9On the 8 November, 2013 at 7pm I headed out of the Harbour on the TP52 Frantic with a great team to take on the Cabbage Tree Island Race.
On arrival to the boat, I somehow (read into this, they were waiting for me to arrive), ended up up the mast. Some great views that is for sure from the top of the 52. Heading out onto the Harbour, we were hit with a gradient northerly of about 20-28 knots, very puffy, making for some interesting goings on before the start amongst the fleet. I ended up being up the back of the boat to help with tactics.
We were plagued with issues from the get go, and I ended up helping on the bow, following the luff of the number four tearing with two and a half minutes to the start. We managed to change to a number five (go Simon!), but we were almost two minutes behind the gun. Back up the back, managed to call a few shifts, and the team did a great job to get us out of the heads in not too bad shape. With the number five up, we really lacked height which limited our options.
The sea state outside the heads was a pretty gnarly northerly roll, and we were all but straight into them on port tack.
We had a sail maker on board (nice one Andrew), so when the repair of the four was nearly done, as the smallest on board I was down the hatch (following a big wave and connection with the companion way – see bruise almost a week on below) to help get it back up on deck. We dropped the five, plugged in the four, and we were away.
Back up the back, after having a little nap on the rail, we made the decision to head back to shore just after sunset, as we were the furthest east. We also changed up to a number two jib. Heading back on starboard ended up being a good call, as a south-westerly started to fight with the northerly inshore, and we managed to hook into the edge of it. Was pretty hard to pick the squalls to begin with. I felt the heat before the breeze in the first puff, just as the boys were starting to shake out the reefs. By the time I called all up it was too late, and we ended up spinning up pretty hard. Great job by the skipper at the time, Beynon, to get the boat back on course.
I had been on breeze calls for most of the race so far, talking the skipper and mainsheet trimmer of various times through the puffs. My work was critical for a good half an hour as the south-wester transitioned against the northerly. One of those times when every sense is on high alert, with masses of adrenalin pumping through your body. Really why I think so many love offshores.
Once the sou’wester had filled in, we shook out the reefs, and stuck up a fractional. It was pretty hairy as we ploughed into the remaining northerly swell with 25+ knots from behind. The boat was moaning and groaning. I was very happy to still be on deck, and also, to be on an older generation TP52 to be honest.
We had just swapped from Simon on the helm to Andrew, when we took a bit of a nose dive and the fractional came down. I was first to find the head, and salvaged the clip, and foot or so of halyard left.
It was then that the unthinkable happened. For the first time in my life, I was actually sea sick. You heard correctly, the sailor girl got sick. I managed to get almost to the back of the boat before my tether took up (for those not in the know, a tether is on a harness connecting you to the boat for safety), so it wasn’t pretty (sorry team!). So classy… but part of the adventure. I have done a few offshores before, but not for many years, and in all my years sailing, and on the water, this is the first time I have actually been sick. Wow… I now understand what people mean by the “sea purging your soul”. I felt surprisingly better straight away, and was straight back into helping get the kite back on board.
This was at about 11.45pm, and we had some tough decisions to make leading up to the first sked (safety check-in via radio). Our A2 was old, and in the breeze would more than likely break, in addition, extra speed over the swell would take more of a toll on the boat. The rum line was too square to just fly a number two jib (which we re-hoisted straight after the fractional blew). We didn’t have another fractional halyard, we were taking on water, and the crew were very aware of more potential breakages ahead of a big summer of racing. So the skipper, Mike, along with support from the majority of the crew, made the difficult call of pulling out of the race.
We turned around just after midnight, just over 50 nautical miles from Cabbage Tree and headed back to Sydney. I had a steer while there was still breeze and waves to catch. Love catching waves…! Most of the crew went downstairs, and some of the boys (and Miss Jane at times), ‘Frantic style’ got on the beers as we discussed important life topics, such as Monty Python, and scissors, paper, rock, and got into some pizza and noodles.
I am one of those people who doesn’t really like to go down below, so I did nap a bit on deck… pretty peaceful really. And I had forgotten what real stars look like. I really do love being on the water… even as weird as the concept of offshore racing must be to a non-sailor… hey and even some sailors… the stars and the freedom is pretty amazing.
At sunrise we realised we also had a significant tear in the main. So all in all, the decision to turn around was well justified.
We got home just after 7am. And once we were all packed up, and I had experienced the amazingness of taking off wet weather gear for the first time in a long while, I fell asleep in the cockpit while we were eating breakfast.
What isn’t to love about offshore racing? To describe to the non-sailors, it is basically like sitting on a rocking horse, getting hosed down, occasionally feeling sick, while having deep and meaningfuls with old and new friends. My sister has suggested that maybe just going to the pub would be sufficient, but where is the adventure in that!?
Check out the video below. It is dark in some places… but – all the better to share the adventure that is offshore racing.
A big thanks to Team Frantic for having me on board, it was a pleasure, and to Sheridan for the use of her gear 🙂
Until next time, enjoy your adventures, whatever they may be!
Sailor Girl out.