By Brian Hancock
OK, this is good news. Both Explorer and Sterna are around Cape Reinga and are sailing down the east coast of New Zealand. The breeze is light, but every puff counts, as my late Dad would say. And he wasn’t talking about that kind of puff if you know what I mean, you know the kind when you tip a little to the left to let one escape. But I digress.
Explorer has just over 100 miles to go according the the YB tracker. Sterna has 178 miles to go. The windy forecast is tricky according to Windy, but in all my years of sailing I have always found wind to be tricky. I have already made a crude joke so there will not be any reference to my ex-wives. They will find puffs and they will make progress. They are nearly there where can find a stable bunk and clean sheets and I am sure that the rest of the OGR fleet will be there to help them prepare for the hardest leg of the race; the one where you have to dip south and round that most famous cape of them all; Cape Horn. They are all family after all.
Light winds for Sterna and Explorer means perfect conditions to get the boats already in Auckland stocked and fixed and cleaned and that applies to the crews as well. It’s time to refresh and reboot and also, if possible, to find a way out onto the water to welcome these crews, who are still part of the OGR race, into New Zealand (and perhaps serve them a mutton bird or two each…). Oh and a pavlova but please do that. They can all use a full leg of lamb and a pile of veggies.
So, and again this race is not about me but there is a lull in Breaking News so I will talk about Part 3 of 4 in the epic Drum series. Actually there are 138 epic stories, but not enough time for them all.
The race organisation had organised an inshore race on Waitemata Harbour. This was back in ’86. It didn’t count for anything; it was just about fun and the Kiwis love fun. Each boat got a celebrity on board to mix it up and make it more fun. We already had Simon Le Bon and the two managers of Duran Duran on board, but we also got the mayor of Auckland, Dame Catherine Tizard. To be honest I couldn’t remember her name so I googled it and was sad to read that she has passed. She was a bit of a firecracker, and I knew from the outset that she liked me.
The race started off okay. We were a little late crossing the start line (thanks Skip Novak for that one). I was sitting on the windward rail right next to the mayor, cheek to jowl, if you know what I mean. She leaned in and said, “that Simon Le Bon guy is a bit stiff, don’t you think?” I was not sure what to say. Simon and his wife Jasmine had just flown in from England and I think he was a tad jet-lagged. I demurred and looked at my feet hanging over the side of an 80-foot yacht and wondered why my 110 pounds of weight could really be helping.
Then the wind crapp*d out; completely. There is a saying that watching yacht racing is a little like watching grass grow. In this case it was worse. There was no grass. There were, I think, 12 maxi yachts just flopping around in the slop and a big spectator fleet doing the same, but at least they had beer. All we had was water. Then we heard that distinctive sound of a chopper coming in low and slow. It was the mad helicopter pilot. The flip flops guy. He came in and hovered right above us, then tilted his chopper a little and his downwash filled our sails. He stuck with us pushing us toward the finish line. We passed everyone and won the race. The mayor said, “now that’s a Kiwi for you.”
There will be much more sailing news to come. Leg 3 starts on the 14th of this month but if you will indulge me for just a moment I want to rise to a point of personal privilege and I am having a hard time writing this through tears streaming down my face. My stepson, who I raised since he was knee high to a grasshopper (two bricks and a tickey high to my south African friends) died seven years ago yesterday. He was 23. Fu*k drugs.