Friday, 5 December 2014

Vestas: mistakes happen.......we only learned to walk by falling over many times

People and sailors around the world have to understand that the role of a navigator has changed drastically. Having been in the Nav seat so many times myself I have experienced a great change in the role a navigator now plays. Where it used to be a simple task of knowing where you were and how to get there. Now it has changed with an array of weather, tidal and performance data super imposed on a small screen leaving the navigator in a multitasking role. Swinging between performance management, basic navigation, meteorology and being the primary feed into tactical decisions. Imagine your screen cluttered with not only the winning routes and accompanying isochrones for your boat but also the weather grib-files, current grib-files and routing options for your opponents. Let alone the temptation to use the latest satellite image as a geo-referenced back ground map to see that all important cloud line. I've experienced myself more than once sense of drowning in data especially when tired. Before we judge and point with fingers have a look at this Volvo ocean race analysis and tell me........Can you see St Brandon's on the link below?

XP-act wins Middle Sea Race 2014 "Slow & Furious"

For most of us the Middle Sea Race stands out from other races for its great scenery and relatively calm weather. This year’s Middle Sea Race gave the competitors a bit of a surprise with a brutal and ferocious finale!

Josef Schultheis’s Xp44 “Xp-act” has been a regular and successful contender in the last 3 years of this race, with a class win in 2012 and a 3rd in 2013. Josef’s great leadership skills assembled a talented crew which included X-yachts dealer Timmy Camilleri (4x winner MSR), X-yachts speed guru Jochem Visser and Barry Hurley, a keen two handed sailor, amongst a dedicated and strong international crew!

The race started with the usual light SE conditions, you normally expect. After the passage through the Messina straight and the spectacular Volcanic Island of Stromboli the competitor’s patience were tested with very light winds and slow progress toward the western end of Sicily…….calm before the storm??! !

Jochem Visser: “We already knew that the Southern remains of Hurricane Gonzalo, which effected Northern Europe, was looming around the corner. Due to the moist conditions in the Med coupled with the warm waters this generates the typical N-Westerly Mistral conditions. Originally it looked like we would be able to outrun most of the wind forecasted but as progress was slower than predicted towards the western tip of Sicily we knew we were in for a bit of hardship on the latter part of the race. The stretch from Sicily to Pantellaria, Lampedusa and Malta are notoriously unprotected when the Mistral conditions set in.

As the wind started to increase it quickly took its toll on the 129 strong fleet of competitors. Jochem:“It’s actually quite funny to see what happened when the winds reached over 35-40 Kts when you replay the tracker. It looks like a swarm of flies escaping a fire”

The fleet was quickly reduced and only 49 boats managed to reach the finish!!!

Skipper Josef and his crew did incredibly well it these testing conditions and managed to gain place after place by relentlessly pushing the Xp44 in winds that topped at 50 Kts! Jochem: “I must give great credit to the design and robustness of the boat. We really pushed her in some of the biggest waves and breezes I’ve seen in my career. It’s comfortable to know that the gear and boat you are using is not going to let you down. We didn’t have a single gear failure which caused so many others to retire.” Although Jochem and the rest of the crew all agreed that 22.9 knots of boat speed, a top speed they reached when barreling down one of the big waves, is definitely the upper limit of Danish quality and design!!

The crew efforts were well worth it with a win their class and a 2nd overall in this prestigious event. Josef Schultheis made his children, keen and successful Opi sailors, very proud.

For Jochem there is still some unfinished business……….as a navigator he has acquired an impressive array of overall wins in the Fastnet Race, Sydney Hobart, Newport Bermuda, Round Britain & Ireland………but the Middle Sea Race will have to wait for another year. As he remarked with a sigh “……who wants to be 2nd!

Full results click here.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Mohawk hairy Swan 45’s at North Sea Regatta

Many of the Swan 45’s have ended up in the Netherlands were they have seen a revival as a one-design class. With 7 boats competing on a regular basis the competition has heated up and racing has been very close. For the Dutch the North Sea Regatta has been the equivalent of a Cowes week with great racing, an excellent run regatta and good entertainment. For the Swan’s it is their key event.

A relative newcomer on the Swan 45 scene has been K-force. Jan de Kraker and his keen team are only just coming to terms with the boat and their handling. Having finished last in every race the previous event they were keen to make an attempt to improve. They hired Jochem Visser, aka the Boat Speed Doctor, to join them but the first day of the NSR still provided some lost hopes with some hairy boat handling issues. 

In the debrief that followed, bow man Jeffery de Rycke, with a sigh of desperation stated he would cut his hair in a Mohawk if we would ever be able sail a first place…………..just the kind of inspiration and challenge the team could aim for!

After a good team session the next morning, discussing in detail all manoeuvres and a keen attitude of the crew to give all they are worth for, the sound of shearing clippers already surfaced, when the team rounded the first windward mark in second.  After a tactical battle in the next upwind and great boat handling in the second downwind they edged closer and closer to the so far unbeaten, event leader, No Limit. With a crucial last gybe to the finish the team was easily pushed to their top gybe of the day by Jochem’s reference to the shearing clippers. A perfect execution of a roll when coming out of the gybe just edged them forward of No Limit by a quarter of a boat length.

A well deserved first win in 2 season’s for a jubilant crew which showed that their dedication, commitment and keen attitude ………does lead to some fantastic haircuts!