Success is based on the exclusion of sources of error
Aktualisiert: 11. März 2020
Hectically I crank the winch, in lee the water glows light green and flat. The boat heels a good 30 degrees under the gennaker and accelerates enormously. Turning leewards impossible, if the wind increases further, 107 square meters of cloth have to be taken down in seconds, and the goal is so close ...
Gust in small fairway. Photo credit: Anders Hannsson
It is the last minutes of the Silverrudder regatta, 306 boats sail one-handed around 134 nautical miles around the Danish island of Fyn - non-stop.
For me it is the third and maybe last Silverrudder participation, I am going abroad for personal reasons. Last year I was allowed to win with the FARR280 - in my group, which was heavily decimated by the storm. This is a TP52 shrunk to 8,72m. A racing machine, wet, uncomfortable, fast. Without engine 1.35t light.
Now I'm really close to the finish line, very far in front. My participation in the race until Wednesday morning before the start was on the rocks: 2 thick bruises on my leg, no time for preparation and a broken bus to trailer the boat ... after the regatta Baltic 500 in summer we only craned the boat and cleaned it roughly ... that should still take revenge.
But on Tuesday late in the evening I had collected all the things necessary for the regatta. On Wednesday morning the leg hurt surprisingly little, and in addition the forecast of the car workshop: the defective turbocharger should hold out despite 450,000km on the clock there and back.
So I started. Even the malfunction in the trailer's light strip and the total closure of the A7 due to an accident couldn't stop me anymore ...
Full port in Svendborg. Photo credit: Hans Genthe
16:52 Finally arrived in Svendborg, I begin immediately to build up the boat: Unload the mast, put it together, put on the spreaders. The next day the crane is supposed to come at 9am, so I wanted to get into the water as early as possible to set up the boat and check everything. Normally there are six of us, then everything goes fast. Unfortunately there was still plenty of dried algae and smallpox on the hull, keel and rudder, which took another 2 hours despite Starbrite Super Underwater Ship Cleaner. It was already dawning when I could start to install the mast. So I must have overlooked the chafed backstays rubber on the 2nd spreader ... at 10pm I finally crawled into my bus driver's cabin, dead tired, and put my thick leg up.
Preparation is half the battle
At shortly before seven the sun wakes me up for the morning program: shower, baker and boat to the crane. Luckily I could already crane at 10am, and my friend and boat builder Tilmann arrives in time to help, when the crane operator sensitively puts the boat on the keel. Then mast is set, halyards are laid, rigging is adjusted - this also takes a lot of time, noon is quickly over. When attaching the railing I fall bluntly into the water - that brings good luck, I tell myself. But I think I should start eating something.
At 2 pm I think I'm almost finished, and check everything again. See there, the port position lantern does not work. Measure the cable, that was OK, so remove the posi: Just behind the lamp the cable is kinked, torn and corroded. Wind it up, solder it, pour epoxy over it, after 2 hours the lamp works. Then the mobile phone is powered by permanent power supply, the NV-Verlags-App becomes my backup to the sea chart printed on plastic foil. The chart had proved itself very well in the storm last year.
Then I finally put on all the sails or pack the downwind sails: gennaker 107sqm, gennaker 70sqm, flying jib, code 0, checking every centimetre and applying glue in places. Jib, main and gennaker are now 4 years old and are made of wafer-thin EPEX-Technora laminate from Elvstrøm. The foil is thinner than normal - a test. Elvstrøm is our sailing sponsor, and we have tried a lot of new things with their help.
Shopping, putting away the boat, packing sailing clothes - I wasn't ready for the skippers' briefing, it had to be cancelled - for me. I'm a friend of rituals, with me everything always has to be in the same place: flashlight, headlamp, knife, spare lines, sheets, tools, map, food ...
In the evening at 10 pm I check the weather and electricity in my bus driver's cabin and prepare a concept. Wind maximum 20 knots in the north of Funen, otherwise less, which promises to be a pleasant race. Never trust a weatherman - I say to myself, and pack a few thicker things anyway. My plan: start in time, concentrate on tactics, pace yourself, eat and drink enough to avoid mistakes.
Friday morning I was one of the first people at breakfast. My start is at 11am. An hour and a half before I set the main and run out to watch the starts before. It looks pretty pointy, so I abandon code 0 and use only jib and main. After a slow start downwind from the field I quickly sat down in 5th position and overtake one after the other - also the Flaar with foils, which is fired by a huge Code 0. Unfortunately the echo sounder doesn't want to show anything anymore, and the log hasn't for a long time. Later I notice that the contacts are corroded - and I am annoyed not to have serviced/checked the contacts, especially after the wet hell of the Baltic 500 race. My only depth information is now provided by the NV-Verlag cards on the waterproof mobile phone.
Big sails, big problems
In the exit of the Sund I set the large 107qm Gennaker, and release myself from the field fast. But the wind increases. I had planned to take it away in time. I think too slowly, can't decide, miss the right moment. The wind continues to increase, I can't keep the course. Hopefully a wind hole comes to the pull down the gennaker - but the wind increases even more. Crap. Drop off, autopilot on, jib up, pull Genni to windward, let it drop on the fore ship and pull it into the hatch - so the theory. But when loosening the tack line, a piece of cloth touches the water surface, and swam - the 107 sqm cloth disappears in the water. I hold on to a rest on deck - but pulling in is not possible anymore. The autopilot steers course bravely and fast - and the control panel is unreachable far away at the back. So I let go of the Genni, which disappears under the boat, wraps itself around the keel and rudder and stops the boat while I jump backwards and decouple the tiller pilot with a kick of my foot - and run forward again immediately. The boat turns and relieves the Genni. Like a man possessed, I pull the wet cloth on board - it really works. Back on course I first have to catch my breath - I am already at the limit of my strength. Half a nautical mile and some ships cost all this.
Flying under J0 Credit: Joern Knudsen
After a few minutes rest under jib I set the Flying Jib, which fills the triangle between top of the bowsprit, mast top and jib tracks, and take up pursuit. Behind the big Belt bridge the wind increases further, the mainsail gets the first reef. The Flying Jib from EPEX and reefed mainsail - a dream team. With this I make up for lost meters. At Kerteminde, the jib goes up again, with a constant 20 knots of apparent wind and more, but the wind is still increasing. Second reef. In gusts now up to 28 knots of wind. My mood is sinking in the face of the long cross in the night. I take advantage of the high shore protection of the high shore to Fynshoved to put on a layer of fibre fur and prepare the ship for the night. Food lifts and keeps the mood, enough food within reach is important, I think.
The hard part
32 knots are shown on the wind indicator when the land protection at Fynshoved is passed. White wave crests everywhere. The Farr bucks like a nag and moves forward only slowly. I yearn for land protection, turn, trim everything flat and sail fully sheeted with speed towards land - less wave means the same speed with more height and less power. Finally back in land cover I avoid the waves like the devil avoids holy water, prefer 20 or more tacks and use the wind shifts. It is worth it, the flaar stays astern. According to the tracker I am in first place.
It is dark meanwhile. From Aebelø on it's over with the shelter, now the Farr rocks and bucks again in speed mode towards the entrance of the small belt and land protection. It slowly fades away, I reef out. A match with an Luffe 47 helps to drive away the tiredness, I am equally fast - a good sign. At split I even set myself apart from her. In the small Belt, counter current with a weak wind demands highest concentration - inappropriate way the gut is reporting. Life jacket, oilskin jacket, dry suit, fleece jacket, fibre petz overall, thermal underwear cost a lot of time.
Only in the exit of the small belt I am ready for action again. With horror I notice the Esse 850 from my start group next to me, I thought it was far astern. So I hoist the code 0 and accelerate ... the frippery does not cooperate and falls back. Slowly the sun rises and it gets warmer, but with the esse in my neck I don't want to waste time with manoevres. Instead of changing sails, I ease the tack line and ride the Code 0 like a gennaker - and to my astonishment I even distance myself further from the pursuers. Cool, safely crossing the finish line without changing sails, i.e. without "BigGenni experiments" - that would be great.
Final spurt necessary
But nothing comes of it: In Svenborgsund suddenly clear sky, sun, warm. The wind falls asleep and comes right from behind. Just like the chimney. So in no time I stuff the Code 0 below deck and put the big, wet Genni. The thing weighed a ton. And here comes the ferry. Gybing, 10m before past the ferry, gybing again, everything in the narrow channel.
Svendborg bridge. Photo credit: Ulrich Rungsted Nielsen And then came this gust, in the last turn of the fairway. The big gennaker produces quite a lot of pressure for only one man only on the edge and drags through the water. There is nothing to see downwind, in such a narrow channel it is really risky. The Farr just makes the turn, the bottom buoy stays just on the wrong side. I am totally sweating as I cross the finish line. I rip my clothes off immediately, otherwise I get a heat stroke ...
The last meters. Photo credit: Ulrich Rungsted Nielsen
Per Whatsapp the congratulations already come: first in the group - a dream. I'm especially happy that I was able to do something for our two main sponsors Alexseal and Elvstrøm (and the many other supporters) - thanks for the support over the years!
My safety concept:
- Drysuit. Warm and in case of a man overboard survivable for hours.
- Security ropes made of Dyneema and very short life belt. With this you can only crawl out of the foredeck on all fours, but you can't fall overboard.
- Oversized anchor. So that you can calmly set an emergency rig or wait for rescue in case of a mast breakage. You can pull yourself over the gennaker halyard from the ground. Or to avoid stranding with a gennaker wrapped around the keel and rudder.
- Food and all important accessories in the cockpit in bags or waterproof cans.
- light but powerful lipo battery relatively high in the centre of the ship, so that even in the event of a leak, the power supply only breaks down at the last moment.
- simple 1-line reefing system with loops in the mainsail for hooking into an adjustable loop
- Map printed on plastic foil, danger spots strongly enlarged