Friday, October 24, 2014


The Scarlet Oyster is a well know sailboat, a 26 year old Oyster 48 Lightwave with a great crew that manage to achieve surprisingly good results on Oceanic Races. The Oyster 48 is a living memory from the times Oyster made some very fast and light boats.
This edition of the Middle Sea race looked like the kind of race where they excel and they were making a great race when they broke the rudder. The story:

“We have two reefs in the main and the storm jib up, we saw 48 knots of wind and we have seen waves of over 20 feet. It is pretty tasty out here and we are most definitely concentrating on keeping everyone safe on board rather than boat speed. However, we surfed down a wave and it was too much for the rudder. It was a sickening sight as half of it appeared out of the back of the boat and for us the race is now over. Although Pantelleria is only a short distance away, we cannot steer towards the harbour there, so we are making are way towards Mazara del Vallo on the Sicilian coast and should be their tonight – absolutely gutted would be an understatement.”

When I read that I thought: WOW!!! these guys lost the rudder on the middle of a storm with 50K winds and didn't call for help: no Mayday, not even a Pan Pan but will they be able to make it to port on their own on these conditions?

This is the answer:
"The initial plan was to sail back to Sicily under this configuration but as the sea state worsened they decided to stream the drogue and turn the yacht downwind, using the sails and the drogue for some steerage as they pointed towards Malta. 
She is a twenty seven year old yacht weighing in at thirteen and half tons and her high profile long keel meant that she was very well behaved throughout initially sailing in a steady straight line under hove to sail configuration with ease. 
After one of the drogue lines snapped the decision was made to try sailing towards the shelter of the tiny Mediterranean Island of Pantelleria and this involved some strategic thinking to work out how many gybes and manoeuvres it would need to get there with such limited steering capability.

Late last night Scarlet arrived at the east side of Pantelleria and tied up behind an anchored fishing boat where a fellow Italian Rolex Middle Sea Race competitor was also hiding from the storm. Bliss! 
The crew prepared to get some rest, but just as they were about to drop off, the fishing boat they were secured to decided to put to sea! This meant that the already exhausted and seasick crew were tasked with hoisting the sails again and attempting the difficult manoeuvre of anchoring Scarlet under sail with no manouverabilty. Eventually in the pitch darkness they managed it and could finally get some rest. 

The Italians generously leant Ross their custom made emergency rudder which was strapped to a pole and used to wield out the back of the yacht to provide steerage. This enabled the yacht to get to the harbour of Scaira this morning where Ross is now desperately trying to make repairs and sort out a solution to get the yacht back to Malta. If anyone can do it, this man can - Ross Appleby is one of the most determined and resourceful skippers we know!
"I doubt that we could have done what we did on a modern build lighter race boat" says Andy Middleton "The weather conditions out there were pretty horrendous and the waves towered above us up to about eight to twelve metres with breaking seas and 48 knots of wind across the deck so we had a bit on but the yacht was built to last and we managed to get her to safety"

Truly amazing these guys and what a lesson of seamanship to all those that call a Mayday and abandon their sailingboats in much lighter circumstances. I hope on day to be that good :-)
And also some short but great movies made on the boat not only won the two handed class but also made 4th overall on IRC!!! They have made a fantastic race making it in d5 h4 m38 s44. They were among the last to finish it but they were faster than for instance an Akilaria class 40 , a Dufour GL 500 or a Fast 42...and they finished while many bigger boats give up.  A very well sailed Azuree 33 going with 40k winds:

The crew of thhis Azuree 33 is a very curious one:  

Stig Westergaard two times winner of the Finn gold cup a Soling champion medallist and two round the world races racing with a NA designer Pierpaolo Ballerini. Well, Ballerini know the boat very well, it is a Ceccarelli design but Pierpaolo was part of the design team, not less than the project manager ;-)
And it was not and easy race, I mean not only the storm, they had to dive in the middle of the night to free the boat from a huge net!!!! The story:

“On the first night we were caught in a fishing net, I don't like swimming in the dark but was round the keel the propeller everywhere, it cost us nearly two hours. When the storm arrived, we didn't know that it would be so strong, we thought it would be sailable and we were doing well in the race but as the smallest boat in the race, we got washed away big time. For us it was a case of stay in one piece during the night and make sure we make breakfast. Paolo and I are a match made in heaven for Double Handed, we were able to win our class and fourth overall because we are a combination of a sailor and a seaman. Any practical issue on board, Paolo took care of including all of the sail changes and I focused on driving the boat. Even in the heavy weather, the relationship didn't change. Paolo was struggling with sea sickness but Paolo showed exceptional stamina. He was still up on the foredeck, sea sick and changing sails in 40 knots, that takes tremendous courage.”

And the best collection of photos posted by Yacht de on their site:
and here too,on the Rolex site:
It seems that we are looking at the photos of one of the bad/good editions of the Sydney-Hobart ;-)


  1. It crossed my mind at first that Kuka light was a boat using the DSS, but I was wrong. Any reports on how are doing boats with this system by now? Was any of them in the Rolex Middle Sea Race?

  2. Kuka-light made a fantastic race till very near the end. He had to retire with keel problems when it was 3th on compensated. Knowing that the boat has a terrible handicap that means that it was going incredibly fast and this photo at the end of the race showing Kuka-light ahead of a VOR70 says it all (Kuka-light is a 42ft sailboat):

    Regarding DSS I believe that in Oceanic races it will be only useful in big yachts. Smaller boats will have to much pitch on Ocean conditions for the system to work properly.
    Recently IMOCA class took away all restrictions regarding the use of foils and I believe that, like with the canting keels, the Open 60 will be a test field for the DSS and the use of other foils in monohull ocean racing.