Spirit was left in Brisbane over the Christmas period until my return on the 16th of March. She escaped the flooding that Brisbane had over January and apart from some small damage to her centreboard and being a bit dirty she was fine when I arrived back. I think because her mooring was in the lee of a bend in the river that most of the logs passed her by. While I was away we decided to do the famous Brisbane to Gladstone multihull race. My father sponsored us along with another friends mother who owns a winery. We organised a crew of experienced multihull sailors and set about getting everything ready for the race.
Leading up to the Brisbane to Gladstone was hectic. We had ten days to do a list of things and as normal it grew as the days went on. There was the boat to weigh and the sails to measure so we could get an OMR rating, which allows us to have a handicap so we can race in most regattas around Australia. We had sails to be repaired, Spirit to be hauled and cleaned, anti-fouled and some minor repairs done to the hulls. We had safety checks, and safety gear to buy to bring us up to Cat 2 and many other smaller items. The B&G wind instruments were not working as well so we had no instruments leading up to the race. Luckily though we managed to have someone come in at the last minute and sort out the problem by supplying us with a new mast unit.
All the weight we could find was taken off the boat prior to weighing and we removed all the sails we weren't taking along on the race. With the crew flying in two days prior we managed to do a days sailing before so the guys could get used to the boat. Jesse managed two days as he was able to get in a few days earlier and his help slipping the boat was much appreciated. Below is a report of the race and how we went. In the end we managed fourth across the line and 5th on handicap. Not bad and the main thing is we arrived safe and sound with the boat in one piece. We all had an awesome time doing some unforgettable sailing. We had a great race and the crew were awesome. Jesse, Chippie and Dan did us proud and worked hard to keep the boat going the whole way, thanks guys!
Even though I have done over 12,000nm onboard Spirit we have not raced any other serious multihulls, so this was a real testing ground for us and Spirit. We have done a couple of cruising regattas but there has been nothing to compare Spirit's speed to. We were really surprised to find out how well Spirit did in the light conditions at the start. Spirit has a very old Kevlar/Mylar main and an old Dacron Jib thats well past it's used-by date. Even though she lacks really nice race sails she did very well in the light north east breeze we had at the start. She was pointing high and she was faster than the other boats. It seems that the huge and heavy centreboard we have comes in very handy when on the wind.
I did stuff up the start and even though Chippie was nicely explaining to me that I couldn't do what I was trying to do (barge!) I thought I'd try my luck. We ended up with nowhere to go apart from around the start boat again, so we did and in the end we were about one of the last boats to cross the start. We were under jib and full main and after watching the other boats decided to pull out our small screecher and run as high as we could. It proved to work well for us and we took off doing 8's in about 6-7kts of wind at around 55 true angle. We had the screecher wound up really tight and after about 10mins the load was too much and the aft pad-eye parted from the boat. The guys worked quick to set up a webbing strop and to re-sheet the sail to another point. We had a great run to the top mark and were first to round it only just in front of Morticia. The next mark was again on the wind but we decided to run with the jib only. We slowly made our way over to Tangalooma where we rounded the next mark only to find the wind die out.
The south east breeze filled in after about an hour and the other boats caught up in no time when it came through. When the breeze filled into where we were. We put up the large screecher we have and ran as fast and deep as we could. The others were on us though and were able with there deep asymmetrical's to run deeper and faster. We were over taken when heading to the end of the fairway by Boss, and Morticia. We had the Lightwave right on our tail until we were off Caloundra where the breeze really filled in and they took off running deeper than us and super fast into the dark.
It was an awesome night passing monos in the dark while trying to work out who we could see in front trying not too let them get too far out of reach. When the breeze died off in the very early morning we took a bosuns chair and hung off the bow to re-lash the prodder as the new lashing we had stretched and bedded in. About 4-5am the wind filled in again coming from a few different directions before it settled from the south. As the morning got lighter and we neared the top of Fraser we spotted Boss in front of us which lifted our Spirits. It was about this time we blew the top of the large screecher out. During the night we had made some repairs with sticky back but the sail has had many repairs over the last two years between the east coast of the US and Australia and it gave up tearing from the luff to the leach about a meter from the head. It was game over for this sail so up popped the small screecher. The wind filled in Boss took off north of Fraser Is. We had Mortica and Cut Snake and Lightwave Raider on our tail and pressing us hard. With only the small sail up all we could do was try and run the best angles we could.
We did a nice run into the beach on the tip of Fraser and it's here we had the best sailing of the trip. The water was flat and the wind was steady and strong from the south. We had an awesome run up the beach about 1000m off the breakers sitting on 20-22kts. As we headed out the wind increased and we ended up with a top wind speed of about 34kts. With the small screecher and full main Spirit was happily sitting on 20's surfing down the small seas running about 160-170 true. If the wind or seas increased much more we would have had to two sail reach. Spirit was designed to race offshore and she has done a lot of miles of serious ocean racing. She is a pleasure to push hard and very kindly in big conditions doing nothing silly. We ran into one small wave which slowed us a little but it wasn't anything major. We were racing and this is part of it if you want to push hard. We didn't go in the Gladstone to take it easy, we went in to push the boat and ourselves and to see how she went against other racing multihulls.
As we neared Lady Elliot Island the wind dropped off a little and began to swing east. With the change in strength and direction we found it hard to keep our pace and run as deep as the others. We gybed at one stage only about half a mile in front of Cut Snake. She was smoking along and for a cruiser/racer she has some serious speed. The guys onboard must have been sailing her hard as she was right on our tail for most of the race. Lightwave Raider got in front here as well and we didn't see them again. We could see Morticia hot on our heels and we tried so hard to hold them off but just couldn't in the conditions we had. I was happy we were even in site of them as they have a very good reputation for turing out high speeds, I bet they had some fun when it blew hard earlier ;-) We decided to try and keep just south of the rum line into Gladstone as the wind was forecast to be stronger deeper in the bay. Not it was though as it seemed to be steady for most of the trip across.
At around sunset Mortica passed us running deep and fast and Cut Snake was still there on our tail. After we rounded Bustard Head and Outer Rocks we ran deep into Rodds Bay near Gladstone trying not to gybe again and hoping for the wind to turn south. It didn't and we did have to gybe once more just near the mark, which slowed us. We then ran fast along the south eastern channel marks passed an outbound ship to S10 where we headed off the wind running over to the west bank. It was here the wind just stopped and turned north east. It was pretty crazy how fast it turned and from here we had an awesome sail in the moonlight into Gladstone.
After crossing the finish we were met by the Lord Mayor of Gladstone whom presented us with a case of XXXX gold and a plaque. What more could you want and what a welcome!!! I think it's nearly worth doing the race just for the free case of piss.
The Gladstone race for us was a real adventure. We had a great crew, Spirits a great boat to sail on and the course and conditions were superb, we had every kind of wind strength and wind direction. The people involved like Mike, Bruce and Jim and his wife Barb put in a lot of hours and energy so we can sail this race and have a ball. I'd like to say a big thanks to those behind the scenes that make it all work that I didn't even get to thank or meet, without them we wouldn't even have these memories of adventure to talk about. Thanks to all those that competed as it also takes a lot of organisation to even get your boat to the start let alone to the finish. The fact every boat made the finish with no major damage or injuries says a lot about those that competed in the race, well done to all.
The fact we made it and did it was a win for us. To sail against such awesome multis and to surf waves at speed and to push the boat with the company of great friends is why we do it so thanks from Spirit to you all. We hope to see you all again sometime soon on the race course. I'll be studying up the rules a bit better so watch out Cut Snake!
Spirit Race Facts:
Fastest speed thru the water seen - 22.6kts
Miles done - 356nm
Average speed - 10kts
Duration - 35hrs 17min