Hands on Deck, Back Team, Grind Forward. Hold!

Last time we visited New Zealand we got to see the America’s cup boats being towed out of the harbor prior to racing in the final. We where in Auckland when the mast broke on Team New Zealand’s boat dashing any hope of retaining the cup. Luckily for us this time around an enterprising New Zealander bought the old boats and duplicates the original races but with paying tourists on board. So we signed up for a Saturday race.

They have the NZL41 which raced in 2003 and is quite wide, and the NZL68 much thinner with tiny little rudders and harder to control. Nora was fascinated to be on either boat, but I wanted the newer boat so we ended up on the NZL68 (further away in the picture). After leaving harbor we trained grinding. Sails need to go up and be trimmed and all this requires a motor that is not available, hence why the grinding is key to success.

There are 4 stations which means 8 people grinding at a single time (2 per station on opposite sides). All 8 people can be used to raise the sails, or they can be unlinked and each team of 4 used independently to trim sails. I was on the back team that meant the main sail and commanded by Pedro (that we assumed to be a Spaniard with perfect English, for he was European). The rest of our professional crew included a New Zealand Skipper, the course setter also Kiwi, and then two English men for front sails, one had been a crew member in the past Volvo Ocean Race.

These are the opponents floating into the start box. The boats are the originals unchanged, except for an engine to avoid the need for towing and a small railing installed around the border to have something to hold on to and less tourists flying overboard. In a real crew everybody would have a job and most likely something they are holding on to, a sail, a rope, a winch or a rudder. They also use thicker sails as the America’s cup originals only last 30 hours of use, in order to be extra light.

After much screaming and maneuvering we started the race well and were about a minute ahead of our opponents and in good position. However, the course was then blocked by a tanker. We thought we could clear it but he gave us a honk to warn us not to mess with him, so we had to race alongside and then tack earlier than was good for us, losing the lead to our opponents. So they rounded the marker first and then brought out their small spinnaker and started pulling away.

On our way down the course we ran into the real team racers practicing for the 2013 America’s Cup in the new boats named AC72, a wing-sailed catamaran. Designed for even more speed, and use a hard sail like the wing of a plane.

We also saw a small sailboat with a hydro foil under the water, which means as he picked up speed it actually raised the entire boat hull out of the water leaving only the keel in the water.

On the second lap fate smiled on us and as the opposition went to put up their downwind weapon they tangled it. They had knotted the sail when they put it away in the hold in the previous upwind segment.

This was our golden opportunity and Nora quickly rose to the challenge. Grind…now is the time.

The enemy did have the advantage of being faster downwind then us and being able to steal our wind by being upwind from us (although that also means behind us). This being the last leg, we inched him out towards the side of the course cutting him off, but he was not easily persuaded. Here a series of pictures of him trying to overtake us.

You could leap over from the back of our boat onto theirs with a good jump. This is also as fast as our camera takes pictures, so it’s easier to imagine the speed he was moving at.

Actually the hardest part of the grinding is not so much the physical effort, but listening to the commands. As there are several things going on at once, so you have to narrow in on the voice of your commanding officer, in this case Pedro. Here is a small clip of Nora doing her work as the captain is updating us on our progress.

Being the winners we get to celebrate and Nora gets to captain the ship.

I got to try to keep her steady while they brought down the sails.

A great day for sailing and I happened to pick the right winning boat, or was it the winning boat due to our work on it? But the losers do get to have a great picture on the internet taken from our boat.

5 Responses to “Hands on Deck, Back Team, Grind Forward. Hold!”

  1. D says:

    Nora is the Queen of Flip-Flops, even on a racing boat of the Southern Ocean!!!! Something to admire!!!! Yo quiero hacer ese raceeeeeeeee!!!

  2. Vicky says:

    wow – guido would have soooo loved to be there with you. i am sure he will bug you all next week about more details from it… and maybe on one of your next trips you might just have to take him along. 🙂

  3. Nora says:

    @D – They’re actually closed in the back (I’ve upgraded!!) 🙂
    @Vicky – We will happily take Guido along next time, better yet – we all go!

  4. Alex says:

    Oh yes, let’s all go! Tomas can talk non-stop while the captain is trying to give the orders, Kaku can slouch bad-naturedly in a corner looking away from us (he’ll be 11 soon and is already displaying all the finer qualities of a teenager), Ale can repeat what the captain says, 3 times each. Kuru can constantly ask “cayo el ancla? Cayo el ancla?” and I can curse at everybody incessantly as I learned from my father. Can’t wait!

  5. Kuru says:

    Ok, you’re on! Vamos.
    By the way, no es el ancla lo que siempre me preocupa: son los screaming reaches.
    Gordo if you are going to curse like your father, remember to stand with your hands behind your back trying to look like Captain Ahab 🙂

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