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Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta Race 5, Report 9: Intense Racing

Posted on: 13.08.17

The racing has grown in intensity in Race 5 of the Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta with an ‘epic finale’ on the water possibly starting as soon as the end of next week.  Paul Bishop, Race Director, Sail Training International reports and the crews keep us up to date with life on the Atlantic.

Peter Von Danzig leads on the water and has less than 800 nautical miles to go to the finish line off the Eddystone lighthouse off the Devon Coast in the UK. If she continues to average the speed that she has made since the restart nine days ago she will finish on Friday 18 August.  Rona II is around 40 miles behind her but she has sailed a faster average as she took a more radical course to the north and is beginning to close in on her German rival. She will need to sail around 0.35 of a knot faster than Peter Von Danzig to take line honours from her. Peter Von Danzig will need to watch her back.

“The battle for first place on corrected time seems to be between Jolie Brise, Oosterschelde and Blue Clipper. Jolie Brise is currently in first place but this has been swapping between these three vessels over the past week and might change again as conditions vary. Race 5 from Halifax to Le Havre is shaping up to be an epic finale to the Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta.”

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. Spaniel (Latvia) (3rd Class C/D)
  9. Alexander Von Humboldt II (Germany) (3rd Class A)
  10. Peter Von Danzig (Germany) (4th Class C/D)
  11. Vahine (Finland) (5th Class C/D)


Christmas Day: Rona II

11 August: Today, the most festive of holidays was celebrated on the vessel Rona II, along with the birthday of watch officer Nathan Meager. Funnily enough, this is the first time that Nathan’s birthday has been celebrated in unison with Yuletide. To get everyone in the Christmas spirit, a cardboard Christmas tree was created and duct taped to the mast. Mistletoe was also devised out of slightly inflated white balloons and paper leaves, after the genius idea from Will Davies, who quickly realised his tactical error. The Mongols on Mother watch have been slaving away since 0500 local time to bring the crew a delicious five course roast dinner – yes, really!

Crew member Harry Normanton managed to smuggle the most delicious birthday cake on board to share with everyone on Christmas day; which was baked by his loving granddad. The cake was carefully converted into a birthday cake, now reading “Happy 40th Birthday Nathan.” Thirty-nine year old Nathan had very mixed emotions about this.

Today’s present for everyone on board was for the highly anticipated “mystery box”, packed and sealed by the campaign’s food committee more than six months ago, to be opened. The crew were not disappointed with the contents, which ranged from sunglasses to glow-in-the-dark friendship bracelets, a vast amount of sweets, chocolate and even pate. However, none of the prizes compared to the jar of lemon curd which has become an absolute requirement of every “mystery box” and a legend among Rona Sailing Project race alumni. Nathan also received a couple of gifts from his wife and children, one of which being a toy boat, which everyone thought was awesome.

To finish off the day, the Mongols gave a slightly less-than entirely accurate* interpretation of the Nativity story, in classic play form. The performance was very well received by the other watches, and the final display was recorded by multiple crew members.

*The Rona Sailing Project does not agree with any statements made, nor admit any connection to any of the actors, and nor would they like to be associated with it in any way!

Tactics: Rona II

12 August: Despite not being even at the half way mark, at this point it looks like the tactical game is over for us. Rona II, and probably Peter von Danzig, can reach the finish line without any more tacks or gybes, and are likely therefore to be in a straight dash for the line. We’re certainly dashing; Rona II is fully powered up with spinnaker, staysail, mainsail, mizzen staysail and mizzen all up. There’s no more speed to be found, so it’s the amount and direction of wind, the sea state, and  the decisions on sail selection to deal with them, that will be the likely factors pushing the fight for line honours one way or the other.

Spaniel, Regina Germania and Vahine look to have gybes still to make, and therefore more things to think about than us!

Night watch: Rona II

12 August: It’s 1am, mid-Atlantic, and almost pitch black both inside Rona II and outside. Two watches are asleep in the dark down below, but there’s a slight red glow from the hatch as the galley’s red light is on while the kettle boils ready for the on watch’s hot chocolates. Rona II is fully powered up, chasing Peter von Danzig, which is around 70 miles ahead. We’re charging along at nine knots with every sail up and could be heading straight for a black wall for all we can see ahead, although we can see our wake stretching out dead straight behind. Rona II is nearly 70ft long, 56 tonnes, with 23 aboard, and we’re entirely in the hands of three of the crew, aged sixteen, seventeen and seventeen.

Alex the spinnaker trimmer, who’s barely 16, is standing outside the cockpit on the side deck, his harness clipped to the jackstay. His head torch is trained on the spinnaker, and the spinnaker sheet leads from his hands, across the cockpit, to a winch manned by Will, and forward to the spinnaker, the largest sail onboard.

Lewis is on the helm, face just visible in the compass’ red light.Teamwork, total focus and constant communication is needed between them – anything any one of them does affects the others. If they make a mistake, Rona II will either turn too far upwind or downwind, lose the wind from the spinnaker and slow down dramatically, which costs time and distance we can’t afford to lose.  It couldn’t be more intense.

I can’t see their faces, but it’s easy to tell there’s nowhere – nowhere – they’d rather be right now.

You can’t escape the dentist: Rona II

12 August: An interesting start to New Year’s day aboard Rona II. The dawn light enabled a field dental practice to open for a short time on the aft deck. Watch Officer George Hopkins, after walking head first into a spinnaker pole last night came off with a chipped tooth. After a night of discomfort his Watch Leader and newly qualified dentist Sam Wareing took to the tooth with an emery file to curb the sharp edge. At the other end of the hierarchy the Mongol deputy Director of Renewable Resources has been suddenly fired from his post on allowing a tin can to fall into the bilge, the height of incompetence in his line of work and the last straw adding to a string of minor offences.

The effects of a post Christmas comedown hasn’t affected the standing of Rona II in the race, holding first in class and sixth in the fleet overall. With the Mayans back on mother watch; breakfast was churned out and squared away within the hour leaving time for Mate, Andy Wright, to present a short lecture on weather and the importance of pressure systems. Two members of the audience were branded with permanent marker on their hand for giving silly answers, a third was marked with a reminder to, “pay more attention” – the said crew member had no regrets and later remarked “this was a life skill I needed to learn”.

The Mate has decreed that we are close enough to the finish line to use fresh water to wash up instead of sea water and there has been a subtle improvement in tea and coffee thanks to the lack of salt lining the rims of cups.

In other news, a recent mystery has been solved after two bottles of Big Mac sauce and a can of Red Bull bought from a Canadian supermarket were misplaced shortly before departure. Over a week has passed with a “missing” poster pinned up and finally the original owner has located his property, of course in amongst his own gear, much to his own delight and the rest of the crew’s general disinterest.

A few words from the person really in charge: Rona II

12 August: I thought it was time for me, the mate, to say a few words. I’ve been doing my mate duties day by day, which to be honest has been made easy by the crew and afterguard. My job is to ensure the safe running of Rona II above and below decks. This task has been made easy by the strong afterguard and very capable and hard working crew.

I have the general overview of what’s going on, and make decisions on when to change sails or charge batteries. My role is often not visible, but all the same happening. I’ve just been called to the deck by the on watch as they have noticed an upward trend in the average wind speed. I’ve not called for a sail change but warned them that they may need to hoist a number two Yankee (a smaller high cut sail, which goes on the front of the boat) and put reef two in (making the main sail smaller), if the trend continues. It’s not all decision making, I’ve just been asked if I’d like a coffee and afternoon cake – it’s clearly not all racing decision making skills that the mate has to contend with. One of our highlights of the day is the 14:00 UTC positions and safety radio chat. (All our communication with race control are in UTC, ship’s time is local time for the time zone we’re in, so on this trip we add one hour to local time every time we cover 15 degrees longitude. So local time now is 17:05 +0100 and the UK time is 19:05 DST – yes it’s confusing for us too!)

However, back to communication schedules: so we turn on the MF/HF Radio and immediately know it’s working because the noise emitted from it is white noise beyond all white noise you’ve ever heard. Eventually it crackles into life with the sound of vague and distant voices, which then turns into 30 mins of other boats relaying positions to each other and lots of mutual respect and appreciation between skippers. However, what I can never understand is how Jolie Brise, a 104 year old boat, has the best working MF radio of all time, they really did build things to last in the old days!!

Other mate duties involve checking the bilges have been pumped, surfaces have been cleaned, the rig is still pointing upwards, some mechanical checks. Today’s challenge is that the generator seems to not be playing ball. It’s not a problem, we can use the engine until its fixed. I also police the helmsmen’s courses to ensure the on watch are steering in the right direction – sometimes it’s a wonder we arrive anywhere that we aim for?!?

Okay, I think you’ve had enough from me, we’ve had a watch change and the new watch are treating the course as optional………………………………..time for a mate grumble! Oh and the owner, sorry, skipper has just woken up, so I need to allocate him his list of jobs to ensure he doesn’t interfere with the smooth running of my boat 😉

Sailing as the cook: Blue Clipper

12 August

French: Bonjour, mon nom est Catheryne Langford. Jai commence la course en avril avec le Blue Clipper pour changer de bateau pour le Atyla de Boston a Quebec. De retour a Halifax a bord de mon premier amour le Blue Clipper pour une deuxieme transatlantique, comme cuisiniere cette fois-ci! Un nouveau defi, mais rien de trop grand pour mempecher de reprendre la mer. Cet immensite et l’esprit du BC mavaient manque.

 English: Hello, my name is Catheryne Langford. I started the race in April with Blue Clipper and then sailed on Atyla from Boston to Quebec. Back in Halifax I went back on board my first love – Blue Clipper – for the second Transatlantic leg, as a cook this time! It’s a new challenge, but nothing too great to prevent me from returning to the sea. I had missed the great spirit on board Blue Clipper.

Photo: Preparing for night watch – Valery Vasilevskiy