Off The Deep End...
Recently Australian Michael Blackburn sailed a Laser from Tasmania to
mainland Australia - blasting downwind for 115 miles and averaging 8.6 knots
for the distance. The wind was fresh and well aft and the seas were big -
rolling in from the deep reaches of the Southern Ocean, so Blackburn, an
Olympic medalist in Lasers, got some great rides during his 13-hour cruise.
Blackburn said he was inspired to make the voyage when talking to other
Laser fanatics about the possibility of sailing a Laser in really big seas
for a film, "and we decided the film needed a big ending like sailing Bass
This piece of ocean between Tasmania and the state of Victoria, is
notorious for its strong winds and tumbling seas, which are high and steep
due to the strong tidal currents swirling through the strait. It is in the
Bass Strait that yachts on the Sydney - Hobart race frequently find
themselves in trouble. Serous breakdowns, crew injury, capsize, sinkings
and loss of life are not uncommon in this body of water.
Blackburn had with him a hand held GPS and a compass as navigation
tools, and for safety, an inflatable PFD with tether, strobe light (he left
before dawn) flares, satellite phone, EPIRB, VHF radio and light sticks.
For snacks he carried bananas, chocolate and concentrated glucose, and
an assortment of drinks.
According to the support boat that accompanied him he reached a top
speed of 19.7 knots on one sustained drive down a wave. His average speed
of 8.6 knots is remarkable as he had to keep driving for 13 hours. Although
big waves will give a good planing boat some tremendous boosts of speed, the
problem with such waves is that they have a back side on which a boat can be
very slow, and steep waves have deep troughs which will temporarily
blanket a small sailboat. it would be interesting to know if the Laser
might have averaged better than 8.6 knots in flat water and the same amount
of wind. But just where you would find a 115 mile course with no sea and
lots of wind is yet another question.
Following are comments from Michael Blackburn in response to a
congratulatory message from Bruce Kirby
A message from the guru! Thanks.
The trip wasn't as hard as I thought it would be and it was good to get
a bit of publicity for the Laser world wide.
Having sailed one for 14yrs I figured I deserved to do some downwind
Watch out for the upcoming DVD of the adventure.