The 2017 Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht race was a warm and fast one, as predicted. We finished after 3,5 days, which is very good for this kind of boat. We were a crew of ten, divided into 2 shifts, and it worked exceptionally well. Both the skipper and the crew were knowledgeable, hard-working, and respectful. Even when the unexpected happened, everyone remained calm and worked as a team.
|Start of the race, in Sydney, on 26/12 2017.|
|A few hours into the race. Crew on the rail.|
Offshore racing is about keeping focus. You are racing all through the day, and when you are not, you'll be sleeping. Depending on the time of the day, you will be rotating 3 things on your head: sunglasses - red light head torch - eye blind fold for sleeping. Rehydrate, eat, rest, race again.
The organizing work done beforehand showed everywhere, from the work done beforehand and the gear on board, to team setup, weather and route planning, information details on just about everything, physical organisation on board, and the food arrangement. The meals were home made and frozen, so that the portions just needed heating up in the oven. The food was yummy - pulled pork, roast lamb, chili con carne etc - the mean provided from a sponsor who is an organic butcher. Even the hot drinks were figured out!
|Hot drinks list. Very important, especially on night shifts :)|
|Perfect to just defrost and bake the ready-made home-cooked portions, instead of trying to cook for 10 hungry crew on a small gas stove in a rolling boat.|
Everyone had a thermal mug, a spork, and a dry bag. That, together with wet weather gear and life vests (all of them numbered), was all you had on board. No unnecessary stuff! Everything was lifted off the boat, down to the last cookie, to make us as light as possible. There are regulations about how much fuel and water you should carry as a minimum, because otherwise boats would head out with empty tanks and risk trouble.
|Inside of the boat. Hygiene bags hanging ny the sink. Clothes stored in the drybags on a line along the boat, together with jackets. Wet weather gear in its own compartment Nothing lying around, no unnecessary things. Full order. |
The weather varied greatly, as it normally does during the RSHYR. Sometimes, we'd experience sunny weather, light winds and a lot of heat. As were were closing in on Tasmania, the Roaring Forties announced that we only had Antarctica ahead, with a chillier ambiance.
|Crew enjoying a sunny weather window, gennaker sailing in light winds.|
|Crew enjoying slightly chillier conditions, as we make way South in the direction of Antarctica.|
Racing with spinnaker in 25-30+ knots of wind is tough. A wrong move and the boat can broach. Gybing in 30+ knots takes a lot, too. Many boats blew spinnakers to pieces, we were one of them. Also bent a spinnaker pole to a banana shape, lucky we carried two. One boat broke the boom, another one got dismasted. Several had rudder problems, one lost control of the rudder just by the finish line, so they had to drag themselves across the line with buckets on lines. A person on board that boat was almost beheaded during an accidental gybe, getting a fracture. Another boat had a man overboard, ripped down by a spinnaker halyard. The yacht Hotel Planner retrieved the bruised but otherwise unharmed person in a notable MOB maneuver, which they received praise and a prize for.
|The stickers on the boat after the race, ripped by the waves. The Rolex sticker in the front almost gone. This is because of big speeds and constant surfing down the waves.|
|Flying on, southwards.|
We had a good deal of strong downwind, as well as about 8 hours of being becalmed and barely making any speed. Anyway, we did a good race and we were lucky to make it all the way to the finish. Another boat, which was behind us just 3 hours, got stuck around the Tasman Light, just on the SE end of Tasmania, near the finish. They got hit by 45+ kn head winds, almost had a man overboard, and were stuck there for several hours, before the skipper got hypothermia in the cold Roaring Forties winds, and the boat had to retire. Altogether, 6 boats retired in the race and never made it to finish. Another 8 never made it to the start line.
|Seeing the SE coast of Tasmania is going to be one of the most beautiful memories. Some great photos were taken.|
|The amazing rugged coast of SE Tasmania. Not far to the finish line now!|
Out first prio was to keep the crew and boat safe. The other prio was to come to the finish line, as many boats never do that. And the third was to stay competitive. We did. Our boat is measured as one of the slowest in the fleet, however we finished in a good position, actually just 2 hours behind a Clipper 67 yacht! In our 2 divisions, we were number 6 and 7 respectively. We were 52 overall on corrected time (IRC). It's a good result given the fierce competition, and the fact that it was the first RSHYR for all on board.
|Sailing past a Clipper 67 on the 2nd day of racing. Few have done that on a Beneteau 45, I imagine!|
I was very impressed by the management and leadership skills of the skipper. Apart from the excellent planning, execution and follow-up of the project, he managed to get together a well-functioning team, motivate them to work hard, and make everyone feel appreciated. In all situations, he lead by example, and stayed even-tempered and positive, which causes the crew to do the same. The rest of the guys also did an excellent job, with priceless contributions both before, during, and after the race. Of course I would like to mention all the other team members, family (notably Danielle Hows who did so much ground support!), and sponsors.
|David Hows at the rudder of Ocean Gem, during RSHYR 2017.|
|David's happy crew on Ocean Gem, at sunset during RSHYR|
As we stepped onto Tasmanian fast land, we made sure to celebrate thoroughly, in both Rolex race village and the Customs House Pub. The Rolex prize giving ceremony was impressive, and there was a food festival nearby where we could try out the Tasmanian specialties. Tasmania was a great place to discover and explore, more about it in the next post. There was a number of international boats, and a story was told that the crew sometimes did not make any research about where they were going to. A German crew took his passport and went off to clear in, thinking that Tasmania was a country of its own (Australia, Tasmania... sounds like two different countries for a European used to every small island being their own country, what do you do!) Unable to find any authorities, he approached some locals and asked where he does the paperwork needed in order to enter. The locals were kind enough to show him to the Customs House
|Customs House Bar, a pub open 24/7 that is perfect for celebration of race finish,no matter when (and in what state) you arrive. Here with some sailors and the RSHYR banner|
Here are some more photos from the race to enjoy. Will get back with a new post about my adventures in Tasmania!
|Ant reporting our position during a radio sked at midnight. Failing to report a position results in +20 min to finish time, +40 for every subsequent report failure.|