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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

 

Rolex Middle Sea race preparation update!

Rolex Middle Sea race preparation update!

Fastnet to Malta; time flies when you're having fun!

After the Rolex Fastnet, our last major race in the U.K. for some time, Maverick went back to the Solent for a great Corporate day with Deloitte!

Stuart Miller then packed her up and put her on a Peter's and May ship to Palma.

We launched off the ship and a glorious morning gave way to driving, torrential rain for the 10min delivery to STP shipyard! 

Maverick was hauled out the following morning for some minor fairing and paint repairs by DeCabo. We also sent a number of sails off to Doyle to be remeasured for our ratings.

We launched last Monday and had a busy few days getting fuel, water, provisions and sails on, as well as a hydraulic overhaul.

Eric (our navigator) then stepped on like the rockstar he is and took off on the 620 nm delivery to Malta! A leap of faith but well placed thanks to the shore team/delivery crew of Cathrine Jack and Jorge.

As I type from the cramped seat of Veuling's Airbus 320, some of the team are already on the ground in Valletta, Malta's historic capital. Newport's Dan Morris and I arrive in a couple of hours behind Gordon Kay, Luke and Libby Greenhalgh from Team SCA.

We're all looking forward to a couple of good days training before taking on what Ted Turner once famously described as 'the most beautiful race course in the world'.

Stay tuned Mavericks...

Sean McCarter (aka Chicken Joe...)

Find out more about Sean and his Vendee 2020 ambitions here.

#BeAMaverick #FollowTheStory

Photo credit: Hannah Cotterell Media

Skipper Olly RORC Transatlantic blog: Day 6

Skipper Olly RORC Transatlantic blog: Day 6

Good Morning team Maverick Fans!

Welcome to day 6.Apologies that there was no blog on Day 5 but we had a bit on. The sailing went relatively to plan as per my blog on day 4. We continued to head west and the breeze built as the afternoon went on and veered onto our beam. We moved through the wardrobe untill we ended upon the Jib top Genoa Staysail combo (one of our favorites on the yacht) as the wind built so did the boat speeds until we were regularly sitting in the high teens low 20's of boat speed. It was still light but I was below trying toget some sleep. I knew that I would have to pilot the yacht in the pitch dark of night.

Just before dusk we played with a few sail settings (reefs etc) to try and find the optimum. Strangely we took too much sail off and the yacht lost her dynamic stability and we could not make good progress. This meant we returned to one reef and got ready.

I have never had an experience like this. Regardless of the outcome of this race (which I am still hopeful will be a good one) helming a 46 ft yacht at regular speeds in excess of 20 kts at night with no moon, no stars and no horizon in short sharp seas was a phenomenal experience. All I could see was the green and red hugh of the navlights as it light up the huge amounts of spray.

I must say thanks to Ocean Rodeo for the dry suits. They were fantastic in the supremely wet conditions and I have been living in mine for the last few days.

Too the now. We eventually (sooner than we hoped) had to stop foiling ad go into an upwind mode as the wind veered further ahead of the front. This was forcing us north but we held our nerve and in the early morning the front went through with 34 kts of wind as its peak wind speed. Soon after we tacked over onto the other board to start heading south. Initially we were again in an upwind mode but have been slowly freed (too slowly) as the wind continues to veer. Unfortunately the wind we are now experiencing is a bit less than we hoped for and we cant quite keep Maverick on the foil. It is ossilating between 10 and 14 kts. This is not ideal as we need to foil in order to compete with the much larger yachts. We also need to make good progress south before the large developing high pressure makes things too flat.

The likelihood is that we will need to work through a transition zone sometime tomorrow and we will finally be in the trades (although weak ones).

In other news Piers seems to be reacting well to the cocktail of medication I have given him (other than falling over on the bow a lot,). And this may seem funny but as theHydraulic oil levels are falling more slowly as we use the keel less and Sean had a nice birthday. We have another birthday soon with Mr. Kees Postma having his first birthday at sea.

Down below is in pretty good shape but I am looking forward to conditions that will allow us to dry down below out. The sails collect a huge amount of water and we have to live with them down below. I'm just about to go and help Kees bail. As this yacht has no bilges if you do not bail out the water you get to live in it. Not condusive to a comfortable crossing!

I have only just discovered the Expeditions foods Custard and Apple and Beef Strogonoff. They are fantastic.

Anyway that is all for now peeps....

"When I'm old, i plan to look back on my life and say, 'wow, that was an adventure,' not, 'wow, I sure felt safe," Tom preston-werner

Olly 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