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Vela Via Race Report

22 Mar 2017

Roger and Josh Adams entered as a Father and Son team in Joshua?s Elan E4 named Vela Via. Josh bought Vela Via in December 2015 as a cruising boat for his young family and he approached me after the Coastal Classic and asked if I was keen to do the RNI two handed. The RNI would only be the 3rd race we had done together so it was a big leap!

A couple of qualifying trips were done in December and January. The last qualifier was a taste of what would come on the RNI. A weather bomb January 22nd gave a very brisk ride through the night from the Hen and Chicks back to Gulf Harbour. The boat held up well enough so we thought we were good to go. With a strong 26 boat fleet of varying designs and crew experience, the RNI race promised to be a great adventure. 

Leg 1

The RNI started off Devonport wharf, Josh?s years of dinghy sailing gave him good training in positioning the start. The wind continued to die out and we ended up with a drifter to Mangonui. Vela Via with her wide stern and twin rudders likes to pop up on her hard chine but these conditions made for a very slow run with downwind conditions the whole way and no symmetric spinnaker on board. It was a disappointing result first up, but great to be in Mangonui with fantastic hosting from the locals and their new yacht club.

Leg 2

Monday afternoon saw a 6:00pm start for the next leg to Wellington. Code Zero up with 15 knots on thebeam and Vela Via was on her chine and racing ahead. A very quick run up to North Cape where thewind went aft and we hoisted the big Asymmetric around 11pm as the wind continued softening toCape Reinga with a strong current to fight. Day break saw us outside Pandora bank, close hauledtowards New Plymouth. Great sailing for a day and a night before our first Tasman park up. 6 hours of hot sun, no wind and few visiting whales meant it was time for a swim.

Breeze filled in later that morning and we were off again keeping very close to The Guarantee, SpearHead and Zenith, all boats in our Division. After timing our Tack well for the North West shift, the thirdnight out saw us off Cape Taranaki and unfortunately becalmed... again..... We drifted past the Kapuni Gas platform 3 times with the tide. Altogether just over 10 hours windless. The Guarantee was just .2mile south- west of us while Spearhead was just behind and both managed to carry a seam of breeze which, to our frustration placed them 27 miles ahead by the time day broke. 

Next morning the breeze filled in and we are away, Code Zero to start peeling to large Gennaker and then changing down to A2 Gennaker exhilarating sailing constant 10-12 knots hitting 14?s. We agreed the Gennaker comes down at 28-30 knots as we approached Cook Strait. Snuffed into the sock, dropped to the deck and as it came down the boat lurched on a wave. The wave filled the clew of the Gennaker which was on deck and dragged it over the side. Several attempts to retrieve were unsuccessful with it firmly wrapped on the keel and we spent the next 30 minutes cutting it away and continued on into Cook Strait.

Wind continued to build hitting 48 knots and then our top slider blew off the main head board. A repair Job carefully undertaken in the Cook Strait washing machine resulted so we could tack our way up Wellington Harbour. Third reef and a small headsail, we made slow progress up Wellington Harbour with the Tide on our side.

Father and Son relations got strained to the tightest point when I, not checking the finishing instructions correctly and suffering a fair amount of fatigue, took Vela Via to Evans Bay Yacht Club to finish instead of Port Nicholson Yacht Club. It added another 30 minutes to the time but we were just glad to be finished. 

Leg 3

Once again a great start, having no A2 Gennaker we opted to sail down Wellington Harbour under main only. Turned out to be a good move as we saw at least 4 Kites blown in the brisk 35+ knot Wellington send off. Two sail reach to Cape Palliser and once again a fleet park up with no wind.

We had learnt from the Tasman experiences that extra concentration is needed in the lightest of conditions to keep the boat moving and this time worked hard to inch our way forward emerging nearer the front of the fleet at dawn. Blink, the canting keel Shaw 12m just astern was quite the surprise! Right up to the finish line we sat in 1st place on PHRF only to have the breeze disappear 1mile before the finish but still earned 2nd in division and 5th overall on this leg. 

Leg 4

This was the toughest Leg, no wind at the start, which was delayed and it was slow going to East Cape with wind building on constantly on the nose. The faster boats were around East Cape in time while we battled on into the wind.

Discussion was had about a dive into Gisborne to sit it out but Josh wasn?t having a bar of it. We carried on Friday night short tacking up along East Cape and eventually Saturday morning we rounded the Cape just as the first system hit us. Deep Reef Main, tiny headsail and just able to hold course heading into the Bay of Plenty. A massive amount of wood in the water washing out of the Motu River, meant we were on alert. As the day wore on the wind moderated and good progress was made with a tight 2 sail reach outside White Island and up to Colville. 

Just as we passed Curvier, the second system hit as the wind instruments topped 53knots in a brutal couple of hours. Wind and sea state from the North was not pleasant and we knew we were in for a good pasting when MetService upgraded from gale warning to storm warning. Fully reefed, we still made progress in the right direction until part two. We travelled through the eye of the front seeing clear skies, reduced wind and watched as a big black wall approached from the west.

This one slammed us at 40-45knots in very confused seas out of the West and right on the nose. We were laid over twice with first spreader hitting the water which was a new experience. As we weren?t far enough through Colville to dive down the Firth of Thames as we had hoped, we opted to re-gather our thoughts down the East side of Coromandel. 3 hours was enough time to sort the boat out and see the passing system abate enough for us to charge on. It also happened to be enough time to cost us 3rd in our division on this leg.... Lesson learned, just keep the boat moving forward! Eventually we made our way around Colville finishing with a magic Code Zero run right to the finish line 3:00am Monday morning.

Every part of our NZ coast is different and extreme in its own ways, there are parts I would like to explore and parts I would be happy not to see again anytime soon! One the greatest aspects of the race, was the camaraderie between crews and the fun had at the stop overs. The hospitality of the hosting yacht clubs was also fantastic. 

Overall it was a fantastic experience and a real adventure for Father and Son to do and yes I would do it again but would probably not sail into two known storm fronts.