The wind has finally filled in behind us, although quite lite it is nice to be running downwind averaging close to 9 nm per hour on each shift. That’s more than 200 miles per day, a great psychological boost to the crew knowing that we are eating up the miles. The competition has heated up with the A team closing in on the B team but still lagging a little behind.
Running downwind can be a bit tricky and nerve wracking until you get the hang of it. We are reaching speeds over 12 knots and there is thirst for more. But as much as the speed is exciting, there are a number of things that need to be watched and processed all at the same time for downwind sailing to be successful and not catastrophic. Visual inputs from the sails, the boat, the horizon and instruments along with feeling and anticipating what the boat is doing beneath one’s feet all must be taken into consideration and reacted to instantly. You need to know a heading to sail, the compass bearing to steer to. Then you need to know where the wind is coming from and how much you can turn the boat in each direction (so as to not round up into the wind or collapse the sail behind the main, either of which is not good). From there you need to watch the Spinnaker out in front of the boat as well as the bow of the boat as it travels through the water bouncing along, up and down crossing the horizon. The trick is to keep the spinnaker full out front, pulling the boat along as it squirrels back and forth wanting to round up or collapse down. This is not a natural position for the boat to travel and the only way to keep it in this direction is to work the rudder constantly, teasing the craft to stay in the sweet spot of maximum speed and away from the more natural tendency of head to wind or to back wind. The responsibility is totally on the helmsperson. They need to be focused and have all their concentration on the task. From all the inputs available they chase the wind and waves looking to “surf” down a large cresting wave as it passes under the boat. This will deliver optimum speed. The boat races down the front of the wave being pushed by the wind. We work to set up this scenario time and time again looking for the elusive personal best speed record or, if lucky the top of the leader board!
The race has had its first retired vessel with Crossfire throwing in the towel due to “multiple major mechanical failures”. We are disappointed to lose a competitor but understand that safety is a priority and the race is long and dangerous. The “space ship” that is our boat must be reliable and dependable for the entire crew over the entire duration. If it isn’t then the wisest course of action is to head back. Last we heard she is sailing back to Seattle.
On the topic of a dependable vessel, today we sent Dave up the mast to check on our external halyards, he made a few adjustments but was happy with the lack of wear. So far that set up is working beautifully. Another boat system is presenting itself to be a concern. The steering cables and wheel bearings seem to be giving us issues. The cables, which are brand new especially for this race, have been stretching. This was not unexpected as it has happened before and is a chronic issue with Beneteau boats, so Steve squeezed himself down into the rear garage behind the Wheel to make the necessary adjustments. This has made a big difference in the feel performance of the steering. The bearing on the other hand is a different matter. Although not critical it seems there is a metallic thump sound every now and again coming from what we suspect is a bearing around the steering shaft attached to the steering wheel. There is no fear of losing steering it just appears to be a wear issue that will need to be addressed at some point when we have access to parts and professionals.
Top speed of the day: Don at 13.9
A big “Thank You” to Brenda for her wonderful Pasta Cream Chicken, mmmmmmm Good!
As Gunnar stated: Thrilling high intensity ride through endless expanses nautical