Our Ross taming the Tasman

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A Queenstown dentist will single-handedly take on the treacherous Tasman Sea. 

Ross Buchanan, 48, is tackling the Solo Trans-Tasman Yacht Race for the second time, leaving New Plymouth on Sunday for the Queensland resort of Mooloolaba. 

As in 2007, he’ll be on his $130,000 Ron Holland-designed 10.5m sloop, Scoundrel. 

Last time he took 11 days, finishing second in his class in a 14-boat field – and it was far from plain sailing.
On day four, Buchanan’s boat was twice knocked down in 70-knot winds and a 10m wave swept him overboard. 

“It was like a truck hitting you at a T-intersection,” he says. 

Negotiating Flinders Reef, near Brisbane, in a strong current in pitch dark conditions was another nail-biting challenge. 

A year earlier, Buchanan had an even scarier experience aboard Scoundrel. The night after leaving Milford Sound for Nelson, the autopilot failed and he had to hand-steer the boat for the next three and a half days, sleeping for just five hours all-up and hallucinating much of the time as a result. 

He couldn’t get below deck to radio in his whereabouts, so an aerial search party was launched. He was met by police on the Nelson wharf. 

Buchanan’s reunited himself with his boat in Tauranga during the past month, after a year away from her.
An inner-stay’s been added to the Scoundrel’s rigging so she’ll sail better upwind. 

There’ll be a record field of 19 boats in the 11th edition of this month’s trans-Tasman race – the fastest time is just under six and a half days. 

Buchanan says his wife Polly and two children, who will see him off on Sunday, get nervous when he’s at sea, “but they understand you can’t prevent someone living their dream. 

“It comes down to trusting your boat – it’s like your wife, though I spend more money on my boat.
“If you get angry with the boat, you end up apologising to her.” 

After his upcoming solo effort, Buchanan’s getting a crew together to sail Scoundrel back to the Bay of Islands. 

This will also be good practice for December when he’ll have another five sailors onboard for his first crack at the classic Sydney-to-Hobart Yacht Race.