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Nonstop RNI report

02 Apr 2011

RNI Race 2011

Nonstop Report- "Half a Lap"



This race is all about preparation, and in a lot of ways it began 3 years ago in the last race. For us it was very much about putting a few of the tricks we learnt in 2008 into action. This especially led to some changes in our watch system and rest/sleep goals, and how we managed ourselves.

We have a good strong boat that is well prepared, and can handle rough conditions quite well too.

We got the boat up to Auckland about 3 weeks before the race start, and were well looked after by our mate Ed and the team at Bayswater Marina. After going back home we flew up on the Tuesday night prior to the start to quietly work away at the final preparations to get to the line.





Leg One - Auckland to Mangonui 154 miles


We left Bayswater by about 11.30 am as we were all organised and just wanted to get going. Went out and had a quiet sail up around North Head to get a lay of the land and to figure out the various angles.



We listened intently to Dave Cooke at briefing telling everyone numerous times not to be over the line at the start.

Prior to the Saturday 1400 start we did lots of sailing along the line etc to get ourselves sorted out. This brilliant work showed our experience and helped us put cunning plan #1 into action. We were one of a group of 6 or so boats that were over at the start by the pin, nice work boys! The real cunning bit was that once we quickly circled back, we had most of the fleet in front of us and at our mercy! We then picked up a nice little southerly puff and got the A5 up earlier than most. From there we worked our way across to the Rangi light getting back into the fleet. For the rest of the afternoon all the boats drifted/sailed in and out of holes up to Tiri Passage in the light SE to Southerly. We were about 4th on the water at Tiri and within 5 minutes last as we had a turn in our private hole while everyone sailed/drifted past. A number of the fleet went outside Tiri and did better, but by early evening they had got lonely and gybed back in and it was pretty even.




Nightfall had most of the fleet pretty close and off Cape Rodney doing 7-8 knots. We had the 1050's just in front, and were pretty pleased to be in touch with them. We swapped between the gennaker and kite a few times as the breeze angle changed. About 2330 we changed back to masthead kite as the breeze went aft, and having intended to go outside the Hen and Chicks- went inside the Hen and Chicks just to stay in what breeze we had. Past the Whangarei Heads about 4am lots of navigation lights appeared ahead and I got excited! In the next few minutes the excitement did wane just a bit as the wind died completely and we stopped. Kite down and #1 up as we drifted forward, backwards or sideways. That was the good bit as it also pissed down with rain, but the other good bit was that Mark was kind enough to get up, to throw my wet weather jacket out to me. The rain didn't last too long and eventually we got going in a very light E. The rest of the day was spent trickling along towards Brett in only a couple of knots of breeze. We decided to stay close inshore hoping for some land driven breeze as there looked to be bugger all out further. The other advantage was the view of the shore was better for sightseeing. We did do better in close and hung the light masthead kite up- it looked ugly bit did work to keep us moving along. We got to Brett about 1700 moving at about 2-3 knots, sailed through the gap and doodled across towards the Cavalli Islands in a lightening breeze that did eventually become no breeze (again!)




With the plotter telling us it was about 2 days to Mangonui and knowing Jenny and Sue were already drinking rum at the Sailing Club it was another of those "just a tad frustrating moments". It was time for another cunning plan! This involved flopping around going nowhere until 2200 when finally a 10 knot westerly filled in from Matauri Bay- which is near where we had parked up especially in anticipation. We got going nicely and rounded the outside of the Cavalli's about midnight. Rest of the night we sailed on the breeze making nice progress. At 0600 we rounded Burghan Point with plenty of big boats around us and behind too. We had a bit of a match race to the line with Zen, who just beat us by a few hundred metres. We crossed the line about 6.45 to a belated gun for Div 4 line honours once they realised we were first - not Pepe.

That was a great end to a very slow and frustrating leg one of the race.






Leg Two- Mangonui to Wellington 518 miles

The 10am start outside Mangonui was again in really light air, but looking to build from the SW. We worked our way up to Cape Karikari, using our #1 rather than the code 0 as it proved to be faster. The wind died and went NNE- we just missed getting into the new breeze with the big boys, and sat round watching them sail away- that was just a tad disappointing to say the least. About an hour later we picked up the breeze and were away again tacking our way north.

Most of our close competitors soon did a big tack out to the east, from inshore. We were convinced the next breeze would come from the SW, and stayed hard inshore. The nowcasting telling us Reinga had SW also helped us decide! We soon picked up a beautiful 15 knot offshore breeze that had us scooting up inside a heap of boats stuck out to sea in a big windless hole.

At this stage the race was all the mattered, the next breeze or every lift and knock was life and death. It was then we turned on the radio for the 3 o'clock news and heard the unbelievable news of the Christchurch quake. Suddenly the race was put into perspective.

The gains we made into the evening were pretty exciting for us as we pulled up to find Overload and most of the big boys had waited for us. On dark about 15 of us pretty much went around North Cape in close company. A great big moon came up, and with a nice little offshore breeze all was well on the sea as we all worked our way across the top. We were still crossing tacks with the big boys until we went too close in to Reinga and got caught in bugger all wind and adverse tide- so spent the next 3 hours dicking around while a heap of lights went sailing past out to sea- gosh that was quite annoying too.


Just before daylight on Wednesday morning we were starting to get around the corner, I pulled on some backstay. With a bang, a "what the f#@k was that?" and a clatter of stringy and block bits trailing behind in the dark I decided perhaps not to use the backstay at that stage. Mark and I spent until light talking through the issues and knowing that with the next 400 miles on the nose, a backstay may be handy. On daylight we sussed it was only a shackle broken on a triple block. It was quite a flat sea, so I went up on the chair to the second spreader and was able to lasso the top half of the backstay and get it low enough we could get everything back together with the help of Mr Dynex. It took about an hour and a bit of sailing north to sort then we were back into it, by now convinced we were dead last (not so as it happened).


Off Maria Van Diemen, the wind started to freshen from the SE, and was clearly not a wee land breeze. A look back at the evil purple cyclonic sky inshore, it took a nano second to work out that a nasty tropical derived system was tracking closer to the east of the North Island than forecast so we decided we were not going to be playing in close- and we were on port tack and on our way to Australia.

The plan was to keep going out until we got the expected Southerly (or we saw Bondi Beach). We sailed for just on 24 hours on what was still the making board averaging 200, and later 230 degrees magnetic. Wind was high twenties and we were #3 or #4 headsail and a reef- boat speed kept down in low 6knots to ease through the choppy seas. An evening chat to Vesna on Clear Vision and Stephie on Caro Vita on channel 06 confirmed we were not on our own. It was nice to have a yarn having seen no other boats all day.

We tacked back over onto starboard about 0900 on Thursday (probably about 4 hours too late- but we only had eyes and tired minds, no flash computer programmes) and were pointing pretty much down our line to Egmont. At this stage we were 180 nautical miles offshore from Kaipara Harbour. For the next day and a half we had fantastic sailing- 20-25 knots breeze, moderate sea and quite sunny.

It was a real surprise to hear of all the carnage later for the boats inshore.

At 0100 Friday the wind swung further west as expected, and we spent all of the day with cracked sheets and 7-8 knots boatspeed. Surely we had to be gaining!

If only the forecast SE change expected at night would hold off enough to get us well down into Cook Strait.

We made sure we were well rested and had a good feed while the going was good though in anticipation of the change. We passed off Cape Egmont about 2100 hours and with only 12 hours to our waypoint off the Brothers!


Then the wind started changing, and so down to the #3. Later we put in 2 reefs as the wind built to about 30-35 knots. That sail combo worked well for us as we worked our way south down through the Oil rigs in a nasty 3m breaking sea. We listened on the VHF to the dramas for Fineline loosing their rig about 40 miles ahead. (It would take us 18 hours to pass that position!) We did slow the boat to avoid launching out the back of the waves- to keep us and Nonstop in one piece. By daybreak on Saturday conditions were easing and we were well north of Stephens Island, soon back to #1 and full main (while some other boats were pulling into to various spots to rest a while, ahead and behind). A tack east got us back into breeze again during the afternoon, and by overnight Saturday we got another pasting as we tacked south. This time there was penguin poo in the air- it was freezing cold.

On Sunday morning the wind eased and we were near Kapiti Island working towards the first of a light NE promising to go north later. Mark cooked up a great feed, and with lots to drink we were all prepared for a big day. Up with the big masthead kite and out with the smiles. We then saw our first boat in 3 days behind by a mile or so. This turned out to be Pepe, and for the rest of the day we worked hard to keep ahead as we ran towards the bottom corner of the North Island in a building breeze.



At Cape Terawhiti, we had Clear Vision in close company too, and Pepe still running hard about half a mile behind but not catching as long as we didn't make any mistakes. Our gybe turned into a mare, as we got into the start of the tide rip. It then became an ugly 5 minute drop with kite half down, Mark hanging onto what he could to stop a prawn trawl and a shortage of hands. Somehow he got it down and back in the boat without further disaster. I was particularly good at offering advice to Mark throughout this move- although I feel it wasn't all that well received from his prone position on the side-deck at the time. It must have looked pretty funny from Clear Vision though! That would have been the end to beating Pepe if the kite had gone in the tide at that stage.

Once cleaned up we looked back with glee to watch Pepe do a big cock up for their turn- and they did a brilliant gybe in pretty hairy conditions- smart little buggers!

From there on we set up for the reach across the south coast, the well named "wind factory", with lots of strong gusts up to 35 knots. We had put the #3 up and were zooming along nicely although a bit overpowered- with Clear Vision beside us, and Pepe struggling in a lot of the bigger puffs and falling well back (welcome to our water, boys!)



Clear Vision rounded the Barretts Reef buoy about 200m ahead of us. We had tucked a reef in the main as we approached and now had a perfect set up for the 25knot northerly (gosh, how lucky!) we sailed really fast and well up here and were soon ahead of CV. From there we extended, and really enjoyed the last couple of miles as we freed off towards the finish- even shaking out the reef so we didn't look like pussies at the line! 

The reception from the local boats out on the water was really neat too, and we really enjoyed the yahoos for a nearly local boat. Thanks Gucci and co!


We crossed the line at 1909 to the sound of the gun for line honours in division 4 again. What a great feeling after 5 days and 9 hours of mostly upwind sailing, and the sun was even shining! I can confirm the rums at Port Nich tasted real good that night. 





Withdrawal and Follow up


On arrival in Wellington, Peter was finally told of the very sad news that an extended family member had died in the Christchurch earthquake. (We have an agreement not tell us of such things if we are out at sea- a pretty tough call for those on shore, but the right one at the time)


With this news and after reasoning that the weather for the next legs was not too flash and that enough time off work was going to become a problem, the decision was made to retire from the race, while we were in Wellington and close to get Nonstop home.


The following Wednesday, Ellen and Peter returned to Wellington and delivered Nonstop home to Waikawa. We motored all the way back because of lack of wind. Yep that's Cook Strait!

But we were joined by a huge pod of dolphins for ages, which was pretty special.


Thank You's

We had a huge array of friends and supporters that helped with this campaign. Thank you all- did you know that it wouldn't work so well without you!

A big thank you to John Henderson from Hendersons in Blenheim who supports us massively both in products and wise words time and time again (thanks mate).

To Duncan who keeps our followers entertained with regular email updates- (great effort, do you ever sleep?).

To Ellen Bailey and Chris Webb, mates and delivery crew- thank you so much, (and we all know lots more about catching marlin after our detour into Tutukaka!)

And finally our families (Sally, next time it is northerly down the west coast okay)

Partners (Jenny and Sue, thank you for letting us go and play in boats- one day we might get the new carpet at home eh Jen!)

To the guys at SSANZ, what a great challenging event you put on. After seeing the efforts you all put in at Napier, I think the sailing might be the easier bit at times.


After 2008, I said never again, and we were back. While 3 years is a long time away- don't be surprised to see Nonstop back next time for a whole new challenge.


Peter Gray

Owner/Skipper- March 2011