As the breeze picked up and the TWA looked a bit wider, we thought it could be convivial to try a different sail combination to the J2, out came the FRO. Craig Shearer has a fascination with the FRO and at every opportunity an enthusiastic “time for the FRO” would belt out from the nav station after watching the wind clock to the right direction (or so we thought). Up it went and we made good speeds (circa 19 knots) , but towards Noumea. No good. Take it down and tie it down on deck for later. This occurred three times during the entire race until the crew belted out to Craig “NO FRO BRO”.
Two and a half days into the race, we lost our wifi connection and GPS puck - we hadn't anticipated quite how wet everything would be after a couple of days, huge amounts of spray and occasional solid water across the deck, and small leaks here and there that don't matter on short races, plus condensation inside all started to add up. This meant that while we could plot our own course manually, we couldn’t plot where everyone else was, nor could we download new forecasts This was both exciting and disconcerting as we had some unfinished business with Crusader and wanted to know where they were. We thought our approach of staying east would mean the boats that had gone more west, would end up with more wind on the nose. We consoled ourselves with this possibility and continued to sail the boat hard, taking out reefs, putting them back in, reefing the J2 to the J3, shaking the reef out, putting it back in etc. Not the most exciting of sail wardrobes but we made decent speeds just cracked off (10-15 knots most of the time).
The wind was somewhere between 20 knots and 45 knots for the entire race except for a couple of light patches that were rather frustrating. Sea state somewhere between 2 and 4 meters depending on the wind - usually around the 4m mark. What we were most impressed with as we usually sail in the Cook Strait and Wellington Harbour where the water is cold, is the warmth of the sea. And it got warmer as we approached Fiji. This was rather a bonus given we were continually wet for the entire race where the only respite of dry and clean clothes lasted about 2 hours on the off watch about two days into the race until the wet weather gear had to come back on for the next watch. The angle of the boat was unrelenting for any hot food preparation (we had two hot meals where we risked life and limb to boil water). Using the heads was a mission (bilge water in a bucket or have a crew member catch a wave for you as the water intake was well, out of the water). Getting around the boat was a mission too and two of our crew (Kimmy and Colty) on two separate occasions took a fall onto the gimbled stove resulting in bruising for Kimmy and Colty splitting his head open (Vesna most disappointed not to deploy the stapler as it was marginal whether it needed it). One of our kettles didn’t make both of those falls. 100 miles south of Fiji we encountered a colossal wave. Colty was driving and said in a rather fractious tone “big wave”. The wave was enourmous and breaking. It knocked Blink sideways violently enough that the crew on their off watch woke up and thought we had hit something. No injuries and no damage - just a reminder of how unpredictable the sea is.
One day into the race, we were reassured when Crusader were also doing the same thing while the rest of the fleet where somewhere between us both and the rhumb line.
At Port Denerau we received the most incredible reception, all rather humbling and delightful. A wonderful race, well organised, and all credit to our great crew who are nice, competent, adventurous people and who care about each other and have a winning streak.
Results were 3rd on Line, 2nd on IRC and 3rd on PHRF. We also received the Vonu Trophy donated by the Muirs of Wellington for NZ design and build. A superb trophy to receive with Craig Partridge, our great boat builder, on board. A wonderful few days followed in Port Denerau with VC Paul Atkins and Matt Perry joining us to celebrate and then help Gordy and Craig Shearer sail Blink home.
As we write this, Blink is nearing the top of the North Island and heading down the west coast shortly back to her home port of Welly.
Update 22 June: nearly 8 days after leaving Denarau, Craig, Gordie, Matt P and Paul A get Blink safely back to Wellington