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Dec 22nd Update From Cole And Ronnie


  • Dec 22nd Update From Cole And Ronnie

    Cole Brauer
    First Light

    The Southern Ocean has been the Ocean of Trick and Treats. I’ll be sailing along, maybe it’s even light winds, everything seems a little unsteady, I’m on my feet maybe I am ready maybe I am about to. I can feel something in the air. The boat doesn’t feel right. Something is coming. As I’m getting my gear on the boat goes into a broach. Not a bad broach, a shift broach. A broach where the wind shifts enough the autopilot corrects by heading up putting the side of the boat side to these waves. The boat turns to the wind. I get up on deck, I ease the sails but nothing happens. The waves are keeping her down even though the puff is gone. Even though the shift is gone. Now just in the shifts wake is a mess. Finally the wind is back to its light 15 knots, the autopilot swings forcefully once the boat flattens. The forward sails flog now that they are eased out massively. The main is slammed against the spreaders. I clean the boat up, and walk back down below. Two hours later. Again. I question, is it the boat? Is it the autopilot? Is it me?? My trimming? I’ve realized I have to constantly have eased out sails for these moment so the autopilot can try to catch it before the boat flips.

    This Ocean is so hard to push hard if you aren’t outside fighting to keep the boat straight in the conditions. Especially after the front passes. The cold sector southwesterlies are so gusty and unstable. But what are the Treats you may be asking yourself??? The treats are the time in between the crazy, the sun comes out-not a cloud in the sky! The boat dries out, it gets light, the seastate dies down, the water turns this amazing blue. I eat properly, I sleep like a baby. It chilly still but I sleep better when it’s this chilly. I read a lot. I watch movies. I FaceTime family! It’s a lovely little break from the insanity. I’m about halfway through the Ocean of Trick and Treats! I can’t lie I’m excited for the Trade Winds again. But at this point the gusty crazy has become numerous to me. Easing sails, staying in a reef with full ballast in much lighter breeze than I ever would before! Learning to sail this boat in a very different way. And trying to learn quickly! It’s not ridiculously fast but stability is way more important. The shock load on a boat, especially on a boat like this is very important to reduce! There is a lot of very strong sails and rope on this boat…very easy to tear things apart… So to the people looking and saying she’s sailing much slower than normal, don’t worry I would like to go faster! But I can only go as fast as the boat will allow me to!


    Ronnie Simpson
    Shipyard Brewing

    The last couple of weeks have been by far the most difficult for me of the entire race. Smack dab in the middle of the Southern Indian Ocean, I’ve begun having repeated gear failures, one after another that have forced me to make running repairs and throttle back out of caution. Alone in one of the most remote and inhospitable patches of water on planet earth, I’ve had to fix multiple tears in my mainsail, all above the third reef. Keep in mind that i’ve been on my backup autopilot since day 1, some seven weeks and more than 10,000 miles ago. This is in addition to a number of other challenges onboard, and as a result i’m limping across the Indian Ocean towards an Australian pit-stop and certainly losing a bit of the sporting element of the race. The race has, for now, become secondary to just keeping the boat together and getting to port for some much needed repairs and maintenance. Obviously, this affects morale and mental disposition onboard. This race is proving to be very challenging on many fronts, something I expected and did not shy away from. But exactly as the brochure described!

    A bit over a week ago, while sailing downwind in a depression that had breeze in the upper 30s gusting to 50, I dropped the mainsail and went downwind on just the staysail. This is a tactic i’ve used many times on Shipyard Brewing, and on other boats too when faced with huge breeze from behind. After all, you can’t crash gybe the main across the boat in 40 or 50 knots if you’re under a headsail alone. For the most part, the boat keeps rumbling along, albeit at a reduced pace, but still plenty fast as you’re sailing downwind in heavy breeze and big waves. This race is largely about maintaining a consistently quick average and getting around the world in one piece more than it is pushing hard and trying to sail close to your polars at all times, especially in big conditions. I’m always trying to baby the boat and the autopilot and all associated systems when it’s rough, so if I can just tiptoe through the heavy weather, hopefully I can keep the boat together. That’s the goal at least.

    So it was with much disappointment that I re-hoisted a triple-reefed main the following morning and discovered that my mainsail had two large rips in it, both above the third reef. I had also just repaired another tear in the main just before this incident, and have had to make a 4th repair just a few days ago. So 4 mainsail repairs in the span of 8 days, each one involving dropping the main on deck and stitching, patching, taping, etc has been very tiring and stressful, and have added new levels of anxiety to a portion of the race where I already feel very exposed and vulnerable. Almost all of these issues, in my assessment are due to chafe against the rig and all could have been better and further addressed with more time to prepare for this race. Or different decision making. I did my best, but there are details that got missed and under-addressed in preparing for this race.

    So you can understand my mounting frustration when i’m being handicapped in this race in many ways, due to somewhat under tested systems and suboptimal aspects of the boat that could have been greatly improved with more time, resources and development. Most of my challenges are very simple things, in hindsight – minor details – that are coming back to bite me. With better preparation, I could be at 100% strength and pushing right now, and possibly leading. Instead i’m limping around in 3rd place at the moment, not bad, but a frustratingly large gap to if the boat were more optimized. My primary autopilot for example, was installed in Maine and we had very few chances to sea-trial it and work out some kinks. When it had an issue very early on the delivery to Spain, I switched over to the backup autopilot (that’s driving now), but then figured out the issue and swapped back to the Forums before the start of the race. Virtually un-tested in the ocean, it failed on night Forums and i’ve been on the Forum since then. Forum has worked well enough to get me to where I am, but it has still forced me to sail more conservatively, since literally day number one of this race. There was precious little time for actual sea trials after major re-fits of the boat. It was straight into a delivery to the race, that had its own challenges, and then straight into a frenzy to be ready to start on October 28.

    The sea state down here has been everything from appalling to impressive to sublime, and then back to appalling. Particularly bad can be when the NW front shifts abruptly to a SW front. When the North and NW swell mixes with the SW swell, and the ever-present westerly swell and even some south, the seas can become a washing machine. A lot of times you have to make sure to gybe right at the shift because otherwise you are pointed north, sailing on the south westerly breeze on a port gybe, and then you are launching over the NW swells in a very scary fashion. I had one front in particular, I think three depressions ago that was one of the most scary moments I’ve ever had while sailing. The breeze switched 90 degrees or more in an instant, and the boat was just launching off swells in every direction. It was at that moment that I came up on deck and nearly got hit in the face by something black and plastic flying off the boat. I couldn’t figure it out for a moment and then I looked aloft. It was the windex flying off the mast. Fortunately, my masthead wind instrument is still working fine. I hope to come back down to the South at some point when I have a boat I can push harder, because there is some fantastic downwind sailing to be had. Shipyard Brewing is very old-school in the fact that she’s a single rudder boat that is pretty skinny, whereas the newer Class 40s and Open 50 I’m racing against are comparatively beamier and have twin rudders. Perhaps one day i’ll come back down here in a more modern design that is more optimized and able to be pushed.

    The bird life down here continues to be fantastic. I’m constantly surprised how at how many birds there are, and of how many different types. Every time I step outside there is bird life. A few days ago, I had nice conditions for a drone shot, so I put the drone up and sure enough, had some close bird encounters. Always stressful to fly the drone near birds, but it made for a cool photo and video! A few days ago, Shipyard Brewing and I passed north of the Kerguelen Islands. The Kerguelens are a French scientific outpost and Wikipedia says that they have a seasonal population of 50-120 people down there in the main port of Port Aux Francais. The Kerguelens would probably be a fantastic place to visit on a big expedition cruising boat one day.

    A pit stop is now guaranteed. There is no way i’m pushing on towards Cape Horn in current scenario, so a stop in Hobart, Tasmania is now beginning to be planned. I’ll probably be there in the first week of the new year. This will be right after the famous Sydney – Hobart race comes through town. I’ve been down there twice for the Sydney – Hobart race, and it’s one of the coolest places on earth during that time. Boats start leaving pretty quickly after the race, so I should be able to seamlessly find a place to berth the boat and then access some marine resources like a sail loft and the chandlery, and then evaluate what my best option is. My partner Marisa will be coming down with autopilot spares as well.

    As always, I want to extend a huge thanks to all of my sponsors, friends and supporters who have been especially encouraging through some difficult times onboard. There have been a lot of messages of encouragement and ‘you got this’ that I’ve received in the past couple of weeks, and they have truly lifted my spirits and been encouraging. Thank you.

    About 2,300 miles to Hobart, so I anticipate being there in 12 days or two weeks, sometime very shortly after the new year. Happy Wednesday from Shipyard Brewing at 47*25 South by 92*40 East.

    Special shout out to my partner Marisa who bought me some heated socks, gloves and a vest before the race. (They are powered by rechargeable batteries). I don’t know why I waited until It got really cold to use these things. As I write this, my feet are toasty warm!


    Dec 22
    Ari Kansakoski has been in contact with the organisers last night and this morning to report rigging issues. Given his slow speeds on the event tracker, he wanted to reassure everyone he is fine and well whilst assessing the situation and his options. We will provide more information as and when we receive them from Ari, who has not requested any assistance.

    Dec 21
    Following many days marked by small and bigger issues Alessandro Tosetti on Aspra informed today the organisation that he intends to head for Cape Town for a technical pit stop to deal with a main halyard replacement, sail repairs, a diesel generator broken injector pump and, which ultimately left the skipper with no other option, the breaking of the hydrogenerator support meaning he has issues with both his primary means of recharging his batteries. He is 250 miles from Cape Town and expects to arrive by the morning of the 23rd.

    Dec 20
    After only 32 days of navigation, the Italian skipper Andrea Mura, aboard his Open 50′ Vento di Sardegna rounded the first of the great capes, Cape of Good Hope, around 14:00 UTC. For Andrea, this first milestone is important, even psychologically, to keep the motivation alive in a race that is won mile after mile, over a very long distance.
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