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Rolex Middle Sea - A Maverick race review

Rolex Middle Sea - A Maverick race review

Author: Piers Hugh Smith
Course: Valetta-Messina Straits (Italy/Sicily) - Stromboli - Pantaleria - Lampadusa - Valetta.

The odometer on the past 12-months of racing clicks over to around 6,500 nm after a busy season with Maverick! Out of the previous five major offshore races, Maverick has been the boat for four of them, a total of 5,900 nm - I certainly had never seen this coming and am forever counting my lucky stars for being part of such a great and continuous program. Always learning and always finding new areas to improve.

This Rolex Middle Sea Race, my second, shaped up to be a lot more interesting than the first! The first, 2016, characterised by a steady drift round the scenic Mediterranean islands with little more than 12-14 knts boat speed at best, could not be further from what was in store for us this time. ‘Finally!’, a few of us thought, there has previously been an uncanny lack of conventional weather for the Maverick program,  it would be nice to see some weather. Being careful what you wish for might just be the motto here!

I can never get over the start of this race, amongst the striking sandstone scenery of the Grand Harbour in Valetta, the narrow beat through the harbour walls and then and ultra short kite leg at the start gets the blood pumping and tests our quick fire/inshore manoeuvres. A pretty gradual beat followed up the Messina straits, a mix of light wind park ups with changes from the J1 (our biggest headsail), to the MHO (our biggest masthead reaching sail), and the occasional spinnaker thrown in for good measure. Although placid, these are often pretty testing conditions for a bowman, loads of quick-fire changes, often in the dark, and it’s a real test to make sure you can consistently deliver these without locking out your halyards or, at worst, tangling them up making a change impossible. I’ve been away from the boat for a while and I think this showed here, a couple of the changes going a little awry with some halyard issues, certainly time to be gained there. However it was great to have an understanding team backing me up and focusing their energies on solving issues, rather than dwelling on errors. This has been a hallmark feature of the program and something I believe is a key ingredient of our successes. Every day is a school day, after all.

Apart from the numerous sail changes the first part of this race was somewhat uneventful, however near Palermo our test began, building breeze into a 135 nm beat, this was a good chance for some drysuit action with testing upwind sailing which is pretty tough on a skinny, 46 ft boat. It’s hard to find the groove in waves that stacked up pretty quick to a hefty swell the height of a transit van. This is where my be careful what you wish for comment earlier comes in. We soon cracked off onto a jib reach, followed by a punchy FR0 (smaller than the MHO, but a power reaching weapon of a sail) passage and a technical peel to an A3, our smallest reaching spinnaker. Change complete and trucking along at a steady 17-22 knts of boat speed I headed down for some rest, thinking how our speedy averages would see me with a pint and a burger in Valetta in no time. However from inside the boat it sounded like the world was beginning to end! A constant rush of water and huge crashes and the boat charges through waves, arcing spray over the decks with a deluge of water threatening to wash anything not lashed down into the sea behind. Our speed crept up towards 27-28 knts here as we pushed the boundaries of what the sail was capable of. Earlier in this day myself and Jorge, the mid-bowman, had been thrown back 15 ft along the foredeck, along with the 60 kg sail we were carrying, with the sheer force of water travelling along the deck- thankfully we always clip on the safety harnesses in these conditions.

But back to the A3, downstairs I hear an almighty crash followed by my body being thrown forward down the bunk, knees in my chest as I press against the keel bulkhead in front. There is a reason we always say sleep feet first in this boat, it is better to break your legs rather than your neck when this thing flies off a wave! The boat pivoted around its axis and lay flat on its side with the sound of an ‘All Hands!’ cry and all hell breaking loose on deck. This was when our much loved and little used A3 decided to part company with itself, having been torn into many, many pieces after a 40 knt gust knocked us over after pitching into a wave at 25+ knts. Halyards were cut and what little remained of the sail recovered on board before the FR0 was speedily hoisted again, this was a pretty harrowing moment with a lot of stress on the rig, the decision to cut the halyard was made to preserve the mast and stop the A3 now Sea Anchor ripping the top of our carbon mast off.

It was almost fortuitous however the breeze had continued to build and our forced change to the FR0 was the right call. The A3 would have done the same three times over as we launched off waves, our DSS foils provided immense amounts of grip that launched the boat forward at speeds more akin to an 80 ft yacht, rather than our 46 ft surfboard! Some of the wave impacts were similar to being in a car crash as the boat tore through walls of water, it was all you could do to hold on at times, your visions reduced to nothing in a ball of spray with the boat seemingly airborne beneath you. The speedo only read 6 knts as it was out the water! The highest I saw was 27, but we reportedly logged speeds in the early 30 knts if the GPS is to be believed. We dropped into preservation mode, dropping the watches from four hours on to one hour on as it’s key to keep everyone fresh and alert as mistakes at this speed could potential be seriously damaging to more than just the boat and race. It was certainly one of my most intense nights offshore. The Infinit 46R can certainly take one hell of a beating! I don’t know many other boats that could shake off such an aggressive punishment so easily.

Windspeed hung around the 20-30 knt range for the rest of the race, the occasional 40 knts in the squalls as we concluded the reaching round Lampadusa island, but in a slightly more gentle fashion on a tighter angle with lighter breeze. Dawn broke as we approached the Malta/Gozo channel, still maintaining our reduced watch and keeping the boat pushed all the way in.

We were certainly pleased to finish this one in (almost) one piece! The whole team worked really hard, pressure was kept on us and it is always great to sail with such a pedigree bunch, it really encourages you to up your game, and I am certainly looking forward to seeing them onboard again in the future.

At the time of writing we have won IRC class 1, 4th overall on IRC, 1st overall on ORC and 6th on line honours, a results I’m pretty happy with given such a tough heavy air session. Not bad for a little 46 ft boat, taking on some big teams!

So another awesome race with Team Maverick, and I’m left excited for the next adventure that comes round…

Piers

#BeaMaverick #FollowTheStory

 

Kees Postma RORC Transatlantic Race blog: Day 5

Kees Postma RORC Transatlantic Race blog: Day 5

Hello world!

Kees here, bringing you the latest from rocketship Maverick. As I sit here in Eric's office, the guys on deck are foiling at 18 kts of boat speed in 16 knots of wind. Finally we get a chance to use this boat like it was meant to!

After a few days of straightforward sailing today has been an eventful day. We started the day with the Masthead Zero, then changed to the A2 for better downwind VMG. Now we are cycling through our sail wardrobe as the breeze is shifting forward and building. We've seen the Fractional Zero for a few hours, right now its the Jib Top and Genoa Staysail combination, and sometime tonight it will be the J2 which is ready to go on deck. Hopefully these conditions will allow us to make some gains on Aragon and Leopard before we're back to a bit of upwind sailing.

Today is also Sean McCarter's birthday! He failed to mention this to any of us but fortunately Skipper Olly got a reminder email. We all celebrated with a swig of rum and the birthday boy had a 1000 calorie Chicken Korma for his birthday lunch. What more can a man wish for!

Last night we saw an enormous piece of space junk that made its way into the atmosphere, we think no more than 50 miles away. It lit up the whole boat and lasted for a number of seconds. We concluded that in space terms this classifies as a near miss and we are now space junk survivors.

After so many days, weeks, months of working on this yacht it is nice to get the chance to enjoy and learn her for more than just two or three days at a time.

Thanks for reading, Kees out.

Navigator Eric Holden's RORC Transat Blog: Day 3

Navigator Eric Holden's RORC Transat Blog: Day 3

Day 3 Blog

Conditions have been pretty gentle today with winds of 5-10 kts and a light northerly swell. This has allowed us to chase down some gremlins in the boat systems. We have an oil leak in the hydraulic system, air is getting into the watermaker plumbing, and we're getting about half the expected output from the hydrogenerator. Earlier we fixed an electrical fault in the bilge pumps and boat instruments. The watermaker is behaving again and we're monitoring the other problems which aren't critical at this stage.

With the weather as benign as it currently is, the team is asking when we might see the trade winds. I hesitate to answer as it looks like we're stuck with what we've got for the next few days. This is not really the conditions that suit us over the larger boats but as we're still making progress and sailing a couple knots above the wind speed we don't have much to complain about.

A nice perk in these conditions is that we're all getting plenty of rest while the boat glides along gently. This is a treat as when she gets moving she is noisy and rough, and sleep only gets easy once exhaustion sets in.

Until later....Eric

Maverick RORC Transat skipper blog: Day 3

Maverick RORC Transat skipper blog: Day 3

Good Morning Team Maverick Fans!

Day 3 08:40 UTC

Firstly let me apologies that this is the first time we are checking in. As you will gather from this blog the race has been reasonably challenging thus far.

Next we would like to send our love to Nikki Curwen who had to step off the boat at the last minute for medical reasons. She put in a huge amount of work shoreside to make this journey possible and we are all thinking of her.

Our start was good. We hit the line soon after the gun with our GS (Genoa Staysail) and JT (Jib top) we did think it strange that everyone else had elected for a J1. Things were to become a little clearer. Most of the fleet were pushing inshore... It soon became apparent why, there was a mark inshore off Puerto Del Carmen. Whoops somehow we missed this in our planning... Thus having having sailed lower than the rest of the fleet we had given them all a lot of time on the course and we made the long tack inshore to round the mark.

Mistakes happen its how you deal with them that counts. As a team we focused on working our way back through the fleet. Luckily the mistake was realised early enough so that the consequences were not too bad. We rounded the mark just after Pata Negra and soon were working our way back toward the head of the fleet.

As we left the lea of Lanzarote we changed to a J2 and full main combination for what would be a 200nm beat upwind. This was NOT in the brochure. This is the toughest point of sail for a crew just putting to sea and there were one or two who were suffering the effects of the green monster but pushing through.

Anyone who knows the yacht also knows that this is our least effective point of sail in terms of rating. We have a strong rating but a small waterline so upwind into a short sharp chop does not suit us at all. However as I write this our navigator Eric is happy with our position in the fleet and is confident we will see more of “our” conditions.

Another unexpected feature has been the squalls. I think it is fair to say that this race is not occurring in a “traditional” Atlantic weather pattern. Usually you get at least a few after leaving before you need to worry about squalls. We we have been getting them from day 1!

Usually I am used to having a RADAR. This is a very useful tool for plotting the movement of squalls and it gives you an idea of their size and potential intensity. Unfortunately as is the case of many yachts this size we do not have it so we rely on the Mark 1 eyeball. This is made all the more tricky at night as there will not be a good moon for this race.

Anyway we have been hit by numerous squalls. We have seen 36 kts of wind in the strongest what we call “givers” and 0 kts what we call “takers”. We have sat wallowing after one but went foiling at 17 kts during another., you really never can tell! One thing is for sure though. squalls mean crew work and as a result we have already used nearly every sail in our wardrobe already! The crew have been working really hard and I am certain I can count on that continuing.

Anyway I am due on watch. The crew are well and moral is good. We are currently in great conditions making good progress under our M0. We expect the wind to ease over the course of the morning as we push westwards.

“A climb to the top of a mountain no matter how large starts with the decision to take the first step”

Olly out...

Skipper blog November 18th

Skipper blog November 18th

Dear team Maverick fans,

I hope this blog finds you well. As I write this we are doing 16-17 kts in the Atlantic. We finally Got Maverick into her first ocean. This is what she was truly designed for.

Now I could tell you about lots of things, such as how in delivery mode we have hit 25 kts, or talk about the glorious sunsets we have had. But on this occasion I won't.

You see many back home think that this "yachting" job is all very glamorous. (This recently has not been helped by being based in St Tropez) it is not! Maverick is a stripped out race machine, so stripped out even that people from Volvo 70's have said "wow that is a very stripped out yacht".

This means all of our meals are freeze dried as we have no refrigeration. To cook these we have one "jet boil" that boils the water for us. There are no showers,  sinks or anything of the kind. We "hot bunk" apart from there are no bunks (that would be too heavy) so we use camping mats on the bare hull. To keep weight down there are no floor boards so keeping anything dry is a challenge.....etc. etc. I hope you get the idea.

The day to day business of "doing your business" is extremely difficult on board. So much so that in all of our racing and deliveries this is the first time that I have had to use Maverick'sfacilities. These extensive facilities consist of a bucket and a biodegradable bag. I can assume you get the idea from here? However to make matters more interesting the only real place on board for any "privacy" is the bow near the foil cases. I now imagine the vessel is doing 15-20 kts over an Atlantic swell. The experience is akin to getting drunk on tequila then being dared by a mate to sit on a bucket that is placed on top of the bar's mechanical rodeo machine. A challenge that has potentially disastrous repercussions if it goes wrong. Well on this trip we managed to make the challenge even harder, you see as with any yacht that goes this quickly she puts a lot of water over the deck. Some of this water inevitably ends up down below. This means that anything of importance that needs to be kept dry is kept in a dry bag. I bought a very bright blue dry bag for a very specific purpose (it had a very important job) it was to keep the toilet paper and associated supplies dry. This dry bag was carefully labeled and stored in a dry area of the yacht. it turns out however that a dry bag is only as dry as the huge hole that is left in it when it is left open! Yes ladies and gentlemen the yacht's supply of essential sanitary supplies are gone because SOMEONE left the bag open and and on the floor... Its a good thing Team Maverick run a no blame culture!

So at the moment there is a strong incentive for the delivery to happen quickly. Light winds are forecast further down the track so we will be using the motor. ETA at the moment looks like the evening of the 19th early on the 20th.

"Don't leave the toilet paper dry bag open!!!" Oliver Cotterell 2016

Olly out..

Skipper blog update 17th November

Skipper blog update 17th November

Hello Team Maverick fans!

Well we are making good progress. Things are going well. We are in the Atlantic!!

It is starting to warm up which is nice as a few of the crew myself included had everything we owned on and were getting cold after a watch. Efficient packing I say!

Last night we passed though the straits of Gibraltar. We pulled the foils in as we were afraid of debris which we would not be able to see.  We ran under a reefed main and GS (Genoa Staysail). The conservative sail plan meant we navigated the strait with ease, known for its orographic channeling of the wind. However our premonition of the debris was correct. We had at least three rudder strikes and a keel strike.

There has been some minor damage to the rudder top plate but we will know more when we can inspect the underside of the yacht in Lanza. If the weather permits I might dive on the hull later in the trip.

Other than that all is well on board with he watches ticking through and the miles falling. We will have lots to do in Lanza so getting in a few days early is going to be welcome..

Oh yeah last night we had a GREEN FLASH!!!

"The regrets a person most has are those they did not commit when they had the opportunity"

Olly Out

Maverick skipper blog update 15th November

Maverick skipper blog update 15th November

Good Morning Team Maverick Fans,

We are making good progress under "Iron Mainsail tonight" the moon is very large making the evening watch pleasant in the cool Mediterranean  air. Turns out with world events there is plenty to talk about.... I dropped the "Trump........... discuss" early doors in the watch.

The Palma stopover has been hectic. There was a lot to get done and the repair to the "Universal Joint" in the prop shaft was an unexpected occurrence from the Malta Palma delivery. Unfortunately this cost the team approximately three days of work.

The good news is that most of the important parts of "the list" have been dealt with and if the delivery proves to be fast we should get into Lanzarote (or Lanza as Nikki likes to call it) in good time. We aim to have Maverick at her best for the RORC Transatlantic Race but still have some work to do.

We have a good delivery crew on board with Archie Willis (normally full time on Ranger), Eric Holden, the wonderful Katherine Knight, Edoardo Bianchi (normally the Mate for Sean MCcarter) the delectable Nikki Curwen and myself.

We sent Kees ashore to be shore support and make sure that he arrives in Lanza with all the bits and bobs we might need!

It looks like the wind is going to fill in from the NE around midday tomorrow. We should be well past Ibiza and are hoping that this will give us a good push.

The Med rightly has a reputation for having too much wind or not enough. We are trying to get west as it is likely to be a bit less windy when it does arrive. We are all hoping that the GRIBS are accurate and we don't have one last big Med blow. It will be nice to turn off the engine as there is no insulation in the boat (too heavy) so it is very loud and hot!

Thanks as ever for all the support. I am heading back up on deck away from the racket of the engine to enjoy the rest of my watch.

Tonight I'd like to give a shout out to my Aunty Lindy and Aunty Sandy who will be watching our progress on the Yellow Brick!!

"Just keep swimming" Dory Finding Nemo....

Oliver Cotterell (Skipper)

Rolex Middle Sea Race report: As ready as we've ever been

Rolex Middle Sea Race report: As ready as we've ever been

By Piers Hugh-Smith

As ready as we’ve ever been was a phrase that was thrown around a lot before we left the dock in Malta, and it’s meaning is more than skin deep. With a boat like Maverick, we are incredibly fortunate to be developing all the time, using new technology, from Voltsport’s innovative and cutting edge battery system to our real ‘showstopper’ (Hopefully that rings with you GBBO fans), our DSS foils- However, with development comes trial and error, hard work and an expectation for nothing to work ‘out of the box’. Olly, the skipper, and all the guys working on-shore have put in reams of hard work to make sure we are as developed as possible for each race, and to put it simply, the Maverick that started the Middle Sea was a few steps along from the Maverick before that started in Palermo. The atmosphere was palpably optimistic, and everyone, including myself, was itching to unleash the best Maverick we’ve had yet on the racecourse in Malta.

But before I get into the race, I’ll introduce myself if you didn’t catch my Palermo interview or my ill-fated backflip off the DSS foil! (Proud holder of highest number of Facebook hits). My name is Piers, I’m 21, sailing Maverick and campaigning a Diam24 Trimaran and in my spare time I’m an Economics undergraduate at the University of Portsmouth. On Maverick, I’m the bowman- dealing with the pointy end, the sail changes and if there’s every any reason to go up the rig, it’s me that goes! However offshore, I switch into a bit of an all-rounder mode, and can often be found behind the wheel or with a sheet in my hand in addition to my duties on the bow.

If I was going to go through the race turn by turn, not only would this blog seem more like a novel, but by the end of it the only person left reading would be my mum! So in the interests of your interests, I’m going to pick a few highs, lows and lessons and see how that goes for length.

The High's

The big one, having Volvo Ocean Race legend Stu Bannatyne on board. Stu was a real example on how to do things, and the attitude to performance was one of my key take-outs. The pace was relentless, always making adjustments, always thinking about that nth percent. I get the impression that ‘that’ll be good enough’ is not a phrase that features heavily in Stu’s vocab. This had big implications for me too with lots, and lots of sail changes, at one point we would have 3 sails up, 2 ready to go on the foredeck, and in the space of an hour would of changed to the 2 on the deck, and back again! The light transitional zones off the Mediterranean islands (Think Stromboli and Pantaleria etc you tracker watchers), really reward pushing through and always having the correct sail up, even if it’s only up for 20 minutes before a change to something else. I’m always learning on the bow, and the multiple sail changes, day and night, have really accelerated my confidence in manoeuvres. Other highs; foils! We got to use the foils a little more this race, a few hours. They are incredible, make a huge difference to speed and stability, and are worth all the hype. It was a real tease for what I hope the transatlantic will be like next month. Lastly, there was some other cool little sights on the way, having never seen an active Volcano, Stromboli was a peak (pun intended) and we were fortunate enough to see 2 sea turtles amongst the usual hordes of dolphins,

The Low's

At risk of sounding like a cliché, there weren’t really any. Not apart from the usual offshore gripes - being woken up in the off-watch, being covered by a film of salt for 3 days and whilst Expedition’s freeze dried is actually quite tasty, the 1000 kcal Extreme’ chicken korma was not quite like a Friday night curry and pint at my local, Dil Raj. (Tariq if you’re reading this I hope you’re happy for the shout-out). Maybe there was one jib-peel, involving some obscenities, a detonated lifejacket, a self-unfurling staysail and being very, very wet, (however my stellar Ocean Rodeo drysuit kept me bone dry underneath) where some team-mates may recall I found potentially less than ideal, but it’s all part of the fun.

To finish off

To come away from this event, the boat’s 3rd ever race, with a 3rd overall is just simply an honour. I don’t think any of us were expecting it, and coupled with a Class win in IRC 1, I’m immensely proud to be part of the team, and it’s a real testament to all the hard work that’s gone into the project so far. There’s a huge amount to learn still, but the boat is yet to unleash it’s full potential, and I cannot wait to see it!

Next stop Lanzarote for the RORC Transatlantic Race! 

#beamaverick #FollowTheStory