I’ve finished and as expected the Bass Straits we’re not going to make it an easy finish!
Following our delayed departure after the medi-vac of two of our crew (Crew Evacuation) and us having to return to Hobart for repairs and to collect additional crew we set off some 20 hours behind the rest of the fleet. Fortunately Clipper Race management were kind, allowing us to motor back to the point where the incident occurred and we had stopped racing. Ahead we had Bass Straits to cross again, our third crossing of them in a month they have given us a beating each time. The forecast did not look favourable!
The run down the side of Tasmania was without issue but as we approached the Straits the wind built and yet again it was 40 knots plus of wind and breaking seas. Whilst we weren’t slamming into them like in the Sydney Hobart they we equally as dangerous as the waves were beam on and could potentially cause a knock down, something we narrowly avoided on at least one occasion. However we managed to cross these without incident and in one piece with wind dropping a piece, lulling us into a false sense of security as it happens.
We were about to be hit by a secondary low. These are low pressures that form on the back of the earlier low and hence follow it in quick succession and tend to be nastier than the initial one. The other thing it would bring was headwinds! So that meant the bone jarring slamming preceded by that little period of weightlessness as the yacht parts company with the top of the wave before body, boat and sea meet again in a bang that is enough to loosen your fillings. I will not miss the slamming. These conditions are potential boat breakers as PSP discovered when their running backstay deck fitting was pulled off the deck in one of the slams.
During the day the wind built and the sea state increased and during daylight we were able at least to see the waves and steer around them to control the slamming. At night this isn’t the case, sometimes the only warning you get is when you go weightless at which point you Hold Fast and wait for the inevitable crash at the bottom of the wave, it’s too late now to bear away down the back of the wave. So we continued into the night. As we progressed it became clear that we were being chased down by a large squall and thunderstorm. In the end the only tactic to avoid it was to tack back into and punch through it as fast as possible.
This is not an experience I wish to repeat! At the point we tacked we were faced by a wall of sheer blackness punctuated only by the lightning bolts; then the rain hit! It was like being doused with a pressure washer and under the squall the wind was gusting at 70 knots. Visibility was nil. How I managed to hold the boat straight in all that I’ll never know; it transpired I was on the helm for this enjoyable piece of sailing. Then we were through, the wind abated and veered so the upwind conditions had gone. Relief!
A great thanks must go to the 3 crew from other boats that stepped in to help us with short numbers. Without them we would not have been able to complete this race.
- Mike – Team Garmin
- Jess – Qingdao
- Brian – Qingdao
The last couple of days sailing, for me a least, were very enjoyable. Either under kite or close reaching under white sails.
We finished at around 4 in the morning at the entrance to Moreton Bay and I had the pleasure of helming the boat across the line for my last finish.
Certainly the last race will be memorable, as will be each in there own way. However I have decided that I’ve crossed the Bass Straits enough for a lifetime – that is one seriously nasty piece of water!
The icing on the cake at the finish was that Dee was waiting for me after being apart for nearly 5 months!