North Sails LOFT NEWS

ULTIMATE FAMILY CRUISING ONBOARD OYSTER BELLE

Around-the-World Adventures with Stefan and Emily Hunger

With tales of adventure, fickle winds, good food and wonderful wildlife, we spoke to Stefan Hunger, North Sails client and owner of Oyster 435 Oyster Belle. He talks about his recent ocean crossing and his family’s biggest adventure yet.

Stefan Hunger has always had a passion for the water. Stefan grew up dinghy sailing in Austria, venturing further afield to the UK and Mediterranean after meeting his wife Emily. This is where the young couple decided to give ocean sailing a go. Following the discovery of ocean sailing, they soon began the search for the perfect yacht to sail around the world with their young children.

International salesman Stefan, and geologist Emily, spent a long time looking for the boat that fit their dreams and once Oyster Belle was found, they set out on a mission to get her ready for their adventure. A few years were spent getting to know Oyster Belle; living on board, cruising in the mediterranean with some longer passages to introduce their young children to the ocean.

Oyster Belle underwent a full refit before they ventured further afield – a fresh deck was installed, the engine had a full revamp and the couple also purchased a new sail inventory. Their first experience with North Sails was shortly after they bought Oyster Belle and discovered that they urgently needed a new Genoa. “The fit of our North Sails Genoa is exactly what we are looking for. The cut and shape is perfect for our boat.”

A year later, the couple decided to replace their mainsail, opting for an NPC Radian Mainsail with three reefing points to ensure that they were ready  for anything that the  Atlantic Crossing may throw at them. Speaking positively about their experience with the team of experts at North Sails UK, Stefan commented: “We had fantastic service, our mainsail was very bespoke. The shape, the way the sail behaves is beautiful – so good that we have since ordered a storm jib/staysail and an asymmetric spinnaker.” When Stefan decided to enter the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) he worked with Jeremy Smart to replace his old symmetric spinnaker with a furling asymmetric. They installed a small bowsprit per Jeremy’s recommendation. “It works beautifully, it drives the boat forward much better, it’s easy to handle, and we can use it at many different angles. It’s a joy to sail with.”

In January 2022, it was time for Stefan to pursue a lifelong goal to cross the Atlantic Ocean and the family decided to join the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers trip from Gran Canaria to St Lucia. Oyster Belle set sail on the ARC, heading for the Caribbean with a crew of two Austrians and two British sailors, one of whom was the person who introduced Stefan and his wife to ocean sailing who is now a good family friend. Stefan and Emily would have loved to take their kids on the journey, but with the older of the two in school the timing didn’t work out.

Oyster Belle dealt with the crossing perfectly. The crew reflected on the trip on their daily blog which mentioned weather extremes of gale force winds to no wind, torrential rain and tropical sunshine, stunning moon rises, spectacular sunsets, and a clear view of the Milky Way with an array of shooting stars on many occasions. And as if all that wasn’t enough excitement for one trip, the crew had a near collision with a whale and their onboard ‘masterchef’ treated them to deliciously prepared fresh Mahi Mahi. 

The weather they encountered during the crossing wasn’t exactly what they were expecting, Stefan recalled. “Something is changing in the global systems, they used to say to go south until the butter melts and then you turn right. That didn’t happen for us. The trade winds didn’t really set in.” Stefan explained that they had to go a long way south in search of some solid breeze. As a result, the crew on Oyster Belle didn’t have the usual expected downwind weather conditions which meant that their North G1 Furling Gennaker with Spinex system was a ‘godsend.’ The sail came into its own during the crossing, helping the crew a lot against the other boats that didn’t have asymmetric sails. 

Looking forward to future adventures, Stefan is working on a twin head sail solution with Jeremy and North Sails. The goal of this is to make crew work easier when it’s just Stefan and his family on board. 

Oyster Belle is now tucked up in Grenada awaiting the family’s arrival, where they plan to take advantage of the school holidays to cruise around the Caribbean. Longer term, the plan is to go further afield, potentially towards the Pacific. They hope to use their kids’ school holidays to hop around the world under sail.

North Sails is inspired by Stefan and Emily’s family cruising adventures and we wish them fair winds on their travels. To speak with Sail and Cruising Expert Jeremy Smart about your sail inventory, get in touch today.

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