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Round North Island diary: 'You wonder what’s breaking first - your back or the rig'

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Josh Adams and Ryan Parkin have just completed the 2023 Round North Island race - their third time circling Te Ika-a-Māui - aboard Thompson 38 Serena. According to the provisional results, the pair finished the race fourth overall on line and handicap. Here, in their own words, Adams and Parkin describe the gruelling final two legs of the revised 1200nm race.

Our goal in this race was to be at the front of the pack, the boat had been meticulously prepared over the prior two years for two-handed yachting and was in top shape for another trip around the Island. We knew prior to the start that Napier was off the cards and two long legs, West and East (or West, West as it turned out) would mean we needed some favourable conditions to keep the longer boats at bay.

Usually, to win a race like this you need three elements working in unison - a boat that is good all round the track and at any angle, a crew that is up for the task and making solid tactical decisions and a forecast that plays into your hands (we all need a little luck so to speak!).

We got this about right and were fortunate enough to have a day and night of 0-5kn that allowed us to catch up and creep past some of the bigger and heavier boats around us.

Josh Adams and Ryan Parkin have just competed in their third Round North Island Race. Photos / Shorthanded Sailing Association of New Zealand

Josh Adams and Ryan Parkin have just competed in their third Round North Island Race. Photos / Shorthanded Sailing Association of New Zealand 

We worked every cloud under moonlight with the simple goal of inching south to get the new breeze first. If the bow pointed north of 90 or 250, a tack or gybe followed within minutes. In the last three RNI races, we have been becalmed on day 2 of leg 2 and ended up with a send towards Cook Strait, so it's quite amazing that we expect this race to be aft of the beam when for as long as we have been doing it, these conditions only present themselves in bit-size chunks.

We were lucky, too - the rich got richer and the smaller boats behind took a beating into Waikawa as the southerly front came through while we were on the step with Relapse in sight from Egmont to Waikawa.

The race is as much about mental attrition as it is physical, one of the challenges we experienced was knowing when it is safe to push and when an hour of rest is needed first. Last RNI we pushed in the wrong places, and it was costly... this time we had a system and process for every manoeuvre and, for the most part, it paid off.

After an epic stop in Waikawa, we set off for leg 3 back up the west coast and although the forecast suggested a lay through to Cape Maria Van Diemen, that was never going to be the case. We literally did not crack a sheet until after Cape Reinga, when the front finally passed through, and wind backed to the west.

The body in those couple of days took as much of a beating as the boat. Even off-watch, the body would lift off the bunk at every wave crested, the hull crashing first, the rig shuddering and you wonder what’s breaking first - your back, the rig…

Ryan usually sleeps like a baby - out like a light in 5 minutes - but this leg presented no meaningful rest until we rounded North Cape.

It’s also shocking how smelly two humans can get in a confined space, the boat needs to be deodorised and the vomit-inducing stench of wet socks invades your nostrils and takes up residence in every crevice of the boat.

We arrived at Maria Van Diemen to time the tide as poorly as possible - 8kn through the water and 2kn over ground within a stone’s throw of the Cape. Once sheets were cracked the boat lit up and we were jib reaching with a reefed main at 13-16kn until squaring up around North Cape and hoisting some bigger gear.

We had to sail angles until the wind backed and unfortunately left our gybe too late which had us dropping the A5 early and sailing into Cape Brett under a double reefed main and the BRO. The boat was trucking though, and this was probably the most enjoyable part of the whole race. In the name of safety, we re-applied the sunblock at the exact moment I managed to wipe out with the A5 up, Ryan with slippery sunblock hands managed to just hang on and grab the top of the mainsheet winch handle, his new glasses the only victim as they went swimming.

The boat is back in her pen, the only broken item on the whole trip was a traveller block - a testament to those who helped us prepare her along the way.

Results? I think it ended up OK, we will know later once the overall is posted.

Congratulations to the winners and all the competitors - it was a tough one and we think those who do this race on a boat the size of a bathtub, deserve extra credit.

There is a reason it’s held every three years - kind of like having more children and forgetting the exhaustion of sleepless nights. The rewards are there at the end, you just need some time to process it all before committing to the next one.

This story was first published on Kraken Yachting and is republished here with permission.