Nandor Fa (HUN) and Conrad Colman (NZL) crossed the finish line of the Barcelona World Race this Monday20th April at 22:59:40 hrs UTC (00:59:40 Tues 21st CET) to complete their race in seventh place and effectively close the course for this third edition of the double-handed non-stop around the world race.
Respectively the oldest and youngest skippers in the eight boat field which left Barcelona on 31st December 2014, Hungarian Fa, 61, and New Zealander Colman, 31, took 110 days, 10hrs, 59 mins secs to complete the 23 321 miles at an average speed of 8.8 kts for the theoretical course which passes all three Great Capes: Good Hope, Leeuwin and Cape Horn and for the first time did not pass between North and South Islands, New Zealand.
The duo actually sailed a measured 27,575.28 miles at an average speed of 10.4 kts. They finished 26 days and 5 hours after race winners Cheminées Poujoulat and 4 days and 11 hours 24 mins after sixth placed Renault Captur.
Fa and Colman finished off Barcelona this Monday night to loud, partisan acclaim, relieved and so visibly happy to have completed their race together.
“I am here, we are here. I can’t believe we have done it! We are here! Here we are!” Fa screamed into the darkness, punching the air for minutes on end.
They are a duo which started out as all but strangers to each other but finished as a tight, hard working, driven, passionate and gritty partnership, tempered by the very many challenges – physical, mental and emotional – which they rose to and won over together.
Though from different ends of the age spectrum and blessed with correspondingly different racing philosophies and working modes, Fa and Colman have shared the same vision and goals – paramount are self and boat preservation and enjoying the ride, the simple pleasures of being at sea – and made it work for them both. Patience and tolerance were their abiding watchwords, written large in the cabin walls inside the boat Fa designed and built himself.
From long before the start it was clear their race would be compromised by how late the Spirit of Hungary project was forced to run. A very large amount of last minute work was required to get the boat, which is designed by Fa and largely built by him, to the start line.
This was, in effect, the maiden race for Fa’s Spirit of Hungary and to finish their circumnavigation against odds which would have stopped many other teams represents a huge achievement.
They have robustly confounded the skeptics, the doubters at the start who looked at their hasty preparation and the unproven, untested boat and expected them to be the first duo to be forced to abandon the race. Instead they approached each problem methodically and with an open mind and found solutions together. For Fa the successful end to his first Barcelona World Race completes his fourth circumnavigation, for Colman his second.
When they started Colman joked that they had never even gybed Spirit of Hungary‘s gennaker together, which they hadn’t. Their lack of experience as a crew did put them on the back foot from the first hours of the race. Even if conditions were only very light, they did not manage to match the pace of the next slowest boats and by Gibraltar they were already over 200 miles behind the next boat in front of them.
Fa and Colman were initially dstuck in a calm zone in the Alboran Sea for many hours. Just when they were really able to press better spee ds out of Spirit of Hungary they were forced to make a technical pit stop in Bluff, South Island NZ. A combination of a jammed, damaged headboard car slide on the mainsail, and damaged keelbolts, made the prudent decision to make their technical pit stop.
But with only Colman’s Auckland based uncle as shore support, they started again exhausted but were able to have a relatively straighforwards race to Cape Horn. Failing keelbolts became a serious issue. At 1000 miles from the Horn Fa realised there was a material problem and they spent many hours ready to leave the boat, grab bags and survival suits at hand. By the north Atlantic two keelbolts on one side of the forward mountings had failed.
Somewhat contrary to the usual challenges of the race course, it was prolonged periods of calm which caused more frustration for Fa and Colman. They were trapped on either side of the Doldrums both times, slowed in the Alboran Sea outwards and return, slowed in the South Atlantic an d the Pacific, and even spent the best part of one week racing upwind in the south Pacific.
Their race became very detached from their rivals but Fa and Colman always spoke with alacrity, clearly enjoying most days on Spirit of Hungary, epecially the Big South. Most of all they have used their race as valuable experience towards the next solo non stop around the world race, the Vendée Globe which both hope to compete in.
Nandor Fa (HUN): “I always knew we would finish but we had three principles to stick to in order to make it, tolerance of each other, patience and just focusing on finishing the race as top priority. These two main things were written on the wall in the cabin: tolerance and patience and they helped us all the way.
The race itself was so hard. It was hard, we had to fight all the way but we did it together and built a great understanding.
The worst time was with the keelbolts. I did some calculations and knew what we could do but the stress was so high and always there.
Conrad Colman (NZL):“We started out as strangers, not really knowing anything about each other but we sweated together, we bled together and we worked hard together and made it work. It was an amazing experience and Nandor was incredible to sail with.
Nandor Fa: “Conrad is just great. He is so much like me 20 years ago and so it was easy for me to understand where he was coming from and what he wants to achieve, I can identify so much of me 20 years ago, yes we had strong words now and again but they were soon gone, but we made it work together and he is such an incredible guy to sail with. He is like my younger brother, he is just like a brother now." ;
Nandor Fa: Our deepest wish was to be here and to finish and here we are. We were asked at the press conference before the start what our objective was and I said to be here at the finish and here we are. We had to fight. It was not easy, because of the weather, because of our problems with ourselves and with the boat. But we worked very hard and we worked perfectly as a team with this young man – it was perfect – and finally we finished. Maybe the time we have performed is not what I wanted. I wanted to be within 100 days be we lost so many days in different weather problems which we could not avoid at all. We ran into windless areas. We had one week upwind in the south Indian Ocean. And I don’t think the time we have really reflects the performance we have made and the performance. It maybe was a little bit cheeky to go to the start line with a boat which was just launched, which we had just finished and for not making had any training, and to have some sails missing. But we paid the price for all these things. But at last we were over all these problems and our deepest wish was to come back and finish here.
This was so important for me to learn abous myself. I can learn and I can train but I needed to know if I was still the same Nandor I was 25 years ago. And I wanted to know who I am and how much I am. Can I can this racing sailing that is not what i did in the past. The boats are so different, the speeds are much higher, and everything is different, just different. There are so many things to learn. Physically I realise that yes, I am OK for going solo, and I feel strong enough and know myself well enough to take on the Vendée Globe.
Nandor Fa:” There were very small things and some very big things. At the beginning of the Southern Ocean we lost the main halyard and we were close to retiring because we could not hoist and we could not drop the mainsail. The upper block wa sbroken. The halyard cut the mast tub e by 30cms. We climbed the mast and cut it off. We made sail blocks at the top of the mast and from that moment we had to sail with one reef, we could not use the full mainsail. That was a serious problem. We had to solve it. We had a locking system for the mainsail which did not work. It was stuck and we could not get it up or down. That was why decided to stop in New Zealand. Meantime I realised one of the keelbolts was broken. In the beginning I thought it was just an individual problem. We changed a couple of boats. We lifted the boat and worked on it two days. And then we were sailing to Cape Horn and we started into quite heavy conditions, we were making over 18kts of average speeds. In these conditions I realised another keelbolt was broken. And from that point on we realised the material is wrong, something is wrong. From that point, 1000 miles before Cape Horn, we sailed with the grab bag ready and in survival suits ready to leave the boat any time. I was pretty sure that at any time. If the keel went it would tear a big hole in the boat and the boat would be gone. We would sink. Meantime I did some calculations and realised that the keel is a safe position when it is canted. From that moment we sailed with the keel at full cant. Day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute I was waiting to lose the keel and I said that if we finished I would thank God. It was really critical but Conrad was a great partner all this time, he never, ever said ‘Nandor I think we should….'”