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Truxton RNI 2017

28 Mar 2017

We decided early on for the 2017 edition we wanted to be competitive in our division and work our asses off to try and get a result.

The main things we worked on in our lead up were getting Truxton going better upwind and getting accurate weather info no matter what. We were partially successful with the upwind performance able to compete with most boats in our division despite the SunFast being in a class of her own upwind.

We also made a concerted effort to get enough rest although this sort of went out the window on the last leg. We have always sacrificed sleep to have our best helmsman steering as much as possible and our best foredeck person rested as much as possible between sail changes (of which there were many, often in the early hours of the morning).

Leg One was a very pleasant way to ease into things, we thought we had the pin all to ourselves a few minutes before the start but things became pretty crowded come 20 seconds to go, we managed to squeeze through (with most competitors a lot less aggressive than your usual harbor race starters) and soon put the masthead gennie up and wriggled to near the front by the time we cleared Rangi light for the first of many restarts, this occurred all the way to just off the Cavalis when we made a brave (foolhardy) move to soak deep and slow inshore and found some breeze in the Cavali passage to bring us home, initially first on line and handicap in division 3 but one of the later finishers relegated us to second on corrected time. Still pretty happy with the first leg and that we were competitive with the rest of our division.

For the start of leg two while most opted for a FRO we went with a blade jib and a flying jib top which turned out to be an awesome combo we managed to sail higher and faster than most of our competition then peeled to the fractional A3 at the corner, combined with the spinnaker staysail gave us good drive without overwhelming our righting moment limited sled. We carried this to the corner then went for a symmetrical kite around the back; waiting for the gybe to do it cost us a little bit of time. We got halfway through the gap at Pandora bank when the tide turned and it was running at about 3 knots so also cost us a bit of time but still better than going around. 

Once through we decided we need to get South as fast as possible to catch a shift near Taranaki in a day or so instead of trying to head for the corner. We put the trusty jib top back up and just went as fast as possible in the general direction of where we wanted to be. By the next morning the wind was going light as predicted but we were glad not to be too close to land as it was forecast to drop right out closer in. We made our tack about 70 miles west nor west of Mt Taranaki and waited for the shift, we didn?t have to wait too long as we headed in and slowly got lifted out towards the oil rigs, as night fell the wind gradually increased to about 30 knots and things got a bit bouncy for a while. By morning things had calmed down and we were headed for Cook Strait, the wind gradually dropped all day and we spent most of the night becalmed in the Strait waiting for the tide to turn and suck us in, which it did by the morning and we had a great sail into Wellington with only 3 well timed tacks taking us to the finish, another second on corrected time, maybe we had a shot at this.

Leg Three we had a poor start a little bit intimidated by the ferocious Wellington winds, to get over this we put the kite up and smoked through most of the fleet in a shower of spray to get up to third on line by the time we cleared the last reef, good times!  Unfortunately this wasn?t to last and we promptly sailed into a wind hole after cape Palliser and watched the fleet sail away, bugger, we basically drifted the rest of the way to Napier in no wind and ended up 7th on corrected time. Gutted!

Leg Four we were determined to make amends for our poor showing in leg 3, with the upwind forecast we had no chance of beating the SunFast but still had a shot at second if we sailed fast and smart. We all had a slow start but managed to wriggle near the front by the time the breeze filled in, it was always going to be a rich get richer leg so we had to get north as fast as possible even if it meant giving away a bit of height, the next morning as the black gave way to light we found ourselves in a reasonable position off Gisborne with Titanium and Marshall law close behind, we pushed as hard as we could all day in the bumpy seaway (sleep is for pussies) the two division 2 boats ground us down but we still had a good gap on all but one of our division and looked to extend once we rounded the next cape just after midnight. 

We spent the next 24 hours crossing the Bay of Plenty again going for speed over height as the wind slowly came further forward, we still thought we may be able to take some time out of the boats in front of us under kite once we rounded Colville. We were debating which side of the Mercs to go when with a bang the steering chain broke and the decision was made for us, we quickly engaged the autopilot (glad it was independent of the steering cables) and set to work removing the cables and lashing the broken chain with Dyneema all the while heading for flatter water inside the Mercs to complete the repair. 

With the dodgy steering and guts of 30 knots we decided it was too dangerous to run a kite at night in case our repair broke so we rounded Colville and two sailed into the Gulf until daybreak when we put up the trusty S4 which took us rapidly all the way to Devonport before we dropped it. The SSANZ welcoming committee came out to finish us helped us pack up the boat and get berthed then organized us a shower and a feed before we collapsed in our bunks, by the end I had less than two hours sleep since leaving Napier. Overall we were happy with how ourselves and the boat performed barring Leg Three, as always there is a great comradery amongst competitors part of what makes this race so special and why we keep going back, 2020 may see Truxton line up again with some mods (#don'ttellthewife).