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Ken's Circumnavigation of Rarotonga

8 June 2000 Tired of waiting for the classic SE trades Ken decided to make his attempt the first time there was a steady wind between 10 and 15 kts. On the morning of June 8th there was such a wind from slightly N of West so he decided to try. He lined up the volunteer safety boat, an 18ft Ross Hunter fishing boat helmed by local solicitor, Brett Gibson. With the main swell running from the SW it made sense to go anti-clockwise in order to have the highest swell helping on the downwind segment. At 1.20 pm Ken rigged his 8.2 Demon Design with plenty of downhaul (the airport was giving the surface wind as 15kts) and was briefly interviewed by CITV. At 1.54 the TV camera man recorded Ken leading the safety-boat out of Avatiu Harbour on the ZUD Mk VI. Once outside the harbour the going was good with the board solidly planing and making good 60 degrees to the wind. It took 4 tacks to enable Ken to lay the western end of the island and he was feeling fairly comfortable romping over the long swells. The drama started as he bore away to follow the coast round to the East. There was a rain squall getting into gear pushing the wind-speed uncomfortably high. The first result was the loss of contact with the safety-boat which quite simply could not keep pace. Ken couldn?t slow down even if he wanted to. He had already born away from the wind into a flat run in an effort to reduce the airspeed on the sail and was still full-on planing. There?s only so long he could maintain the pitch of activity involved in bouncing a board along over lumpy seas at over twenty knots. After about 10 mins of this his reactions failed to keep up with the crazy ride and WIPE-OUT. Returning to the board from where he landed Ken climbed on and took stock of the situation. The reason he was no longer sailing was lack of technique so there wasn?t much point in making a strenuous attempt to get going again only to have the same thing happen again. He also noticed that the front of the ZUD was split down a good half meter from the impact of the mast landing on it. He decided to look out for the safety boat in the hope that Brett and his two crew would see him and rescue him from the heaving hell that the sea had become. The time now was 2.38 and he could recognise the Edgewater Hotel on the shore opposite so he had covered roughly 1/3 the distance in 42 mins. What a pity he couldn?t have kept going. At that pace he would have completed the trip in just over two hours! His hopes of an Imminent rescue were dashed when he caught site of the mast head of the boat having past him without seeing him. However it became apparent that the effect of the rain-squall was leaving so he decided to make a start even if it was just to get a bit more sea-room in case the wind backed round to the south. The combination of half an hours rest and a few knots less wind made all the difference. Ken found he was able to hook in and plane away nicely on a broad reach. As the coast-line veered round to the East ken managed to settle into a rhythm of broad-reaching a couple of miles each way with careful jybes to give his limbs a change of stress. He soon identified the ill-fated Sheraton looking from that distance like a pale scar on the green hills. Then the land-marks of ?The Fruits? and Taakoka Motu reassured him that the half-way point was passed. It was about here that the safety-boat found him, the skipper having taken the wise step of phoning the harbourmaster to start an alert. Brett?s relief was more than Kens as by now it was obvious that the good progress promised a satisfactory outcome. Then the other, less intimidating discouragement arrived, lack of wind. The wind shadow of the hills extended well out off the Avana Rivermouth and progress dropped off dramatically. However a few mins later during which time ken and Brett were able to hold a conversation a firm breeze rippled across the (by now )almost flat water and ken was able to scorch off on a close reach that once more showed the inadequacy of the 70hp Johnson. This was not seen as a hazard any more as the sea state was like the proverbial duck-pond and the end of the trip was drawing closer. Eventually the final beat up to Avatiu was established and the wind was just right until about opposite Paradise Inn when it started to falter. The combination of the lumpy seas coming round the Western end of the island and the wind fading away to less sufficient for planing made the last couple of miles from Trader Jacks to the harbour at Avatiu the slowest and almost the most challenging part of the trip. In desperation Ken even tried to pump a bit of extra headway to stem the flow of time slipping away as he wallowed towards the finishing line across the entrance of the harbour. The final completion time for the Circumnavigation was 3hrs 50 mins.Brett observed on the way round that at times the top of the mast disappeared from view between the swells. As the rig that ken was using was 5.3 metres in height it appears that the swells were quite high!It was perhaps fortuitous that contact was lost with the safety-boat as ken would not have felt inclined to make another attempt if the first one failed. As it happened he has achieved one of the greatest ambitions of his life if only by default!

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