Onboard update from TRYBOOKING.COM 9 July, 2014 - Melbourne to Vanuatu
To follow is onboard update from TRYBOOKING.COM crew member Duane Rogers (including 4 photos from onboard).
This is a personal view of the events unfolding between Melbourne and Vanuatu ORCV race. As a relative novice to sailing let alone Ocean racing, having competed only in the last 2 years of ORCV ocean races, I will bring a layman's look at this unique world of ocean racing for Amateurs.
The views and the terminology are no reflection on my other competent sailing colleagues.
We started the race from Portsea pier, as many ORCV races do, with a crew of 5 - Grant (skipper), Stuart (experienced Salior and racer), Peter (experienced racer), Louise (new crowned Coastal Skipper) and myself (Duane, relative beginner)
Day 0 - 29th June - Sunday
10:00 this was our original start time and day, but due to such lousy weather in Bass Strait it was delayed 24 hours.
Day 1 - Start at 10am - 30th June - Monday
Up at 06:30 and down to Blairgowrie yacht club for my last shower for approx 15 days. Final checks on the boat and we walk up to the local cafe to get the last proper coffee for same. We where the last boat to head into the Sorrento Channel to Portsea Pier, and arrived around 9:40 to be told by race officials that the race had been postponed to 11am due to VTS ship traffic thru the heads. Around 10:15 they announced that start time of 10:30 and then we were into it. The mad panic to cross the start line first for a 15 day race. Madness but this would probably be the last time we would be in close proximity to the fleet as boats of different makes and designs would head off across Bass Strait.
We resigned ourselves to the fact that the next 2-3 days was going to be uncomfortable, and it was.
My first shift was at 20:30 until 23:30 and I found myself leaving the helm around midnight to get to bed. Up again at 04:00 with 5 crew we are running a rotating shift.
Day 2 - 1st July - Tuesday
At 06:00 my eyes were tired. It was a hard night running the boat with the wind and waves. I saw dawn break and was relieved to head downstairs around 07:30. Sleep was needed but not happening. The rear cabin is being shared by me and Grant with a lead cloth to separate the back bed and to give you something to lean on as the boat rotates and swivels.
The rear of the boat is being thrown about and the creaks and groans resonate downstairs. Any movement above at the helm or in the cockpit is amplified downstairs. I think I had 20 or 30 mini sleeps, 30 secs 1 minute or maybe 2, but definitely nothing that resembled the sleep I needed and am used to. I know its a matter of time and I will get used to the sounds and movement and my body will demand the sleep I am lacking.
Day 3 - 2nd July - Wednesday
I started the day with Just Right and pears for breakfast. Today we ran a loose shift system. I had tomato, ham and cheese sandwiches. Some fruit, a mini chocolate bar and the obligatory coffees and teas.
As I sit writing this entry I know I am in for another tough night, but by tomorrow we will be passing Gabo and be heading north-east to Lord Howe Island.
Hard night tonight as lack of real sleep hampers me. I have a 19:00 shift followed by a 02:30 next morning. For dinner we start with vegetables and chicken parma (sealed bag meals) bolied in a bag. Very tasty, and I do mean that.
We had wind at our back and have set what is known as a "Goosewing" where the 2 sails, the "Main" and the "Head sail", are pushed out opposing sides with the Heady pushed out with a spinnaker pole. This means you need to steer directly downwind and not deviate too heavily, without prior preparation.
Day 4 - 3rd July - Thursday
During the end of my early morning shift we had a minor disaster and ended up with a broken sheet (line to the head) and the pole released itself.
After much cursing and effort with all hands on deck, we left our the Main and furled in the Head. We were still making goods progress, so we decided to check and damage and reset in the morning.
Overnight we passed Gabo Island and headed straight for Lord Howe Island. Once I was up we decided to reset the Goosewing and we ran all day with 20-40 knots of wind up our clacker.
Pancake and maple syrup for breakfast. We found time to adjust the nit on each steering wheel, and I don't mean the helm's person, and then proceeded downstairs to take out the slack on the newly fitting steering cable (removing another rattle source). Back upstairs and I worked on the centre table and a persistent tap coming from it.
I have a 17:30 shift tonight and then 01:00 (I think!!) anyway another night of swaying, but it appears to be getting better.
Well all hell broke out when the jib halyard gave way, appearing on deck the head was trailing in the water. All hands on deck to secure the sail back on board and then after much deliberation we used the spare halyard to relaunch the jib. No furler this time, but we poled it again and all looks fine. We decided to wait until morning to send Peter up the mast to retrieve the escaped halyard and access the damage.
We are well on the way to Lord How Island and after trying to plot some of the currents so we could avoid the worst of them, we have been sailing away happily most of the day. We had "Escapade" come on the radio and tell us he thought that "Trybooking" was meant to be the sweep boat, and was not allowed to pass anyone ... NOT! They were 5nm (nautical miles) ahead of us, but we are currently running a better line to Lord Howe.
Its nearly my shift at 16:00 and we are waiting for the wind shift and slightly better conditions to send Peter upstairs (up the mast).
Around sunset the seas settled (to a degree) and we decided to bring down all sails so we could hoist Peter.
We dropped and tied the jib and removed the preventer to the boom, and furled the main. There we were stopped in the Tasman Sea at the mercy of the currents, waves and wind, boobing about and rocking and rolling.
The process required removing the topping lift halyard as a safety to the spinnaker halyard we would be using to raise Peter up the mast. Bosuns chair affixed we connected and tied off ready to hoist. I hauled from the mast as Grant winched from the cockpit, and other than the stops at each spreader, progress was brisk.
In no time we had the end of the jib halyard attached to another line and I was pulling that down and attaching it deck side. Now Pete has to come down. No fuss there, as he pushed off 2/3 the way down to get his bum over the spotlight positioned out in front on the mast.
Reconnecting the topping lift halyard back to the boom, raise and rethread the head back up the track, and hoist. Set and then we poled it again and deployed the main. Being the crack team we are, it was all over and done within the hour!!! then were back to racing.
Escapade was less than 4nm at that point, but by Sched at 20:00 that night they were now 18nm out.
Following the Sched I jump into bed for sleep. At 09:00 a small gybe (change in direction) went wrong, and sent us heading back the way we came. I jumped up to help, but decided the shift upstairs had it under control.
I was up for an 23:00 shift and finally I was startled to realise it was my alarm waking me from a deep sleep. Excellent, not because I am been waken, but I was having deep sleep, I am starting to feel human again.
The boat was on a beam reach cracking along at 6-7 knots of boat speed. The wind shifted West so the running we had done for 3-4 days appears over at this point. I had beef risotto for dinner at midnight and that was nice.
Day 5 - 4th July - Friday
Morning and coming of my 07:00 shift at 10am. I prepare a few vita wheats with Vegemite and peanut butter - awesome, its a beautiful morning with wind of 14-17 knots from the West.
It's a great day and although not smooth we are making great progress.
Lunch is a bean & tomato soup with home-made, freshly baked on board the boat, bread. Grant is certainly doing his best to be a Masterchef. Later in the afternoon its cinnamon scrolls (freshly baked). Water, Teas and coffee are consumed and at one stage it smelt like a bakery downstairs, it also felt like one, it was toastie.
Steady we run as we enter the night, I have been given charge of rosters and HF radio calls (Scheds) for the next few days. I have the first day of rostering of our 1.5 hour slots, but sitting thinking about it I think I miscalculated on the slots. Hopefully I can get to the error before crew, as this ritual of 2 shifts up and 3 down has become routine, and everyone plans for there 4.5 hours off. As we have 5 crew we run 2 in the cockpit and 3 downstairs. This means a swap out of one crew every 1.5 hours, so you always have someone fresh rolling upstairs.
Day 6 - 5th July - Saturday
Started at 05:30 and my throat is killing me, we have been out and in of the cold and I suffering from something I don't normally get, a sore throat. I was off shift at 8am to do a Sched (Scheduled Radio call).
The day progressed nicely and by late afternoon we could see these enormous humps sprouting from the ocean in the distance. Lord Howe Island? We were approx 8nm to the east and by early evening we had passed her by setting our leg to New Caledonia. I spent time on the navigation plotter to build a route then zoom in to the detail and follow the route to see what obstacles existed. Often the devil is in the detail, and has been known, not enough time has been spent on the detail to validate a route at the correct zoom level and ended up in tears.
We also passed the 1,000nm mark this afternoon.
Afternoon shift was wet, the first shift for me to have plenty of rain.
Apart from a lack of wind early evening we trundled on into the night.
Day 7 - 6th July - Sunday
My shift started at 04:00 as the Sun came up the wind went away, and that's how it stayed for 2 hours as we struggled to make headway. I think these are known as the "Horse" latitudes, as in the old timers used to be becalmed for days and end up throwing dead horses overboard, or so I have been told.
Fortunately we had 1.5 knots of current flowing North, so as we struggled with the wind on the lay line, we would divert to the direction of current to keep us moving forward.
By 09:00 we had had enough and with a re-think and rejig of the sails we extracted from 4 knots of wind some forward motion (other than current). We worked on it for 30 mins and finally started travelling along the lay line at 5 knots.
All thermals are off today and I am in a tee shirt. I think its getting warmer!!!! Today was sunny and just a great day. Lunch was Chilli Carmasala chick pea, freshly baked bread, followed by Pinacolada's (with mandatory umbrella), it is the tropics you know.
Late afternoon we saw flying fish and then we had a pod of dolpins approach from a distance and come play with us for 15 mins. There were 50 or 60 spread out over 300-400 meters, some jumping out of the water, these are days you can only dream about.
We have had another boat "Escapade" within AIS range for a number of days and we were playing catch up always within 8nm or thereabouts.
At dusk we decided to have a Heinicken to celebrate something .. 4th July, doing 1000nm or it just feeling warm, did we need an excuse!!!
We had a Northerly come in late afternoon and we ran to the East of the lay line for the night, occasionally tacking to discover our VMG (velocity made good to target) was a really bad number so we would run for a short leg and tack back.
Day 8 - 7th July - Monday
Came off shift at 05:30 and jumped into bed. I was woken by the sound of someone bashing about (or that's what it sounded like), once again we had no wind and the sails were flogging occasionally. Got up to a bowl of cereal, fruit and a cup of tea and sat in the cockpit in the glorious sun watching a massive thunderstorm approaching us from the South. We have an hour or two, we think before it hits us ...and we were off, but it was a fizza, in fact we have struggled with the wind most of the day.
The Asymmetrical Sail (Assy) went up then it rained and it came down and so did the wind. 1-3 knots and it bucketed down and the sea went flat and some of us took this opportunity to shower and others wash itchy scalps. It was wet for along time and we did finally get going again. Late afternoon the wind shifted and we relaunched the Assy, this time with more breeze and boat started to hop along until one gust to many and she blew, one dead kite, so what's next, the Code Zero (sail), going for broke here, and up it went up and once again we were off, it was time to make up for the lack of progress for 2 days.
Lentil soup and Freshly baked baggets with butter was the lunch option, and I had 2 bowls, it was just so good.
We then decided approaching dusk to dump the code zero for our traditional goosewing arrangement and then someone had a brainwave. Let's watch a movie on the Main Sail. Sure enough, within a 1/2hr Grant had it setup, and apart from some minor technical hitches we were watching a classic sixties film, Cool Hand Luke (Paul Newman) on the mobile big screen, just like being at an outdoor drive-in.
Scheds interrupted us 30 minutes in, so we paused and waited. During the final transmission "The Secretary" had warned "Myuna" of a 50kt gale from that day. We hadnt seen this activity, but it might have been the storm that passed us that day. With that information we had storms on the mind and we decided to keep and eye on a building front.
As were moving from 3 knots to 6 knots whilst watching the movie, we were constantly aware of that front trying to overtake us. With a group decision of "better to safe", we prepared for the black monster with its lightening strikes and all.
20 minutes .. we lost all our wind and all three on deck looked at each other, was this the calm before the storm (always wanted to say that). What was going to follow this .. 6 knots, 12 knots, guys lets furl some sails, 19 knots, 22 knots OK what was the back up plan if we got hit with 30-40? A plan was discussed and we waited .. 15 mins .. nothing had changed, so we settled back for a lump night of 20-22 knots of breeze up our backside and our goosewing set for downwind running. OK that all works.
Day 9 - 8th July - Tuesday
I have a 01:00 shift and we had been experiencing gusts to 32 knots with building swell you could feel but not see. As we came off a 10 knot (boat speed) run for 2 mins, we peaked at 16 knots (boat speed) and Stuart and I looked at each other and said, we need to reduce some sail, famous last words. A gust of 30 knots plus hit as we rolled over a wave, broadsiding us and kicking us 90 degrees, HOLD it, HOLD it, and now we were in trouble.
The preventer we had to hold the boom out was preventing us from returning to main to centreline. Both sails were acting against each other and something had to give, in fact we were trapped back filling, ALL HANDS OM DECK .. cut the preventer I heard, then Stuart announced there was no need as he had undone it. Released and the main swung around release the pressure, head downwind get things sorted .. there is more to that story, but we bobbed out OK. Lets just remind ourselves, if we think we should be depowered it is probably nearly to late, get it off early.
30 mins later and back on course, pegged down a little and running with the 22-30 knots of breeze. This is hard work, and how quickly we forgot this was what we were doing the first 3 days. By 4am I am ready for bed.
Dawn breaks, and as I rise, Grant has noticed the main block shackle pin hanging on by pressure alone. A quick replacement is found, we depower the main, reconnect the block and look at a bent shackle and pin. We had only done a complete once over the boat 2 days before tightening all of these pins.
A late lunch of smoked pepper and Tofu pasta and a nice glass of merlot.
Wind was in the 15-25 knot range and we just keep hammering the lay line.
Day 10 - 9th July - Wednesday
I came off shift at 4am and straight to bed and sleep, the boat motion is a slow roll and the wind speed settles to a constant 16 knots. I wake, its 7am, no, yes it is, Neil Diamond in all his glory ... I jump up dazzed to see where this noise is coming from, and sitting on the cockpit centre table was the affectionately known "Red Boom" box. Crisp and clear sound on a sunny morning, with relatively calm conditions and sea state, you have to forgive the morning shift in their enhusiasm (Grant and Louise) for being awake for many hours an wanting to see in the day break. Lucky I like Neil Diamond!!!
By note : - for many days two things have been on my mind. I have never spent this much time away from my family without communication. I suspect there may have been 2-3 days with no contact, but at 10 days, no contact, other than the great crew here, is something that I have constantly thought about. I am not worried about communication with regards to anything dangerous, as we have a sat phone, its just my life has become a constant stream of text messages and phone calls to my family if not daily, every second day, especially when I travel frequently internationally. It just one of the things that separates this experience from most other things I have done.
The other item was the difference between racing and cruising. We make decisions as safely as possible to continue where a cruiser may hesitate. We cannot use the engine to move us 2-3 hours up the road, and we are unlikely to pull out and stop somewhere because its uncomfortable, so we press on, safely. So this once again is something to be considered that is so different from a cruising lifestyle, known by most racers, but not all of us have raced for this many days
More food for thought. I have kept these 10 days so far and will complete the remaining 4-5 days as we arrive in Port Villa.
PS. Stow away crew member Mr Gaz Bear (alias Ted) has been promoted from the transom to the cockpit. See ealier post of the ORCV Facebook page where we introduced Ted https://www.facebook.com/OceanRacingClub/photos/pb.148680458535331.-2207520000.1404886523./665243310212374/?type=3&theater