SoCal Long Beach Native Brian Kent just participated as the navigator in the recent record setting Sydney to Hobart race aboard the New Zealand Greg Elliott Designed Fifty foot RanTan.
SCSN got in touch with Brian, who makes his home now in New Zealand, to get his take on this epic race which he and his team finished in less than two days!
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Hi Brian, great to get in touch with you. Thanks for the interview. Tell us about the boat you raced on and the team assembled to race her.
Ran Tan II is a canting keeler that was not designed to any particular rule, but meant to perform well in longer coastal and offshore races. She is narrow and light, and a joy to sail. (Think the 30′ Magic from the old days!) Owner Brian Peterson has done heaps of racing over the decades including winning the two handed Melbourne to Osaka race several years back. Our team was hand picked by Brian with an assist from Richard Bicknell from North Sails NZ. We had a wide range of age, skills and experience that complemented the roles needed to sail the boat fast and hard. I was fortunate enough to be able to fill the navigator’s role.
What were the team’s goals and aspirations for the Sydney/Hobart Race?
The IRC rule does not treat Ran Tan too kindly, so we were realistic about our chances on handicap. We owed all the TP 52’s and other 50’s a bit of time. Our goal was to finish, sail the best race possible, and have an awesome adventure along the way!
Brian’s preparation of the boat was flawless. If it needed doing, it was done. We are pretty over the moon with our end result.
Your elapsed time of 1 day, 23 hours with a 50 footer was amazing! What perfect conditions to accomplish this. Did you prep the boat in any special way given the forecast for the race?
This year’s race turned into the ultimate downwind send of a lifetime! The forecast started coming together the week before the race, enough so that I did not want to talk about it for fear of jinxing it. A unique thing about the Hobart race is that you have to be prepared for anything and everything. The weather in Bass Strait changes very quickly. A 6-hour shift in what happens as compared to the forecast can make a huge difference. On Christmas day, there was a 25 knot southerly blowing across the race track, and as we approached the Derwent River near the finish, a forecast 20 knot southerly change came through, closing the door on the boats behind us. The weather gods were smiling on Ran Tan II!
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Tell us about the prod getting snapped off, that must have been an event that took some great crew work to recover from.
We had a major setback in our race about 160 miles from Tasman Island. We went down the mine at about 27 knots, stuffing the bow in, grinding to a halt, and breaking our prod. The broken prod went up through the A4 sending it to bits. We were directly upwind of the finish and had no ability to fly an A-sail in the strong breeze and sea state. Once we got the mess cleaned up, the beauty of the Ran Tan design came into play. It doesn’t take much sail to get the boat up on a plane and on the go. We put up the jib, headed up about 20 degrees and took off again. We got an anticipated lifting shift overnight which we gybed on and that eased the pain somewhat and kept us in contact. Best guess is that the prod break added about 3 hours to our elapsed time. When you are pushing hard, that’s racing.
Were there any navigational challenges? What did you do to prepare for this role?
The weather that this race can throw at you is legendary. On top of that, there are strong (2 knots +) currents that run up and down the east coast of Australia and through Bass Strait. These currents are cyclonic in nature, rotating much like the atmospheric highs and lows above. The sea surface that we play on is in between the currents and the weather. The navigational challenge is to put the boat in the best place to utilize/minimize these factors.
This was my first Sydney to Hobart. I spent months preparing, and had access to some wise, experienced navigators to fill in the gaps. In the end, I was very satisfied with the course we sailed, and other than a very average start, would not really change anything.
So will you do the S2H Race again?
Ha! Everyone I know is telling me to tick that box and run, run as fast as you can because there will never be better weather for the race. They are probably right about the weather, but I still enjoy the challenge, and can still go upwind, so we will see….
What are your thoughts on the S2H experience?
The whole Sydney to Hobart race experience reaffirmed to me why I love doing this stuff so much and can’t give it up. It reminded me of TransPacs and Mexico races from long ago. A great race, a special team, time with family and friends.
We rented a 150-year-old villa about 10 minutes from the boat in Sydney. The whole crew was there days before and we stayed together. My lovely, understanding wife Bridget joined us as did our daughter Marie who has been living in Sydney since early last year. On Christmas Day I roasted a 10lb pork shoulder, everyone else pitched in and we had a fabulous meal. Throw in a comical Secret Santa exchange and an excellent Christmas. The next day’s start was never too far from our minds.
Arriving in Hobart is pretty special. The town turns it all on and all the boats are in the same marina right in town. That Ala Wai feeling….
I understand that Ran Tan is going to spend the rest of the summer in Australia competing on the circuit so to speak. What are the racing plans?
I delivered the boat to Melbourne after the race with some of the race crew and Marie. About 450 miles up through the other side of Bass Strait. Really nice to do the trip with Marie. We are going to sail the Australian Championships out of Sandrigram YC next week and then Geelong Race week the following weekend. After that it is back to NZ for some R&R, and then a probable race to New Caledonia in June.
What other types of sailing are you doing?
I have been pretty focused on Ran Tan for the last year or so and that has taken my available time. Bridget races on a local Elliott 30′ called Hysteria. Great bunch of people passionate about going sailing.
A couple of years ago, I was getting the hankering for some one-design sailing. I happened to read that a class called the Flying 15 was having their worlds here the following year, did some homework, turned out I had friend who was in the class, found a boat, bought it and got to work. With Bridget as my crack crew, we spent the next 10 months getting sorted and went to the worlds. Our highlight was in race 4, leading the 65 boat fleet around the first W/L! Like the old days in Snipes, great people and fun.
Anything else you would like to add?
Thanks for the opportunity to reconnect with all our SoCal sailing friends. We have been away for a while now, but still think of you all often and smile. Make sure you find us if you head this way!
Thanks Brian! Have a great summer and we look forward to following Ran Tan’s Racing adventures.