Tuesday, July 26, 2016

J/88 Sails Singlehanded TransPac

J/88 TransPac (Hanalei, Hawaii)- The Singlehanded Sailing Society puts on the Singlehanded TransPac race every two years, ever since the first race, way back in 1978.  Since then, more people have made it to outer space than have raced singlehanded from San Francisco to Hawaii.  But, if you like to sail by yourself, paradoxically, you’re still in good company.

The race is open to ocean-going boats and skippers.  This is not an event catering to the latest and greatest go-fast machines, but rather attracts the adventurous skippers that want to test themselves out on the Big Blue Pacific Ocean, and do it in the boats they already own.  It’s a long way from here to there.  Single-handing doesn’t make the race any easier; every skipper is navigating, cooking, sailing hard, all the while fixing what breaks along the way, but as long as you and your boat meet the safety requirements, you are set.  No foils needed.

For many, it is the adventure of a lifetime.  The camaraderie amongst skippers begins even before the fleet assembles for race day inspection.  At the docks, competitors fine-tune last minute preparations, and it’s great to visit the other entries to see the varying solutions to shared problems.  Where does one best stow the “dog” food?  How many spinnakers will fit in the forepeak?  Who is carrying ice cream to Hawaii?

Making landfall in Hanalei Bay marks the completion of an enormous undertaking – a personal victory!  By race finish, you will be a different person.  You will know more about yourself, your boat, your competitors, and what lies beyond the horizon.  As Mike Jefferson put it in his 1996 race log, “Offshore sailing by oneself is a strenuous test of a person’s inner character.  Technical skill and experience are, of course, very useful.”  If you didn’t get enough on the way there, there’s always the sail home. Though not part of the race itself, the return trip becomes a significant part of the experience.

The Hanelei treeThe Ultimate Objective is to get to the “Tree”!  A tree?  Yes, a very special Tree.  Under this Tree at sunset in Hanalei Bay, you will share the highlights and lowlights (which eventually become highlights) and just swap “sea stories” of your journey with race committee, family, friends, and your fellow sailors. If a “Tree experience” isn’t enticing enough, you can compete with the likes of Stan Honey and Steve Fossett to see if you can best their record times- for keelboats it’s Stan’s Cal 40 ILLUSION time of 11:10:52:21 set in 1994.  This year’s boats were not far off the mark until beset by light sections in the race.

The latest update from Chris Cartwright on his J/88 VENTUS proved it was a most eventful experience.

For starters, Chris was second boat-for-boat to finish against an over-powered, modded Olson 30 KATO sailed by Jiri Senkyrik.  Then, Chris was up against similarly updated, over-powered (e.g. big chutes on big poles) of other classic California downwind speedsters.  Nevertheless, his extraordinary performance was marked by hoving-too (sailing nowhere) to fix a boom gooseneck issue and then, again, having to do the same to offset some “5 or more things I hit” during the course of the race.  Subtracting even an hour from his boom scenario would have put Chris’ J/88 as the easy overall winner of the SSS TransPac Race. That is a significant achievement to have finished 2nd overall and, despite all obstacles, fourth in class against well-known offshore sleds like an Olson 29, Olson 30, Santa Cruz 27, Express 27, Wilderness 30 and “wedges of cheese” like Pogo 2 and a MiniTransat 6.0!  Notably, the J/88’s class cleaned house for all overall and class positions that is how tough the competition was over 2,000nm of Pacific Ocean!  More of a report later from Chris about his experiences offshore.  Here were some blog posts from Chris’ experience:

Chris- J/88 sailor extraordinaire offshoreJuly 2nd 1559 hrs- “A little rusty from not enough sailing and much planning.  Managed to start cleanly, this was my only goal.  1/2 way across bay before finally got reefs tucked in!  And, went wrong way tactically! Ugh.  One competitor, “Fast Lane” surprised me with a close port crossing.  No need for coffee!!

Outside the gate, it became very light.  One of the Olson’s put up a Genoa and reeled me in quickly.  I am trying hard just to get west now and into synoptic breeze.  For months, I had imagined cracking off and going south.  Not today!  But, the boat is moving well going west with south swell.”

July 3rd 0659 hrs- “Last night was thrilling and scary.  Winds built to a solid 25 with higher gusts and seas 8-12 feet.  Ventus going 10-12 knots with double reefed main and small jib.  Visibility was nil!  Boat was great. Skipper has a bad case of mal du mere (bad stomach). Slowing boat down today and making some recovery.  Kites are begging to be launched as winds have eased! But, given time and better stomach. Some Wi-Fi issues but solved for now.  Engine charging working well.”

July 4th 0900 hrs- “I “met” Jeane Socrates (Nereida). At about 0200 today as our bows crossed.  Lovely lady. Mal du mere improving and hoping to see some sunshine soon. I keep thinking the overcast is thinning. But, probably my imagination. Starting to get into a rhythm with the boat.  It’s become nicer sailing each day.  Please correct any typos as the saltwater has given me even fatter fingers!”

J/88 sailing offshoreJuly 4th 2100 hrs- “No fireworks and able to eat my first freeze dried meal. Yay for the nutrition!   Now that brain has some glucose, trying to figure out plan for rest of race. Despite having a fast boat and lots of input from very very good racers, my goal has always been a fun sail. I am juggling the usual rhumb lines vs what Expedition (routing software) tells me.  So far, I have basically been sailing comfortable angles towards Hawaii. I have been below Polars in part because I have no crew and probably not sailing to max. I see a couple tropical storms in the future and have some concerns about them.  It appears I should be able to get in ahead of them.”

July 5th 0900 hrs- “Here I am sitting in my nav station- a bean bag chair!  For me, one of the hardest parts is managing other people’s expectations leading up to the trip or managing what I think they except.

I have always loved sailing, the feel of the invisible force propelling a boat forward.  I love a boat that balances out and feels good to drive.  I ended up with a J/88 because I made the mistake of trying it and loved the feel and responsiveness!  I didn’t purchase the boat because I want to race or necessarily go fast.  There is always someone going much faster. One of my fond memories was sailing with a friend on San Francisco Bay going 4 knots in a J/24 and being passed by an AC-72 foiler going 40 kts(ish)!

I know many people look at my boat and think fast and assume I am trying to race.  I am not.  I am trying to learn about myself and have this experience and it is the boat I have now.  I am in the middle of my life (perhaps it is the classic midlife crisis) but I am trying to sort some things out.

I have been fortunate to have had contact with some excellent sailors who helped guide me through the myriad of decisions.  Sails, electronics, electrical systems, and on and on.  Because of their background, most of the stuff and decision for most things are go-fast oriented.

So far, the boat is performing beautifully! And, I am managing.  I have found I enjoy the open water but miss the company of other people both for problem solving and just companionship.  It is probably a good thing for all of us to develop some comfort with being alone.  And this is one of my challenges for this passage!

I saw the tropical storms predicted to cross our paths and thought hard about diverting to Santa Barbara.”

Chris off watchJuly 7th 0600 hrs- “Ah! Morning coffee on Ventus!  Watt & Sea hydro-generator hums along and keeps up with electrical demands even when going slow, it’s an nice change from charging with engine!

I have settled into a routine.  Basic plan is to not go further south in search of breeze.  The tropical storm/hurricane has my attention.  I am amazed by the southern ocean racers who actively seek out storms.  I am going to take to slow route from here.  It’s beautiful!”

July 7th 0830 hrs- “Kite up again on Ventus! After attempting to go wing and wing last night when winds were light and kite would not fill.  I had a night of rocking rolling and banging of rig with swell and no wind.  The fine trim mainsheet was caught in a gybe and is out of action (not an issue). The real issue was that a horizontal pin connecting the boom to gooseneck shook out. This was a bit of a low spot for me because although trades would blow me to Hawaii.  It would be a long long trip. After some encouraging words from friends and SSS community, a few Allen keys, a cotter pin and duct tape, things seem to be holding together!”

July 8th 0910 hrs- “Into the Goodies before midnight!  Port tack and a lot south overnight to move into more wind.  Plan to flip over to starboard to increase velocity to Hawaii for the day.  With luck might get into 1/2 way bag before midnight.”

J/88 in HawaiiJuly 8 1430 hrs- “Ooops.  Miscalculation: No goodie bag today for Ventus.  My previous longest spinnaker run was about 3 hours coming back from the Farallones Islands.   I’m over 30 hours now.  Wind has been light, but made enough south it seems it has filled in around 12 knots.  Sea state low.  Wish there was bigger swell to surf, but even with the little ones the boat releases fast down the waves!  What a surfboard the J/88 is!  Basically, enjoying boat in middle of ocean.  However, I have miscalculated.  Tomorrow should hit halfway. Fix on boom is holding.  Boat is rocking and rolling around and my brain isolated with it. Thanks to all for putting on this great event.  Hope the rest of fleet is doing well and enjoying themselves!”

July 10th 0400 hrs- In a very succinct text message received late last night. Chris reported hitting 5 objects. “So much stuff hit.  Carried something along.  Could not see it, killed my speed.  Had to stop and back down.  Now off, back at 8 – 9 knots!  Thank goodness!”

July 10th 1600 hrs- “Only 899nm left! Starting to feel that I will get there soon.  But, then I realize that is still a lot of sailing. I guess I’m in the trades now.  Water getting warmer.  Wind very steady.   And, a strong 20 knots of breeze, pretty consistent.  Still working on keeping the boat going straight as I pitch roll and yaw my way down the waves.  It’s pretty peaceful and wonderful.  The boat handles like a dream!”

July 11 1508 hrs- “Ventus cogitates.  I was once told when in doubt put the jib on a stick and point the bow at the barn.  Finally, listened and what do you know 8-9 knots boatspeed surfing to 12 kts and Hanalei bay direct.  Not much rolling and sitting in a bean bag contemplating life.  I remembered my gooseneck repair and decided to inspect before taking a nap.  Sadly, a couple jibes during the night had loosened up the pieces holding it together.  There is a reason Hall Spars doesn’t used bits of leftover tools to hold boom to gooseneck.  In an unbelievable stroke of luck, I found the original pin captured by the jib car underneath a line. I scavenged a nut from the boat that was too long but at least slathered in Duralac so it won’t shake free.  Kluged together a way to keep original pin in place.  At this point, turned into the wind to drop sails.  And the upwind against wave ride is quite different.  A lot of fiddling, but the repair seems more solid and Ventus is once again pointed in the right direction.  God, yet more hours given up against the competition. But, all is well here on the J/88 Ventus.  Happy to get home to the finish!”  For more SSS TransPac Race sailing information.