As I hopped on deck at Twilight, there was brand new sliver of moon to the West together with Venus on one side and Jupiter opposite. Spectacular and a great opportunity to take one of the 4 mandatory sights. I’ll catch a quick snooze while Richard watches over everything. In a few hours, it will be his turn to sleep.
This boat is wet, wild and fast. She comes alive in 18 knots or more and then flies. But she’s really wet. Very wet. Check out the pictures. When it looks wet in the pictures, you know that it was wet! As the sun comes down, the wind pulled back from low twenties to low teens. It’s probably the diurnal effect. We are still sailing with our three sail combination: big roached main, big genoa and genoa staysail. If the wind stays light after sunset, we will put a reaching kite on a spinnaker staysail and sail a little lower. The weather pattern is getting more complex. The South looks trickier and trickier, but we’re committed. No risk, no reward!
So it’s time to switch to the warm gear for the night and get ready for wet, cold and dark. It will be a no moon dark night. However all the stars should be out and that will be spectacular! We’ll take celestial shots at Jupiter, Altair and Polaris. Now I must find them in the sky.
This morning we know that we paid a high price to get South. In fact the position reports seem to show that we are to the left of most of the fleet. To get there, we’ve lost a considerable amount of distance. Now we must make it up by sailing fast. The conditions are perfect, 18 knots of wind from 280 deg mag. We expect the wind to continue building to the mid twenties during the day.
We are not racing the fleet. We are chasing the double handed record.
So why is that different? Aren’t we trying to get to Honolulu as fast as we can anyway? Yes and no. When we compete with others, we are trying to maximize our chances to win. And, in doing so, we generally make conservative decisions that are not conducive to establishing records. To us, this means that if we were racing the fleet, we’d probably not be the furthest left boat: we’d be right in the middle of the pack. To establish a new record Richard and I need to go all out. We need to start collecting those 250 mile days or we’ll be so far behind that we won’t be able to make it up. And we can only rely on Richard and I, just the two of us on the mighty Pegasus. We’ve got wings!
This morning during position reports Richard took the helm and I caught him rocking to his Oakley Thumps in this picture. I hope they are waterproof! That’s a cool MP3 player and a great pair of glasses. We’ve got both iPods in watertight cases. We each get a personal soundtrack for a great adventure.
4 am, pitch black the wind built to 14 knots and then died, and then built again. Double handed is great fun. Richard is sleeping tight, and I get to play with everything on the boat. When the wind dies, boards up induces leeward heel with the keel, trim, run to the bow to see if everything is fine. Then rush down to the navigation station to check for weather. Wow, that’s busy and fun. Very empowering. That’s a life worth living. So when people ask me why I’m doing this, the answer is *because it’s cool*. This is a great adventure. A busy one. An exercise in partnership. A personal Everest.
The race-start was very confusing in light winds. Lots of boats with a full Catalina Eddy going. We started in 7 knots coming from 140 deg with the line set square to the course to Hawaii which is 247, the port side of the line was so favored that the whole fleet pretty much started on port. We were the only double-handed boat starting with 20+ fully crewed racing machines. We decided to start safely late on port to leeward. Transpac is a long Ocean race, risking a collision at the start is silly. We had the start that we wanted on port to leeward of everyone. The wind quickly headed. There was a light and variable transition period to a lazy sea breeze. The wind reached 14 knots at Catalina then died. as we passed the Island. There were boats on all boards point in every direction with 5 miles of each other. Most boats seem to have opted for a northerly route, tacked several times. The wind is picking up a bit. Let’s see when we get to the strong North Westerlies. For now all is quiet as the night settles in.
So at Catalina we had a decision to make. I spent an hour crunching weather information, Richard and I debated. We saw most of the fleet go North. We decided to go South. So now we are sailing a heading of 210 degrees. It will take a few days to figure out who got it right. For now, we think that we got it right, by going left of the pack.
That’s all that we can be sure of this morning: Go West! Most models point to the North, with some uncertainty: Two days upwind in 20 to 30 knots and big seas, then a nice run to Honolulu. Forecasters and models agree with first waypoints around: Latitude 31.30 N and longitude 125.00W. The good news is that the tropical depressions look like not being a factor. However down to the South, just behind them there could be much less wind. That makes a Southerly routing tricky.
As we cast off the dock, we’d like to give a big thank you to our team: 90 days ago we didn’t own an Open 50! Team you made miracles happen: This is a super complex system that involved articulating bow-sprits, hydraulics with canting keels, two shaped dagger boards, two rudders and all the systems to monitor them. With the pressure and the excitement, there sometimes were harsh words. You were unwavering. Now we get to race the fantastic package that you all put together. See you in Honolulu!
Last minute preparations. With how busy we’ve been at Fullpower, a lot of things are pushed to the last moments. We were laughing that all the other race boats were all tidied up and everyone was tucked in bed while we are burning the midnight oil. Our watch system started 24 hours ago!
In the mean time our two depressions are developing nicely. The consensus among navigators (if they aren’t bluffing) is that the Northerly route is the better route and that the South has both too many miles and a lot of uncertainty with those two tropical storms.
Now it’s a bit of a game of chicken: There are two tropical depressions active in the eastern Pacific (See the chart). Both of these systems are forecast to strengthen into Tropical Storms in the next 24 hours. The first one, TD5 will likely weaken after 28 hours, while the second one, TD6 is likely to continue strengthening to a moderate or strong Tropical Storm while moving slightly north of due west. So now, does anyone have the guts to go South and “catch a little lift from the big ones”? This is going to be one interesting race!
Choices, choices: Looking at the chart today, the great circle route crosses both a high and a low… And anything in between. That’s when you think about the deer crossing the road: When you drive, you aim at “where the dear came from”. That of course works unless the deer is caught in the headlights. That’s a pretty good analogy.
Either those weather features will move fast or they will be stationary. If they move fast, you aim at them and you avoid them. If they are stationary, it would be better to get out of their way! That’s mainly true for the highs. The lows on the other hand bring some nice wind.
Yes, this could be the year of the rhumb line. It could be the year of the Northern route and it could be the year of the deep Southerly route, sailing 500 extra miles. And maybe there is a way to make them all work.
Later in the evening we’ll have a team dinner with the families, and then the last preparations. More later.
All is good with the Pegasus. Except for the electronics. In the last couple of days we found challenges in interfacing our computers to the real-time sensor network that gives us wind, speed and position information. So I’ve been a bit hand’s on trying to fix this one and let Richard focus on the preparation of the boat above decks. My goal is to get things working below deck.
Yesterday morning finally decided to rip out all the computer systems in the boat and replace them with two laptops. By Midnight, we were happy every thing worked again and was stable. I spent the rest of the night working on the system. With a a few early morning business commitments I decided to start practicing sleep depravation < smile> . I’ll have to take the night watches now…
The weather pattern is still unsettled. Either slightly North of the Great Circle (the shortest distance between two points on a sphere) or very South sailing a lot of extra miles to find some more wind. That would be a lot of extra miles to sail. The open Ocean is usually windier than what the computer models forecast. So how much more wind can you get by going South? Is that enough to sail 350 to 500 extra miles?