Early bird checks in for trans-Tasman race

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 05:00 04/03/2014
Kevin Le Poidevin
ROBERT CHARLES/Fairfax NZ
SOLO SAILOR: Kevin Le Poidevin and his yacht Rogue Wave is the first to arrive for next month's trans-Tasman solo race.

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A seasoned solo yachtsman with survival skills honed in the Australian armed forces is first to arrive for the New Plymouth to Mooloolaba solo race.

Kevin Le Poidevin dropped anchor at Port Taranaki yesterday after taking 9 days for the trans-Tasman voyage from the time he left his home port of Port Stevens in New South Wales in his 36-foot yacht Rogue Wave.

He sets sail for home along with up to 18 others when the four-yearly Solo Tasman Yacht Challenge leaves Port Taranaki on April 20 at Easter Sunday.

"I like solo sailing," he says with a grin. "There's no one you have to share your beers with."

And it helps that his 23-years experience in the air force - he's a Squadron Leader and engineering officer - have honed his fatigue management skills.

When there's only one of you to rely on for your survival it surely keeps you focused, he says.

"You do a lot of thinking. It makes you think before you do things," Mr Le Poidevin says.

Of anyone taking to the high seas alone, he should know how important attention to detail is.

To date he has sailed 8000 nautical miles dependent only on himself to sail his boat.

It has also helped his self-sufficiency that he is also a mechanic.

"And I cook a mean loaf of bread and scones as well."

One of the biggest thrills on the voyage over was being followed by a pair of albatrosses.

He spotted the first and as he watched the massive bird with its three-metre wing-span it landed in the sea next to its mate.

"I've never seen an albatross land on the water before," he says.

For four days they kept him company, soaring in the sky above his head - a common sight for sailors.

For the initiated, his yacht is a fibreglass sloop-rigged single-mast cruiser racer built in the United Kingdom.

He bought it from a couple who sailed it around the world.

His wife, Narvelle - not a sailor herself - is fully supportive of his adventures. And his father, who served in the Royal Navy, is "pretty proud" of his son, he says.

"They know I do this sort of stuff safely and do my reading and my research."

The trans-Tasman yacht race is the second oldest solo yacht race in the world after the Ostar, in which sailors cross the Atlantic from the United Kingdom to the United States.

To date 18 entrants intend to take part in the trans-Tasman race but the numbers are expected to reduce for a variety of reasons before departure date, says race committee member Harley Watts.

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For the last three races Mr Watts, as a Yatching New Zealand category one inspector, has checked out the boats' seaworthiness.

The largest number taking part to date is 15.

The current record for the 2400km race is 6 days and is held by the multihull Bullfrog Sunblock in 1986.

The yachts are all expected to be at Port Taranaki by April 6 for inspection week.

Lectures prior to departure for the sailors will include meteorologists, Search and Rescue and Customs and Immigration.

- Taranaki Daily News

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