Two Handed Round NZ Race: Expedition Coppelia leads on Day 2 of Leg 3

Rob Croft steers Expedition Coppelia on the wind.
Sally Garrett
Leg 3, Day 2: All boats making good progress north in moderate breeze overnight. The fleet has closed in and Expedition Coppelia is currently leading the fleet for the first time in the race. Surreal is close behind in second place and Sunstone bringing up the rear is first in IRC.

Tom & Vicky's update from Sunstone relays the start of Leg 3:
After a wonderful stop-over and the overwhelming hospitality of the Stewart islanders, we've had a frustrating first 20 hours. The start in light SW saw everyone away cleanly, with the light fractional fliers moving away as you might expect and working their angles. There was a small shift to Wly on which they all gybed, while the back of the fleet did not - to their cost. The shift put us in the long shadow of the heights on the north coast of Stewart Is and plunged us, Vingilot and Pelagian into a deep hole from which we only emerged about two hours later with the light guys no where in sight. Though the wind filled after that it has been fitful and variable in direction ever since, sometimes west, sometimes nearly north, often only 5 knots but occasionally up to 18. The slow boats are still together, many miles behind the faster bunch of whom Coppelia seems to have done outstandingly well so far. At the moment we have one of the horrible light spells, 5 knots from NNW. To top it all there are seismic survey vessels with 4 mile towed arrays to dodge up ahead. We'd like a little firm breeze please! Regards T&V

John Burns, skipper of Panther shares their story that lead them to retiring midway through Leg 2. It is a touching story that depicts Kiwi morals, placing the value of friendship at the forefront even when it means shattering their dreams.

All good for the sail up the coast from Manganui and over the top.

A mixed bag as we headed south but all ok and sailing reasonably well although Dave said he was not feeling the best.

He did not spew but was feeling squeamish and said that he was not enjoying the race. The Scopolamine patches seemed to be doing a reasonable job of keeping him from going past the squeamish stage and I gave him some Sqeeze Eze which is Cinnazrin, which seemed to help.

As we were out from the Cook Strait bight Dave said that he wanted to get off. He was quite adamant about that so a course was set for Nelson.

We were about 120 nm from land at that stage.

About two hours into the course, I got a weather fax through that showed the Low the developed into a weather bomb with its course the same as ours so I made the call to head out to sea to get to the other side of the Low before it developed and intensified in the Cook Strait bight.

We sailed out and ended up in the eastern edge of the Low where winds seemed to be gusting to about 50 knots but with just the fully reefed storm main up Panther was handling the conditions ok.

After sailing a course heading towards Australia to move in the opposite direction to the Low, the winds abated from the north to North East and the sea settled down quite considerable.

This period did not last long. As there was so much going on, it was hard to estimate the actual quiet period, perhaps 20 minutes from the first lull.

Then the wind came with great force from the South to South West. The wind gauge headed to 70 knots and the water was white all around. The noise was a screaming from the wind over the yacht and the mast was pumping as if a giant hand was trying to break the yacht lose from it.

To sail out of the maelstrom we had to tack. The force of the wind and the seas breaking against the hull stopped this happening three times and on the fourth the tacking maneuver was completed. We were able to continue our course out of the centre of the Low.
We arrived in Nelson on Tuesday sixth at dawn and found a berth. After cleaning up the boat generally,

Dave departed and I continued to sort out and fix some of the bits and pieces that had suffered during the storm.

Panther was great through the storm. The actual hull and yacht structure was suburb through the time of being buffeted by waves crashing along both sides, over the bow and stern as well as right over the whole vessel.

The sails took a flogging around the edges but held together. Some remedial work is being done on them.

Of those things that did break loose and cause some damage, much is minor.

Had Dave not made his call, we would have carried on racing as the sails, although somewhat thrashed in places were still serviceable.

I had the main specially made stronger than normal for crossing the Tasman, which it did well in 2007.

The race rules stated that crew could only be changed at stop over's with other suitable crew so by coming in here and Dave getting off we effectively were obliged to 'withdraw' from the race.

I was quite stunned when Dave first told me he wanted to get off but I respected his call and our friendship was more valuable than the race so we remained on good terms.

After feeling down for a few days I have come up again and been pottering around doing jobs on Panther.

For my deliveries I have a regular crew who does not race due to a bad hip but is excellent on deliveries no matter how long. We have done many thousands of miles together delivering vessels. He will be joining me for a cruise through the 'Sounds' then we will head back to Napier.

That is the short version. Hope it will do..

On the horizon. Some work, more modifications on Panther, a few deliveries to do. Might have a look at the Chathams at the end of the year.

Future races... Well, we shall see what the future brings......

I will go with the flow...

All the best.

Regards,
John.