Due to the keyboard problems with the crew computer, my blogs have not been posting correctly. So I’m catching up with some late ones.
Day 3, and looking back at the end of race 9
Well it’s our third day out, and as I’m sure you’ve read in all the SKipper blogs, we are having beautiful blue skies and downwind sailing conditions. The wind is lighter now, so we are saiing our biggest spinnaker, and many of the new joiners are getting a taste of helming with the kite up, and on the lovely long, slow Pacific swell that is pushing us southwards. I was mother yesterday with Phil – so not much to report except that the bread was successful and the yogurt was not. Maybe we used an icecream mix by mistake – all our new packages say on the outside is a flavor – we just hope they are for yogurt.
This seems like a good time to recap the last stages of race 9 while I can just about remember them. I think the last post I wrote was as we came out of stealth, when we were in the lead. We were worried about the big windhole between us and San Francisco, and sure enough on the second day out
we woke up in it. The ocean was so smooth it looked like a pool of mercury – with an uneasy motion as left over swells rolled by from at least 2 different directions. We saw large floppy fins like sealions but surely too far from the coast, and what appeared to be a group of large porpoises, with only tiny dorsal fins just breaking through the grey top of the water. A dark colored albatross, – black footed? – came by, the wind was so light it was barely managing to glide, just inches above His own reflection in the silvery surface. We thought he’d be our last one before San Francisco. Slowly though, the wind came up – first just scattered catspaws on the top of the waves, but eventually filling in from the north west. Down came the windseeker and up went the A2. California seemed so close! It was comforting
to hear the coastguard over the VHF speaking with a familiar America accent.
THat night we had complete darkness again, and the helming challenge was not
to let the surfs carry us too low. Tricky helming and trimming, requiring all
THe last day out dawned grey and misty again – but now we had more wind, and the angle had changed so that our challenge was staying low enough. We were pushing as hard as we could with the A2 up – white knuckles stuff for me, and I don’t think Eric slept at all in those last couple of days. He helmed a lot, taking shrt breaks for one of us to take over, then kicking us off when we ‘lost the groove’ – which was a difficult one to keep in. ANother handsome dark albtross came by – quite a surprise so close to the coast. He soared alongside us and around us for quite a while, making sure we got a chance to admire him.
THen, with Morgan on the helm, Eric said how glad he was we hadn’t hit ‘that log’. Of course everybody turned to see the log, and as I remember the sequence of events, we lost the groove again and the kite stated to flog, with the horrible explosive sounds we’ve all grown to hate. THen the halyard broke, again, and the kite collpsed into the sea. It was harder this time to avoid it, it seemed to be in danger of being sucke under the boat, and we were slow releasig the tack. Eventually we had all hands on deck to recover it. As it trailed behind us it was obvious something was badly wrong – I wasn’t even sure the entire spinnaker was still there. Heather was saying encouraging things like ‘it’s not to bad’ until she got a better view, then she just told people not to look. Eric’s succinct comment was ‘It’s f***ed’ – and once we had it inboard we just sent it below to be bagged and out of sight. We were not a happy crew to have done our worst ever sail damage at such a critical point in the race. THe rest, I guess, is history. We flew the A3 instead for about 3 hours, not
really the right sail for the conditions. Then the wind lightened more and more, and we switched to the A1 and now struggled to hold a course low enough. The fickle winds were definitely favoring GB. Few of us got any sleep
that day. We had murres – guillemots to you Europeans – amusing us with their
clumsy attempts to take off. Most of them just flopped back into the water, so any one that actually got flying raised a cheer from our slightly overtired crew.
We saw no land at all until after dark, when the lights of San Francisco’s Outer Sunset appeared, and we could also make out the Mile Rock and Point Bonita. The Bridge was invisible under a blanket of marine fog. BUt so dramatic when we sailed under it with the A1 up, the towers and the deck lit
up with an eerie orange glow. Team member Tony, who sailed with us in the SOuthern Ocean, came out in his power boat with pizza and beer – the pizza was gratefully received, bt not the beer, as it would be against the rules. THen after a cold wait for the photographer near the Bay Bridge – you can see
us falling about laughing hysterically in the pictures, we were too exhasted
for sensible poses – we were in. At home in South Beach Harbor, with good friends waiting for us in the middle of the night. We were perhaps a bit subdued at that moment, dissapointed with second place when we’d been so close to first, sad about the mes we;d made of our A2, and generally too tired to think. But on reflection we have so much to be proud of – just 14 of
us coming across the Pacific all the way from CHina, coming second and thanks to the scoring gate and the sprint – (we know it should have been DLL’s] picking up more points than any other boat on the leg. ANd back on the top of the leader board too. But more than anything else, we had an amazing passage across the world’s mightiest ocean, and we still like eachother! It doesn’t get much better than that.