James Hardiman is sailing the Azores And Back race (AZAB). Now in Ponta Delgado, he can tell the first part of his story:
All went well in the race – generally we had a really pleasing result for 2 corinthian sailors up against some seriously experienced ocean racers. We pushed hard for 9 days, not relenting once. Had a few boat breakages but all is well. The boat is Swedish – so strongly built! I now feel very tired after 9 days and 9 nights of no sleep, bad food and living at 45 degree angle in a wet and noisy, slamming hell hole! (Boat slams against waves as you try to sleep).
Each night I managed about 2 hrs max. The whole boat is soaked and I have lost a lot of electrical equipment due to flooding from general wave ingress, so we have a lot of drying to do. We finally finished at 08.18 this am to a gun and small welcome committee in Porto Delgada. We were the 17th to finish, but are currently 18th on the leader board after handicap. This may change.
I am proud to say we were the first ‘cruiser/racer’ boat to arrive – all other boats here before us are true race machines.
We have had an eventful race to say the least, here’s a round up:
1. The start was fretful as I had to go up the mast twice to untangle lines (halyards) only 10 mins before our start gun in Falmouth. Incidentally, I believe there are good photos of our boat at the start on the azab website. Professional photos – so they would be better to use. We will pay for them so order shat you need and bill them to us.
2. Nevertheless we got a good start and were still 3rd boat in class over the line!
3. The first leg was windward and in lovely sunshine and light winds. That evening we sadly discovered that our entire fresh water supply had leaked and we had only about 20 litres remaining from our 165l tank. Not good. We then set about tipping all our wine and spirits down the sink to bottle up what water remained in the tank. I even filled the saucepans and left them on the gimballed stove so they wouldn’t spill. Every available container was used!
4. That night the wind increased but it was pleasant sailing. The next day we were 11th in the whole field due to a good nights run but we soon lost that becasue we took a line to the Azores straight through two low pressure weather systems and had a bit of a beating. Most other boats skirted round the lows and did better in the end!
5. Another main event was our Autopilot broke on day 3. This is quite serious because then it meant we had to hand steer all the way and take 2-3 hr watches, dep on weather. So the whole race has been hard. Other boats (3 I believe) actually retired with similar auto pilot (self steering) problems so it gives you an idea of the problem
6. Next problem was in a big windy night we lost the sail (a halyard broke and down it came). That took us over an hour to sort at 2am in wind and rain – Not nice.
7. Day 4 we were surfing at over 17 knots (which is a lot) and feels like a total sleigh ride! It was shortly after that when we nearly hit a whale. Bigger than theboat! That really shook us up. If you hit one of those poor beasts at that speed (or any speed) damage to the boat is often catastrophic. We would have perhaps lost the vessel, so it was a sobering experience.
8. Day 5 was horrid – we lost all wind after a force 7 (yachtsmans gale as some call it). So from 30kts + to 0kts – a massive contrast. No wind might sound sublime but it is a sailors nightmare. Slapping sails means the boat rolls and is so heart numbing when racing.
9. As if it couldn’t get worse, after another good run and a forecast finish position of 11th – we then hit more high pressure and a massive wind hole for almost 12 hours! We slipped to something like 43rd position as other boats had taken a different course to avoid this high. We blundered into it – and deserved it!
10. We then got the tail end of another low and had a downwind ride at good speed to regain a high leader board position – back to the top of the fleet again!
11. Alas worse was to come. When we finally sighted the Azores it was a happy moment after 8 days at sea. The sun shone and the end was nigh. However we got too close to the east side of the island as we were rounding it to finish on the southern side. We (and 3 other boats) sat in a wind shadow of the island for another half day (12 hrs). At 2am this morning I had more flapping sails and spirits so low. The wind finally kicked in at about 6am and we finished the last 15 miles or so under spinnaker (big yellow one) and good boat speed. iGOSKi was flying! In fact so fast we had to round up and douse all sails just before the line so as not to wipe out the welcome boat!
12. Now: We have lots of boat repairs and the good people at Arcona in Hamble will help us sort of steering probem. The boat needs serious drying out and I must catch up on work. 9 days before the return leg to sleep, eat and repair!
To support James’s AZAB challenge visithttp://www.sail4cancer.org/JamesAzab2011