Roundup of the winning day
Januar 16, 2009
(By Boris) Klick, Klick, Beep, Snnnp. Sounds of a photo camera wake Felix up from a really deep sleep in his bunk onboard today at noon local time. “Where the hell am I” is written in big letters over his face. The boat is rocking. Felix must assume we were at sea. But it is the bumpy swell in the Wellington harbor. Russel Coutts’ and Sir Peter’s place is a windy one. Cook Strait brings normally at least 40 knots gusts. A photographer from The Dominion Post shoots the hell out of Felix sleeping on his bunk with a wide angle and a huge flash. “Why is press allowed to enter the boat?” “How many miles distance to the Chilenians?” is now written on his face. Just relax!
You fell in a coma because of drinking Champaign in the bright sun. The race is won. All safe, relax and just sleep! The reporter had been asking me to pose on the bunk for his shoot and I just said: “Turn left! Take that guy. He already is asleep.” “You think he would mind?” the reporter asked anxious.
Flashback: Darkest of a dark night. 25 to 28 knots of warm wind blowing from the Wellington mountains. Our boat is fully powered up, steaming towards the near line, resisting the gusts, with spray all over and enlightened by our deck-flood light. She is wearing staysail and second reef, while full dress is protecting us from the spray that wants to go into the neck and then down the back inside. We fire the red flares, a gunshot, jubilations. Won. Big hug between two teammates. Waving into the spotlight of the camera boat.
Back to work. Me on the mainsheet trimming in and easing at each gust and Felix helming. It’s another one to two hours upwind beating through a narrow rocky fjord in the gusty night to get from the finish line to the marina. We are calm and excited. The last moment before the tack approaching a 50 meters high rock wall in pitch black night with 8 knots speed is exciting.
We are dinghy sailors. There is no question of pulling down the main and motoring up against the wind. Two kiwi guys jump over from a rib as pilots to help us. Very much appreciated. We are just normally adrenalin addicted and this finish is really satisfying.
I can’t feel much inside standing on the pontoon a little later talking into a bright flash of a TV camera. These emotions I could probably write down in a year’s time from now but instantly in that moment these words coming out my mouth seem meaningless compared to what I feel. Bla Bla Bla nice race, great fight, thanks. What could I say? I fell in love with the southern ocean that I just met for the first time but who of these reporters would understand that? It’s probably even a private emotion. I can’t see them anyway against the flash in this dark morning. Champaign washed salt in my eyes. I really can’t see and it hurts. I rather would like to get the boat properly towed up and safe. But thanks for coming out at two in the morning guys! At least Felix was more communicative talking wise and modest into the haunting flashes.
Finishes are intense moments of camaraderie. Strangers shake hands with honest passion. Ribs could break from these friend`s welcome-back-from-the-ocean-to-life-hug. One Friend who should be there is missing: Brian. Many friends who never planned to be there missed a great moment: An elegant blue yacht motoring into a narrow downtown Wellington berth while loud rock music is played. Salty boys pop corks in the middle of the night and everybody standing close gets wet. Yacht club members came out in the middle of the night. We allowed Customs and Duane to take an extra deep swallow from the bottle. Camaraderie? Of course we get out in the rib soon to just jump onboard Cabo de Hornos after their finish. Their nickname is “Red hot Chili Peppers” referring to their nationality, the color of their boat and their personalities. “Californication” rock music sounds through the harbor loud when they reverse towards the applauding crowd.
The high feeling remains sometimes for a week. Pretty good right? One week high for 5 weeks wet? Nuts! The great thing always remains the sailing. Although coming back into civilization isn’t one of the worst things especially at this spot in Wellington. I use the high to get the boat organized, clean the deck and so on. Apropos: We had a little issue with the small kite 15 miles before the finish. I was centrifuged around the top of the mast in 30 knots of wind with a knife in my hand cutting away the halyard and snuffer. This had been the biggest fuckup I ever produced in my vita. The snuffer exploded in a failed gibe letting the now uncontrollable spinnaker trap around both forestays in a chaotic rhythm (read on this in German here: http://www.spiegel.de/sport/sonst/0,1518,601419,00.html)
The promenade is right behind the boat. People look and ask: “Is this the race Dee Caffary (Vendee) is doing?” “Ah - look up there in the top of the mast is still the rest of the spinnaker - right!? - I read in Spiegel-Online about it this morning” someone commented passing by in a hurry heading towards the near business district. People look interested and friendly to our boat and ask frequently about the race as if this was a longtime historically established event. I have to compliments Wellingtons harbor promenaders for their high intellectual level of questions. Sometimes as a sailing freak, when people ask about what we do you have the impression they wanna know if the earth was supposed to be round or flat? Not so here.
And now comes the best: John and Christine come along. “Hey guys we are friends of Wolfgang. If we could be of any help just shout.” Right now I am sitting on these peoples couch with my laptop. During daylight they have an incredible view down the hill all over the Wellington bay. We spend a lovely evening, Italian dinner and interesting conversation. John Mansell actually turns out to be a sailing passionate and soul mate. He did the mystical OSTAR singlehanded Plymouth to Rhode Island/Boston race twice(which is today the same as the Artemis Transat that I did last year).
For all normal people: Especially men sometimes could get passionate talking about sailing little sailing vessels through potentially dark and stormy oceans, ideally alone and preferably at least once in more than 50 knots of wind straight upwind. John sailed this truly challenging and historical race in 1976 with a 28 foot monohull and was rescued from his broken 30 foot catamaran in 1984. He knows Wolfgang Quix from these times when they also sailed the Round Ireland and Britain race in the same edition. Wolfgang by the way is a real pioneer for offshore singlehanded sailing in Germany, far under rewarded I would say. He did the OSTAR five!! Times. (Grüße Dich Wolfgang, hier von Johns Sofa.)
Friends there would be some much more to tell. Apologize for being a bit quit over the last days and getting this post just oversized now. The Red hot Chili Peppers gave us a little bit of a hard time again. Inside I was so stresses out.
I could not miss to thank you again for being with us and for being with us on the web especially! As you click and type and touch you get the real experience. It is not only mentally! We are physically there on www.beluga-racer.com! Stay tuned!
Boris and Felix