Skipper Ken Read explains how his team got trapped in the nightmare others feared
Leg 3, Stage 2, Day 11 Blog from Kenny
Man are things changing out here. Must be very exciting to watch, and I
imagine if you are a PUMA fan you are wondering what the heck is going
on! Well before that, let’s step back a couple of days.
A hundred miles or so from the end of the Straits – I know you have
heard from Amory that we had a little situation…almost a huge situation.
Let me explain.
About a mile off the Malaysian shore with Groupama and Telefónica
within half a mile of us, it was dawn and the sun was just rising. There
were several shoals that Tom Addis was guiding us through and the wind
was very light. In fact, the other two boats were pretty light inshore
of us so we were easing offshore a touch in a puff.
Imagine this: your shoulder is shaken and you hear, “Wake up, I think we are aground,” says an unidentified crew member.
I flew out of bed to jump on deck to see the other two boats moving
away from us and we are not moving. But there was no crash, no bang.
Then Casey says, “I think we are in a fish trap!” This isn’t good.
Sure enough there is a small black flag barely visible about 100 yards
to the left, and a fishing boat sits about 200 yards to the left of the
flag. All were thinking there may be a net attached around the boat and
the black flag. Well, once we rolled up the headsail that covers the
entire right side of the boat, in the increasing sunlight we see another
tiny black flag about a half mile to our right. The two black flags
have a net that strings between the two and we are firmly caught…in
really light air and barely maneuverable conditions.
First things first: assess the situation, role up the headsail and try
to back out. But, we are reaching when we run in to the net, so backing
out is nearly impossible.
Now comes the amusing part. Communication between an Australian from
Adelaide and two Malaysian fishermen who are pretty pissed off that we
are caught in their net.
First they offer to throw a line, which we have to refuse as tempting
as it was. No outside assistance allowed. Ryan Godfrey is now trying to
get them to go to the end of the net at the black flag and do something
with it…in fact none of us speak enough Malaysian/Australian to really
understand what Ryan was talking about never mind what the Malaysians
were saying in return. So, as you can imagine it really didn’t get us
Next step, send the kid in the water. Rome Kirby gets his mask and
jumps in to the unbelievably murky depths, only to figure out when his
head actually hits the keel prior to him seeing the keel that the water
visibility isn’t very good. Get him out before some Malaysian sea snake
gets him. And believe me, there was a chance because the Malaysian
fishermen were shocked someone would be in the water. Even I could
understand that communication between the two of them.
Next plan. Try backing off again and use the staysail unfurled to help
guide the boat better in reverse. In essence, about 45 minutes after we
were caught into the net, we backed sideways along it and steered the
boat with the headsail until we were pointing in the opposite direction.
Casey heard some tearing sounds like the net was giving way, so we
pulled open the big code 0 and probably finished off these poor guys’
net, pulling ourselves out and heading back where we came from.
Finally, after 1 hour we rounded the far black flag (about a 1-foot by
1-foot flag on a 3-foot stick) and we were off. Chasing a pack of two
that we could no longer see on the horizon.
This was what the travel brochure told us to expect. Unlit fishing
nets. We all talked about them. We saw a million of them. But as always,
you see them during the day and somehow you pray at night. Due to an
unfortunate number of circumstances, we found one pretty well. We’ll
send Ryan back to speak with the fishermen about fixing their net later.
The comeback trail began immediately. We were pissed but at the same
time relieved to be out. IF it had been a well-built net, we would have
been there for ages and quite frankly I don’t know how we would have
From there it was off to the bottleneck in the Straits where about a
million of the largest ships you have ever seen were waiting for us.
More on that later.