60ft trimaran meant for racing encounters '60 year storm'

Crew of the racing trimaran crew with their torn sail - Alex Atkinson, Paul O’Reilly and Guy Hewson
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The difficulties that can be encountered when a yacht meant primarily for speed racing is faced with a significant storm was underlined in the reports of a racing trimaran caught in a storm in the Tasman Sea this week. The Auckland trimaran, headed for Sydney to participate in races and regattas along the eastern coastline, encountered fifty knot winds which they described as 'harrowing'.

While fifty knots and six metre seas could never be described a comfortable, a well-found cruising boat could should be able to manage those conditions without too much discomfort.

However, the crew who brought the boat across the Tasman told http://www.stuff.co.nz!Auckland_Now that they had been in 'survival mode'. The 60ft trimaran TeamVodafoneSailing was unable to sail in those conditions and spent 36 hours hove-to, to wait out the storm.

Owner and skipper Simon Hull said when the boat left Auckland on July 16 the forecast was 'ideal', with only a small front just before Sydney.

'The high intensified, slowing our progress, and when we got close to Sydney the front had become a significant depression,' he said.

On Wednesday night, with the breeze over 50knots, it was no longer safe to sail.

With sails torn, the call was made to put the boat into 'survival mode' – the sails were taken down and the boat was 'hove to'.

Worried the towering seas could flip the boat, the crew hunkered down in the middle hull while the storm battered the carbon-fibre racing boat.

The crew were squashed inside the 1.5m-wide cabin – four on the mesh bunks, one on the floor and two standing.

Bowman Ollie Scott-Mackie, 20, said it was 'like sitting inside a steel drum for 36 hours with someone drumming on it'.

'At one stage the boat was shaking so much we were bouncing in our bunks,' mid-bowman Harry Hull, 17, said.

'It wasn't until we got to Sydney that we found out how significant the storm had been,' Mr Hull said. 'We ... were surprised to see so many ships standing off Sydney heads – obviously due to the port being closed.'

By Friday the winds had eased and the crew were able to sail in to Sydney. The team spent yesterday surveying the damage and deciding what had to be done before the boat was ready to race by July 30.