Published on July 24th, 2014 | by Moore 24 Class0
2014 Pacific Cup – Final Update from SNAFU
So the last few days were challenging with satphone communications, so I accumulated three entries, including our last one upon arrival. Thanks to all of you for your words of encouragement.
Well, we jibed too late off of our northerly route. We checked for a weather update a little too late and found we had already blown past the ideal jibing angle. We tried to carry the reaching kite, but were not going to be able to aim at the island. So we shifted down to the Jib Top sail. It can point closer to the wind, but it's not nearly as fast as a kite. We carried that all night, and it cost us. We lost 15 miles to the competition in one fell swoop.
300 miles to go, and 150 until we converge with Green Buffalo and Blade Runner. From there it will be a drag race to the finish. We'll surely come in behind those guys, but BR has to beat us by 7 hours, and GB has to beat us by over 16.
ETA is now 4:15am PST on Monday morning, and we'll have the remnants of tropical storm coming into Oahu from the southeast on Sunday: lots of rain - maybe we can use the goggles we brought!
Windows keeps bluescreening on me!!! I thought those days were over. Argh. Unfortunately navigation software runs in Windows.
Last update tomorrow, or from the docks at KYC around breakfast Monday morning. Maybe I'll include a pic or two once we're on wifi!
Last night around 1am, we saw a green light off to our port side, a few miles out. I knew we'd be merging with Blade Runner, and sure enough, they hailed us on the VHF to see who we were. A large system associated with Tropical depression Wali was towering on the horizon just beyond them. Lightning. Lots of it. Unheard of in Pac Cup. The breeze turned on and with squall after squall after squall, we were racing side by side in pitch darkness, only running lights visible. We pulled in front of Blade Runner and crossed their path. The driving was incredibly stressful. I ensured an hour and a half of three squalls, running at 11-14 kts constantly. Andy Schwenk hailed us again and asked if we knew we forced him to change course and that he'd have to file a protest with the race committee. After 5 minutes of radio silence where Gilles and I both suffered mild heart attacks he radioed to tell us he was just kidding. I'll get him back for that one...
Last night was a repeat of the squally night a week prior up north we swore we'd never do again. You simply have no control over where the wind takes you - you just follow it by every sensory input your body has, and try to identify left and right identify compass heading boundaries. You have no peripheral vision beyond a faint glow in the air caused by the masthead lights. It feels like you have walls on either side of you. The closest experience I can think of on land is skiing down a mogul run in the dark. Dense forest on either side, where wind is your gravity.
After a while of separating, I noticed BR's masthead light rocking back and forth. They had clearly taken down their kite and shifted to something else. Minutes later, I had gone down below to rest on the floorboards, when Gilles wiped out hard. I came above to find something from a movie set: sheets of horizontal rain, the kite flailing near the masthead... "kite down!". I clipped in and scrambled forward, reached impossibly far out to grab the spinnaker sheet (line that controls it), and blew the halyard. It came down in no time. Gilles guessed it was a 40kt gust. We put up the blast reacher and took it easy the rest of the night.
This morning was sail change day. Early a.m. I woke up Gilles to come help with setting the kite. The remnants of Tropical storm Wali rolled in, and here starts our sequence. The middle of the storm passed right over us (was supposed to pass south of Oahu - oops). Shy kite, whomper, blast reacher, jib top, and back and forth. We've probably changed sails 10 times today, all while playing cat & mouse with Blade Runner. Just spent an hour in the remnants of the eye, and we seem to be back to the regular trade winds. We'll take it easy tonight, and roll into Kaneohe in the wee hours of the morning.
We have yet to see whether we'll beat out GB and BR to the finish outright, but at this point we just need to be conservative and not break anything major. The other spinnaker block exploded this morning. Cockpit knife snapped in half.
We pushed the pedal to the metal last night - the final push. More night-time kite surfing we swore we'd never do again. But we're so close! We shared watches and actively trimmed the kite. The regular trades seemed to finally fill in after the storm cleared, so we were able to get back onto our lay line for Kaneohe.
The finish was a 5am mind game for frazzled sailors after two weeks of racing:
Of 1000 lights on the horizon, pick two that match a description that you'll find on your soggy chart, line them up to an invisible point in space, then finish no more than 0.25 miles along that invisible line from that invisible point, and record the time you finish (in a soggy log book?). Radio your finish time to the race committee and then take your kite down before you crash into the reef right in front of you.
We solved the riddle, finished the race, and were greeted by man's best friend: the Kaneohe escort boat. Those guys are outstanding. They did however struggle to understand how you could sail a boat across an ocean, into the harbor, drop the sails, and back into a stern-tie dock without a motor. It's a dinghy! We were greeted at 6:30am by what must have been 25 cheering people at the dock in a primo spot I assume reserved for the people that voluntarily suffer the most on the smallest boats, draped in lei's (Snafu got one too!) and slowly sunk into the Kaneohe yacht club groove throughout the day.
A phenomenal event. Phenomenal people, the organizers and participants alike. Unreal. I kept my emotions in check until I witnessed Blade Runner's Andy struggle to contain his own, upon their arrival a few hours later.
We climbed the Everest of Moore 24 sailing, summited, and kept a tradition alive for the the future of Santa Cruz ULDBs. What an honor. Thanks all.