Blog Post 27 by Jon Sanders: Wind, Eggs and the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race
I’ve noticed that island regions influence wind strengths, often beginning at several hundreds of miles away; generally, the effect is less wind, either up-wind or down-wind. Vision Rodrigues, Mauritius, and Reunion islands and in the South Pacific: Tuamotus, Tahiti and Society islands. On the other hand, the Trades in the Caribbean (the Islands I visited or pass on route) are more reliable.
As I tend to sail with a shorter rig, it might look a wee bit strange departing Tahiti with my mainsail reefed and not much wind. Sure as eggs, as the distance gets longer the wind becomes greater. It’s lots easier tying the reef (neat as) when at the dock than it is at 2am.
Each day the swell gets bigger from the south, south-southwest and the southwest.
Something is down there!…
I’ve got eggs on the brain. I forgot to buy them at Carrefour. Never mind, I can buy some in New Caledonia; they have lots of chooks. I know, as when I was last there I could hear them in the morning. They do it in the dark of night!
Sydney to Hobart
In 1977, I decided to compete in the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. I would need to sail my S&S 34 from Perth/Fremantle, go south of the Australian continent to Sydney on the east coast; 2250 Nautical Miles via my Way Points. Back then there were no Sat. Nav., GPS or electronic chart plotter.
Since then, I have done seven Sydney to Hobart races, three of them in my S&S 34 and the other four in this S&S 39. Typically, I would sail single-handed from Perth to Sydney and on the trip home one or more of my crew join me.
The first portion of the passage to Sydney is to head southwest to Cape Naturaliste, then south to Cape Leeuwin – one of the five great Capes. From Leeuwin, you then do a lefty and head for the Bass Strait, the other side of the continent, the other side of the Great Australian Bight.
Problem: the prevailing winds at the Cape and eastwards along the coast is east to southeast. Strong summer winds, 25 to 30 knots, can be the norm. 100% head winds, actually that should read 101% headwinds. So one stays on a port tack, going south, 180 to 200 NM. To 38 degrees/39 degrees south latitude. Here the wind shifts to south, south-southwest, or southwest. Then tack and lay Bass Strait – a reach.
On this occasion, I pass the Leeuwin – Dutch for lion. Night time, cloudy, wind at 30 knots southeast. Head seas. In other words, rough as bags.
Close hauled, yacht throwing heaps of spray plus green water flooding over, leaping off crests into troughs with an occasional thump. (Current stock production yachts with their front flat bottoms converts that to a more frequent bang).
Hasler wind vane self-steerer, steering the yacht. (Hasler the pioneer of that type of steering). Today I have an Aires Wind Vane – and a Simrad tiller electric pilot for quiet conditions.
Me, wet gear on. Opening and closing the cockpit hatch. Maintaining lookout for ships rounding the Leeuwin.
Quite unknown to me, a dozen eggs dislodged themselves in the port top bunk, threw themselves over the lee cloth and scattered themselves along my bunk – on the lee side. One even managed to find its way into my sleeping bag. How did it do that?
(I am oblivious to all).
When the yacht and I are about 25/30 N Miles south of Leeuwin, I decree there is not going to be any more ships in this current region, and it’s time for a well-earned kip.
What ships Captain, in his right mind, is going to be sailing south, 30 miles south of Leeuwin and continue going south, like me! It would be a bit like Cecil Rhodes’ African railway to nowhere. There ain’t anything there! I shut the cockpit hatch tight. I take my wet weather gear off, towel myself dry and do a bit of my own leaping – right into my lee side bunk.
I still know nothing, nothing at all, until morning that is.
To my horror, my bunk, my clothes and I look and feel like an uncooked omelette. Still rough as bags I remember thinking, “God hates me”.
At this very moment, I am 22 N Miles north of Mitiaro Island in the Cook Islands. There are four islands in this particular 40-mile radius. More scattered elsewhere.
Wind 18/20 SSE. Steady progress. All is good.
Kindest regards to all. Have a nice breakfast.