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Retrospect: The Saga Of Shipyard Brewing's Last Days

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  • Retrospect: The Saga Of Shipyard Brewing's Last Days

    Live to fight another day - The tough reality of ocean sailing

    By Marco Nannini.

    The skippers of the Global Solo Challenge have to endure months of navigation in the roaring forties and screaming fifties to reach Cape Horn. After braving storms, technical difficulties, fatigue and cold temperatures, the legendary cape feels like the big prize for all the efforts each skipper has put into their project. It is a reward and a climax not just in their circumnavigation but in years of preparations, struggles to raise the necessary funds, work around the clock to be ready for the start, and many other challenges.

    David Linger on Koloa Maoli, an early OCD Class40 with the same hull as Cole Brauer’s First Light and Ari Kansakoski’s ZEROchallenge, rounded Cape Horn yesterday February 12th at 13:30 UTC. The southern Pacific gave no discounts to the American sailors who had brilliantly conducted the event with an excellent balance between progress and boat preservation. His boat had been prepared impeccably by Maine Yacht Center and had always stood out for the meticulous attention to detail that was paid in making the boat ready for the Global Solo Challenge.

    On February 8th, however, Dave experienced a severe knock down and whilst the boat was laid on its side for moments that feel like an eternity, the pressure of the water caused the boom to break in the middle. Additional stress cracking developed at the aft end of the custom carbon boom. Dave had little option other than to press on for his rounding with no place to shelter from the wind and waves. The skipper had to focus on keeping up the pace in order to round Cape Horn ahead of a storm forecast to bring treacherous conditions at the tip of the southern American continent.

    Dave described the morning of his rounding and the spotting of land after the darkest of nights as one of the most beautiful moments in his voyage so far. He sailed within 2.5 miles of the Cabo de Hornos lighthouse and we hope to retrieve the photos taken by the guardian with his telescope. At the time of writing Koloa Maoli was motoring up the Beagle channel to reach Ushuaia where Dave has already made arrangements for a stopover to repair his boom and restart as soon as possible in the Global Solo Challenge.

    Six skippers had rounded Cape Horn before David: Philippe Delamare on Mowgli, Cole Brauer on First Light, Ronnie Simpson on Shipyard Brewing, Andrea Mura on Vento di Sardegna, Francois Gouin on Kawan3 Unicancer and Riccardo Tosetto on Obportus. All of these skippers were hoping to be relieved from the harshness of the south Pacific and were longing for warmer temperatures and easier conditions. The rounding of the Horn however does not always bring hardship to an end and often proves to be only a psychological milestone in a circumnavigation.

    Ronnie Simpson was acutely aware of this and on his rounding he said he was postponing any celebration until he managed to sail out of a very strong storm bringing 60 knots northerly winds soon after his rounding of the cape. He was very wary of the risk that such heavy winds, especially in the shallow waters between Argentina and the Falklands could pose to him and his boat. He took the most conservative of all options by sailing through the Strait of Le Maire and then patiently hugging the Argentinian coast to keep away from the building seas and heaviest winds. For days Ronnie lost a very considerable amount of miles to all other competitors and came to accept that it was unlikely that he could defend his third position in the fleet from the faster Open 50 Vento di Sardegna sailed by Andrea Mura (which set off from Coruna 3 weeks after Shipyard Brewing). His frustration was palpable as the South Atlantic Ocean appeared to be cruel with him.

    The combat wounded American veteran had to overcome a very unpleasant experience. He was caught in a maze of kelp, a very long and strong type of algae very common in those waters, that wrapped so nastily around his keel that Ronnie had no option but to dive and cut through the weed. Ronnie lost half of one of his lungs during his war injury and the experience of diving in open waters must have been even more terrifying for him, However he had no option and managed to gather his strength and resolve to complete the task.

    Soon after this unpleasant experience the eyes of all skippers in the South Atlantic turned again to monitoring a large low pressure system that had been displacing east. After the northerly winds that tested the patience Ronnie’s seamanship, the westerly side of the low was building up to bring another 50-60 knots blast. Relatively speaking, this was less of a bad piece of news as at least this time the winds were going to be blowing from the south in the right direction.

    The center of the storm was due to move east at the latitude of the Falklands and all opted for some evasive action to avoid the worst. So much so that when drawing the low and the course of the skippers it almost seemed they were avoiding a diabolic ball of fire. Francois Gouin sailed east-south-east to remain in waters that would not see the worst of building seas. By going east the French skipper would also be in deeper waters and giving the wind less fetch to build a dangerous sea. Riccardo Tosetto decided to time the arrival of the cold front and associated strong winds by sailing just north of the Falklands seeking some shelter at least from the waves.
    As the cold front hit Riccardo he found himself in a stormy downpour and a menacing sky with winds blowing steadily between 50 and 60 knots, for hours, before dropping to a more manageable range. He had issues with one of his sails but pressed on at good speed to the north.

    Andrea Mura had placed himself to the westerly edge of the low pressure which provided him with a nice stairway towards Uruguay. The Italian skipper of Vento di Sardegna was hard on the chase to reach Ronnie Simpson who was 600 miles ahead of him. After all the difficulties and delays the American skipper had faced, the distance was getting smaller and smaller. Andrea’s intention was clearly that of gaining third place on the water behind Philippe Delamare and Cole Brauer at the expense of Ronnie who, as we described, was dealing with the frustration of his slow progress in an effort to preserve his boat.

    Ronnie Simpson too was monitoring the developing storm. The southerly winds presented him with a different challenge compared to the other skipper. By being at the northerly edge of the area affected by the strongest winds, he was due to experience the worst of the building seas with 7-8 meters. The skipper of Shipyard brewing again opted for a conservative strategy, by reaching east to move away from the area that would see the most dangerous sea state.

    At 0200 UTC on February 12th, whilst sailing with a heavily reduced sail plan, Ronnie Simpson and Shipyard Brewing leapt off the crest of a wave and came to a stop crashing in the trough. Ronnie heard the noise of equipment hitting the deck and immediately knew he had lost his rig.

    Wind and sea state at that stage were still manageable but in the pitch black darkness of a moonless night (the new moon was on February 9th) he was very concerned by the mast heavily and repeatedly hitting the hull of the boat. This presented the skipper with a very real risk of suffering damage to the hull and seeing his boat flooding. Such an event would immediately turn an already difficult situation into a life threatening one.

    He acted guided by self preservation instinct and knowledge of the risks he was facing, he freed the mast from the deck and had to let it sink over the side. It is only at this point that Ronnie could collect his thoughts on what had just happened, very grateful that he was not injured and that his swift actions had avoided the development of a far worse scenario.

    The American skipper’s thoughts inevitably had to turn to the developing storm due to hit him within 36 hours. His options were very limited, unable to keep running away from the oncoming dangerous sea, he was confronted with the thought of facing huge seas at the mercy of waves.

    Ronnie had to summon all his thoughts and weigh all factors of the situation. He knew that staying with the boat in 7-8 meter waves would constitute a dangerous situation. He certainly evaluated the options of running with the winds by trailing a drogue or setting one of the sails as a sea anchor, but the risk of endangering his own life could only be mitigated but not eliminated. We can only imagine all that was going through Ronnie’s mind, each choice carries consequences and sometimes even a fighter knows that it’s better to live to fight another day.

    Ronnie finally decided he would request a rescue ahead of being hit by the storm the following day, he was also aware that by staying with the boat, if things deteriorated he was not within reach of a helicopter rescue, at 650 miles from the Argentinian coast the only chance for any assistance could come from commercial traffic or another competitor.

    Andrea Mura on Vento di Sardegna was informed of the situation and despite being 600 miles to the south west he gave his immediate and unconditional availability to help. His distance however meant that he could not reach Ronnie before the storm would hit him so he was asked to continue sailing and remain on standby whilst the situation developed.

    The activation of the Epirb by Ronnie alerted the Search and Rescues center responsible for the waters where he was located. MRCC Argentina took charge of the operation. The timeframe for the rescue was 24 hours, before the sea state would deteriorate. The SAR Center had to evaluate the best course of action based on the traffic around the dismasted boat. A ship had passed near Ronnie during the night but he had been unable to hail them and was therefore waiting for MRCC Argentina to follow SAR protocols to contact nearby ships and request the rescue. The wait was a little tense and stressful for Ronnie who was hoping not to have to spend another night in building seas at the mercy of waves.

    As event organisers we made ourselves available to MRCC Argentina and provided all the information they requested from us. We also requested the satellite trackers supplier to increase Ronnie’s position update frequency. For every skipper we hold a file that contains all relevant information that may become necessary in such a situation with all details of boat and skipper. We transmitted the file to MRCC Argentina together with the aerial identification photos that all entries have to submit before the start. This process enabled MRCC Argentina to relay the information to the ship that was eventually diverted for the rescue. The Taiwanese bulk carrier Sakizaya Youth changed course around noon yesterday and accelerated heading toward Ronnie’s position holding photos and boat details for ease of identification and able to plan the rescue knowing what to expect.

    The ship had to cover approximately 100 miles and fortunately was able to reach Shipyard Brewing just before sunset and successfully recovered Ronnie from his boat to the deck without any accidents.

    The American skipper had to deal with a very difficult farewell, leaving his companion of many adventures behind, during rescue operations the sole focus is the preservation of human life which sealed the fate of the boat. For safety reasons Ronnie was ordered to scuttle the boat which had already started to sink at the time of rescue. A very sad ending but as Ronnie put it, holding his tears just before abandoning ship, we live to fight another day. It was a very moving moment which the skipper shared in a video.


    Apologies to all the competitors that have not been mentioned in this update, Philippe Delamare holds strong on his first place but has been considerably slowed since leaving the trade winds. Cole Brauer is reaching north in stable winds with good daily mileage. Back in the Pacific William MacBrien on Phoenix reports all is well on board, he’ll soon be in the spotlight as he approaches Cape Horn. Alessandro Tosetti and Louis Robein have restarted form Hobart and have had to slow down to deal with a storm that will affect the west coast of New Zealand. Kevin Le Poidevin is dealing with several issues on his boat and is planning to make a stop in Hobart.

    Philippe Delamare - Mowgli

    Pavlin Nadvorni, after safely reaching Lyttleton in New Zealand, informed the organisers that after careful consideration of his physical condition he has come to the difficult decision to retire from the GSC. His left arm needs to be immobilised for at least a month, following the knockdown incident while having the kidney stone issue. Pavlin had a really hard time coming to terms with this outcome but he believes he made the right, if extremely painful and disappointing, decision. He concluded by adding that “The GSC has been an adventure of a lifetime and I feel grateful and privileged to have been a part of it.”

    Pavlin Nadvorni - Espresso Martini

    We are very saddened by Pavlin’s retirement and Ronnie’s loss of his boat but we always fully respect the difficulty of these decisions taken by each individual skipper. The complexity of sailing around the world does not stop at dealing with a boat and the weather. Pavlin, Ronnie, Edouard, Ari, Dafydd, Juan who have had to retire from the event each had to be the captain of their emotions, feelings and decisions.

    Edouard De Keyser - Solarwind
    " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella" Photo Gallery

  • #2
    Happy that Ronnie was able to get assistance!


    • #3

      "My final view of Sparrow/ Shipyard Brewing… a day filled with many emotions. Shock, then anger, then frustration, then fear, then optimism, then elation, then more sadness, then guilt, and then… it just goes on and on. But I also feel a lot of gratitude. Thankful for the outpouring of support from around the globe.

      Especially grateful to those who helped organize a rescue, and then to the Taiwanese owned ship Sakizaya Youth and her captain Cui Gaohua and the crew. (I mistakenly called the ship a Pakistani ship, that was just it’s last port.)

      As I lay here in my bunk, after just going to the bridge and admiring the massive waves of this depression, I can reflect and have confidence that I made the right decision to ditch Sparrow after dismasting. A disabled and dismasted sailboat has no stability and with this storm, I think it was reasonable and valid to fear for my life. Some will undoubtedly criticize me for ditching the boat, but given the unique circumstances I am at peace with my decision, though it still haunts me and probably will forever.

      Many have asked what happened to the boat. I was ordered to scuttle her, so I opened three through hulls on the way off the boat. She was still transmitting AIS signals earlier today, but I imagine she has stopped or will soon. Salvaging the boat, and adding a new mast and sails would cost far more than the boat was worth even in pristine condition.

      I still have a couple of days until I reach the coast on Argentina, and then I’ll probably spend a week or so with my girlfriend Marisa and then fly home to America and begin putting my life back together, piece by piece. It is a tough blow to fully devote yourself to one singular goal for a year and a half and then to fail in that endeavor.

      I am down but I am not out. I will be back, and I will be stronger than ever.

      I learned a lot during this campaign, and during this race, and I’m excited and optimistic to see what I can do with this hard-earned knowledge. Thank you to everyone for your support and Aloha from Sakizaya Youth container ship."
      " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella" Photo Gallery


      • #4
        Long, but final debrief.

        A bit over 10 days ago, my participation in the Global Solo Challenge came to an abrupt and unfortunate end when I dismasted in the South Atlantic Ocean. I had just written a downtrodden and somber blog entry a day or two before where I expressed how challenging and inhospitable the South Atlantic Ocean had been to me.

        Sure enough, she finished me off shortly after that entry. While navigating northward some 700 miles off the coast of Argentina, I encountered a depression that was forming and then spinning off of the South American continent. As the land mass heated up under the intense summer sun, it would eventually spin off a low-pressure system. You can see these patterns around the world and have to deal with similar systems coming off of continental land masses and New Zealand.

        Being that lows spin clockwise down south and the system was moving southeast, I was on my way North and was first met by northerlies on the leading edge of this weather system. Port tack was much preferred for two reasons; it was the preferred tack to get back to Europe, and if I had tacked to starboard, I would have sailed right into the system and also been encountered with more rain and potentially lightning. So while sailing mostly upwind (cracked off a bit for comfort and boat preservation), I was making a pretty lousy heading but still pointed north of east. However, a lot better than if I had tacked.

        Gradually, I began to get more and more lifted as the low moved southeast. First I saw more northwesterly breeze and then more westerly breeze. As the breeze was now 30 or more knots in strength, I was sailing as conservatively as I could with three reefs and a storm jib, always just trying not to break my 30 year old Open 50.

        By the time the breeze had begun to go more westerly, in the night of February 11 and right during the NFL’s Super Bowl, I was now cracked off to a close reach and was being lifted up to a proper course where I was more or less pointing right at the finish line in Europe. The breeze was maxing out at 40 in the puffs and the sea had grown to 3.5 meters with several cross-swell components due to the constantly shifting wind direction in this tightly-formed low-pressure system.

        Shipyard Brewing began jumping off of some waves and coming down with a bang. Cracked off to a close reach, even under storm sails, we were flying along and I was gradually trying to slow the boat down and always avoid launching off waves. Such is the nature of sailing a 30 year old boat, I was always trying to baby her and could not sail her nearly as hard as was ideal, which was always a frustration. And in the end, she still broke.

        I was trying to slow the boat down, but given our reachy angle she wanted to go hull speed (9 knots) even under storm sails. Down below on my bunk, I anxiously stared at an instrument display and watched our numbers and navigation - popping up frequently to make trim and course adjustments - when we launched off of a wave. Sailing over a crossed-up triangular launch ramp in 30 gusting 40 knot winds, Shipyard Brewing launched hard off a wave. I felt it down below and grabbed the sides of my bunk to brace for the upcoming impact. Bang. Shipyard Brewing slammed down and a split-second later I heard some bad noises on deck and the boat began to flatten out. Something had clearly let go.

        I quickly popped up to see what was wrong.The mast was laying down over the starboard side of the boat, broken in two pieces and with the boom and mainsail still attached. The forestay, inner forestay, shrouds and runners all still seemed to be attached. The toe rails were rubbed off in seemingly an instant and the mast was both banging and grinding against the hull.

        In 30 knots of wind and well-formed, confused seas, recovering the rig at that time seemed difficult if not impossible. Also, the boat was extremely unstable and rolling horribly in the swells, making any work on deck extremely dangerous at night. With the way the mast was impacting the hull in the rough seas, I became fearful that the hull would become damaged and could potentially begin taking on water and sinking. Fully knowing that I was cutting away all of the materials I would need to recover to build a jury rig, I cut away the mast, boom, sails and rigging. This was the most difficult decision of my life to make. I cut everything away with a battery-powered grinder in an effort to not sink the boat.

        Once I had stabilized the immediate situation, I relatively quickly made the decision to attempt to receive a rescue. Once losing the mast and parts needed for a jury rig, I knew I was in a bad situation, especially in terms of preserving the boat. With a very deep depression - perhaps the scariest storm of the whole race - headed to my position just 30 hours later, I knew that I needed to get off.

        A dismasted Shipyard Brewing in a 70 knot storm with 25 foot breaking waves sounded very dangerous, and definitely threatened my life, in my assessment. I wanted off. I am not ashamed to admit it. I felt my life was in danger and I wanted to live to fight another day. There’s a lot of times when you dismast and you set a jury rig and sail back to port. It’s a hero move and really cool when you pull it off.

        It’s unfortunate that this situation happened at such a poor time and place. But it’s the situation I was in and I made the decision to pull the rip cord. I called the US Coast Guard on a satellite phone and informed them of the situation, and then I activated an EPIRB.

        For 10 stressful hours, the American and Argentinian authorities tried to contact a ship. A ship called Sakizaya Youth had been quite close to me when I dismasted, but was now motoring away from me. They may have possibly been within VHF range at the time of dismasting, though probably not as I would now be on a shorter, back up VHF antenna since dismasting. At any rate, it would be vital to reach them. I was now definitely out of VHF range. I had not been immediately calling a ‘mayday’ or requesting assistance and so did not immediately go to the VHF in this remote zone. I instead immediately went into stabilizing the situation.

        With full internet connectivity due to Starlink, I worked with friends and authorities in the US. My weather router Jason Christensen and US Patriot Sailing director Peter Quinn also helped a lot, and I think may have helped us gain first contact. The shore-based parties had to go to the shipping agent to figure out how to successfully get in touch with Sakizaya Youth, but they eventually got in touch. With a 2330 (local) dismasting and then a 0130 first call for help, it was now about 1130 when Sakizaya Youth turned around. Going down wind and down current at 14 knots and with Shipyard Brewing and her tiny 20 horse motoring upwind and up current at 2 knots SOG, we had a combined closing speed of about 16 knots. With something over a hundred miles divided by 16, we were in a race against the clock to rendezvous at roughly sunset.

        This also worked very well with the weather as the seas and wind were, relatively speaking, glassing off throughout the day before turning nuclear the following day with up to 9 meter (30 foot) waves predicted at my position and winds approaching up to 70 knot gusts. I think it was about 1830, or about 45 minutes before sunset when Shipyard Brewing and Sakizaya Youth were alongside. As I pulled alongside, the crew dropped a vertical rope ladder down the side of the ship which led to a diagonal metal ladder. As I made my approach, I jumped down below. I had three thru-hull fittings ready to flip open and flood the boat, as I was ordered to do by the Argentinian authorities. Once taking care of that, I went back on deck and made my final course correction and then hit neutral on the engine. The beam of Shipyard Brewing went softly alongside the ship. I calmly stepped on the ladder and slowly, and very deliberately, climbed the rope ladder. Same thing on the metal ladder. Very slow, deliberate movements.

        I was now on deck and safe, and the Chinese crew hugged me and took my life jacket and small dry bag of personal items. They directed me to the bridge to meet the Captain, and then showed me to a room to shower and then have some dinner. After this brief process of boarding the ship, I had showered and gone to the mess room and it was already dark. Had Sakizaya Youth waited any longer, it would have been dark as the rescue was attempted, potentially rendering it impossible. And the following morning had horrendous conditions, that would be constantly deteriorating. I thanked the Captain and crew immensely for saving my life, acutely aware of how shitty, and fortunate, my current situation was. February 12, 2024 was both one of the best and worst days of my life. All in less than 24 hours, I had gone from holding down 3rd place in the Global Solo Challenge to being dismasted, then working towards a rescue at sea and actually fearing for my life, to then losing the boat at sea and having my life saved at sea. But I was also then headed to Argentina and just two days away from seeing my girlfriend. It was a lot to process.

        The following morning, I went to the bridge to have coffee and talk to the Captain. The Captain was a kind gentleman named Cui Gaohua. We were about the same age and had nice conversations. After exchanging formalities and brief discussion about the status of the weather and the ship, I poured myself a cup of water and instant coffee. I stirred my instant coffee and then peered out over the horizon for the first time. Max wind speed registered on the ship’s anemometer was 69.3 knots and it was blowing 57 the first time I looked. Right then, an 8-meter (25 foot) breaking wave detonated against the bow of the ship. In the distance, there were massive breaking waves and long, glorious white streaks on the water. It was beautiful in the way that the chaos of a south seas gale can be. In that moment however, I was immensely glad to be off of Shipyard Brewing, and I guess I haven’t looked back. This is an extremely difficult and painful situation, but I am confident that I sailed well and exhibited good seamanship before, during and after my dismasting, and that the rig coming down is not my fault. For me, I need to move on. This is a bad and challenging experience but I can not let it define me.

        Two days later, we reached port in Argentina and i was disembarked a couple miles offshore by the Argentinian local Navy. After clearing formalities ashore and being greeted by my partner Marisa and a filmmaker named Aidan, we drove to a larger city, Mar del Plata, for two days before flying back to the United States. Back to Portland, Maine where my Global Solo Challenge campaign with Shipyard Brewing, aka Sparrow, all began. And also where my title sponsor Shipyard Brewing is based. Despite, or even perhaps because of, my desire to continue this journey to race around the world is now stronger than ever. There is more heart break and more motivation to right this wrong and finish the unfinished.

        I entered the Global Solo Challenge with a goal to simply sail a good race and prove that I was a viable candidate for the Vend?e Globe. I think I did that, and so even though this race ended in heart ache and disappointment, I don’t think my stock has gone down. Starting with an old, funky boat and no money, I managed to get to the starting line and become a viable American contender in a solo around the world race. I fought for the win for the first half and fought for a podium the second half, before dismasting more than 3/4 of the way around the world and after the three Capes.

        I had a road map back to Europe and was looking at 3rd, or at worst, 4th place out of 16 starters and some 60 original entries. From the outside looking in, I think it’s clear that I am a good sailor and capable of getting a solid boat and good partners and mounting a viable campaign for the Vendee Globe. At least a budget campaign with a classic boat to start, and hopefully a more well-resourced campaign with more experience four years later.

        So I am still aiming for the 2028 Vendee Globe. That is my goal and I am putting it out there to the universe. To that effect, I have already begun to solidify and re-affirm existing relationships and will begin laying the ground work to find new partners to write the next chapter in what can continue to be a beautiful story. I am hoping to have an IMOCA to begin training by early next year, if not this year. And in the meantime, I have what looks like a good opportunity to do some solo and doublehanded Class 40 sailing and racing on the west coast beginning very soon. As for me, it’s important for me to get back on the horse immediately. Less than a week after arriving back to Maine, i’m about to fly to Mexico to deliver a 100-foot supermaxi racing yacht from Mexico to California. And hopefully soon i’ll be working on a west coast Class 40 campaign while looking for partners for the Vendee Globe.

        Global Solo Challenge ended poorly for Shipyard Brewing, but I am immensely grateful to Shipyard Brewing, all of my sponsors, supporters and followers. Your love and support has inspired me daily. But the story’s not done yet, LFG.


        " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

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