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Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta, Race 5, Report 11: Are We Nearly There Yet?

Posted on: 15.08.17

Reports are coming in of ships reaching the half way mark of the final leg of the Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta and it’s clear the crews are growing in confidence and skill as the days pass by. We’re getting more dolphin and whale spotting reports, news about strong group dynamics and there’s an edge of your seat read about spinnakes on night watch. Don’t miss this episode!

But first, Paul Bishop, Race Director, Sail Training International reports.

Rona II has been pushing hard over the past couple of days but cannot close in on Peter von Danzig for the battle for line honours and she remains over 40 miles ahead with less than 400 miles to go. Oosterschelde has been sailing well and has kept her first place on Corrected Time ahead of Jolie Brise and Blue Clipper.All vessels are enjoying fast sailing conditions which are set to continue for the next few days.Their past 24-hour runs, in nautical miles, have been Peter von Danzig- 174; Rona II – 173; Spaniel – 163; Vahine – 159; Alexander von Humboldt – 154; Gulden Leeuw – 151; Oosterschelde – 142; Jolie Brise & Regina Germania 138; Blue Clipper – 137; Atyla – 111.”

PositionS overall and by class – on corrected time:

  1. Oosterschelde (Netherlands) (1st Class A)
  2. Jolie Brise (UK) (1st Class B)
  3. Blue Clipper (UK) (2nd Class B)
  4. Gulden Leeuw (Netherlands) (2nd Class A)
  5. Atyla (Vanuatu) (3rd Class B)
  6. Rona II (UK) (1st Class C/D)
  7. Regina Germania (Germany) (2nd Class C/D)
  8. Alexander Von Humboldt II (Germany) (3rd Class A)
  9. Spaniel (Latvia) (3rd Class C/D)
  10. Vahine (Finland) (4th Class C/D)
  11. Peter Von Danzig (Germany) (5th Class C/D)

Watch the action as it happens and follow the fleet’s progress using YB Satellite Tracking.


(Almost) halfway there: Anna Gudarowska, Gulden Leeuw

11 August: We are well on the way now and you can feel it in the air. The trainees are taking on more responsibilities, from leading small manoeuvres on their own to choosing a cleaning master for each day for happy hour. We have sailed more than 1100 nautical miles. We have seen dolphins and whales, watched films and sang together, we’ve laughed and cried. We are learning more about each other and changing our routines to facilitate the differences.

The differences are starting to show; some people come closer together, some drift apart. That’s life, and group dynamics – you cannot avoid problems in such a large group. I think though that we are dealing with them quite nicely and everyone is scheduled to arrive in Le Havre very happy.

Happy thoughts are being transmitted through the “Happy Box”. The red tin can is getting full. Everyday there are fresh nice thoughts in there: thoughts of support and thankfulness. Earnest, honest, sometimes funny little messages.

Little messages are always given during debriefings. After each watch we sit down and talk about our time. At first those meetings were short and to the point, before they became more honest and heartfelt. Sometimes they even last up to 1,5 hours, when somebody feels like they have some important issue to discuss with the watches.

The watches have changed their shifts; since we’re here for more than three weeks, everybody gets to try three different working times. We’ve also changed the time again, which means we are now only one hour before GMT. We are also almost halfway on our way, which means that from now on time will probably go much faster. We expect to be in port in about two weeks and some trainees are already really excited to see the land – and France. So far though there’s nothing but the horizon 360º, with the occasional vessel appearing for an hour or two, before they seemingly slip off the face of the Earth again – like Blue Clipper just this morning.

Murdered but still alive: Gulden Leeuw

12 August: Yesterday was quite eventful aboard Gulden Leeuw. The murder spree of trainees and crew continues, most dramatic of all was my own death at the hands of Xico but alas the game continues after my tragic death.

In other news we are approaching the halfway point of our destination. It’s been an interesting trip. We’ve been able to see so many different types of wildlife I never thought I’d see. I saw a shark on this trip and yesterday Alejandro claims we saw a sperm whale, I hope so because almost every time we’ve seen something I’ve been on the back deck table lounging in the sun tanning; as you could tell if it’s working hard or hardly working I’m doing the latter. But not always, yesterday I went aloft and helped to unfurl a sail – it was the first time I went aloft since they explained what it was in Halifax.

The crew announced that we’d be doing an on board talent/variety show which should be an interesting event. In sailing news, yesterday we did a jibe manouvre and I helped! I was asked to ease out the braces of the course and lower topsail and… we’re still alive!

Distance travelled last 24 hours: 184 nautical miles Total distance travelled this voyage: 1385 nautical miles Distance to finish line:1188 nautical miles

Fried rice, blood moon, lazy Sunday: Gulden Leeuw

13 August: Yesterday, we had fried rice for lunch, it was delicious! As Watch 2 was coming off shift we got the last in the pans.  Our portion sizes range from crumbs to feasts and it is difficult for everyone to feel satisfied after a meal. This continues to be an issue, but we have greatly cut down on our foodwaste as we pass food around, and take smaller portions. Dinner went well, and the evening was full of laughter and games.

Lukas and Peder worked on the fisherman’s sail, so the foredeck had to keep clear. We also trimmed the sails yesterday. Then we saw dolphins! They are so cute! There was also a chip container that floated past, it was a comedic moment for the two on lookout, but it was also a reminder that we need to be careful about our garbage.

In the evening, we took down the mizzen top sail (Watch 2A). We had to take it down because we were expecting a storm and the sail had a rip in it. I don’t think the storm happened until later (it rained around 2230). There was also a blood moon; it was supposed to be the night the meteor shower was most visible, if it had not been so cloudy. We also passed the halfway mark of the race (although we haven’t hit the geographical halfway point). If we keep going at the same speed, they’re estimating four days.

Today is Lazy Sunday, and the trainees have taken this to heart a bit too well – breakfast was late and this pushes everyone’s schedule back a bit; we are all trying to be understanding and even in the tougher times someone is always smiling, with open arms to comfort the others.

Tonight we have the talent show/openstage 🙂 Denzel’s singing is much awaited.

Distance travelled last 24 hours: 180 nautical miles Total distance travelled this voyage: 1565 nautical miles

Talent Show: Gulden Leeuw

14 August:  So – yesterday was Lazy Sunday. We didn’t have happy hour (as per usual) and had a coffee house/talent show/open stage night at around 22:00. Yesterday was sort of crazy with the weather. It was off and on sunny most of the day, occasionally raining but mostly cloudy. We had fun with the talent show, a lot of people being very nervous at first but easing into it quite fast. We were also given letters from our loved ones at home, which had a lot of emotions coming up in the room. We’ve been heeling a lot the past two days, but thankfully we’ve been going about 10 knots most of the time, thanks to the wind and the work of the crew and trainees.Yesterday was a good day.

Distance travelled last 24 hours: 215 nautical miles Total distance travelled this voyage: 1770 nautical miles

Skippers thoughts: Rona II

14 August: Sail training works in part by providing an environment where young people can bond over shared experiences. One such experience we’re particularly good at giving, and which is particularly effective, is the seemingly dangerous task that, to be successfully achieved, requires a watch of individuals to come together as a team. Don’t get me wrong, some of what we do has some genuinely dangerous elements: the risk of injury while ocean racing – falling over in heavy seas, getting banged on the head by sails and booms – is not inconsiderable. But because of the training we undergo, long experience we have and careful procedures we’ve developed, as a group the sail training fraternity is remarkably good at minimising real risk while maximising the adventurous, “risky” element perceived by the crew.

Last night we had to drop our spinnaker in relatively difficult circumstances. It was at the top end of the spinnaker’s wind range, the sea was fairly lively, and it was (as it always seems to be) night time, i.e. pitch black. Additionally, during the drop itself, with one watch on the foredeck and another in the cockpit, we accidentally gybed, leaving the spinnaker coming down in a less controlled manner than we would have preferred. Nonetheless, although it will have looked dramatic at the time, because we had key people in key places, and were doing a task we had practiced and carried out a number of times, there was no significant risk to the crew. But from the excited talk afterwards in the cockpit, it’s evident they’ve just chalked up another story to tell those who didn’t spend their summer charging across the Atlantic!

Watch leader’s experience of a summer’s night sailing with spinnakers: Rona II

14 August: We’ve probably spent around seven days of the race so far sailing with spinnakers and they’ve been fun filled to say the least. Yesterday was yet another day of spinnaker sailing and despite what the skipper may say, the crew definitely aren’t fans of these almighty sails. The wind was gradually building throughout the day, speeds around 12 knots were being clocked and volunteers to man the sheets and go on the helm were rapidly decreasing.

Come midnight, the Mongols had battled through their watch and the Vikings were up. The helm was passed over to Viking Watch Officer, Paul Wayman, as the boat speed was well over 13 knots. Olly Jones stepped up to call the trim of the spinnaker and with the waves zooming passed, and in the hustle and bustle of watch changeover his calls of “TRIM ON” and “EASING” would definitely be heard by the crew of Peter Von Danzig some 40 miles ahead of us on the water. His calls could to some probably be described as panicked and I’m pretty sure this prompted the mate to stop listening to his Zara Larson at the nav table and to pop his head up on deck.  Even in the pitch black you could tell we were going pretty damn fast. The decision was made that we should drop the spinnaker. I was assigned the halyard, quite a straight forward job; all I had to do was to let out a third of the line once the spinnaker was tripped and then to wait for the skipper’s call on the speed the rest of it should come down. He sent me up to the foredeck with the final line of “just listen to whatever I say and do that” – easy.

Anyway, clipped on and clambered along the deck to the foredeck with George and Sam, Watch Officer and Watch Leader of the Mongols. Still yet to have my evening mocha that I’m regularly judged for I sat down, legs either side of the winch and suddenly appreciated the seriousness of the situation.  George was at the pulpit with a fid to trip the spinnaker shouting either panicked or excited obscenities and Sam was clutching onto the downhaul winch in a similar way as I was clutching mine. We all shared a mutual glance, which indicated that this was a situation none of us had been in before. Water was flushing past at a rate I’ve never seen on a yacht before. It reminded me of when I would power around the Thames estuary on a RIB as a kid.

Bio-luminescent plankton was lighting up the waves and it literally made the deck glow. We’re all comfortable with what we were doing – this must have been the fourth or fifth time we’d dropped a spinnaker – but never quite like this.

The spinnaker was flogging like crazy which meant communication became extremely difficult: instructions were being relayed through two or three people before they even made it to the foredeck. With everyone in position and ready for the drop the call was made to trip the spinnaker. George was the man to do this and as he tripped it the sail was sent flying into the night sky. I dropped the third of the spinnaker as I was directed to and then waited for the call from the skipper to drop anymore. Before these instructions came the foredeck was completely engulfed with a flapping sail and the angle of the boat had changed drastically, I was pretty sure it was now heeled over about 35 degrees on the opposite tack to that which it was on previously. I couldn’t see a thing, all I could see was the spinnaker that was repeatedly hitting me in the face. Suddenly calls of “drop it on the foredeck” were sent our way and I rapidly started letting out the halyard. This was easier said than done, the more I let out, the more sail ended up on my head. As you would expect, you couldn’t breathe that easily underneath this mass of blue and white material but it just kept piling up. After what seemed like an age of feeding rope through a mass of sail I could tell it was on the deck and people were dragging it aft and chucking it down the hatch.

Once I managed to wrestle my way out the maze of material we all checked each other was okay. We were all definitely happy we’d followed George’s number one rule of “clippy clippy”. (being harnessed to the deck lifelines) I came back to the cockpit to see theafterguard rapidly counting heads and making sure we we’re all there. Turns out we had crashed gybed during the drop and the sail had torn. It had caught on a hank on the way down and looked like the mate would have to reunite himself with his favourite sewing machine. At this point, that Mocha I’d wanted at the beginning of the watch was most certainly not needed, I was most certainly awake, that was epic!

At the time the whole thing was pretty scary, but that’s exactly what I wanted when I signed up to be on a trip across the North Atlantic. I at least wanted to be able to go back and make my friends and family put their fingers in their ears and pretend they weren’t listening as I told them about the epic adventure and ensure they didn’t think I’d gone on a cruise for five weeks!

Banner and feature image: Hello from the top of our world – Valery Vasilevskiy