ORCV Hutchwilco Melbourne to Stanley (M2S).
Why would you drink bilge water?
It's a very interesting question, actually. In the recent Hutchwilco Melbourne to Stanley race, the day’s Champagne sailing went to bilge water, pretty quickly. Depending what part of the track you were on, after the late morning and afternoon's reach in delightful, wet weather peeling conditions, the night drew in and with it, a lovely circular cell. Some out there saw just 27 knots of breeze. Others saw over double that.
One of my favourite descriptions of ocean racing is long moments of boredom interspersed with moments of sheer joyand/or terror. We're lucky that two souls who partook of this interesting race have compiled some notes, in the form of a wee blurb for us. So then, many thanks to Chris Tulloch from the RP46, XLR8, and Michelle Lucas off the Beneteau 40, Dry White, for taking the time to let us know how it was for them from both a philosophical and humourous poitn of view...
When he got warm and dry again, with a tad of sleep under his belt, Chris Tulloch got to ask himself a bloody good question. Why do we do it? "My wretchedness is all but complete", writes Chris. "I lie in my bunk, soaked to the skin, shivering uncontrollably. I am tired beyond reason, nauseous and hypothermic. I have just let down those who are relying on me to take my time at the helm. The cabin around me is a chaotic blend of wet and torn sails, crew trying to sleep, and gear strewn in all directions. Everyone is cold and exhausted. Rain lashes the hull with such force you would swear that it was hailing: it’s like being inside a snare drum."
Getting wet aboard the RP pencil, XLR8, during the Winter Series on Port Phillip.
"Nothing is dry. Nothing is still. Nothing is comfortable. And nothing about the situation which we are in, is enjoyable."
"Four hours earlier, the story was a very different one. We had just had the most glorious crossing of Bass Strait, in all but perfect conditions. The sailing was easy; we were coming third out of a fleet of 36, we were nearing the finish, and it had been a champagne day of sailing. This however, had all changed very quickly, putting us in the situation which we now faced. 'Why?', I ask myself, 'Why do I do this?' It’s a bloody good question."
...One crowded hour of glorious life is worth an age without a name… Thomas Mordaunt, 1763.
"Mordaunt comes close to capturing the elusive thing, which I think we chase in ocean racing. The 'crowded hour of glorious life', while being terrible at the time, is quickly forgotten once ashore. However, what remains with us, is a richness that a lifetime of comfort simply cannot possibly compete with."
"As a tribal species, relationships are a very central aspect of the human condition. The bonds formed in the adversity of the ocean are strong ones, indeed. Long periods of boredom, spent in close proximity with each other, are a natural catalyst for conversation. Especially in today’s world where we are always 'connected' - a term I use very loosely - via social media and the like, sustained, simple and deep opportunities for companionship are less than they ever have been. A long watch provides rich opportunity to connect and converse with your crewmates on quite a unique level." Ed. I particularly like this comment and big cheerio to Andy McKinna, whom our watch leaders would try their damnest to keep us on separate watches, so they would not have to listen to our miscellaneous ramblings... And that was over 15 years ago! PS - more often than not they failed....
Chris continues, "So too, ocean racing provides an incredibly challenging experience: a unique adversity, which is shared only by the crew. The sense of having been through it together, the shared achievement, the real risk of life and limb, makes for some very strong connections among crew. So too, the real reliance on each other, and the teamwork required, is a palpable and powerful glue between people. I believe the simple joy of forming these connections is at the very heart of being human and has huge benefits for our mental and emotional wellbeing."
"Every time I undergo an ocean race, I find out a little bit more about myself. Most of all, I discover what I’m capable of. Each race can be just as uncomfortable and tiring, but I feel that each time I cope with it all, just that little bit better: I get comfortable with being uncomfortable. While on the surface, this might seem a fairly pointless gain, it’s of huge gain in life."
XLR8 during the 2011 Melbourne to Geelong race.
"Malcolm Fraser famously quipped 'Life wasn’t meant to be easy' and he’s right; life can be hard. It’s people who can cope and indeed flourish in adversity that always seem to have good luck and do well in life. This ability doesn’t come from thin air, it comes from practice. Just as an athlete becomes better able to cope with competition by emulating competition in his/her training, by exposing myself to stressful, uncomfortable, tiring and difficult conditions, and still having to perform, I find myself better coping with the challenges that life inevitably throws up. More than any other activity I’ve been involved in, I find ocean racing grows me the most."
"Sailing is not just about adversity and suffering, however. There are also magic moments. Greeting the dawn after a long graveyard watch, the thrill of surfing with a full spinnaker flying, coming up the Derwent after crossing Bass Strait and going down the Tassie cost, watching dolphins playing, a perfect gybe, post-race beers at the Customs House, and coming home safely, again. These little gems are what you remember long after the memories of hard times fade. And they are the memories worth holding on to, for they are the ones which so few people are lucky enough to even possess."
"So whilst at some point during every race I swear black and blue that I’ll never do it again, I’m always looking forward to the next one once it’s over. And why wouldn’t I? What’s not to love about something which gives you great friendships, betters you as a person, and gives you incredible memories?"
"Finally then, a huge thank Ray, for all that you do financially and with your time and effort, to make it possible for the crew of XLR8 to gain so much. I know that it’s something that we all value very deeply, and are very grateful for."
"-'til next time - Chris"
Ed- If you've been a long term reader of these miscellaneous ramblings, you'll know that XLR8 have a love/hate relationship with me - looks like we are really going to be up for a huge love-in after this lot!!!
Michelle Lucas adds a very unique perspective to the equation and not simply because she is part of the largest growing sector in the sport, either. "It is just a vague memory now..... the approaching, quite muscular, but overly sanitized forearms of the obstetrician moving ever closer...... the doctor forming a striking sight in his powder blue operating gown and matching cotton trousers..... but brandishing the icy stainless steel forceps with purpose as he sought to extract my first, obviously hideously oversized, child...... AGGGGGH!!! ......"
"In the same way as this horror had become little more than a distant memory nineteen years on, so too had I inexplicably erased from my mind the challenges of my first ocean race; the 2011 Melbourne to Port Fairy event."
"So, I found myself on board Dry White one more time. Let’s face it; the Apollo Bay (not) race had been a tad of an anticlimax and somehow I felt I owed it another go. Here I was again, my stomach had been tied in knots well before I boarded and any mention of the forthcoming event in the preceding weeks was met with an abrupt snap, ‘Can we please not talk about it, John (Dryden)!!!’ I had a strategy – complete denial – and it seemed to be working okay", said Michelle.
"Indeed, everything still seemed fine as I loaded the food on board. I had been identified as Minister for the Interior and I welcomed the focus. My approach throughout the shopping expedition had been to anticipate and provide for everything possible; all sailing conditions, the range of preferred ambiences and at least the majority of individual fetishes. My task was to organise and present the meals as required and to keep downstairs in appropriate order."
All very civilised aboard Dry White during the Winter Series - © Alex McKinnon.
"I was thwarted on only one level.....My nemesis soon became the sail bags, which had burst forth and multiplied. At first they were contained within the for'ard cabin, but they then billowed into the far reaches of the hull. Every breath required an intake of sail and every mouthful tasted distinctly of Kevlar, Carbon and Mylar. It was a blessing to hear the call to go on watch."
"I needed to get out of here........@@###!!* Where was the guy with the forceps when you needed him? Suddenly, an unexpected drop from a wave and I had it", said Michelle
"In fact, the interior was an environment filled with challenge; at times, many of us were required to occupy a berth on the low side in the middle of Dry White. Within this same section, we had strung the dampened wet weather gear at the end of each watch. When it came to my turn, sleep didn’t come readily and my few moments of rest were somewhat disturbed. I was happy to be ‘Dancing with the Stars’ as the twinkle-toed wet weather gear did the fox trot across my face, but the random wallop by the associated metal hooks was a little harsh to say the least."
"Further concerns down below related to the bodum coffee press – it was a murky brown colour and clashed horribly with the decor, not to mention that a simple twist of its lid resulted in the entire apparatus disintegrating into an impossibly hard Chinese puzzle. Notwithstanding that, I would have to concede that up on deck things were also challenging . As a new sailor, I had personally entered this second race a little under prepared. I had received Kaz’s exceptional safety briefing, but perhaps had not investigated the full meaning of some of the alerts. Just what are the ‘triangles of death’ (cos they sound nasty!!!)?? - See - Footnote"
Whilst out there racing, Karen 'Sailor Kaz' Young sent us this snap of John Weatherley, with one of those pesky sail bags, from the Champagne part of the day...
"Finally, and most horribly, just a heads up for all interested sailors. I will be establishing a waxing clinic in the front cabin of Dry White for the next race.... despite the evolving camaraderie, there were quite frankly, far too many men’s hairy bottoms on display! - Michelle." Ed - Eeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!!!
Footnote: "Upon reflection, I do suspect one of the points might be the traveller and main sheet which seemed to have associated tracking devices targeting my neck and head!"
Many thanks to our contributors for their wonderful sights, insights and exposing their thoughts and feelings for all to see. It is appreciated.
Full results for the 2011 Hutchwilco Melbourne to Stanley race are HERE.
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© John Curnow, ORCV Media
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The ORCV's Hutchwilco Stanley race
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