Around Alone Sailor Is An Inspiration
Tim Kent Pushes On In, “The Boat That Luck Forgot”
by Capt. Thom Burns
Tim Kent aboard Everest Horizontal was near the equator on his way to Cape
Town, South Africa when I introduced him to Northern Breezes readers last
November. The Around Alone racer climbed from fourth to second place behind
fellow American, Brad Van Liew of California, aboard Freedom America, in the
Cape Town leg. Now he is less than one thousand miles from Tauranga, New
Zealand, the leg three stopover.
This ties Tim for second with Canadian, Derek Hatfield, aboard Spirit of Canada overall. It is the first time in the history of the race that so many North Americans, have been in the race which has been dominated from the start by the French. The North Americans are one, two and three in class two. This bodes well for future sponsorship support and finishes when this crop moves up to the Open 60 class boats in the future.
A fourth boat, skippered by Canadian and diabetic, 58 year old John Dennis, affectionately known as 'Pops' to the rest of the Around Alone competitors retired from the race December 21st. He turned the bow of his Open 50, Bayer Ascensia, back towards Cape Town after a critical mechanical failure. He explained in his initial email following his reciprocal turn that the bearings on the alternator shaft and ballast pump had ceased to work. He felt it would be unsafe to continue to New Zealand if he was unable to charge batteries or pump water ballast.
If you follow the boats and the skipper’s accounts, it soon becomes apparent that these singlehanders must do a great deal of maintenance and repairs while underway. Tucked into their stories in their logs are some nuggets of humor and elements of character of some of the most dedicated sailors in the world. How else could they work so hard underway and then, the moment they arrive in port, the massive check list of scheduled and unscheduled repairs must begin? And the checklist begins with a looming deadline caused by the relatively short time until the start of the next leg.
Tim Kent has an amazingly dedicated support team of family, friends and followers. People have contributed frequent flyer miles and airline tickets so his family and volunteer support crew could fly to Cape Town. Some of his volunteer support crew flew half way around the world on their own nickel in order to work eighteen hours a day trying to get the boat ready for sea, the Southern Ocean! Unfortunately for Tim, he relied on one volunteer rigger who could not get the job done. This rigging problem resulted in his start from Cape Town being delayed twenty-four hours. As we go to press, he is nursing a one hundred eighty-eight mile lead over third place, Derek Hatfield aboard, Spirit of Canada, instead of a more comfortable four hundred plus mile lead had he started on time.
The litany of problems aboard Kent’s, Everest Horizontal, on this leg is far too long to detail here. Tim received his new main in Cape Town to replace the four year old main with which he started the first two legs of the race. Soon after starting from Cape Town, trouble developed with the battens and luft cars. This required hauling this monster 964 square foot mainsail down to position it for hand sewing, more sewing and even more sewing plus working on the battens and cars. All of this positioning and work is done on a rolling fifty foot boat underway in the Southern Ocean. Personally, I can hardly fathom even moving a sail that big alone. This took days of effort while trying to keep the boat “racing,” the crew fed, sleeping enough to prevent exhaustion and dealing with the “benign” Southern Ocean on a routine day to day basis. Later in the leg, the engine started spewing exhaust from a faulty injector. This requires vacating the interior of the boat for a couple of hours a day so as not to be poisoned. Then returning and living in this confined space which is almost indescribably filthy. Tim has renamed his boat in email, "The Boat That Luck Forgot."
Tim has come to genuinely appreciate any timeframe in which nothing else breaks. Yet he has not lost his sense of humor. Recently, his Solent headsail got jammed in the furling unit and he could not raise or lower the sail. After an hour’s struggle, he threw up his hands and moved on to another project. “I had visions of getting the thing partially down and having it stuck there,” he wrote. “I would find myself up the rig, knife in my teeth like a buccaneer, slashing the sail loose. Not a vision I particularly cared for. So I buttoned up the halyard and went on to the next project.”
The next project was setting the Code 5, his heavy air sail. That too was unsuccessful. Once the sail was hoisted the problems started. “I rigged the sail and hoisted it. It looked as though the top third of the sail did not furl, the second third furled backwards, and the bottom third furled perfectly. I will spare you most of what followed, suffice to say that the sail wrapping itself around the headstay was the last straw, and I hauled it down.” Later in the day a batten came loose, remember that mainsail? It fell overboard. He debated with himself whether to set the large Code Zero headsail as evening approached. From his log, “Night was beginning to fall. The weather prediction was for light air all night . . . dare I risk putting up the Code Zero? This is, after all, The Boat That Luck forgot! But I put my superstitions aside, and went forward to drag the Code Zero out from underneath the Code 5 and the genoa. ‘Oof, grunt!,’ but I finally dislodged it and got it on deck. Wonder of wonders, it set beautifully! A couple of hours later, I furled it up, gybed the boat and unfurled it again with no problems. I started the engine for it’s evening smokefest . . . and it started on the first attempt. ‘What IS this?,’ I asked myself. ‘Something going right on The Boat That Luck Forgot?’”
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Capt. Thom Burns publishes Northern Breezes and Sailing Breezes.