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Team Surreal's Leg 4 RNZ report

27 Mar 2012


Team Surreal's RNZ Leg 4 report


After some great parties and the infamous "Pagey's Vineyard Tour" it was time for the fleet to leave Napier on the final leg back to Auckland. It seemed that the vast majority of the fleet was keen to finish the race off and were approaching their limits! However this was not the case on Surreal. In our case we had being enjoying ourselves so much during the race that we were disappointed that our fantastic adventure would soon be coming to the end. How would we fill the gap ? What challenge could we have to look forward too ? Would our lives seem empty ? (don't worry we have since come up with a plan!)


Anyway, I digress. Surreal headed out of Napier's boat harbour with the now traditional sounds blasting and were somewhat surprised to go straight into the fog. I was quick to make sure Tim focused on the GPS and ensured we kept well clear of the exclusion zone. The start was postponed so the fleet could find and get to the startline and the fog lifted. Surreal snuck in at the committee boat end of the line and quickly rolled Expedition Coppelia to lead the fleet out of Napier. Croftie then gave us a little friendly abuse for sailing over a smaller boat before sailing really high and heading for the exclusion zone. I don't think he realised that we were only heading to the mark and not just trying to take all his wind. When Coppelia eventually saw their error they barged their way back in, copping a collision with Danaide and scoring a penalty turn or two in the process ! (I think he also had to hand over a bottle of rum to Danaide after the finish) Anyway on Surreal we were powering off ahead with Revs and Truxton giving chase.


A few hours later and the wind was picking up as forecast so we decided to change to the smaller genoa. On Surreal it is a huge mission to make this change due to the size and heavy weight of the cruising sails. By the time we changed over we were back just behind Revs and Truxton. Tim and I then discussed if maybe we should have had the smaller sail on at the start and been a bit slower but saved time by not having to change. In the end we decided the end result was about the same but at least what we did looked impressive for anyone watching the start, so we would do it all the same next time !


As the wind picked up Surreal moved back into the lead gradually putting more reefs in the main before dropping it completely and hoisting the Trysail for the third time in the race. We had set the Trysail up before we even started and noticed a few crews look at us sideways wondering what we knew? After a pretty bumpy night and my second spew of the race we found out in the morning radio sched that we had a small but comfortable lead of about 6 miles on Truxton. The forecast was for a NW shift so we headed for the coast. I said to Tim "Make sure we keep to the left of Truxton". The stategy worked and we jumped out to a bigger lead. We were feeling pretty good with a good heading towards Gable End and great speed. Unfortunately it was not to last and we had an unscheduled restart just off Gable End. It didn't seem to matter how close or offshore you were. We stopped and waited for others to catch up and do the same. Eventually we got going again getting back into the lead and beating all the way to East Cape.


Sure enough East Cape turned on some extra wind and plenty of current to kick up a nasty sea but of my now 7 roundings this trip was still rated 2nd best (easiest). From here the breeze wasn't really following the forecasts so we ended up staying close to the rhumbline and working the shifts as they occurred. Initially we made gains and the forecast was to shift NE which would mean we would reach to Colville. The decision was either go the north for the NE first but risk ending up running pretty flat and light to Colville (slow) or head more west and hope to have a faster angle? In the end it was quite different to our models. We got SW ! As this wasn't in any forecast we didn't know what to do? so we just pointed to Colville and trucked through the night at 7-8 knots. Take that ! nice increase to our lead. However in the wee hours the breeze died completely and we later found out the rest of the fleet had a different breeze and had headed to the North. The NE?er eventually filled in mid morning. We we worried about if the other boats had got the breeze before us but we got the gennaker on and were charging again at 8 knots right on course. Unfortunately after a few hours the breeze shifted left, putting us back on the wind and giving Coppelia and Truxton a much faster angle into Colville. There was only 15 miles difference between the boats in distance to finish, but over 40 miles in separation. We managed to keep our nose in front until assign the Merc's where we could crack off onto a better angle and start to stretch out again. Whew ! However after everything else we have experienced while sailing around the country we knew there could still be a sting in the tail of this race, and sure enough there was !


A few miles short of Square Top Island we started getting knocked and then the breeze started to die. To compound our problems it also started to rain. We were down to 2-3 knots at times and having to tack out while Coppelia and Truxton charged in on a reach at 8 knots ! Talk about frustration ! We were very worried that they would see us and manage to sail wide right around outside us. If Truxton bet us in this leg then they would overtake us to win Line Honours! there was no way we wanted that to happen !  Fortunately they slowed right up when they got to about 2 miles away. We managed to escape back into breeze and we soon charging in excess of 10 knots under gennaker while they remained parked up.


The run in from Colville was not without it's challenges. A third of the way in the sky went black and soon we could see nothing ahead. This makes it extremely hard to steer a good course and avoid wiping out, or worse Chinese'ing (although Shane on Truxton can't see much wrong with that) Tim had a few words of encouragement to me "You break it, you own it !" and "Now we will see if you get your performance bonus". Fortunately we kept the boat on it's feet and blasted in only losing the gennaker set twice (Tim's trimming). We later found out Truxton blew out 3 sails trying to catch us at a cost of thousands.


A quick call to Steve at North head to inform him we were getting close and a sail up the ditch and it was over. We had just completed a lap of the country ! Pretty cool, aye ! Not so sure if 4am was the best time to start on the rums but we were still going at 6pm so they must have tasted pretty good !