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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


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

2014 Solo Tasman - The Competitors

The list of starters included Aussies, Kiwis and one Austrian, Reini Gelder.  Based solely on a couple of missing letters, Reini home country was closer to Australia than New Zealand so happy to call him one of ours to keep the rivalry going! Reini is the owner skipper of the very slick 1980's Lock Crowther trimaran 'Ave Gitana' (Shark Angels),  the sole sister ship to Bullfrog Sunblock, the 1986 and current Solo Tasman record holder. Reini has done a remarkable job refitting Ave Gitana to a balance between race spec and world cruising comfort. Together they have completed several circumnavigations.....quickly!  I recall Reini saying he lived in a van under the tri whilst trying to work and pay for the refit.

Dabulamanzi
Dabulamanzi' skippered by Oli Oborn  is an old beautiful Nicholson 55 world cruiser that he is fortunate to skipper for her international owner. Surprisingly she had an IRC rating (1.046) and the owner needed to get the boat to Mooloolaba, so Oli suggested why not race her....and he agreed! Oli's family flew to QLD and met him on arrival. So we now had our second IRC competitor. She may be old, but she is a very powerful boat with a ton of sail area.....its going to be tough for old 'Rogue' as the smallest IRC entry and lowest handicap of 0.931.


Road Runner and Outside Edge pre-start
Then we have two Young 11's; 'Outside Edge' skippered by Peter Gaddes (AUS) and 'Road Runner' skippered by Alan Ward (NZ). I reckon these guys likely had a little wager on this 1320nm match race! Young 11's are quick; very quick racer/cruisers and both were adorned with extended bowsprits and race sails. Pete was taking around 20 minutes to complete a tack as he stacked sails from the lowside to the highside......I may have been cooking bread while that action was on!  Weighing in at a lightweight circa 4000kg displacement, my Sigma 36 carries an additional 2250kg when empty and more like 3000kg wet.  'Outside Edge' (1.063) makes up the third and final boat in IRC, so I figure if I can keep I keep close to the pace of these two, then there is hope!

Shillong and Rio Sun
Next is Bob Wise in his 11.2m Alan Wright designed 'Shillong', an accomplished offshore and racing sailor with an outstanding sailing background and a gentleman.  Watch out for the ole 'wise' one!

Rio Sun
Ian Thorne skippers "Rio Sun', a 11.75m Bavaria 39   with roller cruiser racer complete with furling mainsail. Ian said the beauty of his system was he could adjust sail trim and balance by taking in just a small amount of sail whereas we would need to commit to a full reef, de-powering the sail.

The Healer
Mark Hipgrave is another Australian who ventured across to challenge the Kiwis. His Beneteau 36  "The Healer'  is another of the smaller yachts and a quick Cruiser/Racer to be watched.

Cator of Margaret River
Lisa Blair sailing a borrowed 'Cator of Margaret River', a Van de Stadt 37 and the only alloy boat in the fleet. The large volume, light displacement, deep draft and large sail area including bowsprit gave her an edge and she would also be up on the pace. Lisa has had a fast track career sailing in the Clipper Race completing the entire circumnavigation with the assistance of supporters. She recently acquired an Open 50, raced to Hobart and is now prepping for an Antarctic circumnavigation record attempt.

Atom Ant
Next we have Cory McClennan in his red and racy Colson 9m 'Atom Ant' and the smallest boat in the fleet. Cory received an age waiver to compete and has secured some great sponsorship deals. Cory probably had the hell trip of all entrants, with his autopilot constantly failing. Despite the setbacks he persevered and completed the race. Cory is a great guy with ambition and is now preparing for a Mini Transat campaign his recently acquired Mini 650 sponsored by B&G.  Working in Doyles NZ loft with some of the worlds finest sailors should bode well for Cory and we hope to see him back again in 2018.

Next comes the remainder of the speed machines; Rhys Boulton in his proven Pogo 40 'Krakatoa II',
Hupane and Krakatoa II (K2)
 Graham Dalton in his super slick Class 40 'Hupane' and Steven Arms in his super quick catamaran 'Nitro'.
Nitro

The race within the race was always going to be 'Ave' Gitana' versus these guys. For the win, it came down to who could pick the best weather.

The results below demonstrate how competitive my old 'Rogue' is on handicap after 11d10h days of racing, only to be pipped by 1h38m for second and 3h56m for first place. I learned a lot during the race and will push harder when I return in 2018 as I intend to break the 10 day elapsed time barrier.
2014 Solo Tasman Results






Thursday, January 21, 2016

2014 Solo Tasman - Damage Report

Whilst I had a great sail, the old Rogue did sustain some damage. About a 100NM out from arrival at Port Taranaki we were motoring during a quiet spell of minimal breeze when the engine coughed and cut out. Filters were clear since I knew the exact fuel that had gone in that tank since its repair in 2010. My fuel gauge is down below and it indicated I had about 20 litres remaining.....well maybe the gauge was broken so I added a jerry can and she started up quickly. Along we motored for another 2-3 mins and repeat. Starts up, runs for a minute shuts down.....what the??

The tank is located under the aft berth, so up with the base covers and ear to the tank........yep, I could hear the baffle sliding across inside the tank with every wave movement. Fuel pickups are normally off the bottom of the tank so in my case the rocking of the boat was allowing the baffle to float and get sucked up against the pickup starving the engine and shutting it down.

A quick jury rig of a jerry can was enough to get me to port. Fortunately the main tank was near empty as the jerry tanks emptied quicker than expected since I had not jury rigged the fuel return line. 

Arrival Port Taranaki
After clearing Customs, Quarantine and Immigration Harley and his daughter had me secured on a commercial mooring big enough for the Queen Mary! No dragging here my friends! Time to open the old Rogue up for a dryout session.

Time was precious as I had to fly back to Australia for work. I knuckled in and ripped the tank out with the intention of a new build. I had already had this tank out in Southport after it cracked on my way back from Malaysia. 

Harley kindly ran me around New Plymouth and after a few recommendations found a Engineering firm capable of duplicating the tank out of stainless, but thicker and with a better baffle system and 12v fuel gauge. Expensive?.....you bet.......worth it..you bet! When I stripped the components off the tank and pulled the fuel pickup, I found it had been cut parallel with the tank base. If it had been built correctly, the pickup tube would have been angle cut and the fuel starvation problem would not have happened.

The new tank
Harley completed the CAT1 safety inspection and required paperwork and then I flew out to Australia, tired but happy the tank construction was sorted.

Upon my return to NZ in April, Harley again came to my aide and picked up the tank so it was ready to go when I arrived. We gathered a few locals, commandeered a larger fishing tinny and we manhandled this odd shaped tank into the belly of 'Rogue Wave'. Only two people can fit for the final drop in and thankfully it slipped in exactly as planned. From there on in it was all go and we were back in action.

The remaining jobs were minor and included the placement of all my Soldier On, media tags and race number. It was several days before the weather gods smiled enough for me to stay in the dinghy whilst I attached the decals........crooked adds character they said ! She drew many compliments and support for Soldier On.

'Rogue Wave' a 1983 Sigma 36 FR designed by the late David Thomas (UK)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Time for some Sigma 36 upgrades

The old 'Rogue' is 33 years young and has had her fair share of new bling since 2009, however she deserves a bit more. So taking advantage of my location and the vast array of boat bits available in the good ole USA, it was time for some upgrades. SO there I was checking out marinas, chandlers and the like and I found this nice Class 40 resting on the hard after the Transat Race at the back of a storage yard in Annapolis...sigh.... she was like a thoroughbred out to pasture.......then I slapped myself back into reality (one day...one day) and continued on my path.


CC-Sprit CS-42 Carbon Bowsprit
So, items to date include; stainless Garhauer Marine footblocks
Garhauer Footblocks.....nice
that are a direct replacements for Lewmar genoa footblocks (so they tell me); a couple of Garhauer Snatch blocks with Quick Release pins so sheets can be quickly installed; a C-SPRIT CS-42 carbon A-Frame bowsprit (eventually a Code 0 and Selden CX Furler);
Snatch Block with Quick Release Pins











Lewmar ST30 spinnaker winches;
 two Lewmar Offshore hatches so that will complete my swap out of all original deck hatches with CAT 1 compliant hatches that can be opened from the outside; and a Ronstan heavy duty 2-Speed Mainsheet System (gotta love eBay!)





Finally invested in a bullet proof Fiorentino Shark Storm Drogue System that I saw for the first time at the 2015 Annapolis Boat Show. Certainly is leagues apart in design (and cost!) from my Aussie designed Burke Sea Brake - I doubted that one could ever hold up in sustained heavy weather - no doubts now!

Shark Drogue - a 10lb mushroom weight attaches to the tail.
Complete system with a 300ft bridle.
An investment in safety is a wise investment.
Check out that hardware!

C-Sprit CS-42 example installed using custom mounts. Comes standard with deck mount or you can mount to the topsides depending on the hull design, anchor configuration and deck clutter. Simply detaches using two Aviation Quick Release Pins.  

Monday, January 18, 2016

2014 Solo Tasman Part 5: Ready about

Ready About!
In Feb 14 with a reshuffle of my day job,  I set off again to conquer the Tasman Sea.......or 'cross the ditch'.
Upper track is weather routing & good for three days.
Lower track is my actual and mirrors weather routing
track except weather came in earlier than forecast.
Boat polars adjusted to compensate..
NZ Currents



















There are numerous currents that come into play that influence the natural unhappiness of the seas one encounters mid Tasman.

The second crack at crossing the ditch went like a dream; even had a full day.....and I mean 15+ hours of the day under Assy Spinnaker! Completely uneventful and enjoyable crossing that prepared me well for the race back in April. Had the company of an Albatross for about 5 days. I saw it land on the water next to its female mate and they bobbed along happily. Wasn't long before he took off and again followed me. I wonder why. Maybe the bubble trail of my wake attracts fish to the surface...?
Skipper hard at work.....it does get chilly.
Musto HPX Smock and MPX pants - brilliant!

Training day with storm jib enroute.
Flying the flag for Australia
Waiting for the front to roll on by.

Port Taranaki approaches with Mt Egmont in the clouds

Port Taranaki - time to dry out the old Rogue and wet the insides of the Skipper!

Port Taranaki New Plymouth - Start of the 2014 Solo Tasman Race

2014 Solo Tasman Part 4: What could possibly go wrong Issue #4 - Weather Gods

Issue #4: Weather God.
We drink to him when trade winds blow and we curse him when storms and high winds beat us down.
Finally.....I cleared Customs, Immigration at Newcastle bound for NZ. I headed offshore into 25 knots SE with the forecast reporting the breeze dropping and backing to the East. Yeah right. No backing, no dropping here Mr weather god! I beat NE on starboard for most of the day and night until I could finally tack onto port and head in the general direction of NZ.

Blowing dogs off chains
My weather routing was good for about 3 days out when the Grib wind files became highly inaccurate. So then it was observations, weather fax and experience. On 24 Jan the breeze strengthened and by 25 Jan I was hammered by two Lows (993 and 994hpa) about 100NM apart that continued on their NE track from Antarctica into the Tasman Sea way longer than forecast. 



The low pressure system intensified and it was howling a constant 50 knots with gusts much higher, torrential rain squalls with 2m seas on a 5m+ swell with the top metre blowing off as surf.

I had a full reefed main and flying a rag of a headsail since late afternoon. In hindsight had I known the front was so intense, I would have dropped the main and run under storm jib and Trysail, a lesson learned. Although at that point RW was behaving well and fully under control, plus I was still making great headway at around 8-10 knots (she is a beautiful seaboat). The plan was to ride the back of the Low pressure system as the Low curved back SE toward NZ giving me a lift on the way.

Trysail, Storm Jib and Genoa doing their thing.
At 0100h I was down below when we broached violently.  Not a knockdown, just the opposite. I waited to RW settled before stick my noggin out the hatch into the cauldron outside. It was black. I could see the boom hard against the shroud as the mainsheet had let go.......then I noticed why. The 800kg rated shackle had let go under the load, boom now laid flat against the cap shrouds with the mainsail flogging violently,,,, and then the Auto-pilot said enough....what the ^$%*& and disconnected. Working slowly and methodically I carefully dragged the boom back inside the cockpit and lashed it down as I slowly lowered the halyard all the time trying to protect the mainsail as the battens were now inverted and broken.

After the boom was secured I ran off under jib and dropped the main, lashing all to the rail until morning when I could properly inspect for damage. My problem was we were covering a lot of ground at 10-12 knots and headed back toward Newcastle. After five hours the storm abated enough to inspect for damage. Pics were taken of the boom so I could enlarge on the laptop to do my Non-Destructive Technician (NDI) Tech inspection. I then made the difficult call to return to Newcastle for closer inspection of the boom.
Safe back in Newcastle


I sailed with my trysail, genoa and storm jib and four days later cleared Customs in Newcastle.



Result: Boom sustained damage that required the gooseneck to be reattached; what I though to be a crack in the boom turned out to be deep scaring. The Fridge died as a result of so much water inside the boat that it sloshed up over the fridge electrics. Two sail Battens were broken (now carry top 3 battens spares) and several sail slugs snapped off. I installed two additional bilge pumps port and starboard to deal with future water woes. Lessons learnt - after four days under trysail and storm jib happy to say very pleased with the performance I can get from these sails and will deploy earlier next time so I save my main and genoa. Will purchase a Heavy Weather jib and 110% jib for offshore work and a Code Zero for light winds.
Quick lap of the Tasman Sea - 8 days!

2014 Solo Tasman Part 4: What could possibly go wrong Issue #3 - Keel Joint

Issue #3: The keel joint.
The need to change insurers drove the requirement to have a Survey. Old mate Mike Elton is a tough Surveyor who states it like it is. He has surveyed 'Just Jo' twice and RW twice so he knows both me and the standard of work I am capable off and the boat.


Unscheduled keel removal - mast in.

The Slaughterhouse
Likely the original 30 year old butyl mastic sealant
So we slip at Mid Coast Boatyard in Newcastle Yacht Club for a quick hang in the slings viewing. Out comes the 10x10" x 6ft  length of lumber to test the keel joint by heaving sideways at the base of the keel to check for movement. I can see water squeezing out of the joint which indicates movement. This keel has likely never been off RW in 30 years, so after a round table with the yard team and Mike we decide to rip the keel off, replace the keel bolts and re-seat the keel in epoxy.
Original backing plates 
The new SS 12mm backing plates
Keel bolts had to be machined from a special High Tensile stainless and once again Mike came through on my behalf and requested his engineer mate to fast track the job. Mike then donated two days of his own time to assist me in dropping and cleaning the keel ready for the new bolts and backing plates. The original backing plates were individual square 3"x3"x 1/4" plates so flexing was assured.

Epoxy pads ensured an even pull across the keel bolts.
Epoxy pads were built to ensure the plates laid flat and the keel bolt pull was in line with the keel. The purpose of the new plates is to spread the load and act as a tie-grid increasing structurally rigidity in the keel box.
My flash new keel bolts good for 30 years!








Joe and his team at Mid Coast knew my agenda for the Solo Tasman. Joe is a gentleman and a former Olympian and Navigator for Sean Langman on his AAPT Open 66 and has raced all over the world. Joe understood the effort and cost (I was self funded) involved just to get to the start line of an international event.
Prepping for splashback
New studs installed and set to length.





Rudder shaft O'Ring replaced
Joe created space in the yard schedule and the team went to work.


To keep costs in check, I took another week off work to help strip the keel and rudder off the boat and prepare for the Mid Coast team to do the pre-installation inspection and install. I needed a second week of after hours work to refit the rudder and tidy up loose ends. I cannot thank them enough.

Result:  Mike and Joe spoke, I listened, we agreed and I paid!

Cast Iron keel with lead forefoot marked by the chalkline.
The first Sigma 36 was quick but tender, so the lead was added for production.