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Melbourne to Osaka Race - Tackling light and squally conditions

by Robyn Brooke and David Taylor on 7 Apr 2013
Melbourne to Osaka Race 2013 . ©
The Melbourne to Osaka Yacht Race teams are now tackling light and squally conditions in the tropics with the lead boat positioned north of the Solomon Sea and Southern Cross managing rig damage at 17 degrees south.

Boats are reporting their position via radio sked with Kordia at 0600hrs and 1800hrs EST daily on HF radio, as well as confirming their position and race conditions via SMS from their Satellite phone. The Yellowbrick trackers provide followers with a visual update of the race by automatically updating boat positions every four hours.

Escapade, still at the head of the fleet, are moving although it looks like the west-flowing current is dominating the light wind conditions. The ‘peleton’ or ‘pack of hounds’ as Robert Bradley (Escapade) so eloquently labelled them, are now in between the Louisiades and Bougainville. The Hounds, Wasabi, Spirit of Downunder, Cadibarra 8 and Turbulence are starting to look like a cruising group all bunched together and making their way through the islands of the Solomon Sea. Cadibarra 8 talks about the marathon getting to the Solomon Sea:

'The enormity of what we are undertaking is starting to sink in. The distance and time element is quite phenomenal really. We have been going 12 days and still have one more day until we reach the 2,000nm mark (of a 5,000nm total). Fatigue and weariness have kicked back in with the trade windsailing chipping away at our energy reserves. By anyone's imagination running in 20 knots for four days straight sounds like heaven. Reality is a building sea, lots of distance/speed (yesterday we did 260nm I think averaging over 10 knots).

We are closing in on the bottom of PNG which is exciting. It’s getting really hot though, sweat dripping over the PC as I type.'

Spirit of Downunder had a similar experience in the approach to the Solomons: 'Only 186nm to our first turning point since leaving the Queensland coast, Rossel Island is the eastern most point of the Louisades.

All was well until Wednesday evening when it rained and poured and stuff happened as well. We decided to drop the mast head kite after the 6pm sched. The wind was around 20-25kts and the kite socked easily enough but after getting it on deck the tack caught a wave and in the drink it went! Took us about 15 min to get back on board with no fish or prawns to be found. Luckily no real damage to the kite but let’s hope it is still in the same shape. About two hours hrs later we got hit by a rain storm which has been fine otherwise but this one had 40+kts in it and a 50 degree wind shift. Auto George couldn’t handle that and a Chinese gybe ensued. A bit of mayhem for a bit which was sorted out by the time the squirt went through which was a half hour or so.

Damage report- main fine, boom vang - 2 hose clamps used around crack in boom end section, headsail - which is a heavy one which reefs to a three had the reefing zip part company for about 1/3 length, it has webbing tabs so have to tie it up instead of zip so still functional. The log said 234nm in 24hrs this morning so not a bad run as we had two reefs and no.3 last night. '

Funnelweb, 150 nm behind Spirit, also reported a 40 knot squall but they were prepared with two reefs in the main and 800kg water ballast on board. Unfortunately, their auto pilot has stopped working and they are therefore hand-steering, possibly all the way to Osaka. No auto pilot will add a huge pressure to both sailors as every manoeuvre will require all hands on deck night and day.

Kiss Goodbye to MS were about 200nm to the SE of 'the Hounds' when she reported ongoing power issues, having lost her wind generator early in the race. Their solar panels are not working as well as was hoped and so are having to use more fuel to recharge their batteries. From the tracker position, it appears she may be heading to Giso to pick up some fuel as a safety measure. They are also having ongoing autohelm issues. Stopping will give them an opportunity to try to repair it.

Optimus Prime are continuing out to the East of the Solomons on what they have called 'the scenic route'. Although longer in distance from the middle route taken by the Hounds, they have calculated that there may be wind and current advantage and they have taken the gamble to make up time lost when they went in to Sydney to repair a broken forestay.

They sent this brief message, 'In other rum-worthy news, we have finally passed Santa Ana Island at the East end of the Solomon Islands. It didn't come easy, at first she greeted us with 22knots and rain by the bucket then gave us and hour of 2-3 knots from every direction! Painful'.

Gusto have left Southern Cross in their wake and are continuing to catch those ahead. But where are they going? This could be an interesting one to watch.

And finally, Southern Cross sent in the above photo from Mellish Reef this morning where they sought flat water to replace their broken stay.

And to finish today’s update, a word from the Samurai Jack crew who are now safely back in Australia, having retired from the race with structural damage.

'An exhilarating and final sail in to Gladstone was fun at 20+ knots boat speed but also hard for Michael and I, a tough but easy decision to retire was decided after the question was asked 'would we trust her on the back end of a cyclone?' No. We had fixed one load bearing section of the keel however it wasn't quite distributing the appropriate loads through the rest of the frame.

Race over.

Our prep over the last 15 months saw us getting second in the Fairway Challenge, double handed against fully crewed boats, the delivery from Brisbane to Melbourne and the Melbourne to Hobart West coaster all double handed and without reliance on auto helm.

We can only thank the many people that have helped and supported us along the way. We've been humbled. If anything we've both come out of this race stronger personally and having done the hard part by simply making the start. Many lifetime friendships have been established with a friendly rivalry!!!

To all the boys still charging; all the best, when things are tough look on the bright side, have a laugh and remember you do this for fun. I'll be following the tracker all the way. I expect three sake's per person for me, Mick and Samurai when you've made it!

From the Greyhound bus en route to Mackay from Gladstone, and on behalf of my two team mates who I've established a longing relationship with, Mick and our girl Samurai Jack.

Thanks to the entire race team. You've done a marvellous effort! Keep up the good work.

See you in four years for unfinished business Osaka.

InSunSport - NZFremantle to Bali Race 660x82X-Yachts AUS X4 - 660 - 1

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