d'Albora's Action Project: AUS 360 Blog Update
Presented by Pivotel
Well as you can likely imagine it has been a complete whirlwind over the last 24 hours and mother nature and the wind gods were not making it an easy finish for me. On the last night of the journey, I was still sailing close hauled in an epic storm facing 5-metre waves and lots and lots of wind. In the end, the conditions got so bad that I decided it was safer to heave too through the peak of the storm. The winds build to 40 knots and I was very violently crashing off the backs of the steep waves. I was sitting on-board panicking about my mast and over worrying that it might come crashing down again if I kept this up and the last thing that I would want would be to de-mast 100nm from the finish line. So I braved the rain and went on deck to tack. I need to get the jib to the starboard side before tacking back so that I would drift in the right direction. I am still not sure how but somehow I managed to do this and not get wet at all which was quite the feat with all the waves breaking over the decks.
It was 9 pm and I had yet to have dinner so after I was hove too again and riding out the worse of the storm I went below and made my final dinner at sea. It was a lovely freeze dried meal called curry in a hurry and the whole time I was dreaming about hot chips and ice cream. I was just getting ready for bed at midnight when the winds started to ease again and I was able to start sailing. I was expecting the winds to ease around 5 am so this was great as I could start making those last miles towards the finish line. The rest of the night I think I managed to get a combined total of 2 hours sleep as every time I laid down the winds would ease a little more and I would need to go back on deck and increase the sail area from the Storm Jib and 3 reefs in the mainsail to the final sail change at 5 am that left me with a full mainsail and the large light wind jib out at the front of the boat. The winds had now dropped to 10 knots.
The sun came up and the skies were a brilliant blue that I hadn’t seen for days however 2 hours later when I went back on deck to check something and suddenly I could not see a thing as there was this amazing dense fog. I was slowly closing in on Australia and I was still 3nm away and could not see it yet as my visibility had dropped to 200meters and the wind had dropped with it to a whopping speed of 3 knots. I was sailing the final 3nm to the finish at the grand old speed of 1.5 knots without being able to see anything around me. There was still a large swell around left over from the storm so I was rocking and rolling in the waves when finally the fog cleared for a few minutes and I could see the headland to Sydney Harbour. It was my 1st sighting of Australia since I rounded Tasmania and I was so so close to the finish line.
A friend of mine Karly then sailed out of the fog on his boat and welcomed me in. And then finally I caught some wind just after 2.30pm and was able to sail the last 3 miles to the finish line. It was a unique experience as I sailed in through Sydney heads which is 1nm wide and still couldn’t see land. Using my instruments only I navigated across the finish line and officially became the First woman to sail solo, non-stop and unassisted around Australia and established a new mono-hull solo non-stop unassisted speed record having completed the trip in 58 days with some hours and minutes. I don’t have the official time yet and this will take a week or so to be formally ratified by the World Sailing Speed Record Council. As I crossed that line it was a huge relief and I was so glad that I was now able to turn that engine on and make my way to the Dalbora Marinas at Rushcutters Bay however the risks of the voyage were not over yet as I now needed to navigate Sydney Harbour with less than 200 meters of visibility. There were a few close calls especially when one of the massive Manly Ferries came barrelling out of the fog directly at and another time just behind me but finally, I was able to get down the harbour without mishap.
The fog ended at Rushcutters Bay and I was able to take my first prolonged view of Sydney and I dropped my mainsail for the last time and motored into Dalbora Marina and when I finally docked and jumped ashore I was welcomed with cheers and hugs from all the awesome people that came to see me in. In a whirl of media interviews, and hugs I was whisked up to a little welcome home event that Dalbora Marinas put together for me and was given all the things that I had been craving at sea. Before I arrived I was asked what I wanted and I replied with beer, hot chips and ice cream so within minutes I was holding a beer. The local cafe came over with a massive overflowing bowl of hot chips and shortly after I was given a birthday cake made from ice cream. It couldn’t have been better.
The rest of the evening is a blur as I continued the party with my friends over at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia and somehow at closing I found myself sitting with the Polish Sailing Team (don’t ask me how) drinking Polish vodka and this morning I woke with the tender head as a result and managed to get a complete unbroken sleep of 8 hours. Whoop Whoop.
The rest of today is all about recovery and while I might have set a world record yesterday I spent quite a lot of today googling ideas for the next adventure. I am going to take a year to catch up to the rest of my life but you can be sure that there will be another adventure in my future. Thanks again to everyone for following along and I will keep you updated moving forward.
Thanks to the following Sponsors for all their continued support: d’Albora Marinas, Pivotel B&G, Australian Geographic, Zhik , Park Fuels, Karver, 3M, White Bay 6 Marine Park, and Great Circle Life Raft