A dark day for Team Buckley Systems

3 02 2012

You would have seen by now the news that we are headed back to Auckland. A tough way to have a year of blood, sweat and tears collapse in front of you. Although cursing every minute of the last day or so of bashing and crashing upwind towards the ice gate, we had played it out pretty well, we feel.

We had set ourselves up nicely and were as settled in as you could be in those conditions – a nice southerly position (not as far south as we would have liked, but that is another discussion for another day), and very comfortable with where our nearest competitors were.

I guess it was a small mercy to have the horrendous conditions entering Cook Straits at the end of Leg 2 so fresh in our memories as it took the edge off and had us better prepared for the huge seas and 40+ knots we were facing.

We had a few failures as can be expected in these conditions, notably the 4mm thick stainless steel strap that connects our mainsheet block to the traveller car blowing up – quickly fixed with a lashing – but that gives an idea of the shock loads we were putting through this tough old boat.

One huge wave, and the instant it started to happen I knew what had happened. We rolled into a crash tack then around into a crash gybe and another tack. Anyone watching from above would think we were taking a penalty turn.

I was clinging on for dear life in the cockpit trying to simultaneously grab the tiller, disengage the highly confused pilot, hold on for dear life and figure out which way was up. All the while screaming in sheer rage at the situation.

While I was venting my anger, Ross was in agony in the cabin. On leg 2 he took a couple of tumbles that would have stretchered off any mere mortal, with a bruise on one hip that looked like someone had taken to him with a baseball bat.

A severe blow to the abdomen a few days later was only acknowledged with a mere, ‘that hurts a bit’ and ‘hope we have some more of those anti-inflammatories’. Tough old bugger my old man.

Any other day I would have just said stubborn old bugger. So to see him in that much pain meant we had an issue: facing the next 6000nm with one of us in agony raised serious questions. Then the loss of all our wind instruments meant our main autopilots were not functional. This was nothing we could repair at sea.

The combination of these issues seriously compromised our performance and safety.

So here we are, 1100nm from Auckland, riding the huge waves we previously spent 24 hours working so hard against in the other direction. They are just as big going this way, so we are still having a few hairy rides at 19 kts with a triple reefed main and jib up.

All our friends, fans, family and supporters, thank you for your support and messages we have received.

We will keep you posted on progress and the future as it unfolds.