Sailing in a pitch dark night

Date: Tuesday July 8th
Time: 03:45 PST

The weather and sea-state have completely changed. It’s now warm, overcast, winds are shifty and lighter and we’ve got the big kite and a stay sail up. We’re entering the running phase of Transpac. It’s unusually early: This is my sixth trans-Pacific crossing and it usually takes one to two days more to cross the ridge. With fully overcast skies, its pitch dark. My favorite part of offshore sailing is steering at night specially when there are no visual references. Can’t get enough of it.

Shark is back to being 100%. He’s grinding, trimming, steering, laughing at jokes and eating all the solid food that he can get his hands on. (He even ate some broccoli!). Now he is sleeping in his bunk.

We are surely crossing the ridge. The wind may be a little further right than we forecasted, so our competition may have made some gains on the shift. There is nothing that we can do about that. We’ll wait for the morning report. Now its about sailing fast through the pitch black night.

Wind-Spotting: After daybreak, sailing under cloud cover, Morgan looking over the horizon. The roll-call confirmed our strategy: Go South and sail more miles, it will pay off later, like a sound investment.

Hanging South, a fair and balanced report, 
in other words, real journalism!

This morning’s roll call report reflected what we forecasted: We are now 100 miles South of our competition, we’ve gone forward 12 degrees of bearing and sailed 342 nautical miles. They sailed 328. We were significantly faster sailing lower. And that could mean more wind for us as we predicted. However, because the competition is sailing directly to the mark, they’ve gained on distance to Honolulu. They are now 27 miles closer
as birds migrate along great circle courses. But the geometry of sailing is rarely Euclidian. The straight line is almost never the fastest way to get from point A to point B on a sailboat. However the position reports will show them ahead by 27 miles.

Clearly both boats are digging in their heels. They now have lots of leverage for a big right hand shift. Pegasus is counting on significantly better winds down South. They will be looking at wind direction, we’ll be focusing on wind speed. The tropical depression Dolores could now play a bit in our favor. Thanks for being there and being nice to us Dolores.

Today's Wind Scat image

 

2003 Transpacific Yacht Race Daily Standings 07/08/03 (PDT)
ID
Yacht
LAT
LON
DST 2GO

CORR TIME

STD CL

GS FL
AVE SOC
24H DOC

24H SOC

FIN TIME/ ETA
DIVISION 1:
1A
Pegasus 77
28-11
127.16
1711
186:13:03
2
6
11.9
338
14.1
14/07:13
1B
Pyewacket
29-46
128-05
1684
176:43:17
1
1
12.6
329
13.7
13/21:43
DIVISION 2:
2A
Alta Vita
28-06
125.16
1816
205:07:39
6
33
9.5
303
12.6
16/06:48
2B
Beau Geste
28-38
126-26
1758
180:42:23
1
2
10.9
314
13.1
15/01:59
2C
Bengal II
29-15
124-31
1863
229:59:20
8
51
8.4
251
10.5
17/13:08
2D
Grand Illusion
29-19
126-17
1772
182:00:28
2
3
10.5
299
12.4
15/08:05
2E
Hesal II
30-35
124-26
1879
239:21:06
9
53
8.1
237
9.9
18/01:09
2F
ICON
28-49
125-19
1818
212:38:26
7
43
9.5
294
12.3
16/08:02
2G
Medicine Man
29-26
126-23
1768
199:41:38
4
17
10.6
297
12.4
15/06:11
2H
Pendragon 4
29-10
125.10
1828
204:L30:07
5
32
9.2
275
11.4
16/14:14
2I
Renegade
31-31
120-41
2078
637:31:44
10
55
3.4
7
.3
2/13:52
2J
Vicki
29-46
126-20
1773
197:57:13
3
14
10.5
285
11.9
15/08:5

Monday, July 7th: 17:00 PST

The routine on-board is getting organized, the watches are changing smoothly and we’re sailing along in 16 knots of wind, shifted almost all the way to the North. We’re about to officially enter the ridge zone. That’s much closer to shore than two years ago at Transpac 2001 . You can tell on the latest surface analysis, that things are pretty unsettled in the North East Pacific Basin. First there is Tropical Depression Dolores coming from Baja. Then there is that low with the embedded fronts, going over the Pacific High system and potentially splitting it in two weaker highs.

Mike grinding the head-sail for Doogie, and Adam grinding the main-sail for Crusty. Boat-speed is about putting all the pieces together: Driving, sail-trim, sail plan and setup.

So we must be wizards to figure all this out… Well not quite. There is a lot of guessing involved.

In the early days of the Dot-Com boom, I remember meeting with a startup that was going to do the next killer IPO. The guys we’re supposed to be building the most accurate weather site anywhere, get the numbers up, go public and buy a home by Diamond Head. They had gotten commitments from major brand venture capital firms and just needed the blessing of a technologist. I got the call. They figured that I built a few successful technology companies like Borland and that I knew something about weather from sailing and flying airplanes. Fair enough, I visited these twenty something net-entrepreneurs, meeting with them in plush hip designer offices, South of Market. In the room everyone wore Armani, Prada, Brioni and probably Tortelini Bolognesi. Real Bulgari jewelry and watches, Cartier pens and Chanel Numero Cinq. The PowerPoint kicked in. Presenting “The Weather Net Channel, the most accurate forecast anywhere and everywhere”. So I had to ask: “How do you guys do it?” They said: “Well, we are applying for patents on the following forecasting
methodology: We spent half a million dollars in research that confirmed that if you know today’s weather and you forecast for tomorrow the exact same weather actually reported today, you’ll be more accurate than 90% of the media forecasts. Our method is to call up the weather talkers at every airport and to automatically forecast for tomorrow, today’s actual weather and repeat this process daily. We’re applying for patent protection.”They were dead serious. I couldn’t stop laughing. They are now probably retail clerks at Nieman-Marcus.

Weather is hard and there is a good reason why the Ancient Greeks had Aeol, Poseidon, Zeus and other Gods make the weather a bi-product of their capricious tempers. That’s almost as good of an explanation as any.

Monday, July 7th: 15:00

We’re sailing along nicely. Good news: That tropical storm has weakened and has now been downgraded to tropical depression. We’ll still watch Dolores.

It’s nice to know that we can safely stay South. The team is a bit ambivalent about this Skipper’s log because I kind of spill the beans. I guess that if we see that Pyewacket has put up a kite and dived South to meet us, we won’t be surprised. Will they chose to stay the course or try to use their height and cross ahead of us. Could they? From the wind scat pictures, the South route looks the best. Things change quickly and forecasting the weather is more of an art than a science. So the artist in chief is Rudi. And he’s a great artist in chief. The thing is, nothing is for sure and it will take a couple of days for all of this to play out.

Today's wind scat image

Shark clipped in, drinking lots of water, "Mom, I'm 13 now, I'm doing great... I even had a couple of Cup-o-Noodles!". Hanging tough while Doogie is trimming the head-sail, Crusty the main and I'm trying to keep the Pegasus going better than windspeed. Good sailing.

It takes a head-sail trimmer (Doogie), a Main-sail trimmer (Crusty), a driver (Philippe) and two grinders to get the performance out of the beautiful Pegasus 77.

Click more to see press coverage from today

Continue reading

Monday July 7th, 09:00 PST

Rudi calling-in our 08:00 position to race headquarters. We like our positioning South, time will tell.

Roll call is every morning at 08:00 PST. Every racing yacht reports, and every crew member is waiting to know what happened through the night.

That’s because during the night, anything can happen. This morning at roll call, Pyewacket is ahead of us in distance to Hawaii. We are 25 Nautical Miles South of them and have gained about 30 degrees of bearing on them. Pegasus actually also sailed about 5 miles more distance. What does this all mean?

First, on all the race reports Pyewacket will be shown leading in distance to Honolulu. And that is what most people will see. Read on, because there is more to this. The shortest distance between two points in sailing geometry is almost never the straight line. Yes, once again we all know that both boats are going to get lifted as the winds clock around the high. And in a lift, its nice to be the inside boat, which is what Pyewacket is doing. However, our weather analysis on Pegasus tells us to expect more wind along a more Southerly route. Our calculations show us that if our wind forecasts are correct, its well worth sailing extra distance to get South. So, Pyewacket is betting on shift, Pegasus is counting on more pressure. We each have our leverage and given a choice Pegasus wouldn’t trade places with Pyewacket. The next 24 hours are going to be critical: Will the Pyewacket head South in our direction? Will we eventually cross paths? The answers will come tomorrow, Tuesday at 09:00 PST.

2003 Transpacific Yacht Race Daily Standings 07/07/03 (PDT)
ID
Yacht
LAT
LON
DST 2GO

CORR TIME

STD CL

GS FL
AVE SOC
24H DOC

24H SOC

FIN TIME/ ETA
DIVISION 1:
1A
Pegasus 77
31-08
121-45
2020
206:23:58
2
29
10.8
232
12.23
15/03:23
1B
Pyewacket
31-27
122-01
2009
196:09:31
1
7
11.3
230
12.1
14/17:09
 DIVISION 2:
2A
Alta Vita
31-27
120-54
2066
237:13:31
5
49
8.4
188
9.9
17/14:54
2B
Beau Geste
31-28
121-21
2043
208:27:55
2
31
9.6
203
10.7
16/05:45
2C
Bengal II
31-18
120-17
2096
293:48:03
9
54
6.8
175
9.2
20/04:57
2D
Grand Illusion
32-06
121-29
2043
202:38:23
1
21
9.6
186
9.8
16/04:43
2E
Hesal II
32-36
120-27
2099
299:06:06
10
55
6.6
125
6.6
20/12:54
2F
ICON
31-46
120-47
2075
258:46:57
6
51
7.9
170
8.9
18/06:11
2G
Medicine Man
32-09
121-34
2039
217:38:39
3
41
9.8
188
9.9
16/00:08
2H
Pendragon 4
31-17
120-28
2087
268:49:31
8
53
7.3
181
9.5
19/06:03
2I
Renegade
31-37
120-44
2076
263:33:19
7
52
7.8
175
9.2
18/08:28
2J
Vicki
31-40
121-16
2049
226:48:33
4
46
9.2
192
10.1
16/1

When everything bounces, so do stomachs

Wet and Cold at daybreak. Happy boat catching first 20+ knot rides early in the race

Date: Monday, July 7th
Time: 05:05 PST
Boat Speed: 16knots
Course: 220 degrees
Wind Speed: 24 knots

It’s fast and crisp sailing, although wet and cold. The wind is down 5
knots. Our first quarter moon has set and the sun is about to rise. When it bounces hard like this right into an offshore race, lots of lunches and dinners come right back out over the side of the boat.

The logistics of it all are complicated by the fact that with fairly rough conditions, everyone is wearing harnesses and tethered to the jack lines on deck at night. So, you got to run, clip-in, and go do your business, all of this while waves are washing over the deck. There are several styles. You have the types like Doogie, who while cleaning up the second reef, straddling the boom and suddenly bounce down on deck, run to the back of the boat, do their business, run back to the mast, hop back on the boom, in less than a minute. Then there is the “I’ve got a bucket permanently attached to me and I am not moving an inch from where I am” types. And of course being down bellow while we’re cooking food doesn’t really help… It kind of sets everything on a fast track: Last in, first out!

Shark is now 13 and its his 3rd trans-Pacific crossing. He’s worked on the boat since he’s out of school, did a great job on the windy Coastal Cup, and is now safely down bellow
holding on to a bucket (Its OK Mom, its part of the rite of passage and he won’t remember that it ever happened in a couple of days). The tropical depression that is headed for our projected path has now officially been upgraded to “tropical Storm” and they gave her a beautiful name: Dolores. She apparently carries gusts over 45 kts and picking up strength. We’ll stay away from that one. Here is the latest weather map:

 

Wet, windy, cold and a bit wild

Date: Monday, July 7th
Time: 00:05 PST
Boat Speed: 14.1 knots
Course: 220 degrees
Wind Speed: 29 knots

The transition to the strong offshore winds came abruptly. Both boats are now on starboard tack and we’re going into the wind in a big seaway. We are carrying two reefs and waves are breaking over the boat. It’s cold, wet and windy and it will stay that way most of the night from what the satellite pictures show. For a couple of days we’re going to earn our days sailing downwind by getting tossed and banged around.

The Pyewacket team lost the start, Robbie Haines was driving the Pyewacket, while I was helming the Pegasus. When I handed the helm to Morgan, a good hour in the race we became over confident and stretched too much to windward, letting them foot to leeward and gain lots of gage to the right. Then a massive 40 degree shift happened and we fell into a wind hole. I am glad that we are learning our lessons early in this race. In some ways, this is a very similar situation as Coastal Cup. Now we have to catch them. Deja vu…All over again!

Sunday, July 6th: The Start!

We won the start and 45 minutes into the race I handed the helm to Morgan who did a great job at extending our lead... Maybe too much of a great job as when the wind shifted right and we fell into a light spot things changed a bit.

We started in a Catalina eddy. That means that a local low pressure is stationed around the Santa Catalina Island and that the winds turn counter-clockwise in the LA basin. So the start was in a Southerly wind that would gradually shift right. We started in 4 knots of wind. We started to leeward of Pyewacket. We crossed the line bow to bow. Pyewacket tried to roll us, but we held our lane and pinched them off. Pyewacket then footed to leeward.

We clearly won the start.

However, the wind was so up and down that we fell into a wind-hole and parked the boat enough, that Pyewacket got their bow out from our bad air. They continued footing and kept on getting a huge right shift. The boat to the right with a big right hand shift makes the gains and they did.

2 hours into the race, Pyewacket is ahead of us, 20 boat lengths forward, leading to the Catalina Islands. We won the start but tactically let them get to our right. Now we’re paying the price. We’re about 1.5 minutes behind them. We now need to work on caching up. It’s a yacht race!

Pyewacket did a very good job at translating a losing start into a 20 boat length lead after we fell into a wind-hole. Its a yacht race!

 

Click more for press coverage from today Continue reading

Sunday, July 6th

Crusty (Mark Christensen) has done a great job during the last 6 months managing the Transpac efforts, among other projects. We must remember that the logistics in successfully campaigning a state-of-the-art 77 feet offshore racer are extremely complex. But then we can’t lose sight of racing. With Pegasus Racing, we race all the time. We race small one-design boats like Finns, Star, 29ers, 49ers or Melges 24s, because with a minimum of logistics you get to really race competitively with the best in the world. Then, its a matter of applying those skills to the big boat.

So the morning of the start here is what the logistics look like:

08:30am – Meet at the reception, to hand over bags to be shipped by container to Honolulu
10:00am – Meet at boat
10.30am – Leave dock
12:00pm – Start sailing and tuning up

We decided that the starting positions would be as follows

Helm: Philippe
Tactics: Morgan
Runner: Madro
Mainsheet: Adam
Main Caddy: Shark
Trimmer: Mike
Trimmer: Stevie
Floater: Mikey
Pit: Zan
Mast: Richard
Mid-bow: Doogie
Bow: Juggy

Rudi is free to do whatever is necessary.

First alternate helm is: Morgan
First alternate main is: Stevie

Sunday, July 6th

Crusty (Mark Christensen) has done a great job during the last 6 months managing the Transpac efforts, among other projects. We must remember that the logistics in successfully campaigning a state-of-the-art 77 feet offshore racer are extremely complex. But then we can’t lose sight of racing. With Pegasus Racing, we race all the time. We race small one-design boats like Finns, Star, 29ers, 49ers or Melges 24s, because with a minimum of logistics you get to really race competitively with the best in the world. Then, its a matter of applying those skills to the big boat.

So the morning of the start here is what the logistics look like:

08:30am – Meet at the reception, to hand over bags to be shipped by container to Honolulu
10:00am – Meet at boat
10.30am – Leave dock
12:00pm – Start sailing and tuning up

We decided that the starting positions would be as follows

Helm: Philippe
Tactics: Morgan
Runner: Madro
Mainsheet: Adam
Main Caddy: Shark
Trimmer: Mike
Trimmer: Stevie
Floater: Mikey
Pit: Zan
Mast: Richard
Mid-bow: Doogie
Bow: Juggy

Rudi is free to do whatever is necessary.

First alternate helm is: Morgan
First alternate main is: Stevie