Varuna and the Ocean Cleanup MegaExpedition

I’ve been pretty absent from this space lately, but since I’m off on another sailing adventure I thought I’d post an update. 2014 was a little rough with the NASA UAS Airspace Operations Challenge being cancelled after many hours of hard work put into it, then my motorcycle accident in October almost costing me my leg, and putting a big hole where my knee used to be. After getting reassembled from spare body parts, I’ve spent the first half of 2015 getting back to walking, kneeling, squatting, cycling and sailing, and am pretty much 85% operational again. Naturally it’s time to get back on the ocean, and what better way to do that than deliver a 46-foot carbon sportboat from Honolulu to San Francisco. My friend and occasional SHTP nemesis Ronnie Simpson is skippering. SHTP reigning champ Steve Hodges and boat guru/all around badass Walt Kotecki round out the crew, for what promises to be a fun trip.

As a bonus, we’ll be taking part in The Ocean Cleanup’s first-ever MegaExpedition, a survey involving 40 other boats, and aimed at studying the distribution and composition of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. For much of our crossing we’ll be trawling a contraption with a net, taking samples from the first foot of water, cataloging them and storing them so they can be shipped to Delft Technical University in the Netherlands for analysis when we arrive in San Francisco. The samples have to stay wet and cool, so we’ve been provided with a little fridge, which I suspect will also keep some of our food and drink cool, since all-out race machines generally don’t have refrigeration. In addition, we’ll be doing periodic visual surveys of the water around the boat for bigger pieces of junk that don’t make it in the net. I think as a whole we’re all pretty excited about this, despite the extra workload involved, and the fact that slowing down to trawl six hours a day will probably extend our trip by a day and a half at least. As sailors we get to see how mankind has been polluting our oceans, and it’s great to be part of one of the first efforts to remove trash from the ocean. You can help too by avoiding plastic bags, bottles, wrappers, and packaging!

You can track Varuna here.

Farr 40 Midwinter Championships

Sixteen boats lined up for the start of the Farr 40 Midwinter Championships

Sixteen boats lined up for the start of the Farr 40 Midwinter Championships

Day 1 of the Farr 40 Midwinter Championships was a tough one for Huckleberry 3, the boat I’m crewing on. One of the few amateur boats against a field of seasoned professionals, a charter boat that we’ve only had in our hands for a couple weeks of practice, and a crew that was only fully together for the first time as we left the dock for the first race. In retrospect, it’s no surprise that we’re tied for last place. But we managed to finish ahead of a few boats in each race, and were in the leading pack in the last one before we lost our spinnaker and retired, so there’s hope in the remaining three days of racing.

It’s quite a change being part of a competitive one-design program in a class with lots of professionals. Every move on the boat is choreographed to the smallest detail, and the racing is intensely close. I have no doubt that I’m learning a lot by sailing with Jim and his crew, and it’s tremendous fun to be part of the Huckleberry 3 program.

My arms, back, shoulders and legs are all aching with the dull pain of a good day of sailing in a solid breeze. I have no doubt that by the end of the week they’ll be in agony, but it’s all for good fun.

Video – Singlehanded Transpac Tour of the Boat

I’m finally getting around to cutting some of the footage from the 2012 Big Pacific Adventure, and I thought this little clip might help some of the people preparing for this year’s Singlehanded Transpac and Pacific Cup races, so it’s the first to go up. I threw in a few gratuitous sailing scenes just for fun!

Idefix 2012 – Tour of the boat from Adrian Johnson on Vimeo.

Arrived in Hobart

Frantic has arrived safely in Hobart after three days of racing. The Hobart definitely lived up to its reputation as a tough race, serving up a gale that made the beat down the coast of Tasmania a rough ride, and rounding Tasman Island a serious challenge.

There was only minor carnage on the trip down from Sydney: a broken steering link took out one of the wheels, our pedestal grinder gave up the ghost, a tear in the main forced us to throttle back for the beat across Storm Bay, a collision with an ocean sunfish had us worried for a bit, and a garbage bag explosion in the stern wafted nasty smells through the boat for the last 36 hours of racing, on top of the usual wet boat unpleasantness that comes with beating to windward in a gale on a race boat with 13 people. It wasn’t all unpleasant though, with a very cool reach at the start, watching the maxis take off like bats out of hell, the crazy spectator fleet filling Sydney harbour, and helicopters buzzing all around. And nothing beats the running in solid breeze, with some good sustained runs in the twenties and a new boat speed record of 25 knots. And then there’s the reception in Hobart, with hundreds of people cheering and applauding every boat that comes in, and lots of spectators walking the docks, checking out the boats, and congratulating the racers. And let’s not mention the 24-hour party at The Customs House, where the racers celebrate their race until sunrise…
It looks like we’re sixth in division and 27th overall. I would’ve liked to do better, but you can’t always win when you like to take flyers (then again, Varuna made some more extreme moves than us and ended up winning our division), and there were some moments when we took the decision to sail the boat a little more conservatively and probably lost out a bit, but that can be justified when I look over at the dismasted Wedgetail sitting across the dock.


Tracking Frantic

You can track Frantic in IRC1 at

Hobart Race Preview

Even polishing the hull!

Even polishing the hull!

It’s Christmas Eve in Australia, which means there are only two days to go before the start of the Sydney to Hobart Race! Work has been coming along on Frantic, with engine servicing, sail tests, instrument calibrations, winch servicing, lubing the blocks, cleaning the clutches, stocking the galley, and all the things one does before an offshore race.

Unlike most races, which have staggered starting times, the Hobart has a simultaneous start on three lines, one in front of the other. Frantic will share the front line with the 100-footers and a handful of other boats. We’re pretty happy about this, because the other two lines have over thirty boats each, which will make for a crowded start!

Frantic will be sailing in IRC Division 1, alongside the Clipper round-the-world race fleet and a number of other boats in the 45 to 60-foot range, a 100-footer and a Swan 82. The competition in this fleet should be interesting, with Audi Sunshine Coast and Patrice looking very good on handicap.

The forecast is for a reach down the coast in medium conditions, eventually turning to a run. Unfortunately a front is scheduled to come through on Saturday night, which means the last 24 hours will probably see us beating in thirty-plus knots of breeze in the colder waters and weather around Tasmania. The big boats will have an easier going of it, since they should get there before the front hits!

Hobart here we come!

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The Sydney-Hobart takes competitors across the Bass Strait.

It’s official, yours truly is on the Frantic crew roster for the 2013 Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, a.k.a. ‘The Hobart’, the crown jewel of the Australian sailing scene. The race starts on Boxing Day (December 26), and involves over 600 miles of tough sailing down the New South Wales coast, across the Bass Strait and around Tasmania to Hobart. The race has been known to be a grueling affair, but Frantic is a solid boat with a good crew, and I think we have a shot at having a very good race. And in a very cool turn of events, my friend Ronnie will be racing to Hobart as well!

It’s amazing how fast summer has gone by. I’ve been working a couple projects with AeroMech again, organized a keelboat regatta on Lake Washington for WYC, and am starting up a new project that I’ll be posting about soon. And I’ll also probably be moving to Southern California in the next couple weeks. Stay tuned!

And in other ocean racing news, my high school buddy Nicolas Boidevézi has started his third Mini Transat on his proto 719 Nature Addicts (formerly Défi GDE) and is currently in second place! This year the little boats are racing to Pointe-à-Pitre in the Caribbean instead of Brazil, and the start was delayed by several weeks due to horrific weather in the Bay of Biscay. Bon vent Nico!

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