Monday, August 29, 2011

Belated video update

Just in case someone runs across this site, it isn't complete without these!

And here's the start- we're a little late, maybe 6th over the line, flopping over onto port just behind the crowd, then matching the Wylie 30 (boat with the dark main-only rig) toward the gate:

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What worked, what didn't

The boat was well-prepped from the point of view that we took
everything off and got it back together the way it was, only stronger
and more water-tight. We made very few changes to the stock setup, which
was alright, but could have been improved.

We were as aggressive as we could be with the boat weight. We did our
best to meet the exact letter of the rules in the most efficient way
possible- using a lightweight emergency rudder from Phil's Foils, a
mostly carbon cassette for it, a carbon emergency tiller adapter that
allowed the same tiller to be used for both the primary and emergency
rudder, etc. We had to splice on 15 and 50 feet of line to our existing
anchor rodes, which seemed quite silly. We brought a few extra gallons
of fresh water beyond the requirement, since the start had become a
light-air forecast and we had freeze-dried food for the final days which
would need water added. We ended up showering with and dumping almost
ten gallons of water three days from the finish after assuring ourselves
we had plenty to last to the end. Our biggest indulgence weight wise was
probably the food, and having an installed head (no tank) instead of the
race minimum "bucket with fitted seat".

Basic changes we did make were to install a double-ended-style traveler
line instead of the old windward sheeting catastrophe, and we added a
double-ended vang control, lead back to the back of the cabin top. We
were able to blow the vang"rip-chord" quite easily, and did so on at
least three occasions. We ran the afterguys to the secondaries on the
cabin top, the only downside there was that we had the old horn cleats
there- adjustments were thus slow, and required a second body to assist.
We generally cross sheeted the spinsheet across the primaries, using the
leeward primary as a fairlead. The line between the primaries became the
"banjo", so the helm could take up slack as the sail collapsed. The clam
cleat on the high side primary allowed the driver to blow that
"rip-chord" as well, during round-ups. The other deviation from
"standard" in the sailing department was the use of Forespar's trigger
ends on the pole, which made jibing almost always a lot faster using the
"fishing" method of snaring the new guy in the open jaw. We made up a
spinnaker net in time for the second night of running conditions, and
let's just say that all the headstay wraps happened on the first night.
So either we got lots better, or the net worked. We did all but the
windiest douses into the forward hatch, bald, and re-hoisted the new
kite from the same place. I kept the next spinnaker up and down range
cued-up in the hatch, with all three corners tied to short bits of
string hanging from the hatch hinge. We got some minor twisting caused
mostly by hoisting bald as the wind wanted to rotate the exposed tack
corner. Nothing a little tugging wouldn't snap out, though.

As part of the refit of the boat, we sanded and had the boat repainted , and one
change was to redo the non-skid with Kiwi-Grip. It's a neat product, but
I found it to be a little slippery when wet, and it shredded knuckles or
knees when dry- sort of the worst of both worlds. I was a bit surprised
by this- I had read such good reviews of the stuff everywhere I had
looked, and it looks and feels like it should work better. I want to add
more to the foredeck to improve traction there, and maybe the side-decks
as well. I can deal with the abraded skin as long as the stuff keeps me
from sliding off the boat.

The new rudder was a dream compared to the stock plank. Phil's Foils
built it using the same rectangular plan form, just shifted it forward
about 2" to provide a little "balance". And they used a more modern foil
section, made it lighter, and after fairing, it had about a 2mm trailing
edge. Never a vibration or hum, never felt the rudder stall or give up
(the times we lost it were due to reacting too late, or the rudder
simply having nothing to grab as we lifted the back end over a wave).

Down below, we used a butane single-burner stove, on a gimbal setup from
Origo, and used about a half-dozen fuel bottles. Only downside to this
setup is the space it took up, leaving very little galley space for prep
and clean up. The salt-water foot pump to the galley sink was crucial to
keeping things easy to clean- never had to go get water with a bucket
which gets old quickly. We used two big Coleman coolers on the salon
sole for our frozen meal storage, packing sails all around them for
additional insulation. With ten pounds of dry ice in each one, the food
stayed frozen through the 5th day, and we ate the sixth meal after it
had been just thawed for a day, no problem. We used food prepared by a
personal chef for the first six days of dinners, and he did an absolute
knock-out job. The next two days were Trader Joes pre-made indian food
meals that didn't require refrigeration- they were surprisingly good.
Then on to the freeze-dried stuff, which wasn't half as bad as folks
made it out to be, in my opinion. Our only lacking, partly
self-inflicted, was running out of sweets and snacks. We should have
bought a little more, and been more disciplined about eating the fresh
stuff early to save the sweet/snacks for later on.

We made the decision early on to sleep in the main salon so the nav and
galley areas wouldn't be fettered by a sleeping body in the quarterberths. So we made a pipe
berth for the starboard side (thinking this was supposed to a starboard
tack/jibe race for 90% of the way, almost exactly opposite this time).
That worked well when we used it, and later in the race it became a
crew-gear shelf while we slept in the lower cushions. Again, thinking
we'd be on starboard most of the way, we outfitted only the starboard
lower cushion with a lee cloth. Sorry to Doug for the time he got rolled
out of the port bunk onto the sails (luckily) on the floor.

Shawn replaced the head with a Lavac that he had to import from England.
It's a really great head, when properly installed. One of the valves got
put in incorrectly and the thing had to be rebuilt twice in the first
three days until we figured out the problem. Not fun, but thereafter

Before the race, Shawn spent a bunch of time on the engine, replacing
motor mounts, all external stuff like water pump and belts/hoses, and
upgrading the alternator to an 80-amp Balmar unit with external 4-step
regulator. We were learning about it as we raced, but it worked well.
The three-battery, two-bank set of Optima batteries worked well,
requiring us to charge generally just once per day for a little less
than an hour. We installed a Xantrex battery monitor, which we were also
learning along the way, but it appeared to work well.

We didn't spend any time (a big mistake) running the instruments with
the nav software. Turned out the combination of vintage and current
Nexus instruments and transducers couldn't be unraveled by Expedition,
and we didn't get a chance to try Nexus' own software. We had decent
info to display, but some instruments just couldn't be calibrated close
enough to be used. We absolutely should have mounted a few displays on
the mast- even our best drivers went "googly-eyed" after a session of
night driving with the bulkhead mounted displays. Other night-sailing
improvements would have been better shielding of the light from the
masthead tri-color. It was so bright that it also hurt drivers eyes at
night. We also should have fabbed some kind of shield for the nav area
so the laptop screen didn't blind the driver.

We left SF with the idea of using the "tried and true" watch system of
4-on 4-off during the day, 3-on and 3-off during the night, staggered
two hours such that each driver would be alone on deck for two hours
once in the day, and one hour once in the night. Nope, didn't work at
all. After a couple of tweaks that lead to some bad outcomes and some
hard feelings, we revamped the schedule entirely. What worked in the end
was rolling three-hour shifts in the day, still staggered two hours so
that we each got an hour solo on deck, but then at night when driving
was toughest and the wind was strongest, we used 3 hours on and 1.5
hours off. We rotated drivers every thirty minutes (see "googly-eyed"
comment above), and kept two bodies on deck all through the night. This
was quite tough, but it worked and we felt like we were keeping the boat
rolling at near 100% this way.

Our biggest downfall was in the sailing department. We just spent too
much time working on the boat, not enough time sailing it in race
conditions. We had done lots of buoy and overnight racing- Shawn has
owned it for something like 15 years- but we upgraded and changed a lot
of things in the last few years that should have been better tested, at
night especially. And I could certainly have used more no-light helm
time- I struggled with downwind sailing in no-light, overcast, windy,
lumpy-sea conditions. Doug excelled in them, Shawn figured it out
quickly, I just seemed to beat my head against the wall. I finally
resorted to the brute-force inelegant method of staring up at the kite
luff and windex and steering to just those inputs. My neck was not
happy. I got simply lost when trying to feel the boat and use the
instrument compass or wind angle display. I'll let others speak to the
other difficulties we had, but I think we all brought a little baggage
to the table that could have been somewhat sorted with some night
sailing time together in breeze. Coulda, woulda, shoulda...

Sails. We brought a good-shape, couple year old main that had been
toughened a little by the sailmaker. We never had before, and didn't pad
the spreader tips for the race, and punctured the sail with them. Ooops.
Two trips up the mast to add some duct tape wraps and patches, and the
sail survived. We also broke a top batten at the mast-end holder, but it
stayed in the sleeve, mostly. The main was almost always quite ugly,
draped over the shrouds, shape just wasn't possible. Also in the
inventory was a new jib top in cross-cut dacron which worked well, a new
narrow-shouldered S3 reaching kite which was great, a new Airex900 S4
kite which we hoisted but decided was just too heavy, and a new Airex600
S2 kite that we used up to about 28 knots of breeze. The cloth was very
stiff, and it would collapse and re-fill with a boat-shaking bang. We
also had an old soft nylon smaller "chicken kite" that we used as our
training wheels on the first night of downwind sailing. Other sails on
board were the AP#1 genoa, a #3 jib, required storm sails (trysail and
storm jib), a half-ounce kite, and a new free-flying high-cut staysail.
The staysail worked great as a windseeker, but never seemed to do
anything worthwhile as a staysail when the kite was up. Maybe if we had
a tack point further out along the rail- we tried the mooring cleat and
the aft-pulpit base. It just sucked the kite into it's lee and made the
kite very hard to drive to.

The boat. Overall, I was simply amazed at what a J30 could do. We had
one almost 200nm 24 hour run in reaching conditions, and several over
180nm runs in running conditions. The boat was easy to drive reaching
and running up to about 27 knots, and above that we let Doug drive and
he had the thing absolutely scooting. We didn't trust our speed
instruments much, but we each pegged the fun meter over 14 knots, and
Doug had Friction Loss surf down a wave and continue on a plane such
that we caught, climbed, and PASSED an 8'+ swell ahead. The boat raises
her bow, throws out a huge bow wave, and just scoots when you add swell
and breeze together. We started using 8 knots of boatspeed as our
target, feeling slow when this couldn't be achieved. Funny, in less than
18 knots breeze, the waves would shake the wind out of the sails as
happens inshore in around 6 knots breeze. It's a different world, in the
big swells and soft air of the tropics.

In closing, I'd like to offer thanks to Shawn for asking me onto his
boat for this trip, and putting the effort into getting the boat ready-
no small feat for a guy that works for a living; and to Doug for lending
us his skills and experience and steady assurance that we and the boat
could keep pressing, ever harder.

(note pics were taken after a beer can race, just illustrating some of the points...)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Final push

We've been having some great sailing these last few days, finally. Current ETA looks like Monday morning.

Last night we lost a few miles to the lead boat in our class, the Wyliecat30 Nancy. We thought we had an advantage over them in heavier air runing, so we've really enphasized the night watches to press that advantage. Night before, we had a 17 mile gain, while in last night's lighter air we lost about 3 miles. Drat. Still pressing on though.

This morning we ended up in front of a pair of really strong squalls, the first building to a steady 27 knots, so we took the runner down and put up the chicken chute, only to have the breeze go away rapidly. Back up with the runner, and the breeze build again to about 28 knots, with Friction Loss actually riding up and over the back of the Pacific swell. Some would call this planing, maybe a J30 really is a sportboat? -heh. We got a little video of it, hope to upload when we finish. It was tons of fun, and kudos to EP for building a .6spinnaker that can take the abuse we've given the poor thing over this race.

Food is running a little low, not counting the freeze dried stuff. We're all rummaging around for snacks and sweets and not finding much. We still have a bunch of Jolly Ranchers though- the surprising hit of the night watches. The cockpit floor is currently littered with the wrappers until cleanup in the morning. We have surplus fresh water, so have been washing hands and faces with it, a real treat.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010


After a very hard night's work, we're rewarded at this morning's roll call to find we've taken a 17 mile bite out of Nancy's lead. We flew the "chicken" kite all night in 18-26 knots breeze with no moon, 100% overcast skies, and big lumpy swells. I'm pleased to report I was the last driver to round the boat up, so there. We did a gruelling 3 hours on, 1 1/2 hour off watch system throught the night to keep 2 bodies on deck at all times, and rotated drivers every 30 minutes. I think Doug is the only one to get into the 15's, but Shawn and I have a couple of 14's so not too far off.

Last night was the first of our Trader Joe's packaged food- unrefridgerated "real" food in sealed pouches, and not too bad.

We're in a bit of a wind shift now and have jibed to port pole, a massive relief as steering with our left arms was going to eventually turn us all into left-side-Hulks, right-side-Pee-Wees. We have Jamani about a half mile astern now, closing slowly. They're a J120 that started two days after us.

Uh oh, two miles to halfway, dunno what we're doing, hope it involves a beer!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Reach for it

Yesterday and today have been great reaching condtions, with the overcast finally clearing last night for some skies like we never get to see in So Cal. Today is clear and breezy, 15-18 knots, and Friction Loss is trucking along with reaching kite up doing mostly 7's and 8's. Forecasts look good for the remainder.

Food (cand you tell it has made an impression on us?) continues to amaze. Last night's Moroccan chinken noodle soup ws another knockout. Thursday's dinner was Italian beef stew with pasta, also un-sucky. Tonight we have Paella, and then one final dish until we get to the stuff we're less excited about. And the dry ice is now gone, so tonight's dish is self-thawed, tomorrow's will be beyond thawed.... Should be fine though.

Turns out Lavac's reputation is intact- no human has yet to clog one of their toilets and we can stop kidding him about doing so, and blame him for installing the valve wrong and giving us two day's of dread about a non-functioning head for the rest of the trip, instead.

Otherwise, no significant breakages, we're just sorry not to get those days back spent beating away from the coast. It looks like we've moved back to 2nd place, losing some 20 miles mostly overnight on Wednesday as Nancy found a breeze patch to our north and made big gains while we struggled in a really really big windless hole with sloppy sloppy chop overlaid. Definitely put the "un" in "Fun race to Hawaii".But we're better now, have a little leverage on Nancy, and some good conditions coming up where we think we can catch her.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Turning a corner

So we've finally got a kite up, but it's to port when this is supposed to be a starboard pole parade kind of race. This is the first day we've spent time out of our foulies, with just a bit of watery sun poking through. It looks like the high is forming alright, hoping it holds together and lets us join up and have some good sailing.

Important trip notes: food- last night was another really good meal from chef James, Asian style braised pork which had bits of potatoe, ginger, red pepper, lime rind, and I'm getting hungry again just thinking of it. Tonight will be an Italian dish of some sort, thawing out now. The other significant news was the head, which had a backwards-installed choker valve which worked fine until some "real" material was required to pass through.There've been some fabulous poo jokes flying around the boat today, and some darn funny attempts made to clear what we thought was a blockage- foghorn in the bowl, upside down gallon water bottle stepped on, etc. Most involved splashing, and the horn produced a finely atomised mist blowing out of the bowl that I thought was particularly amusing.

Kite change being requested now, so gotta run.