MBA Fastnet Challenge 2013 a Success!

After 3 days of an exciting and diverse sailing race the first MBA Fastnet Challenge has come to a successful end!

“Unbelievable that it’s already over” – this was the conclusion of a very tired but happy crew of 12 MBAs from 4 business schools and 4 Team Heiner coaches sitting together at the 24 hour bar at Plymouth harbor right after having finished Rolex Fastnet 2013, one of the four famous 600 miles Rolex races, toasting with champagne. The past couple of days had been very intense in every respect and while the team was proud to be back in Plymouth having arrived in 6th across the line in their class, but 12th position with handicap and 212th overall, most also felt a bit sad that it was all over.

After having trained towards this race for months in Holland, Portugal and England including sea survival training, ups and downs in sailing performance, qualification RORC races in the Channel and a torn main sail finally the big race was about to begin. On August 10th everyone met in Southampton for the last preparations on the boat, final training to get rid of any cobwebs, and a last proper dinner on land. On Sunday, August 11th, finally the big moment had come: together with the other 379 boats, the MBA Fastnet Challenge 2013 team embarked upon their boat Team Heiner One (Volvo 60) to the start line for the Fastnet race.

The two hours prior to the start of Class IRC Z in front of Cowes (Isle of Wight, UK) were overwhelming, interesting and exciting: Boats from various countries, small to big, beautiful to ugly, manned with professional crews as well as amateurs were circling in the Solent, accompanied by helicopters, spectator boats and ribs taking care of TV and photo coverage. Team Heiner One had a good start and made good progress in nice weather. “Light winds and strong tides required every competitor to make their own call with regards to the racing strategy and choice of course,” stated navigator Ben Grosman. So after a couple of hours first the fleet and later also Team Heiner One’s main competitors disappeared to follow their own race, with Team Heiner One pursuing an offshore strategy, following the southern coast of England to the west, crossing the Celtic Sea, then up to the Fastnet Rock off the southwest coast of Ireland.

Working in 3 watches (3 hours rest, 3 hours stand-by and 3 hours sailing) each of the crew members pushed their own personal boundaries over the next 3 days. The team experienced moments of deep joy and happiness when sailing under star-filled night skies, watching shooting stars and schools of dolphins accompanying the boat or enjoying a bowl of warm porridge after a long cold night watching the sun rise. However, they also experienced moments of exhaustion after not having slept for a long time, being drenched with rain, sea sickness, moments of frustration from living in a very small space with 16, and constant equipment challenges from broken ballast tank pumps to generators to batteries and stubborn halyard locks. Thank goodness for the engineering prowess of Joost and Tom of Team Heiner! A race team is a micro cosmos mirroring all the characters that can be found in everyday life. However, the challenge is that there’s no break, no escape on a race boat. Roy Heiner summed it up: “The challenge was to grow together as a true team, with everyone giving truly their best, supporting each other and most importantly staying focused during the race to pursue the one big goal: to make the Volvo 60 fly to the Fastnet Rock and back.”

Despite very different race strategies, interestingly enough both Volvo 60s – Pleomax and Team Heiner One – arrived at the same time at the Fastnet Rock and – almost picture book perfect – the two identical boats were drifting in front of the Rock for almost an hour when winds suddenly died. For the rest of the race both boats competed fiercely for every boat length. Often only the top mast light of our competitor was visible in the lashing rain and dark night. While the MBA Fastnet challenge team fought most of the 600 miles upwind, the last 12 hours finally let us sail downwind. Despite the lack of sleep making focus hard, Team Heiner One managed to stay in front of Pleomax and to cross the finish line 6 minutes earlier than its immediate competitors and overall as boat no. 17th overall (uncorrected time = without handicap).

Very excited, relieved and happy, the team towed the boat and celebrated.  “It was exhausting but I’d do it again any time” sighed co-helmsman Herman De Knop. A proper good-bye dinner, a detailed debrief with Roy Heiner and the planning of a potential MBA Fastnet team for 2015 will follow this fall.

Until then, everyone will recover, enjoy the memories and continue to push the other challenge that the team has set itself: Sailing for water – i.e. raising money for ZOA, a charity organization that supports people who suffer because of armed conflict or natural disasters, in helping them to rebuild their livelihoods. The money that the MBA Fastnet Challenge team collects will be dedicated to the water supply of the 3 Cambodian villages. Every donation is welcome!

 

Team Heiner One at the start of the Fastnet Race 2013
Team Heiner One at the start of the Fastnet Race 2013

Final Preparations before Fastnet

The team are all very busy with their final preparations before the Fastnet. Preparing the boat, ourselves – and our work lives! We will be completely out of reach for maximum one week which is for many something unusual, and requires some special communications to the home front to keep loved ones up to date on what is going on.

Larger preparations for the race – looking at the course, the weather, the current, tracking, sponsorship stickers, charity details … the list goes on.

Some smaller preparation items are also ongoing – filming of our Fastnet race, cameras, hotels before and after the race – when will we finish, so when to book? Luckily Team Heiner will be able to take an extra bag for us to Plymouth where the race finishes so we will be able to have a change of clean clothes and a shower!

For those wishing to track our progress, you can visit the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) Fastnet tracking website, where the RORC have a tracking application showing the fleet, once the race starts. You’ll need to look for our boat, “Team Heiner One”.

We’ll be starting at 1350hrs BST on Sunday the 11th of August, following the traditional Fastnet course, which is a 608 nautical mile non-stop race. The race entails a gripping and punishing 608-nautical mile journey from Cowes, Isle of Wight to Plymouth via the Fastnet Rock, off the southern tip of Ireland.

Fastnet Race Course
Fastnet Race Course. Image courtesy of http://www.solarnavigator.net

Beginning at the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes, the Isle of Wight, the race passes noted landmarks in the English Channel including The Needles, Portland Bill, Start Point, The Lizard and Land’s End, ahead of the open water passage across the Celtic Sea.

The legs across the Celtic Sea to and from the Fastnet Rock are long and unpredictable. Openly exposed to fast moving Atlantic weather systems the fleet often encounters the toughest weather of the race on its approach to and return from Ireland.

The Fastnet Rock
The Fastnet Rock

The symbolic turn around the Fastnet Rock off the southern coast of Ireland; a rounding that heralds the race’s emblematic halfway juncture. The Fastnet Rock has significant standing in the minds of competitors, and is viewed as the halfway mark, even though the actual distance remaining is less.

The sense of achievement felt by crew must be tempered by a need to stay focused on the challenge ahead. The fleet then embark on the long return leg and the finish in Plymouth.

Distances on the course: Total = 608 nautical miles (1,126 km) The start of the Rolex Fastnet Race is from the Royal Yacht Squadron (RYS) line, Cowes, Isle of Wight. Yachts will race on a course of approx 608 miles via the Fastnet Rock to the finish line at the western end of the breakwater in Plymouth Harbour:

Cowes – Needles 16Nm

Needles – Portland Bill 34Nm

Portland – Start Point 54Nm

Start Point – Lizard 60Nm

Lizard – Lands End 22Nm

Land’s End – Fastnet 170Nm

Fastnet Rock – Scillies 154Nm

Scillies – Lizard 51Nm

Lizard – Finish 46Nm

We’re excited and a little nervous – but we’re sure looking forward to the race, the culmination of our campaign. Wish us fair winds and a successful race!

The Team - Ready to Go!
The Team – Ready to Go!

Author’s note: Route description is from the RORC official history of the Fastnet race guide.

3rd Place in class in the RORC Channel Race!

The team competed in the RORC Channel Race on the weekend of 27th – 28th July after training and racing mostly on small boats and training on the Volvo60. The Volvo60 received a new mainsail and the boat and team were fit and ready to have their final test before the actual Fastnet.

 

3 boats participated in the IRC Z class and the third position was the final result. Although last in class, the team was not too far behind the professional sailors in their first race ever. Two learning points which can be tackled in the actual Fastnet: The first one was missing a mark by very swift steering but not 100% aligned boat handling in sail trimming, while arriving in a wind free spot, with current pressing backwards. It was frustrating to see the competition walk away at that time.

 

After the upwind mark was tackled, it became darker, slightly rainy, but on a fast downwind beat with the spinnaker pushing the boat to 12 knots. Some jibing was deliberately chosen to continue to profit as much from the wind and current as possible. We made good gains from this, taking back much of the loss from the mark-rounding mistake, giving hope.

 

The second learning factor was how to reef the new mainsail. On purpose the team wanted this final opportunity to know before the actual Fastnet race itself, to figure out the reefing system under pressure soon before the finish. This took some time, but was not disastrous since we did stay in the same position.

 

Overall we operated very well as one team on the Team Heiner One and were satisfied with the finish time of 13 hours and approximately 25 minutes. All of us were able to be on deck and make sure that the required tasks were taken care of. Team spirit is increasing that extra step with some key individuals being in the right place at the right time.

 

We have done our preparations and should be ready for the Fastnet. We understand that the 3rd and 4th day will have much impact on the result and this is something we will need to experience together!

 

Very light winds and a strong tide pushing us over the line
Very light winds and a strong tide pushing us over the line

 

Tom from Team Heiner up the mast checking our new mainsail
Tom from Team Heiner up the mast checking our new mainsail

 

A great moment - when we were ahead of both the IMOCA 60 "Artemis", and the Volvo 70 "Monster Project" - both newer, faster boats than ours.
A great moment – when we were ahead of both the IMOCA 60 “Artemis”, and the Volvo 70 “Monster Project” – both newer, faster boats than ours.
The crew gets into their foul weather gear as we approach St. Catherines Point and the weather closes in
The crew gets into their foul weather gear as we approach St. Catherines Point and the weather closes in

 

Training and Delivery Completed!

With the last training weekend and the delivery completed the MBA Fastnet Team is now looking forward to their first race which will be the Channel Race at the end of July.

 

The last training weekend was very intense for the MBA Fastnet team. It started with match racing against each other on two J109s though the IJsselmeer and the Waddenzee. The races covered typical conditions of offshore sailing, demanding skill, courage, and endurance. After 22 hours of non-stop match racing through a day and a rainy night with little or no sleep, the first part of the training ended in Hoorn.

 

From there the train took the team to Vlissingen, where the Volvo 60 was waiting for another night sail on the North Sea to Den Helder. In nice reaching / downwind conditions the team went through drills of spinnaker hoists, gybes and drops all through the night.

 

The delivery of the Volvo60 turned out to be quite the opposite: a lot of time on land to relax and only 48 hours on the water – at least for most of the team. Two strong low pressure system forced the team to wait in the harbour for days. Unfortunately, the main was damaged after tacking against strong winds along the Portuguese coast. From here on it was motor sailing with jib and trysail to Porto. Given the continued bad weather forecast most of the team had to fly back home from Porto as there was no chance to get the boat to the UK on time to be back at work on Monday.

 

Even though everyone knows that sailing depends on the wind the MBA Fastnet team didn’t quite expect 9 days not to be enough to bring the Volvo60 from South Portugal to the UK. Team Heiner and three of the MBA crew continued to fight strong winds all the way up to the Netherlands.

 

For more details and pictures see also on our MBA Fastnet Challenge Facebook page!

 

 

The team in Cascais, Portugal
The team in Cascais, Portugal

First training on the Volvo Ocean 60

P1010533April saw the MBA Fastnet team complete their first training weekend on the boat that will take them to the Rolex Fastnet Race in 2013, the Team Heiner Volvo Ocean 60.

The setting was Portimão, a laid back tourist village on the southern coast of Portugal. Although the wind was very light, the conditions were perfect for testing out and tweaking the setup on the boat which had only been in the water for a few days after being refitted, antifouled and made ready for the upcoming campaign.

Friday was off to an easy start, beginning with some basic boat orientation as well as sorting out the sails and giving the boat a final clean and polish.

With only a couple of knots blowing for most of Saturday, the team had a good opportunity to test out the new rig and different sails in a relaxed setting. As this was the first time we had sailed on this boat as a crew, there were a few maneuvers to be smoothed out and a few boat peculiarities to get used to.

P1010512

Sunday saw the team almost completely becalmed until very late in the day and most of the day was spent on going over basics like tacking, spinnaker sets and gybes as well as some motivational speeches by Roy Heiner. The team has their work cut out for them as they prepare for their next milestone in the Rolex Fastnet Campaign, the delivery from Portugal to the UK in June. We look forward to seeing the whole team together for the next part of the challenge! Stay tuned for updates!

P1010482

 

First training on the Volvo 60 this weekend!

The team can’t wait to take the next exciting step in their Fastnet adventure. Over the coming weekend 12 – 14 April, the MBA Fastnet team is off to Portugal to sail the Volvo 60 in the bay of Portimão. With a forecast of 17 °C and winds around 12 knots we are expecting perfect conditions for our first training on the ocean racer. Since the Volvo 60 is a highly sophisticated racing boat and considering it is the team’s first experience on such a racing yacht it will take some time to get acquainted with all the special features and high-tech equipment before we hit the water.

Ultimately the moment we all are looking forward to most is our first experience of the boats performance out on the water – and our performance in handling the Volvo 60 and its 500 m² of sail surface. Bearing in mind the forces and loads we will be dealing with our initial state of exhilaration will most likely move quickly to a state of serious muscle ache.

This weekend will be intense and the MBA Fastnet team needs to get up to speed very fast, since this is the only “inshore” training on the Volvo 60 before having the pleasure of sailing the Volvo 60 in the conditions it was built for on our 1000 NM offshore delivery from Portugal to the UK.

For more updates, you can also follow the MBA Fastnet Challenge 2013 Facebook page!

Click on the image below for an even larger version of the image.

 

Team Heiner Volvo 60

First Two Sponsors Come On Board for MBA Fastnet Challenge 2013!

Kellogg-WHU, the executive MBA global network with campuses in Chicago, Duesseldorf, Hong Kong, Miami, Tel Aviv and Toronto as well as a ZOA (Sail for Water) Business Ambassador have come on board as the first two sponsors for the MBA Fastnet Challenge 2013!

Support from the ZOA Business Ambassador is generously split between the Sail for Water charity, and the MBA Fastnet Challenge 2013 campaign.

While each team member fully finances their own participation, without the additional financial support of Kellogg-WHU and the ZOA Business Ambassador the campaign lead by Team Heiner on the Volvo 60 would have not be possible!

Huge thanks to Kellogg-WHU and the ZOA (Sail for Water) Business Ambassador!

Kellogg WHU Executive MBA Program

ZOA - Sail for Water