Another great sailing day -- nearly flat water, clear skies, hot weather, strong following wind, our biggest spinnaker up for all 24 hours, and even a small wind shift to help us down the course. It really doesn't get any better.Our Sunday isn't quite over. We are running the boat's clock on UCT â€“ the old Greenwich Mean Time -- so Sunday ends for us four hours earlier than on the East Coast. But it looks like another 250-plus miles for 24 hours. We are near the midpoint of the course in seven-plus days, which we consider excellent.
Right now we are out of touch with other fleet positions. That information comes through a Globalstar satellite, and between the continents there is a gap, which we are now crossing. So we do not know how we stand in the fleet rankings, but we know that 250-mile days cannot be all bad.
And hot weather to boot. Most everyone was barefoot and in shorts today, which seems incredible. We are still south of the Gulf Stream in very warm water, and on the same latitude as
The crew did major maintenance today. Ashley again went up the rig to re lead the spinnaker halyard that was originally lost however, on her way up the rig she ripped her thumbnail half off. The incident occurred when the crew member hoisting her up the rig stopped the winch to readjust. As the rig was pitching around Ashley put her hands around the sides of the rig while waiting. At the same time the main flopped forward and back. By coincidence when it flopped back against the rig Ashleyâ€™s thumb was caught between the full length batten pocket and the mast. When the crew member pulling Ashley up the rig started to hoist he did not understand Ashley's call to HOLD, her thumb was still caught between the fully powered up main and the mast. Ashley ended up hanging upside down trying to stop herself from being pulled against her thumb. By the time Ashley was dropped back down the rig her nail was hanging on but there was a lot of blood. Â Â
ÂIn steps our ER Dr. Kevin McMeel with needles which Ashley hates and he puts it all right. Ashley however, has been told to stay put in the salon with her arm in the air until the swelling has subsided.
ÂTomas Mark, who knew the hours-long procedure from his days as Tempestâ€™s first mate, went up and finished fishing the missing spinnaker halyard inside the mast. He got a round of cheers and applause when he came back to the deck.Will Hubbard learned new skills. With the industrial sewing machine he repaired the torn number three jib and patched the number one. Ashley passed along the skill of how to splice on a new halyard shackle, a job we need to do regularly as the steady spinnaker running chafes the existing end of the line. We switched guys on the spinnaker, again to replace chafed line. Ruud Blanc resealed the joint where the mast passes through the deck, thus heading off water leakage near electrical connections. Racing puts big strains on a boat, and this maintenance is unglamorous but vital.
Friends and families can be assured that we are well fed. For lunch, hot chicken breast sandwiches on pita bread. For dinner, beef Stroganoff.
Here are pencil portraits of the final five crew:
Ashley Perrin, half
Phillip Wilmer, from western
Kevin McMeel, another Canadian (and friend of Phil) has unique and vital skills. As an emergency room MD, he fixes our bumps and burns and gives us great reassurance. As a ham radio operator and as our assistant navigator, he downloads satellite weather pictures in real time.
Christian Jensen, our Danish resident of
And finally, the indispensable man, our navigator from
Forecast for tomorrow is that the wind will come ahead, the spinnaker will come down, and that our perfect racing conditions will revert toward the mean. Â
Around 1 am this morning Ashley went back up the rig to retrieve the spinnaker halyard as the wind was switching to make it favorable for the spinnaker. Yesterday the chain had come clattering to deck so we know the spinnaker halyard that she had had to leave up there was now free to run. Â Â Â Â Â
ÂAshley went up on the jib halyard that remained - it was dark and we were heeled over carrying the full main and jib it large waves. She had the VHF radio tied on so as to communicate with the deck and a head torch on. Unfortunately as there were no other halyards free she could not attach herself to an external halyard to help hold her to the rig.
ÂThe boat was bucking over each wave and moving violently fore and aft as well as side to side. The motion was pretty bad and excentuated 100 foot up the mast. About 15 feet from the top of the rig on a large wave she was thrown off the rig and was flung around the backstay, main around the leeward side back around the forestay and hit the rig on the weather side. She was now fully wrapped around the rig and there was no way of hoisting her up or easing her down the rig. All the people on deck could see was the reflective stripes on her foul weather gear.
ÂShe held on to the mast tightly trying to radio to deck to tell us that all is fine and that although bruised she is not injured. However, her head torch had fallen into the ocean and she had no way of telling that her radio had changed channel. She tried to lean out from the rig to the thin rod rigging backstay to start to untangle herself. She gets around that and falls back onto the rig. Then she tries to climb out along the mainsail and when she gets to the leech to climb around to leeward the boat goes over a wave and the main flicks her like a small insect around the mast yet again. She again hits the rig with no control over how she lands. She is now wrapped twice around the rig. It is dark and the conditions are still bad.
ÂShe then takes a sail tie which is in an inside pocket and uses this to tie to the backstay, then around the main to the leeward side then to the forestay and the weather rigging etc. Each time she moves to the next goal she ties the sail tie to the part of the rig she is moving around. This will stop her from being thrown away from and around the rigging again. At this point she was shaking and apparently telling herself what an idiot she was.
ÂAfter 30 minutes up the rig she finally returns to deck battered and bruised but with the spinnaker halyard. As morning came we left behind the clouds, squalls, rain, lumpy seas and grungy living. Day Seven was just about perfect.
Through the day, the wind moved from southeast to southwest, freeing us to set our biggest spinnaker for the first time, 405 square meters -- over 4000 square feet -- of pulling power. With wind speed steady around 24-26 knots, we clicked off hour after hour of running at 11-plus knots. Our top speed when we caught a slide down a wave front was 13.8 knots.
The boat is flat again, the first time in days and days. So we cleaned everything, meaning everything. Everyone took a shower. Ashley, a purist, almost lamented the decadence of a hot shower while racing -- "only my second racing shower ever" -- but took one anyway and came on deck smiling. We washed clothes and festooned the rails with drying socks, shirts, foul weather suits, and long johns looking like a refugee ship. All decks below were cleaned, all mess tidied, all loose gear reorganized and stowed. It was like a second start.
We switched from three-hour watches back to four-hour watches allowing longer periods of sleep. The food couldn't improve -- it is already terrific -- but it was eaten with more style. We sat around the saloon table, now flat and clean again, and put knife and fork to huge beef pies. And after dinner, the standby watch picked "The Shipping News" (with Swedish subtitles for Thomas Mark's benefit) as the evening's DVD. We all now know how to say certain obscenities in Swedish.
A surprise today was a long radio conversation with a 30-foot sailboat racing across our course from Bermuda to the
For three days Tempest's computer had been on the semi-fritz, and it has been increasingly hard to send and receive emails or to get our position reports. Michael Lawson, ever ingenious, fixed the computer and it is working perfectly again. Allowing us to receive news about the demolition to the boats up north with three boats out and Mari-Cha wounded.
As promised, we have finally turned north to the great circle route to
To continue with a further description of our team, here are five who came from farthest from
Max Hutter flew from
Tomas Mark from
Dutch citizens Rudolph (Ruud) Blanc and Monique (Miek) Splinter are the owner's professional all-year-round crew. We do not get to choose them, but we could not have been more fortunate in having them aboard. (This is not blathering for their benefit, they won't read this.) There is nothing they can't do cheerfully, promptly and perfectly. Yesterday Ruud disassembled one of boat's computer monitors, dissected the pieces, dried them, and put them all together again in working order. Awesome.
The sea is flatter, the steering steadier, the wind just a hair lighter, the speed good (11-12 knots) but we can now carry a main so the car problem has to be solved. The bottom cap of the damaged car remains on the track, the body of the car is not damaged and we have extra crayons so the solution is to take a new top cap from the extra cars we have and cut it in half allowing the two halves to be put on the track. This means that Ashley and Peter can reinstall the intermediate car without sliding off all the cars below. The top cap of the car in two halves is connected to the car with screws and loctite and the jury rig works. The main can go back up and the speed increases again.Â We continue to execute our grand strategy of staying in the strongest winds with the best angles. So we have been moving fast to the east, but not yet north toward
A brief report on the five plain-vanilla Americans other than myself is:
Peter Becker, our senior watch captain, is the indefatigable 100 miles per hour irresistible force. He bounds across the deck with his Ming the Merciless black rain cap, and cannot rest until everything is perfect. And even then he does not rest.
Steve Lirakis, watch captain, is also a dynamo of energy, keeping his eye on everything and telling good stories all the way. We learned that like Will Hubbard today, Steve did his first transatlantic race when he was a 21-year old college senior.
Will Hubbard, bowman, is the youngest aboard, but ready to race Ashley to go up the mast on a moment's notice. His enthusiasm is contagious.
The two Bills -- Hubbard and Morris -- have fitted right into the steering rotation and keep the boat moving. Bill Hubbard stuck to ginger cookies for two days until he felt 100 percent again, but is now back in the trough with the rest of us.
Nobody has taken a shower yet. Christian Jensen says 'Everyone smells like a goat.'
30 knot winds continue and we are forced to change our sail combination as the pin that extends from the batten cars on the mast into the batten end cap on the mainsail do not have a locking mechanism and despite assurances that this wouldnâ€™t occur they are backing out. One car came detached from the main completely and Kevin and Ashley dropped the main to reattach it â€“ this time using some loctite. However, on the rehoist one of the intermediate cars exploded off the main track spitting the â€˜crayonsâ€™ which allow the car to slide up the mast out and damaging the top cap which keeps the car on the main track. Â Â Â Â
ÂDuring this process the mizzen was rehoisted to take the place of the reef main and the storm jib was replaced with the number four. We found that this combination decreased heel and didnâ€™t adversely affect speed allowing us to continue at eleven knots. We had to put a reef in the mizzen for a short while as the webbing holding the sail to the intermediate cars on the mizzen track and the cringle in the sail pulled out. Thomas and Ashley climbed up onto the boom with needle, thread, spectra webbing and a leatherman to do the repair after which it was rehoisted.
ÂAs the intermediate car is still damaged and the jib and jigger rig is still allowing 11 knots of boat speed we have left the main down for the night. We have extra cars and â€˜crayonsâ€™ but the car that needs replacing is the 4th one down from the head of the main and the only way to get a new car on it by sliding it onto the track at the gooseneck. A jury rig has to be engineered, as taking off most of the main cars is not an option especially in these conditionsâ€“ at the dock this is a difficult process, which takes two people half a day.
ÂOur transponder is not telling NYYC where we are and we cannot inspect it in heavy winds and seas. So we email our position when we can. We have two on-shore routers advising us, and we have two navigators aboard -- Michael Lawson and Dr. Kevin McMeel. Three different computers and programs are all telling us that over the next five days or so, we should have strong winds behind us. We are still the farthest boat south in the fleet but the boats only 60 miles north of us are in 40 knot headwinds while we are is less wind on the beam. Kevin says, 'Some guys are beating up to
Gone are the light and medium winds and the spinnaker flying we are in an area of 20-30 knot southerlies east of our entry into the Â Â Â
ÂYesterday ended with a severed spinnaker halyard stuck half in the mast and the other one jammed. A combination of judicious jiggling by several people and the day's slamming speed allowed the bike chain and halyard to be pulled out and freed the other one which is still up the rig.While other boats in this race eat freeze-dried food our meals would do a fine restaurant proud â€“ the boat weighs 55 tons so the added weight of real food is not considered too much of a handicap. Dinners have been beef tenderloin stew, chicken breasts stuffed with artichoke hearts, pasta primavera with hot sausage, and tonight's beef tenderloin with potatoes gratin.
ÂThe weather analysis predicts another two days of this fast sailing. We have cut through a meander of the
Around twilight we decided to take down our heavy asymmetric spinnaker. We were reaching our first goal -- the
The crew flooded the deck to get the new lightweight drifter hoisted, and to take down the big spinnaker. The spinnaker halyard was eased slightly to start lowering the sail. Four of us were ready underneath to catch the sail and pull it down to the deck.Suddenly we were caught in an avalanche of nylon. The whole sail fell on us and partly over the side into the water. Instead of an orderly takedown, the sail had come loose and fallen 100 feet in a couple of seconds, wrapping the crew in about 4000 square feet of fabric and making us pull its corners quickly from the sea.
We looked at the shackle that holds the halyard to the top of the sail. The line had chafed through. The shackle was in our hands, but the spinnaker halyard was now dropped inside the mast. Darkness was coming, and something had to be done. Otherwise that spinnaker halyard would be useless.
The first person ready to go up the mast is always Ashley Perrin. From
Tempest, like almost all big racing sailboats, has four halyards to raise the sails at the front of the boat. Two for the genoas and about three feet higher -- right near the very top of the mast -- are the two spinnaker halyards. All four run inside the mast, then emerge at the top. They are not interchangeable. You can't use a genoa halyard for a spinnaker, or vice versa. It is critically important to have all the halyards working, and now one is useless.
Ashley is hauled up to the top of the mast. It is not a fun experience. Every motion of the boat is magnified greatly at the end of a 100-foot pole. Even though Tempest is moving slowly in light air right now, the mast is swinging steadily. This is an ideal time to get the repair done, though, because in any other wind condition, the motion is likely to be worse.
Job: Slide a bicycle chain into the mast to lead a new line down to the bottom. However, the bicycle chain gets stuck. Despite jiggling and pulling, it won't go up and it won't go down. Nothing more can be done now; darkness is settling in. Bring Ashley down.
Ashley cannot come down! While trying to fish the new line down the mast, the bicycle chain has somehow entangled itself around the second halyard, the one holding Ashley 100 feet in the air. This is serious. Ashley must be lowered to the deck.
The crew sends the one remaining jib halyard up to Ashley. She must now take the end of the jib halyard (which exits below her), attach it securely to her harness, and untie herself from the now-jammed spinnaker halyard. It is difficult because all her weight is carried by the higher halyard, which she must untie. She manages to free herself from the stuck line, and is lowered to the deck as darkness settles in. However, the problem is now worse as the broken halyard is still not re led and the second spinnaker halyard is now at the top of the rig tangled with the bicycle chain.
So Tempest is racing with no way to hoist a spinnaker. These sails add one knot or more of speed when the wind is to the side or behind the boat. Nobody can afford to give away one mile per hour and hope to win a prize. Somehow tomorrow we must fix it.
While all this was gong on, Tempest slid into the
We have many sources of information aboard Tempest: three computers â€“ the boat's, the navigator's, and the assistant navigator's. We get pictures directly from circling satellites, we get data over phone service from another satellite, and we can trade emails with the world.Lesson Learnt:
The light shifty winds over the last 24 hours mean we have only sailed 100 miles sometimes sitting at a dead stop. We are in the company of larger boats in the same position. Light conditions mean many sail changes. And sail changes on this boat, with its 100-foot mast, mean lugging sails, some weighing 200 pounds, hoisting them -- with the aid of electric winches, fortunately -- and then carefully folding and lashing down the sail replaced. Difficult and time-consuming challenge when the wind is up and the boat heeling. Â
ÂRight now the wind is blowing 15-20 knots and we are heeled 17 degrees, making excellent speed --over ten knots -- toward the Stream. The bigger boats that were drifting near us earlier in the day now have the wind to take off and are ahead. We are heading for a strong southerly wind that will fill in around Wednesday. This will allow us to set the spinnaker, turn north east to
It is eighteen hours from the start and Tempest is leading its class on handicap. Our start was far from stellar in fact third time did the trick! First, we were over the line at the pin end by what must have been only a few feet, but over is over. We were so far from the Committee Boat that we could not see their visual signals. Their radio message was partially drowned out by helicopter noise. So we sailed on but five minutes later, we understood that we were officially recalled, and turned the boat around. The air was light, our speed was slow, and it took more than ten minutes to return. The news helicopter was really interested in us now, and kept circling. We were sailing backward from the rest of the fleet - good story. Finally we re crossed the line and heard the Race Committee tell us on the radio '.. you have cleared the line.' Once again, in slow, light winds, we turned the boat around and started across the line, the helicopter still circling. We were about eighteen minutes late.Then we heard the voice of the Race Committee officer loud and clear: 'YOU HAVE NOT CLEARED THE LINE!' We realized that the earlier complete message was "We will notify you when you have cleared the line.â€ Once again, painfully slowly, we turned the boat and went back to the starting line. Finally, the voice said 'YOU HAVE CLEARED THE LINE!' And just to be sure, we repeated it back for confirmation. We finally started 24 minutes late in more wind this would have meant 5 miles.Â Â Â
ÂWhile we were returning and restarting, a slightly stronger breeze came in from the right. We went right with the second hand number one on our own and in two hours overtook the classics division and within 4 hours we were in the middle of our class but to weather and in more wind. We are heading southeast for the
Lesson learnt: Donâ€™t be over early on a long race and taking educated risks could pay off!