Elusive made it safely into Kane’ohe on Sunday morning, making the crossing from San Francisco in just under ten days. It wasn’t quite the arrival we expected, since it coincided precisely with that of Tropical Storm Darby. We opted out of flying a spinnaker through the finish line, but managed some impressive surfs as the leading edge of the storm hit us just before the finish. The coral reef is only a mile past the finish, so we immediately heated the boat up and started working on getting sails down. This is when things started getting hairy, as our jib had been lashed on to the broken head stay foil, and as we turned into the wind and the sail started to flog, one of the lashings dug into the foil like a cheese slicer and blocked the whole operation. Here we were in a gale with a coral reef to our lee, unable to pull down our sail. We quickly reefed the main and decided to follow the escort boat into the channel and send Ronnie up the rig once we were in the flat waters of the lagoon. After this, we found out that we would sadly have to anchor the boat in the lagoon until the storm passed, which meant that someone would have to stand anchor watch through the night. Adam and Pat took up this duty, and Jim brought them bourbon and pizza for their trouble. Fourteen hours later, Elusive arrived at the dock with three somewhat worse-for-wear sailors and some tales of middle-of-the-night shenanigans.
All in all it was a difficult crossing, but Elusive faired comparatively well, since the rest of the fleet saw quite a few dismastings, a plethora of exploded spinnakers, destroyed engines, broken rigging, and medical emergencies. Now the boat and sailors are clean and dry, and will soon be ready for their trip home.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!