Interview with Andrea Mura, Line Honours Winner OSTAR 2013

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Photo by Billy Black

Interview by Jill Southwood

“La sfida della vita è più paurosa della morte.
- “The challenge to live is more frightening than death.”

Upon arrival at Newport, Andrea’s first words were, “MAI PIÙ!” – NEVER AGAIN! “My first and last OSTAR.”

It had been my dream for many years to compete in the OSTAR. After an enormous amount of work, practice, testing and on to qualifying, finally I had the 50’ monohull racing boat Vento di Sardegna as well prepared as possible.

The journey from Cagliari to Plymouth was long and hard with very strong winds against me the whole way. The Portuguese coast and Cape Finisterre were the most challenging of all.

The start in Plymouth Sound was fast but not without a close encounter in trying to avoid another competitor on the line who could not manoeuvre. It could have spelt disaster for both of us.

Heading rapidly westward along the SW coast of England, I carried out repairs but had left Eddystone Lighthouse to port instead of starboard. I turned back from the Lizard and with a wind shift, changed sails whilst getting soaking wet. 80 miles and 7 hours later, I rounded Eddystone to starboard. Two others had to make a similar track in pouring rain, SSW F6/7.

I had some catching up to do but gradually worked my way up through the fleet as we sped out into the Atlantic Ocean.

The weather grew worse and worse – one depression after another hit. I wasn’t to know it but I would go through 5 storms during my OSTAR journey.

I was endlessly on the foredeck changing sails, one down, hank on another. My fingers were soon splitting with the cold, making it difficult to work.

The temperature was never above 5°C, the rough seas the same, crashing over me. The whole way I was utterly drenched, all my clothing saturated, my boots filled with sea water.

It was freezing cold and I was unable to catch more than a 15 minute nap at a time.

For 15 hours I was unable to go on deck and was thrown about down below like a ping pong ball in a washing machine. This was worse than hell and I felt very nauseous.

Then tropical storm ‘Andrea’ hit; it couldn’t get any worse. Instruments, VHF, AIS and autopilot were damaged by the force of the seas shaking the rigging. A lot of sea water came in down below, soaking everything – a truly dreadful experience. The radar broke away from the mast with the force of the slamming waves.

At last, I was round the Nantucket light and heading towards the finish line with about 80miles to go, making a steady 7+ knots.

I had managed to take the lead and hold onto it.

I have raced all over the Atlantic, Mediterranean and beyond; they were like picnics in comparison to the OSTAR. I prefer to navigate 100 days downwind than 17 up!

This is not a race for sailors or cruisers. It is for gladiators. Fight for everything or die. This is the ultimate challenge.

Race Update #11: Saturday 15th June

With the rush of activity surrounding the arrival of the first two boats Vento di Sardegna and Branec IV beginning to settle down, our attention here in the race office in Newport turns back to the rest of the fleet still on approach to the finish.

Richard Lett aboard Pathways to Children is now just under 330NM from the finish line and it looks like he’ll be arriving on the 18th June. He currently holds 1st place in the Gypsy Moth Class due to the substantial time owed to him by the other boats in the class based on IRC handicap. Having sailed neck and neck with Spirit, skippered by Jac Sandberg for the majority of the race, Richard has now pulled ahead and extended his lead on the Corby 30 who is due in later on the same day according to the tracker ETAs. Nico Budel and his Class 40 sec.Hayai is not far behind them. It’s still possible that he could catch up with the smaller boats in his class and possibly even overtake them before the finish. Both Jac and Nico have suffered technical difficulties with their trackers but thanks to great support from the team at Yellowbrick, we are still able to follow their progress by manually inputting their positions to the system.

Local favourite Jonathan Green aboard his Beneteau Oceanis 351 Jeroboam has continued to impress and further extended his lead on the other Jester Class boats. Here in Newport, Jonathan has a reputation as a formidable sailor from past performances in the Bermuda 1-2 event. He and Nico Budel are both around the 450NM to go mark and it would be a great achievement for Jonathan to match the Class 40′s elapsed time.

Asia Pajkowska, the only female skipper of the fleet now holds the Multihull Class lead position and is making good progress towards the Nova Scotian coast in very light conditions.

Charles Emmett aboard his Sigma 36 British Beagle is currently skirting the edge of the Canadian continental shelf and holds the 2nd place in the Jester Class and 8th place overall.
Mervyn Wheatley and Krystian Szypka have both chosen a similar northerly course which takes them very close to Newfoundland and have demonstrated a very consistent speed throughout the race.

Eight time OSTAR veteran Peter Crowther is just to the east of the continental shelf and continues along the rhumb line course that he has stuck to from the beginning of the race. When he arrives in Newport it will be the end of his ninth OSTAR campaign.

Ralph Villiger aboard Ntombifuti has now caught up with Geoff Alcorn’s Saltram 36 Wind of Lorne II and will no doubt have his sights firmly set on overtaking another boat before the end of his challenging OSTAR journey.

Roger Langevin and Branec IV finish – 14th June 16:49 UTC

Roger Langevin aboard Branec IV has arrived in Newport 2nd place overall but it remains to be seen if he or Asia Pajkowska and Cabrio 2 will take the Multihull Class title.

David Southwood, Race Director said, “Branec IV appeared over the horizon off Newport in a heavy sea and a force 7 wind. He was well reefed down with just an inner staysail set. At the end of his 18 day voyage he was forced to tack agonisingly through the finish line which he crossed with great joy at 12:49 local time. He paraded Branec IV through the harbour to traditional gun salutes from the yacht clubs and hooting from vessels moored in Newport Harbour.”

Andrea Mura arrives in Newport – 13th June 22:12 UTC

Photo credit: Billy Black - http://billyblack.com/

The mighty monohull Vento Di Sardegna stormed across the finish line at Newport Rhode Island USA with the delighted, ecstatic and exhausted Italian skipper Andrea Mura at the helm to claim victory in the Royal Western Yacht Club’s 2013 edition of the Original Singlehanded Trans-Alantic Race, OSTAR.

The threat of rain clouds and fading light could not dampen Mura’s joy at clinching his second Trans Atlantic victory in successive years to record the unique double of Two-Star (two handed) and OSTAR (solo) back to back.

The official time keepers stationed on the  finish line at Castle Hill, Race Director David Southwood of the RWYC and Norman Bailey of the host Newport Yacht Club recorded Mura’s finish time at 22:12 UTC (18:12 local time)  to give an elapsed time for the three thousand mile solo epic of 17 days 11 hrs 22 minutes at an average speed of around 7 knots.

Mura had regained the lead from Roger Langevin in the trimaran Branec IV ten days ago when 1600 miles out and stretched his advantage to 150 miles last Sunday when the first named storm of the 2013 hurricane season, aptly also named ‘Andrea’, slowed the front runners south of Newfoundland. The Frenchman tried every move possible to close the gap, often sailing close to the coast of Nova Scotia in search of a favourable slant in the breeze but Mura using all his stamina and experience covered all the moves and kept the door firmly closed. Langevin is expected in Newport on Friday afternoon.

Photos and a video interview with Andrea will be uploaded soon!

Bravissimo Andrea! 

Race report #10: Wednesday 12th June

Andrea Mura is on final approach to Newport with less than 250NM to go. We’re expecting him in at around 1930 UTC / 1530 EST tomorrow, 13th June. Billy Black will be out shooting photos and video of the finish and questions are being prepared for an interview as soon as Andrea has cleared US customs.

Current ETAs based on progress between position updates suggest Branec IV will sail in nearly 24 hours after the Italian’s finish. Many of the boats are taking a route very close to the Nova Scotian coast to avoid a bubble of low pressure. Roger Langevin reports mixed feelings about his return to this coastline where he suffered a dismasting in 2003 aboard Branec III. He and many of the other competitors will still have to contend with rain and strong winds associated with a depression developing in the Gulf of Maine.

Far to the east of the main pack, Ralph Villiger aboard Ntombifuti has reported a challenging couple of days spent becalmed in fluky winds but has already closed more than half of the distance between him and Eira Class leader Geoff Alcorn. He is now in much better airs and is averaging over 6 knots towards Newport, just north of the rhumb line.

Yesterday night it appeared that Asia Pajkowska aboard Cabrio II had caught up to the invisible line of Branec IV’s handicap and had taken Multihull Class lead. Roger Langevin has since reclaimed that title but it will surely be encouraging for Asia to know that if she continues to push herself and her boat, she’s certainly not out of the running for a class win.

Local favourite and the only US competitor, Jonathan Green continues to impress with his Beneteau Oceanis 351, Jeroboam. Having taken an early lead in the Jester Class at the beginning of the race, he should be arriving in Newport on the 18th June to a very warm welcome.

Fourteen days and getting colder by Jerry Freeman

The front runners of OSTAR 2013 are racing in the cool and shallow Canadian continental shelf waters after fourteen days of open ocean.  Race leader Vento di Sardegna passed to the north of Sable Island early on Tuesday. The name gives a clue to the constituents of this very low uninhabited bank lurking 90 miles off the coast of Nova Scotia where it has trapped many a ship. Andrea may have had a glimpse of the drilling rig ‘Deep Panuke‘ that is working to the west of the island.  Rig supply ships and fishing boats will present an extra hazard to the coastal shipping in this area which is renowned for its poor visibility. Sea temperature here is about 12 degrees and the air temperature is 10 degrees on Banquereau Banks buoy today.

Andrea Mura was able to extend his lead to about 150 miles on Sunday night as the storm passed over Vento while Branec was effectively hove to on starboard tack for few hours 35 miles off Mistaken Point, Newfoundland, in a strong to gale force south westerly.

Comparing the fleet’s progress at the end of fourteen days to the 2009 front runners gives a clue to the tough conditions they are facing this year; in 2009, La Promesse was just 526 miles from the finish against Vento’s 669 miles to go but a fast final sprint looks possible. In the 32 foot boats Hannah White in her Figaro Pure Solo was at 858 distant compared with Richard Lett in Pathway to Children at 1164 miles.

The absence of icebergs to the south of Newfoundland this season has encouraged all the boats to take a more northerly track but the saving in distance has not been enough to compensate for the less favourable winds. The south westerly breeze looks to be set in for a few days and a lot of tacking is in prospect. Spare a thought for Jac Sandberg in the smallest boat in the fleet, Spirit, currently laying fourth on the water. His track has taken him to the most northerly of the fleet at 50 degrees north a few days ago and you dont want to be up there as we all know what happens at 50 degrees north and 40 degrees west *. Jac is enduring the coldest conditions with sea temperature of seven degrees and although the air is six degrees with the wind chill it feels like two degrees, add a bit of fog or drizzle and you have the full set for Dutch ambrosia.

© gogospirit.com - Jac’s boat Spirit has a nice cuddy but no spray-hood so no doubt his time spent in the cockpit will be brief.

Several boats are experiencing electrical problems and are having to resort to back up pilot systems and hand steering while amps available for the computer are limited which is why less reports are coming back from the boats. Jac has been bragging about the efficiency of his methanol consuming Fuel Cell Systems but of course it does not generate any heat to warm the tiny cabin. Richard Lett has enjoyed a few hours of Eberspsacher heater to dry his socks and raise morale but it remains to be seen if he has enough fuel to repeat this luxury too often. Charles Emmett on British Beagle has charging efficiency issues and reports fuel rationing while Mervyn is at the helm of Tamarind and possibly heading for St Johns 320 miles distant to repair the pilot. Nico has ordered a mini USB cable from Amazon to re-charge his tracker battery but delivery may not be quick enough to get the Class 40 back on the chart.

The leaders may be planning their final days but the bulk of the fleet have the most taxing period of the race yet to come with poor visibilty, light head winds and increasing ship traffic to contend with. Sails and gear will be showing wear and tear and the bighting cold will sap any enthusiam for deck work.  There is still a very long way to go and thirty days is a respectable time.
* As Rudyard Kipling wrote;
WHEN the cabin port-holes are dark and green
Because of the seas outside;
When the ship goes wop (with a wiggle between)
And the steward falls into the soup-tureen,
And the trunks begin to slide;
When Nursey lies on the floor in a heap,
And Mummy tells you to let her sleep,
And you aren’t waked or washed or dressed,
Why, then you will know (if you haven’t guessed)
You’re “Fifty North and Forty West!”

Race Report #9: Monday 10th June

As of 0000 UTC the RWYC race office duties have been transferred over to the Newport, RI team. Banners and flags are going up and the Newport Yacht Club OSTAR office is open daily from 1000-1600. Race clothing is available but in limited supply so be sure to come in and see the team before they’re sold out!

In the Atlantic, the fleet continues to make good progress towards the finish with Andrea Mura on the Open 50 Vento Di Sardegna and Roger Langevin on his 53’ trimaran set to complete their transatlantic journey sometime in the middle of this week. Andrea Mura has recently moved up to 3rd place in the Gypsy Moth class, overtaking Nico Budel’s Class 40 sec Hayai.

Roger Langevin reported a frustrating night with uncooperative wind angles and heavy seas preventing a direct sailing course to Newport. Things had changed by the morning as winds shifted around to the north and he was happy to be pointing straight at the finish, at least for the time being.

Mervyn Wheatley aboard Tamarind has suffered an autopilot failure and is now hand steering towards St John’s, Newfoundland but is not retiring. He plans to carry out quick repairs and resume the race as quickly as possible. In the 2000 Europe 1 NewMan STAR, Mervyn had a similar failure and was forced to hand steer for 13 days.

Nico Budel’s Yellowbrick tracker has developed a problem and he is now reporting a daily position which will be added to the system manually. No cause for concern if he doesn’t appear to be updating as regularly as the other competitors.

Race Report #8: Saturday 8th June

On day 13 of the OSTAR, Roger Langevin reports from the Grand Banks of Newfoundland; mist, cold, oil platforms and fishing boats have all made an appearance as he says, “tradition requires”. The 53 foot trimaran Branec IV is holding on to 2nd place for line honours with just 45NM difference between him and Andrea Mura aboard Vento Di Sardegna who sailed into the lead early on Monday 3rd June.

With the tropical depression ‘Andrea’ working its way up the eastern seaboard, the race for line honours is still wide open. With just 900NM to go, both of these lead boats will find themselves headed by 30knot winds as they try to head south west towards Rhode Island.

In the east, Ralph Villiger is making good progress; he left the European continental shelf behind him around midday on Friday and continued into the deep waters of the Atlantic. Earlier today Ralph commented on his facebook page that he was becalmed just 60NM off where the Bismarck sank 72 years ago. Hopefully the weather will begin to cooperate and he will be back on the move again soon.

As of the 08:00 UT update, the tracker shows that the main body of the fleet is converging on the rhumb line, Asia Pajkowska on Cabrio II has rejoined the fleet from her long journey south and is making great progress despite her unfortunate 24hour delay caused by hydraulic failure in her steering system at the start of the race.

Jonathan Green on Jereboam continues to lead the Jester Class westward with Tamarind, British Beagle and Sunrise battling for the 2nd place position some 130NM behind.

Richard Lett and Jac Sandberg continue their epic battle at the top of the Gypsy Moth Class. Still separated by less than 30NM these two competitors have rarely been far apart but they need to keep the pressure on as Nico Budel’s Class 40 sec.Hayai is now thundering up from behind. Whether or not Andrea Mura can extend his lead sufficiently to take the lead despite his heavy IRC handicap is unknown. Pathways to Children, Spirit and sec.Hayai have around 1300NM to go and it looks like it might be an exciting drag race and a photo-finish.