Author: Rick

Clipper Training

Clipper level 1

March 1 arrived for Clipper level 1 training at Sydney. Met skipper Stuckey and 1st mate Lindsay, one other circumnavigator Angie currently living in Taupo NZ, 10 leggers from all over , nsw ,qld , Wellington Seattle , just 3 aussie born I think ,bunk allocated, familiarization ,allocation of duties ,brief safety brief ,dinner prepared by skipper and 1st mate , beer at Cruising Yacht Club of Australia . (Didn’t realize what a recurring theme that would be )

March 2 , breakfast at 8 ,all day alongside , allocated foulies, lifejacket tether , deconstruct life jacket and blow up , safety briefing above then below deck , lots of safety stuff and getting to know the boat and rig etc , we send Stuckey up mast to check rig , dinner ,just a couple of beers at cyca. We’re all itching to get sailing .

March 3 breakfast, then Brian ,an air traffic controller , and I are the day’s ‘engineers’ on the roser ,check engine generator , bilges , deck check ,then the fill the water tanks .
Get ready to sail ,yankee number 3 brought up on deck and readied . The sails are heavy . Boom tent disassembled. Last test we have to get on boat via a ‘spring line’ ,ie stepping on a rope -part of the agility test . We motor out of Marina into a busy Sydney harbour . Hoisted main in behind shark island ,hoisted yankee lots of tacking in a busy Harbour .
Was 1st trainee to take the helm just before open water , and steered us out through Sydney heads . Staysail was raised and we all took turns on the helm as the breeze gradually built up to 25 knots. Kept tacking up the coast . A reef was put in the main whick took a long time as couldn’t get a spare winch for the topping lift .
Went round Barrenjoey head into the Hawkesbury where we circled around in flatter water while the day’s ‘mummies’ prepared dinner. Then we went out for night sail . The noreaster was still blowing at 25 knots with 1- 2m swells and clear skies with the stars easily visible. After clearing Barenjoey heads I got to take the helm , fine reaching towards the Southern Cross. Every so often we hit a bigger wave and spray douses the crew further forward but rarely the helm. After a period of time we tack and find a course toward Barrenjoey lighthouse. We’re on a reach back now towards Orion’s belt. My first time helming a boat at night was one the trip highlights for me. Brian takes over the helm a bit before Barrenjoey head. We finally pick up a mooring well after midnight and are tucked in at Refuge Bay. We start an ‘anchor watch’ overnight.

Rig climb Glen tailing ,Juscinta and John grinding .

March 4 we’re all day on mooring. Showed new engineers the ropes , have a swim . Most of uus do a ‘rig climb’ .It’s not really climb .You have a climbing harness to which are attached 2 halyards both with a bowline and a snap shackle. Then a couple of people on the coffee grinders winch you up the mast. Got to the top of the mast and the height(27.3metres) makes the big vessel look small and there are great views . I might finally be getting over my fear of heights. They have to know we can paddle a dinghy so we have dinghy time trials round the yacht . We do man overboard practice to get use to the mechanics and teamwork required for such an event. We rigged the storm jib and trysail so we get familiar with them. Anchor watch at 2.30 am tomorrow for me .

Stuckey on Helm ,Glen on main ,Dot swapping preventer ,Angie and I chilling

March 6 ,we get underway after breakfast and all have a go at steering with the emergency tiller. Sails go up and we throw Ruthy(our MOB dummy) in the water do a man overboard drill. We make few errors ,such as dropping the sails before Stuckey has heaved to . But we learn a lot from the errors . We tack out past Barenjoey head with our timing improving as we go. The seas on the exit a rather steep I presume due to some wind against tide. We set a reef in the main an activity that has to co-ordinate multiple crew- 4 at the mast,a busy pit crew ,one on the mainsheet. We ease sheets and sail downwind toward Sydney,again in 20-25 knots. We set up a preventer and do multiple gybes all the way. Once through the heads there is lot of traffic to avoid ,viz ferries ,49ers ,18 foot skiffs, before we get to the marina. Beer at CYCA.

March 7 ,no wind ,assessment et al on the dock. Beer and meal at CYCA.

March 8 deep clean of yacht. The 98 nautical miles we sailed has just whetted my appetite. An enjoyable week with a great and varied bunch of people. k

Red Bull Defiance

We travelled to Wanaka , a 5 hour drive south of Christchurch for the Red Bull Defiance multiposrt race , James and I were entered in the team of 2 event , a 2 day race with 6 legs and you have to start and finish together and Lily was entered in the Skyline traverse , the last leg of our race .Friday afternoon we registered for the event and has to do our preparation , putting everything in the supplied duffle bags for transition from MTB to run and from run to kayak , and finally drop off our mountain bikes which would be taken to the start for us .

Miniaret Burn MTB 42 km 3:51

Saturday involved a bus trip to other side of the lake followed by a barge trip across the lake to the start at Miniaret station. We collected our bikes and prepared for the start and figured we’d just place ourselves about mid pack . The first section was relatively flat and it was a fast start . It was apparent early my legs weren’t up to the pace James thought they would! The first 12 km was flat with a few steep pinches then you hit the first of the climbs . There are 3 shorter climbs on fire road which seem to increase in grade from 6 -12 % and we have to walk the steeper sections . You then come back down to lake and hike a bike across the Miniaret burn and cross the beach before starting the West Wanaka Rd climb. This is narrow single track at 15% with occasional mud ! We pretty much push the bikes the whole way . This is followed by a steep descent back to the lake then undulating terrain to the transition over the West Wanaka brdige . I am sure James is frustrated by my inability to descend somewhere close to his speed . 3hours 50 minutes for 43 km being a lot longer than we anticipated.

Rocky Mountain Run 8.5 km 1:44

A ‘run’ leg is next with a kilometre of undulating single track followed by a climb of over 300m in 2 km on a heavily vegetated track. Once up the top you descend onto the ‘abseil entry ‘. On entering the waiting area there are at least 30 teams waiting to abseil . And it is now pouring rain and cold . We don thermals and waterproofs and eventually a tarpaulin is erected and we all crowd under it while we wait our turn to go down the cliff.

After more than and hour and a half we finally get our turn .There are 4 ropes and the girls in front of us are connected and jsut starting to descend. We are connected by a figure 8 device with a Prusik not as a safety back up . After connecting us the guy says we can try and overtake the team in front which we duly do as we go fdown the 40 metre vertical face . After disconnecting we then have to get down a steep muddy section of single track , which is much nore dangerous the the abseil . We finally get to flat ground and are able to run the last 3 ks into transition .

Lake Wanaka Kayak 18 km 2:09

After grabbing our life jackets and kayak helmets we have to run 1.5 km to the kayaks. We set the foot rests and pedals with me in the front with the steering pedals and James in the back. The first section across Glendhu bay is flat water and we make up some significant ground and actually go past several teams including a pair of Australian who were struggling after runing into a rock . After we turn around the final headland and paddle with the residual waves , the wind having now died down somewhat , to the finish for day 1 at Edgewater resort. The final task of the day was to drop our prepared duffle bags back at the resot for day 2.

Clutha River Kayak 20 km 1:48

Day 2 started early with a kayak across the lae and down the Clutha river . There were no announcements when we got down to the water . It seemed you just selected organised your own kayak and got it in the water at what seemed to be a generally agreed time. Once on the water one of the official boats did set a start line and count down to the start. Ther was a signifcant headwind and the first section was into wind and waves . After rounding the headland there was bit of surfing then of the waves before enetering the river . The river flows fast but the few rapids are relatively easy to navigate.We make up a bit of ground by picking some of the faster flows. The last rapid we pcik what appears to a fast movinf wave train to the right of an island only to find it halts in an eddy before the main flow and we lose a few places to the teams that picked the left channel. We hit the bank at the kayak finish then have to run 2 ks to the transition at Oxbow.

Criffel Peak Ride 26km 4:01

At transition we were expecting a Clay target shoot but now it was a knife throw. James knife sticks in the hay bale so we proceed straight to our bikes. On exiting the transition one of the Giant mechanics is there and we can clean and lube our chains which are still muddy from yesterday’s ride , as we didn’t have access to the bikes after day 1 finish, After a short ride over farmkand we are soon on the climb to Criffel peak. It is all mainly fireroad and just winds and climbs , Janes is pushing me some of the early sections where the terrain is suitable . We are however reduced to walking much of it as are most the competitors. Before the final bit of climbing there is a downhill traverse on narrow single track with rocky grassland either side. I hit a rock and ride off the edge and go over the bars . I am not particularly hurt but it affects my confidence on the downhill sections to come. After reaching the peak the descent is steeper . It is through farmland and we have to stop multiple times to go over stiles and fences . At each stop the two girls teams we had passed earlier catches us and after the stile we go ahead .The pattern continues . On a really steep grassy section my rear wheel slides out and I come down again but manage to keep my self from going into the farm fence. After James collects my bike and I collect myself we continue on . Once at the bottom we cross a creek and come into the transition at Cardrona.

Skyline Traverse 28 km 5:47

We spend a fair time in transition. The run starts on open grassland but is soon ascending on steep fireroad. We walk the steep climbs and run the downhills . We go past the two girls who had snucj past us in transition and are moving pretty well . We kake the cut off at Mt Alpha .Then it is the traverse to Mt Roy which is steep up and down on a narrow track . It is now windy and cold up ob this ridge. I have come to an almost standstill . Seems this is kikey hypothermia starting which my som recognises an we put on a warm clothes and wind breakers . Several team now go past us on the final ascent to Roy’s peak . The marshall at the top fortunately has some electrolyte which I put into the water in camel pack . It does seem then I am invigorated while consuming this on the down hill into the Roy’s peak carpark. We run in company with the two girls we passed on the descent butt have caught us on the flat. Somehow we find the energy to pull away from them and run the last 4 ks to the finish – maybe the Red Bull kicked in . We were happy to get to get to the finish and complete the event . Our total time was 19 hours 23 minutes. It’s a privilege to be able to race with my son in such a challenging event .

Adventure Race Croatia

I journeyed with my son James to Zadar to join Daria and Kathryn in the Peak Adventure Ninjas team for ARC. The final decision on the team came pretty late so not a lot of time to prepare but my body was ready. Last day at home included purchasing some needed gear and lights to last the distance. After arriving in Zadar, James and I rode into town to shop . On organizing our food it was soon apparent there was not enough and James needed a bigger pack. Plan was go back to town next day but Daria and Kathryn arrived ,to our rescue, at the apartment near race HQ in Petrcane. The organization required for such a race is daunting ,requiring the right gear right food in the right box ( bike or gear ).
We sort of have our roles planned , but there are going to be many highs and lows for all.
Race night rolls around and after delivering our gear to HQ we go into lockdown , all electronics , gps, internet banned and are given the maps , all 22 of them . I assist Kathryn marking up our course. ,James and Daria copy to the second set. Much to our delight the leg 3 trek goes up Mali Paklenica gorge and over Sveto Brdo ,a route the girls ,who arrived 2 weeks before us ,have already hiked down .
Soon all the teams board buses for the start in the old town at Nin. The atmosphere pre start is great ,we are interviewed by a news crew ,we seem to be popular with the media being from far away ,3 expedition race virgins and team member with roots in the local area.
Start time 8pm and we follow a motorcycle out of the old town for 4k run to the kayaks picking up the control cards at 2 checkpoints along the way. We have chosen to run in our life jackets with drink bladders with our packs in the gear boxes ready for leg 3. Arriving at the fat duo kayaks ,boys in one girls in the other . We know the bearing to follow round through the headlands to Paski Most. The kayaks are hard to steer but our experienced females kayakers are spinning circles behind us ; at this rate it is going to be a long 30km. We stop on the first headland and change crews with a boy in the back of each kayak and girl in front and are soon making proper headway. We arrive at Paski Most and Daria and James get out and collect the checkpoint and go to the bridge . Kathryn and I paddle the kayaks to under the bridge and coolect Daria and James as they abseil down off the bridge! We head on into the Velebit channel ,collect a checkpoit on an island then proceed onto the transition past the Starigrad.
We’re not last ,we’re in one piece ,we’ve made a 22 minute transition, we’re starting a 34 km trek at 2.30 am. The first part is a gentle climb on roads and out of  the town and we are soon in the gorge hiking and at times scrambling up the rocks . The red and white track markers are relatively easy to see with our lights and James and I are mainly up front finding the route. We pick up a checkpoint in a cave and soon turn off the watercourse and are going through a wooded area. My light that was meant to last 24 hours expires just before dawn. At dawn we are treated to spectacular views of the Velebit. We continue our descent through the woods to the mountain hut checkpoint. Now the girls have been here before and Daria organises a Turkish style coffee for all . I try to deal with what feels like some impending blisters.
We start on a steep track behind the hut and come across a couple of donkeys with Bells round their necks. We keep ascending through the woods eventually to a checkpoint in another cave ( sort of ). We then have to ascend by rock scrambling up to an exposed rocky ridge . I take the front with girls following and James assisting from behind where necessary. We are then on an exposed ridge for a while and James is struggling a little in the 30 degree heat. After going over Sveto Brdo we descend through bush to another mountain hut. Till now our navigation has been pretty good even seeing us pass teams that seem to have made wrong/extra turns . On the last descent of the leg I am slowed to a virtual halt by the blisters ,having been reduced from trekking strongly into a blithering mess , and Daria is having trouble on the downhill also,  but now being off track is not helping . Indecision and error costs us dearly and 4 teams go past us . We’re now going to start our ride in the dark.
The ride start is on fire road with steep slopes and loose stones . We don’t have good start. Daria crashes and I repair her lacerated finger . I crash because I couldn’t release a cleat and James fixes my cleats . Daria and I are really struggling on the downhills. My lack of night riding is telling . The air is getting cooler and the wind stronger. My riding is getting worse and worse it’s like I’ve forgotten how to ride a bike.. We get to checkpoint 10 where we’re meant to hike up Tulove Grede. I am sitting on the stone wall uttering insanities to my son . We decide on a rest though it’s not a great place . I think my problems are simply sleep deprivation . We put on all our mandatory gear bg efore we rest . When we return the Tulove Grede climb is closed due to the conditions. (James and I climbed it 2days after the race ,am glad  we were stopped going up in those conditions ). I leave all my mandatory gear on and am able to ride. Clearly I was suffering from early hypothermia ,one can’t be one’s own doctor !! We continue our ride and at a mountain hut that is hard to find we end up meeting 3 other teams at least one coming from behind  – didn’t realize there was anyone behind! We are forced into resting again by the boys failing lights (stupid we should have rested and recharged ouselves at the hut .. doh) The ride continues over rugged terrain until we reach the plains where there are farms with sheep and goats and we meet yet another hazard – the Croatian sheepdog. Eventually we are met by Igor at a newly created transition . We are ‘short coursed’ and instead of leg 7,8 we do our own MTB leg to the TA at start of leg 9. I am clearly having no issues with endurance as we ride the hilly route to Krupa.
The next leg treks along the Krupa river and is initially flat but with rocky rises. I am slow due to blisters again and I am forced to swallow my pride as team members demand to take some of the weight from my pack . We get to a check point on an island in the river then need to cross it . On the other side we realise we need to go up . It seems to be a near vertical climb up to the Krupa ridge. From there it is a walk down to the river kayak section start. A decision is made for a powernap once our gear is organised. I am woken from my dreams and we then have strong shots of coffee that the girls have acquired .
The kayaks are duo inflatable types suitable for the rapids in the Zrmanja. We are doing this at night with a clear sky and near full moon. The river flow is gentle in between the rapids which are often short drops . We continue till the waterfall section where there is people to help us. All gear is removed from the kayak and it is dropped over the falls . One kayak drops over the second drop and James collects it . The other sits in an eddy I retrieve it and paddle it down then realise I am going over a 3-4 m drop which the kayak handles with ease. We load up and get uner way ,looking for a branch of river coming in where we have to do a short trek. We spot a fire and someone on the bank . He informs us we have already passed that point and he is there to give us instructions on how to handle the next 3 rapids and the upcoming waterfall. After going down  some  rapids we again drop an emptied kayak over a fall . A little while after this we are at the transition . This was certainly the most fun leg during the race.
Being short coursed we are given a slightly different route for the mtb to the next transition.
From there we have a simple 4km trek circuit ! It starts up an old dried watercourse. The ground is hard and uneven . I find it tough with my blisters and Daria is finding it tougher . After finding one checkpoint the next one is in a cave. We climb up an old waterfall . We can’t find the route. We scale up a steep screed slope and can’t find the way forward and going out the way we came is too dangerous. We find a sheltered spot to rest till first light .
At first light we find the path to the cave . The first part is high and open and there are bats everywhere . We walk to the end of the cave stooped over and there is small opening at the end which we have to scramble into to get the checkpoint which requires a photo of all of us. After leaving the cave the way out of the canyon is somewhat easier to find in the daylight.
The final MTB leg is through the surrounding villages and farms . The roads are rough and rocky but not steep like the rest of the time .Navigation is tricky as we are banned from using main roads till after the last checkpoint. Two punctures impede our progress ,the second one a little more significantly. Just before the descent into Zadar I again have a problem with getting out of a cleat but manage to get the handlebar to the ground ahead of my body. The cleat has been knocked way out of position despite the earlier adjustment and James fixes itagain. .
After the transition in Zadar it is a short old city rogaine which ends at the sea organ.
From there we collect the kayaks and it is a simple downind paddle 11km to the finish on the beach at Petrcane . We cross the line together . We are interviewed again by the TV crew.

We finished a tough race together and had some fun along the way . We did a shorter course but still 60 km of trekking in rough mountainous terain ,150 km mtb and 50km kayaking all crammed into 71 hours .
Lessons for me ,get your feet and shoes right !! Have good lights and backups.
Do some night riding including on rought technical terrain .
Thanks Adventure Race Croatia and thanks PA Ninjas.