The Navig8r was onboard Ohana (Dubois 50m) for the second race of the Millennium Cup 2013 held in Auckland, New Zealand. Navigating onboard a 170foot super yacht for a bunch of professional sailors certainly heightens the senses !
We started the pursuit race last, over an hour after the the first boat in the fleet Sea Toy, a 65foot Warwick, and a bit closer to the other “big” boats, Zefiro (100ft Southern Wind), Janice of Wyoming (130ft Dubois), and Silvertip (110ft Dubois). Timing the start is all important as a 170 footer doesn’t exactly turn on a dime like a race boat, combine that with a 370t displacement and you have a recipe for disaster if you get it wrong…. so after “pinging” the start line with both Deckman and a Velocitek Prostart, we took a few runs at the line to warm up. I was amazed that the Prostart could handle a bow offset of some 25 metres !
After a bunch of practices and figuring out our plan we started about half a boat length back from the line at full pace, sailing down the harbour at 12 knots in 16 knots of wind with a code zero set. But the navigators role certainly didn’t end there…. the crew procedures book reads like an open 60 single hander, but with 25 crew “5 minutes to set up a sail or take it down” I was told by our tactician….then adding “you better get the lay lines right !”
So the navigation test started, lay line to North Head and into a peel to the mast head gennaker. Sitting high up on the flybridge, some 10m above sea level, the whole perspective of the course changes. Imagine a view similar to the live line graphics of the Americas Cup World Series events, but looking down on lots of little boats (20 foot to 60 foot) that you have to dodge, all the while remembering those lay lines.
We survived our harbor exit and made some great time on our main opposition, the grey hulled Silver Tip, beginning our run down to Gulf Harbour some 8nm away. Soaking into the mark, deep VMG running was just what this regatta is all about. I am still amazed by the passional and determination of the owners every time I step on these boats, the owner of Ohana was right at the helm, calling the time gain on other boats, and crunching numbers the whole race. He had the yard build into the onboard computer systems strip graphs and polars so he could see how we were doing by comparing the actual performance vs the targets. This is not a rich mans toy regatta, its the TP52 circuit on steroids!
After rounding the Gulf Harbour buoy and making a great reach down to Hay Stack, we got into the upwind battle. Silvertip was now just 9 minutes in front of us and for the remainder of the 9 mile leg back to Auckland we were going tack for tack with them. Tacking up the Rangitoto shoreline felt just like it does when we do the RAYC Gold Cup races on Equilibrium trying to hold of Starlight Express and Akatea…. only different. You are certainly more away of the reefs and shoals…. drawing 5.5m and costing in excess of $50 million these boats don’t want to go aground.
Back a Rough Rock with Silvertip just one boat length to weather and covering our every move we though we had this one lost….. but never under estimate the value of water line length, especially 150 odd feet of it. As we tacked to lay North Head we setup on their weather hip and then bearing off around Torpedo buoy we proceeded to power reach over the top, reaching into the finish to get them on the line by just 2 boat lengths.
After a good night’s sleep, back to it today….