As per usual the start of the race was to be at the first slack water after midnight Friday. Unfortunately for the ORCV, Met-Eye was showing that Bass Strait was a sea of red, a gale with arrows running from the west. So after consultation with the BOM, the ORCV delayed the start to the second slack water for the day or 09:30 Saturday morning: Bass Strait was by then a sea of dark green, only strong winds. It also meant a pen departure from RMYS at 03:00 instead of a civilised 21:30.
So there we were at Drapers Reef, Queenscliff in the starting phase, tuned into VHF 82, the race channel. A start sequence was heard and we were off. We were almost at the first (virtual) mark when we realised that boats were turning around and going back. Then heard over Ch 82, ORCV advised that the start channel was in fact VHF 12, which is also the shipping channel that had been used to report that the race start had been delayed another 30 minutes due to an inbound ship at the original time. A false start. Take two, try again. After the practice we made another good start. The ORCV course out of the Heads, is Drapers reef, then round 3 virtual marks to keep the fleet west of the shipping channels. Then it´s race on! Next stop Stanley. So 5th out of the Heads and into Bass Strait for a rough crossing of 14 hours or so.
A soldiers course with everyone running down the rhumb line. The wind blowing 20-25 knots, plus the occasional extra 40%, the 3-4 metre swells, the 1-2 metre seas. These were conditions that even the old hands hadn´t seen for a long time. And the first time on board Arcadia. Mostly the boat rode over the waves but every now and again a rogue wave would break on the fore deck as the bow dropped and send a wall of water down the deck. A true test of wet weather gear but water being water and under pressure finds the gaps most noticeably around pants cuffs, up the leg and over the top into your boots. Similar around wrist cuffs. And if you´re really unlucky and you look up at the wrong moment, you get a full face wash with, seconds later, cold trickles down your back. Just part of ocean racing in rough weather. And it´s best if you know if you get sea sick and if you do, the drugs to take to mitigate its effects. Otherwise your misery will be compounded. All part of the challenge of ocean racing, the stamina to push through the adversity generated by Mother Nature, the power and magnitude of it, while crewing the boat as best you can with all the elements trying to stop you.
So we´ve arrived at Stanley at about 04:00, into the harbour and rafted up with the other first 7 finishers. After packing up, it was off to the Shed and the Stanley Lions, bless them, who supplied suitable beverages and hot food. However the atmosphere was somewhat subdued which was understandable given the hour and the tough passage. The shared experience had left everyone drained. So after the debrief, back to the boat, some sleep, then back to the Shed for the results and presentation. No prizes for Arcadia. So job done it was time to go home: departure about 11:00. What a difference a day makes. The wind was blowing only 15-20 knots and the conditions that that generates might seem rough first up but after yesterday they were relatively calm. It looked good for a quick trip back.
The weather system was moving on and conditions were moderating, the wind dropping and shifting around, swell decaying and seas reducing. By the time we were approaching the Heads we were motor sailing on smooth water. At the Rip, as we were coming in, a tanker was coming out. It was a bit frightening watching this big ship coming straight at you before it made its turn to leave the Bay. That turn seemed to take such a long time. So once in the Bay the journey was done and a toast was made to King Neptune for another safe passage. There was only the 6 hour cruise to RMYS to complete the 2018 ORCV Melbourne to Stanley trip. And oh, of course, the boat pack up.