Ruth Meo writes about her experience with this great opportunity for youth sailors, attended by Ruth, Alex Mitchell-Barker, Thomas Rodgers and Josh Watson.
Well where do I even start. What a roller coaster of a week; I guess the beginning is probably the best place to start.
We all arrived at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, as asked, for a ‘bus’ trip to Sandspit where we would catch the ferry over to Kawau Island. However the bus was more of a mini van thing with about 21 seats including the driver, no room for our bags. All 20 of us (one team from Sandspit Yacht Club met us at the ferry) packed into the van like sardines and then our bags were packed on top of us, which made a for a hilarious hour long trip to Sandspit.
Once at Sandspit we were able to see how bad the wind really was, only 30 knots gusting 40; causing the sea to splash over the road. Something that we consider normal but was an extreme event for everyone else. The ferry trip over was a rough one. One person was sick and I wasn’t far off. Once there we carted all our gear off the ferry and to the tents. The boys’ tent had survived the storm however the girls’ tent was another story. In the middle of the night before it had collapsed on the girls sailing in the previous week, meaning us girls were piled into the lounge of Lidgard House for the night.
Our welcome was made into a rather interesting one with the first injury of the week. A coach tripped over his own feet and broke his ankle and went into shock. So a rough trip on Tikuma (the R.N.Z.Y.S’ committee boat a 12-meter aluminum ex fishing boat) was necessary to get him to hospital. On the first day it was too windy for the 7am swim we were promised (damn!). The wind did drop a little to about 25-35 knots in the late morning so the coaches thought they’d take us out for a sail. Turns out that was a very bad idea. We were out for about ten minutes before being told to head back in (which took around an hour to go back up wind on just the jib) and resulted in every boat breaking something and 3 ripped sails. So that was the end of that for the day and the card games began once everyone had warmed up again.
Tuesday was more card games (I’m pretty good at P’s & A’s and UNO after two days of it). The coaches did their best to entertain us but resources were limited meaning some entertainment was an icy cold swim in the rough sea before lunch. The wind picked up in the afternoon and got to an average of 40 knots gusting 50, not ideal for sailing. The wind died down in the early morning of Wednesday, so after the torrential rain and thunderstorm we went out sailing for a few hours and did some drills.
Thursday dawned a beautiful day, just a small breeze and lots of sun!!!! Thursday started with a 7am swim and was followed by 11 hours on the water (9am till 8pm) with lunch on the water. We did some drills in the morning focusing on hoisting and dropping the spinnakers. The afternoon/ evening consisted of 8 (I think) races. We started off badly and then with some help from the head coach Guy we were up there getting seconds! We had a lovely show during dinner as some dolphins were herding something and went right past our dining room (the deck of the R.N.Z.Y.S’ Lidgard House). Friday also started with a 7am swim and again was followed by another 11 hours on the water. This consisted of more races with gennakers this time, I lost count of how many. We started off good getting seconds and then things took a turn for the worse. So we got a coach on board to help us out. Turns out the problem was weed on our keel. He helped us get it off and in the next race we got first! Another feature on the Friday was racing against Chris Dixon who turned up and helmed a boat for the coaches. The race home was terribly shifty but was made better by some more dolphins.
The swim on Saturday morning was cancelled (because the coaches were all still in bed) so we packed up all our gear and rigged the boats up for one last time ready for the last race from Kawau back to West Haven Marina. The four-hour race with gennakers was amazing although it would have been better without the fog. But we still got our ‘Round The Harbour Race’, a rather incredible one. Once we were packed up we had prize giving. We came 5th overall and won most improved team (being the only team who hadn’t had any experience with a kite and ending up with seconds and a first might explain that). So the end result was a pretty good one considering.
Overall the experience was amazing and although we had the worst weather the programme had ever experienced we still got around 30 hours of sailing in. Once the weather did fine up we all had a blast.
I’d just like to say a huge thank you to all the people that made this possible; the coaches, the chefs, Gerald and Pete who run the racing, Nespresso and all the other sponsors. I’d also like to thank Muritai Yacht Club and the Brad Webb Fund for making it possible for us to go on this trip and gain such an amazing experience, skills and meet some great new people. Thanks to David and Robin Lee (ex Eastbourners) for letting us take refuge in their yacht club during the bad weather.