2014 Melbourne to Vanuatu Update from CARTOUCHE 11 July, 2014


I apologies that it has taken 12 days to do the first update, but here we go.

For those that don't know we race the boat with two shifts of 4 people. 3 hours on and 3 hours off, 24 hours a day.

The race started well with us leaving the Port Phillip Heads in second place closely behind ALIVE.

Our progress through Bass Straight went well and quicker than expected.

Then things became a little more serious South of Gabo Island known for its treacherous seas. Full wet weather gear and thermals was the required attire, traditional Melbourne ocean racing dress code.

In 40 to 45 knots of wind (80-90km/h) we needed to down sail by putting in a 2nd reef in the mainsail. This is more difficult on CARTOUCHE as it has a furling main sail that requires us to go from 1st reef to full sail before we can go to the second reef. This process was hard and required all hands on deck but after a lot of hard work we were ready to continue racing.

In the washing machine sea state of at least 5-6 metres, a rouge wave hit the boat causing the boat to crash gibe. The preventer rope that we had in place to prevent the boom from crashing from one side of the boat to the other broke and the boom slammed with the force of 8 to 10 tonne from one side of the boat to the other.
The main sheet (ropes) collected Leeton on the way through and pinned him between the sheets and the fiberglass seats of the boat. He seemed quite badly injured at this stage with severe chest and back pain so we headed under sail towards Eden.
By time we were nearing Eden it was apparent that his injures were not critical but were still somewhat serious so it was decided by all that we head up close to the coast to maintain close access to the mainland if we needed to access medical help. By time we were just south of Sydney Leeton had had a few days in bed and had begun raiding the medical cabinet. He convinced the skipper and crew that it was safe to continue racing to Vanuatu. With this in mind we aimed for Lord Howe Island as our next safety checkpoint. We knew that this was going to leave us becalmed for at least a day but everyone agreed that it was the safest course of action for our injured crewmate.

Night 10 was the first night we didn't need to don our wet weather gear to survive. Some who shall remain nameless to protect the Innocent celebrated this by sailing in their underwear. The light winds certainly came with a vengeance and as Leeton's health improved our lack of wind increased. In the true spirit of Cartouchion crew it was time to confront the lack of wind with a swim off the back. Tom and Mark prepared a roast in the oven. A civilized meal with read wine, fit for kings.
Then to top things off, Leeton made some freshly baked bread to have with vegemite -- "Ahh the serenity"

We had either had near to no wind or too much. Next was a belt of too much wind. Our excitement grew with the burst of 30knot winds and we reefed early to err on the side of caution. With Nick, Damon, Simon and Steven on deck we were suddenly smacked with 50knots in 1 gust tearing our head sail. The crew quickly got it in but not before we had 6 tears in it 1 of them major on the leach line.
Winds in that storm continued for over an hour reaching up to 59knots (110km/h).

Steven and Leeton spent 3 hours repairing the sail with wonderful success. Now named "FrankinSail" and with some accidental phallic shaped repairs it was hoisted back up and driving us in the now ridiculously light winds once again.

Day 11 provided the crew with some much need excitement and moral boost. Just south of New Caledonia a whale came swimming within 100m of the boat for about 15 minutes. Tom was incredibly scared but with Kate's encouragement they went for a swim with the whale - kinda.

We have all struggled with the light winds and such a heavy yacht and spend way too much time wishing for heavy winds. The silliness when becalmed has overtaken us all at times. We resorted last night to drinking some "Dark and Stormy's" (Rum and Ginger beer) to tempt the weather gods.

Food has been fantastic we have had everything from Indian cuisine, roast beef, salads, fresh baked bread, porridge, pizza salads, gnocchi, salads, fruit and wraps.

As we drift towards Vanuatu with an expected ETA as predictable as the trifecta on cup day.