By Brian Hancock
Today, well yesterday if you live in New Zealand or whatever day it is there. Today we saw the wonderful maidens on Maiden rock and roll into Auckland. I have to say that the boat looked impeccable, like they had just been for a day sail on Waitemata Harbor, the beautiful harbor off Auckland. By the way, and I digress and I know some people don’t like my digressions, so skim by if you need to. Waitemata means The Obsidian Waters”, referring to obsidian rock (matā). Another popular translation, derived from this, is ‘The Sparkling Waters’, as the harbour waters were said to glint like the volcanic glass obsidian.” (Thank you Wikipedia.)
So back to Maiden. They had some tricky wind to deal with as they got closer to Auckland, but they figured it out and came in strong. I would have expected nothing else from this great team of maidens. To make it all that more special that they were greeted but the late, great Sir Peter Blake’s two former yachts, Lion New Zealand (’84/85) and the winningest one of all time, Steinlager. To see these three legendary yachts sail into Auckland was a treat, but to be honest, and I try to be honest, it looked to me anyway that Maiden was leaving both those much larger yachts in the proverbial dust.
Next up will be L’Esprit d’équipe, winner of the ’85/86 race. However as I have said, the east coast of New Zealand can be tricky. It’s spectacular and the sailing can be great. So I have to tell you (another aside – sorry ADHD). When we rolled down there in ’81 heading for the finish we were, as you might imagine, quite thirsty. There are a lot of fishing boats that work off that coast and they sort of knew who we were because everyone in New Zealand follows every yacht race. They steamed up alongside and in typical Kiwi fashion, yelled, “Do you guys want a beer?” (kind of a silly question but never mind). They pulled up really close and tossed a dozen beers to us. Nectar of the gods, as they say and even more so after almost 40 days of drinking salt water in the face. Please don’t tell Admiral Williams (RIP) the Race Director, that we got some outside assistance, but we were just being polite and accepting a generous offer close to Christmas. It would have been rude to have not accepted the gifts and as my late father would like to say, the beer “went down singing hymns.” It sure did. I remember it like it was yesterday.
Now the next horse race into Auckland is going to be between L’Esprit d’équipe and Triana. Triana, by the way, are leading the Adventure Class. Just a few miles separate them and there is more than a decent southwesterly wind blowing so they should not be too many potholes between them and the finish line. The wind is going to swing to the northwest so they should have a banner-day finish and well deserved.
Neptune is close to rounding the spectacular Cape Reinga while Evrika is not far behind, but both teams are suffering from a lack of good breeze. I told you that New Zealand in the summer can be beach weather and beach weather means that you don’t get much breeze. The outlaws on Outlaw have some wind, not a lot, but they moving along quite nicely as is Galiana WithSecure. They are in the same weather pattern. Things will change for them but not necessarily for the better. The breeze will pick up but coming right on the nose (nautical term) until they get around that cape and head south toward Auckland. White Shadow is steaming along at a fair clip (another nautical term) of 8.6 knots.
Looking back Sterna and Explorer are riding above some low pressure systems and more than likely enjoying their ride. So, funnily enough, I read some crew quotes by some of those who have already finished lamenting that the Southern Ocean was a bit tame, in other words they didn’t actually get the sh*t kicked out of them. This is because the race officials (blame it on Don) set waypoints to keep the fleet north of what could be some nasty stuff, in other words, to save them from themselves. Just wait. Leg 3 involves Cape Horn and they are going to have to dip their toes into the deep stuff there to round it and it could be gnarly (another nautical term).
Good luck and good sailing to all the sailors in the McIntyre Ocean Globe Race.