70 knots+ in an Atlantic Weather Bomb

10 January, 2016

Challenger W60 Update.
29 N, 57 W, 2000hrs.
Monday February 15, 2016.
What an incredible past 10 days it has been on board Chris Stanmore‐Major’s (CSM) Whitbread 60 Challenger, en‐route from Nova Scotia to the 2016 Caribbean 600 Race in Antigua. To say there have been high seas adventures to last a lifetime would be putting it mildly, but it does go to show the strength of the yacht and the professionalism and persistence of CSM
himself, alongside his trusty crew‐mate, Ken, the fleet engineer. The team has been reluctant to tell the story of just what they have been through since leaving Lunenburg, N.S. on February 6 th, but now that the dangerous times have passed, we believe it is time to tell at least some of the tale……read on.
As new offshore‐adventure sailing businesses go, and plans take shape for the first big season, anyone who has been through this sort of venture in the past will tell you that there are many obstacles you just aren’t prepared for. CSM and his team took the time between the September 2015 arrival of Challenger in Nova Scotia, and Christmas, to complete a very comprehensive retrofit of the newly acquired Whitbread 60, e x‐America’s Challenge , of San Pedro, California. By the time she was re‐launched in mid‐December, Challenger was as good as new, and belied her 18‐year old age. January 2016 brought a few exciting commitments to the team, including finalizing the seasons’ plans, fundraising, and a trip to Toronto ON and Detroit MI, to meet with partners, and to be the honoured guest speaker at the Annual Great Lakes Single‐Handed Society (GLSS) AGM at Bayview YC on January 30. Following that, it was a direct flight back to Halifax and the final push to get down to Antigua. The 2016 Caribbean Season was coming very quickly, and Challenger had to get going…….
CSM and Ken left Nova Scotia in the early hours of February 6 th. The weather was deteriorating, but being February in Atlantic Canada, the forecast for the coming days included 30‐40 knots and a tough sea state; nothing that CSM hadn’t faced before, and certainly conditions that Challenger was built for in the 1997‐1998 Whitbread Round the World Race/ Volvo Ocean Race. The world‐famous yacht‐designerAlan Andrews had been commissioned to design this fine yacht for the 1997‐1998 Round the World Race, and although the boat did not complete the entire circumnavigation due to financial constraints, her strong Kevlar hull deck and tough rigging and sails have proven themselves over the years as very seaworthy in many different conditions. The boats’ biggest test to date was about to begin. The winter storm brewed up quickly, and became much fiercer than was forecast. This was the same winter low that damaged the Princess cruise ship
off the east coast, buried the New England states and Atlantic Canada in several feet of snow, and battered Ireland and the UK later in the week. Challenger , with CSM and crew aboard, was out there, alone, the entire time. With nowhere to run, and without port to find shelter in, the crew simply worked hard to survive, hundreds of miles offshore, through the worst of this terrible winter storm.
CSM and Challenger braved the storm as best they could over the next few days. The very experienced skipper used traditional seamanship techniques in order to keep the yacht and crew as safe as possible. The winds and waves were much higher than originally forecast; Challenger experienced over 12 hours of 65‐75 knots of pressure (Category 1 hurricanes begin at 64 knots), and over 3 days of 45+ knots of wind. If the tracker of Challenger is followed, HERE one will see the
erratic nature of the track during the worst of the storm, and the incredible wave heights experienced when the track is “clicked” on; the highest point above mean sea level seen on the tracker is an astounding 21.98 metres. (that’s 66 FEET)!!!!! Incredible.
At all times, CSM and his crew were safe, and came through the storm with relatively minor damage, seeing what they had faced. The worst of the damage was seen early in the storm, whereby the force of a crushing, breaking wave, broke the main hatch of the yacht, allowing a large volume of water to enter the cabin, before CSM could use his skills to construct a temporary hatch cover using the newly
installed “head” door. Quite a feat indeed, and what ingenuity! In order to help solve the issue of a “new lid” for the boat, Andy Wiggers of Wiggers Custom Yachts
in Ontario Canada has been working directly with designer Alan Andrews in California, in order to get the original plans for the hatch, and to build a new one over the past weekend so that it can be delivered to the boat upon arrival in Antigua later this week. Other smaller issues include the loss of one of the two life‐rafts overboard by a massive breaking wave, the loss of the wind anemometer from the masthead after hours of sustained 72 knots of wind at the height of the storm, some electronics malfunctions due to water in the cabin, and some minor sail and rigging damage. All in all, very minor indeed, seeing as what they have been through. The shore crew worked hard to keep them as safe as possible with frequent weather updates when communications permitted, but by the end of the week, CSM, Ken, and Challenger were safely out of the worst of the weather, and passed well east of Bermuda on their way to the south, and Antigua.
As it sits now, Challenger is roughly 700 nm north of Antigua, sailing in 25‐30 knots of NE breeze, with a following 4 metre swell. Earlier today (Monday Feb 15th) they hit a high speed of 24 knots (!!), with a #2 headsail and 2 reefs in the main. CSM and crew are very much looking forward to reaching Antigua later this week in time for their 1200hrs check in deadline on Friday February 19 th , for the 8th
Annual Caribbean 600 Yacht Race.Challenger is scheduled to be hauled out in Jolly Harbour Antigua in order to check for any damage sustained during the storm, and the crew will set to work on getting the yacht shipshape in time for the starting gun on Monday February 22, 2016, off Shirley Heights at the southern end of Antigua.
Here she will be sailing amongst some of the world’s fastest and most modern ocean greyhounds on her first official event under Spartan Ocean Racing
The race can be followed at caribbean600.rorc.org .
Challenger’s delivery story however, may well indeed become one of the highlights of the event. We look forward to a safe conclusion of the final 700 nm of this epic delivery, and to seeing the photos and videos that were shot throughout the delivery by CSM. Please feel free to drop by and visit us at Jolly Harbour, or at Falmouth Harbour Antigua before or after the race to learn more about
CSMs adventures, and how you can be part of the next one. The skippers’ skills, honed over 250,000 nm of sailing in his lifetime, coupled with the strength of the Whitbread 60, should make anyone, young or old, male or female, want to be a part of the adventure of a lifetime…..