A Good Friday to Race to Port Fairy?
A short ocean sprint, 135nm in total distance, 65nm in a South Westerly direction to the famous and historic Cape Otway, then a 70nm reach to the north west, along arguably the most iconic stretch of Australian coastline, past the Twelve (8???) Apostles and on to the idyllic coastal village of Port Fairy, what could possibly go wrong?
That's what Alan Briedahl and his crew aboard his RP46 Hartbreaker were thinking as they sailed down the bay last night.
Sure, like the rest of the fleet, they were focused on the 3:00am start at Queenscliff, and more importantly the south westerly change the fleet was expecting by mid morning, but their experienced team was more than up to the task, and following a solid practice sail last weekend, they had high expectations of taking Line Honours and even AMS and PHS honours, particularly if they could make the most of the favourable north westerly conditions in the start of the race. And for a while, it was all coming together nicely for them, and they were all set to be the 'hero' of this year's race.
Every great story has to have a villain, otherwise, there is no great story to tell in the bar at the end, right?
Cue the south westerly change!
This villain never seems to disappoint, especially at this time of the year. Even a moderate Bass Strait sou-wester will throw an element of surprise at even the most hardened of yacht racing teams.
Back to our supposed 'hero' in the story....Hartbreaker.
The Change met the fleet almost as predicted, between 0900 -1000, when they were almost abeam of Lorne.
Hartbreaker were the first boat to experience damage as the front hit. As we all suspected from watching tracker as the morning went on, they suffered damage to the mainsail, and decided to turn for the heads and the shelter of Port Phillip Bay, and even more time over the Easter Break with their families and loved ones.
Alien was the next yacht in the fleet to succumb to the effects of the front. They too turned their backs to the breeze, later citing "weather conditions" as the reason for retirement.
Merlion was our third casualty of the race, deciding to take refuge in Apollo Bay, primarily for the purpose of finding a nice, secure tree to seat a seasick crew member!
So that is the story as most of us know it, however, as many stories do, this one also had a twist in it.
Our would have been 'hero' Hartbreaker called the race management team at approximately 1415 and reported that they were approximately 10nm from Port Phillip Heads and they had started taking water through the rudder stock, which was being managed by bailing and pumping from the manual bilge pump.
At that stage they were fine, and wanted the race management team to be aware of their circumstances.
The Incident Management Team were immediately contacted and began providing assistance via mobile telephone, and before long they were able to liaise with Queenscliff marina to arrange access to the travelift, and by late afternoon the boat was secured in a sling with the rudder stock well out of the water, and we'll out of harms way.
All's well that ends well, as they say!