The forecast was daunting. Northerly 10 gradually rising to 25 in the morning and 40 by the evening. We all know you can add 20 more when travelling along the South Coast. 60kn on the way home? That would be interesting.
Conditions on the start line at 1005 were pretty good so we hoisted our #2. There were nine starters: Wedgetail, Blink, Revs, Gucci, Montego Bay III, Prime Mover, Illusions, wee Wiseguy and us, the racing yacht Wai-Aniwa.
The run to Moaning Mini was a little blustery but straight forward with most boats favouring the western side. Wedge, Revs and Blink took off, as they are apt to do, but we managed to cling to the bunch till the harbour entrance. That’s when we made our first blue.
On rounding MM we went to hoist our #3. Up went the halyard and down came the sail. The bungy used to stiffen the pennant had snapped. I handed the helm to Geoff (off Am Meer) and leapt to do some urgent repairs. Down went the bow and over came the first wave. It sure gets wet up front!
I took one look at the conditions and decided we weren’t going up the mast to rescue the halyard, now at the top. I grabbed the spinnaker halyard and we began the hoist. Bugger, I thought, the whole race still ahead and no chance of using the kite.
It was now gusting 25 to 30. Murray eased the mainsheet as we drove off the #3. Sheets of spray lifted in an arch soaking all underneath. The decks were running water – waves, spray – total confusion. I broke out some food. This was living on the edge. Fantastic.
The tide started streaming north when we hit Sinclair, then the Karori rip. We started to lift higher and higher, almost pointing at the Brothers. Wiseguy bailed out. Poor sods, I thought. They were just about to repeat the worst part of the trip. A big boat was heading our way. It was Wedgetail and they were motoring. Wow, wonder what happened to them! They passed slightly to our north.
Conditions improved hugely once past Terewhiti. In fact, they almost became “nice”. We seemed to be heading much higher than the boats in front as we got closer to the Brothers. We could see them tacking up inside Awash Rock. Three boats – Montego, Gucci and Prime Mover!
Geoff hauled the main up the traveller a little more so we could climb higher. The ugly blackness of Awash Rock closed fast, hard on the bow. We threw a tack to the north, picked up more tide, then tacked back, rounding very close to the south end of the Brothers. The wind was down to 16, sometimes gusting to 19. Apart from the overfalls, the sea was almost flat.
We rounded the northern tip of the Brothers at 1500, about an hour earlier than expected and two hours before the turn. Our mates were laid out ahead; some with kites, some without. We watched one see-sawing and we moved to goose wing. That’s all we could do. We should have run with our #2. Even on an offshore, minutes count as we were to find out!
The return run to Terewhiti was bloody marvellous. Smooth, a breeze across our stern quarter, the boat almost flat and the crew happy (must have been, they were very chatty on the rail). Out came more food and with it big smiles.
The pressure started to lift off Terewhiti so we put a tuck in the main and replaced the #3 with the storm jib (which is still pretty big). By this stage our friends ahead had disappeared and we couldn’t see Illusions behind. Tom wanted to go below but chose a bad moment and, caught off guard, fell hard against a winch. He let out a yell, rolled to one side, said he was in a lot of pain, and eventually managed to get down inside. He had broken at least one rib.
We had a great angle coming into the Karori rip area, shot past heading south, then picked up the line to the harbour entrance. We were doing 10 knots plus with no overfalls, no rip, just a flat sea. But the wind was up, 30 gusting 35 and at one point, gusting 40. It was now early evening.
We played dodgems with crayfish buoys as we angled for Moaning Mini. I could see our friends ahead tacking into the harbour. I began to think we were on the money (having come 1st on club and 1st on PHRF last year). I said to Geoff that we should hoist our #3 to give us more grunt up the harbour. Tom, however, had wrapped himself in the sail below and I quickly gave that one away. We ended up shaking out the reef and tacking with a full main and storm jib – not a great combo.
Even with this rig, we still managed 7 plus knots on the reach to the finish line. A great race in conditions that were more daunting than real. Thanks Geoff, Murray, Tom, Peter, and Jessica. A good outing.