Day 9 Summary – Nearly all are halfway and puff on!

Day 9 finds all but two racers ticking off the halfway point and everyone is reporting the wind building.  Double Espresso is maintaining his lead in distance to finish, if he hangs on and doesn’t break anything major, we can expect that he’ll be the first to say Aloha.  As the wind fills in on the whole course, there is not likely to be a whole lot of change in position among the first few boats, though those in the clump could see some movement as conditions better for heavier boats.  The racers will move from “doing everything to keep the boat moving” mode, to “doing everything to keep the boat from breaking” mode.  Always a fun transition.

We saw Kyntanna stabilize her track a bit with the stronger winds, and Owl became our new northwest flyer, heading off even  further relative to the past northerners.  Nightmare also tracked more northerly today, as did FuguDark Horse advanced a little further away from the comfort clump.  We heard Dolfin and Jacqueline are in active avoidance mode of each other.  Morning Star is still holding off to the east and Riff Rider is our southern most track.  Wind should hold for most for the remainder of the race, and least for the front half of racers.  Tropical weather may disrupt the tradewind flow for the slowest boats, it all depends how well they advance in the current wind.  It is amazing how northerly overall this fleet has been able to sail, almost straight rhumb-lining it.  And though slow, they really did not have to experience days of jelly fish passing them by.  I wonder if they know how lucky they are!

This is what it’s about – reflections from Dark Horse

Dark Horse Update 6.29.18, 10 PM PST

The past couple days have brought a lot of self-reflection. I can be pretty competitive because I like to excel at whatever I am doing, I thrive off of it. So when I found myself at the back of the fleet after the Southerly Surge on the first night, I was pretty discouraged, and still am a bit. There were boats almost 200 miles ahead of me before I got wind to move again. So for the past couple days I have been trying to reconcile my competitive nature with this trip which is more than a race. It is said to change people and to be an adventure of a lifetime. I was talking with someone before the race and told them I was pretty nervous.  Their reply was “Just remember why you wanted to do the race”.  That comment set me back. I couldn’t remember. I have been so busy trying to make it to the start line, running a business, and being a good dad and boyfriend that I lost sight of why I am doing the 2018 SHTP.  What people see when they see my boat is a lot of time and money put into it. I have worked hard over the last 5 years to put together the boat that I want to do the trip in and that will give me the best experience. But why do I want to do the 2018 SHTP?

I did not grow up sailing. I did not grow up by the ocean. What attracted me to sailing was a couple of things. I started sailing on an 18’ Buccaneer.  Even though that was not the best sailboat, I found myself living in the moment while I was out sailing. I just loved the experience of the wind and sails and water. I am a thinker, so for me just to go do something and not ponder it gave me a sense enjoyment. Each time I came back from sailing, I felt refreshed, calmed, and with a positive outlook. Those days on the Buccaneer 18 on Canyon Ferry in Montana developed that passion for the experience. When I lived in San Francisco, I got on a crewed boat and loved it even more. Racing teaches a lot and I have the desire to perfect whatever it is that I’m doing. Racing with that boat is when I first heard about the SHTP.  My response was “WAIT!,….So there a race to Hawaii alone??!!, that’s pretty badass!”  So I was hooked when I first heard about it. I think it was mostly the experience of crossing an ocean, the freedom, seeing things relatively few people see, experiencing things relatively few people experience, the challenge, figuring out how and why, all of it was why I wanted to do it.  I started figuring out which boat to get, and how I’m going to do it and so on, but the drive to do it wasn’t there until September 2014.

September 2014 started the most difficult thing I have ever had to face. After being the primary caregiver for our daughter, a judge decided to let my ex take our daughter over 600 miles away from me.  It wasn’t a decision based on who would be in the best position to take care of my daughter.  I remember sitting in court trying to defend why the court should let me be a part of my daughter’s life. No one should have to justify that. The only justification is that you are a parent, it’s a right.  Within days I literally had my daughter ripped from my arms, both of us crying.  It was the most painful experience of my life.

After that moment I could no longer sleep, no longer eat.  I lost my daughter. She was and still is my life. My only goal in life to be there for her and to support her. I felt like that was also taken away from me. I was barely functional and basically mourning. Nights were the worst, I would toss and turn and never could settle. That’s when I decided to do the SHTP. From that moment on I would get home from work and work on the boat in my shop until 3 or 4 in the morning until I just couldn’t stay awake anymore, then get up at 6 am and go to work. I used the SHTP as a means to cope. Not alcohol or drugs, or any other bad habit, I decided to start this journey and use it as a means to help me cope. Instead of turning to anger and frustration, which would have consumed me, I turned to this project to focus my energy on.  Over the last 4 years, I have focused on my relationship with my daughter, my work and the SHTP, keeping my nose to the grindstone.

Joseph Campbell describes a Hero’s Journey as something everyone needs to be taking, and not one journey but it’s a revolving journey. In basic terms he describes the parts of the journey as 1) separation- the life you once knew no longer exists; 2) leaving- the hero leaves on a quest to find what is missing; 3) journey- the journey along the way with people and experiences that help and fighting battles; and 4) return- not returning to the way things were but rather finding new meanings and returning as the hero with purpose.

After sailing along today looking at the ocean, seeing how many different colors of blue the sky and waters are, having the spinnaker flying to the perfect rhythm of the quartering waves, I realized I am living in the moment. A perfect moment. A moment very few people experience. My reason for the SHTP is my hero’s journey.  The actual race is but one small part of the trip. I will return to Hawaii in a week, where my exceptional daughter, my beautiful girlfriend and her wonderful boys will be waiting to welcome me. I won’t measure my journey and this experience by PHRF ratings.  Sure winning would have been incredible, but I now realize that I won my race, my journey, before the start gun last Saturday, the moment I talked with my daughter before the race.  I told her I was nervous and her reply was and has always been supportive. That’s when I realized she was being supportive because she has always felt supported in her life. That is what my hero’s journey, the 2018 SHTP, is about.

Dark Horse Update 6.30.18, 8 PM PST

More of the same conditions today, light sailing but really pleasant. I flew the spinnaker till 4 am then I got some rest. Last night was very enjoyable. Some stars and some bioluminescence. The lines that were on the cockpit floor would sparkle as I coiled them. I’m headed straight down the great circle route today and tonight. Looks like winds will be building over the next 3 days. I think I should be halfway tomorrow in the afternoon!  Looking forward to a fast run to Hanalei. I saw Dolfin and Jacklin yesterday and talked to them on vhf. I’m flying the A5 right now and moving along pretty nicely. I saw another albatross today and another smaller bird. The smaller bird was like the size of a Blue Jay, wondering what it is doing way out here.

Day 8 Summary – more halfways and steady on in a new month

The bulk of the fleet has or will be hitting the halfway barge today, quite a busy place it will be, there could be a queue for the ice cream, wink.  Double Espresso seems to have grown his first to finish lead despite his kvetching about slow speeds followed at the moment by Passages (the nemesis O30) and NightmareCrinan II and Riff Rider are holding their own along with Rainbow  and Fugu who appear to have crossed tacks in fairly close proximity of each other.  Perhaps they exchanged hello by wave or VHF.

Kyntanna has kicked some serious southing butt today, closing the gap a little bit with the comfort clump, some apparently setting off each others’ AIS alarms.  Morning Star continues the eastern defense.  He was closer to the finish for a time than Kyntanna,  saved now by the aforementioned butt kicking.  Both of them will likely be seeing the coming increase in wind before the rest of the fleet, so we could see the kicking continue.  By tomorrow the wind is forecast to do the kicking and we’ll see how our intrepids fare as they begin to enter or continue in the stiffening trades.  Boat parts that have been worked slatting around in lighter air will be in for a test.  Less than 800 miles to go for our faster boats.

Hanalei awaits their arrival:

Hanalei Bay this morning (7/1)

-Photo courtesy of Veteran Buglighter s/v Tiger Beetle

Day 7 Summary – “Someone” said rest on the 7th day and some are halfway

On the seventh day it has been said that one must rest.  Hmmm, maybe not so much for these racers.  The slower one goes in lighter winds, the more one actually must work to make the boat move.  These folks are still lucky though, despite slow speeds, they appear to still have some speed.  If the high had sunk further south, like in some prior years, 4 kts would be celebrated with much glee.  We have reports that the front five maybe did rest briefly upon their visit to the halfway barge and my understanding is that they were well rewarded with Starbucks and ice cream…er, at least maybe jerky and something to read, perhaps a picture of a coffee, wink, wink?  Halfway boxes are all the way fun.

Well, only 1000 miles and change to go…. 🙂  Now well in the lead to finish first, Double Espresso has maybe had some triple espresso.  He complains of being slow, but if the tracking is correct, he’s a fair bit ahead.  Speaking of going, things may be going a lot more quickly in the coming days if the winds strengthen as forecast.  Our leaders will likely reap the benefits.  The comfort clump may even get the advantage first and catch up.  Let’s hope our northwest flyer, Kyntanna, sees it too.

Day 6 Summary – Fast Boats in the slow lane, slow boats in the slower lane

So Day 6 saw a relaxing of wind and relative slowing of the fleet.  Folks are still moving though, just not as fast as before.  Racers are reporting a welcomed poking out of the sun and lightening of the wind.  Happier solar panels.  Power is a very good thing.  The suicidal squid and flying fish are beginning to make their appearances.  The tropics are nearing…

Some are contemplating their proximity to that Pacific high.  Kyntanna continues her northward surge, reporting that one of her considerations is staying high to keep the windvane from accidentally jibing the boat.  Her boat sails without a spinnaker.  Others are getting some use of their spinnies.  Riff Rider continues to stay south and stay moving, as does Double Espresso, who though slowed, is still moving respectably in the 6 kt range and has moved into the lead for arriving first. Nightmare and Passages are also moving well in the lighter air and have overtaken a few positions on elapsed time.  The comfort clump continues to comfort each other, each not straying too far.  Morning Star continues to protect  the eastern front.  The beginning of the fleet will soon reach half way.  Smooth sailing from there on out? Well, the weather could get interesting following this lull.  We’ll check in on that soon.

Day 5 Summary – Slower Pinwheel under the Pacific High

Today saw the windy reach transitioning into “crossing the ridge” for the bulk of the fleet – this means winds much further aft, and lightening up as they move out of the wide California Coastal flow, aka Gale Alley, into the edge of the Eastern Pacific High pressure zone and their “slot car” paths.

Our intrepid are reporting relaxing, eating full meals, and likely beginning to enjoy the sailing. That is, as long as they are not fretting too much about what may lie ahead. Remember that heretofore behaving Pacific High? Well, even the good kids act out occasionally and the forecast is showing this High maybe just can’t resist messing with our guys and gal.

The current long, not well formed, High is forecast to tighten up a bit in the next couple of days, and as it does this, it will extend a ridge from north to south down into the path of the fleet. We’ve seen some of the fleet likely reacting to this projection, including Riff Rider who has dipped more south, as well, Double Espresso. Others in the fleet, however, seem to have veered north, or west, Crinan II, JouJou, Passages, Nightmare.  Overall, this year’s fleet is tracking a more northerly route than past races, flirting with the edge of that ridge, including the boats in the “clump of comfort”: Fugu, Iris, Jacqueline, Owl, Dolphin, Crazy Rythym, and Dark HorseKyntanna has sailed over west to join that party, leaving Morning Star still as the easternmost boat.

We’ll see in about 36-48 hours what effect the lighter winds have. Some may be able to get in front of the ridge, some may end up in it.  Distance traveled is always a trade off with the speed traveled over that distance.

Day 4 Summary –Surf’s Up

As our sailors are easing into the windy reach, the windy is easing in to boat parts and doing away with the weakest of links. Boom Vangs, autopilots, wayward halyards, traveler cars, mainsail tears have all been reported. If your parts make it through this phase, well, hopefully, that means they’ll last you the whole trip. We can think that way, anyhow.

Most racers are reporting warmer weather and water now, and the wind starting to clock a little aft. We have seen a juxtaposition of leader boats with the sport boats doing their stuff in the conditions they were made for: Double Espresso and Passages, two Olson 30s, the boat of choice for this race, surfed up from behind to overtake the Capo 30 JouJou and join in the lead with Riff Rider and Crinan II, in elapsed time. Standings with corrected time are much different, and with so much runway left, it is still anyone’s race, well, almost anyone.

Wind is still projected to hold and a southerly surge reprise forecasted for this weekend should land far enough east of the fleet not to be a factor in slowing anyone down. Several days out, tropical low pressure systems off Mexico might disrupt some of the usual tradewind flow, so we’ll be keeping an eye on those weather systems. The dreaded Pacific High has so far been behaving itself, and staying well to the North.  Great luck for these 2018 racers.

Dark Horse: “…an accidental jibe … and my traveler car exploded”

Dark Horse Update 6.27 (9 AM PST)

Shook the reefs out yesterday morning, wind clocked aft a little. Did a headsail change, had an accidental jibe in the process and my traveler car exploded. I rigged up a clevis around the traveler track with some soft shackles I made and it should work for the remainder. Starting to eat a little more but still not much. Yesterday afternoon I was surfing down waves at 10-13 knots.  Autopilot is handling these seas at night pretty easy so I got some sleep. Cloudy and 60 degrees this morning. I made the turn to Hanalei yesterday right after the evening roll call on SSB. If I talk in the mic too long the autopilot quits, so my transmissions are short, but I do enjoy hearing Dolfin, Iris, Rainbow and Morning Star.

Day 3 Summary – The windy reach lives up to its name

Day 3 found our racers gearing up for a wild ride on what’s known as “the windy reach.”  The back of the fleet crawled out of the southerly surge and the front of the fleet grew with the faster, sportier boats, previously becalmed, closing the gap on the original three leaders in reported 25-30 kt winds.  JouJou is still splitting the difference between Riff Rider to the north and Crinan II to the south.  It will be interesting to see the effect of latitude.  Double Espresso is one of those surfing machines now caught up to the three leaders with Nightmare and Passages very close behind. Rainbow, the sole multihull, is holding his own and Kyntanna is throwing her size around surging to the south.  The remainder are roughly clustered together, but still moving at a clip.  We have reports of sea sickness, astronaut eating, and only a little carnage so far, a boom vang and a couple of autopilots, not too bad overall. The sailors are settling in to sailing, as the winds continue.