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2018 Solo Tasman Challenge 01 Apr 2018
Start: 1300h Port Taranaki New Plymouth NZ
Finish: circa 11 April 2018 - Mooloolaba QLD

Saturday, December 1, 2018

The Race - Part 3

Since the race was forcast to be in light and variable breeze, I opted to not fill my water tanks with 200 litres but kept it to approx 60 litres plus the mandatory emergency jerries. Same strategy for the fuel, I had about 50 litres for battery charging and port manoeuvres with 1 x 10 L jerry as emergency.

By 05 Apr we had slowly clawed our way north and a little west. Unlike the larger boats who were in a completely different weather pattern by day 5 and they were making more west. Much better day today but still falling short of the old Rogues performance window.
136NM daily we are getting there.

By 06 Apr we were again clawing away north and making reasonable progress. Sailed close to Wonganella Bank where a summit pops up to 95metres from 2500+m. Seas a tad confused around that baby as the swell wrapped around about sides causing cross seas. Bust the assy tack block through side loading so replaced and relocated the lead. Over the past few days Am Meer and I have had some match racing visible on AIS. I lost Geoff after my last wind hole as I was ahead of him at the time and he altered course and sailed around me still on the breeze.
145NM daily run......still not on the money.

By 07 Apr we are heading south of west on 263 deg compass. in another day of 6-14 knots of SE breeze.
125NM daily run.....slow going.


The Race - Part 2

My race was really between two boats; Am Meer and Robbery since we were the only ones in the 36-38ft bracket.  Unless your shorter waterline boat planes/surfs/foils, every sailor knows for speed, there is no substitution for waterline length and sail area and light displacement. So the 45-55 footers had their race and we had ours. Fortunately Am Meer was also racing IRC and so was Ocean Gem so at least I had that working for me!

By 02 Apr  around 1000h we were doing 'circle work' as the wind hole swallowed the old Rogue. The race forecast indicated it was to be a light air, following breeze kind of race. That's certainly not in my favour as my IRC certificate limits my sail choice to one roller reefing genoa at 132% and the main and storm jib for upwind work, whilst for downwind I had 1 x Assy 1.5oz All Purpose Spinnaker (APS) and 1 x Sym Spinnaker 0.75oz.
109NM daily run....frustrating.

I spent a lot of time hand steering (read tiring) to keep the old girl moving and at times flew the APS in 5 knots only to have the fluky wind shift 10 degrees and collapse the rock show. When the breeze completely dropped out I was left with a sloppy see and slatting sails. The constant slatting broke two battens and two sail slugs, so down with the main and I spent the next 2 hours sewing slugs and replacing battens. Still no breeze so the main remained resting on the boom to minimse damage to the sail and hardware. Around 2000h the breeze began to fill in and we were back in the race.

By 03 Apr my speed ranged between 3-5 knots and at around 0300h I was on the latitude of Auckland, about 25NM behind my Predict Wind plot so polars were adjusted for the next download. 70NM daily run......dismal.

By 04 Apr speed had increased and at times we hit 7-8 knts as our course shaped NNW. Had a few rainsqualls during which the wind would blow from any direction. The lighter or more unpredictable the breeze, the more effort required to keep the boat moving in the right direction and the impact is very little downtime for rest.
100NM daily run......compared to yesterday ....better.

01 Apr 2018 - Fire the start gun

After hoisting the main I sat on my mooring until about 30 min pre start. The start is the harbour entrance wall so you need to sail around inside the port and gybe/tack back and forth until the start. With an inner Solent forestay attached for offshore work, tacking the headsail means I need to furl the genoa and in a confined space with boats every where plus ship/tug movement, the lesson learned was drop the mooring when 30min from start, motor sail around with main and only in last 10min shut her down and crack on. Skippers can elect to have some helpers on board to set sails and get the boat on song before the extras get taken off about 15 min before the start.

A conservative start is very important for old guys like me on tight budgets. One wrong move in confined spaces with maybe not-so-cautious skipper and the dream is over before it began.....4 years wasted.

As I did in 2014, I started at the back of the fleet and gathered pace as the gun sounded. We're off and I was the last out of the gate.
With sheets cracked, we raced north along the beach so the crowd could see our spectacular, super fit, highly tuned sporting physiques and up to the first starboard mark whose purpose was to identify the reef that sticks its neck out from the beach and across the rhumbline. I sailed close to the rhumbline and close enough to the Coast Guard rescue boat that I could shakehands....but instead I offered my thanks for their support. The remainder of the fleet headed a bit further offshore. By the time we arrived at the port hand turning mark letting us loose toward Australia, I had regained some ground and hardened up on the wind to start the chase.

Rogue Wave does windward very well and it wasn't long before I began hauling up and over the top of Robbery and then focused on Am Meer  just off my starboard bow and Ocean Gem off my port bow and about a half a mile ahead. Robbery fell off below my starboard quarter into my wake and eventually off my visual horizon by nightfall.

When in NZ people asked me how far offshore do you start to see Mt Egmont and I could only speculate. So for all those who asked, at dusk and 34 NM out, I could see Mt Egmont lower section whilst the top of the volcano was covered in cloud.

Pre-race rig tune

On return to NZ my first task was to tune the rig and get her nice and tight. Fractional rigs have more rake aft and higher tension on the cap shrouds than your typical masthead rigged boats.

The old Rogue still has the original Kemp (Selden) single spreader, tapered mast configuration but I pimped it up with 8mm dyform rigging, new turnbuckles and chainplates as part of my 2012-13 refit, so its very critical to get the tune correct. 

I use both Spinlock and Loos tension gauges to ensure tension readings side to side are as close as possible to each other and my selected % of the wire specification.

Pre-Race - 2018 Solo Tasman Yacht Race

After being greeted and welcomed back as a returning competitor by the committee, I cleared customs and immigration the next morning. During the night my mooring buoy (large steel float) was drifting under the boat and knocking on the hull which was annoying and made sleep difficult. At high tide I found the issue. It appeared the chain between the buoy and the concrete block had become tangled around the block and the buoy was being dragged underwater, which then allowed it to glide under mu bow and knock on the hull.

Later that day Davac conducted the safety inspection and we passed without issue. 

Davac had arranged the use of a tender on my return but in the meantime Malcolm (Sarau) dropped by in his tender to say hi and help me add a fender to the mooring buoy until the diver could sort out the chain issue. Later that afternoon Hamish (Zenith) dropped by and took me over to his mum and dads stunning Dickson 55 for some sunsetters......and a few more post sunset! I met their lovely family Joan and Kate and enjoyed the company after 12 days at sea.

The following day I put the old Rogue to bed and I flew back to AUS for a week of work before returning for the pre-race activities. 

At that stage only Ocean Gem (Tas-NZ) and Rogue Wave had made the delivery voyage. The conditions in the Tasman prevented all other AUS entrants from completing the I said, making it to the start line is an achievement in itself.

The race went from being full with around 20 starters plus a waiting list and finally only six made it to the start line:
Malcolm Dickson - Sarau (Dickson 55)
Hamish Dickson - Zenith (Dickson 45)
David Hows - Ocean Gem (Beneteau 445)
Geoff Thorn - Am Meer (Bavaria 38)
Graham Francis - Robbery (Wilson 36)
Kevin Le Poidevin - Rogue Wave (Sigma 36)

Give me a Break!

The conditions remained ugly for about the next 4-5 days so grazing was the order of the day and not much food was consumed. Being off the boat for three years it took longer than my usual 2-3 days before I found my sea legs. Its funny, the transition from feeling seasick, not being hungry and knowing that mount Vesuvius could erupt at any given moment to going....."geez, really fancy a cheese toasty right now" is remarkable. So after five toasties my sea legs returned, the stereo pumped through some Dire Straits and my concentration improved. Happy days.

Off the continental shelf the seas were about 3m and breaking. The old Rogue punched her way forward over one and through the next leaving a wall of water cascading down on the coach roof behind the mast at every second or third wave. On day 3, the wind was forecast to back to the NNE......I waited.

By 11 Mar the breeze had finally backed to ESE but the sea state was still confused but at least I could shake out the second reef. By 12 Mar the breeze backed further and dropped to 5 knots but instead of NNE it backed through to NW in the early evening and increased to 15-17 knots.

By 13 Mar the sun had finally appeared and the breeze had me on a tight broad run trucking along at 7.2 knots. The Raymarine e7 Multi Function Display (MFD) at the nav station began to have sporadic data drop outs that also impacted the AIS display, so I performed a factory reset and thankfully that fixed the issue.

Over the next few days the sailing was great and until the plastic mainsail slugs that keep the mainsail attached to the integral mast track decided to let go. I had replaced about half with the next size up after the 2014 race as some had broken during club racing. Again, another job where time was a against me. I tucked in a reef to take the slug out of play so I could replace it. The slugs are stitched to webbing loops so out with my trusty 40 year old sewing awl to make repairs. By the 16 Mar I was wing on wing sailing down down the line for New Plymouth.

My run of good sailing ended on 17 Mar as I approached New Plymouth. The breeze backed and increased to 25 knots. When I installed and tuned my rigging at Port Stephens I would normally re-tune after a few days sailing . Out here there is nowhere stable to re-tune and the rigging and the lowers had loosened. I reefed down to #2 (only has 2 reefs) and with the beautiful Mt Egmont dominating the skyline we bashed onward to New Plymouth. About an hour out from port the engine was engaged as we pressed on through strong currents and short steep waves.

Typical, just as I was approaching port a ship was scheduled to depart so I slowed my approach. The committee came out to escort me to my mooring and by 1900h the old Rogue was safely attached to her assigned mooring.

2018 Solo Tasman Challenge - The delivery

Getting to the start line is a significant achievement and preparation is critical. As the race is only held every four years, the window of opportunity can slam shut at any moment through a change in circumstance.  In my case I had a lot more additional challenges than normal.....foremost was a posting to the US that had me returning home in Jan 2018. Arriving back in Australia after three years in the US involved finding a house, a car, catching up with the kids, parents and friends whilst recommissioning Rogue Wave in preparation for the delivery and race and post race delivery.

I had purchased a bowsprit and furler for my awesome APS assy to reduce my workload and increase performance, but unfortunately I needed to make some custom brackets and I simply ran out of time.

Fortunately, I know every inch of the old Rogue and that is very important aspect of race preparation. Following relaunch at Cove Marine on the Tomaree Peninsula in Port Stephens, I sailed her down to Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club (NCYC) for final prep and country clearance.

Lessons Learned 2014:

  • In 2014 I took an extra 4 x 20L plastic Jerry Cans of diesel which was overkill and added unwanted weight and storage challenges. The fuel took up space in my life raft locker. 
    • In 2018, I only added 2 x 10L jerries in addition to my 110 litre main tank.
  • In 2014 I hired a 4 man Great Circle Cannister liferaft and stainless cradle that I attached to the aft teak deck. Again unwanted weight in the ends of RW.
    • In 2018 I hired a Great Circle 4 man liferaft but this time in a soft Valise that would fit my locker plus the 2 x 10L jerries.

Since she had been on the hard and systems had not been used I expected some issues. Murphy raised his ugly head and took out the fresh water pump and gas detector linked to the gas safety cutoff system. A couple of days delay doing repairs was compounded by the weather window that was rapidly closing as 50 knot winds off Sydney were making their way north, so I held in port for a few days until I could ride the coat tails of the LOW. The upside is a favorable breeze.....the downside is a few days of ugly weather and maybe a confused sea depending on where you are offshore.

I was in contact with Kerli, another competitor from Sydney in his Young 11 with a delivery crew leaving around the same time as me. As the LOW passed Sydney he hopped on its tail and commenced his delivery to NZ....a tad too early as it turned out.

After waiting a couple of days for the LOW to pass, I set off on 07 Mar at 1700h in rough conditions. About a day out I received a text on my satphone from Kerli saying he was headed back to Sydney after a severe beating and some breakages. A few days later Kerli sent a text saying...."you have got bigger kahunas than me Kev, good luck I'm withdrawing from the race".

The SSE breeze continued for about 5 days making passage on the rhumb line impossible.