OSTAR: Delighted, Ecstatic and Exhausted

Published on June 16th, 2013

The Single-handed Trans-Atlantic Race was conceived by Herbert “Blondie” Hasler in 1956. The whole idea of a single-handed ocean yacht race was a revolutionary concept at the time, as the idea was thought to be extremely impractical; but this was especially true given the adverse conditions of their proposed route – a westward crossing of the north Atlantic Ocean, against the prevailing winds.

Now run as the OSTAR (Original Single Handed Trans-Atlantic Race), this amateur event began in Plymouth, England on May 31 with a fleet of 17 entrants, and was won on June 13 by the Open 50 Vento Di Sardegna. Storming across the finish line in Newport (RI) was the delighted, ecstatic and exhausted Italian skipper Andrea Mura at the helm. Here Andrea shares his thoughts on the adventure…

“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 practice, testing and on to qualifying, finally I had the 50’ monohull racing boat Vento di Sardegna as well prepared as possible.

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 80 miles 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.

Event website: http://ostar.rwyc.org/

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