Body armour required on BSL in Cook Strait


Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron becalmed off the coast of South Island – Photo Campagne de France

With the Leg 2 Global Ocean Race (GOR) winning Class40, Cessna Citation, safely secured by a network of lines and springs at Queens Wharf in Wellington Harbour, the strong winds still persist in and around Cook Strait. As Conrad Colman and Sam Goodchild crossed the finish line late on Friday evening (local), thundering into Wellington Harbour under bright orange storm jib and reefed main, the second-placed Class40, BSL of the New Zealand father-and-son duo, Ross and Campbell Field, was approaching Cape Farewell, 110 miles north-west of Wellington, preparing to turn right, into the teeth of the gale for a beat through Cook Strait.

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The Fields rounded Cape Farewell at midday GMT on Friday – in the middle of the New Zealand night – and ran straight into the south-easterly Force 7-8 howling through Cook Strait. BSL tacked briefly onto port towards Golden Bay lying behind the 15-mile long Farewell Spit jutting east into the strait from the cape, with slow and painful progress: “We’re getting the **** kicked out of us,” confirmed Ross Field as BSL slammed into the massive seas. “Just before the wind instruments got blown off the rig, it was 38 knots and then it got windier,” he continued. “Now we estimate a solid 30 knots gusting 40 with breaking seas.”

By midnight GMT on Friday, BSL was off the tip of d’Urville Island on the South Island shore at the gateway to the jaws of Cook Strait: “The poor old boat has suffered some damage and it’s full of water, wet sails and sailing gear – it’s a shambles,” he reports. However, there is also physical damage on board: “The crew are suffering,” he confirms. “Campbell has a black eye from head butting the forestay and I have bruises everywhere from being thrown around the boat.

In a brief call to the GOR Race Organisation at 14:00 local (01:00 GMT) on Saturday, Ross Field reported that the breeze had climbed to a howling 50-60 knots and by 05:00 GMT on Saturday (18:00 local), BSL was heading directly across Cook Strait with 57 miles to the finish line and searching for some shelter on the North Island shore. “Are we enjoying it?” asks Ross Field. “No, but this is only a tiny percentage of some of the best sailing in the world,” he believes. “Congratulations to Cessna,” he added before signing off. “Conrad and Sam sailed brilliantly and thoroughly deserve their win – bloody well done!”

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