Sandspit Yacht Club sailor Dave Ormandy is regaining his land legs after returning from nearly a month at sea on a 38ft yacht, circumnavigating New Zealand anti-clockwise with his shipmate Murray Hartley.
Dave and Murray sailed the Arbitare in the Short Handed Sailing Association (SSANZ) 2019 Round New Zealand race, from February 16 to March 14.
The pair alternated helming the boat on two-hour shifts, sailing both day and night for up to seven days at a time.
“There’s no time for fishing. You don’t stop trying to make the boat go as fast as you can,” Dave says.
“Eventually your body establishes a routine and you can quickly fall asleep between shifts because you’re so tired.”
Normally, a vessel such as theirs would be crewed by six people because of the demanding work in carting, hoisting and adjusting sails.
“There is a high level of physicality because even if you’re just standing, you are continually adjusting. It’s like living your life standing on a Swiss ball.”
One of their most thrilling moments was riding 50 knot winds and blasting past Puysegur Point, offshore from Fiordland National Park.
“Just before you come around to Foveaux Strait there is a passage that has a gale warning for something like 300 days of the year. Our speedo hit 18.8 knots, which is impressive for a boat like ours.
“You’d have to say it was pretty hairy, but you know what you are up for and just have to be prepared with the right sails and a plan to deal with it, and hopefully it all works out.”
Another highlight of the race was when they were hosted by Stewart Islanders for three days between race legs.
“It’s a small community down there and they really embrace the race. They put on a feast of a meal for us and when it was time to leave, they came out in a flotilla to farewell us,” he said.
Dave said it was a real adventure meeting the challenge of being out at sea for such a long period of time.
“When you’re 200 miles from land and there are albatross flying around as you look up at the stars lighting the night sky, it is pretty special.
“There’s also a sense of self-reliance because if something goes wrong out there, you just have to take stock and do something about it.”
Sure enough, on the final leg of the race, Dave and Murray struck disaster when their starter motor cooked and they found themselves without power off the East Cape.
“We turned everything off and used the small amount of battery we had left for navigational lights. We only used our electronic chart plotter for a few minutes at a time to get our position and direction, just to know where we were going.”
With little light and limited means of navigation, they ventured further out to sea to give the Mercury Islands a wide berth, so as not to hit a rock or another vessel.
Despite this setback, Dave and Murray finished second for the leg and fifth overall, in a race that saw seven boats competing altogether.
“You wouldn’t describe us as spring chickens, so we were thrilled with the performance against the young guns, especially considering the circumstances.”
Arriving home, the first item on the agenda for Dave was spending time with his wife after a month’s absence.
However, he was only back two nights before it was time to get out on the water again to sail the Arbitare to its home in Wellington.
Dave says he can’t help his love for being at sea and his wife calls him an ‘aquaholic’.
“If you enjoy the outdoors and don’t mind the odd splash of seawater, it is pretty amazing,” he says.