Sailing and us

Fenix II ARC
Liz/Steve Rakoczy
Mon 25 Oct 2010 07:33

12 September 2010    “41:22.73N 2:11.10E”


This blog was established to document our trip across the Atlantic Ocean between Las Palmas (Canary Islands) and St Lucia (Caribbean). The trip will start from Barcelona where Steve and myself have been from the beginning of August. I have been working at the CRG, the magnificent biological research centre and Steve, other than a short consultancy trip to Abengoa, has been preparing the boat, Fenix II for the crossing. The preparation list seems endless but we are making progress.



To introduce ourselves and the boat I posted a short summary.



 My involvement in sailing goes back to my first date with my husband.

I recall the warm summer night, the dreamy walk on the Chain Bridge in Budapest when looking for a topic that would make my new friend to unveil something about himself - I asked an irresistible question that makes even the most reserved boy talkative.

Do you do any sport?

His body language changed, his eyes lit up and without delay came the unexpected answer.

“I sail! “

In the mind of any self-respecting female, sailing was associated with Gin &Tonic, romantic sunsets and gentle breeze. So not very tactfully I declared.

“Sailing is not a sport!”

And so my 35 year association with sailing was sealed. Steve married me because my sanding was not only done with enthusiasm but it was faultless. I like to think that other qualities also contributed. Our relationship survived double-handed dinghy sailing and replica keel boat racing on Europe’s biggest lake, Balaton. We had our first child conceived during a break of a race. After successfully negotiating the first couple of years of parenthood we purchased a share in a Yolle 22.

Then, due to some lucky circumstances, in 1985 we moved to Perth, Western Australia. There is no better place for a sailor than Western Australia. On the doorsteps of Perth lies the windy Indian Ocean. But building an academic carrier, a high-tech company and bringing up a family kept us busy. Sailing did not make itself back onto the agenda until 1998, when looking for a distraction from the endless working hours we purchased a Viking 30, appropriately named Balaton.

The Viking 30s are legendary in Perth and there is a bit of a story behind it. It all started in 1983 when John Bertrand made the unlikely leap from competitive yachtsman to national hero when he skippered Australia II to victory in the America’s Cup against Liberty, skippered by Dennis Conner, thus ending 132 years of American supremacy. In true Aussie spirit the jubilant Prime Minister, Bob Hawke enthusiastically participated in the celebrations and memorably stated: “Any boss who sacks a worker for not turning up today is a bum.”

The little known Royal Perth Yacht Club became the challenger and for the next couple of years Fremantle became the centre of the yachting world. In a typical understated Perth manner, the international crews tested West Australian winds and waters in a fleet of humble Viking 30s. Dennis Conner himself handled the tiller of a Viking 30!

We raced three pretty hopeless seasons at the Royal Perth Yacht Club on the Swan River and started to make regular visits to the Indian Ocean. I discovered my love of long distance ocean sailing and we both became extremely found of the yearly 140nm Christmas Cruise to Quindalup, hidden in the southern corner of Western Australia. Unable to resist the call of the ocean we moved to the Fremantle Sailing Club by the Indian Ocean and after lots of trepidations we replaced our beloved Viking 30 with a shiny new C&C 37 in 2008.

At the end of the 90s we also started bare boat chartering on the Mediterranean. We enjoyed the relatively calm waters and the history of the Mediterranean so much that after couple of seasons we decided to start looking for a sailing boat, with the intention of keeping it on the “Med”.

In 2002 we chartered on Palma de Mallorca. As we walked out from the marina for a late dinner I spotted a brokerage that was still open. With not too many customers around we received an enthusiastic demonstration of all available yachts. We did not like any of them and feeling a little embarrassed about taking so much time of the salesman I offered an excuse and blurted out that “We would need a blue water yacht that is capable of sailing back to Australia.

” Oh, why didn’t you say so? - exclaimed the agent.

And he pulled out a file from which a Hallber Rassy 42, graceful, like a queen, gently smiled at us. It was a love at the first sight! Without thinking we changed our plans, sailed the chartered boat to Barcelona, (not allowed by our contract), arranged a test sail and then and there said: “Yes! “

The last trip of my dying father was to our new yacht, Fenix, in the summer of 2003. Since then we used our leaves to criss-cross the Mediterranean from Barcelona to Bodrum and back, with occasional long bonding passages with our lovely children Gavin (31) and Anna (30) and friends, enjoying every minute of it!

We have been contemplating an Atlantic crossing for years and I was delighted when Steve after his birthday in January announced that the “The Year of the Tiger” has become the “The Year of the Crossing”! So, we spent most of the year enthusiastically preparing ourselves and the boat. Here we are, a little anxious but full of anticipation!



THE BOAT - FENIX II (Hallberg Rassy HR42E)


Fenix II is an Enderlein design Hallberg Rassy 42 (extended), 1989 hull number 144, sloop rigged. She is admired for her sheer and flush teak deck, uninterrupted by raised coach roofs so popular lately. She looks like a small ship. We like to think of her as a miniature Pinta (one of the ships Columbus sailed to America). A true blue-water work-horse. Numerous HR42s have sailed around the globe with short-handed crew, more than fulfilling the definition of a successful cruise: “A waterborne pleasure journey embarked on by one or more people. A cruise may be considered successful if the same number of individuals who set out on it arrive at some piece of habitable dry land, with or without the boat...”.

Fenix has been lucky to have had only two very caring previous owners who were found of her and looked after her needs with great attention. Everyone knows that you get attached to your boat. So much so, that the first owner, who in a moment of absent-mindedness sold her to us, after 5 years of trying different vessels decided to buy another Hallberg Rassy 42E. He just could not forget her graceful move and her spacious, comfortable interior. In an unexpected twist of events he bought it from one of our friends.

The previous owner of Fenix installed a new 106HP Volvo, extended her stern with a sugar scoop creating a comfortable landing and swimming platform and installed a massive davit for easy deployment of our RIB dinghy, so handy when visiting those picturesque Mediterranean towns. Upon taking ownership Steve embarked on a seemingly never ending process of further upgrades, including the removal of the aft head and using the extra space to create a glamorous owner’s cabin complete with a desk and armchair, modernizing the saloon, adding an “invisible” crane to lift on and off our scooter (great to get to know places), a custom made SS navigation display for the cockpit, a new anchor that never drags (Rocna), a “fully tamed” one-touch electrical toilet (you wouldn’t know that you are actually on a boat), modified the stove, developed and installed a water leak alarm, dimmer lights, changed the rigging, equipped her with a second backup autopilot, 3 GPSs, and AIS (sending and receiving), a sea anchor, and even an automatic freshwater shut down system after we lost all our water due to a loose pipe junction. Our lovely large teak deck also received a lot of TLC.

In 2009 Steve declared the boat “ready”. This was of course before we decided to participate in the ARC. This decision was not taken lightly and resulted in the frantic upgrade of the sail wardrobe (asymmetrical for light wind, Parasailor2 for “typical” conditions, and poled out headsails sat up as a twizzle rig for strong wind conditions) purchase of a drogue, a manual emergency water maker, DuoGen, securing the drawers and cupboards etc.


Conversions and additions

- Stern converted to sugar scoop

- SS davit with radar arch

- Scooter stand and fold-out crane for scooter lift

- Aft head removed to increase aft cabin, desk with swivel armchair

- Folding Perspex shower door, light, mixer tap, sump pump-out

- New washbowl and taps

- Electrical toilet with one-touch cycling control, bowl emptying system

- Modernized saloon with rounded settees, curtains, shelf lids

- Shades and fans, hanging fan for aft cabin hatch

- Instrument panel at navigation table

- Slide-out work bench with vice

- New kitchen counter and sink

- Easy store washboard

- Dodger and bimini with roll-up aft curtain



- Mastervolt charger and separate inverter

- Intelligent alternator controller with dual alternators

- Masthead LED light with flash control

- 30G/m emergency bilge pump

- Microwave

- Removable flexible solar panel on top of bimini

- 2 Air Conditioners in aft cabin and saloon

- Water leak detector pump shut-down

- Search light

- Dimmer lights

- Cockpit dining light

- LED reading lamps and desk lamp



- Boat navigation PC with screen at navigation table and custom SS cockpit console

- Backup chartplotter

- Second backup GPS with separate antenna

- Raymarine 8002 autopilot, custom SS console at binnacle and backup Autohelm

- Navman Depth, Speed, Wind and repeater at Navigation Table

- Anchor chain counter

- Digital barometer

- Barometer / Temperature / Clock

- JVC radar on radar arch

- AIS Class B Transmit / Receive

- VHF radio with two consoles

- Satellite Iridium phone

- Water ingress alarm with 5 sensors

- WIFI antenna

- TV antenna

- DVD player with Ipod connection in cockpit

- TV on custom fold-out arm

- Compact portable printer and scanner

- Handheld VHF and GPS



- Volvo 106HP diesel engine

- In-mast Reckmann hydraulic furler

- Reckmann jib furler

- Bow thruster

- 3.4m RIB with outboard

- 33kg Rocna anchor with 100m chain

- Danfoss and Fortress anchors

- Second bow roller

- Bow and stern anchor winches

- Sea anchor with 100m 22m nylon rode

- Winslow off-shore ISO 6 person life raft in cradle

- MOM8 self inflating Dan buoy with light, lifesling and sea anchor

- Self inflating lifesling with extra long rope

- MOB Scoop

- Deck wash

- Pony diving tank in holder

- cockpit cushions

- Folding chairs and custom tray-table


New for ARC

- Parasailor2

- Asymmetrical 160m2

- 2nd Jib plus fit old jib with hanks along the luff

- Second whisker pole and twizzle joint

- Folding prop MaxProp

- Jordan series drogue

- Manual large bilge pump inside the saloon

- DuoGen towing / wind generator

- New E.P.I.R.B GME403G

- Spare Wind, Depth and Log instruments

- Second Iridium phone +antenna

- Emergency VHF antenna

- VHF Antenna splitter

- Mobilarm 768 personal locator V100 VPIRB

- AIS interface to eliminate nuisance alarms when no AIS received

- Water maker PUR Survivor 35

- Freshwater flow meter and display

- Dinghy Rack to secure dinghy on front deck

- Security system

- Salt water pressurized for kitchen and head

- Sail repair kit, spares, extra tools

- Drawer securing webbing and nets for book shelves

- Washboards individually secured – barrel bolts

- Security foil on dodger glass windscreen

- Lee cloths + long cushions + sloped mattress

- Seat belt on settees

- Cockpit bean bags





Steve Rakoczy (skipper)

I was about 8 when I first pinched a dinghy and set out on my own with no sailing skills whatsoever. Luckily the light breeze and the forgiving nature of the Lake Balaton made it easy to navigate, even for a complete beginner; so in about ten minutes I felt that I knew everything there was to know about sailing. Sadly as we get older we just don’t have the same self confidence anymore! So I joined a sailing club and spent most of my holidays messing around with boats. I sailed a number of different dinghies, including Finn, 470, Flying Dutchman, Star and Soling. Still, I have to admit that I was never particularly good at regattas; always trying to push the boat just a few degrees higher than feasible. On the other hand I quickly became known as the “gadget” guy, constantly trying new technical tricks. Though the idea of a kicker built from an old Telemark ski running gear never really took off. I didn’t give up and over the years my boats dutifully submitted themselves to my endless improvement projects. Over 40 plus years I have created hundreds of bits and pieces replacing traditional boating solutions, thus creating vessels where “practicality rules”. In my spare time, as a perhaps less frivolous outlet to my love of engineering and innovation, in 1987 I founded Almos Systems, a software and electronics design & manufacturing company specialising in large national meteorological networks and airport weather systems. The demanding role of a CEO eventually took its toll and I sold the company in 2007. Subsequently, I started a new company focusing exclusively on innovation and product design, mostly for marine applications (see: ). Let me know if you like any of them!


Elizabeth P. Rakoczy

 I was born in Hungary, a country with a unique language that prides itself on the highest numbers of Nobel Laureates (~1.6 per Million) and Olympic Gold medal winners (~15.9 per Million). It is also known for the so-called “Gulyas Communism” a type of communist rule that allowed certain level of freedom of movement and private enterprise. So it’s not surprising that the collapse of the Berlin wall actually started in Hungary; the authorities waving through trainloads of East Germans on their way to the West, sealing the fate of communism in Europe...


I have always had a fascination with speed and doing things our bodies were not designed for. I cartwheeled, somersaulted through my childhood to become a competitive gymnast, skied the slopes of the surrounding mountains and swam the rivers of my hometown. After meeting my future husband all of these activities were replaced by sailing. In my 20s I was considered to be a late-comer to the sport but I quickly developed a love for the excitement of racing and for the tranquillity of cruising. Most of the time I don’t even mind the technical aspects of the sport. My current hobby-project is writing about the historical/literary significance of places we visit during our cruising on the Mediterranean

In my normal life I work at the University of Western Australia. Following a childhood dream I became a geneticist/molecular biologist with the aim of discovering treatments for diseases and alleviating suffering. Recently with my group we got tantalisingly close to develop a new treatment for a prevalent blinding disease, using gene therapy. We use our understanding of nature to produce medication in the eye, in a miniaturised cellular factory. Human trials are just about to start and I am anxiously waiting for the results.



 This is my first blog after struggling with setting up the Iridium phone communication for three days. No, it still refuses to work. I am wondering how we will ever receive weather forecasts during the crossing. Perhaps, never. Everything is incompatible, the connection is slow and the Microsoft software is unhelpful as ever.

 Well, after all Columbus made it through without our great technology.

If the GPS also fails and we have to rely on my celestial navigation skills we might prove him right and discover that after all one can sail from Spain to Asia.But, on a more positive note, this morning we rode to the Sagrada Familia which in its serenity and magnificent stature gave me an incredible pleasure. The site was empty, no tourists at this “early hour” of 8.00 am.

There is a tranquil little lake at the Nativity Façade with an almost Zen Buddhist design, where one can sit down and admire the church as it is reflected in the soft glassy water of the lake. The inside of the church is like a walk through a beautiful rain forest packed with trees aiming for the sunshine. It was really a special morning.

 In the afternoon under divine influence I made some progress with the Iridium Webmail but it still refuses to work.