Caribbean 600 out of my personal angle.
It´s Sunday 6/3 and I have reluctantly begun to land mentally. Trying to
return to the everyday life, start working end enter the routines of an
“ordinary life”. But thoughts constantly go back to Antigua and I warn you, don´t
say yes to go sailing in the Caribbean without thinking twice, it´s very
addictive and abstinence is difficult when you come home! It´s a very surreal
feeling to sit here and write.
Because a few days ago I sailed in 30 degrees, wearing nothing but shorts and sunscreen, and when I look outside now everything is covered with snow and the heat in paradise seems light years away.
But as Kjell Höglund sang, you get used to it..
I arrived in Guadeloupe Tuesday 16/2 and was picked up at the airport by Mikael Ryking and Kate. Kate Moore is from England, she´s only 22 years old but has gone Yacht master Ocean and works for the Sailing Company Girls for sails.
The first that hits you when you step out of the airport is the heat. It´s like getting a soaking warm towel slapped in the face. Guadeloupe is French region located in the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean. They don´t speak a lot of English which makes everything difficult and you´re very limited if you don´t know French.
The next day, there’s much to be done. The boat is to be lifted for washing and a long list of things to be fixed will be ticked off. It´s growing fast in the hot water and we´re actually picking oysters off the keel! Both rudders broke during the race across the Atlantic and Ryking had a local restore what was left of the remains. But the result was far from 100% an untrained eye could easily spot the faults and flaws of the repair and see the asymmetric shape of the rudders. But it was a short notice repair and we'll make the best of what we have and sail with it as it is.
I like to repair things and I took on to fix the water leaks from tank
hatches to the water ballast tanks. Facing the Atlantic race they mounted these
as instructed from a surveyor. I discovered cracks in the mounting frame and from
the judge of that there is pressure from a rubber o-ring that caused it to
crack. I´ll remove the o-ring and seal it with sikaflex.
There was also a trip up the mast for a replacement of the VHF cable etc. It´s not nearly as scary to sit 16 meters up the mast and work like going up the Cheetah's 11 meter mast. Talanta is steady as a rock!
Thursday 18/2, we leave Guadeloupe for transport sailing to Antigua and
I get a feel of the boat for the first time. We have the wind to port and I can
feel that the rudders are bad, the boat will bear away, but like I said it's
just getting used to, we have no alternative.
It feels unreal to be able to sit in shorts and sail in February, and when you get a water shower it dries up quickly and isn´t as cold compared to home...
It´s approximately 90 Nm to Antigua and it becomes dark before we
arrive. Despite the darkness I’m astounded over all the mega yachts located in
the port. There are boats I have only seen in pictures before and the total
capital of these boats is completely way off, it must be billions rather than
millions. And most of them lie empty with a stand by crew who maintains the
yacht, waiting for the owner to get a whim to visit.
We arrive at the dock and tied up the boat, I thought we were off to
find a hostel and get some sleep, but the others had another idea. There was partying
going on everywhere and Kate wanted to go to her friends on the boat Hotstuff,
Girls for sails and suddenly, going to a hostel was out of the question..
The party went on into the early hours and we ended up at one the “smaller” yachts at the Nelson dockyard and got a glimpse of the luxury life.
Friday started out better than we anticipated! All three of us were in decent shape, surprisingly enough. Much of the day went to clear the boat in the country, and the 10 people who worked there liked to exercise their authority. In the afternoon Jesper Hoffstedt and Karl Ljungstedt came along and thus the crew was complete. The sun went down at 6 o'clock and it quickly becomes dark and too difficult to work, so it was a quick shower and out for a bite to eat.
But first Ryking invited the crew from Hotstuff over for a drink. Great
atmosphere with 16 persons in the cockpit at Talanta!
Hotstuff is a First 40.7 and had quite a mixed crew from different parts of the world. I learned that it was the company Girls for sails who arranged it and each one of the girls had bought a ticket for the race. In any case, they should get an award for the best partying!
Saturday was training day and it was the first time we all sailed together. Jesper, Kalle and Ryking had sailed before but Kate and I were new to the crew. I felt kind of lost in the beginning since there were so many adjustments made for shorthanded racing, a sock for the genaker for example. But I felt right at home soon since the boat behaves pretty much like the cheetah although Talanta is a lot stiffer and everything is bigger and heavier.
Sunday was devoted to more preparation. The food storage must be
reviewed and many things were to be examined. Ryking replaced a computer
screen, but it turned out to interfere with the AIS and he had to improvise
with a makeshift shielding using aluminum foil. And I had to take on the
inspection hatches again. The repair I made in Guadeloupe turned out to not
hold and when I tested to put weight on the hatch frame it broke into small
pieces! How on earth can something so poorly made be allowed to be produced?? I
spent the morning trying to find materials for a repair, and finally I got a small
piece of fiberglass laminate from the boat Velsheda.
Okay then, I´ll have to laminate it myself! I took a taxi to the local shop and bought some more plastic & fiberglass. When I started I thought it would harden with lightning speed and was very careful with hardener, which resulted in it not hardening at all. I had to discard the first try and start over. Apparently it was a slow mixture for the local climate, it took way longer to harden even though I mixed it accordingly, and it resulted in not having enough time to change it before the race. It would have to do the way it was and we crossed our fingers it would hold!
Monday 22/2 Race start!
We went out to get a last feel of the boat one and a half hour before take-off. Ran a few tacks and made sure the trim was right, and then the time came to find the gate we had to pass with all crew on deck wearing life jackets and safety harness. But where was it?? We searched the nearby waters without any luck. And it turned out to be outside the port we came from!!
Now we´re in a real hurry, full engine all the way back! But it´s way
longer than you think and the time is ticking faster than we´re sailing. When
we finally get there we receive an ok and we turn back with maximum speed
towards the starting line, and we ran the engine for as long as we were allowed,
but we didn´t quite make it in time. When the start went we were about 30
seconds away, but got off really well compared to the others in the class and
didn´t suffer that much.
we´re doing well and we keep up with the other boats. The larger boats that started after us were beginning to catch up and it didn´t take long before we were overtaken by the Comanche. Jeez that boat is big and fast! It seems like their speed is twice compared to our 8 knots... Phones go hot and there were a lot of selfies taken with the Comanche in the background. When we round the South-East corner of Antigua it opens up and it's time to hoist the largest genaker of about 184 m2. We hoist the genaker with the sock on and the jib still up, and this probably shows the lack of training because it caused a lot of trouble when we tried to pull the sock up. The whole sock had been thrown around itself and we had to reconnect, which was the reason why the sock was jammed at the first try.
When we finally got it in order, the competitor N ° 98, Creno Moustache Solidaire (hence forward referred to as Moustache) had overtaken us with a couple of hundred meters. No. 123 and Tales II seemed to already be in a different class and was already a distance ahead of us, but we kept up with the others.
After our first eight hour shift had ended we tried to get some sleep.
But just as I was falling asleep,
it was all crew on deck to switch Genaker. And I can tell you, you´re not the brightest when you´re dazed on deck trying to comprehend what´s going on and what your part of it is! The change was not the world's fastest, but soon it was done. Unfortunately, there was a 5 meter long tear in the bottom of the genaker, but it didn´t look as if we would need it for a long time. Night became day and one watch relieved another and so it went.
At the afternoon Jesper and I took on to tape the broken genaker.
To get away from the wind and saltwater, we stood in the hub site in probably 35 Celsius and taped it centimeter by centimeter and one of the issues was trying not to soak the genaker with all the sweat that literally ran from our bodies, but it was important to have it ready just in case.
To sleep down in the boat during the day was not an easy task. The best
place was on top of all the sails in the windward but in such a small space,
the air stands still and it easily becomes claustrophobic and the sweat runs
all the time. Strangely, I fell asleep and got a few hours of well needed
Saint Martin was the most northern part of the track and then a 180 Nm long stretch bow down to Guadeloupe awaited, now it was all about keeping the speed of the boat and let one watch relieve another.
Me and Jesper entered the watch and we had Guadeloupe to port and the competitor Moustache a few distance ahead closer to land. They had managed to pass us during the night's reach.
The wind had increased during the night and the watch before us had to take a reef in main, but it was taken out when we got up. Maybe it's our dodgy rudders that slowed us down, maybe other factors. Just as we came out to the South of Guadeloupe the wind suddenly turned about 30 degrees and we were quick to tack on it and got a great lift to the next mark. The competitor Moustache was too slow to react and when the wind had turned back and we tacked back with it, we had won about a distance on them -Yes!!
A watch later when we got up, we had tacked and were headed towards a
small island called
"La Desirade" East of Guadeloupe about 55 distances away. Moustache is beside us a distance up at starboard and is thus ahead of us. Me and Jesper looked at them and we decide to give everything we had to take them. We trimmed the jib and main to try to get better speed and height, slowly we began to almost imperceptibly, close in on them, millimeter by millimeter and as we approached the island they were actually a couple of distance behind us, it felt so damn good, the satisfaction!
It´s approximately 95Nm northwards to the next mark. Ryking has a
decision to make regarding the next leg, he has to choose between the mid-size
genaker or the A5? After a bit of discussion we agree on the larger. After
hoist, we leave our watch. The wind is moderate, around 8-9 m/s and the speed
is around 10-14 knots. Everything feels completely drama free and we´re not thinking
about much other than to get something in our stomachs and a few hours of
Jesper wakes me and it feels like I´d only slept for about fifteen
minutes. I can hear we´re going much faster now and the boat heels pretty
worrying at times. At the same time as the wind is wailing and the boat is heeling,
so you could hear a whining, hissing sound, and I realize that it's the rudder
cavitating, at 20 knots speed, the water refuses to let go when it hits the
rudder with an excessive angle and it creates underpressure at the suction side
of the rudder getting water to cook without being warm and it´s when the microscopic
steam blisters implode that the familiar worrying sound emerge.
In other words, it is near to a broach.
The feeling when I´m drowsy and trying to cook coffee and eat cereals
with milk at the same time as Kalle and Kate are doing their best to keep
speeds over 20 knots, It gets me the shivers down my spine, some kind of euphoria went through me. Pure
bliss! To be a part of this is something I've dreamed of since I saw my first
Whitbread video for almost 20 years ago.
I give Jesper a cup and when mine is empty I get up and take a seat next
to Kalle to get in the helming. The speed is over 22 knots at times and the
rudders whine loudly when the strongest wind try to wrestle the boat, but a Pogo 40 are gruesomely form
stable and with 300 liters of water in the tank she´s an express train who eats
a gruesome amount of distance. But my references from the Cheetah doesn´t work
at all here. The Cheetah is much weaker and can´t carry the same amount of
healing power as
the Pogo, with the result that I steered far too nicely and we lost both height and speed.
I must focus all my thoughts on to actively resisting the reflexes from
how the Cheetah reacts to defy my basic instincts and dare to sail with more
inclination, finally I´m approaching the same speed and height as Kalle! The
adrenaline rush!! Imagine the following: you see nothing of the sea in front of
the boat despite the full moonlight, you´re frequently sprayed saltwater that
finds its way into everything, my eyes hurts from time to time by all the salt,
and the boat forces itself through the waves. What an ocean racing machine this
is!! I broached once and I shouted to the others to hold on, used to the
cheetah's behavior, with the mast horizontally along the water. But nothing
happens, the Pogo slides a little, the genaker flaps, you steer down and start
over again, what? Was that a broach??
I let Jesper take over after an hour and I can feel right away that he´s much more confident in the way he steers. Well that was a self-confidence turner!
Our competitor Moustache actually passed us at starboard during this leg, but they soon fell down and dropped off. They probably they went with the larger genaker and when the wind increased they couldn´t carry it and had to change because we passed them just prior to rounding. 90 Nm flies in this speed and it was soon time to round second-to-last mark up at Barbuda. We sock down and gybe, and up with the sock again. Soon, we are up in the same speeds again but the rudder is not nearly as good on this leg..
It´s mine and Jespers watch. Kate, Charlie and Ryking went down for a
well-deserved rest. Suddenly I heard shocked screams from Kate and I was afraid
for a moment that she had burned herself on boiling water or something, but it was
"just" the temporary inspection hatch cover which collapsed and
suddenly released 300 liters of salt water over poor Kate who was far gone in
deep sleep at the time, Surprise!!
The broken hatch!
In 10 hours we had sailed 135 Nm and we closed in on the final mark, a small island named Redonda. Pointy like a cotton candy cane. We agreed that we should take advantage of the shelter behind the island to haul down the genaker, we waited until we noticed that the wind started to get worried. Me and Jesper are on the foredeck. We prepare to sock down and were just about to pull it down into the bow hatch, but nothing happens when Ryking unlocks the winch on the mast?? Damn it! The cover over the halyard had broken and got caught in the rope clutch! I jump down through the bow hatch and just as I had tied down the sock the boat suddenly heels the wrong way, what now?? I go through the boat up to the cockpit and discover that we are being sucked towards the island by powerful wind swirls on the back of the island. Hell, you don´t want to end up smashing the side of the island filled with sharp pointy rocks! Things just intensified!
Ryking shouts: -tape! I hurry down in a stressed search for the toolbox, quickly out again with the tape. Kalle and Kate are trying to get the boat to sail, but the main is hard in the middle and makes it impossible to get the boat moving. When we finally manage to release the mainsheet the runner was withholding it, quickly, release it! It´s with a relief sigh we finally start to move away from the rocks.
Under great pressure, Ryking manages to tape the cover and get it into
the rope clutch so the genaker could come down and we could close the hatch and
start sailing again. Puh, the sweat flows and I feel like a hunted wet cat. I get
off the watch and try to sleep, but it´s really a hard upwind now and it's my
turn to sleep in bow pulpit, but it is quite impossible, to lighten from the
bunk in each wave, landing hard. There is only one place were sleep is possible
in these conditions, the downward bunk bed. Reluctantly I lay down, this is not
optimal for the boat speed, but I must get some sleep...
Jesper wakes me again. It´s bright outside, I boil some coffee and eat some dry bread with ham. What would I do without coffee, it's a really kick starter for me!
It´s 20Nm left to finish and a beautiful morning. Moustache is an hour behind us and we just need to maintain our position between them and the finish line.
At 8.42, we cross the finish line in second place in our class, Classe 40. A thrill goes through the body, what a feeling! And it's relieving to have completed the race but at the same time that it feels like we could have continued on much longer, it works really well with the four-hour shifts.
On the bridge deck, people from the organizer greeted us with beer and we were photographed with the banner on the boat. I felt pretty damn good to be received in that way and cleaver of them to photograph us with the banner, skillful marketers!
Awards ceremony and farewell party. What an event they have arranged! A large screen with highlights from the race before the ceremony begins. It was grand! The mayor and his wife and a representative from the island's government handed out the prices and there was a handsome gentleman in military uniform just behind them.
It feels so good that this trip was a real success and went so well, it can´t be taken for granted that a group of people can fit and work together when you never have sailed together before, but everyone showed their best sides and gave their everything even when there was no energy left.
Thanks to all the Talanta crew for an unforgettable experience!
And how did it go for Hotstuff, girl boat from Girls for sails, then? Well they completed despite many setbacks, seasickness and many unexperienced sailors on board, and I must say I'm impressed! Many would have given up in their situation. They crossed the finish line after the ceremony had ended after five-and-a-half days sailing, but got a receiving of a champion with cheers and ovations, and as they partied we followed! It was rocking with dance and party until early morning...