Silverrudder 2015 – An Adventure
How it began
It all began in fall 2013 when I read an article in the German magazine ‘Yacht’ about the yearly non-stop single handed race around the Danish island ‘Funen’, called ‘Silverrudder’. About minimum 134 nm, single handed sailing, no motor usage allowed. I was immediately hooked and said to myself "You have to do that one day too!" When I told my wife, she was very surprised, because I was always doing cruising and never ever participated in a race or regatta.
One year later, there was another – even longer – report in the same magazine about the Silverrudder race 2014 and my decision was clear: Not ‘one day’, but now! I have to participate in the next race in September 2015!
So, I needed a boat again and started to think about what would fit me best:
I had lived for ten years in the USA, very close to the Great Lakes and there I owned a 38-ft Hunter, a great boat for coastal cruising with family and friends! The biggest advantage was that leaving home and getting to the boat took me less than an hour. After our return to Germany in 2008, I had chartered mono-hull boats, a 33-footer when I went sailing just with my wife, or a 25-footer for single handed sailing. My preferred sailing waters are the Baltic Sea, especially around the islands of Denmark.
But this kind of sailing was limited to the vacation time because the Sea was too far for just an afternoon or weekend sailing. I wanted to do more sailing year around. Close to my current home, there is an inland lake which is around 2 km long and 1 km wide where a sailing club is located. Ideally, I could join the club and enjoy evening and weekend sailing on the lake and trailer the boat to the Sea for vacations.
So, I was looking for a trailer-boat that could be used for day-sailing on the lake, but was also comfortable enough for single handed coastal cruising, which requires a cabin. It should be capable to sail and anchor in shallow waters or even fall dry on low water if I go to the North Sea. And, of course, it should be capable and safe enough for a participation in the Silverrudder race. The rules and regulations of our local sailing club is limiting the boat length to 20 feet.
Studying the boat market, I came across trimarans and was thrilled about the speed potential. Crossing the lake with 12 to 15 knots is much more fun than the mono-hulls’ usual 6+ knots, and a very comfortable high speed experience with almost no healing and a high stability of the boat. And on costal cruising this speed potential would increase my radius drastically while there is almost no water too shallow. The cabin is smaller than on a mono-hull of the same length, but still comfortable enough to fit the purpose and I would have much more space outside the cabin than on a mono.
In January 2015 I went to the Boat-Show in Düsseldorf/Germany to compare the various options I had thought of. Inspecting the Astus 20.2 convinced me: A lot of boat for the money and fulfilling all my must-have-points and most of the nice-to-have ones as well. The boat is available as an XL-version with a bigger cabin which was perfect for me. That day was my 59th birthday and I thought that I deserved a nice present: I ordered an Astus 20.2 XL with the Sport and Carbon-package on the boat-show.
The night of the same day I went online and listed myself for the Silverrudder Race.
‘Endless’ waiting followed and I tried to fill the time with making lists about all the equipment I would still need to outfit the boat and to fulfill the safety regulations for the Silverrudder Race. Meanwhile, I had also joined the sailing club and they were looking forward to welcome the first Trimaran to the lake. The boat was ‘finally’ delivered as promised beginning of June 2015 to ‘my’ lake. Christoph Wentland brought it and helped me to set it up, explaining me everything in great detail. I made lots of photos to document all advises. The next day he gave me a multi-hull-sailing lesson to complete my transition to a multi-hull-sailor. A perfect service that he offers there and I can only recommend everybody to take this offer!
The boat beat all my expectations and crossed the lake with three people on the boat with 14.7 knots already in the first week! And I felt that there was room for more if only the wind would blow a little bit harder. June through middle of September I equipped and sailed the boat on the lake.
Middle of September my wife and I trailered the boat to Svendborg/Denmark. The boat saw salt water for the first time and I did some try-outs during the days before the race started. The weather was very stormy and gusty with some rain. Rumor had it, that the smaller boats would have to race a smaller course in more protected waters instead of racing around the island due the stormy weather conditions. It was blowing with seven Beaufort at that time. On Thursday night was the briefing for all skippers with the latest weather forecast. Following the advice from Christoph Wentland, I promised to myself (and to my wife) to not start if we have 7 Beaufort. First the course was announced: Rounding Funen counterclockwise with the island always on port side. Then the weather forecast: Westerly winds, 6 Beaufort on Friday morning, reducing to 5 during the day and even further to 4 and later 3 Beaufort during the night, followed by 4 Beaufort during the following day, when the boats were expected back. Waves between one and two meters depending on the area around Funen, almost no rain. I smiled: That was just perfect!
The race was started in 7 categories, staggered by boat length and type. First the 5 mono-hull-categories, starting with the smallest, and later the 2 multi-hull categories. My boat was the second smallest multi-hull, my group started as 6th group at 11:00 in the morning. Leaving the harbor to get to the starting line felt as if the wind had eased already, so I went without reef to the starting line. But there the wind was blowing so hard that I had difficulties to control the boat. I had to reef! I hoved-to and tight in the first reef. The price for this was that I crossed the starting line as the last boat of my group … dammit!
After a couple of nautical miles the last group of the race, the big Trimarans (30 feet and longer) were closing in on me and passed. They sailed around the next hook, and diminished. This hook would be the point where the protected waters would end and the open Grosse Belt would start. A motorboat from the race-management-team also passed me with high speed and went around the hook, too. When I came around the same hook a couple minutes later, I saw the Trimarans again, one of them actually pretty close: A 28 foot Dragonfly had capsized, the mast was stuck in the ground, the rear half of all three hulls under water and the front half’s sticking in the air. A grotesque picture! The motorboat had stopped there and was just taking over the skipper of the Trimaran, he looked to be unhurt. They took course back to Svendborg and when they passed me they looked at me as if they wanted to say: ‘You are probably next!’.
Now, in the open water, the wave pattern had changed: They were higher and the distance wider, the wind had picked up drastically. This were clear seven Beaufort. What should I do? Return to the harbor after not even an hour in the race? No way! And the wind was supposed to ease off! So it would not be seven for long. The boat felt safe, but there was an enormous pressure on the rudder and tiller. I hove-to again and tight the 2nd reef into the main, putting the installation of a 3rd reef onto my imaginary To-Do-list; I also reefed the foresail by 50% and continued my journey. The pressure on the tiller was still high but much better now. Now it went down the waves and trough the next wave. The hulls pierced through the waves. That was exciting and fun. The wind started to not gust anymore that much but also started to shift clockwise. I wanted to stay closer to the shore to avoid the big waves and hoping to speed then up more. Getting closer to the Storebælt Bridge, the wind reduced further and I rolled out the foresail again and went to the 1st reef with the main, heading a northern course towards the north tip of Funen. Close to the bridge and under the bridge there was almost no wind at all. The boat slowed down to 2 knots and I relaxed for some minutes, only to face strong winds and gusts a couple hundred yards later – and big waves, really big waves. I put the main back into the 2nd reef, but let the foresail complete, hoping for a better balance, which actually seemed to work. I changed my course to get closer to the shore of Funen again, where the waves seemed not as high. I was alarmed, ready to throw off the sheets any second. Weather conditions now looked to become worse instead of better. How can it change that much from one second to the next? It was for the first time that I was in such conditions with such a small boat. I have sailed a Jeanneau 2500 mono in strong winds before, not that strong, but still … and I had several times to suddenly throw off the sheets to avoid capsizing with that Jeanneau. But my Trimaran was doing fine and I eased off again, too. There was not one moment that felt critical, the lee-hull was pressed more into the water and the boat slowed down but no lifting of the luv-hull beyond the usual level.
I rounded the north tip of Funen just before darkness. The wind eased of a little bit but the waves were still high. Now, I sailed on a Westerly course but had to tuck. In the dark I heard and felt the waves more than I saw them. No moon light was shining, because we just had new moon, a pitch dark night. My navigational lights were on and I tight in the 2nd reef into the main again, not sure, what the night will bring. This was the area where I was the furthest away from shore during the entire race. I took the course as direct as possible towards the entrance of the Little Belt, leaving Aebelo Island on port. Tucking is not the Trimarans favorite course and it took me very long to get to the entrance of the Little Belt. The boat was sailing very slowly around 3 knots only because I tucked as high as possible to leave the island Aebelo on port and stay out of the main shipping line at the same time. When the sun raised again, the entrance of Lille Belt looked already close but it took until noon to really be there. The weather was perfect on that second day: Sunlight, warm, 4 and later 3 Beaufort, just straight on the nose for westerly courses until I entered the Little Belt and could switch to more southerly courses. No reefs anymore and on some courses I could use my Gennaker. The boat made around 6 – 8 knots. I would be in Svendborg soon, I thought. But I started to realize, that I might not arrive during daylight. I had to be there before midnight to count as finisher. That should be possible, I calculated an ETA around 22:00 o’clock. I was navigating with paper charts and had used a chart plotter program on the ipad during the night to control my tucking. The accu was exhausted and I had hooked up the ipad to the boat battery for recharging, so I could use it again when it would get dark. Now, I was in a navigational difficult area: Lots of little islands, reefs and buoys with no lights. So, I would need my ipad for the night again, this time for save navigation.
Then it got dark again very fast and of course still no moon. I switched on the ipad and then it happened: It had shut down before and was now asking me for my SIM-card number, which was locked in a drawer back at home and I had not memorized it. How stupid and embarrassing! I had also missed to change the number to something I would memorize even in most stressful situations. Should my race end just here, only 10 nm away from the finishing line? I was leaning back and thinking about possible solutions, talking to my wife on the mobile phone and also to the race-team. I felt, that there must be a solution, but everybody advised me to stop and enter one of the nearby harbors – "Give up this time and try again next year." The Lille Belt was empty, no other boat in sight, with the exception of a motor vessel coming up from behind. When it passed me I saw that it was around 30 to 35 feet and going almost my course. Well, maybe he was going to Svendborg, too and his draft was certainly not less than mine. So, I decided to follow the motor boat. But it was one of this classic situations: The motor boat soon went into more protected waters and into the harbor of Fjaellebroen.
I felt disappointed and exhausted after more than 30 hours of sailing and not making it to the finishing line because of such a stupid failure to not know the SIM-card number. But thinking about my options and the potential risk to damage the boat (I had passed some unlit buoys very, very close!) I decided finally to also enter the harbor and stop my race here.
But I will come back one day to participate again and then make it to the finish-line, that’s for sure; and with the exact same boat, my little Astus 20.2XL-sport, that’s for sure, too!
When I visited the Duesseldorf Boat-Show again this January 2016 and reported to the Astus-team my experience, they encouraged me to write it down and share it. So, I herewith want to encourage others to try the Silverrudder or something similar as well.
This column allows to share different events and the outings of the Astus owner