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Day 121

By Brian Hancock

The weather looks good for the start of Leg 3 on Sunday, January 14. It’s always tough to start a new leg, partially because you have to leave the comfort of clean sheets and the occasional Steinlager, but suddenly the whole ocean stretches out ahead of you; again. You are back to day 1 and it’s a bloody long way to sail to Uruguay. I know this for a fact. I have done it a few times.

However, and again I digress, back to the weather for the start. It looks like (according to Windy) that they are going to have a fairly decent north easterly breeze to ease them back into the race; and then… Well I was told that three dots was not a good thing to do… So I did it again just to see how it all works out. And then… some wind will start pomping (as they say in South Africa) as in, it’s going to get breezy, just like Uncle Fred after a good curry. We will have to see. Sailboat racing is like chess; you have to figure things out during the game.

Auckland, for all of its peace, love and mutton birds has seen some changes to the OGR fleet. Co-skipper of Translated 9, Vittorio Malingri, is on a plane back home. Not sure all the details. Not my job to explain but I think that it speaks to the complex nature of an around-the-world yacht race. More soon, although I am not the best one to comment since I am not in New Zealand and wasn’t at the table.

There have been some shake-ups and that’s totally understandable. There are new crew on Translated 9, and most of them under the age of 25. What an adventure for Leg 3 that takes them around Cape Horn. I was just 22 when I first rounded Cape Horn but I will come back to that at a later date.

The clock is ticking for all of the teams. The start is coming up. Time to get a haircut and new shoes and a few of those final sweet kisses goodbye. I used to love this part; the anticipation, and the dread. A mixed cocktail I know, a bit like tequila with a worm and Sailor Jerry’s rum without a worm, but it’s one that only sailors heading off into the Southern Ocean can enjoy. “Life hey,” as Don would say.

Now, I can write about the frenetic activity on the docks and believe me, I know the state of mind. What if you forget toilet paper or matches if you have a gas stove on board? Don’t screw it up and don’t forget to pack the screwdriver set that you got for in your Christmas stocking. It was there for a reason.

So in the meantime let me wrap up the Simone Bianchetti saga. He was doing the Around Alone race, back in… I forget when (too much Jameson in my coffee). The finish was in the beautiful town of Newport, Rhode Island, although on this particular night there was nothing beautiful about it. There was a full-on gale blowing. I could hear the wind howling when my phone rang. It was Simone.

“Brian,” he said. “My mast has broken.” He was only 30 miles from the finish. I had arranged for his wife and girlfriend to be on separate boats to welcome him in. Actually I think that it was Kels that did that (she is currently managing Maiden in NZ). It was just half past midnight so I told them all to go back to bed.

An hour later I got a call from Simone. “Where is everyone?”.

I said, in my defence here, “I thought that you had broken your mast.” Simone replied, “only the top 20 feet broke. I wrapped it and I will be coming into the finish in about an hour.”

I got his wife and his girlfriend out of bed (separate beds) and we took off to meet him. The famous photographer Billy Black was already out there shooting like crazy, and we saw Simone come in. He had lashed the top of his mast and set a heavily reefed mainsail and was going to make the finish after a 27,000 mile solo circumnavigation. It was just getting light as he arrived off Castle Hill, right off the Newport Mansions. He had one more tack to make before hitting the finish line.

Simone had rigged up some kind of contraption to keep his mast upright, but when he tacked, all of us held our collective breath. The mast was fine, well sort of, but when he tacked the whole damn thing shifted and I was pretty sure that it was going overboard, but it settled and he finished his third solo circumnavigation.

He died a few weeks later. He burnt the candle at both ends, so to speak. In life there are sailors that are meant to be sailors and some that are not. Simone was born a hundred years too late, but he was an awesome sailor.

Lots of love to all the OGR sailors. Don’t be a Simone, but get ready for this grand adventure.

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