Kiwis ride out 60-year storm

IMOGEN NEALE
Last updated 05:00 25/07/2011
trimaran

SAFE HARBOUR AT LAST: Oliver Scott-Mackie, Paul O'Reilly and Guy Hewson from TeamVodafone with a damaged sail after arriving in Sydney.

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A Kiwi trimaran has made it into Sydney harbour after a harrowing trip across the Tasman that included three days spent in "survival mode" in six-metre waves.

The 60ft (18m) TeamVodafone Sailing trimaran spent 36 hours hove to with its sails pulled in, riding out 92kmh winds and 6m waves 550 kilometres off Sydney.

When they got into Sydney on Saturday morning, they found the port had been closed for two days and locals were talking about a 60-year storm.

The boat is in Australia to launch a six-week racing campaign involving races and regattas along the east coast.

The team spent yesterday surveying the damage and deciding what had to be done before the boat was ready to race in a Sydney-to-Southport, Queensland, race on July 30.

Owner and skipper Simon Hull said when the boat left Auckland on July 16 the forecast was "ideal", with only a small front just before Sydney.

"The high intensified, slowing our progress, and when we got close to Sydney the front had become a significant depression," he said.

On Wednesday night, with the breeze over 92kmh, it was no longer safe to sail.

The call was made to put the boat into "survival mode" – the sails were taken down and the boat was "hove to", to slow its forward progress.

The crew contacted the Australian Maritime Safety Authority to report their situation and warn ships they were stationary – only to be told that there were no ships in the Tasman due to the storm.

Worried the towering seas could flip the boat, the crew hunkered down in the middle hull while the storm battered the carbon-fibre racing boat.

The crew were squashed inside the 1.5m-wide cabin – four on the mesh bunks, one on the floor and two standing.

Bowman Ollie Scott-Mackie, 20, said it was "like sitting inside a steel drum for 36 hours with someone drumming on it".

"At one stage the boat was shaking so much we were bouncing in our bunks," mid-bowman Harry Hull, 17, said.

"It wasn't until we got to Sydney that we found out how significant the storm had been," Mr Hull said.

"We ... were surprised to see so many ships standing off Sydney heads – obviously due to the port being closed."

By Friday the winds had eased and the crew were able to sail in to Sydney.

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- Fairfax Media

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