MORE TRANSATLANTIC 2015

The remark at the end by Robin Knox-Johnson about having crossed the ocean 6 times with one of his crew. I have had the great privilege of having made 5 crossings with Jack Cummiskey, 3 with Larry Huntington. And crossings with so many of the other competitors; being that this was my 9th.
I am 8 years younger than Robin but Perhaps my last? Who knows.

FASTNET RACE AUGUST 2015

Made famous by the 1979 tragedy, however the 1957 race was just as hard. Truly one of my favorite races as there are many tide gates and turns; a real challenge.

THE JOY OF SAILING
THE JOY OF SAILING

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FASTNET ROCK
FASTNET ROCK

CARINA 1971

THEY WAY WE WERE STEPHEN LIRAKIS, JACK CUMMISKEY, MARTHA SMITH, RICHARD B. NYE, CHRIS WICK
THEY WAY WE WERE
STEPHEN LIRAKIS, JACK CUMMISKEY, MARTHA SMITH, RICHARD B. NYE, CHRIS WICK

 

A recent post by Ian Walker about a visit from the New “Queen Elizabeth” while crossing the Atlantic to Newport in preparation for the next Volvo race reminded me of our past encounters with the “France”, and the “Queen Elizabeth II”; in each case they passenger ships altered course to come by and chat with us.

As indicated by the log entries we were far enough north that it was almost always damp and cold. Martha Smith, was our cook for the crossing and somehow imagined it would be much warmer and packed a bikini.

milbay docks (3)

AIR TEMP: 50 WATER TEMP: 48 CABIN TEMP: 55
AIR TEMP: 50
WATER TEMP: 48
CABIN TEMP: 55
LOG ENTRY QE II
LOG ENTRY QE II
MARTHA SMITH DRESSED FOR A TRANS-ATLANTIC CROSSING
MARTHA SMITH DRESSED FOR A TRANS-ATLANTIC CROSSING
QUEEN ELIZABETH COMES ALONGSIDE FOR A CHAT MID-OCEAN
QUEEN ELIZABETH COMES ALONGSIDE FOR A CHAT MID-OCEAN
STEVE COLGATE AND LARRY HUNTINGTON
STEVE COLGATE AND LARRY HUNTINGTON
AGROUND
AGROUND
ME AT THE HELM CROSSING PROSPECT
ME AT THE HELM CROSSING PROSPECT

SEAMANSHIP AT SEA

June 25, 2014

All Possible Assistance: A Classic Escorts a Competitor to Safety

 

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Black Watch is hard to slow down, but she had to do it during her unusual assignment in the 2014 Bermuda Race. (Daniel Forster/PPL)

By John Rousmaniere and Chris Museler

Hamilton, Bermuda, June 25.  With their big fleets, Newport Bermuda Races usually have a few retirements. This year is no exception, with 10 teams dropping out mostly due to relatively small but nagging gear failures, constraints on the crew’s schedule, or (to quote one competitor) “lack of forward progress.”  But also this year, a threat of  serious damage led to an extraordinary response.

Halfway into the race, the bottom bearing of the rudder broke on the Taylor 41 Wandrian, a Class 3 entry hailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and sailed by Bill Tucker and eight other Canadian sailors. Tucker put a secondary “dam” in place to hold out the water.  The crew cut out the bottom of a bailing bucket, split the remaining bucket in two, secured the two pieces around the rudder post with 4200 adhesive, finished off the dam with silicone to fill remaining the cracks and holes—and crossed their fingers. The fiberglass tube holding the post might well shake so badly that it would crack wide open.

Taylor succinctly described the danger after the boat pulled up to the RBYC pier on Wednesday morning: “Our challenge was this: if the rudder post broke, we’d have a 6-inch hole in the bottom of the boat.” All this 300 miles from the nearest shore.

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Deciding to continue on to Bermuda and request assistance from another vessel, Tucker made calls over VHF radio at 12:30 p.m. EDT this past Sunday, June 22.  Due to a weak connection, the transmission was not ideal, but his message was heard by Rocket Science, a Class 4 entry owned and sailed by Rick Oricchio.  He then established a radio watch to check in regularly with Wandrian, and got in touch with the race’s Fleet Communications Office. Based in a room in the New York Yacht Club in Newport, and chaired by Newport Bermuda Race Communications Officer Chris McNally, the FCO maintains a continuous 24-hour watch on the race until after the last boat finishes, using radio and  the race tracker.

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Her details epitomize integrity. (John Rousmaniere)

As the FCO learned of Wandrian’s problems on Sunday afternoon, so did the crews of two other boats less than 5 miles away. They happened to be two classic wooden yachts designed by Sparkman & Stephens:  the 68-foot 1938 yawl Black Watch, commanded by John Melvin; and the 52-foot 1930 yawl Dorade, whose owner and skipper is Matt Brooks.

Black Watch’s afterguard—Melvin, navigator Peter Rugg, and watch captains Lars Forsberg and Jamie Cummiskey—decided that their larger vessel was best qualified to stand by and escort Wandrian to Bermuda. “If the boat has to be evacuated and someone else needs to take eight or nine people aboard, we should be there,” Rugg later explained. “This is the stuff that’s important to the sport.” Added Melvin, “Dorade came over when we came over, and we decided we were the better platform to take people off.” The decision to render all possible assistance to another vessel in difficulty came easily for Melvin, who well understood Wandrian’s situation: “I sailed a little Concordia yawl for a long time and I know what it’s like to have everybody pass you and leave you alone.”

Dorade continued racing while her big cousin began the voyage in her new role as Wandrian’s shadow.  The two crews engaged in hourly radio communications, with regular reports to the race Fleet Communications Office. Meanwhile, Black Watch’s sailors wrestled with an unfamiliar seamanship problem: how to sail slowly enough to shepherd a smaller boat. “In a good breeze, we can easily do 9 knots, even in rough water,” Rugg said after they reached Bermuda. “We spent a lot of time figuring out how to sail near her. We kept putting sails up and taking them down.”

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Back from the sea, Wandrian is also back to normal as she waits to be hauled in Bermuda. (Chris Museler)

Experimenting with sail combinations, they settled on a full or reefed mainsail, the mizzen, and a forestaysail that could be trimmed to windward to slow the boat by heaving-to.  The crew also employed the abrupt slowing maneuver called the “Crazy Ivan,” made famous by the film The Hunt for Red October.  In the frequent calms, the two boats doused headsails and turned on engines. The sight of two such different sailing yachts powering side by side so far out in the ocean befuddled their competitors.

This shepherd-and-sheep relationship continued until the two boats neared St. David’s Head in the early hours of Wednesday and Black Watch sailed across the finish line at 2:22 a.m. Wednesday morning, nearly two and a half days after her crew volunteered for this remarkable assignment.

Later on Wednesday, as Wandrian was being prepared to be hauled out for repairs, Tucker paused to point to Black Watch and declare, “They were our insurance policy.”

A WAY OF LIFE OCEAN RACING

A look back at the “Whitbread Around The World Race 1973-74”. I knew so many of the sailors and had been invited to sail the race myself; however life does not always follow our plans.
Life at sea is a way of life. The greatest change apart from the boats in the now “Volvo race” is perhaps the food. I used to say I ate better on a boat than I did at home. That is no longer the case.