We are more than half way to the finish, our computer says we have 1193 miles to go, which isn't too bad. We've had our ups and downs, but it's a long Transatlantic Race with plenty more to more to come.
Today was a pretty good day. The mainsail is fixed, the storm is gone and we had a spinnaker up all day. So all in all it's going pretty well, but we're not keeping up with Visit Brussels. They are a bit ahead and north of us in a little different wind, we will keep after them and keep pushing.
The mainsail repair didn't come out very pretty, but it will do. It's tough to sew standing on the deck pitching about. I must have stuck myself 20 times with the needle.
I've included a few photos of the sail repair and sea state along with a pod of dolphins we saw earlier today.
That's about all for now.
We have approximately 1,000 miles to the finish and the A4 sail is up on Starboard tack. After four days of grey skies and breeze up above 25 knots, we're finally seeing a little change of weather with the skies slightly clearing. However, the water is still choppy and cold with the temperature around 65 degrees. I just overheard Giles at the helm telling Matt we are averaging ten knots over the ground.
Tonights on-board report from Brian Thompson: We are now beating upwind on stbd with one reef and J2 and very happy not to be becalmed anymore! From shorts and T-shirts to full foul wet weather gear today Saw Rambler today 4 miles on our beam..When the wind finally came we pulled away. should have wind now to the finish line.,so time to catch some boats, starting with Comanche! Everyone feeling good and is healthy..
Long and frustrating day both yesterday and all last night but we got the fat bottomed girl moving a bit better in light air. Yes we were drifting at times. But we are going much better overall in under 6 knots since the boat was launched. It is so much about sea state. We had no oncoming waves when it was really light and it made a huge difference in overall performance.
Got out to about 44 mile lead on Rambler at one stage last night but then the yo yo happened and we had to sail up and around a high pressure bubble that was dissipating, but none the less it was obvious on the grib files and right in our path (very little wind). For us it was much more of an issue than for the Rambler as by being there sooner we had to sail many more miles to get around it. But that is life in the ocean. Rambler reeled us in as we entered the edge of the high pressure as expected and now we are FINALLY out on the other side heading for the ice gate. They will be able to cut the corner of the bubble of light wind and have a much better angle sailing to the ice gate. Currently we are in about 15 knots of wind essentially close hauled on starboard tack with 270 miles to go to the southwest corner of the gate. Then we bear off and head toward England, finally, and the breeze starts to increase with a broad reach and run in strong winds. If all goes well we should pretty much take that breeze to the finish.
Waiting now to see how far we can extend on Rambler before she gets out of the light air. Can we extend enough to keep our 40 something mile lead as she reaches faster to the gate? Only through the eyes of our guardian angel is this known.
All good onboard. Team great. Standard ridiculous stories being told.
It’s good to be offshore.
Hope all is well in the real world.
Kenny Read Skipper, Comanche
Shearwater has completed several repairs to failed equipment. We used the block & tackle from a running backstay to build a new boom vang (great until we need the staysail!). Gretchen & Mark sew a leach tape/cord on the torn Mainsail leach. This should hold together so long as conditions are moderate.
To all our avid followers of daily life aboard the rocket ship Grey Power we have to admit that we have for the last few days been leading you up the garden path somewhat! For those of you who are unfamiliar with what happens up the garden path please feel free to refer to the internet or even ask your grandmother about the delights of the invitation to "walk the garden path" with the boy from next door! Like most things in life nothing is ever quite as you would have been told!
With our minimalist triple reef and J5 sail plan we pushed on through the night. As advertised weather conditions eased as the night wore on. By 0400z we were underpowered in 25 knot winds and a settling sea. We debated changing to a more powerful sail combination. Ultimately we decided to hold off on any sail changes until daybreak. Underpowered as we were, we were still gaining on our competition because we were in stronger wind.
At 0600, as the sun rose silhouetted by of the cold front that had passed over us during the night. Though a few squalls remained about in the cold front’s wake, they were leaving us alone and it was time to be less conservative. First Lindsay Vonn (the J5) came down and the Jib top went up. It was shortly followed by the Genoa Staysail which Scotty had expertly repaired. Finally we began unwinding the reefs, one at a time, until we were back in a full main.
It is gorgeous out here this morning. We are in 25 knots of wind at 250 true. The sea has settled down. The crew, in great spirits after a difficult 18 hours, are settling back in to their normal routines.
Colette made us a breakfast skillet, which most ate on deck. Larry had a pre breakfast surf fest, freed to play with the waves again in the calmer conditions. We are back on the attack again.
A very quick note to say all is well.
The race between ourselves and Carina is really tight and there is really nothing in it right now. Its going to go to the wire. Every time we get a new schedule of results there is under 0.1% between the two boats on corrected time.
Poking The Bear
I has been quite a day on Prospector. After blinking twice on two attempts to sail to the southern edge of the big low pressure system pacing us to the northwest, at 0430Z, lifted by a right shift, we began to discuss gybing and trying again.
Larry, Paul and Terry huddled and discussed the pros and cons of the move. They decided to go for it.
But, Paul had one condition, if we gybed Larry couldn’t change his mind and want to gybe back again in 15 minutes. Paul knows Larry has a tendency toward gyber’s remorse. Larry agreed and said he would go take a nap to avoid the temptation. The order was given and we gybed to a northerly heading and started sailing toward the low again. Before climbing in to his bunk Larry took a quick peek at his nav screens and immediately was happy with the decision.
This practice of sailing toward the big low is now universally referred to by the crew as Larry poking the bear. For what it is worth Larry doesn’t really want to poke the bear. Expedition, our navigation and routing software does. Larry is just Expedition’s spokesperson. For the last 36 hours every route Larry has run on Expedition has called for an immediate gybe to the north. He has tried every trick that Peter Isler and Chris Bedford have taught him to convince the software otherwise, but it is adamant about the gybe. That is why we have been looking for every opportunity do so.
After the gybe with our go to sail combination of a reefed main, J4 and Genoa Staysail, we were off to the north and sailing fast. We awoke to an unexpectedly beautiful morning. It was warm and sunny. The crew enjoyed their morning coffee and oatmeal breakfast on deck and everyone took turns driving Prospector in terrific sailing conditions. Henry, gave Larry a new nickname, Longboard Larry, because he was having so much fun surfing the big sixty footer in mid 20 knot winds and a huge following sea. Matthew busied himself taking photos and videos for us to post later. Some of the photos will go up tonight. The video will need to wait for us to have a faster, cheaper internet connection than our FB150. Larry turned the helm over to Paul, and went to do his thing at the Nav station. We were still 36 miles from where we thought the southern edge of the low was, but the wind suddenly jumped to 30 knots, the limit we had set for our proximity to the low. It was time to gybe back. Tery and Quinn quarterbacked prepping for the gybe, something not to take lightly in such strong winds and high seas. They began by putting in a second reef assisted by Matthew and Andrew at the mast, Lucien and Scotty at the pit and Tim, and Dave in the cockpit. Paul manned the helm with Henry assisting by calling the waves. The reef complete Bruce and Matthew went to the bow and struck the Genoa staysail. We were getting ready to gybe when the wind jumped to 42 knots, making gybing too dangerous. Tery decided it was safer to do a chicken gybe, performing a 360 degree turn to a tack, rather than a straight gybe. The only problem with the chicken gybe being the risk of stalling the boat and getting stuck dead in the water in high winds and a big sea. Completing the maneuver involved turning Prospector very quickly and backing the jib to pull the bow around, which with Paul on the helm and Tery on the jib, was executed perfectly.
The chicken gybe completed we immediately put in a third reef in 40 knot plus winds. Now sailing in a triple reefed main and just the J4 and a strong following sea, we were pointing straight at the finish line and going very fast. The only issues were the waves and the weather. The waves had become bigger than ever, and made driving very challenging. The weather was complicated too. We were sailing with the low to our left, the warm front ahead of the low just ahead of us and the cold front trailing the low just behind us. You could see these features very easily and didn’t need a weather map to figure them out. Squalls were popping up and tracking from southeast to northwest along the leading edge of the cold front.
We were not in any danger, but were facing very technical and challenging sailing conditions. Our ace in the hole was Prospector herself. Flat and stable, she reveled in the conditions. Her helm was balanced, she tracked straight and smoothly and she responded beautifully to each course adjustment.
The Prospector crew, a terrific bunch of sailors, was also up to the challenge. We shortened the driving rotation, normally shared evenly by all, to Tery, Paul, Henry and Tim. Larry went to the nav station to learn how to track the squalls on radar, something he had never done before, assisted by Jeff. Colette made sandwiches to keep the crew fueled up. Brendan called waves. Scotty repaired a torn batten pocket on the GS. Matthew, Lucien, Bruce, Dave and Andrew trimmed sails. We adjusted the watch schedule to reflect the new rotation and began rotating people below decks to get some sleep.
Everything well under control we began to put up some big numbers in a steady 35-38 knot, with low 40 knot gusts, southwesterly wind. As the sun set, we struck the J4 and put up the J5, our smallest headsail in 30 knot winds. Quinn has a nickname for each of our sails. He calls the J5 the Lindsay Vonn, because it is beautiful, tough and always comes through in the clutch. The winds and sea are forecast to settle down over night, but we are trying to be as conservative possible as we sail on in a very dark, still very windy night in a pretty tossed up ocean. So, why did we really poke the bear? It wasn’t all about the routing. We wanted to sail left to take advantage of an expected left shift over the course of tomorrow. Also, given the loss of two kites we can’t go toe to toe in a downwind VMG race, particularly with Snow Lion and to a lesser extent with Maximizer. Nomad IV is so big she poses a whole different set of challenges. What we have learned over the past few days is that Prospector loves pressure. The more the better. We have also learned that we can sail as fast, and perhaps safer in a big breeze, with a reefed main, the J4 and a Genoa staysail than we could have sailed with the A6 we no longer have available. The track we are on is forecast to have consistent 30 knot winds for the next 8-10 hours followed by 25-30 knot winds for the 18-20 hours after that. The winds on the track we left are forecast to be much lower.
We gained ground quickly today on the two yachts in front of us, Snow Lion and Maximizer. We are now second in our class and sixth in our fleet. We have sailed 1,858 nautical miles in just over six days since we started. We have 1,242 nautical miles to go to our finish at the Lizard in Cornwall, England. A lot can still happen, both good and bad. We have a nice little race going and are looking at a potential podium finish in our class and top ten finish in our fleet. Both outcomes are well beyond our most optimistic hope when we began this adventure. We are proud of what we and Prospector, more to come on the mighty Prospector in a future post, have done so far and very aware of and focused on what we still have to do.