We started in nothing, and the race North from Auckland was actually quite enjoyable. Then just as we passed the northern tip of New Zealand, we had to reduce sail until we were on a storm jib, mainsail strapped to boom and slowing the boat down (aggressively) to stop it from belly flopping and breaking it. This was actually very hard, and driving a boat slow in big seas and 50+ knots whilst keeping it under control is way harder than sending it at 25+ downwind….it’s just not glamorous – or fun. At one stage we were sailing almost South of West – headed down the West Coast of NZ! Nothing we could do here, except hunker down, save the boat and push through the other side of the low.
Anyway, after not seeing many of the crew for 30 or so hours (except when their heads appeared out the bubble to ditch a bucket of piss, or to vomit) we finally punched through the other side of the low, freeing up on port and with the breeze backing off to 35 – 40 we were able to hoist the main on 3 reefs, then later add a No4 jib when it eased below 35…then shake reefs out as it backed further. We finally began peeling miles off quickly, while fire hose reaching in the mid 20’s. 48 hours of having the shit kicked out of us was over! Here’s a bit of fire hose reaching!
Early the next morning with the breeze fading fast we were on a full mainsail and A7, then A4, then A3, then A2 and starting to strategize how to best avoid the parking lot to the north. We stayed to strategy and hung East as far as possible, leaving the dial up into Noumea over the last 200 or so miles as late as possible.
Either way, and no matter how hard we tried, eventually the ass fell out of the breeze, even more so than the GRIB files and our other forecasts anticipated and we did a fair bit of start – stop flip flopping. One thing was certain at this stage – the record for the longest elapsed time in the race’s history was about to tumble! Close to sunset we had a light N – NE breeze start to fill, which we enthusiastically worked in order to push as fast toward Noumea as possible in fear of another shut down.
By sunrise the breeze had stayed with us, but as soon after began to burn off quickly, leaving us on a wind-seeker less than 5 miles to the finish, stemming current. Finally after working shallow patches we entered the harbor and ghosted across the line to a very warm welcome of the locals – and a long awaiting, ice cold beer.