Waikawa Women’s Regatta

About 18 or so years ago, I started crewing on a boat called Natural Magic. Little did I know how the course of my life would change from the moment I stepped on board that boat. Not only did I meet my sailing sensei Ivan Atkinson, as well as lots of other great people, but I also met Victoria Murdoch as well.

We became great mates, double trouble, the two Vic’s trimming the sails on Natural Magic and then we bought our own boats – me with Wildwood, and Vic with Smokey. We were two Vic’s in Lyttelton with Young 88’s (which caused some confusion but we used that to our advantage – but that’s another story..)

Fast forward a few years, I’ve still got Wildwood, Vic sold Smokey and had shares in another race boat Jive Talkin’ for a few years too. She has been yacht-less for a couple of years until a few weeks ago, when she bought her new baby High Voltage!

For those of you who follow the Astrolabe Sailing Facebook page, you might have seen some pictures of the sea trial up in the stunning Marlborough Sounds on a very calm day. But it was now time to really test the new boat and run her through her paces, and the perfect early season opportunity arose. The Mud House Wines Waikawa Womens Regatta.

Vic has got grand plans for High Voltage and she and I have got our eye on the Round North Island two handed race in about 18 months time. But before we even started thinking about doing some short handed sailing it was time to see if we could sail High Voltage fully crewed!

Women from all over the country lured by great sailing, fantastic women sailors and some stunning Mud House Wines flocked to Waikawa Boating Club for the regatta. Boat owners very kindly donated their boats for people to sail on too. We sadly missed the winery tour and lunch on the Friday while we were driving up, but managed to get to the club for some dinner and to catch up with some of our competition.

We gathered together our crew of myself, Vic, Naomi, Camilla, Emily, Nicci, Juliet, Craig – our token male and tactician (we like to have a bit of gender diversity), on Saturday morning we added Kate – who we hadn’t met before but she joined the team and got stuck in as well.

Saturday dawned with a light breeze. We were up early rigging the boat and trying to figure out which blocks took the various sheets, and which sail was packed in the mixture of bags down below.

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My position was to trim the main. As the girls hoisted the enormous sail up the mast I felt a knot developing in my stomach. Hmmm that looks like a bit of a handful… I was silently wishing I’d done a few more press ups in the weeks leading up to the regatta…

We had some time before the first race, so we ran through a few tacks before hoisting the huge gennaker. High Voltage had a surge of extra power and we were flying along downwind before we realised we were running out of water and had better get it back down again. Just as we were about to drop it, a huge gust of wind blew through. The tack line was released, the bow crew lost their hold on the sail and the lazy sheet flew at high speed through the block, up the boat and whiplashing its way around Emily’s leg before the whole thing was flying like a handkerchief at the top of the mast.

“Relax Vic…” I calmly chirped in my friends ear. All the while thinking “Sheeeet this isn’t great..!!” The crew quickly managed to tame the flying beast before coming back to the cockpit for a bit of a debrief on how we might manage that a bit better in the swiftly approaching race.

Emily peered down at her leg, which after all the excitement was now starting to hurt. The rope that flew past her leg had torn a hole through her thick wet weather pants, her boot, her leggings and then taken a whole thumb size gouge out of her shin. OUCH!

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Luckily yours truely ‘aka Dora the Explorer’ had my trusty backpack handy with some Crystaderm cream to soothe the wound and a big plaster from the first aid kit was applied before Emily was back up on the bow. She is one tough chick! Juliet had also copped a big burn on her pants from the rope too. A timely reminder for how dangerous ropes can be.

After wolfing down our packed lunches (made by the club – delicious!) the course was set and the race was on. We had a great start and for the first time lined ourselves up against the competition. Twelve other boats of various shapes and sizes were entered. High Voltage flew across the line and up Queen Charlotte Sound in the lead. Our main competition Satellite Spy, Midnight and BlueBird were all in hot pursuit. In typical Marlborough weather, one minute we had 18 kts, and then none, and then 10 from the complete opposite direction. At mark one all the boats parked up together.

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Luckily the wind filled back in and we had a great board down to the top mark and back up the Sound to finish 3rd over the line.

A fabulous first race!

Then it was back to the club for some well deserved Mud House wines and a great roast dinner. Keryn McMaster from Predict Wind was the guest speaker, and she entertained us with some memories of her adventures in the Volvo Ocean race.

We all drank far too much of the sponsors product, my arms were about 5cm longer than when I started the day, and after most of us popped some ibuprofen, panadol and some more plasters on the wounds, we headed off to bed.

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Sunday dawned bright and sunny with a lovely breeze. We headed back to the club feeling confident about the day ahead.

We got squeezed out in the first start but managed to make a brilliant comeback, picking up a line of breeze and swiftly overtaking our competition. Some super slick manoeuvres on the bow with the gennaker, some very sexy gybes, and we were ahead! Satellite Spy caught us up and Midnight was hot on our heels but we crossed the line 2nd, and won that race on handicap! Vic had an enormous smile on her face.

Race three began with a much better start. This was a longer race with a building breeze, but we were more confident in our abilities to handle the boat now. High Voltage flew around the course and we came in third over the line.

After packing up the boat we headed back to the club for prize giving. The whole crew was so pleased with our performance, and how High Voltage performed. We’d all had a fantastic weekend, made some new friends, consumed plenty of Mud House Wines, and mastered the art of sailing Vic’s new boat.

Huge thanks to Jenni and the team at Waikawa for hosting such a great event, to Mud House wines for all their sponsorship, to the other crews and boat owners who provided such great competition and to Vic and all the crew of High Voltage for being such great friends. Love you guys. xxx

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