Future Shock claims line honours
SKIPPER Craig Ellis admitted that crossing the finish line to claim line honours for Future Shock in the 31st Pittwater to Coffs Harbour yacht race was an emotional moment for him.
The bright green hull of the Elliot 57 ended the race in eerie silence just before 1am on Wednesday morning and Ellis said that it was a goal of his for a long time to win the race in the vessel proudly owned by father Ron.
"This is probably the thing that I've been waiting for," Ellis said.
"We had line honours with my Dad on board in '97 on Wild Thing and I wanted to get it once more.
"It was very important that I got it once more because he doesn't sail anymore so it was for him that I wanted to get one more.
"I thought this year was our best opportunity to do it so we stacked the boat with the best crew we could get. It's an all amateur crew, no-one is paid but these guys are the best and it showed, it made a huge difference.
"It was an emotional time for me to get across that line."
When Future Shock did cross the line she recorded a finish time of 35 hours, 53 minutes and seven seconds, almost twice as long as the race record created in the 2003 victory by Wild Oats IX.
It was still enough though to edge out the largest boat in the fleet, the Volvo 60 Spirit Of The Maid by more than 10 nautical miles.
Not that race records mean anything to Ellis.
He knew from the very beginningthat the race record of the famed super-maxi was never in any danger. Especially when the pre-race briefing highlighted the fact that this year's fleet would be sailing into a headwind the whole way.
It made for hard work for the crew of 12 - not just the men who were constantly on the go doing some old fashioned grinding on any of the 14 winches the boat tacked but also the tacticians on board.
"That was the most tactical race that I've done in the 15 years of sailing in this race," the skipper said.
"Not once did we ease the headsail, it was always hard on the breeze from the start to the finish line."
The skipper said that he thought conditions would ease at times but he couldn't believe it when the headwind just kept on blowing.
"We thought we might get some westerly at night or something different but nothing," he bemoaned.
"Even when we came in it was a nor-wester instead of the nor-easter so we were constantly on the breeze."
While the wind created its own challenges, the biggest hurdle that Future Shock had to overcome was two broken headsail halyards. That meant that for most of the race the crew was down to the last halyard, praying that it didn't break.
"The boat has been modified a fair bit and the halyards weren't up and it was the first time we'd used them in a slog, a choppy sea for a while," the winning captain said.
"One jumped off a pulley and got stuck and jammed so we had to cut it free then the other one just blew apart so we were down to a spectra halyard.
"We actually would've finished a lot quicker if we could've set it properly but it was too stretchy, it was designed for small kites so at no stage could we tighten it up."
All this on top of the fact that that an inverter on board was blown and the crew was left without a microwave to cook up something to eat.
Nevertheless an alternative plan had been made just in case the rotten luck with the halyards continued.
"We were prepared to run another halyard on the outside of the mast if we had to."
It was a contingency that thankfully wasn't required which left the crew and an emotional skipper the very early hours of the morning to celebrate their achievement and finally tuck into some decent food offered by the Coffs Harbour Yacht Club.