We did it. We shattered the double handed record from San Francisco by over one day and a half. We also were the fastest boat to Hawaii out of all the Pacific Cup boats. That in itself is a remarkable achievement: Two in a fifty footer took on and prevailed over fully crewed racing yachts from sizes 52 to 79 feet boat for boat.
Lady-Luck smiled upon us. Rudi, wherever you are, Sail Fast!
Sailing the Tradewinds
Roll call is the only time that we get to find out how the fleet is positioned each morning. We check in with the fleet’s relative positions and their performance. This morning we are pleased. Our tactics, strategy and hard work seem to have netted a good report: The closest fully crewed race boat is about 45 miles behind us on a similar line. Riding those squalls and a good geographic right hand shift has been of great help. There is a lot of racing left. However I am pleased to report that we are inside the course record. That’s very exciting for us.
I have been asked what gear we are using for telecommunications and navigation as well as making the blog and taking pictures for the blog.
Iridium satellite phone and Inmarsat mini dome. ICOM M802 Single Side Band.
Vetus barometer, Suunto Barometer, Panasonic Toughbook running Expedition and Deckman.
Pentax Optio W30 (Waterproof).
We have a lot of work to do. Right now we have had essentially no sleep in 24 hours and have to push the boat hard. Yet in 24 hours we could be at the dock if we push hard, and stay smart.
Last night was a tough night. It was pitch-black, with massive squalls packing cold and dry 28 knot gusts. There was no horizon, with boat-speeds sustained in the high teens. The waves were still there, but you couldn’t see them.
I took the first watch, Richard is passed out recuperating. There’s a huge bang like an explosion, and the boom points up. The vang block just exploded. Richard has it; I continue pushing the boat while he rebuilds a new vang. Ten minutes later he’s done. It’s amazing how good Richard is at fixing things on board. The repair has given us our stability back.
Everything is dark, there’s no horizon and this huge squall hunts us down. I am steering blind, with spray everywhere, the speedometer hits and sustains 23 knots. Richard tells me to “Slow down!” I say, “How do you do that?”. He says, “Just stick the bow into the next wave and sail a bit lower…” We like speed. Then he leaves deck and goes to sleep. I mean, I’m shocked: Richard trusts my steering and managing this rocket-ship more than I trust myself. I’m steering through pitch-black waves, terrorized at what could happen at any moment.
When the next squall hits, I grab a winch handle and start banging on the deck to wake him up. I tell him, “You are coming on deck and sleeping on deck, or you are steering, this is insane”. I found my limit. Too much to lose.
Three hours later, we are pointing right at the finish line. Jupiter is so bright that the planet is dominating the summer night sky. Now that the moon has risen everything seems so much easier.
We survived a difficult night. We’re still racing. We think that at least one of the fully crewed big race boats may have passed us. But we are all in one piece. Tomorrow is another day.
Sunset 100 miles from Honolulu
It’s time to report our position to the Race Committee on our HF Radio. We’re nervous. Yes we were ahead this morning, but what if the opposition has been sailing 3 knots faster all the time? Nobody will tell us anything until we cross the finish line. What we know is that we are inside the course record. That’s a huge achievement.
Now we have some tough choices to make: One option is to sail our line into the Molokai channel, gybe on a lee-shore at Kalaupapa and take advantage of the shift and the compression. Another is to take a couple of unfavorable shifts and finish safely. If we were fully crewed we’d head straight for the high speed gybe. If only we knew where the big boats are. Their last known position is from 9am this morning; they could have gained on us.
Tonight is going to be darker than last night. The moon rises 30 minutes later and is smaller. We haven’t seen big squalls forming yet and the trades seem to have moderated to 20 knots.
Beautiful sunset and interesting choices. Apparently our opposition is reading this blog, so I can’t share our decision quite yet. We used MotionX to roll the decision. Apparently we are also where no iPhone has gone before!
If you are wondering about the soundtrack for our adventure: The stereo system failed on the second day. So the iPhone and a pair of Plantronics headsets gave us individual soundtracks. We have the best water-proof case for the iPhone: It’s called a ziplock bag! We each have our own, use them in Airplane mode (after all we are a flying horse) and charge them using iTunes running on the Toughbook. Of course, we roll MotionX to decide who takes which watch, which shift we will take and all other activities familiar to offshore sailors. After all we are very superstitious. Seriously.
Time to get ready for the last night of racing. In sailing, anything can happen. We will fight to make sure that only good things happen and hope to see Lady-Luck smiling again upon us.
Safe and Fast, Pegasus, Safe and Fast!
Riding Down the Hawaiian Roller Coaster, 25 knots of wind, 25 knots of boat-speed!
The waves are massive and the surfs sometime last over a minute as we connect multiple waves. That’s why we do this. It’s like surfing Maverick’s except there are two of us keeping the boat perfectly balanced as we sustain boat-speeds of over 21 knots for minutes at a time. The boat just hums and the increase in speed is proportional to the increase in pitch. One of us on deck steering around these giants, the other one sleeping in the bunk in order to be able to take over in a couple of hours. You never get enough sleep, you never get enough speed.
There is only one way to get to Honolulu in style: You have to surf your way to Honolulu! Tonight is going to be a darker night than last night as the moon will rise another 30 minutes later. I’m about to go on watch. We finished eating lots of protein. Together with water and fresh oranges we’re all set for a wet and wild night.
Surf Pegasus Surf!
Beautiful Kaneohe Bay (the finish line) is about 500 nautical miles away on a magnetic bearing of 222. We’re getting closer. The morning roll call yielded some interesting surprises: We are in the upper right corner of the course, with a lot of leverage. That’s what we wanted. There is a persistent right shift when you get to the islands to between 70 and 90 degrees magnetic. Right now Flash is on our left on a 30 degrees magnetic even split so we are ahead as the wind has been averaging 45 degrees. Holua (with Dave and Adrienne aboard) are about 80 miles behind us at a similar latitude. They are also betting on the right shift and worked hard to get leverage on Flash. When the wind shifts, Holua could get ahead of Flash.
It’s now 6 days that we’ve been going day and night, and we have serious sleep deprivation. We’ll sleep once we get there and have some delicious island sashimi, fresh Poke, and chilled fresh sliced mangoes. That sounds awesome. Turn on Iz Kamakawiwo’ole!
This morning the sunrise was spectacular, right above the deflated Squalls of last night. The wind maxed out at 28 knots last night so things were relatively mild throughout. It was very dark and we sailed conservatively yet fast. Roll call will be interesting. We assume that we got passed by the big crewed boats.
“Turn on the radio quick…Channel 16…There’s a sailboat to Starboard flashing lights.” I emerge. Not my watch time quite yet, but on our boat it doesn’t matter because we’re both always on watch. A few switches flicked, “This is vessel Pegasus Whisky Delta Delta niner one seven eight hailing sailing vessel at 27:13 North by 148:58 West” That’s exciting, our first encounter for the last 6 days. It’s a fully crewed J-35 called “Urban Renewal”. We chat a bit, they’ve gotten stuck in the back of squall and a few light spots and seem happy to have found the wind. We’re going by fast. We will see them in Kaneohe Bay. Nice team.
The night has been fast. It is still night as the sun rises around 7 am PST here. I’ll give Richard a break. We sailed through a couple of 28 knot squalls and some light spots. It’s been a good night. We stuck to our plan. Favoring starboard at night.
Transpacific races like Pacific Cup are all about squalls and cloud management: This picture taken during a lull at 4 PM, you can see the squalls starting to form.
By now we are totally desensitized. Thirty knot puffs, bring it on! 25 knots of boat-speed, while taking a bite out of an apple. 3 days ago we would have been terrorized and shaking in our boots. Yes if we crash, that Navy Blackhawk chopper better come and get us because there won’t be much of anything left. We checked the life-raft and the grab-bag, it’s there ready to go. We’re racing Adrienne and Dave for a one-dollar bet and the record. As of this morning we have a shot at both. But until tomorrow morning, we won’t know if our Karver lock failure and the couple of hours we lost didn’t do us in for both the dollar (very important) and the record (they come and go – we held the fully crewed one for a decade from 1986 to 1996).
Night is coming and the squalls are towering. Many people think that this race is about GRIBs, routers, electronics, weather maps, quikSCAT charts, and technology. I think that these Transpacific races are won or lost with good old fashioned navigation skills. It’s all about clouds and squalls. The GRIBs and weather maps can’t help with them. The last third of this race is like a dinghy race downwind to the leeward mark with lots of squalls throwing you curve balls, or giving you an opportunity to ride them for hours on end. I learned that from Mark Rudiger. Rudi would get on the boat and bring all his notes from his prior crossings. When we’d get to the squalls, he’d study at the nav station, then get on deck and ask questions to the crew. What’s the bearing of this one? How about that one? How high is it already at 8 PM? Wow that’s going to be a killer around 3 am when it collapses after the air has cooled and the sea surface temperature has remained fairly constant. Rudi was the master. And in looking at all those squalls as the sun sinks into the West Pacific like a ball of fire we both get pretty quiet and introspective.
We’re settling down for the night. It’s going to be a windy dark night with the moon at our longitude not rising until 1 am. With the thick squall cover we won’t see much of it. We’re tying everything down, cleaning everything and going through all of our contingency plans. A big part of the race lies in the night ahead.
Fly Pegasus Fly!
Richard off watch sleeping in our one bunk. Did I mention that our toilet is a white plastic bucket, our lights are headlamps, and our water is in the bottles that we took with us. Evolutionary survival it is!
Today we got lucky, in a strange way. Luck is everything. You do all you can to prepare, you work twice as hard as anyone, but without luck you are nobody, nowhere, nothing. Luck is everything. You don’t make your own luck; it’s in the stars, in the waves, in the wind and in the net that you get wrapped in. And we were in many ways lucky. And the series of apparently unfortunate events keeps on unfolding.
Once we cut loose we put our A6 fractional up, longing for our big A2. But that’s greedy when it’s blowing 25 and gusty. We notice that this kite is just fine and then the big 30+ squall hits and we ride it. I mean we sail it, we carve it, we are flying and we are safe. With the big A2 up…ouch. But then we are stubborn and don’t quite ‘listen’ and this morning we decide to put our backup A2 kite up. We want the big thing; it’s a drag race to Hawaii and we can’t let that crew of eleven beat us. We figure, let’s take the A6 down and hoist the backup A2. Never mind the effort required to hoist 200 pounds 80 feet straight up. We have to do it. Heck, what do we do Olympic weight lifting for? What’s the point of that snatch and that clean-and-jerk? Not just an Olympic medal at the Beijing games.
So it’s blowing 20 to 25 and we’re not thinking. All set-up for the change. Got to have it. We use Karver locks for the halyards which are a great piece of technology. No need to climb the rig, all nice and safe! So we try to unlock the lock. Nothing happens, nada. We gave it 25 tries in all positions for the snuffer. Nada, nein, niente! So we lost at least another hour and realized that the A6 was our kite to the finish because neither Richard nor I was going to climb the 80 foot mast in these very windy and wavy conditions. We get back on our way and within 30 minutes we hit this line of squalls with 27 knots of wind at it’s leading edge. Thank you Lady Luck for the malfunctioning Karver lock. It worked to our advantage today.
Now getting this kite down… That’s another story for another day. One day at a time. One wind shift at a time, one wave at a time. But the time will come!
We discovered at this morning’s roll call that we are still leading all the big crewed boats, boat for boat. Wow, that is a lucky surprise! We are also still inside the course record and that is an even greater and more exciting surprise. Lady Luck is smiling on us.