Risen From The Ashes
Risen From The Ashes
Cameron Miles' timing was exquisite. Exquisitely poor, that is. The rangy Australian surfer-the sailing master aboard the Reichel/Pugh-designed 60-footer, Loki-had just come on watch and taken the helm near the halfway point of the 2007 Rolex Middle Sea Race, a 606-mile offshore affair that's basically a circumnavigation of the Italian island of Sicily. Conditions were, in a word, sporty. Loki was two-sail reaching on a wind angle of about 130 degrees under a double-reefed main and a No. 6 jib, coursing along in 45 knots of breeze at 15 to 16 knots with occasional bursts up to 22.
"The boat felt good," says Miles. "It was comfortable, everyone was happy, and things were going well."
"We'd been in far worse conditions on the East Coast of Australia," seconds owner Stephen Ainsworth, a Sydney businessman who's been sailing for 35 years, including 11 Sydney-Hobart races.
That's the funny thing about ocean racing. It only takes an instant for the world to come undone, for situations that are reasonable and at hand to swerve into treacherous and uncertain territory. Which is precisely what happened to Loki.
"We came down this one wave and the boat loaded up just a little more than it would normally and we just had no steerage whatsoever," says Miles. "So I jumped to the other wheel thinking that we'd done some cable damage, which we'd done in the past. That's when I looked behind us and saw the blade floating off behind the boat.
"That was the point when I was probably going to get seasick."
So this is a tale not only of two races-before and after Loki lost her rudder-but also of two Loki's. For what transpired in the immediate aftermath of the near catastrophe would ultimately lead to a brand new Loki launched in December of 2008, a no-holds-barred, state-of-the-art 63-foot racing machine, a boat that Miles would ultimately say "had risen from the ashes."
But we're getting slightly ahead of the story.
The Loki that found itself rudderless in the Golfo di Castallammare, on the northwest coast of Sicily between Trapani and Palermo, was actually Stephen Ainsworth's third boat of the same name, the other two being a Swan 44 and 48, respectively ("Loki" is the Scandinavian god of mischief and trickery). The carbon boat had been built in Queensland, Australia, by Iain Murray's Azzura Yachts as a dedicated racer/cruiser with full accommodations; in fact, Ainsworth's intention after the Middle Sea Race had been to sail to the Caribbean in the ARC Rally and loll about the islands for a season, a plan that was put on permanent hold the second the rudder snapped off just below the bottom bearing.