July 23, 23:10 PST, Night Busters rolling again

Night busters, auto-portrait. A few scratches and scars, proof that we are doing well.

Never, ever give up. It took 11 tries and then we were able to get free of this mess. We’re wet, yet warm from the pulling, pushing, grinding, cutting, name-calling, yanking, hosting, winching, towing, moving and finally succeeding. Almost, but not quite. We feel that we have a piece of the kite wrapped at the articulation between the hull and the keel. It should be safe and we’ll tell how much drag it is fairly quickly. For sure we’ll be 10 percent slower. But we’re happy. Very happy. It’s not over for us. So we hoisted our smaller kite and we just sent it! Straight down the track. This is not as fast as soon as the wind ranges under 25 knots. Right now we are sitting on 13.5 knots in 17 knots of wind. Pointing to Honolulu. We are very happy. We are the night busters!

July 23, 22:30 PST, More unfortunate events but……

It’s now pitch dark and the moon hasn’t risen yet. We were lucky that that huge net didn’t rip our keel off. Or we’d be in the life-raft right now. We’re still trying to sort this out. We may end-up with a piece of the spinnaker around the keel. At night we can’t see well underwater. We now have lost our lead and are sitting in waves the size of small buildings like a cork on the water going nowhere. It’s wet. But we have a plan. We will try one more time and then do two back downs and try to sail. We will cut anything that we have to cut. We both have our headlights on. Night busters, probably busted by the squall. Luck is on our side, it could have been much worse. More later….

July 23, 20:00 PST, A series of unfortunate events…

25 knots, we’re heaving to in big waves… We ran over a net, it wrapped around the keel at high speed, Wooosh……. In stopping the boat and trying to back down, the kite went in the water and wrapped around the keel. Now we are trying to get things figured out. With just two on the boat and night coming fast, safety is #1. No swimming under the boat to get rid of it. Can’t sail with the stuff on the keel or we may lose it and the boat would be upside down in a few seconds. That may be the end of our race. More later. We’ll be safe, checking on each other.

July 23, 19:00 PST, Squall busting 950 Nautical Miles from Honolulu, bearing 60°

Squall busting on a Wednesday afternoon one thousand miles away from any landmass.

Motion is life and everything is in motion. The wind, the clouds, the waves, the swells, the squalls, everything moves. Everything is in motion all the time – always – whether we look, notice, or not. Everything is moving and there is no better place to realize that than here, where our motion needs to be in tune with everything. It’s mission critical. Especially with only the two of us. It’s about drinking enough water, it’s about managing our sleep, it’s about keeping everything going. There isn’t anyone out here to help us. Yes, we both are emergency room trained, we can put in stitches on a wet and jiggly boat (that comes in handy too often), we can dress a wound, or give ourselves and each other shots if needed (and we avoid that very carefully). But, the most important part is to avoid those extreme situations. Being ‘boat-fit’ is critical. That means being one with the motion of the waves, the wind, and the boat; moving with it all – because motion is life.

This afternoon while squall busting (punching through squalls packing more than 27 knots of wind to use their energy to move us down the track faster), a school of flying fish swarmed over the boat. They were clearly evading a predator. Usually that would be a school of tuna or a pod of dolphins. But here the mighty Pegasus was the predator, charging at 20 knots down the waves. Several landed on deck. Unfortunately no pregnant females or else we would have had tobiko for dinner! There is a huge world and universe moving under the surface. Think about those tuna eyeing those flying fish like they were in a giant sushi bar.

July 23, 15:03 PST, Half Way Across The Pacific

Richard keeping the speed up in between squalls.

We are now half way. The GPS range reads 999 Nautical Miles, and we are happy. Almost all of our systems are back to working normally after the first wild and wet 36 hours and it seems that the open ocean makes wounds and bruises heal faster. So on-board the good ship Pegasus, despite chronic sleep deprivation, all is better all the time.

Something that was really better is when we got the position reports over the HF radio. Our hard work of gybing on every reasonable shift during the night to get down in front of our competitors worked out like a charm. We now have positioned ourselves between our competition and the finish line. We are really focused on one thing: to have us double handling this 50 foot boat beat all the fully crewed bigger boats, boat for boat. Meaning, crossing the finish line first.

That’s going to be tough and exhausting. We’re up for it and looking forward to helping out from the dock in Kanehoe Bay by casting a dock line to Dave and Adrienne! A real worthy and huge goal. Let’s give it all we have!

July 23, 07:38 PST, 825 Nautical Miles from Honolulu

A dark night and a miracle recovery, we are very lucky.

We limped along all night. That piece of kite still wrapped around the top of the keel interferes with the carefully architected flow of the water under the hull. You can feel it at the helm and at high speeds it’s unstable making it even tougher to control our high speed ride. Richard took the first watch from Midnight to 3 am, and I took the second one from 3 am to 6 am. Now we’re both up. Its dark. The squalls have all collapsed in the early morning and so all that we have above us is a deep overcast.

All in all we are very lucky: We have a kite up and are sailing at 90% of our potential. In the 20 to 25 knot puffs we’re happily sitting on more than 16 knots of boat-speed. That’s great. Now for the 9 am position report. We know we are now probably trailing all the competitors. We’re half-way to Honolulu so there is plenty of runway left.

July 22, 22:00 PST Lat, Lon, Somewhere in a squall almost half way to Honolulu!

I sleep at the navigation station so that we can get as much information as possible. Everything is low-power and runs on 12 volts.

It’s night, and a very dark night because the moon hasn’t risen yet. Around midnight we’ll get to see. With the clouds, the waves and the squalls, it looks like one of those paintings sold at tourist galleries in Waikiki. If you want to see the real thing, you’ve got to sail a thousand miles to the middle of the North East Pacific. Buying the painting is probably more cost effective! It looks “just like that.”

I’m going to catch some sleep while Richard runs the boat. It’s a perfect 20 knots, we’ve got the big kite up, and the staysail, sitting on 14 knots of boatspeed, running. In a couple of hours we’ll switch. Time to get some rest.

July 22, 14:30 PST, Lat 29°09’N, Lon 135°36’W

Squall looming, the wind is going to pick up... Time to gybe to starboard.

Squall, after squall, after hole, after squall, after….. And every time there is pretty much a gybe. Now we feel like two silly humans gybing this 50 foot powerful machine, just the two of us. No crew. 20+ knots and trying to get the performance of a fully crewed boat. They have us racing fully crewed boats. That is also ‘interesting’. Like our 2 person team on our 50 footer should compete with a Santa Cruz 70 or a brand new TP 52 crewed by 11 sailors. And good ones too. I think that Richard is a super-hero. He’s got super natural powers. So it inspires me and we both rise to the challenge. A few bruises, cuts, wipe outs, but after three days we are still ahead of those fully crewed racing machines.

Dave Ullman, one of my all time sailing heroes and mentors, is doing tactics on Holua. Dave and I made a dockside bet before the start: The bet is one US Dollar for the one who wins boat-for-boat.

Rudi used to navigate on the Holua for Dave. So it’s a strange feeling on the HF radio when ‘Holua speaks’. It’s like ‘Good morning, this is sailing vessel Holua, Whisky Delta Delta niner one seven niner reporting our niner hundred position….’ But it’s not Rudi’s voice. And every time it gives us both a pause. Like getting an email from the account of someone that passed away.

That voice now is that of another very good friend of ours: Adrienne Calahan. Adrienne is one of the great navigators of our time, she’s also a maritime lawyer in Sydney and just had a beautiful little girl. Adrienne has gone around the world many times on racing sailboats and is one of the toughest people that I know: When all hell breaks loose aboard, everyone is incapacitated, rocked, bruised, scared, Adrienne has a smile on her face: ‘Can I help you mate?’ Rudi would surely approve and of course now we’ve got to outsmart both Dave Ullman and Adrienne if we want to win that one Dollar bet.

Right now there is another squall looming so I have to stop typing and skip sleeping. Time for another gybe!

July 22, 09:50 PST, Lat 29°55’N, Lon 134°40’W

This has been a wild night. Our dice are cast and we are betting on a Northerly route, close to our rumbline. For the next couple of days we will make losses and then our bet is that we will get both a big right shift, and more wind than the Southerly competitors.

The night started pitch black, with the moon rising later. Having gone through 4 degrees of longitude, everything happens a bit later out here, including the moon. No big deal. But then came squalls. Not one of them, but lines of them. Packing 25 knots of wind or more with massive holes in between. Now that’s a challenge for a double handed boat! We’ve seen boat speeds from 5 knots to sustained 21 knots with everything in between. Go figure, this was supposed to be a non–squally year. So much for the forecasts, we’re doing battle with North Pacific squalls on day three. So now we’re curious as to what was the lot of our Southerly competitors. Fifty miles South could make a huge difference.

July 21, 14:00 PST, Lat 31°33’N, Lon 131°13’W

Auto-portrait while Richard is sleeping. The big kite is up!

Kite is up and wind is down!
We’re both catching up on sleep. After roll call this morning (the mandatory HF Radio check-in with the race committee), Richard told me that I fell asleep with the mike in my hand, only to wake up 2 hours later. That felt great. We’ve accumulated total sleep deficit between steering all the time, constant sail changes, and fixing messed up things.

We’re still licking our wounds. The total is a bruised ankle, a bruised knee, three cuts, a bloody nose and a big bump on the forehead. That’s the legacy of a wild 18 hours. Now it’s all gone, we feel great and the big kite is up.

Richard is now napping so I took the picture myself. Double handed we don’t see much of each other: One goes to sleep when the other wakes up. We meet by the munchies bag. That is until the conditions are such that we both need to be there and then nobody gets to sleep. The water is still cold, but the sun popping out from behind the cloud cover helps us feel drier. So we need to also constantly watch out for each other.

From the race perspective we are doing well. How well is a surprise to us given that the two of us are competing against fully crewed racing machines. We got in-front in the storm (our survival skills were apparently fast) and extended our lead in the last 24 hours by picking our way well (and making constant sail changes). This is a navigation race at this point. It’s all about finding the balance between sailing minimal distance and extending South to find more breeze. I’ve been in this exact place nine times before. A quarter of the way to Honolulu where the Pacific high ridges. Every time it’s a little different. Everest climbers tell it to you in the same words: It’s the same mountain, but every time it’s different. I’ve been here with Rudi four times and I find myself constantly thinking of him and wondering where would Rudi go? Rudi, this one is for you!