After two good nights of sleep, I’m finally sitting down to recall the blur of my trip down the New Zealand coast…I hope I can remember!
Almost the entire last 500 miles of the leg were upwind. Brad and I talked a lot on the satphone complaining of our fate, but we usually ended with “Geez, at least we’re not back where Tim, Derrick, Koji, and Alan are, so we should quit our whining!”
I was faced with a tactical dilemma – I couldn’t go fast upwind on starboard tack in any kind of seaway, lacking the use of the starboard ballast tank. But rounding Cape Reinga, I noticed some favorable current inside of the next point. I realized that I had a chance to work the coastline much like I would sailing on my home waters in the San Francisco bay. The problem would be staying awake since there were countless rocks and hazards showing on my Nobeltec Vector charts. So I could be safe (and slow) and go outside, or I could take the plunge and see if I could close the gap on Emma up ahead by staying in and tacking constantly. In I went. Brad said “Dude, you be careful in there!”
The New Zealand coastline is stunningly rugged and beautiful accentuated by the nasty weather we were facing. After each point, I faced the brutal headseas and blasting wind on starboard until I could find another place to work into. I drove nearly all of the time to work the boat through the waves and minimize the hideous pounding. On the next morning I saw a boat directly upwind barely visible through the blasting rain and squalls. It was Emma. She was sailing wounded also and could only use her mainsail in the third reef unless the wind was very light. So the big winds were to her advantage as she could remain powered up on the wide and stable “Pindar.”
The wind was picking up so I had to go to a third reef. A batten came loose in the process, and I had a minor fiasco climbing part way up the rig to pull it out and drop it on the deck without losing it. I lost sight of Emma in the process and headed back in.
Over the next day (or two?) I wound up working through several amazing bays and points including the Bay of Islands and the Hauraki Gulf. I thought I was history when the wind went temporarily dead in the gulf, but then I got the right shift I was praying for and wound up so I could sail the channel south of Great Barrier Island. I had a chance. Later in the day, Brad, Emma, and myself all approached the Mercury islands from different angles….Emma crossed a mere 100 yards ahead! I was watching the wind shifts and did two quick tacks to get in phase with them and was able to pass her and get to windward. Then I had a blessing as the wind let up favoring Ocean Planet’s superior light wind ability.
I worked to a good lead over the last night only to run into a dead zone allowing Emma within a 1/4 mile at dawn. But luck came my way one last time, and I snagged a gentle puff off the land and moved into a streak of wind that just missed her. I almost felt bad as I put 12 miles into my lead right to the finish before she escaped the dead zone. Brad was also stuck…he called and said “Dude! You left me here with no wind!”
The next few hours of the welcoming fleet of boats, the morning sunshine, my friends and supporters on the boats and the docks mixed in with hundreds of well-wishing New Zealanders….it is all a colorful blur in my mind beyond description. I’ll leave it to your imagination.
A few days ago some folks completely misinterpreted some wording of mine in an update to think that I am not a patriotic American. Nothing could be further from the truth. I will not go into any politics, but I care deeply about my country, my freedom, and immeasurably proud to represent the U.S. on Ocean Planet supported by contributors to THE MADE IN AMERICA FOUNDATION. If anyone thinks otherwise, they are sorely mistaken, and itchin’ for a fight.
Bruce and Ocean Planet
From New Zealand
More than halfway around the world in the 2002/2003 Around Alone.