Tactical changes

Date 07/06/01
Lat 28 53 North
Lon 141 35 West
Course over ground: 264 Degrees
Speed over ground: 16 knots
Wind speed: 22 knots
Wind direction: 051 degrees

Sailing in the trades from the top of the mast

Sailing in the trades from the top of the mast

This morning when we all reported our positions Team Pegasus was silently waiting for the news: Was our gambit paying off?

The news was mixed: In some ways we gained ground, but not enough to allow Pyewacket and Chance to build so much leverage to the right of the race course. It was obvious that they got good pressure, more pressure than any of the weather forecasts showed. And we know that one thing is certain as we sail to Honolulu: the wind always shifts right. Geometrically, all other things being equal, whichever boat has control of the right of the race course has a significant advantage.

One of the cool things about having Shark on-board is that he keeps on asking: “When are we going to be ahead? What can we do to pass Pyewacket?” All excellent questions!

Now was the time to make our move. With the new, twice a day mandatory position reports we have a pretty good idea as to where our competitors are and how to get to them.

After a few hours of intense sailing, Morgan from the top of the mast sighted Pyewacket. On-board Pegasus, the intensity redoubled. We pumped every wave and rotated helmsmen every 45 minutes or as appropriate. Shark got us water and food and soon all got psyched because Pyewacket “was getting bigger”.

1000 miles from shore, Pyewacket so close to us!

1000 miles from shore, Pyewacket so close to us!

At 3 PM, we had Pyewacket on our beam. Amazing, right in the middle of the Pacific after 5 days of racing both boats could have a water balloon fight! Clearly side by side we push each other hard and we are both in the hunt for Chance. They are leading the race halfway down the race course. Boat racing doesn’t get better than this. What we clearly have here is evenly matched boats with great crews on a very challenging race course battling each other for 8 to 9 days, around the clock.

At 5 PM we caught up with Chance. Now Pegasus, Chance and Pyewacket are within ½ mile from each other.

Squalls in the North Eastern Pacific form as a result of evaporation of the warmer Ocean water. They look like black threatening clouds that overtake you with lots of wind ahead of them, rain and wind underneath them, dead calm behind them.

That is how we all lost track of Chance. Pegasus and Pyewacket both jibed to avoid the squall’s updrafts and Chance kept on going. Only the morning position reports will tell us their position.

An epic night of sailing.

With Pegasus and Pyewacket in sight of each other and squalls building all around as the full moon was rising, a jibing duel started with a first cross within 5 boat lengths of each other, Pegasus on port, clear ahead. We exchanged five jibes within the next 2 hours to find ourselves going down the track at over 15 knots in 22 knots of wind. Nothing that any weather forecast anywhere ever showed.

Absolutely epic trade wind sailing under a full moon!

Carbon and Satellite communications don’t mix!

A lesson in patience and composure

Date 07/05/01
Lat 26 27 North
Lon 135 49 West
Course over ground: 256 Degrees
Speed over ground: 12 knots
Wind speed: 15.5 knots
Wind direction: 040 degrees

Rudi expertly navigating

Rudi expertly navigating

A lesson in patience and composure: It’s hard to win every position report!

At this morning’s position reports Chance and Pyewacket were ahead on distance to Hawaii! During the night they were able to cover more distance directly to Honolulu than Pegasus. This showed in the standings. However there is much more to it. Read-on.

For centuries navigators have known about the Pacific Ocean trade winds. The seas become livelier, the sky cover is made of a patchwork of puffy clouds and the wave patterns are well formed and predictable. At about day break today it became clear that we were getting over the South East ridge of this dissipating high pressure zone and entering the real of the trade winds. Things just started to feel different. What this meant on the race course is that as we approached the zone of “fluky” weather characterized by lighter winds that make up the ridge, the boats to the North of us, Chance and Pyewacket continued to get more wind than we did and in the morning’s position reports they’re ahead of us. (That is what we speculate on Pegasus). In “pure distance to Hawaii” both Chance and Pyewacket are now ahead of us by a few Miles. However, strategically we are where we wanted to be: Pegasus is in the South position. Our strategic bet: The winds should now start to fill consistently for us before them and with the expected 20+ degree right wind shift that we expect we end-up in a controlling position. If we are right about “the future”, then this should be reflected in the position reports in the next 48 hours. In other words, given what we on Pegasus know about the weather patterns ahead of us, we would not exchange our position on the Ocean with any of our competitor’s. We like where we are. This is now a patience game, our dice are cast. What we just did is for sailing what a gambit is to chess: Apparently sacrificing the short term for the long term. However if it is not apparent in 24 hours that this is a winning strategy, we’ll cut our losses and get back in touch with our two worthy competitors.

We are now entering the second phase of our Transpac. The first phase of the race was the departure from Los Angeles and our picking a good spot to cross the ridge. Now we get to start sailing downwind. Then the next strategic move will be to decide when to jibe and head for Honolulu. However that decision is another day or two off.

Shark stood a full watch last night. He came on watch at 3 am and got off watch at 8am to get some sleep. We crossed a whale and missed each other by a few feet. That was an exciting encounter.

Tactics that worked and strange weather

Date 07/04/01
Lat 28 06 North
Lon 130 49 West
Course over ground: 216 Degrees
Speed over ground: 11.5 knots
Wind speed: 14 knots
Wind direction: 008 degrees

Spartan galley, three camping burners, no microwave or fridge, all frozen and dried food

Spartan galley, three camping burners, no microwave or fridge, all frozen and dried food

For most of the night the wind was oscillating between 345 and 015 degrees magnetic, with header puffs gusting to 20 knots and lulls down to 10 knots in the lifts. This was strange weather with a cold drizzle that made the night cold.

The challenge for us was to average a heading of 220 degrees. That number was important because yesterday night Chance was still in sight on our right, but Pyewacket was building leverage to the South. And Pyewacket was our greatest worry because we don’t think that there is much leverage to the North (lets hope that we are right!) Therefore at 22:00 PST we decided to set a spinnaker, sail low, and attempt to take away most of Pyewacket’s leverage. We picked our “juicer” our unique super high-tech carbon fiber asymmetrical spinnaker. Team Pegasus sailed hard through the night. After daybreak when we heard the position reports the whole boat cheered. We had essentially doubled our lead on both competitors but most importantly we had removed most of Pyewacket’s leverage.

On-board Pegasus, when we sail fast, even in a pitch dark night we sail mostly by feel, and use instruments mostly as a reference. We have 6 digital displays on our mast for the helmsman and the trimmer’s reference. They are from top to bottom: Boat speed, Apparent wind angle, True wind angle, True wind speed, True wind direction and Magnetic heading.

 

Pegasus-Racing-Transpac-2001-MastDigitalDisplaysandspinnakerpoleartwork

Mast Digital Displays and spinnaker pole artwork

Celebrations onboard Pegasus are frugal. Our galley is minimalist and we don’t carry any of the modern amenities such as microwave oven, refrigeration or any standard stove with a built-in oven. We leave those to cruisers, it’s just too heavy. We have three camping burners to heat water, a pressure cooker and pack 7 days of frozen food with two extra days of freeze dried food. For silverware, we only carry 8 sets as watches alternate and don’t get fed at the same time. The team picked 8 solid dog bowls (they are almost impossible to break and come with non-skid bottoms) and 8 toddler forks (Power Puff Girls and Scooby Doo because they are very light and durable without too many sharp edges). In order to celebrate our good tactical move, this morning Morgan hand-squeezed a large glass of orange juice for each one of us. Delicious! (Alcohol, cigarettes or any form of drugs are not allowed on-board Pegasus) Shark gulped his big cup of OJ, asked for another one and said: “I need the strength for all this grinding that you guys make me do!” Shark is 200% back!

At about that moment, looking off the leeward side we saw a whole school of flying fish. They were fleeing Pegasus as if it was a giant predator. Some of them even changed direction in flight, something that I hadn’t notice before. Are they “evolving”? And then eight hundred nautical miles from the closest point of land, in the middle of nowhere a Dodo bird appeared, circled for about 10 minutes and then disappeared. Strange weather today. I think that Zan called it “fluky”.

Only frugal celebrations are in order for Team Pegasus because although we are very well positioned, we are only one third down the race track with many challenges ahead of us and now we need to figure out what tactics our worthy competitors are going to be using. More chess playing on the great Pacific Ocean!

So where do we want to sail tomorrow?

Shark in foul weather gear, harnessed, clipped and ready for night #3

Shark in foul weather gear, harnessed, clipped and ready for night #3

Since yesterday, Pegasus gained slightly on the our three competitors: Pyewacket, Chance and Merlin.

Pegasus continues to lead our class in the standings. However, we are all in close proximity to one another and any of the boats could end-up winning this race. It’s of course nice to be in the lead, but this is a marathon, not a sprint.

Chance is the closest boat to the North East and Pyewacket dropped several nautical miles and is now to the South East. They lost in distance but gained leverage and that is a point of concern and lively discussions here on-board Pegasus tonight: Do we cover them and let Chance go?

It feels and looks (on the satellite charts) like we are approaching the ridge axis. The ridge is the place where the winds lighten up and shift significantly to the right. That’s where we’ll get into the North Easterly trades. Where each boat crosses the ridge determines the individual approach to Hawaii and is in many ways the most important strategic decision in the race.

But now its time to think about sailing fast through the night. There is a thick cloud cover and it is drizzling. We think that it may rain. Shark can stay up on deck one hour after sunset tonight. He’s got his foul weather gear on and his harness is clipped to the jack lines. Today he kept all his food and he says that he is 98% over his initial queasiness. He’s been the referee for the helmsmen competitions. My record was short lived. It was broken many times and tonight Zan has a new one with a 20.7 knots on the face of a big waves.

Fast, windy, cold and wet night #2

Fast, Windy, Cold and Wet Night #2

Fast, Windy, Cold and Wet Night #2

Date 07/03/01
Lat 30 05 North
Lon 125 14 West
Course over ground: 240 Degrees
Speed over ground: 14 knots
Wind speed: 17 knots
Wind direction: 350 degrees

A beautiful night of sailing, but a wet, windy and cold one. Just what night #2 of Transpac is supposed to be: Full foul weather gear and breeze on! When the sun came down Shark committed to stay down below. The concern is of course that if one of us went overboard in the kind of weather that we had last night it could be a challenge to find them fast enough: Being knocked overboard by a rogue wave at night can be a life-threatening experience. For Shark, my 11 year old son, we solved the problem by keeping him inside, down below. Probably not what Shark wanted to do, but the safe thing to do. Tough regime because its easy to get sea sick down below, but all that could happen was that his dinner came back from where it came from. And it did (To Shark’s Mom: Don’t worry, he’s doing great!) Most of the night was spent with winds averaging 18 gusting to 25 with 8 to 10 feet quartering rollers. We sailed through the night on a close reach with jib top and staysail. The speed contests between helmsmen started at about midnight. Jeff and Zan were tied at 17.1 knots for a while then Morgan smashed their record as the breeze came up with an 18.7 knots. Now that was a challenge! Just before daybreak, in a 25 knot puff, I’m proud to report that I was lucky to top this with 18.8 knots on the front of a wave and take the prize for the night: Hot chocolate, which I traded for hot miso soup! Those speeds were just a taste of what is hopefully coming. The new Pegasus is fast and if the wind cooperates we’ll be seeing mid-twenties surfs riding the legendary Hawaiian waves. Last night was illuminated by a beautiful full moon, which made the breaking waves sparkle like rhinestones. To the South a very bright planet Mars was hanging in the sky like an ornament off a Christmas tree. It ‘s apparently the closest that Mars has been to our blue planet for a long time. Spectacular!

Decisions, Decisions

After this morning’s position report we knew that we had increased our lead a little bit through the night. We probably sailed harder and tougher than our competition. But our lead is so narrow that we really need to think that we’re behind and act as such. The changing weather patterns are key to our success and deciding what route to follow is key. Weather this year over the Northern Pacific is quite unusual and even unpredictable. .”Rudi” (Mark Rudiger) our rock star navigator has been analyzing every single piece of information that he can get ahold of. There are two factors that greatly influece our strategy: weather and what our competition is doing. And this of course leads to spirited debates among all of us. We made a decision, but I can’t quite share it with you now as the competition may be watching this website. We’ll know more after this evening’s position report.

First Night at Sea

Date 07/02/01
Lat 32 30 North
Lon 120 26 West
Course over ground: 230 Degrees
Speed over ground: 11 knots
Wind Speed: 12 knots

First night at sea and the race starts again!

Pegasus-Racing-Transpac-2001-02-_Curtis_and_Sharknightfall

Curtis and Shark at Nightfall

As the sun came down we headed almost straight for Honolulu on a course of 220 degrees magnetic. The wind was where we expected to be we were happy to have a little lead over our competition. We started our watc

h system at 19:00 PST, basically two watches with 5 hours on and 5 hours off. Shark’s watch ended at Midnight and he was ready to get a nap. It had been a long day. The night was cool but the wind seemed steady. And then at the edge of a cloud layer we basically fell into a wind hole and the little wind that there was veered left 80 degrees. Now the distant lights of our competitors weren’t so distant anymore and if things continued, they could end-up ahead of us.

Upwind Monday Morning

Upwind Monday Morning

 

In fact the three of us within an hour got compressed in such a small area that we thought for a moment that we could have made use of fenders to avoid damage to the boats. Essentially Mother Nature just restarted the race between the three giant supersleds.

For 3 hours it was a tireless regime of changes to and from drifters, code zero reachers until we started to lift off both Chance and Pyewacket and reestablish a lead. The wind then started to come up. Big swells rocked the boat: We finally were in open ocean sailing conditions, away from the Catalina Eddy.

The morning roll call confirmed that our approach had been the right one and as I type this we are sailing a direct rhumb line course to Honolulu. Our breakfast burritos tasted delicious and Adam “The best 49er sailor in the world” Beashel would like to wish “Happy Birthday” to his Mom.
So Happy Birthday!

Pegasus-Racing-Transpac-2001-02_Adam_says_Happy_Birthday_Mom

Adam says Happy Birthday Mom!

The start, part II

Pegasus-Racing-Transpac-2001-Pegasus-CrewDate 07/01/01
Lat 33 31 North
Lon 118 45 West
Course over ground: 185 Degrees
Speed over ground: 4.75 knots
Wind Speed: 5 knots

The starting line and around Catalina Island:

The prevailing wind regime offshore, away from the land, will be North Westerly winds at about 300 degrees magnetic. However around the LA Basin there is a local effect that makes wind conditions much lighter and forces the wind direction left. That effect is called the “Catalina Eddy” due to the influence of the Santa Catalina Island. July 1st was a major “Catalina Eddy” day: Winds were light around 4 knots and the pin end of the line was favored by al least 30 degrees. Because the wind was expected to shift right, our plan was to be the right hand boat and be on port at the start if we could. When the starting gun fired most of the fleet was on starboard all bunched up around the favored side of the line. Only Taxi Dancer, Chance and us got on port tack. We had a better start than Chance and Taxi Dancer and got the position that we wanted. 10 minutes into the race we were 5 boat lengths ahead of Chance while all the starboard fleet got themselves into a pinch by being caught into traffic and having a hard time laying the starting line. Its fair to say that we won the start. Not for long! Suddenly it got very light. Although Pegasus and Chance are almost sisterships, because of optimization choices that we both made, both boats perform differently in different wind conditions. Because of their larger mainsail (more power in light air) and smaller keel (with less drag), it became rapidly clear that Chance has an edge over Pegasus in very light conditions.

After 30 minutes, the narrow lead that we established at the start evaporated and Chance got ahead of us. The rest of the fleet was behind both of us. After 45 minutes it was Chance, Pegasus followed by Pyewacket, all three on port tack. On Pegasus we’re a bit frustrated: We know that we’re fast in heavy air, but we didn’t realize that Pegasus would be slower than Chance in very light air. When the breeze started filling we started to gain both height and speed on Chance. It was time to tack as the wind had just clocked right to 280 degrees. It seemed that we could almost lay the Western tip of Catalina. We tacked, both Chance and Pyewacket followed. But now with a freshening breeze Pegasus was sailing higher and faster. Two hours into the race we were back solidly in the lead and rounded Catalina first. We met our goal. But again its a long race, and anything can happen during the night.

The Start, part I

Pegasus-Racing-Transpac-2001-Father-and-sonOur Starting line is just off San Pedro in the port district of Los Angeles. Then we must leave the Santa Catalina to port (left side). After that, its free-style to Honolulu, we get to pick our course. Of course the shortest distance to Honolulu is a great circle. And every year a couple of boats attempt that route. You end-up sailing less miles. However 90% of the time that direct route will take you right into the heart of the Pacific High, the center of the local anti-cyclonic zone that is totally becalmed. And that is very bad news on a sailboat. I can safely say that it is very likely that we at Pegasus 77 will end-up going enough South to find better trade winds. But before we depart, I can’t talk about our strategy as our worthy competitors could get wind of it. Speaking of worthy competitors, this is going to be a very competitive race with Merlin, Chance, Pyewacket all having a good shot at the barn door trophy.

Samuel “Shark” Kahn my 11 year old son didn’t sleep much last night. Adrenaline is pumping. It’s his first offshore race and I think that he is the youngest by quite a bit in this fleet. Shark will stand a full watch and carry his own weight across the Pacific. This is a big international competitive event for a developing young man.
Yes, I’m a proud Dad today!

Saturday June 30th: Weather update

Transpac-2011-Weather-StartWe have a 1024mb high pressure near 32n/131w this morning, Saturday the 30th, with the high weakening some during the next 24 hours as we prepare for our race. We, of course would very much like to have a strong, well formed high for a fast race.

For the start of the race, tomorrow, we expect an onshore flow, WSW winds to be around 10-12 kts and we should have some low clouds and patchy fog in the morning, but marine layer likely thin enough for clearing along the shore around 11am.

We should maintain good NW to NNW wind flow on Monday to the west of 130w.

Forecasting precisely passed 3 days is challenging. That is one of the challenges of Transpac: Being good enough meteorologists and strategists to take full advantage of changing weather patterns. We will be on the ocean for more than 7 full days of racing and much will change in the Eastern Pacific meteorology.

A broken head and new wind!

When offshore for 7 to 9 days, the galley (kitchen) and the head (toilet) together with a dry and warm berth (bed) are about the most important things in your life. We lost one this morning: We broke our head. So basically we all go and do our business over the side of the boat, which when Pegasus is heeled 35 degrees while reaching and doing 12.5 knots of boat speed is “interesting”, However, it is much more hygienic. I asked Morgan, our rock star Olympic and America’s Cup sailor, to give our International web audience a quick demo of our sophisticated high tech outdoor head. Check it out. Notice how Morgan is hiking outside and using a harness to “hang on”. Note the toilet paper roll on the lower lifeline… All rights reserved, patents pending!

Morgan Demoes the New Head

Morgan Demoes the New Head

Speaking of new wind, this afternoon the wind clocked a little more and freshened a bit. Its cool with 6 to 8 ft rollers. A family of Dolphins escorted us for about an hour and we saw the first flying fish. We see it as a good luck omen. We’re now speed-sailing on the great Pacific Ocean, slightly ahead of the competition. Its going to be a cold, wet night and the competition is after us.