Rupert Henry and Greg O'Shea claim line honors and new race record in Osaka Cup

  • Racing
  • NEWS
  • By Ross Macdonald
  • 04 May 2018 13:41:28
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Rupert Henry and Greg O'Shea on after taking line honors.

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They might have been the last off the starting line, but Rupert Henry and Greg O'Shea onboard the modified JV62 Chinese Whisper, managed to chase down the entire fleet and be the first to cross the finish line. In the process they created a new race record of 21d 12h 41m 13s.

The Osaka Cup is a 5,500 Nautical mile, two handed yacht race, starting in Melbourne and finishing in Osaka. The race is held on average, every four years and is one of the only South-North long-distance races in the world. It’s a challenging race, with difficult areas to navigate, Bass Straight, the East Australian Current, the Solomon Islands, as well as the doldrums. And just when you think the coast is clear you’re into the equatorial current and then fighting the Kuroshio, a Japanese current, flowing up the Pacific Coast of Japan.

After many months of preparation and planning Rupert and Greg knew what they were getting themselves in for. None the less, ultimately they would be in the hands of mother nature and only then would they find out how they would fair.

“It’s a huge adventure and it’s hard to find good adventures these days. Especially one where you can feel quite isolated and solo. We feel fantastic about the win, it was the hardest physical and emotional thing I have ever done. The obligation was on us to push ourselves hard, sail smart and let the boat finds it legs. It all just slotted together nicely in the end,” said Henry.

Reflections on modifications

I was 100 percent happy with the modifications. I mean you have to remember that it’s a long race, it’s between three and four weeks and you’re not getting a lot of sleep. You’re averaging between four and six hours each day. When you're not asleep you're working hard physically, really hard, so anything you can do to reduce the physical load is going to pay off.

Even just that big spray dodger we put on, without that the cockpit would have been constantly under water. It’s was a total micro climate under there. Because we have all the control lines running through the combing, when you get green water over the deck the water still comes through those openings. It’s not completely dry so you still have your wet weather pants on unless it’s light wind. Its more the shelter, you get shade and you don’t get the wind blowing on you. Both those things suck a lot of energy out of the body. A lot of the time we were sitting there and it was solid water over those windows and the dodger. I don't think we would have got past Queensland without it.

Human control

On some points of sail, like reaching when you have the wind anywhere between a true wind angle of 70-120 degrees the auto pilot will out do a human steering, particularly when your shorthanded and your tired.

Upwind and deep downwind there was a big gain to be had with hand steering, so in those conditions we tried to steer about half the time. If you try to do more than that you literally just fall asleep at the wheel. All in all, we would have hand steered about 25 percent of the way.

Friendship between the two 

Better than ever. I mean to be honest I would hesitate to do that race with someone I didn’t know well. You’re tired and your scared, the emotions flare up. We had our arguments but we are good enough friends to work them out. We had a mechanism that we agreed on beforehand to call a spade a spade, apologise, not take it personally and get on with it.

I think one of the real advantages is that we have done a lot of competitive cycling together. We have had a lot of time physically tired in each other’s company, whether your cycling 300km or sailing long distance you get used to the other guys personality in those stressful conditions and that was a real benefit. We were able to learn our physical limits so that on the yacht we weren’t afraid to push. It’s a pretty demanding boat but you can’t be afraid of pushing hard physically, you need to have the experience and the knowledge that you will recover and be able to do it again the next day and the next.

Crazy moments

I suppose the big one was off the coast of Australia when cyclone Iris impacted the fleet. We had to completely change our race plan and basically sailed around the west side of the cyclone. The ocean state was massive and heinous. We had winds up above 40 knots and swells averaging 6-8m with two confused swell patterns. There was a two-day period when we swapped in and out hand steering continually because we were running so deep and fast. That was full on. We were pretty much at the end of our tether by the time that had passed.

The other was further on when we got into the heat of the equator, you can’t underestimate how seriously hot it is up there. It was around 46 degrees on deck and 56 degrees below deck. It's tough, when you get becalmed and you've just got to try and concentrate on the navigation and figure out the best way through it. That was pretty hard.

Future race plans

Nothing planned at all. It will take a few months before we even have the head space to contemplate that. I would recommend it to anybody but it’s a once in a lifetime thing. Life moves on and there are other things to do but we had to tick the box. It’s an adventure, if you were going to summit a large mountain, shorthanded ocean racing is the same. It’s thrilling but you need to have the technical experience and expertise so that you don't die. It can be dangerous, but it’s a great adventure, I love it. It challenges you in every way, the technical side with the navigation and the equipment, physical exertion, it’s fantastic.

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