Surfing the Ocean like a pro

Ocean surfing St Helena to Cape Town

Wavy Immelman
by Wavy Immelman ·

Let’s start at the beginning. At around 1100 boat time yesterday we hoisted the big spinnaker, in a very nice 10-12 knots of breeze. Spent most of the day enjoying the odd surf. All very pleasant but not too demanding. What pleased me, was how everyone was starting to sail under the spinnaker. Lots of time on deck for Chief and myself talking it through with the crew, but worth every minute. I knew the wind would build after sunset, but the Chief and I made the call to keep the bag (slang for spinnaker) up. Well, it was the right one. The wind built to a comfortable 20 knots and the sea state with it. This of course was pushing the guys a bit. Their first night under a symmetrical spinnaker (unlike the more forgiving A-symmetrical) and with the added wind bringing more speed and therefore quicker reactions needed. It was loads of fun, as Dillion put it, "another smile filled watch".

Around midnight it got even more breezy so myself and chief took over, not because the guys weren't up to doing it, but because just one major mistake could end up with lots of yellow and black tatters rather than a nice spinnaker. As it was, it was a good call. A swell came out of the dark and decided to lift the boat about 90 degrees over, putting poor Tracy, sitting on the low side, only about 10cm above sea level, and the rest of us hanging on. We were all clipped on, so the worst that could happen is a soaking. An incident like this demonstrates why we take safety rules so seriously so there’s no real danger, but nevertheless, could still blow your confidence when just getting used to the unpredictable and unforgiving nature of helming under a kite so I'm glad it happened while I was helming not one of the crew.

On and on we went, flying along, surf after surf. There is no feeling quite like surfing a 50 foot yacht down a wave in the middle of the Atlantic. Sorry, all you board surfers, (which I am one, so I know) there's no comparison. The yacht wins every time. And you don't have to paddle back out to catch the next wave you just hold course and do it again.

At around 0300 the wind began to abate and it looked like there might be a little shut eye in my future. Anyway, by then a few of the boys, including the Chief were chomping at the bit to get behind the wheel again. "Move skipper you are hogging the wheel!" 

So I did, off to my bunk, being thrown from side to side as I fell to sleep to the sound of water rushing under my bunk.