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Flinders Islet Race

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Hindsight is a wonderful thing. It is the mechanism that allows us to look back at a set of circumstances and work out a better way of doing it. That is what this article attempts to build a better mouse trap.

Sailors with disABILITES left on he evening of Friday 10th October for Flinders Islet on WOT EVA. The race started well and all things seemed to be in order. I should point out that this is not a report about the incident. A full report will follow when we have had more time to look at this situation in detail.

All things were running well on the boat, we approached the Islet just behind Ragamuffin and Brindabella on a dying breeze. Rounded the Islet without incident, Pretty Fly III some 600m behind us heading North. No breeze #1 light up. John Hearne at the helm, yours truly on deck.

Shortly after this we brought the Seeker on the deck. The breeze lifted to about 2-3 knots allowing the 0 to be launched. We settled down creeping along at 4 knots boat speed. The wind shifted further North, we launched the A1 and rolled up the 0. Wind seemed to be unstable so decided to leave the Code 0 hoisted. We are now steering anywhere between 355-010magnetic, mostly around 005. Hearney had gone below and I was at the helm. 

This was a Hobart training exercise and we had a watch change just after the Islet. We had on approach to Flinders Islet noticed the instruments were flashing indicating lower house batteries. We started the motor but there was no charge going into the house battery. This had caused us to switch on the hand held back up GPS and go to paper charts. Check that the hand held VHF was operational and shut down all unnecessary electronic equipment on board. I believed at this point we had a charging problem.

A lookout yelled “surf”. After some expletive I looked under the boom and saw breaking waves on our bow, wheeled the boat to starboard in an attempt to get into deep water. The first wave caught us and dropped us on the rocks.

I yelled “all hands”. The crew were coming on deck, Kirk Watson one of the guys coming up from downstairs was thrown over board by the violent wave. Crew got a line to Kirk and got him back on board in a matter of seconds. I will discuss this in more detail at a later date.

Kirk’s recovery on board was one of the slickest things I have seen in difficult circumstances. It is hard to bring a man on board at any time. The crews’ experience and training gave us the best result.

This was a low swell, poor visibility evening, although at times the visibility improved to almost good. The boat continued to be pounded across the reef. All the crew on the deck of the boat. By now the boat had flipped over and had starboard rail down. The bulb had become detached and we were being washed into deep water. The boat slid off the reef finally into safe water. Safe being a relative term.

We anchored the boat and set about clearing the mess and checking for leaks and sea worthiness. A mayday had been radioed with the MOB incident. The helicopter turned up. I have never experienced the power of that light before it was good to see them. We were all ok and they left.

One of the impressive things was the speed that the crew set about their tasks. We had fouled the engine, so this had to be cleared, the key had come out of the engine start panel, so had to be jumped and started.

So we are looking pretty good, no leaks, some steerage, no bulb but the boat riding well and appeared to have a reasonable amount of stability. Some damage to the keel pan, damage to the boom, sails lost over the side, A1 shredded, amazingly the crew had saved the Code 0 but not my wet weather gear!

The water police instructed us to take a tow from Marine Rescue to Port Kembla. These guys turned up out of the dark, tossed a line, did a fantastic job, said goodbye at the police mooring at Port Kembla and disappeared into the morning.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank these volunteers for their time effort and professional seamanship.

I would also like to thank all those involved who assisted us throughout this problem. A very special thank you needs to go out to other competitors in the race in particular Brindabella, Balance and Pretty Fly who stood by through the entire operation.

The boat is currently in Nowra and being assessed. There are lots of things I am unsure of for the immediate future, a couple of things for sure, one Sailors with disABILITES will do its best to be on the start line for the Sydney to Hobart 2011 we have been there 17 times now and we ain't missing this one.

The second and most important, I must thank my crew. I could think of a million superlatives, that’s probably not true I couldn’t think of a million but a shit load anyway!  They performed perfectly, fought way above their weight and I would be honoured to go to sea with anyone of them or all of them anywhere anytime. Thanks guys.

So where to next? In the short term don’t know, lots to do, and no time to do it in. As I have said you can be sure of one thing . We will be on the Sydney to Hobart start line.

Pesky / David Pescud

Skipper Wot Eva

17 October 2011

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