Wow... what a leg. The great news is all the sailors made it back to dry land safe and sound. Chris Skinner was injured after been flung overboard in a knockdown. He has broken three lateral vertabrae and has been advised to do very little for the next eight weeks but he will recover (Luckily he was harnessed to the boat as the other scenario doesn't bear thinking about).
No boats were lost although we lost two rigs and three boats had keel issues. A large percentage of the fleet either retired or took shelter and rested at some point of the leg. Maritime Radio and SSANZ race committee were certainly kept busy.
So what happened ? Prior to the start we all saw a forecast from Bob McDavitt which promised breezes of 20-30 knots on the nose for 2-3 days while we we sailing down the West Coast. Rodney Keenan was looking at swell map and told us all there were going to be some pretty big seas on the way. However no one seemed to think it was a big deal and we all set off quite happily.
The start was very light. Second Nature and Akatea got away well and a nice breeze started to fill in for the fleet on the way to Cape Karikari. Unfortunately at the Cape the fleet parked and reshuffled before another breeze kicked in to propel them to the next parking lot in Great Exhibition Bay. In general the inshore boats did the best. It was getting dark on arrival at North Cape and the fleet were hard on the wind tacking towards Cape Reianga when Nonstop had their backstay fail so they put a man up the rig and fixed it. The breeze built at Reianga but the seastate was quite lumpy with all the current. Cape Maria Van Dieman proving particularly hard to get past. Danaide was having steering issues with a bearing binding up so they turned back.
About midday Wednesday we saw the first round of retirements with Gale Force deciding the prospect of 3 days slamming, hard on the wind, in a pretty nasty seastate for the wind strength wasn't a attactive option as well as being very tough on the boat and rig. They turned back initially to seek shelter and reevaluate but eventually deciding to withdraw from the race. Zen also chose to withdraw as they didn't want any complications with the crews previous back injury from continual slamming.
Laissez-Faire advised that they had taken on alot of water, eventually proving to be a hatch not being sealed properly....after seven hours of bailing I'm sure they have learned their lesson ! The Night Train advised they were withdrawing and heading to Whangaroa.
At the Wednesday evening sched Laissez-Faire advised they had no engine but were continuing on.
Wednesday night was a toughie... Mr Roosevelt being the biggest casualty losing their rig, Truxton had lost Chris Skinner overboat but his crew managed to get him back aboard (luckily he was harnessed to the boat) unfortunately he was injured. Truxton was heading to New Plymouth with a medical team on stand by.
In the Thursday morning sched Andar advised they were heading to New Plymouth with a loose keel. Surreal hit a whale but were continuing and monitoring, Mix T Motions also hit a large soft object but were ok. Karma Police lost a Jonbuoy to a wave, Halo had battery issues and had resolved a steering issue and Spirit advised they were heading for New Plymouth.
Akatea finished at 14:58. Friday evening sched saw Second Nature report loss of motor and Physical Favour's had battery charging issues.
By Saturday Morning M1 had finished and Bird on the Wing wasn't far away. Fineline had dismasted and was heading for Nelson. Caro Vita had 'hove to', Clear Vision was heading for Port Hardy, Fiction had keel issues and was heading to New Plymouth. Mix T Motions and Bon Chanse were also headed for New Plymouth. The breeze swung to the South East to continue the 'Great Upwind Bash'. The SSANZ committee thought Open Country described things best when they said they were 'Coping'
The next drama to unfold was Overload. They had sheered the high tensile bolts attaching the keel control mechanism so the keel was swinging freely. Over the morning they managed to secure the keel and and proceed under motor and storm jib to shelter. They also noted the keel moving fore and aft. Coastguard went out to meet them and tow them in.
By Friday evening Bon Chanse had withdrawn in New Plymouth as had Ilex. Zindabar, Second Nature and Clear Vision were sheltering in the sounds and Windarra was sheltering in New Plymouth.
By Saturday morning what was left of the fleet resumed racing and we gradually saw a few grateful but very tired finishers over the next few days. Alot of boats still saw 40+ knots in the Cook Strait.
Caper was the final boat to get to Wellington. They withdraw at the entrance when the prospect of tacking all the way into the harbour was just too much.