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!
The start of Chicago Yacht Club’s 105th Race to Mackinac was a pretty impressive sight, with over 300 boats milling around waiting for their start sequence. Spar Wars III got off to a decent start in Section 7 and chose to take the left side of her fleet, hoping for a bit of a thermal effect along the Wisconsin shore. After an uneventful night we were still within sight of most of our competitors when the wind started to die. This began about two and a half days of bobbing around in zero to three knots of wind, blazing sun, and clouds of vicious horseflies and mosquitoes, with intervening periods of light breeze, barely long enough to put up an adequate sail and get a few precious boat lengths ahead. On Monday evening, exhausted, short on potable water, and seeing we were far from being able to put enough of a lead on our competitors to score a respectable place (we were the second scratch boat – and the smallest in the race), we turned into Boyne City, the boat’s home port.
I was a little bummed to miss out on the Mac’s finish, which is arguably the coolest part of the race: reaching through the tight notch of Grays Reef with boats all around, then running down the Strait of Mackinac and under the gigantic bridge to the little island still resolutely stuck in Victorian times. But I did enjoy the great hospitality of Spar Wars’ skipper Bruce in Boyne City, then caught a ferry to the island to deliver the J/33 Retriever back to Chicago. Inevitably, the wind blew right on the nose for a couple days, but after a couple relaxing stops in scenic Northern Michigan, we had an uneventful trip home. Some of the boats that left a little behind us got hit by some big thunderstorms, but we only saw a few showers with no real wind.
Despite the annoying weather, this Chicago-Mac was an enjoyable and valuable experience. I got to crew with some talented sailors, meet some very interesting and friendly people, and see a part of the country I didn’t know at all. And I spent a fair bit of time observing the formation of thunderstorms and tracking them on radar. Although we avoided almost all of them, the sailors on both Spar Wars III and Retriever told me stories of 100-knot wind bursts in past Macs. I consider 35 to be about as much as I ever want to see on an Olson 30, so 100 sounds absurd.
I’m now on a plane to California to look into work opportunities, and the sailing continues next week with a Portland-Seattle delivery.
It’s been exactly a year since I left Seattle on Idefix. After a rough trip down the coast, my second Singlehanded Transpac, a month in Hawaii with family and friends, crossing the equator, cruising the South Pacific Islands, sailing the East coast of Australia, five months in Sydney, plenty of buoy and offshore racing, and two weeks of traveling around Vietnam, I’m back in Seattle. It’s kind of felt like one of those years that’s been more eventful than the past ten combined. To keep things interesting, I’ve made the decision to make my thirties the most awesome decade of my life, and things are going well so far (to kick things off I spent my birthday riding a motorcycle through the central highlands of Vietnam).
I plan to spend the summer reconnecting with old friends, making new ones, and looking for opportunities to do interesting things. I might even get to use my degree in aerospace engineering! Of course there will be plenty of sailing. For starters, I’ve been invited to do the Chicago-Mackinac race, which has been on my radar for a long time (a 290 mile race – on a lake!). And I get to do it on an Olson 30… The start is July 13th.
Meanwhile, the Bermuda 1-2 race starts tomorrow in Newport, Connecticut. SHTP veteran John Lubimir will be on the starting line with his trusty Flight Risk. Go Flight Risk!
The Lord Howe Island race on Frantic was one of those trips where everything just seems to miraculously click together in spite of all odds: the ragtag crew put together at the last minute (there was a lot of shaking hands on deck at the start), the barely used sails from another boat, the light air start that looked like a guaranteed OCS but turned into a perfect start…
I’ll gloss over the details, which you can read about here. The conditions were far from typical for this race, with a light breeze dying on the second day, which meant a lot of playing with local conditions, chasing down squalls and rain cells for a day or two. Frantic took the southern route, looking to get out of adverse current and maybe even get a boost from the eddies coming off the EAC, with inconclusive results. But we kept the boat moving when all the rhumbline boats got parked in no wind. We knew we weren’t doing too bad when we looked to starboard on Day 2 and saw the scratch boat – A Volvo 70 – a couple miles off. And when the wind filled as forecast from the southeast on Day 3, Frantic started tearing up the race course headed straight for the island at 9 knots. The rest of the fleet suffered on a much tighter angle in lighter winds, and we cruised to victory in both IRC and ORCi.
I owe a big thanks to Mick (Frantic’s owner – a very cool dude to sail with) and Ken (who put together the crew) for putting me in the navigator spot. I was a little nervous navigating in a fully-crewed effort, as I didn’t want to disappoint the crew, but everything just clicked and we have a great result to show for it!