The PIC Coastal Classic's Great Advice Night on Monday 21 September was surprisingly well attended given the gridlock traffic situation in central Auckland. Luckily, all of the guest presenters including Emma Sanderson, Brad Marsh, Simon Hull, Daniel Garner and Megan Kensington were able to attend and share in a live Q&A session moderated by Suellen Hurling.
One of the conclusions the presenters were quick to point out is that the race is complex. It's too long (for most boats) to just sail with your normal daytime racing routines, yet too short for the rigorous procedures of an off shore distance race. But - its just right for us, and goldilocks becuase its not too hot, and not too cold. Bring on the summer boating season!
Firstly, preparation was discussed. The advice from Emma Sanderson was to make sure you practice every situation you might encounter for example, reefing to EVERY reef point possible and man overboard (unless of course you are sailing solo - best to stay clipped on and avoid that one). Brad Marsh shared one of his most embarassing moments of all time, shortly after starting the Sydney Hobart on Wild Oats with a full crew of professional yachties who couldn't reef properly, and broke the main so bad they had to retire and limp back through the heads to a waiting fleet of media.
Simon Hull also added the value in taking an opportunity to practice your trickiest manouvres in windy or rough conditions. Don't just practice on the nice sunny days as you'll be challenged for real if its dark, windy or rainy during your race. Go for a quick night sail, and don't be afraid to get your sails or jackets wet.
All agreed that Cape Brett can be a roll of the dice. You should be prepared for any change in wind direction, wave / swell patterns, gusts or lulls. Emma told a story of when she was sailing solo around the world, and after being becalmed near cape reinga, she was absolutely "slammed" off Cape Brett with one of the most challenging moments of her entire lap around the world. Simon Hull agreed, that the Brett is always the trickiest point of the race, and even with all best forecasts and intentions, they are 'sucked in' close to shore nearly every time with the dreaded "parking lot". By this point of the race, for most boats, it is also dark.
One of the most valuable tips of the night was Brad Marsh's explination of how to prepare for dark early on. Save yourself an extra set of thermals and plan to put them on at 4pm, even if you're not cold yet. Make sure your head lamp is within arms reach (not in the bottom of your gear bag) WELL before dark, as if any manouver is going to take time you don't want to be stuck without it. Things can happen quickly, and dark / cold can come quicker than expected.
Especially if you are sailing two-handed, discussing who is going to take on which role and when, will be an important plan to agree on. Watch this space as the community of mixed two-handed sailors grows with the support of Doyle Sails.
Your thought processes will get worse as you get cold / dark / wet / tired, so the consensus was: drink before you’re thirsty, put layers on before you're cold, snack before you're hungry, take turns resting while things are going well, and prepare for dark well before in advance.
Despite the race being an average of only 14-24hrs in length, exhaustion is something to be wary of. If you're in a tacking duel until the finish line at midnight, even though you may often stay awake until midnight, if you're on the boat with 10 tired crew, chances are you wont be hiking as hard, tacking as swiftly nore making the right tactical decisions as the boat who had some crew nap on the weather quarterbirth in the late afternoon. You'll want at least couple of fresh crew to help you finish off strong.
The team from 36 Degrees Brokers gave a run-down of the Cruising Rally division, something that continues to grow each year as more people look for a non competitive way to sail the coast (where motors are allowed for up to four hours!).
In addition to looking after each other and our equipment on the water, there was a discussion around looking after the ocean- we owe this to each other. There was a plea that if you see your crew mate getting cold or hungry, you tell them. If you see them doing something that may damage the marine environment, tell them.
The night was closed off with Megan Kensington giving a run down on four of the very most important safety notes for the race: lifejackets, tethers, VHF radios and using the tracker. Daniel Garner of PIC Insurance Brokers spoke about the importance of asking your insurance broker heaps of questions
Emily Flynn, the Event Manager, reminded participants (and followers) to download the race app and enter and pay before 9th October to avoid the late entry fee.Thanks to all of the presenters, and our team of race partners who helped us put on this event!
If you want more, and to hear all the great advice as it was delivered, here is the recording: