Final RNI 2014 results: Blink first overall (Line Honours)
Blink was fastest boat around the NI in total elapsed time. Initially we had thought we were pipped in overall standings by Bushido in RNI 2014 but we weren't as we sailed faster (and longer) in the RNI. Bushido led us to this finish line in the final leg, this came down to headsail handling problems affecting us in the last beat to windward in winds up to 48 knots (90 kph) and ~4m waves.
Blink is a faster boat than Bushido, but our inexperience with getting the best out of her - a result of the inevitable problems with a brand new design meaning we had minimal 2-handed practice and only had her properly ready and available for racing for just over 2 months pre-RNI - combined with the Bushido team sailing so very very well, kept them in the game. Bushido nailed their sail changes, tactics etc. pretty much all the way around. They were clever enough at the corners and strategically to always stay in touch, and when we had problems they could catch us.
And extra respect to Wayne for (via the grapevine) wanting no part of some seriously poor sportsmanship in the last weeks leading up to the race.
I've lots of thoughts / notes, photos, some video to post which I'll get around to posting soon. Not as much as you'd think of video and pics, though... Between sailing the boat as fast as we could, some proper sleep deprivation, trying to work out tactics etc, the prior intention to take lots of pics/vids faded into the background a bit .
And the way the SIs were written the only penalty available to the race committee was disqualification. So not worth mixing it up on the start line.
rpowered and hadn't realised. Back in the lead.
Rob had experience of several races with varied results from both, we decided to go inside (2-sail reaching again) while Bushido kept their code 0 on and went outside. You can see on the track that despite the higher angle and no code sail we didn't lose any ground here.
Leg 2 Mangonui - WellingtonThis started in really light wind and rain, this time the conservative start hurt us more since it was so hard to get going. eventually we emerged in the front part of the fleet but Bushido had an excellent start and had a good 500m lead on us in very little wind. (blink highlighted in this screen shot)
Bushido were on the wrong side of a very obvious port-starboard incident pre-start. I was told that a protest was initiated but with the possible consequences of a protest committee decision against them (disqualification from the whole race) the protestor decided to make a gentleman's agreement to have the Bushido team give the race committee some rum and for Bushido to do a 720 just after the restart in Wellington... in my view a wholly reasonable approach given the nature and spirit of the RNI.
Coming up to Cape Karikari, there was a decision to make: do we bear away and lose the height we'd gained, to go between the island and the cape, or do we go around the outside.
At the time we had to make the decision, we were laying around the island so we elected to keep our height, Bushido had reached down to go through the gap, so we figured a gain to us. Wrong. We got headed, had to make two tacks to get around, and Bushido hooked into new, stronger, lifted breeze while we wallowed, adding a couple of miles to their previously eroded lead.
It took all the way to North Cape to catch up again. In a big hole just north of the cape we ghosted past north of Bushido, looking for a bit of breeze to tack in and head for Cape Reinga. Both of us tacked in no wind, and then it filled in at 12-15 knots from the south. Bushido were off, powered up, while we waited. Again.
However, on the tight reach to Reinga in 20-25 knots, we had the right sails on and Blink was just too fast and we overtook them too leeward before heading out west to pick up the predicted west shift in the 25-knot southwesterly.
We went out the furthest, sailing too far into the shift ...
So when we eventually tacked, not only had most of our lead gone again, but we were too far into the high pressure centre, and in less pressure than the boats inside us. So Bushido were again able to keep up.
We gybed back in towards Bushido in light air, as there was a lot of north in the wind direction where we were, and the other gybe was taking us to Tasmania which seemed wrong. We didn't see Bushido here, had no idea where they were, but they apparently saw us.
Approaching Taranaki, there was a big forecast for further south, so we set up the storm jib on deck figuring that if Cook Strait and Stephens forecast included 40 knots then the south coast would be 50 or so.
We 2-sail reached in 30-40 knots in big rolling waves. We rarely dropped below 16 knots of boat speed, but didn't get much above 20. It was great fun, scooting around and over big waves, I took some video which I'll upload later. It was easy and seemed really fast. What we didn't know was that Bushido were have a white knuckle ride with a fractional code 0 up, peaking at 27 knots. They averaged just over 1 knot faster than us over 7 hours, so there went our 6-mile lead that we'd re-established and they'd overtaken us.
When we eventually realised, we put up a FR0 as well. Which was revelatory - several knots faster, just as easy, why didn't we do this hours ago? Just not enough experience with the boat ...
So then we were catching up, reasonably fast. But was it fast enough to be sure of a win? Maybe, maybe not. We'd be sure of overtaking and a comfy win if we could peel to our A6 kite from the FR0. It was getting dark, but be decided it was probably worth a go, other boats far enough back that we weren't going to come third even if we had a major catastrophe.
Which we did. The biggest foredeck mess I've ever seen, that all resulted from mistakenly running one kite sheet under a furling cable. Within minutes were were broaching and flogging both the A6 and the FR0. Together, the A6 and FR0 managed to decrease the amount of flogging by wrapping around things. Dropping the A6 resulted in the un-tensioned torsion cable grabbing and holding lots of nearby rope into a bundle. Eventually, after an exhausting struggle in the dark, we got to bareheaded, but then had all halyards except the staysail halyard in some lovely macrame at the top of the forestay. So the best headsail we could hoist was the storm jib. Bushido beat us to Wellington comfortably.
Leg 3 Wellington - NapierAgain, a conservative start in a mild southerly. Regular Wellington sailors know that in a southerly it's a big, usually unwise gamble to head out of the inner harbour from high up on the line, but this is exactly what most of the out-of-town boats did with great success. So our conservative (again) start at the leeward end of the line left us well behind leaving the harbour.
And then, like many other boats, we parked up at Palliser in a big wind hole and adverse tide. Bushido slowed down but somehow sneaked through and got away, their stern light disappearing over the horizon. We were passed by several other boats too at this point, big lead for Bushido over the rest of the fleet.
We eventually got going again, but well behind. We knew there was going to be a left shift in the 30-knot northeasterly breeze about lunchtime so went out well offshore for it, hoping that Bushido hadn't done the same, or that our slightly better upwind speed would help to regain some of that lost ground.
That worked out well. Now we had Bushido in sight, tucked away a couple of miles behind, but knew that we couldn't afford to make any mistakes or they'd likely catch up again.
But this time we got everything right, recognised an opportunity to use our masthead gear to claw our way back out into breeze as it died out inshore
Resulting in a second win to Blink by a huge margin, 2-1.
Leg 4 Napier - AucklandAnother light air start. Bushido again with a good start, Blink again conservative. We had overtaken by Mahia peninsula but as the headwind got up to high 20s we needed to change to the #4 jib. This used a neat system that worked well fully crewed but really wasn't great for short-handed. Biggest single problem was some inevitable flogging which this time pulled through the starboard sheet and flogged it into a football-shaped knot with the port one. This immediately made both sails untrimmable, and they flogged horribly while we tried to cope. I ended up cutting through the ball of tightly wound rope (not fast, took a long time despite a sharp knife) and we lost our two jib sheets. During this time we wer stalled while lots of the fleet passed us. Eventually we got going again...
We stayed in the lead up to East Cape
But some clever handling of the rounding of East Cape by Bushido meant we were exchanging the lead again, including digging well into Hick's Bay and having a worrying encounter with a fishing boat.
Then the hard call for the leg - when to tack towards the northwest in the developing header. In our case it was just after White Island. Perfectly timed for us, not so for Bushido
So by the time we got to the Mercury Islands, we built a 8 nm lead which due to an imperfect choice of line through the Mercury Islands (too high and too slow to get to the 'hole in the wall', should have stayed at full speed and taken a lower line as Bushido did) we'd had slip to about 6nm.
We were expecting 25-30 knots on the nose as we rounded Cape Colville on the final beat to Auckland and the finish line, but it was instead mid-30s, then built to low 40s and we saw some 48-knot blasts. I was amazed at how big the waves had become given the limited fetch.
This is when we started to suffer - with our previous headsail issues we'd gone to bareheaded and the #4 tied down. We were doing 8 knots upwind at a low angle. We didn't know Bushido were close, we'd last seen them some distance behind, so in the severe weather decided to take a conservative approach and head for a more sheltered approach to Auckland as we were rather than trying to hoist a storm sail. It's apparent from the tracker that Bushido were pointing much higher than us here, taking our lead away fast.
By the time we realised our lead had gone and we had to set something up front, we elected for a storm sail. But out previous problems at Mahia now started to add up and this was a very slow and difficult setup that also effectively removed the possibility of changing back to the #4 (which was also falling apart).
That was pretty much the leg for us, we had to hold our storm jib to the finish even as the wind started to drop to more sensible numbers. Bushido got to the line before us by 12 minutes.