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Drums of Time B&G Simrad 100 race report

08 Sep 2008

Simrad 100 race report - Drums of time.
What an unusual race.
Compared with Simrad 60 we got off to a good start, right at the pin end about 10 sec after the gun. Had the kite up and drawing shortly after and started the long slide to Little Barrier.
The run was uneventful until just SW of barrier when we went to gybe back onto port. I stuffed the gybe and we got the kite wound up around the forestay. We spent the next two hours running under main trying to free the kite. With a steady 20 knot wind undoing any progress we made we gave up for a while, had an eat and a drink and waited to get in the lee of Little Barrier. We finally found a calm spot at about the same time we inherited last place on the course. Somehow we got things started, and then the top unwrapped and we could pull most of the kite onto the deck. Everyone else was disappearing toward Coromandel as we tacked back west to stay in the lee and complete the job. We learned some useful lessons there.
We had been ready to withdraw and head for Port Fitzroy, so now we were elated - and dead last - and stuck in the wind shadow of Little barrier.
By the time we cleared into fresh breeze we could barely see another boat. We were knackered from working on the kite, so we set the No.2, put a reef in and headed for Auckland.
I decided to have a quick nap which only made me seasick. I came back on deck, fed the fishes, took over the helm and immediately felt better. As soon as we could clear L Barrier we tacked over and headed for Kawau. Logic says this was the wrong option at the time with the wind predicted to move gradually east. But there was no sign of that yet and we were heading for sheltered water.
A few hours later we were off Tawharanui with a good breeze and much calmer water. We were quite a bit faster in the flatter water. We tacked out and in, passed Flat Rock close by, and headed well in toward Orewa.
The wind started to head east and we got a good lift. Another short tack out and we could lay through Tiri channel. The wind kept lifting and we could point to Long Bay, then to Rangi light. Very calm now, with a steady 5 to 8 knot breeze. Craig went below for a sleep and I sailed us across the bay, tracking back almost the exact line from the morning.
Dolphins played around us the whole way across - leaving fantastic phosphorescent trails around the boat.
We expected to still be dead last, holding up the committee.
But as we approached Rangitoto boats started appearing around. One or two green lights to port ghosting down the outside of Rangitoto. Then a few red lights to starboard, dark silhouettes against the lights of the North Shore.
As we slunk past the lighthouse we realised there were more than a few.
We were surrounded by boats, scattered all the way up the channel to North head. What followed was the most unusual thing I've seen. The hushed quiet of absolute concentration. Slight gusts and gentle breezes coming from all directions. Boats accelerating to 5 knots within spitting distance of stationary boats on each side. And then coming to a sharp stop - no coasting. Many times we skirted around boats, and then the same boats skirted around us, leap frogging toward Mission Bay.
And the puffs of wind funneled us all together. At the very end boats were converging on the finish line in an arc from North Head to Bean Rock. Maybe fifty all up. Puff by puff the circle closed in, thinking with every puff that this one would get us over the line.
After nineteen hours, it was like coming to a start line again. And until the last gust everyone tried their best to make room for each other. We could have shaken hands with the crews on boats on either side. As the circle closed in to the finish there simply wasn't enough room for everybody - shouts of "starboard", swearing, shouting, the clank of boats hitting.
We threaded our way between an impromptu raft up at committee boat, and another gaggle of boats squeezing down past the wharf. We couldn't see either end of the line with all the boats in the way, and I doubt the committee could tell where the line was either. But we were momentarily illuminated by a torch so they got us at some point.
A very memorable day, and a long one. And one where we ended up finishing in a ruck involving nearly half the fleet - even more boats than we started with. We deserved much less and most of them deserved much more.
Logan O'Callahan - Drums of Time