Solo Challenge - Ashley Roger’s

“My main purpose of buying a boat is to do the Solo Challenge Trans-Tasman race in 2018. And be the first Guatemalan woman to achieve such a goal. Currently only 3 women have completed the race!” 

A little bit of history... from this inspirational lady in her words …

"Hi my name is Ashley and I am 30 years old, originally from Guatemala, but moved to New Zealand almost 2½ years ago. I have always been around water, but only until a couple of years ago I used to be afraid of sailing.

Whilst my travels in Australia, I read a book called 'Dove' by Robin Lee Graham, and this was my inspiration to want to learn how to sail and face my fears.

After I went to work in Fiji on a boat, I went back to the Whitsunday’s in Australia to get a job on a sail boat as a Chef/Dive Instructor and realized not knowing anything about sailing, that I needed further experience and training. This is when I decided to move to Auckland to learn how to sail. What better place to do it, than in the City of Sail’s!?!

My journey pursuing sailing in New Zealand began in late 2011. I did a 10-day Competent Crew course, sailing from Auckland to Bluff on-board Tiama, a 50ft expedition steel yacht run by Henk Haazen. Upon completion of course, I inquired on how I could keep learning (but not spending a lot of money); they suggested I try to get on boats for Rum racing. This is where the addiction began.

As soon as I got back to Auckland, I joined a crew site and put my name out there as much as possible. I did one rum race, one Wednesday night series and then my 3rd race was the 2011 Coastal Classic 120nm race. By now, I was hooked and I continued to put myself out there, so much so that the summer (2012-2013) I was racing almost every day. If not racing then I was out cruising. I had the need and desire to be on the water constantly.

Education for Solo Challenge

I also wanted to continue my education so I got my STCW (Sea Survival, Fire Fighting and First Aid) and MROC (Maritime Restricted Operator Certificate - MF/HF (SSB) radio license) at Mahurangi Tech. Currently, I am working on my Boatmasters (home school) and eventually would like to gain my Ocean Yachtmasters.

Meanwhile, I am taking part in the B&G online sailing academy. I am also a proud member of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. 

To continue to gain experience in sailing, I completed a 3-man delivery from Tahiti to Auckland in 2012; I did the Auckland to Noumea race in 2012 as well as the Auckland to 3 Kings and back race in 2013. Another Coastal in 2012 and Route 66 in 2013, along with most harbor racing, Commodores’ Cup with the RNZYS and Gold cup with RAYC and other various Regatta’s.

Not only was I trying to get myself involved with the sailing side, but I also wanted to learn about boats as a whole. I had the opportunity to work as a sail maker for a couple of months before the Noumea Race, and basically any time someone is fixing something on a boat I try to help (or at least observe) so I can learn.

I also dive and clean the bottoms of the boats I race on to contribute to the team. Now I even change anodes and have even changed a prop on a drop down outboard for a 52ft racer keeler, whilst diving.

Buying My Own Boat

In 2013 the time came to buy my own boat, Strider, a 28ft double diagonal Kauri Boat, a one off 1972 design by Sandy Jones. Strider has a good history and has done many miles: Coastal and Offshore. When first built she got second place on handicap for the Auckland to Noumea race. She also completed the Solo Trans-Tasman race in 11 days and has most recently circumnavigated New Zealand.

I figured throwing myself in the deep end would be the only way that I could truly learn. Trying to get Strider ready for the 2013 Coastal Classic race really proved this theory to me.

One does not realize as a crew member how much is really involved with racing (as well as cruising), from getting the boat ready, to being responsible for the safety of the crew and the boat itself. It is a completely different world and I enjoy the challenge.

Strider was the only all-female-crewed boat to enter the 2013 Coastal Classic race; Me - Ashley (from Guatemala), Domenica (from Italy), Sash (from South Africa) and Cathy (from New Zealand). The race was said to be the hardest Coastal Classic in 5+ years.

Although we did not finish within the time limit we did complete the race proudly. I have to admit I was thrown into the deep end when first buying Strider, to then immediately try and get her ready for the 120nm race, proved to be quite stressful. Although I struggled a lot, it was satisfying once she returned safely to her home berth having completed my first challenge on Strider.

At the end of last year, I had an accident with Strider and the insurance company wrote her off. I have just recently purchased a new boat, roughly of the same age, but with better racing capabilities. The new boat is a Whiting design similar to the Whiting 29, but beamier and originally created for half ton racing. Her name is Stinger and as Strider she has a nice history, which I would like to contribute to in the future. 

Stinger is a 1974 Whiting Half Tonner. Designed by Paul Whiting and built by both him and John Rea. “It is all the more praiseworthy that this Whiting Half Tonner launched as a shell, rigged, sailed once, then hauled out to put in such important things as bunks, could the following week win such a race by an hour on corrected time against some of Auckland’s offshore fleet.” (Sea Spray February 1975) Stinger won the Rothman’s Auckland to Gisborne race with a time of 2days-3hours-39minutes-55seconds. This was an absolute triumph for Paul Whiting as he was also on board for the race alongside owner John Bonica. 

In 1979 the boat was bought by Stewart McMillan who has owned it for 35 years, happily racing and cruising around the Gulf.

And now I am the proud owner of Stinger!

Future GOALS…

My main purpose of buying a boat is to train myself and to get the boat to Category 1 (safety regulations for NZ) to do the Solo Trans-Tasman race in 2018Also to be the first Guatemalan woman to achieve such a goal. Currently only 3 women have completed the race and there is a 4th that is yet to confirm entry for the 2014 race.

For the next 4 years, I will be training to handle the boat on my own. As I am still a beginner this is a big challenge and will take a lot of patience and determination to get to this stage. Obviously it will be a step by step process to reach this confidence and skill. I will have to start sailing with a fully crewed boat until I feel comfortable in handling her all by myself.

I will try to do the Woman’s series, Wednesday night series, Regatta’s, the Short Handed series to eventually the Single Handed series and any other race that comes about in Auckland. I would also like to endure all the long distance/offshore races with crew that I can, before the time comes to cross the Tasman on my own.

Another reason to buying the boat is to encourage more people to do the same, especially women. Somehow, I would like to create a program to encourage woman to be more confident to want to sail and maybe even own their own boats. Rather it is for racing or just cruising. Just because your partner knows how to sail, you shouldn’t just stand back and watch. What if something happens to your partner and you are out in the middle of a storm?

It’s important that everyone out sailing, feels’ comfortable and has basic knowledge on how to handle a boat in case of an emergency. At least enough to get you to safety or until safety can get to you. This idea is still in a thought process in how to achieve it, so if any one has any ideas please share as I am all ears!

I bought Stinger at the end of January 2014 and pulled her out of the water 2 weeks later. I was originally only pulling her out to replace her decks and to add both an anchor and gas locker, but now she is going to get a complete refit.

The more closely I look at her the more I can find wrong/damaged, etc… As I do not have a lot of money I will be doing as much work as I can myself. Then I also have a few friends in the boating industry to help guide me and give me a hand here and there. I currently have her in a shed in Beach Haven so that I could be near Gary Patten (Boat builder), so he can supervise my work and help me when I really get stuck. Bart from NZ Rigging has helped me remove the mast and will also be guiding me with the new layout and adjustments I need to do with my rigging. 

I am trying to find all the help I can get rather it be someone there to motivate and help with a little sanding or it be donations and/or sponsors. I also need to form a crew or 2, so that as soon as she is back in the water we can start practicing and training for future races.

 We are guessing the refit will take about 6 months, but as many of you know, it never ends with boat’s so who knows!?! She is an old tired boat and needs a lot of TLC from keel to mast tip, so we shall see; but yes the goal is to have in the water before the start of next summer racing series. (2014/2015)

It will be a great experience to be involved in and I am very excited to hone the skills in being able to maintain and repair my own boat with confidence.

Keep following my adventures! Stinger will have a complete transformation and there are also many races to come!

Hopefully along the way, Stinger and I can encourage more women (and guys too...anyone and everyone of all ages are welcome!) to get out there and to face the Oceans’ challenges and to become as enthusiastic as I am of owning my very own boat to do these challenges in!"  Contact Ashley on her Facebook page .... Sail Scubash.

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