Who On Earth Put That Fish Farm There and Other Stories. 

It can be an awfully long way from Melbourne to Hobart.  The 2015 (or rather 2015/16) race was a fine example of just how far it can be.  I was either hallucinating, or one week from race start BOM had us prepared to be swinging off grab rails and preparing to ingest Stugeron and Saladas like they were going out of fashion, with the vague possibility of some sliced cheese towards day 3.  However towards race day the Bureau changed it's mind, and some really pale blue bits (scattered with a tad of white) started to show up on the wind map.  

Conditions were windy-ish at the start.  I was probably supposed to be trimming a sail or something, but anyway here are some pictures of other boats I took on the start line:

yoko1 Yoko2 
 yoko3  yoko5
 yoko6  yoko4

Right, photoshoot over, and back to the race.  The wind continued for the first couple of days.  Precisely from where we were trying to go, obviously.  We also had some rather annoying current.  I'd love to show a picture of the tracker here but despite the fact I am a highly regarded IT professional, I can't work it right now. Race Director to the rescue

yoko13

 

Here's a picture of people doing tacking, and tackling fearsome weather and intense seas instead.

 

yoko7

Despite being buoyed by Fred's ongoing insistence that there would definitely be a Westerly ANY MINUTE NOW, all that tacking was sapping a fair bit of energy.  It was obviously going to be a long race and we were worried enough to seriously consider which of the crew to eat (no contest - Paula).  With this in mind we pottered down the Fearsome West Coast with careless disregard of anything like rationing.  The only incident of note was the kidnapping and ransom of the 'A' team mascot Raaaa, which was apparently prompted by Paula's completely unreasonable insistence that she did NOT want to be eaten.  

yoko8  yoko9 

 Paula: alleged kidnapper of Raaaa, and evidence of her anti-cannabalism campaign being

taken seriously (she is after all a delicious, grain-fed vegetarian)

 Raaaa rescued and safe*, Paula plotting revenge, and Fred looking oddly

relaxed given he was next on the menu....



yoko10 

 yoko11

 Dawn

 Dawn at Matzseiker was a particularly special moment

Thus we arrived in practically no time at all at the point at which every West Coast veteran celebrates the fact it's not that far now, aka "that bit down the bottom where you turn left".  On this occasion it turned out to be quite far indeed.  Traditionally, I like to stay up from Matzseiker to the end, but unfortunately I got a bit bored with the ongoing rendition of "it's a long way to Hobaaart:  it's a long way to go" and instead retired for a nice gentle rocking to sleep on uneventful flat seas, thus apparently missing the sunset of the year.  

As I missed the sunset, here is a picture of the moon instead:

yoko12

This photo says a lot more about how the boat was not moving very much than my hand-held photography skills (which are mighty, nevertheless). 

I  eventually woke up just past Bruny Island, and turned up on deck on a very black night to discover that we were sailing in between some spooky things that looked quite a lot like big black wheelie bins.  As it turned out, they were not giant spooky wheelie bins at all, but something involving a fish farm which Very Definitely Wasn't There Last Year.  Or any of the past 33 years for that matter.  A bit of brilliant communication from Steve (winner of the loudest voice award) and some great tactical manoeuvring from torch bearer Will ("Bear LE-EFT".  "Where's the bear?  I don't see a bear on the left?") enabled us to successfully navigate our way out with only a minor loss of dignity.  Dignity which will be maintained just as long as no-one else ever finds out about it.  

With all obvious dangers circumnavigated, the only outstanding risk was being shot in the thigh by a firework from Constitution dock.  We negated this by not being there.  I have not experienced watching the fireworks from the Derwent before.  Nor do I wish to again.  1/11th of a bottle of champagne just doesn't cut it, frankly.  Please never speak of this to me again.

Unfortunately that 1/11th of a bottle did not do us any favours.  With some wind up the clacker we put up a kite, got some actual speed up and managed a race record speed of 7.8 ktns as we screamed to the finish line.  Our local, friendly race director Simon made the comment that our hour to the finish was the shortest hour he's ever experienced (about 18 minutes: we had fairly low expectations by that point) but we finally arrived sometime after 3am on the 1st Jan and in a fit of enthusiasm attempted to take the kite down.  

Damn you, 1/11th of a bottle of champagne.  As it turned out we used the wrong halyard to hoist the bloody thing.

25 minutes and 14 made up swear-words later, and with our kite finally neat-ish-ly furled in position and 3rd degree burns to only 2 of our crew members' hands, we finally pulled in, gratefully received our slab, and prepared to tell tall stories of battling turbulent seas and monsters and stuff.

For the 9th time for me, and 34th (and final time?) for Yoko.  I would like to think there will be a number 10, because I just can't think of a better thing to do with a finer bunch of people than this race.

Thank you ORCV, from the bottom of our lion-napping, cannabalistic hearts.

Yoko,  2015/16 season.

*Raaaa has mostly recovered from his traumatic experience of the West Coast despite the unprofessional counselling he received en-route, including advice to "pull yourself together" and "lockers aren't prisons, it's just a louvre door mate".