Rescue At Sea: A Personal Account of Overcoming Obstacles

The biennial Bermuda One-Two Race, with its singlehanded leg from Newport, R.I. to Bermuda and a doublehanded return leg, was held this past summer in June. Skippering the Hallberg-Rassy 49 was Dan Alonso, who received the Crystal Catfish Trophy from the Ocean Cruising Club for his amazing rescue of Jan Steyn from the Columbia 32C Solid Air. Here’s Dan’s account of the event courtesy of…

The race was off. Day one the winds were enough to get Halcyon moving. The second day it shut down. Doldrums. Fortunately, it didn’t last. When the wind returned, it would change direction and make this a reaching race.

The router shows the wind will be around 18 knots out of the south for days. I’m hoping it’s enough but more would be better. I need it big enough to shut down the other boats, Halcyon can take it. Heading to the entry point in the Gulf Stream, the wind continues to build. Halcyon is starting to go.

Out in front of me are two boats, Bent (S2 9.1) and Kontradiction (C&C 110). Bent is in my class. They are far away but good targets. The wind is getting strong. I am nearly at full sail, just a small reef in the main. I can feel Halcyon pushing forward. The water is now a steady sound, a crushing wave being pushed off Halcyon’s bow. It is “go” time, and Halcyon is a raging bull just driving through the building sea. After a few years of trying to race this “north sea” cruiser and getting killed in light air, we finally have the race conditions Halcyon thrives in; big winds and nasty sea state.

Since entering the stream, Halcyon has not dropping below 11 knots over the bottom and often in the 12s. We had spent over $5,000 getting the auto pilot repaired just days before the race, but I’m now listening to the motor over working and I’m feeling sick. I’ve just sailed from Charleston to Bermuda and then Bermuda to Newport solo with a constantly failing auto pilot – 1,400 miles of offshore sailing without a pilot. I just can’t bear the emotional stress of a failing pilot again.

Halcyon is no longer keeping her course. It’s happening again, no pilot.

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