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Day One – Baptism by Fire

I didn’t plan to set off in a storm. It just, well, happened. I’d been watching the weather all week and each day the forecast got a little bit stronger but from the right direction, the SW so all good. However, what I awoke to this morning was a low-pressure system that was blasting up the South China Sea and it had me in its sights. Wind gusting 35knts + pouring rain, visibility less than 200m, thunder and lightning and rather than being a run with the wind behind me it was dead on the nose, meaning I had to sail head on into it. This would have been a huge day with a full crew and a weather tested boat but to go straight into this with no rhythm was far from ideal. I had many breakages and spent 3+ hours clipped on at both the mast and the foredeck with snatchblocks, dyneema and duct tape getting sprayed with saltwater. You know what they say about duct tape? If you can’t fix it with duct tape, you’re not using enough duct tape! Well, snatch blocks and dyneema are the sailing equivalent.

But let’s back it up a little. Before the chaos of the storm was the farewell. I was truly moved to see so many friendly, supportive and loved faces at the dock. When Loky gave me one of his famous “hulk hugs” and started to cry, the emotion of it all got the better of me and I too shed a tear. The enormity of what’s in front of me stopped me from being a blubbering mess though as my mind was full with all I needed to do.

Getting out of Victoria Harbour required a lot of tacks and I’d certainly built up a sweat by the time my support crew turned for home to go to work and the safety of land. A final call to Mel to thank her for being the amazing woman she is and for all she’s done for me, goodbye to the boys and a wave to my friends and its off.

The pressure and impact of wind, like the Richter Scale, grows exponentially.  10 knots is a lovely day’s sail. 15knts even better but you need to start keeping an eye on loads. 20 knots you’re reefed and anxious. 25knts and things get gnarly. At 35knts like we had today, things become very loud, stressful and dangerous. I’m trying to type this with fingers that are cut, bruised, bandaged and fatigued. To be honest I can’t believe I didn’t get more injured. I was very lucky.

The track doesn’t lie, but context is important. You’ll see early on that it looks like I changed my mind and turned for home. In actual fact, it was chaos on board with gear breaking all over the place and I was so focused on the task at hand that I put in the wrong co-ordinates in the auto pilot. I’d like to think of it as me doing one big farewell donut and thumbing my finger to the weather gods who decided to see me off with such a bang.

I was pretty wired during the night, laying in my bunk listening to the wind howl and feeling the boat getting thrown around by the waves while keeping an anxious eye on the AIS and the multitude of commercial vessel around me which I needed to avoid. I was definitely worried, but I wasn’t scared which I took as a good sign. I was however completely and utterly exhausted. The physical and mental stress of the day took its toll and it’ll no doubt take me a few days to recover. Thankfully I have all the time in the world.

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Rory Hunter
Sailor

Bio

Entrepreneur. Chief Executive Officer, Song Saa Collective. Pioneers of sustainable development in South-East Asia. The collective includes Song Saa Resorts and Song Saa Private Island in Cambodia’s Koh Rong Archipelago. 2006, co-established the Koh Ouen Marine Reserve, Cambodia’s first-ever marine protected area. The reserve has since expanded to 400 square kilometres and has gained the support of Monaco’s Prince Albert II. 2013, founded the Song Saa Foundation, an independent NGO dedicated to preserving Koh Rong’s underwater sanctuaries, providing alternative means of livelihood for its residents and bringing much-needed healthcare and education to the region. Speaker at international conferences, including the G20 Summit in Brisbane in 2014. World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. Member of the prestigious Young Presidents Organisation. Former advertising executive and worked for multinational firms including Saatchi and Saatchi. Graduate, Harvard Business School; studied sustainability and resilience, Stanford University: Global Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School; BEcon, Sydney University. Completed the Coast to Coast in 2015, one of the world’s toughest endurance races, set in New Zealand, in 17 hours; offshore sailor, downhill skier, long-distance runner and proud dad of two boys.