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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

Monday, January 18, 2016

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!

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