Some excellent, eloquent perspective from the smallest boat in the SDR fleet...
A friend posted this on another forum, portions of an email he received from a British couple aboard RUFFIAN, a Rival 34... Typical Brits, no whinging allowed, no seeking of someone else to blame, they just get on with sailing with a cheerful and positive outlook, and accept that sometimes bluewater voyaging can turn into a bit of a crapshoot...
Iain's remarks are in quotes, I've left some of Tom's comments interspersed, as well... And, I've taken the liberty to bold what I feel is the single most important point to be taken away from the events of last fall:
"“So I’ve ready stated that I’d never participate in a rally and safety is my main concern; so why did Ruffian participate in the SDR? To put it simply the SDR increased the safety of the passage. As part of registering, and I use the word registering instead of participating on purpose, you are given access to detailed weather routing by Chris Parker and this is the primary reason why I registered. Having access to this additional source of information and his extensive knowledge of the weather systems that are at work off the east coast of the US gave me another level of safety above that of pulling gribs at sea. Without registering with the SDR we simply could not afford to use the service that Chris offers and indeed we wouldn’t have missed it as we have never had the experience of a professional router on Ruffian. In addition the SDR does not prescribe a fixed start date, nor start or end location, therefore everything about the voyage is up to me.”
Iain goes onto their second SDR passage, November 2013.
"“After listening and watching the weather webcast and pulling our gribs we thought we’d have southerly winds of 20 – 25 knots for the first 3 days and this would then very quickly switch around to the north 25-30 knots until the end of the forecast. Ruffian would then be so far east and south we would expect to be encountering the effects of the Azores high and the trade winds meaning that the breeze would gradually shift from north to east giving us a reach south to the BVI’s. Ultimately this is exactly what we got.
Now none of the above sounds particularly difficult but if you mix it with not having done a big passage at sea for a few months and the effects of the Gulf Stream and a few squalls then you realize that it’s not going to be a walk in the park. Even we underestimated how difficult the first few days would be, in the first 60 hours we were constantly on deck, constantly wet and hand steered all the time. I think that we lived through this (although at one point I did get really quite worried and wanted to bail out) as we cut our teeth racing yachts around the English Channel, a seriously challenging place to sail a yacht. To date this offshore passage is still the most difficult that we have completed.”"
Iain and his wife Fiona, also a veteran ocean racer of decades, don’t take this passage lightly. It’s a big one and will always have it’s risks of lot’s of breakage and worse. He doesn’t blame the SDR,…
"“In reverse order let us deal with my opinion about why no blame for ANYTHING that happened should be leveled at the SDR.
The SDR simply provides a non prescriptive framework for you to put together all the components to make a successful ocean passage, but it doesn’t take any of the responsibility away from the skipper in ensuring that he, his boat, and his crew is ready to sail offshore. There are no kit inspections, no kit requirements (with the exception of the ability to report your position), no experience prerequisites (with the exception that the skipper must self declare that he and his boat have sufficient experience), there is no fixed start date and no fixed start or end location, so with all this flexibility and the responsibility and indeed the decision sitting with the skipper whether he feels it is safe or not to go to sea how can anything be levelled at the SDR? Remember they are simply providing a framework to complete the passage not a guarantee that you’ll be ready for it.”"
So why the criticism? He lists several reasons, here’s a few.
"“Many people, their relatives and friends, do not like living with the decisions that they make and saying ‘we were sent out’ takes the responsibility away from the skipper and into the hands of a 3rd party, in this case the SDR. Let’s face it though, no-one left into the forecast weather with a gun against their heads, no-one had to leave and the wider community needs to realize that we all take responsibility for our decisions.
The criticism perhaps comes down to bad communication from the SDR to the wider community and the community understanding exactly what the SDR does and more importantly does not offer. The SDR gives a simple framework where everything rests with the skipper. If everyone ‘out there’ realises that everything that happens to every boat on the ocean is down to the skipper then we would all be in a better place.”"
Well said. With 200 boats out at once in those conditions -which must be expected on that passage anytime of the year- Iain feels breakage onboard boats WILL happen. And don’t we know that?
I much appreciated the time my friend Iain took to send me his experience. He sums his 2 SDR’s up here,…
"“On one final note, would I do the SDR again? On balance I absolutely would as it continues to enable me to increase the safety of my vessel while at sea with the weather routing that it provides and takes away none of my responsibility to make sure that the crew and boat are ready to go to sea and I am happy with the conditions I will encounter.”
Humble folks, he doesn't even mention that they lost their engine early on last November, and sailed the entire SDR. Iain and Fiona out of Newcastle UK on RUFFIAN, their Rival 34', in Rockport Harbor last summer.
A friend and two time participant critiques the Salty Dawg Rally; Two thumbs up!
Here's a link to their blog... It's a good one:
The yin and yang of the world of offshore sailing. | A little boat and a big ocean.