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it can sting


Multihuill Phil Clark checks in from his latest project. Enjoy.

I don’t only sail catamarans down here in the land of the great white cloud. We are currently working up our Elliott 1050 for the Rounfd North Island race in February . The pic is us boosting off the start with the kite up. Snipers white island race. For what was meant to be a light airs race it was looking pretty windy as we approached North head after our motor up from Gulf Harbour.

The pre-race discussion centered around a fractional kite ( our big one, not the wee flat thing in a sock) and a reef in the main. Max’s logic was this is our qualifier first and a race second, finishing the race and getting to know the Sniper were the priorities of the race. That sounded like a pretty good plan to me.

The sail choice turned out to be a pretty good one as both Galeforce and Kick wiped out around us spectacularly and quickly replaced their big gear with smaller gear. There was a fair bit of other carnage at the start too. As Galeforce boosted past us at the Noisies, we shook the reef out and picked up speed.

Sitting on constant 12 – 14’s with bursts of 15 – 16 knots Sniper felt fantastic and fully under control. By Channel island the breeze went forward and Kick caught up under their masthead A3 as we tried to keep the big fractional under control.

In front Galeforce was seen to peel to their masthead, and then back to the fractional as they dropped below Channel island. At the island in a pretty big sea state, the gybe went a bit pearshaped with the kite firmly wrapped around the forestay. It took two of us on the foredeck to drag the kite down and then a bit of helm wiggling by me and contortions by Max on the foredeck and the wrap popped out and we were off again.

Our original game plan was to head outside the Mercs as we were expecting the wind to shift north. The angle looked good as we headed down so we decided to try out our masthead A2 gennaker which we’ve only usd in around 5 knots of breeze. Its in a sock, it’s a good angle, lets see what the Sniper can do.

Up with the A2 and as we unsnuffed the sock We managed to lose grip on the snuffer line, wups. Finally we’re boosting down with the kite set and the snuffer line is flying around the second spreader level- bugger, the boathook won’t reach that.

Not to worry, lets sort that out later, time for a beer after all that work. The A2 did exactly what we hoped, full control with the bow lifting over the waves and Sniper fully going off. We were sitting on 15 knots at 120 degrees absolutely sending it straight towards White island. Wicked !!

With the wind due to ease and go North it was all looking pretty rosy…..As dusk approached we knocked out some cheesey crackers with blue cheese and a bottle of merlot, had dinner and then Max tootled off to his bunk for a kip.

½ an hour later just on dusk, 14 knots true became 22 knots and suddenly we were doing 16 – 18 knots at 80 degrees. Around 40 degrees off course! Crap!

“HEY MAX I think its time to get this thing off.”

“WHAT?” Came the answer from down below.

“We’re doing 18 knots at 80 degrees”

“Oh shit, yeah ok, Um how the F$%k are we gonna do this?”

“ I dunno, shall we try a letter box drop with the lazy sheet. I’ll go really low.”

Wonder of wonder, it worked. We went low, tucked the A2 behind the main and pulled in in really tight while Max went forward and blew the tack line and boom, down she came. We didn’t even get it wet! The only complication was that the masthead kite halyard ended up around the back of the mainsail square top.

Meaning, in the future, we either had to drop the main, or get up the rig to retrieve the masthead halyard. Meh, later problems. “Ok lets go for the number 2 eh”. Up with the new Evolution #2.5, which reefs to a #3, a great sail!

So both of us on the bow plugging in the new sail and Doris (The autohelm) decides the boys could use some more excitement and decides to gybe and start heading upwind. Max is hanging onto the new sail on the bow and I carefully head back to the cockpit to get it all under control. We get the boat under control and back on course, number 2 up and we are 2 sail reaching at 13 knots right on course. Life is looking rosy again and Max heads back for a bit more snoozle.

At around 230am, the sea state is getting pretty huge, its windy, there are boats coming through upwind and suddenly White island looms out of the gloom. Pretty scary, but exhilarating at the same time. This is living!!

“Hey Max, We’re here!”

“What, oh wow, there it is” As Max come back on deck.

Round the back of White Island there is 10 minutes of respite as we head into flat sheltered water, and then it’s off again upwind this time for the long bash to windward. Number 2.5 and full main in around 14 – 18 knots of true wind speed, the boat was trucking! After White Island it’s a watch change and I head off to a warm dry bunk for a few hours welcome sleep.

6am I’m back sorting the radio sched, engine on charging the house battery and Max is looking pretty tired after a long night. By 7 Max is asleep and I reckon we have Kick just in front and Galeforce just to windward (that turned out to be Pepe a fully crewed r930).

A few hours later we tack and head towards flatter water and the alderman islands hoping to get inside the northerly change. We find Snipers high fast mode and notice westerly moving clouds. We are constantly lifting on starboard tack and heading inside the Aldermans is looking good. Next to hot water beach suddenly the wind dies and we change to the jibtop. After going backwards and round in circles for 10 minutes the wind then shifts left and we’re back to the number 2 and laying through to the hole in the wall. Awesome!!

A beautiful evening and a couple of rumbo’s appear with our brie and crackers. CU Later appears through the northern entrance of the hole in the wall. “I wonder if their freezer is keeping their beer cold and producing icy coke” we ponder. Must have been a pretty good send if its taken us this long to get past them.

Kudos boys! A long race in an overgrown 12 foot skiff.

The wind drops and we change to the number 1. At midnight I take over from Max as we tack over to lay channel island. “Cool only 10 miles to channel and we’re doing 5 knots, should be there around 2am!”

Famous last words as the wind glassed out, with a beautiful moon rise in the smokey haze from the Australian bush fires !! At 3 am I swap with Max after doing about 1 mile “I’ve been dreamin of doing 5 knots mate”.

By 6am we were around Channel island with Kick right next to us. They had their fro up, us on the huge light no1, the boats were neck and neck and incredibly equal in speed. Then they popped up their A2,”Crap I guess we’d better sort that halyard and the A2 then” said Max dryly.

A quick trip to the top of the rig sorted the halyard, then I’m on the foredeck getting 1 billion twists out of the snuffer and the kite before we get a successful hoist and we’re off after Kick. What ensued was a beautiful sail, through diving Gannets and dolphins while munching hot breakfast burritos and sipping fresh coffee laced with rum ( just to kill the germs). Kick went for apparent wind generating angle, gybing back through Rakino channel while we went for rhumbline trying to maximise our speed and soak down to below Izzy Bay.

At izzy bay the wind went forward and we caught kick as they dropped their gennaker and peeled to their fro. We dropped as well ( should have held it) and peeled to the L1 then back to the A2 as CU Later roared up on us under gennaker. Obviously they weren’t distracted by hot burritos or rum laced coffee.

The A2 was working well as we slowly caught Kick while trying to avoid the 49ers out training. We finished 2 minutes behind Kick in an awesome leg to the finish.Great racing.  Overall what a fantastic shake down for RNI.

Sniper was rock solid, no leaks, nothing much broken, all our systems worked, the bunks were dry and comfortable after 24 hours of absolutely sending it with water everywhere ( except inside). Our systems of watch keeping and sleep seemed to work well and decision making process all seemed to work.

The next step is to set up a laptop and iridium go so that they talk to each other and give us weather gribs. How hard can that be to do for a rigger and an adventure travel agent :o)

Onwards to RNI!! Photo thanks to LiveSailDie.