Archive for December, 2013
This year’s Mini Transat race is BRUTAL!
Yesterday my friend Andrea Iacopini was plucked out of the ocean by “Imaginaire”. Imaginaire is one of the fantastic support boats. Andrea hit a container while sailing (UFO- unidentified floating object), crippling his Mini Transat dreams. He would have been less than 500 nautical miles from the finish line.
He is safe and sound onboard imaginaire.
Here’s the story published by the race.
December 8, 2013
Congratulations to all my friends who have crossed the finish line in this epic race! Justine Mettraux, Alan Roura, Annabelle, Giancarlo…..and many many more! Craig, Pip and the rest are on their way to realizing their dream also getting closer and closer to the finish line every day! I miss you guys and have all fingers and toes crossed for you!
December 5, 2013
Where did we last leave off on this mighty adventure of pushing a 21 foot sled solo across the Atlantic Ocean?
After our 68 hour technical stopover in Portugal we said our goodbyes, cast off lines and pointed the bow to Lanzarote. We (the boat, Jack our mascot and I) were well behind the fleet at this point but still in the race with a chance to pick up a few boats. Even along the coast of Portugal I was wearing thermals, midlayers and a dry suit! When was it going to warm up?
The first 24 hours were a test of the new batteries. The power charged up nicely during the sunny day and at night fell as low as 12.4 but we were running with everything lit up. There was also some nice code 5 spinnaker flying and great boat speed! ten knots….12 knots! Woohooo let’s catch up some boats!
Mid afternoon of the 19th we were screaming along in 20 knots of wind. The pilot was driving beautifully. All of a sudden the needle on the wind instrument went dead. In 2o knots of wind, the display was reading 5 knots of wind and no direction. This was definitely annoying. It’s not impossible to run a boat without wind information, but it’s very very dangerous in heavy wind conditions and it certainly isn’t fast! But, I had a second vane onboard from my great friends at Raymarine and tomorrow’s wind was going to ease to 10-12 knots and it would be decent rig climbing conditions to swap out the units. I was pretty sure that after having dumped the existing wind vane in the drink frequently while getting knocked down, that I probably had a significant amount of corrosion at the connection point. It was also possible that infact I had chaffed through the cable for the windvane inside the mast. Earlier on I had lost part of the functionality of my mast head tri-light and I wondered if infact I had now chaffed through the wind vane cable also? So a plan was hatched to climb the rig in two days when the wind and sea state dropped.
Two days later the sun came up and the wind died along with the swell. Perfect! Time to collect the tools, wind vane and everything I might possibly need. While I was sitting in the cockpit sorting my equipment, a flat little round disc caught my eye. It was about the size of a pea, very oxidized with a tiny little hole right in the middle of it and just lying there on the cockpit floor. “What the heck is that” I thought, and just as I leaned over to further inspect it I realized what it was and I said “oh crap…..where did you come from?” It was the head of a rivet. I looked at the boom with great anticipation that a rivet on the end of the boom had degraded out of the casting. There was no such luck. My next fear was confirmed when I looked up the mast. I was on port tack. The main nicely leaning out the starboard side of the boat and the port side of the upper spreader bracket was banging back and forth against the mast. The rivet head I was holding in my hand had sprung off of the cast piece when the casting broke. There were still two rivets holding it to the mast but if I didn’t act quickly, I would risk the mast falling down.
Immediately I tacked, taking all the load off the damaged side, then dropped the main to properly assess the state of affairs. The cast piece was split into two pieces. The quickest solution was to straighten the mast by adjusting the rig tuning and runner and check stays and compress the broken fitting holding it in place. I could use my small spinnaker and genoa but I would be without a main and 350 miles to the Canary Islands and maybe…just maybe I would be able to effect repairs with enough time to get started again. I only had four hours left for technical repairs. A quick calculation of my position and estimated time of arrival would take me approximately 3 days to get in. I also new that there was a big risk if I stopped in the Canaries. The risk was that I would run out of technical stopover time and be so far behind the fleet that for safety reasons the race director would deny me access to restarting.
So with that in mind I lashed the main to the boom, hoisted the genoa and storm jib and pointed for the Canaries. If the weather degraded I would reduce to a storm jib only. If the wind shifted to the west I would have to go to Africa instead. Always a plan and fingers crossed. With that I reached out and pressed the black button on the race transponder indicating to the race organizers “I have a problem but I am ok”.
When I arrived to Lanzarote it was midnight. A mile offshore from the harbour entrance I was sailing downwind into a bay with no ability to tack. I had been hoping to arrive during daylight and to get towed straight to a seawall where I could repair the bracket and then head off again. Lanzarote is a volcano. Because I arrived at night, I was at risk of being tied up to the seawall for hours until the shops opened. I couldn’t drop anchor. I was in 450 feet of water, drifting into a bay with rocks all around and a seabed that shallowed to 60 feet literally in the mouth of the harbour. This volcano wasn’t being very helpful. My tow in from MRCC Las Palmas meant I tied up at 0230 or so in the morning and my clock would run out about 0730 in the morning. Even with an email to the Race Director, I knew that this was my finish line. At 0930 the Race Director confirmed what I expected. Due to the expiration of my technical stopover time and the fact that I was now days behind the fleet and the nearest support boat, I was denied restarting the race.
This has been an amazing journey. It’s been the toughest thing I have ever done in my life! We may not have crossed the finish line in Guadeloupe but we have achieved some amazing accomplishments along the way. The weather conditions of this race were some of the toughest in recent history. The mental exhaustion of starting, stopping, starting and stopping were staggering. Some competitors abandoned before crossing the start line because of the conditions. The prospect of arriving to the Canaries and encuring a $10,000 shipping bill to get the boat home to Canada made me sick. But….we managed to plow through 30 and 40 knots of wind, upwind in the Bay of Biscay in a horrible sea state all the way to Gijon Spain, trudge along the coast of Spain for a restart in Sada and finally cranked our way around the treacherous and infamous Cape Finister. The rig wasn’t lost and there was no emergency rescue at sea. Over the years our team has generated some wonderful business partners and a return on investment for them. We’ve also been massively supported by the local sailing community including a great community effort now to secure the money needed to bring the boat home. We’ve even managed to inspire classrooms of school children along the way.
I am incredibly proud of our accomplishments. Thank you for being part of this amazing journey and having fun along the way.
Now…..what’s next? hahahaha
Sunday December 1, 2013
It’s been a pretty busy week in Lanzarote. Diane found herself in interesting company. Six other mini racers dropped out of the race there. You know, the kind of people who think racing across an ocean in a 21 foot boat seems like fun. They’re all facing the similar problems: cell phones, computer & other gear have all been sent on to Guadeloupe and The Big One: how to get their minis back home.
It’s Tim again – pulling together some of Diane’s eMails and texts from the past couple of days. The foyer & computer are doing well, but pictures… not so much. Or at least, the connections haven’t supported sending them. Trust they’ll arrive with Diane this week.
Although the minis are designed, and the fleet has grown with and for this particular single handed race across the Atlantic, the boats are simply not suited for such undertakings without being part of a fleet, along with accompanying support vessels. “Richard Hewson, myself and the other mini sailors here are working on a bit of a plan. There are 6 of us in total who are needing to move our boats off of this rock.
“Looks like we can have the boats ready for shipping by the end of the week. I am graciously being housed by Rich at the moment. Basically we’ve ended up with almost free accommodations for 5 nights (20 euros a night). If I can have the boat in a container and ready to go by the end of the week that would be ideal and I can fly home. I believe we check out of here on Friday, but I will double check. At that point sleeping on the boat is not an option as it will be in a container, so I may have to find a place to stay for a night or two pending flights etc.
“Just for a little scale on fees here for yard stuff, when we ordered the travel crane to come in to lift the boats out of the water and lift off of the keels, the yard was very cautious because of the very expensive crane times at 35 euros an hour. I didn’t want to tell them what our crane costs were back home!” Other than crane time, Lanzarote has proven a pretty expensive place – most everything has to be imported. This comes on top of the heavy weather budgetary damage from a month of delay on the Bay of Biscay.
Diane did plan for many eventualities on this program, but seems to have overlooked one set of personal gear: “Did I mention that I am welding tomorrow? Had to buy boots, pants and a shirt for welding. I finally get to an island where it’s warm and sunny and I need to layer up! hahahaha” Glad Diane isn’t welding in her foulies – no idea their fire retardant properties – most manufactures are moot on that point and I’m not in the least bit optimistic.
Steel had to be purchased, but after being victorious in a bamboozling that would make Tom Sawyer proud, Diane was able to use the welding equipment. Diane continues: “I´ve stolen a computer from the Port office. These guys are way too kind!
“The cradles are essentially built. Rich and I are working on this together with his and my boat. We will fit the boats with the forklift tomorrow [Thursday], place the splashes in place and then finish the welding.
“I was welding on my knees from 0900 to 2000… It was a very long day. Tomorrow I will speak to Melanie in the port office to get the container on site. She said it would be easy to do.
“The boat is in it’s cradle! I tell ya, just the story alone of building and welding and fiberglassing cradles on a sea wall in the Canaries, with limited resources and the kindness of the shipyard to loan us tools is an amazing story on it’s own. The french boys here have been a bit in awe. Particularly when we loaded the boats today into the cradles and they actually somewhat fit… we got the respectful nod of achievement from the French boys. They have opted to pay someone to go to France and bring their shipping cradles, and then pay another company to ship their boats back. It’s going to cost them at least 10k euros for the shipping and then another 2 or 3 k for yard fees for crane time etc.
“The container has arrived. The boat is loaded in the cradle and ready to load into the container. The mast has stripped and washed down. This afternoon I will strap the mast up inside the container for shipping. The port is closed today [Sunday] so no fork lift to load the boat.
The mini sailors aren’t the only people dealing with gear failure in the Canaries: “The travel lift is broken.” As Diane’s out of the water, it wouldn’t seem to be a big issue for her, save: “The forklift is stuck behind the travel lift, with an RC 44 keel on it. Rumour is that the travel lift won’t be fixed until Monday night. With that in mind, I have asked Wes (owns one of the shipyards here) if he would load my boat once the forklift can be accessed.
“It’s just such a tricky load that I would rather be here for it, but having said that, I really don’t want to change my flight for something that the yard should be able to do.
“Wes has agreed. He’s a super guy. There will be a fee of course, but it makes sense. Plus, if for any reason my cradle and boat won’t fit, he’s more than capable of pulling the boat off, rejigging the cradle and putting the puzzle back together again. Let’s cross our fingers that everything fits! We have worked very, very hard to try to keep the boats within their shipping tolerances. The problem is that the tolerances are about 2cm. Not much to spare. I’ve also told Wes about the crazy no wood etc. requirements so that the shipment won’t get rejected. He´s familiar with the rules.
I have no idea what stories will transpire in Diane getting off the island and on to a flight home. Will she follow in the foot steps of The Castaways and Tom Hanks? Shore crew is standing by for arrivals logistics on Tuesday. Tim here: and I’m getting ready to blog-off on the assumption Diane returns according to plan. It’s been a lot of fun, waaaay more educational than I imagined and I have enjoyed the many great reader comments.
Even without Diane, the Mini Transat race has continued. This evening, on the 19th day of racing, a well fought victory will arrive in Guadeloupe. It is very exciting. There is a How To Track Arrivals page as well, Fleet Tracking will be updated more frequently while boats are finishing. It is one heck of a race!
And today’s last words are from Diane: “Finally, thanks everyone for the massive work on ‘let’s get the girl home’. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it!”