18 days at sea
34foot of boat
The Cape to Rio Race started in Table bay on the 4th January with 36 entries. It was a sunny day with the table cloth rolling over the mountain from the west. We all new that we were in for a tough few days.
On board ISKAREEN we were a bit worried as the M34 was not really built to cross oceans but we had taken a extra caution in our preparations to make sure that we could survive the forecast. There was a cut off low forecast to cross over the fleet less than 24 hours after the start.
The M34 handled the conditions very well. There was a cross sea with 6 m waves and about 40 knots of wind but nothing too difficult. We made one bad call and that was sailing without a head sail for a few hours. The boat just slammed straight into the next wave but as soon as we put the next head sail up we were surfing nicely again as the bow lifted up and we had control of the helm. We did however do 19 knots with the main sail only. ISKAREEN loves to surf and in the big waves.
Several yachts retired in the storm. Our thoughts go to the sailors, families from yacht Bille who unfortunately lost a life. It is terrible being at sea and hearing about so many of your competitors who are in trouble or finding things difficult. They all remained in our thoughts.
After the storm we had a day to dry the boat out and do our routine check and fix a few things. Loic went up the rig to check everything and put new spreader patches on the main. We also put the fractional halyard back in as we had to cut it during a Chinese gybe in the storm. Soekne fixed a few electronic issues that we had. This took time and a lot of patience. We said to him that if couldn’t do it then it was not the end of the world as we had two spare GPS and paper charts.
The next few days were beautiful with waves coming over the deck. We sailed under the big kite and full mainsail. We had not seen anything for days, no rubbish, no bird life, no ships and no boats. It was amazing! I could not believe it. It was only after about 12 days at sea did we sea the first bird. I did see one or two albatrosses and spectacle petrels during the storm but nothing after that for at least 5 to 6 days. We saw dolphins once on the whole race as we approached Carbo Frio. I also thought that we would see more flying fish but they were rather scarce and had very few land in the deck. I am not sure why there was so little life… It really puzzles me.
After day 10 we had to start to be careful with ratios as we realised that it was going to take longer than expected as the high had cut us off and we were trying to continue to work our way north. Using the squalls and gybing on the shifts to work our way north. We had a mostly inshore sailors on the boat and we had to focus on the big picture and not gybe on the small shifts but wait until we were really in the shift before we gybed. Patience was key and watching the clouds. We all worked hard to make these decisions and sometimes it wasn’t easy when we were sailing on the road to Rio and the wave direction was making sailing the boat hard. It was very important for us to not follow the other boats as the high moved north. We had to sail north to stay in the breeze and keep the boat moving. I think the slowest we went before reached Carbo Frio was about 4 knots. We were very lucky that we never sat in a hole but also unlucky as we never got our mid Atlantic swim. We were racing and that’s what we had to focus on! “Sailing fast and be careful!” This was our race moto!
We continually had water maker problems which did effect our performance as we were often thirsty. The last 4 days we shared freeze dry packs with our watch partner. This was not ideal and perhaps we should have taken a bit more food!
Approaching the finish line was perhaps the hardest part of the race. We had run out of food and the water was very low so the crew where all really looking forward to their steak a shore but it was always going to be a difficult approach. The finish line is inside Rio harbour and the big mountains shadowed the wind which makes it very tricky. Soenke and I had been trying all day to get some tide information but were unsuccessful for various reasons. At 2130 local time the tide turned against us and the crews motivation dropped! There was no wind and maybe we should have been a bit more prepared for this situation!
Overall I think that the M34 handled the race very well and I know there are a few more times we could have made some better tactical moves but I am not sure we would have saved 12 hours to beat Scarlett Runner. Well done to all the boats that finished it was a tricky race and it certainly tested us all in many different ways.
A big thank to all our sponsors and race organisers. It is a fantastic race and hopefully we can get more international entries next time. It was a wonderful privilege to be the first South African in the rankings from one of the smallest boats.
It’s time to Thank everyone on board and involved:
To the crew:
Sandy, for inviting me in the first place! It was Sandy’s first Atlantic crossing and he kept us all on our toes with big dragons! Without Sandy I would never have done the race as
he asked me to join ISKAREEN! Big thanks!
Christian, your dedication to washing the freeze dry packs was incredible but more importantly your ….. To the water maker. We all really appreciated you concentrating so hard on making sure that we all had enough water!
Christiane, your ‘whoo hoo’ every time you popped your head up through the hatch and your positive out look on going faster!
Soenke, electronics, plumbing or whatever it was you were fixing it and sleeping was put on hold! But you do seem to be the cloud hunter and the speed king Mr President! Congratulations!!
Loic or better known as Looping but on board known as Loop Loop, thanks for being a awesome watch partner! We had some great times: trying to sail faster, water fights on almost every day time watch, the sun cream, night watches singing in the moon light … It was great fun and definitely made the whole race a big laugh!!
Christiane and Soenke thanks so much and a big thanks to your brother, Aant for the idea in the beginning!! It was a great race and I throughly enjoyed it!