"Some 400 miles from the finishing line, the Varne Folkboat Minke lost her rudder" – John Apps reports on impressive feats of seamanship from the latest Jester Azores Challenge
The Jester Azores Challenge 2021 was hosted by Mayflower Marina in Plymouth and a dinner was held at Jolly Jacks before the race to honour Ewen Southby-Tailyour who was stepping down as convenor of the various Jester Challenges.
Ewen has been replaced by a triumvirate calling itself the Jester Helm made up of past and present Jester Challenge skippers.
All Jester Challenges have no rules, nor inspections and no entry fees.
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But the guidelines suggest boats should be between 20 and 30 feet and have sailed a 500 mile passage to check both boat and skipper are able to complete the actual challenge.
The Jester Azores Challenge is sailed from Plymouth breakwater to Praia da Vitoria on the island of Terceira in the Azores Central Group, a straight line distance of almost 1,200 miles.
The event, which started on 21 June, was unique for three reasons. Firstly it had been postponed for a year because of the Covid pandemic.
Secondly, for the first time ever in a Jester Challenge or a Jester Azores Challenge, the same number of boats – nine – crossed the finishing line as crossed the starting line.
What was not so unusual was that it was a Frenchman first across the finishing line again – Christian Gallot aboard his 31ft Kalevala Sea Breeze.
The third reason is even more interesting and extraordinary. Some 400 miles from the finishing line at Praia in the Azores the Varne – plastic – Folkboat Minke lost her rudder.
The Jester Helm organisers asked two boats to go to her assistance: Arelia, an Invicta 25, and a 31ft wooden boat Good Report.
Arelia went back 120 miles NE looking for Minke but after 24 hours sailing could not find her in her reported position.
She received a sat phone text from Minke saying that by sailing at 40° to the wind the boat could be sailed without a rudder and the new position put Minke 80 miles SW of Arelia.
They probably passed within 20 miles of each other in the night. Arelia never caught up with Minke before she arrived in Praia but must have passed her at some stage after being stood down by the Jester Helm.
Fortunately Good Report, which had been several miles behind Minke, caught up and was able to stand by while she continued her amazing sailing without a rudder.
However, sailing 40° to the wind wasn’t going to get Minke all the way to Praia.
Fortunately Good Report, a big powerful boat, was able to tow Minke under sail between bouts of Minke sailing without a rudder.
Altogether three tows were needed covering 232 miles and several broken tow ropes.
In light winds Good Report even used her asymmetric spinnaker and main.
In the third and longest tow of 144 miles a well reefed main and genoa was used by Good Report.
There was a lot of cheering and back slapping from the seven skippers who had arrived when Good Report towed Minke into Praia da Vitoria harbour, 20 days after the start.
It is interesting to note that Minke’s rudder loss came down to a split pin failure.
Fortunately the rudder was recovered as it floated off but could not be rehung until Minke was hauled out at Praia da Vitoria.
About the author
John Apps has three Jester Challengers to Newport Rhode Island and three Jester Azores Challenges under his belt.
After breaking his starboard lower shroud in 2006 off Newfoundland he sailed back to the UK on a single tack (Port) of 2,300 miles, thanks to a consistent NW wind.
He completed the 2021 Jester Azores in his 1966 Invicta Mk1 Arelia.