Friday, June 24, 2011

Huge Victory!!!

Looks like the race committee has posted the final results and Jeroboam took the fleet on combined leg 1 & 2 corrected time! Yeeeeeeeeehaw! Winning my class is a great honor for me but beating the fleet thrills me beyond measure. I trained harder and made more sacrifices for this race than I have for any other competitive event and it's reassuring the effort paid off. There were tons of people who helped out over the last two years through their time, mentoring, expertise and encouragement - too many to list here but I would like to thank John Keane for racing back with me, Tom Stearns for being a mentor and all his shore side support and Chris Pitts for teaching me tons about racing, sail trim and rigging. I'd also like to thank the guys at Brook Venture, Fred, Ned and Walter, for all the encouragement and for putting up with my antics in and absence from the office.

I'll post some pics and vids soon.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Must....keep....going

Maybe the leader board isn't such a great thing to be downloading mid-race. I was just comparing our position to the boats in front of us and between 6 PM yesterday and 2 AM this morning and it doesn't get much more disheartening than that. Cordelia pick up 21 miles on us, Choucas 24, Adhara 19, Ariana 10! Ouch! That's painful. I guess the breeze was filling in from the north, eh?
 
Well the good news is that the breeze did indeed finally fill in for us about an hour ago and we're making good time for Newport with hopes of finishing before sundown today but we'll see if the forecast holds true.
 
I'm completely impressed with Cordelia's performance. First, to have the guts to take a big gamble on the easterly flyer but then to pull it off and be making a mad dash for the finish line with the distinct possibility of a really big win in their future. Wow. Hat's off to Gail and Roy.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Everything has something inside. Even the hollow ones.

Our patients was severely tested today as we struggled to keep the boat moving in light air. My trusty crew mate Keane naturally met this challenge with humor which made the day pass much easier than it might have. And we certainly caught up on our sleep.
 
The real breeze isn't forecasted to fill in until 1300 tomorrow so we have a long night of flogging sails ahead. Looks like a bunch of class one will be finishing around dawn which will make it very tough for us to correct above them for Leg 2 but what about the combined Leg 1 & 2 correction? Should be a nail biter.

Cold but sunny. Hello New England.

J-Bomb was screaming along last night under reefed main and jib with the breeze about 60 degrees off starboard making 7-8 knots. Wish we could have kept it up but the wind started knocking off late and by dawn we were close reaching with the big asym scrapping to make 5 knots. There's no way we'll make it into the barn before the next lull so we'll have to tough it out with some finesse sailing today and tonight then ride the new breeze into the finish line when it comes up.
 
We're pretty beat and need more sleep but I suppose we can worry about that tomorrow night. Only 140 miles to go.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Amazing run today

We had an amazing run through the stream today double head sail reaching with speeds often exceeding 10 knots. Then we pulled out the asym after the wind dropped off a bit and rode some killer swell all afternoon. Fantastic run.
 
The wind eventually died late this afternoon and the forecasted northeasterly just filled in. We've got a good line to the finish and hope to get a hundred miles out this blow before we run out of it tomorrow morning. Unfortunately it looks like another lull will be waiting for us by then.
 
Fitzgerald once wrote "There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy, and the tired" but right now I feel like all four.

Wet

Finally made it to the stream after battling adverse current for basically three straight days. Actual entry point was a bit east of my coordinate posted earlier. We cracked off and are reaching perpendicular to the westerly flow and making great time with boat speeds in the 8-9 range.
 
The big question is what's going on north of the stream? Anyway you slice it, it sure would be nice to be in the  barn before that low moves through but it ain't happening for Jeroboam. We're going to have some light air work ahead of us in the final stretch.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Another day lights up the seaway

We finally got the wind shift we were originally expecting for Thursday, only it wasn't the slow and gradual forecasted, rather two big shift over a three hour period. We're plunking along fairly hard to the breeze as it clocked all the way to the west while we work our way toward our entry point for the main body of the stream. We've been socked badly by the current on this run but we've been in good company so I guess we're not the only ones.
 
As soon as we're west of the rhumb line and hopefully clear of a river of adverse current in that vicinity, we'll crack off 10 degrees and shoot for our stream entry point at 36 degrees 48.7 minutes N, 68 degrees 45.3 minutes W. It's still a long way off so I won't predict arrival time at the stream but hopefully by tomorrow night.
 
I checked the leader board and Toothface looks to be having a brilliant run. Well done Mike & Ken! We're really going to have to work some magic to even come close to correcting near those guys.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Great breeze, nice ride

After a tough night of wallowing around in little wind, we gradually got going again, first in a northeasterly, then easterly and now a southeasterly, as if yesterday's clock should have been forecasted for today. Indeed, the latest grib file shows it to be so forecasted, extending all the way through the night until the stronger southwesterly will take over by tomorrow night. We're still trying to get east out of this head current so we'll likely gybe early to get some easting then ride the lift all night long.
 
A quick look at the leader board shows Windswept coming up fast behind us and they're already pretty far east, presumably out of the adverse current. We'll need to really stay focused tonight to remain ahead of those guys. Bluebird isn't too far off either so we're feeling plenty of pressure here on Jeroboam.
 
There are some other boats in the neighborhood - we were trading blows with Tyger Tyger last night and today and there's been a mini in our tail all day who is making great strides on us now that they've launched their chute. We're pressing down in the gusts and trying to keep J-Bomb flying!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

And they're off to the races!

Great start for Jeroboam, no complaints here. We saw a lot more wind on the south side of the harbor so we did a leeward start and managed to come up hard on the rest of the class, sneaking in front just before the Town Cut. It was nice to show Panacea our stern after Peter did so to me on the way out of Newport.
 
Now as far as the route goes, I know I know, I said we were going to head west of the rhumb line but we just can't get over there right now. The wind is out of the NW and occasionally oscillates to the west, right where we'd like to go to get out of this facial current. Forecast is calling for a clocking breeze but it just hasn't happened yet so we'll continue to take it on the chin until the shift.
 
We're presently among a bunch of class 3 boats which does wonders for our ego as they started 10 minutes before us. Who said Jeroboam can't point!

The Sun Comes Up Over Bermuda

Well sports fans the day has finally arrived when we can unhitch from the dock and head out for the doublehanded return race. Just in the nick of time too. Race participants are certainly worse for the wear from this seemingly innocent island paradise as motor scooter accidents and jelly fish stings have left their marks on a third of the fleet. Another third are reeling from an overload of rum swizzles and dark n' stormies and the final third are bleary eyed from the revelry of celebrating the Bruins win last night. I think we're all happy to get back to the business of racing.

Weather looks like we'll get a little bit of everything over the first 48 hours with a nice southwesterly filling in over much of the course thereafter. Stream features south of the main body will likely throw some adverse current on and east of the rhumb line so you'll probably see most of the fleet trying to work west right out of the gate. There was some banter around the porch yesterday about whether we'd see any boats take a flyer to the far east in search of some favorable current but it's a long haul out that way for what might only amount to a knot or knot and a half.

Jeroboam is in fine shape for the return leg. Keane and I scrubbed the bottom yesterday, went up the mast and checked everything out, squared everything away down below and set up the deck gear. Class 1 starts at 12 atlantic time/11 eastern, then class 2 at 12:10, class 3 12:20, class 4 at 12:30, class 5 at 12:40.

I'll try to post updates a couple times a day in route.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The solid feeling of land

St. George is a quaint little town in the northeast corner of Bermuda and a pleasant place to wake up and face facts.  Bluebird crushed me. I knew the winning streak had to come to an end sooner or later but of course I always wished for later than sooner. Three years of class wins or better is a lot of pressure to carry around so it's actually kind of a relief.

Now to business. Leg 2 starts next week and I still have a shot at winning my class on combined time. With Keane's help, all the pistons will be firing and we'll do our darnedest to make up the time delta and then some.

I have to take a quick jaunt back to Boston to get some work done. Or do I? Several people at Brook told me if I loose, not to bother coming back, however winning wasn't clearly defined as by leg or overall so I suppose I should at least show up and see if my key still works. If not, Nichole, per our usual arrangement, you're welcome to all the loose change in my top desk drawer.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Home stretch

Saw what I hoped would be my last sunset on this leg. I may finish sometime tonight but one forecast showed lighter air today so we'll see what happens. I'm amazed that this entire race has been completely downwind. This is my sixth passage to Bermuda and I think the longest downwind stretch I've had before lasted half a day. This one's going on day 4 and shows all the signs of continuing.
 
One of the advantages I always considered this boat to have is that it's a good performer in a variety of conditions, so it didn't really matter what the course conditions were or if they changed a lot (typically the case for the longer races), the boat tended to perform well and be competitive. This race is an interesting case in that we have not experienced a variety of conditions, rather only one: dead downwind. Who'd have guessed? The glaring omission of a symmetrical kite in my sail inventory is hurting in a big way right now. I can't beat myself up too badly however as never in a million years would I have anticipated these conditions.
 
I've got a variety of boat issues I'm dealing with today that are not race or performance related, rather systems issues. I need to hop back to Boston between legs so the more I can get done now, the less likely they will be an issue on the return leg as Keane and I only have about 48 hours on Bermuda prior to leg 2 for prep.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Ouch

Rough day on the race course. In gusty conditions and a lumpy sea state, it's really hard to fly a kite single handed. The autopilot just don't do a good enough job while I'm trimming or if I'm at the helm that leaves my imaginary friend to do the trimming for me and he sucks at it. When the gusts start coming once every two minutes, it becomes an exercise in futility as almost each gust produces a round up, even with the chicken chute. 8-12 with gusts to 20 can get old fast.
 
At the heart of the issue is that I've been trying to go dead downwind all day. I tried everything I could to keep my vmg up but I kept getting disappointing results. I tried all three spinnakers and every combination of sail I could think of just can't seem to get downwind fast enough. Then to add insult to injury, I hit not one but two holes today. Not dead in the water pull your hair out holes but holes bothersome enough that all I could envision was  Bluebird and Stummer happily streaming along at hull speed while I dwautled.
 
The combination that produced the best vmg today was to wing out the 140% jib and run dead down. My cruising years paying dividends or clouding my judgment?

Someone's got a case of the Mondays

Banging through the main body of the stream last night was a rough go. I've applied the term 'confused' to a sea state before but I now have a whole new standard for its use. Two spots in particular were a wild affair with absolutely no discernable pattern, rhyme or reason to the mountains of water shuffling about. Little Jeroboam bobbed up, down and through them like a tiny spec of humanity in the great bathtub of life.
 
I suppose it's pretty clear that my commentary this morning is scribed pre-coffee.
 
I'm trying to work my way through what I'd hoped would be some helpful current but finding only slightly positive effects. I'll gybe back toward the rhumb line this morning and see what I can find.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Enter the Gulf Stream

Definitely in the main body of the stream at this point. All the tell tail signs are there: huge cross track error, cobalt blue water, dolphins. Not to mention the big seas. I had a 30 second sustained surf down the face of monster wave with the chute up that had me screaming in both delight and dread at the same time. 13.5 knots was recorded on that one. Wow. Not bad for a Beneslow, even if it wasn't sustained.
 
I'm pretty well beat at this point. My body feels like I've been in a poorly chosen bar room brawl with the German Olympic wrestling team. Trimming the kite for hours on end is unbelievably tiring. Then my knee cap went head to head with a turning block and provided some real gore for the trip. That scream was in pain and I-can-not-believe-that-just-happened-disbelief.
 
There's a couple stream features I want to play on the other side of the main body but I'm moving so fast east that I'm afraid I'll miss one of them. I'll have to see where I end up on the other side. I'm not about to gybe and try to head into it so unless the wind shifts a little further east, I'm kind of stuck with my present course. Glad I entered a little further West.

Screaming along under spinnaker

After double headsail reaching all night, the wind backed enough to launch the chute around dawn. The boat is moving beautifully. Sea state has calmed down a bit and a longer swell is taking over, allowing the autopilot to perform much better and the chute to behave itself.
 
I changed my mind on a stream entry point and am aiming a little further west. The counter current is all but gone, at least for the time being, which probably accounts for the decrease in chop.
 
I downloaded to standings a moment ago and saw Bluebird is leading the Class 4 pack - way to go Gust! I need to figure out how to get the upper hand here. He has to be loving that symmetrical kite on a run like this. He who best plays the currents in and south of the main body of the stream will pick up a key advantage.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Beautiful all day spinnaker run

Gybed over this afternoon and was a little surprised at how much head current hit me. I was expecting around a half knot from that cold water feature north of the main body but got twice that then it increased a little from there. I think the worst of it is over as it's backed off to less than a knot.
 
The forecasted shift did indeed take place and I rode the lift nicely following the gybe. Then the shift kept going. And going. Finally settling around ENE so I'm on a reach right now with the jib, staysail and main. I ran with the chute as long as I could but I was having to head about 30 degrees further south than I wanted so that was that.
 
It's going to be a cold night. Time to get layered up and eat some more freeze dried.

On A Run

The NW breeze died a bit mid morning but is back in force. I'm going about as fast as this little camper can go! As Slocum might say of his Spray "this is grand sailing. Her finest work."
 
There's one other boat in the neighborhood but I've not been able to make out which it is, perhaps Choucas? I thought I was gaining on him for a bit but I think the shoe is on the other foot now.
 
At some point I need to work my way down to my preferred entry into the gulf stream. I wasn't able to run the altimetry model through my slow Iridium 9555 sat phone connection this morning so I'm using yesterday's model. Not the most ideal scenario as the changes from the day before yesterday to yesterday were substantial. Anyway, based what's available to me, I'm shooting for 37 degrees 15 minutes N, 068 degrees 30 minutes W for my stream entry point.

Softly sailing south

Had a pretty good run for most of the night with the boat hard to the wind out of the SE but gradually diminishing. It was VMG sailing all night with port tack favored so I'm a bit further west of the rhumb line than I'd wished. But then around dawn the wind gently filled in from the W shifting toward the NW so out came the chute again and the boat's been moving well on starboard gybe for the last three hours or so, most of it in the right direction.
 
The forecasts haven't exactly been helpful yet. Last night's SE breeze wasn't in any of the models I looked at. Wind prediction for this afternoon is to swing toward the NE so if that happens, I'll need to gybe at some point.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Outside the Bay in Lumpy Seas

Fun start with plenty of wind. I didn't see any spinnakers pop until we were around Brenton Reef outside Narragansett Bay. In class 4, Peter McCrea on Panacea easily had the best start with more a couple boat lengths lead. Jeroboam had a bad round up in one of the Bay gusts, which almost carried me right into the path of Bluebird but thanksfully he was able to stay clear of me. I guess flying that staysail was enough to put me over.
 
Outside the bay the wind has diminished slightly, around 10 kt apparent over my right shoulder. There are some damned lumpy seas out here which makes the spinnaker go pop everytime if deflates then reinflates. One of my key strategies was not to destroy it too early so hopefully it can continue to take a beating.
 
Had a bad snap shackle on the spin sheet. I should have taken the hint the first time it let go but instead I got to experience the thrill of a flogging spin twice. And looking the port spin sheet to the sea. Plenty of excitment for the first three hours of racing; some might say too much excitement.
 
Might try to grab a 30 minute snooze.

Game Time

With wind at our back for the better part of 2 or possibly 3 days, the favored boats are the sleds like the Class 40, Quest 30s, Figaro II and Open 6.5s. It's going to be very tough to keep up with those guys. I also imagine there will be some moments when I wish I had a symmetrical spinnaker on board but I'm not willing to sacrifice my +9 adjustment for the asymmetrical so there's no point in crying over spilt milk.
 
The gulf stream models have undergone some fairly substantial changes, even in the last 24 hours, so I'm hesitant to make any real gambles for the sake of a couple extra tenths of favorable current.
 
In summary, I doubt we'll see any boats taking major flyers. It's a rhumb line race.
 
Jeroboam is as ready as she's ever been and as fast as she's ever been. I wish I could say down wind conditions were the boat's most favorable but when it's on the beam, I typically see slightly better performance. The key is  not to destroy my asym too early in the race as I'll need it often. Wind speeds have certainly calmed down a bit since yesterday but we'll see what's what when we get out of Narragansett Bay. I'll have both chute and chicken chute at the ready.
 
Class one starts at 11 AM eastern time, then class 2 at 11:10, 3 at 11:20, 4 at 11:30 and the Open 6.5s at 11:40.