 10 knots and that stayed in for pretty much most of the day until around about sunset 8.30ish when it died off for about 2hours. Eventually picking up under a bright full moon lit sky. We got to do a bit of star gazing, spotted a shooting star and a satellite crossing the sky.
We still hadn’t completed our crossing of Bass Strait by the next morning due to the light breeze but we were moving and not getting beat up so all was good. Eventually St Helens at the top of Tassie came into site in the distant horizon so that was the second leg completes with the run down the east coat of Tassie to Tasman Light to go, at one stage there it was looking like it might be a quick run down the coast, We were a fair way out to sea and not hugging the coast. But we ran into a giant hole in the breeze and sat in roughly the same spot for 9 hours, so that was another good night for star gazing, cups of tea and cuppa soups. The breeze although light kicked in around 3am and took another three hours to strengthen, and when it did it got us going well again and finally got us to Tasman light a bit after lunch on Wednesday.
From Tasman light you head west along the bottom of Tassie past Port Arthur and through Storm Bay to the Derwent River and up the Derwent to the finish line and Constitution dock. From Tasman Light that is still a 60 nautical mile trip.
Tasman Light area is also a well known spot where the wind can die off and you can sit there for quite a while waiting for it to kick in. Not today though. As we were changing Tack the breeze kicked in from the SE and a reasonable speed too so we hoisted a spinnaker and was hooting along when the spinnaker trimmer Keven, noticed a small tear in the spinnaker so we pulled that one down and hoisted an even bigger spinnaker and took off like a rocket, It was great.
In Storm Bay there were Dophins as far as you could see frolicking and riding the bow wakes of our boat and the other couple of boats that were near by. There were hundreds and hundreds of them, It was just a fantastic sight.
The wind kept up and we sailed into The Derwent under spinnaker, and our skipper Johnno who has done 25 Sydney to Hobarts said that this is the first time he has ever sailed up the Derwent under spinnaker so that was pretty good. We crossed the finish line at 7.20pm on Wednesday evening to be 42nd across the line, take out 5th on handicap in our division and take out 11th Overall in the PHS.
Once we crossed the finish line we headed into Constituion Dock to a rousing applause of the crowd gathered there to watch the boats finish.
Over all it was a great adventure and I’m so glad that my mate Ralphie talked me into doing this test of sailing endurance.
(photos to come)