Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I thought this was an upwind race?

Wouldn't you know it, as soon as I post something like "systems are working great," I have problems. First, when I went to charge the batteries with the engine last night, the throttle got stuck, but luckily only at about 1500 rpm. The cabling and mechanism just needed to be loosened up but it takes a while on this boat to get at each end of the cables and the throttle mechanism so the fix took a while.

Then around midnight the primary autopilot stopped working so I gave up on the idea of getting any rest and went to work on it. Isolated the problem to the rudder reference sensor, which is shared by both the primary and backup APs. I tried recalibrating it and that just gave me more errors. Both these APs are supposed to be able to work without it but was only able to get the backup AP, an old wheel pilot, to hold a course.

In a last ditch effort, I reset the primary to the factory defaults and when through the entire system calibration routine and got lucky - around dawn it started working again. If the primary AP was out of commission, Jeroboam would be very uncompetitive for the last 2/3rds of the race as I would have gone from pressing hard to just trying to finish. Those old wheel pilots are fine in pretty flat conditions, in fact I put close to 1,000 miles on one in the summer of 2006 with few complaints, but not in a seaway and forget about a storm or a spinnaker run.

Speaking of which, Jeroboam is tearing along with the kite and we're actually headed in the right direction! Huge moral boost and makes the zero sleep state palatable. I don't want to jinx it but this run I'm on right now may be one of those defining segments of the race. The race committee did something unusual for OSTAR, at least I've never seen anything like it in the US. They allowed competitors to choose if they were going to race with or without spinnakers and will apply the appropriate IRC TCC at the finish. Yes, we do this in the states but the non-spin boats are placed in their own cruising class and compete against one another. In this race, we're all thrown in together.

This is important because Tamarind, the closest in my class, chose to race non-spin so while I'm screaming along with the kite right now, he's probably not covering as much ground under jib and staysail. It will be interesting to see the next position report but I'm hoping to finally put some real distance on him which I need as he's more than demonstrated his ability to reel me in.

To make matters even more advantageous for me, the forecast looks like I may be able to carry this kite until dawn tomorrow as long as I don't blow it up. Anyway, all good news for Jeroboam in class 2 but to put it in perspective, there's still only about 140nm distance between all the class 2 boats after 1000+ nm of racing. And we still have a long way to go. Anything could happen.

Up in the fast class, Pathways to Children and Spirit continue to make tracks on the rest of us as is the class 40, sec Hayai. All three of those boats have terrific performance characteristics in the conditions we're presently in so I would imagine they'll continue to pull away from us all day and night, especially the two to the north as they're likely to get better breeze and for a longer period that the class 40. It's also been fun watching the 50 ft tri battle it out with the Open 50 up at the lead. Those look
like they'd be fun boats to sail.

I was extremely pleased to hear the news that Ralph Villager on Ntombifuti has finished his repairs in France and is rejoining the fleet. Ralph put a lot of time, effort and planning into this race and it's great to see him back on the course. Well done!

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