Two Man Round NZ race: May Day issued as weather bomb hits fleet

The British yacht, Sunstone at the start of the 2007 Coastal Classic

In the second edition of the Two Man Round New Zealand yacht race, Surreal, a Beneteau First 47.7 is leading the fleet and is positioned midway down the west coast of the South Island. She is expected in at finish of the second leg at Stewart Island Sunday night or Monday

The weather bomb, which has hit central New Zealand has caused three of fleet to shelter in Golden Bay, at the top of the South Island.

Race Officer, Steve Ashley reports that three of the smallest boats were caught in the weather bomb which went straight over the fleet. They are motoring towards New Plymouth 250nm distance away, however they have missed a sked for two hours and organsiers are beginning to have concerns.

At 2130 a Mayday call was sent out by a competitor, Peligian (a Stewart 34) in the Two Handed Round NZ Race.

Pelagian II set off their EPIRB at a position about 275 miles West of New Plymouth when they found they were taking in water faster than they could pump it out.

The center of the Forecast 'Weather Bomb' had just past over them battering them with wind gusts of up to 70 knots (130 km/hr) and fierce seas.

At 2230 on Friday, Pelagian II had reported that they had managed to start their engine and had their emergency pump keeping up with the influx of water and were slowly heading in an Easterly direction hoping to rendezvous with a ship enroute to aid them estimated to be 40 hours away.

Update: 24 hours later Pelagian and Panther are reported to be still experiencing high winds, but all is well. Pelagian intend to continue in the race. Panther crew very seasick but OK and heading for Nelson. Panther, Vingalot and Revs are repairing ripped sails. Lead boats are in more comfortable weather and making good progress.

In a second incident, a solo sailor was rescued by helicopter from the same area as Pelagian and Panther. http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/storm-sparks-mayday-call-video-4755679!Click_here for the TVNZ video report.

Earlier, the website stuff.co.nz reported that communication with a yacht in the Two-handed Round New Zealand Yacht Race, that issued a Mayday call overnigh, is being kept to a minimum as the two sailors on board battle to nurse their crippled Stewart 34 Pelagian II to safety.

Experienced skipper Kurt Boyle and crewman Matt Burkhardt issued the Mayday call and activated their EPIRB (emergency locator beacon) at 9.30pm last night at a position about 275 nautical miles west of New Plymouth when they started taking on water faster than they could pump it out. Winds in excess of 50 knots and breaking seas as high as 10-metres added to the mayhem on board.

They managed to plug the leak sufficiently with the help of bilge pumps powered by their onboard engine and are now headed for New Plymouth. They are expected to reach the Taranaki port sometime on Monday as Pelagian II battles 'still pretty horrendous' conditions left over from the weather bomb that has battered New Zealand.

A ship that was redirected to assist Pelagian II has since been stood down as the pair have further slowed the ingress of water and are confident they have sufficient diesel to keep pumping and reach New Plymouth safely. However, a spokesman from the Short-handed Sailing Association of New Zealand (SSANZ), which promotes the race, said Boyle and Burkhardt still had plenty on their hands.

'They have a satphone on board but other than the normal radio skeds, we're not bothering them...they've still got a lot on,' SSANZ secretary Steve Newcombe told Boating New Zealand magazine.

'It's still pretty miserable, the seas are horrendous, really, really bad. But things have calmed down and while we're worried, we know they'll be alright. We don't let just anybody do this race. They're very competent sailors and Pelagian was well prepared...they had storm shutters on all the windows and that sort of thing.

'It's just miserable, that's all.'

Just five of the 10-strong Round NZ fleet are still racing with Expedition Coppelia, Truxton and Danaide remaining in Golden Bay after detouring to take shelter there on Thursday after taking a battering from an earlier storm. Truxton's run for safety wasn't without incident, however, with the 10.5-metre Tiller-design hitting a sandbar as it entered Golden Bay. '[Skipper] Chris Skinner thought it was dolphins but it was sand. Luckily they bumped off,' Newcombe said.

A fifth yacht, Krakato II, has abandoned the race as skipper Rhys Boulton could no longer stand the pain in his foot which he badly injured on the first leg of the 2070nm race from Auckland to Mangonui in the Far North.

Communication with the five yachts still racing is proving difficult but it is understood Sunstone, a 1965 varnished wooden Sparkman and Stephens 39 being sailed by the well-known husband and wife team of Tom and Vicky Jackson, lead on handicap.

For the full report http://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/boating/news/6518736/Mayday-yachties-head-for-New-Plymouth!click_here

In an earlier report, Leg 2, starting from Mongonui in the Far North of New Zealand, the race restarted with light winds and calm seas.

The wild West Coast lived up to its reputation with a gale warning and winds gusting to 50kts with rough seas, squally showers and poor visibility. The fleet leaders were been neck and neck, ahead of the weather bomb, for the the majority of the leg, chopping and changing between line and handicap leaders.

But that all changed with Krakatoa 2 retiring due to the skipper, Rhys Boulton's injured foot leaving team Surreal who report all is well but can't seem to get the tracker to work, and REVS who reported in with an Alternator problem Thursday afternoon and wasn’t heard from on the evening sched, they also have a tracker problem.

Danaide (dan-uh-dee)who reported they had a leak, along with Expedition Coppelia and Leg 1 winner Truxton are proceeding to Golden Bay to seek shelter. Father and son team, Vingilot and the British couple on their racing boat home Sunstone report all is well.

Pelagian 2 is bringing up the rear, due to a tactical error, is punching through 6m swells, unsure of why their tracker has stopped working. Leaving the crew on Panther battling on with sea sickness.

The rough seas and large swells continue but the wind eases a little tonight ahead of a deepening low pressure system which is due to hit the fleet tomorrow evening with even rougher conditions than today.

Report from Sunstone ahead of the weather bomb:

Day 4 was pretty unpleasant and we're not over surprised that three boats are seeking shelter, especially with a nasty low on the way - though what shelter they'll find in Golden Bay we don't know!

Wind was mostly 30-35 on the nose with very big seas, some 8-10 m. Though the wind probably didn't require it we eventually got down to No 4 and trysail, which was about right.

Anyway, it seems to have done us some good relative to other boats - except for Surreal, which has shot away from us all. Only one bit of damage, when the 3rd reef pennant snapped - we jury rigged another. Today is lighter beating - 15 knots at the moment with a left-over sea.

It looks like another day of beating in 30+ tomorrow and then maybe some running or reaching for a day or two. Sunstone is a rather damp house-boat at present. Roll on Half-Moon Bay!

Regards, T&V








Fleet status as of the morning of Saturday 3 March

03 Mar 2012        
Danaide030730 nzdt Mar  Sheltering Golden Bay with Expedition Coppelia & Truxton
Expedition Coppelia030730 nzdt Mar  Sheltering Golden Bay with Danaide & Truxton
Krakatoa 2030730 nzdt Mar  Withdrawn from race.
Panther030730 nzdt Mar  Tried calling vessel on SSB no response.  Vessel too far to call on VHF.  Saw position had updated with yellow brick.
Pelagian 2030730 nzdt Mar38 40S169.12EIncident involving vessel, They are taking on water and now have the situation under control with pumps and their engine has started.
Revs030730 nzdt Mar41S170EVery broken on VHF unable to copy restof the position.
Sunstone030730 nzdt Mar42 05S169 53E 
Surreal030730 nzdt Mar42 56S170 15E ALL GOOD ENJOYING GINGER CRUNCH
Truxton030730 nzdt Mar  Sheltering Golden Bay with Expedition Coppelia &  Danaide
Vingilot030730 nzdt Mar41 52S169 29E