Kristian Hajnsek (509) did send me this to annoy you :)
He is a Slovenian totally bitten by MIni bug.
Check out their web site, www.4ocean.si I think they will have the best updates on their site during the 07 race...
Memento 2005 - part 1
(written at August 31st, 2007)
Two years have passed in a flash. I still remember the every one of the very painful experiences i had during the last Transat, when on several occasions my only motivation was to sail as fast as possible to get myself to the finish and out of this misery. As a perfect example "how NOT to sail the minitransat" i translated the race report from the 2005 race. Here is the first part. Enjoy!
TRANSAT 2005 – Leg 1:
Tension before the race popped like a bubble the moment we dumped the mooring lines and they started to tow us out of the marina. Big crowd has gathered on the shores of the channel, cheering and waving to us while we were being towed towards the open bay Being among the armada of different vessels, press boats, sponsor´s RIBs and god knows how many sailboats, small and medium yachts made you feel goose bumps all over the body. Four big military ships and a swarm of fast RIBs with
flags from the GPO organization took care that nobody except the competitors could enter the forbidden zone of the race start. Before we enter the zone, Mark and Mrkva jump in the water and give the bottom the final rub. Thanks, guys!
Start of a solo race with 72 sailors and 25 knots of wind spells trouble, but the starting line was pretty long and a bit skewed to the wind, so neither side was favored. With Nick we start at the pin end and surprisingly I have no problems catching the
windward buoy, another trick from the organizers, since it is extremely stupid to abandon the 4200nm long race due to the port-starboard collision on at the start…
I pass the windward buoy second, just behind Nick, we hoist spinnakers and we blast our way down towards the second buoy at Ft. Boyard, about 6nm away. Feeling is amazing; we are surfing at the head of the fleet with a wall of spinnakers behind and a helicopter film crew above us. Mid way Corentin manages to pass me, since he
kept his nerves cool and has put up more sails, but I still manage to round the second buoy on 3rd place. Next, we are reaching along the Ile d´Oleron, when I became greedy. By hoisting full mainsail I manage to disrupt a good balance of the boat and four boats pass me before I put the reef back. I feel stupid…
Above Oleron we turn west and enter the open ocean. Next waypoint is the Cape Finisterre and the end of notorious Bay of Biscay. Before the start we were following several possible
weather developments with our router Jure Jerman. The strategy was to push hard for the first night towards west, almost 50nm above the rhumb line and then to gibe south to Finisterre, keeping healthy distance from the acceleration zones and wind shadow behind the cape. In the next phase we should again follow the gibe west, almost 150nm above the line and then again gibing south. It sounds very simple in the room behind the computer, but the brutal reality of sailing a mini is much, much
After several hours of wild surfing with medium kite and first reef, wind picks up and helming becomes bloody hard job. Steep waves are not helping either, since every now and then you hit the wave badly; the boat disappears under the flood of foamy water…
Smarter guys already changed down to fractional spinnakers, but I am blind with desire to catch back that four lost places. Around 3 in the morning I am on 5th place and closing to the lights of the leading
three boats. Waves are becoming higher and steeper; I would guess they were about 3m high. In a gust of wind the boat starts accelerating uphill of the wave, jumps over the crest and starts it mad descent…completely out of control we hit the bottom of the next wave, the stern lifts and the boat falls on her side. Once too many… when we get the boat under the mast again, I see a big rip in the middle of the spinnaker. Game over! The shock overcomes me and completely miserable I feel sorry for
myself instead of zipping the spinnaker to make a small kite, perfectly good for conditions like that. Instead, I try to repair the spinnaker, loosing about 5nm per hour compared to Corentin who is leading the show. Seasickness enters the show and while stitching the sail I am vomiting wildly.
Around noon next day I hoist the sail, it pops open and… the repairs are holding. Ok, move on! Position report revealed I lost about 60 nm to Corentin, which unfortunately for me sounds quite right I
am trying to find another motivation, sailing as fast as possible, hoping for the best, since there is more than 1000nm of race ahead of us. After second day of wild surfing new problems are lifting their ugly head. How to rest without loosing miles compared to the competition? Pilot is smart but using too much power, while one of the batteries collapsed on the first night, leaving me with only half of the electrical supply. Reducing sleep to 2 hrs per day is not helping, more and more tired
you start making stupid mistakes, you do bad gibes, bad sail selections and the distance to the leading pack is growing. I am staying awake at night sailing hard, but with potato instead of brains I sailed too close to the Spanish coast loosing compared to the guys positioned more offshore. Not that Jure did not warn us about that but…
During the day there is no time for rest. All the day I sail hard changing spinnakers. Big spi, about 85m2 is useful for downwind sailing
until about 18 kt of wind then you change to medium ( 65m2). You can carry is until about 25kts and above that you hoist small kite (40m2) which you can sail to about 35kts… The borders between the sails are not exact, but vary due to sea state and your wind angle. Anyway, during the morning, big spinnaker gets wrapped around forestay and rips itself. Fortunately the wind picks up and I sail with medium and small spinnaker the whole day. In the afternoon I manage to repair the spinnaker and
while hoisting it, I do not know how and why, the damn thing ends in the sea, slips under the boat, gets wrapped around the keel and rudders… complete mess! With luck bigger than brains, I manage to get the sail back on deck without destroying it, but with a 20cm hole in the middle. That was too much, tired, without sleep and mentally overloaded I cry while trying to repair the sail. I wash the rip with fresh water, boil some water and pour it in the bottle. Wrap the cloth around hot bottle,
wait 10 minutes, patch it with a sticky tape and after 20 minutes the sail is hoisted on the top of the mast again. I feel like winning a million dollars, but 5 minutes latter the wind picks up again and we end up on medium kite again.
Around midnight when I am closing on the notorious Cape Finisterre the wind picks up and starts to blow around 30 kts, while the boat is surfing on enormous waves glittering in the moonlight. I am fully geared up, while setting the little kite on the bow,
the boat is surfing at 12 kts under reefed mainsail alone. Every now and then 2 or 3 much bigger waves appear and the boat screams down the steep slopes like there is no tomorrow. I close my eyes hoping that the NKE will manage to keep the boat under control…I feel we reached the bottom of the wave, a flood of water lifts me off the bow, but I am attached so I stay there…and behind us you can see the phosphorescent crest of another giant.
Next day the conditions calm down and
I can hoist full sails again. Knowing that I lost about 20nm during the night is another reason for black thoughts and deep disappointment for me. During the day I manage to prepare a hot meal, first proper meal since the day before the start (yes, 5 days ago), I change my wet socks and morale is slowly starting to climb out of that dark pit.
All previous night, the day and also next night I spend at the helm, since the problem with electricity is becoming more and more
acute. The conditions are rough and pilot is using too much power, with a stupid charging system it is using too much fuel, so you can have about 2 hours of pilot per day. Taking into the account changing sails, navigation and similar obligatory choirs, then you have less than 90 minutes of pilot time for sleeping. In the evening I hear some competitors that should be about 5miles in front and I get all crazy about catching up with them. Racing mind obviously override all signs of exhaustion
so I stay during the night at the helm again; I hear voices, laughter, I talk to people that are not there and see some weird shapes in the dark…
… until I wake up in cockpit at dawn. I am completely lost in space, do not realize where am I, and want to go off the boat, realizing just in time that the pontoons are missing. I start to wonder who took the pontoons away and how the hell did he manage to take it so far away that you can´t see them anymore… but then the brains
wake up too and the show is over. During the day it is possible to sail fast in good conditions; couple of good shifts brings me back to the group of three boats ahead. I see their lights, I prepare myself some energy bars, coffee and go back to work. The wind is shifting and the wind angle is getting tighter, wind and waves are crossing at an angle and helming is becoming really a hard work. I did not want to let go, desperate you push yourself to the end, getting more and more exhausted,
until you collapse again. At first dawn I wake up wrapped in the spinnaker that should be up on the mast… well this time at least apparently I managed to switch on the pilot.
Mad about myself, for doing the same mistake for the second times I storm towards the island of Lanzarote, less than 150nm away. Wild surfing under spi in 25kts of wind and some big waves did not leave time for anything else. At dusk, you catch a glimpse of a land ahead. Rising in the sea bottom results
in incredibly bad sea state, big and steep waves are a serious threat to the boat, Every now and then I fall from a wave that is missing its back, just hoping the boat will not pitch pole. Only behind the island the sea calms down, I change to small reacher and cross the finish line around 2am, around 19hrs behind winner of the first leg.
Final days before the star of the second leg. Life at the pontoons in Puerto Calero is not giving away the
fact that the start of the second leg is going to happen in the next 24 hrs. No crowd, no feverish preparation, no running around for the last errands… only heavily loaded minis, sitting deeper in the water like usual are a sign of the imminent departure. Five extra days of rest, gained as a result after the fast wild chase of the first leg came as a godsend to most of us. Spinnakers were patched up, cracks in the rudders fixed. New, 20amp charger has replaced the abysmally inefficient
previous one and the general feeling on board is significantly more relaxed.
Weather forecast is very unusual. Remains of the tropical depression Wilson that was wracking havoc in USA moved over Atlantic. While slowly dissipating, the depression is sucking overheated air from Africa and completely inverting the usual weather pattern. Fresh trades, normally whistling through the rigging at 25 kts making Canaries a surfer´s paradise gave a way to the oily calm with weak winds form southern
sector. On the day of the start the wind will pick up, making first two days an upwind beat, a welcome change after wild downwind chase of the first leg. The million dollar question is: which way to go to be in the most favorable conditions when the trades will re-establish. Jure Jerman, our weather router is with us making the decision easier; we will head south toward Africa. After the southerlies will abate, we will have to negotiate a calm patch, but then the better conditions will make
up for lost distance when the trades will re-appear.
The start is again at 17:17, so we are waiting the departure with some impatience. Outside the wave breaker we are welcomed by light wind and big swell from the south. In the crowd I narrowly miss Alex Pella… very stupid, but then again I get stuck in the crowd at the start. Few more tense moments, passing the bow of this boat, dipping the stern of that boat … Corentin tacks and passes the crowd on left tack but nobody is pushing him,
apparently start of the Transat is a bit different than other races. I am working very hard to keep the boat moving in very unfavorable conditions for my Manuard; careful trim of mast and sails bear fruit, because I manage to keep the pace with several boats that gave me lots of troubles during other races. Few miles away from the island the wind picks up and the boat is soon fully powered up.
To Cap Verdes
For the next two days we are beating upwind and cursing showers that are
leaving the deck full of pink sand. Third day the wind slowly backs and we hoist the spinnaker for the first time. Andraz is close and we are sometimes talking about weather… in Slovene of course, since nobody understands a word of what we are saying. Late in the afternoon I switch on the pilot, prepare alarm clock and make a short rest after almost day and a half of little rest. When I wake up, I notice immediately that something is wrong; obviously I over slept the alarm and woke up three
hours latter. But to make the matters worse, the wind turned, competitors gibed, while my pilot was following the wind angle, taking me towards Africa, at least 60° off course. Next day I try to make up for the loss by sailing relatively close to Africa, not more than about 15nm from the coast, however, the effect is a quite shitty; sea breeze is killing the trades making the progress very difficult in light and unstable wind. In the afternoon the wind picks up, but the boat suddenly stops;
we are caught in fishing net. No other way, I take the sails off, attach myself firmly to the boat and jump overboard with a knife. Two hours latter the story repeats itself with me being completely pissed off. Until the evening I catch two more fishing lines, adding to the growing annoyance on board.
Although the weather forecast is promising better conditions closer to the coast, I have enough of this shit, I gibe offshore and sail on starboard tack for the whole night. In the next days
we find ourselves in conditions, usually called by the big boat crews as "champagne sailing". Clear sky, 18-22kts of trades, and reasonably developed sea is a recipe for a great sailing except the fact that the deck of a mini is regularly awash with waves. Bitter experiences of the first leg had some effect though; charging system is now working very efficiently and with better settings the pilot consumption is halved. We are setting into a daily routine interrupted by some problems that were
more an annoyance that a serious problem. Like failure of the ARGOS beacon and meeting the accompanying boat that gave me a replacement. Or a midnight climb to the top of the mast to save the tangled spinnaker, while increasing wind threatening to take the spinnaker down in pieces. Failure in the pilot hydraulics was more serious problem, but after some severe cursing and poking into the system, the pilot came back to life, of course for a price of 10 hour sailing without the spinnaker.
Cap Verdes and the way to the Doldrums
Cap Verdes marked about one third of the second leg and also the extreme limit of the weather forecast received at the start. From now, we are on our own. By the dusk we reach the islands, wave patterns are nicely aligned with the course and the boat is gliding nicely under the spinnaker with 12 kts of speed. I named these conditions "easy or cheap miles". Radio France Internationale (RFI at 15.300 kHz) was predicting easterlies when we reach the
archipelago, but the northerlies were stubbornly persistent for the whole night. Hoping for those damn easterlies I pass between 3000meters high Fogo and smaller Brava, trying to hook into the acceleration zone between these two big objects. Theory is correct, but just the half way. We do accelerate between the islands, but on the other side we are welcome by a big nothing. We are standing still for almost half a day before the wind make a shy appearance, this time form the southeast.
Progress is slow until the evening, when the wind suddenly shifts north and increase. It looks like a something Jure (Jerman, weather router) called tropical wave, without enough data for any reasonable decision you can't do much. RFI is again stubbornly predicting easterlies all the way to 10° N, but also a very small band of doldrums. I am sailing south under spinnaker and waiting for that wind; 10°N, 9°N, … somewhere around 7°N wind suddenly shifts east like hitting a wall. That's the
moment I've been waiting for; but the gods of wind had their own plan because the same afternoon we are rolled over by the first of the equatorial storms. In the last moment I manage to get my kite down in one piece, reef the mainsail, attach myself and soldier through the storm with strong wind and torrential rain. In the next week this became a routine, storms during the day, storms during the night, storms for breakfast, lunch and supper and some more for in between. They are not too
strong, wind rarely exceeds 30 kts, but they are increasingly annoying with strong rain and big, even up to 60° windshifts.
I pass equator around 28°W without some big fuzz. It was at night, beating upwind in 20 kts of wind, very wet on deck, very unpleasant and choppy sea; far from idyllic picture of a Transat as a downwind race. Alarm clock wakes me up about a mile before the imaginary line, half asleep I wait for the latitude to change from N to S on the GPS. I give
the Poseidon a gift; last pack of cookies and a can of pineapples, my favorite desert. In the incoming gusts I take another reef in the mainsail and crawl back to at least drier if not more comfortable interior of the boat. At dawn the wind dropped and while shaking the reef out I find a very bad surprise. My new molded solent, built in Trilam technology (similar to North 3DL or D4) completely disintegrated along the top shaping seam, about one meter below the top. Goddamit!!!,We are sailing
upwind with no/destroyed solent and still 950nm to the finish. I am completely devastated, knowing that I just lost one of the most important sails. My morale, already low because of the bad position, never ending thunderstorms and uncomfortable upwind conditions, did not only hit the rock bottom, but even started to dig. After one of the biggest mental crises and some very dark moments I realized that if not the only way home, then surely the fastest one is getting to Salvador, Brazil as
quickly as possible - so I pick myself together. I write on the boat: "there are no problems, only solutions" and start repairing the sail. After 7 hour cursing marathon with a sticky Dacron, thread and a needle I manage to hoist the sail, but the next morning I need to repair repairs, since the membrane is not offering any support and the seams are just pulling through. I remember an advice from a friend who used the same trick on an Open 60 and glue the sticky Dacron on the structurally
most critical parts with a Sikaflex 292. I still can´t load the sail at 100%; but at least the repairs are holding. Fortunately after 2 days the wind starts to back and after another two days of wet and wild reaching while dodging the thunderstorms, the wind suddenly backs and we are under the spinnaker again.
During the descent along the Brazilian coast I opt for a more offshore route, judging by weather forecast and my African experience with fluky winds, hoping
for stronger and more stable conditions. This time I was right and in the last days daily averages grow close to 200nm per day. Distance to the finish is becoming more tolerable and slowly you get a very weird sensation. On one side you are happy to finish this race but on the other side, you try to enjoy the last moments of this however hard, but unique experience. After the last gibe, I storm towards a cape, marking the entrance to the bay of Salvador de Bahia about 130nm away. In the late
afternoon I turn the cape and have to do the last gibe of the race, but somehow I manage to mess it up completely. Spinnaker pole collapses to leeward, spinnaker ends in the water with its top firmly wrapped around the forestay… just like in a book. Fortunately there is no one in sight and the wind heads up making the last miles to the finish a tight fetch. A bit later I was welcomed by a yacht with friends and some RiBs from organizers, who escort me for the last mile. Finally we cross the
line and the whistle marks the end of sleeping with the eyes half open, end of wet clothes and sore ass; a whistle that means I will eat a steak for dinner instead of freeze dried food and that there will be some beer for tonight… Joel ,the Classe Mini measurement guy, climbs on board with a cold beer for me, checking the seals on batteries and raft. Full of impressions I find myself on the pontoon, where the crowd of my fellow competitors awaits me, cheering. Chocolate Rosie offers a
capirinha and before you can say to her " and how are you doin´? " you are seized by the hooligan crowd and promptly thrown in the sea. The welcome ritual is then followed by a shower and a dinner, where true to my tradition I fall asleep at a table. Transat650 which started its journey as a completely crazy idea 4 years ago, finally reached its end. At least for now…