Serene Ride Turns Wild Before Mooloolaba Win

POSTED by Steele Taylor on Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - Sunshine Coast Daily
 
FOR seasoned sailor Bruce Arms and his crew, the Moreton Bay to Mooloolaba Yacht Race was expected to be just "a short race ... a bit of fun for us".

As the fastest solo circumnavigator of Australia and as a recent winner of the coveted Three Peaks challenge, Arms had little to fear in the days leading up to Saturday's 48-nuatical mile dash.

And the short trip certainly started in serene circumstances.

"We had just two knots of wind and even our mainsail wouldn't set properly or flip to the right side," Arms said.

"We had to send Lisa Blair up the mast to push the battens across to get the main to set, so that was an interesting start for us."

Big Wave Rider and its crew of Arms, his wife Suzanne and friend Blair were expected to be among the ones to beat and were indeed among the front-runners off Moreton Island

However, things went pear-shaped when storms rolled through the bay.

The small fleet was quickly enveloped by lashing winds and torrential rain.

"We had a nice sail up to Tangalooma but then it got windy," Arms said.

"We looked back and saw the lightning and the front coming through. We saw the other boats had dropped their sails and we went 'oh no, it's going to hit us'.

"We quickly got our gennaker down just in time. It actually went in the water so we dragged it on to the deck and the next minute, bang, the storm overtook us and off we went."

The hardened vessel was quickly caught up in the squall and with storm-force winds of up to 52 knots (96km/hr), Big Wave Rider was swept northwards.

"It got a bit wild," Arms said.

"We just had to hang on for the ride."

"We didn't want the boat to round up or get the wind on the side of the boat which could be really dangerous so we had to concentrate on steering the boat in a dead-straight line."

What was supposed to be a leisurely race to the Sunshine Coast became a serious test.

"We couldn't see more than 10 metres in front of the boat," Arms said.

"There was water flying everywhere, horizontal rain, just a white-out.

"We really had to concentrate on the computers so we didn't hit any sandbanks or channel markers."

Fortunately, the waves did not pose too many problems "which was good because otherwise we might have been nose-diving".

But the wild conditions, which lasted for more than an hour, provided Arms with the winning move.

"We were vying for the lead with two other boats but when we got that storm, we took off," he said.

Big Wave Rider hit the line in about five hours, staving off Brisbane boats Rush Hour and Attitude.

Six of the eight boats in the race finished.