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Open Country's RNI Report

14 Mar 2011

Open Country - RNI (the unauthorised crew version)

1am on a jet black Cook Strait night, a bit north of The Brothers. 30 knots from the Nth West. Open Country is laid on her side with the kite twisted round the forestay, flogging madly with both skipper and crew struggling to get the damn thing off.

The boat struggles upright and just when it looks like we might get it sorted the forestay breaks at the masthead. Now kite and forestay are dragging alongside while we charge along at 8 knots under main only.

We attach the twin genoa halyards to the stem fitting, winch on tight and figure out how to get to the finish of leg 2 in Wellington, which of course is upwind from Barretts reef. Thankfully the storm jib has tie on hanks as well as the luff foil bolt rope. A bit of spectra, kite halyard and we have a serviceable headsail. 40 kn gusts a 150 degree tacking angle, and thankfully an incoming tide get us up Wellington harbour to the finish. A marina berth has seldom been so welcome.

Prior to that drama we had a frustrating leg one to Mangonui. Looked like heroes at Cape Brett by being in touch with several div 2 & 3 boats but a search for breeze shore-ward and an inside track through the Cavalli's saw us emerge with the back markers. A park up at Berghan Point with Mix T Motions further ruined our day as a bunch of Div 4 boats sailed around us. 18th on PHRF in fleet.

However the fish & chips and hospitality at Mangonui were great.

On leg two we went 150 mls offshore at Cape Reinga and enjoyed a marvellous tight lead on starboard back in to Cape Egmont, again mixing it with the div 3 boats. As the Sth Easter kicked in we got down to storm jib then had FineLine dismast nearby. At this point we bailed back to New Plymouth. Deciding to "finish first, first we must finish". After a 6 hr rest we exited New Plymouth at 2 am and eventually had a nice ride back to Cook Strait before our kite and fore-stay drama. 15th PHRF in fleet.

Leg three from Wellington was a chance to redeem ourselves. I noted the attitude of the fleet had changed. All started at Wellington with reef lines in, tucked down and hardly a spinnaker in sight. Except those gung ho guys on Pepe. Lovely ride across Palliser Bay, light downwind to Castle Point then our best tactical move to date. We headed to sea and held a light breeze all night. When the northerly came in and we closed the coast late in the day we crossed ahead of Surreal and Coppelia.

This was a bloody tough leg as we seemed to be continually changing sails. Reef in, reef out, blade, no2, no1, and back. Eventually we rounded Cape Kidnappers in a gusty 20-25kn nthly for a beat to the finish. Again we saw 40kn gusts but got a very pleasant surprise when Pepe called up at Kidnappers about 2 hrs behind. So we got line and PHRF in division 4 and 5th PHRF overall. A lot happier skipper and crew all round.

Leg 4 commenced with a spinnaker foul-up at the start, leaving us donkey last. Bloody thing. We got back up to the div 4 boats by Portland and commenced a fast gull wing ride to East Cape. We doused the genoa about midnight as things were getting a little hairy and 15 mins later learned Pepe had lost their rig. Rounded East Cape in the morning uncertain of our tactics, offshore or coastal track, both seemed possible. As it turned out we sailed into a light patch with a couple of yachts parked a few miles inshore, then noted breeze 100 metres behind so did a u turn to the breeze and headed north for 35 miles before laying the line to Cape Colville.

We held breeze all the way, occasionally going too far West into lighter pressure before veering East back into the stronger stuff. We got a hell of a surprise as we closed Cuvier Island to find Bird On the Wing, Midnight Express, Second Nature and one other to leeward and behind. A lightening breeze carried us across the Gulf to the Motuihe Cahnnel where thankfully we had the incoming tide assist. Absolutely no wind inside Rangitoto then a 3 ? 4 kn Sth Wester got us to the finish, just, at 11pm just prior to tide turn.

What a relief to hear the gun. And a bunch of big boats not too far ahead. 1st line and handicap in Div 4 and 1st PHRF overall for leg 4.

We were pretty happy campers during the celebratory drinks on Trinidad.

At this point there is no chance I will ever sign up for another RNI. It is a bloody tough race, physically and mentally. News of the Chch earthquake gave me reason to dash to Christchurch during the Wellington stopover and added a bit of stress during the latter legs.

But we got around with no injury nor serious damage, although we had a bit of a scare losing the forestay in Cook Strait.

The boat stayed mostly dry throughout, we had great hot food and plenty of water. We lacked a bit of sleep in the rough and wonder whether losing 24 hrs by bailing to New Plymouth was the correct decision.

Adrian (the skipper) swears he spotted a large crocodile while on watch and hatched a cunning plan to dispatch it with a knife taped to the boathook. Thankfully it disappeared before the plan could be executed. I had a regular feeling there was a third person on board but never spotted them.

Thanks to the guys at SSANZ for a great experience and to all those volunteers at the stopovers for their hospitality.

Donald King

Crew, Open Country. Beale 35