By Adam Brazeau
CORNWALL, Ontario – A few Cornwall men embarked on a sailing adventure through the Atlantic Ocean, on their way to the Caribbean.
For nine days, they helped navigate a premiere race boat with a world class sailor from Nova Scotia to Antigua, in the Caribbean.
Shawn Maloney, Andy Hamilton and Denis Rosa went to the nautical extreme in the Spirit of Canada Ocean Challenge and, boy, do they have a story to tell.
"For me, this journey provided an amazing opportunity to sail a world-class race yacht under the same conditions that the original race teams endured," said Maloney, 50.
In the midst of a hectic work day this summer, he received an email from his wife, Pam, with a link suggesting he take the challenge. Maloney couldn't resist the opportunity to sail a premiere race boat with world class sailor, Derek Hatfield.
Saturday, Nov. 16 was departure day. Aboard a Volvo 60 departing from Lunenburg, N.S. they racked up 1,800 nautical miles by the trip's end.
"It was a great opportunity being able to do it on a boat that is capable of sailing across the North Atlantic with skippers that had the experience to guide you," said Hamilton, 52.
To keep alert, a watch system of three-hours on and off between two teams of six was set in place under the guidance of their captains, Hatfield and Chris Stanmore-Major.
During each watch, every crew member took a turn at the helm, and kept busy with sail trim, rigging inspections, and maintaining an hourly log.
Daily, crew members were crowned 'mother' of the day. This meant swapping on-and-off shifts for the grueling task of kitchen duty. Mothers had to prepare all the meals, clean dishes, clean the head, and keep hot drinks at arm's length for each shift.
"This was not fun in a boat with no natural interior light or ventilation, particularly in heavy seas," said Maloney.
He was assigned mother duty as the Volvo 60 was smashing against nearly 12-foot waves powered by 40 knots of wind. This meant preparing 12 freeze dried dinners with boiling cups of water as the vessel violently wobbled.
Bruises, bangs and falls were all part of the physical experience that went along with the adventure. To preserve their night vision, they wore red headlights since the boat had no windows and a closed hatch.
When they finally adjusted their course and headed for Bermuda after reaching the west side of a low-pressure system, it was smooth sailing. Finally, the chance to surf waves at incredible speeds in a world-class yacht was all theirs. At their peak, the boat travelled over 220 miles per day.
"Sailing at the speed we were sailing was unbelievable," said Rosa, 50.
The first part of the adventure meant braving nature at its most forceful. But sailing on the Caribbean Sea meant seeing a different world.
"The stars painted the sky and Venus was so bright it cast a shadow on the deck," said Maloney. The trio of Cornwall sailors even saw moonlight create a rainbow in the night sky.
They arrived at Jolly Harbour in Antigua on Nov. 26. with more miles in the nine-day journey than most people sail in seven years.
"I achieved a personal goal with 11 new friends who made this trip an experience of a lifetime for me," said Maloney.