Wednesday, 4 March 2009

VOR: PUMA LEG FIVE DAY 18 QFB: received 03.03.09 0636 GMT

by Rick Deppe

Can't stop thinking about fish and chips today! Or should I say fush and chups! I'm not talking about the English variety that I grew up with.

We are approaching the northern tip of New Zealand and I am reminded of a brilliant experience that I had last year in that part of the world.

In January of 2008 while Il Mostro was in the building stage I was sent to New Zealand to shoot some video of the sail development work that was going on at the wind tunnel facility operated by the University of Auckland. I spent a fascinating couple of days hanging out with Justin Ferris our onboard sail co-ordinator and JB Braun the team sail designer. 1: 5 scale models of the sails being tested are attached to a model boat that is loaded with sensors and strain gauges. The model boat and sails are placed in front of a giant wind fan. The data recorded allows the designers to make decisions based on hundreds of tests without the massive expense of building real sails. It’s a great resource for a one boat programme.

It was great to be in Auckland during the summer. I had last been there when the Whitbread stopover came through in 1997-98. Ten It's a very easy city to be in with a very clean and compact city centre and a vibrant atmosphere especially at that time of year.

I had the weekend to kill until my return flight to the freezing cold North East USA (Philadelphia: where I live). What to do? Fortunately Justin jumped in and saved me by inviting me to his house for the weekend. I knew that Justin lived in the Bay of Islands, and that area is known as one of the most beautiful parts of New Zealand, so there was no hesitation on my part. Plus it would be a great chance to get to know Justin, we were, after all, going to be spending a good part of the next two years living and working together.

So once done with the last testing session we jumped in the car and headed North over the harbour bridge and out of the city. Auckland is a major city, but I was amazed how quickly things got rural. It’s about a three hour drive from the city and Justin told me he makes the trip all the time, I asked why he didn't just move down to the city where all the sailing action is? He said it's worth the drive to be able live where he does.

Keri Keri (Justin's home town) and the Bay of Islands didn’t disappoint. We spent the first day running around running errands.

There was to be a birthday bash for Justin's Dad at the local yacht club that evening and I was very kindly invited; thank you Murray and Pauline for your hospitality. My sincere apologies for nearly burning the yacht club down in a nasty napkin and candle incident dangerously reminiscent of the notorious occurrence at the Ramada in Herzogenaurauch! I'm digressing way too much.

On the second day, Justin offered to drive me around and show me some of the local sights. I can see why the area has such a fantastic reputation as a place to visit - large hills covered in dense vegetation roll down to the sea, long sandy beaches and thousands of islands out to sea. I will return one day.

Anyway to cut a long story short, we ended up at the Manganui Fish and Chip shop and the place that is responsible for my current cravings. Sailing down towards the scoring gate we are so near, yet so far. The restaurant is just a shed on the end of a pier but the fish was as good as I ever had. Thanks to Justin and Kirsty for inviting into their home and taking me for fush and chups in Manganui. This evening on Il Mostro it’s going to be Beef Stroganoff.

Volvo Ocean Race

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