Good News, Bad News
We have rounded the South East corner of Sicily and up to this point, we have not played a very good game. We did manage to round the weather mark (which was about 2.5 from the start line) ahead of Ran and Alegre but since then we have been a bit off the pace and we made one serious tactical error.
Our situation is certainly not for a lack of trying. We are 6 hours into the race and we have made 6 spinnaker changes. Two of those spinnaker changes have been to the difficult to handle and difficult to pack A3. Now we will have to take a few risks in order to attempt to make up time on the race course. That is never a pleasant thought this early in the race. Hopefully we will be smart about which risks are worth taking.
The sailing right now is an absolute glamour; spinnaker running in Flat water in about 15 knots. We will take it for now because storm clouds are gathering to our West and it is raining over Sicily. We know that in about 8 hours, these current conditions will be nothing but a distant memory. So, I better get some sleep while the getting is good.
Shortly thereafter, he gave us the bad news, and Rosebud wasn’t the only one:
We passed Stromboli on port tack in about 22 knots of wind just before sunrise with Luna Rosa just to weather and Bella Mente about .5 nm directly ahead. We had not yet passed through the center of the low so we continued on port tack for around another 2 hours after we passed the island. The goal was to get to the other side of the low pressure system where we would get a 30 to 40 degree header and then we would tack to starboard and be on a lifted course to Trapani.
As we passed through the low on port tack, the wind strength built to 25 gusting to 28. As we began our change from the Heavy jib to the J4, Bella Mente (who already had a J4 up) began to put in a reef. While in the process of reefing, their jib split horizontally and the top 30 feet was streaming from its halyard. This forced them to bore away on a screaming run to try and recover from their mishap.
We continued on port tack and were making really nice gains on RAN, Luna Rosa and Alegre by simply sticking to our upwind targets. As we passed through the low pressure, the wind began to rapidly increase to 28 gusting to 35. Simultaneously with increase in the breeze, the shift came through. This meant that once we tacked to starboard, we would be heading directly into the oncoming waves.
Once we had tacked to starboard, we put 2 reefs in the main and tried to sail the boat safely under 11 knots of speed. This seemed to be working really well for us. However, it did not seem to be working for RAN. For over 15 minutes, they were bare headed with a single reef main. The last we saw of them, they had a tiny jib up and they were moving slowly on starboard tack.
As I mentioned, the rapid right shift in the wind meant that on starboard tack, we would be heading directly into the short and steep waves that had built up in the 30 knot winds. As the Rolex helicopter was shooting footage of us, we landed off the first wave that, upon reflection, might have caused damage to the boat and possibly the rig. At minimum, the deceleration from landing off the wave, broke the wind instrument wand at its base.
About 5 minutes later we landed off our second big wave but along with the crack of the boat landing off of the wave, the was an explosion from up on our Southern Spars mast. I was trimming main and when I looked up, the tip of the mast was failing from just above the second reef. The rest of the mast crumpled in pieces within a second.
I cannot say enough for our crew who performed brilliantly in this race. The experience of Volvo veterans like, Jono Swain, Justin Clougher, Tom Addis, Anthony Merrington, Mikey Joubert and Mikey Howard can only be truly appreciated when conditions become extreme. The experience of the remainder of our crew Phil Trinter, Keats Keeley, Chris Cantrick and Jimmy Slaughter also was exemplary. Hopefully we will be back to race again another day….