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Monthly Archives: September 2010

Excuse the absence, I’ve been on vacation in Louisiana, and it’s been really awesome.  But I won’t blog about that.

Instead, this:

When I decided to come to Europe with Myrna, just a couple of years ago, I was like all of these people:

After a few months of sailing and racing over there I’m like this dude:

Well, maybe not that bad, but it covers at least part of it.

Mostly that transition took place over the past several months, culminating in an Azores Race that had just the right conditions to reveal several time bombs hidden within my boat.  Some old, some new, all of which I am responsible for in some way.

Here’s a brief summary, I broke the mast three days before the start.  People were surprised how calm I was about it, and I didn’t really understand it myself.  It’s as if I was clear of the incident at the start.  Then 500 miles from the finish I lost my leeward rudder gudgeon after hitting something.  That left me with limited control under spinnaker and I had a particularly bad broach which left me with a broken companionway hatch.  These and a few other things were repaired in Horta, and the boat was ready again for the second leg, though the accumulation of damages was starting to sink in, and I began to worry more about finishing the race than competing.  I realized I wasn’t as clear of the mast incident as I thought.   Lo and behold, on the first night the hatch repair began falling apart, and by mid morning of day two, while sailing with a fractional spinnaker in big waves the running backstay tang laminated to the mast ripped off.  I still had about 1,100 miles to get to the finish at this point.  It’s an inline rig with the same fittings holding the rest of the mast up, so I doused the kite which now looked like a compound bow, and sailed north under full mainsail and winged out jib in big breeze, to get into lighter winds.  I was not able to jerry rig the runner without doing dodgy stuff to the existing terminals, so I sailed on towards the finish with the boat as it was.  I was fine on starboard tack, but when the wind went back to the north I had to sail with heavily reduced sail area to relieve the mast.  To get headstay tension on port I would double reef the main and put on loads of mainsheet tension along with lots of upper checkstay tension.  It seemed to stabilize the mast.  It was rainy and overcast to the point that my solar charge controller was showing zero solar activity in the middle of the day, and with more than 500 miles to the finish I ran out of batteries completely.  It was then I decided to head to Lorient where the boat was based instead of finish the race.

 I hand steered for the first day of no power.  I was really enjoying the lack of instruments.  You get so glued to watching those numbers that it detracts from the joy of sailing sometimes, and sailing without them was surprisingly pleasant.  The second day of no power was getting old, but there was enough solar activity to use the pilot for a couple hours that day, and that night I experimented with balancing the sails to make progress, though it wasn’t very fast.  The third day I was just excited to get to Lorient, and I steered happily the entire day motivated by many things, mostly that this was probably my last sail on the boat and the conditions were really nice in the bay with flat water and fast code five reaching on starboard tack.

 Finishing in Lorient at 2 AM was a private and lovely experience.  The wind was calm, the harbor was beautifully lit and there wasn’t a single person around.  I docked the boat, put on some relatively dry clothes, and walked to a payphone and called my family to let them know I was okay.  It was then that I discovered there was a bit of drama surrounding my detour.  Mostly that the Mini Class was really upset that I didn’t notify them that I was dropping out.  I had misunderstood how to use the beacon which, unlike the Transat becons, only had one shiney red button.  Apparently I was supposed to push it once if I was dropping out, and if I was in need of assistance I was supposed to push it every fifteen minutes, or every fifteen seconds for an undetermined amount of time.  I never got a straight answer on that sequence, but I thought that pressing the button equaled asking for assistance and I didn’t need assistance, so I never touched it.  Then I found out rumors had been spread that I intended to drop out from the start and that my fiancé/girlfriend/wife (depending on who told the story) was meeting me in Lorient.  I wish at least part of that was true.  So, Classe Mini decides that based on these rumors they would publish something suggesting almost as much.  I was surprised they would do that, but not mortified, because the mini fleet is a pretty small world, and after this year, I had no plans to rejoin the class and am working on another sailing project for 2011. 

That being said, the Azores race is a perfect race for preparing for the Mini Transat.  The guys who completed this race in preparation like Bertrand Delense, Xavier Macaire and Jorg Reichers are going to be so hard to beat next year, it’s not even worth talking about until the race ends.  Those guys did an amazing job in that race, and truly the whole Azores fleet has a leg up for next year.  Pretty much anything that you can break on this race broke.  Also it was a lot of fun getting to know these sailors over the last several months.

But for me it’s back to my roots on bigger boats.  I have missed them dearly over the last several years, and had to pleasure to sail with Conrad Colman ( on the recently chartered 40 Degrees, an Owen Clarke Classe 40.  It’s their most recent design, and she’s proven to be very competitive against the newest generation of 40’s out there, proven by Conrad’s third place in the Happi Baie.  Conrad will be participating in this year’s Route du Rhum ( which starts at the end of October, and I’m going back to FR to help him prepare for the event, and hopefully act as a pressure valve for him so he can relax a little before the race.  It’s a huge event, and I’ve worked for guys before in Conrad’s position, so I know what he needs me to do.  I enjoy that work very much. 

Meanwhile Conrad and I are also looking for sponsorship to participate in the Global Ocean Race ( which starts in one year.  It’s great to have a really solid product to offer a sponsor with a great co-skipper in Conrad, a competitive boat that is large enough to host corporate hospitality events and a venue that is truly international with stops in Spain, Cape Town, New Zealand, Uraguay, and the United States.  We are very excited about the event, and the boat is an absolute joy to sail.  Much more comfortable than the mini, more ergonomic, easier to maneuver and in the end it’s where I came from. 

40 Degrees:

I leave for France Next week to rejoin Conrad for his upcoming event. 

More from there.