Ken Read skipper aboard Rolex Middle Sea Race record-breaking yacht Rambler describes what happened 23/10/07

Ken Read skipper aboard Rolex Middle Sea Race record-breaking yachtRamblerdescribes to the Rolex press office in Valletta what happened during this weekend’s exceptionally windy race round Sicily.

Rambler’s record breaking run was exceptional. She did the first half of the course to Favignana in 1 day 5 hours 26 minutes, having had a great run all the way to Messina and beyond to Stromboli. The second half of the course took 18 hours, with a drastically reduced sail plan: “When we went around the north-west corner of Sicily heading out to the islands we actually took the mainsail down for almost 12 hours. With a storm jib and mainsail in 45-knots it was white out, you couldn’t see. The boat was literally just flying off waves. We found a really nice rig a bit unexpectedly, it was a storm jib on the front-stay and a genoa staysail on the middle-stay?

“?the hardest part of the race was day two, waiting for the front to come. The anticipation, that nervous feeling in your stomach [when] you know 50kts is coming. We had squally weather all day. We got through it and were reefed down enough that when the front finally hit and we saw 40 knots straightaway we were storm jib and triple reefed so we did not have that panic that we’ve got to get stuff squared away. Waterspouts were forming all around us and we had one fully coned waterspout pass about a half-mile away from us.”

The preparation was 20/20 vision because at this point that trouble really hit, as Read continued: “?then the forward hatch blew off for the second time. The guys got it bolted back on, literally through bolting it back on again. It was leaking like a sieve and had a big crack in it. My big fear was if that hatch went. It was only a matter of time before that thing came loose again and if it did we had a couple of plans but I’m not sure any of them were going to work.

“We were taking tons of water over the bow every time it goes down a wave and without a real hatch we had to back off. The waves would pile up on these shallow shelves that go from very deep water to quite shallow water so the waves were big and breaking. You just start down into the tunnel and there is no way out. If you are going too fast you can’t steer through it. So that’s when we backed off and made sure we had steering ability to be able to keep the bow from burying in. We sailed under storm jib and staysail for probably10 hours, through most of last night. I’m glad we had the preparation.”

Read was impressed they had taken so much time off the record given the conditions and the circumstances of the boat. “I think for a record pace run we had too much wind, you cannot effectively sail the boat in that much wind and at some point you are going to have to pull back for the safety of the boat and the safety of the crew.”

Read’s final remark says it all about knowing when to hold and when to fold, “we could have taken two more hours off [the record] but then again we could be out there getting air-lifted off.”