Global Ocean Race 2011-12.
The Anglo-German, all-female team of Hannah Jenner and Anna-Maria Renken have kept up a ferocious pace since announcing their partnership in the double-handed Class40 Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR).
Securing a boat, undertaking the GOR’s 2,000 mile qualifying voyage and completing their first race together has been crammed into three hectic months and with just under 100 days to the start gun in Palma, Mallorca, on Sunday 25 September, Jenner and Renken are keeping the pressure on.
The duo first made contact last October when Jenner and Renken were planning individual GOR campaigns and the pair subsequently decided to collaborate, officially entering the race shortly before Christmas. In early March, Jenner and Renken secured the charter of Peter Harding’s Owen Clarke Design Jaz MkII Class40, 40 Degrees, launched in Cape Town in 2009. The couple flew to Guadeloupe for the yacht’s handover, meeting with fellow GOR entry, Conrad Colman who had raced 40 Degrees from France to the Caribbean in the single-handed 2010 Route du Rhum.
'I couldn’t believe that we would be sailing the Class40 we will race in the GOR,' recalls 31 year-old Hannah Jenner. 'It was a great moment for us after months of being chained to laptops and phones and we were really looking forward to being out on the ocean and our campaign would finally be alive!'
For Jenner’s 30 year-old, German co-skipper, there was relief that the campaign timeline was on schedule: 'The last two days before leaving for Guadeloupe were a crazy whirlwind of final arrangements,' confirms Renken. 'Just five months earlier we decided to do the GOR together and we had put March in the diary as the month we needed to be sailing by,' she continues. 'It was fantastic that we achieved this deadline!'
Their first sail on 40 Degrees was – predictably – into the wind, but after an initial period of upwind sailing spent experimenting with water ballast and sail configurations, the breeze vaporised dropping to below two knots and swinging from all points of the compass. Cabin fever and sunburn soon set in:
'We spent the first three days as two individuals finding their way around their new world,' Jenner explains.
'Of course, we were a team, but we had not yet begun to develop that partnership, we had yet to find our team rhythm,' she admits. However, any attempts at team bonding were soon postponed as conditions quickly developed into strong breeze reaching over 30 knots with constant rain squalls. The duo changed down through the sail plan rapidly; first to one reef and staysail, then one reef and storm jib as the wind built rapidly.
'It felt like we were sitting on a raging bull, bucking and rearing up then rolling and lurching,' says Jenner. 'The cockpit was awash as each wave piled down the side decks and – periodically - a nasty bang could be heard as the boat dropped off a misshapen wall of water. I can't say it was particularly pleasant, but a few years of experience tells me that all you can do is set the boat up properly, sit tight and try to keep smiling.'
After 2,300 miles and two weeks at sea, Jenner and Renken reached Horta in the Azores and successfully completed their GOR qualifier. 'Ultimately, we became completely at ease with the lack of privacy on a Class40!' confirms Jenner. 'Very early one morning, as we sailed at some hideous angle beating to windward, Anna laughed as she was sat on the bucket just opposite from where I was pulling on wet clothes and said:
'If only people could see us now, looking like such an old couple!',' she recalls. 'We became aware of the challenges that we will face in the GOR and know that it will not all be smiles and laughter, but the qualifying sail gave us a very good taste of what is to come.'
The next target for the team was the 2011 Normandy Channel Race, a 1,000 mile double-handed, Class40 event starting from Ousitreham on the coast of Normandy on May 22. 'We entered the Normandy Channel Race having heard the tales of last year's light winds marathon,' says Jenner
'We’re cool with light winds; after all, races are won and lost in light airs, so they say!' 40 Degrees raced against 16 other Class40’s, including two GOR entries: Michel Kleinjans on the new BT Boats Kiwi 40FC, Roaring Forty 2, and the South African duo of Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton Squire with 2006 Akilaria, Phesheya-Racing. 'What perhaps none of us expected was 40 knots plus of the stuff and even more rude, that for a good part of the 40 knot experience the wind angle was unsociably forward of the beam! Still, we went with the aim of seeing just how fast the good guys go and we can report that it is pretty fast.'
Jenner and Renken took 11th place out of the 12 eventual finishers: 'We never expected to be on the podium,' Jenner admits. 'We wanted to finish and finish having learned a great deal about the boat, about sailing together tired and stressed and to come away with many new ideas for setting the boat up for the GOR,' she continues. 'Well check, check and check, as we did all of that and we managed to beat the only other all girl team despite being a little hampered in the heavy downwind airs sail wardrobe department.'
Overall, the race was an invaluable experience: 'We did well upwind, had a great fully-powered beam reach around Guernsey and got wet - very, very wet,' she reports. 'Sure, a few things broke, a halyard which meant we dabbled in a little underwater gennaker flying and we had to remove the radar after the bracket broke,' Jenner lists.
'The B&G's displayed some rather nonsensical wind information, but let’s face it, when you’re exhausted and hallucinating, you can't process all that information anyway, so we didn't let that little hiccup get in our way.'
For Jenner’s co-skipper, the race was a considerable boost to team morale and confidence: 'We made a couple of tactical mistakes, but for a first race we are proud of what we achieved,' says Renken. 'Proud that we didn't quit when the forecast showed we were in for a beating; proud we fought the physicality and proud to be the first all-female team to ever complete the race,' she continues. 'We now have an even bigger shopping list for the boat and notebooks bulging with ideas,' confirms Renken.
'It was a fantastic preparation race, we loved our boat before, we love it more now, even though we know we have quite a beast on our hands.' For both sailors, the final stages of the five-day race were critical: 'On the speed front...let’s just say a few things ‘clicked’ in that last 24 hours,' adds Jenner. 'Next time we won't be shy with the vitesse!'
Returning back to their homeport in Haslar Marina, Gosport, the duo continue pre-race preparation with 40 Degrees including structural work to install watertight bulkheads and ballast tank plumbing. In the past week, 40 Degrees has been out of the water and the unpleasant task of completely removing the existing antifoul has been completed.
Global Ocean Race website