Sail number: 101
Rig: bermudan sloop
LOA (ft.): 50.00 ft.
Draft (m): 4.1m
Beam (m): 4.6m
Hull color: blue/white
Yacht Club: Waikiki Yacht Club
Designer: Owen Clarke Design
Class or type: Open 50
July 27th, 10:25 hst - lat 21 16 N, lon 157 45 W - Honolulu
For the final hours of the race we saw up to 36 knots of wind and sustained 20 knots of boat-speed easily. The speed potential of these boats is huge as they plane so easily. In displacement mode, a boat's speed is limited by its 'hull-speed'. A rule of thumb is that that hull speed can be approximated by calculating the value of 1.34 * sqrt (length), which, is about 9.5 knots in our case. The Pegasus Open 50 is a planing hull. That means that the hull is configured to develop positive dynamic pressure so that its draft decreases with increasing speed. In other words, the faster you go, the less draft there is and the faster you go.
We jibed at the tip of Molokai in one of theose extraordinary moments, where the whole universe seems to be in focus. And we pulled it off. What a team!
We finished at 10:25 hst, in 10 days 29 hours and 25 minutes. We missed the record by a few hours. It was awesome, the boat was awesome, the whole team was awsome, and Richard fantastic. We won the double handed Transpac boat for boat and on handicap. Missing the record gives us an opportunity to do it again. Things don't get much better than this.
Wild night. We hooked onto a massive squall monster, saw 32 knots of wind and sustained 18 knots of boat speed for the longest time. That coupled with a massive header completely changed our finish plans. The breeze has eased to 22-25 knots and we are sailing fast to the finish line. We are fully canted, water ballast in the back and all the weight that we can find in the boat stackedastern. This is an awesome ride towards the lighthouse.
Wind back to 30+ knots.
We have Molokai as a lee-shore
and we need to jibe. We decided
to take a picture of ourselves before
the jibe and after a wild night
without sleep! Richard is taking the picture
with his left hand and I am steering
the boat with my right hand.
July 26th, 11:30 hst - lat 22 09 N, lon 155 29 W - Last night at sea
Last night at Sea
This is our last night at Sea. We are entering the Molokai channel. We’re seeing 15 to 20 knots, 5 to 8 knots less than usual. The wind and the weather are strange this year. The sailing is stunning: bright moon with Jupiter right at its side and massive Pacific Ocean rollers. You can understand why the sport of surfing was first conceived in Hawaii. The sport of the great Polynesian kings and navigators.
We are surfing down big waves and doing 15 knots of boat speed in 20 knots of wind. It’s the Hawaiian roller-coaster!
There are big squalls forming and with the lighter trade winds, like they have been for a few days, they are essential to sailing fast. With every squall you get pressure and shift. But beware if you exit the wrong way: a becalmed boat doesn’t go anywhere.
We’ve already jibed twice since sunrise. It is going to be a night with a lot of jibing. I better close my eyes while I can.
July 25th, 13:30 hst - lat 22 51 N, long 154 24 W
I am switching all my blogging to Hawaii Standard Time (HST) in order for everything to make sense for the finish. That’s because there are diurnal effects, building sea breeze influences etc.. that are easily visualized when one thinks in local time.
This morning at 3 am hst, the Diamond Head Lighthouse bore 242 degrees and was 299 miles away on a great circle. This afternoon at 13:15 hst, the Diamond Head lighthouse bears 235 degrees and is 215 miles away on a great circle.
If you look at the illustration, you can see that we are favoring the right hand side of the course because we are presently sailing in headed pressure in a lane clear of cloud cover and we expect a 15 to 20 degree wind-shift as we progress on the right side of the track. That’s when we’ll jibe. We’ll still play the shifts down the track in order to shorten the distance of course.
1. Our position at 13:30 hst
2. Optimal vmg course (at 13:30 hst for the wind direction at that time)
3. Optimal vmg course if on the other jibe (at 13:30 hst for the wind direction at that time)
4. The great circle between the last reported position and the finish
5. Port layline to the finish (at 13:30 hst for the wind direction at that time)
6. Starboard layline to the finish (at 13:30 hst for the wind direction at that time)
7. The finish line at Diamond Head lighthouse
Note: lines 2, 3, 5, and 6 form the diamond that we will stay inside while playing the shifts.
1. 7/15 race start to 7/16 6am pst - average heading 220°, 41.12 nautical miles
2. 7/16 6am pst to 7/17 6am pst - average heading 201°, 313.64 nautical miles
3. 7/17 6am pst to 7/18 6am pst - average heading 224°, 145.66 nautical miles
4. 7/18 6am pst to 7/19 6am pst - average heading 232°, 195.77 nautical miles
5. 7/19 6am pst to 7/20 6am pst - average heading 258°, 260.32 nautical miles
6. 7/20 6am pst to 7/21 6am pst - average heading 257°, 249.02 nautical miles
7. 7/21 6am pst to 7/22 6am pst - average heading 257°, 239.25 nautical miles
8. 7/22 6am pst to 7/23 6am pst - average heading 234°, 200.97 nautical miles
9. 7/23 6am pst to 7/24 6am pst - average heading 240°, 198.76 nautical miles
10. 7/24 6am pst to 7/25 6am pst - average heading 258°, 216.6 nautical miles
11. Distance remaining as of 7/25 6am pst - 299.77 nautical miles at 242°
Note: Each leg is a 24 hour daily run from 6a pst to 6a pst. Each report is marked with a red dot. The average heading for each leg along with the distance travelled is noted below.
July 25th, 18:00 utc - lat 22 31 N, lon 153 23 W
The night was very different. The wind filled in from the back and our squall monsters seemed harder to find. Then we found ourselves surrounded by dolphins in the bright moonlight. Magical.
The position reports in the morning give us the thumbs up: 7 jibes through the night, very few glitches and we held our own with the fully crewed racers - something to be proud of.
Now we are planning our approach to the Diamond Head lighthouse. Tricky!
We sailed all day trying to stay centered on the race course in order to have options as the weather patterns have been too unpredictable. So we jibed about 5 times, I can’t quite remember how many. One thing that is clear is that we are getting much better at jibing this boat. We’re having fun with it. We fill the kite on the new board before the main comes across and then when the main comes across we let the sheet fly. A slight S-turn and we’re back sailing. There are a few details involving the canting keel, the canting bow-sprit etc., but they are just a few details. Mind you, important ones, because if you miss one, things could get ugly pretty quickly. It’s been a great afternoon of sailing. The sun is very harsh, so it is physical.
There are flying fish everywhere. I bet that they see the winged Pegasus as a giant predator. The flying Fish’s evolutionary defense mechanism is to use the little wings that they developed to fly for a few hundred meters out of our way fast. And they have schools of them flying around (in flight, do they change their names to ‘a flock of flying fish’?). Amazing little critters. You can find their delicious eggs at the Sushi bar if you order Tobiko.
Tonight we have chicken with green beans. We look forward to it.
Then it will be time to hunt down a few squall monsters and ride them through the night.
July 24th, 21:15 utc - lat 22 37 N, lon 149 55 W
Start with the end in mind, but the journey has to be the reward. In our case, the end is the finish line by Diamond Head lighthouse. The Journey, well that’s some of the best sailing that I have ever done. Squalls are building quickly this afternoon. The fleet is really spread around the race course. We like our position in the center of the race course, away from the laylines, as it gives us the most flexibility in our squall riding experiments. We’re in a good routine now that includes watches, organized sleep, meals, navigation, celestial sights, weather crunching, steering, trimming and, very importantly, jibing. At first, this all seemed a daunting task - something that 15 people on a TP-52 do. And now, just the two of us are doing it all in a very organized way.
For you OceanGizmo readers, the laptop that we use on-board is a Panasonic semi-rugged Toughbook. The kind of software that we use for sensors and monitoring does not run on Macs. So we run Windows Vista. There were many skeptics when I decided to go with Windows Vista instead of XP. However Microsoft has been very cooperative and has welcomed our sensor and monitoring systems working in real-time. We got the whole package to work. It wasn’t easy, but we did. The Panasonic laptop is very reliable, very conservative in it’s architecture and extremely efficient at power management. We picked the new CF-Y7 because it is so efficient. It’s presently a Japanese model and I am typing on a Kanji keyboard (which is a bit of a practical joke and pretty funny really) coupled with a Logitech Trackball. We get everything that we need: two USB ports, a CAT-5 connection, PC Card slot, SD card slot, and a DVD player/burner that opens from the top (a great feature). We carry a spare Toughbook in case this one fails. Since we started, the system has been up 24/7 and worked flawlessly. In fact, I settled on it after seeing a piece online on Gizmodo.
July 24th, 15:00 utc - lat 22 42 N, lon 149 03 W, Squall Riders
We rode squalls all night and that worked well for us.
This morning is bright. Richard and I worked hard all night. We jibed 5 times in front of squalls to stay in the big breeze. We can now jibe this huge ‘OceanGizmo’ Melges-style, just the two of us, and do it quickly in up to 22 knots of wind. The Open specialists told us that ‘you never do that, it’s too risky.' We don’t like risk as much as we like to go fast and stay in front of squalls. That’s fast. Fast is fun. We rode a big line of squalls for 6 hours to the South and then jibed West before being overtaken.
This is the best sailing that I have ever done... It's like crossing an ocean on a 505. The boat is that nimble and that 'on the edge' and with the two of us, it's exactly the same dynamics as a 49er, 505 or a 470 crew. The sails are a bit bigger! What is remarkable is that we are pacing a fleet of fully crewed racers... It's just amazing... And fun.
This morning at 6 am pst, Honolulu is 512 nautical miles away on a bearing of 250 degrees magnetic. We can almost see the Lighthouse from here!
The Squalls are monsters. They just swallow you up if you are on the wrong board. If you are on the right board, you can ride them for hours and make great progress. The thing about them is that they grow and grow throughout the evening and the night, and then in the morning the sun hits their tops and fuels the inferno. We were slow this morning because of the blob on our keel. Bad luck. Two knots slower and therefore instead of pacing the squall we get gobbled up by it and at the back end we are becalmed for hours. The good news is that this gave us an opportunity to get rid of the blob on the keel as planned. Now the boat feels better. What a difference.
Last night, as we were battling the elements, it was Green Day’s "Longview," Dire Straits'
"Sultan’s of Swing" and last, but not least, the Aria of "The Queen of the Night" from the Magic Flute. That was quite a multimedia production: huge squall clouds engulfing us while "The Queen of the Night" is belting one of the world’s most stunning musical achievements. We had front row seats: spectators, but actors mostly. As if Poseidon was having a grand time throwing us curve balls.
The gradient breeze is light, around 9 knots and that is what we get in the clearings, where we are now. So we look for the monster squall and try to ride them through the night.
We are Squall-Busters. So now I am trying to use the on-board radar system to measure the level of activity of each squall. We are at the testing phase: observation, reasoning and then tonight we will experiment.
I realize that my last few updates have been short, at best. That’s because things have been full on. No relief. Now we’ve got a breather. The ‘drenched by the cold rain fingers’ (yes, there is a cold front around here coming through) can start typing again after some weather crunching. I figure I would make this a ‘complete’ update to answer some of the questions that you may have.
1. Mangled/tangled blob on the keel: It came back, maybe remnants of the old one or we’re just a magnet for that stuff. In any case in 20 knots of breeze (more on that later), we heeled her as much as we could with full cant to windward. Richard had a go at ‘unbalancing the blob’ so that the high speed surfs would end up pulling it out (we're seeing surfs in the upper teens). So while yours truly is keeping the boat on a razor’s edge balance, Richard, the mighty blob slayer, is hitting this thing as hard as he can through fast flowing water. Every time he hits the big carbon batten flexes almost out of control. After 10 minutes of this balancing act, we decide that it is not going to happen. So we figure that with all this squall activity, it’s just a matter of time before we stop behind one and then I’ll dive under the boat with our bigger knife and carve through ‘the blob’. Decisions terminate panic. Done.
2. Squalls: They are everywhere and in fact… I've got to stop typing because it’s time to jibe in front of one…
3. Progress so far... Here is the chart. Nice track!
We've been ‘hunted down’ by a squall all day. Just like a giant Pac-Man trying to eat us up... The bad news is that we just noticed that
there is still a big mangle of stuff at the bottom of our keel. We
were not feeling that our boat was making her usual speed and were
making theories etc… We're on it.
July 23rd, 11:00 pst
It was big, mangled, and tangled. It was a big fish, a net, or a combination of both. We had to back the boat. That was a major undertaking. This boat isn’t meant to go backwards. Now we’re back, sailing under the rain. Today we will be "squall-busting."
July 23rd, 09:45 pst
Yes now there is enough light. We use our endoscope to look at the keel… There is a large object wedged on the keel. We've got to get it off. We knew that we were going much slower. Now we know why! More later.
July 23rd, 06:45 pst
Richard taps his foot 7 times on deck. Just an hour of sleep in the last 24 hours… Time to jibe, we’re on a massive lift. We now jibe Melges 24 style. A bit daring, we just send it. Slowly at first, letting that clue pass around the forestay while Richard eases. The main is already pinned in the middle. As soon as the clue of the kite passes the forestay, I accelerate the turn (I drive through the jibes while Richard works the kite sheet), Richard gets the new sheet trimmed while I let the mainsheet run as soon as the boom crosses. We pull off a perfect jibe in the dark in 17 knots and that really makes us happy. Time to crunch weather and report our position. Surprise: although we had a wild night, we actually seem to have done alright. Maybe that’s the 25+ knot squalls that we rode for hours. Nice one, we’re on similar longitudes as the top pack, but to the right with quite a bit of leverage as the wind gradually shifts right. And maybe an opportunity to sleep. First we must check the keel and rudders.
In the last 6 hours, we saw it all: 10 to 28 knots, big thump (we hit ‘something’), multiple jibes in the night and one of the few times that we both trusted the auto-pilot so that I could crunch some weather files while Richard was off watch sleeping. As I was down below, a big 20+ knot puff hits, the autopilot doesn’t respond and we are on our side before we know it, kite flapping in the pitch black night after the moon has set. Last night, we saw it all and we made it through stronger, adrenaline pumping, drenched in the pouring rain of the squalls, a few bruises here and there, nice war wounds to brag about.
To make a long story short because I need to go shut my eyes for a few hours while Richard is on deck,
1. There are squalls everywhere and they start getting active around midnight. And some of them carry quite a bit of power in front of them.
2. So Richard is getting his Z's, I'm steering in a dark squall, 22+ knots, and the boat wobbles violently. It feels like we're tearing through blubber. We hit something and it is coming apart… It did. It didn’t phase Richard who slept right though it. When he woke up, I asked him to check the keel and drive the boat to see if he felt anything different. He wasn’t quite sure. We are still going fast in the breeze. We’ll wait until daylight. I bet all is ok.
3. We are puzzled how the solo sailors can possibly trust the auto-pilot. That puff was no more than 25 knots. We both rushed out of the companionway into the night. Richard eased the kite and main sheets and I focused on steering the boat down. Just like a 505, except that we didn’t capsize. We were on our side no longer than a minute.
Bottom line: there is really something extreme about this adventure. We’ll have many stories to tell.
Now for some sleep….
July 23rd, 00:30 utc - lat 25 03 N, lon 143 42 W
Richard and I have been battling squalls all day. Our goal was to get into the pressure that is slightly South of us, without going too far South and avoiding having to jibe at a bad angle. So we elected to sail slower, but directly to Honolulu. That gives a South-slant to our course. It’s been some very challenging light air sailing with lots of sail changes. We may now have found the tip of those slightly stronger trades. As the persistent right shift hasn’t happened and, in general, the right handed boats get it first, we are happy to be where we are. If there is significantly more wind South, our strategy will backfire. It's going to be a close call.
Today was time to do our rig-check. That means yours truly ‘grinding’ Richard up the mast, and Richard checking every fitting and point of attachment before we get into the (hopefully) stronger trades in Hawaiian waters. Richard is 225 pounds and grinding him all the way up the mast is a good effort. And, of course, Richard has to have trust in my abilities to control the situation. It is truly teamwork. And it does make for great pictures. The first large one is a picture of Richard taking a picture of himself at the top of the mast. The second picture is a picture of the boat seen from the top of the mast. I am steering the boat while Richard is checking the rig. This is tricky, but not quite as dangerous as it sounds. Richard and I both have young children and we are cautious.
July 23rd, The Pegasus Open 50
2. Winch that is holding Richard up (central winch)
3. Grinder that I used to haul him up
4. Cabin Pod
5. Yours truly, Philippe
6. Two tillers
7. Sail bags with sails on the bow
July 22nd, 15:30 utc - lat 25 25 N, lon 142 23 W
Five times during the dark and squally night, Richard and I wanted to jibe either to stay in front of a windy squall or to take the radical right shift induced by the cloud. Yet just the two of us need over 30 minutes to jibe safely at night. We are comparing our track with racing machines crewed by more than 10! So instead, we are simply sailing on our line waiting for a more persistent shift. This is the first time in the race that we can’t do what we want to do from a navigational and tactical point of view. And, of course, if sailing with two was as simple as sailing with twelve, the America’s Cup or the Volvo Ocean race would be sailed with just two. This all makes it even more fun and challenging for us. It’s like playing golf against Tiger Woods with just three clubs! When you keep up or are slightly behind, you feel very good and proud. That’s how we feel. A great feeling.
The sky this morning is 70% overcast and the wind is light, getting lighter. This is not record setting weather for sure. The privilege to be sailing in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, just the two of us, and the empowering feeling that it gives us, makes all of that feel secondary. We sure are going to continue trying more than our best!
In our pod you can see from left to right:
1. Yellow foul weather gear hanging, drying.
2. The camping gas stove with the pressure cooker. All of our meals are vacuum bagged and get thrown into the pressure cooker.
3. Philippe doing the navigator's job, scribbling on the board.
4. A red fleece and a blue cushion, I sleep on the nav station seat and that is my pillow.
5. In the forefront, vacuum-bagged meals. These are our total rations for the day.
6. Our sink, only salt water, manual pump. Good to clean dishes and stuff.
7. On the nav station panel, right, you can see the handsets that control the two Iridium satellite systems (the best!) and the Fleet-33 (faster but you can’t really count on it).
8. The fantastic M-802 single side band is the box on the lower right corner.
9. Note the Logitech trackball by my right elbow, mice are not an option with the elements, the constant motion and the heterogeneous reflective surfaces. We use Velcro extensively and the wiring is non-trivial. Everything is at least twice redundant.
July 22 09:45 utc - lat 25 17 N, lon 141 33 W
Squally night. They come from right to left. So far we’ve been really lucky. The wind lifted a lot. If it persists, we will jibe in the morning at daybreak. There are flying fish everywhere. As I was steering down a wave, I got hit in the arm by a big one. One does get startled, especially in the dark. I bet that we’ll find it in the cockpit in the morning. Flying fish live in schools and probably see the Pegasus as a giant predator. Their natural instinct is to fly away. That’s why they developed wings.
In the morning we’ll decide whether to jibe or not. Time to get a couple of hours of sleep now that Richard relieved me. All things are good.
Using our sensors on the Pegasus, we analyzed the effect of a North East Pacific rain squall. Note that bursty squalls like these tend to behave differently on diverse oceans. The following analysis from our sensor network shows that in the front of the Squall, the wind increases significantly, goes right and so does the boat speed and the heading. As soon as the squall passes overhead, the wind drops dramatically. That is typical. The graphic speaks for itself:
Saturday July 21st, 20:00 utc - lat 25 20 N, lon 138 59 W
This has been a busy day for us on board the mighty Pegasus. Our crew of two has had to rebuild pad eyes, trouble shoot electrical problems (corrosion caused by sea-salt had jammed an electrical switch open) and go through a complete sheet and mechanical check.
There is a boat to our port quarter. We think that it may be Hugo Boss, the Volvo 60, but we are not sure. Roll-call in the morning will tell us.
We are getting ready for our twilight sights. It’s like a routine now. That’s when we have dinner too, a meal that we share. Then I will take the first long night watch while Richard gets some well deserved sleep.
Our ICOM M-802 single side band receiver has become a most useful tool. We just raised Mark Rudiger on Holua, the Santa Cruz 70. Mark is sailing with two good friends: Dave Ullman and Brent Ruhne. David and Brent just won the Melges 24 World Championships with our team. They are a bit North of us and as we talked they seemed to have their hands full with a squall. The M-802 is a great OceanGizmo. I actually have one setup at my house as a HAM radio, they are great. If you couple it with a Pactor modem, you can do email, and weather charts over-the-air without any infrastructure support anywhere in the world. No Internet needed. The ultimate survivalist’s global communications tools. With HAM radio licenses not requiring Morse code anymore, it’s one of the coolest gadgets that you can setup for yourself - on water and on anything.
Our boat has an escape hatch so that if we flip over and can’t right the boat, we can get out through that hatch. The hatch is on the stern, almost at water level and when you look through it, you can see the tracks that we leave on the ocean. Here is a picture of the view from our escape hatch.
Saturday July 21st, 20:00 utc - lat 25 20 N, lon 138 59 W
The pad eye that exploded had a defect. We took a picture of it. Richard had a better idea to fix this: build a soft pad eye right in place, using spectra line. The only difference is the fact that the new soft pad eye runs athwart ship as opposed to the exploded one that ran fore and aft. Not an issue for our application. We lost some precious time.
On another note, we are astounded at how well we’ve been doing against fully crewed racing machines. We've kept pace with Hugo Boss, which is the Assa Abloy entry in the the Volvo Race, as well as Morning Light, our fast TP-52. We really shouldn’t have kept up, but to date it has been a navigator’s, tactical and strategic race. And we’ve more than held our own. In fact, many boats have come down to our approach to Honolulu. Now that it is a drag race, we expect to be passed. There is no way that the two of us on a 50 foot boat can keep up with the pack of TP-52s, Volvo 60s and others behind us for much more than 24 hours. The race now is about how battle that which we can’t win. 'But that won't stop us from trying'!
As far as the record is concerned, 10 days would mean crossing the finish line at Diamond Head Wednesday, July the 25th at 1 pm pst. Pretty close to impossible. That word is not in Richard's or my vocabulary.
Bang. I mean big bang. I’m driving on deck; Richard is sleeping down bellow. The tip of the boom comes up violently. The vang pad-eye just exploded. I engage the pilot while watching carefully, trim in the main sheet and start looking for attachment points. Once I’m ready, I wake up Richard to see if he agrees with my new rig.
We lost two knots of boat-speed. That’s the challenge with being double handed - now we've got to do some boat building and can’t push the boat as fast. We’ll find a way.
July 21st, 14:00 utc - lat 25 31 N, lon 137 48 W
In the last 24 hours despite being ‘swallowed’ by a net, and stuck a couple of times behind windless squally clouds, we still managed to sail 249 nautical miles, most of those in the direction of the Diamond Head Lighthouse. We are now sailing in solid 18 knot winds, gusting, our cog is 255 degrees, true wind angle averaging 145 and true wind direction of 45 degrees. Life is good!
Richard and I split the night four hours on/off each. So we were both able to get 3 hours of sleep, which is a luxury that we both enjoyed. We both trust in each other’s abilities to do the right thing.
Getting ready to take a batch of sites at Twilight. Jupiter, Venus and Polaris tonight. I like Polaris because you get your latitude right away and it’s a great way to cross-check everything. Our Navigator extraordinaire, Stockey who lives in Cowes, taught me a lot of simple and useful tricks that really make a big difference. Stokey lives in Cowes (UK), doesn’t drive, and knows more about the stars, weather, seamanship than anyone I know. Stokey runs the UKs premier Ocean training school.
My homepage on my Mac is Gizmodo. Gizmodo just wrote an interview on the Pegasus. Check it out: Simply click on Gizmodo
July 21st, 02:00 utc
We did it! So picture the boat on its side in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Richard standing on the side (clipped-in), armed with a carbon mainsail batten and yours truly driving the boat to balance it on its side, just as the wind hit 18 knots accompanied by big swells. It was way too dangerous to focus on anything but the task at hand. On a fully crewed boat this is much easier, in our case, if one goes in the water, it becomes much more challenging rapidly. All is well that ends well. We lost two hours. Two precious hours. We’ll have to push even harder.
Ouch!!!! We just got a big net. It's wrapped all around our leeward rudder. We lost half of our boat-speed.
We have a plan: we’re going to use a mainsail batten as a tool. To get to the net, we will put full cant on the keel, I will drive the boat DDW (dead downwind) giving us windward heel and allowing the rudder to get out of the water. Richard will climb over the side and untangle the net.
After rain squall piled upon rain squall, refreshing but very light breeze, we managed to catch a squall that had 22 knots of breeze in front of it and ride it for 45 minutes. We chose to sail low in front of it because jibing quickly is not an option with the the two of us on a powered up 50 foot boat - twice the size of a Melges 24 and 4 times the loads! As our ride started to fizzle out, the sky cleared, the puffy trade wind clouds reappeared and we're now sailing in 16 knots of breeze, lively seas, and pointing right at Honolulu.
Both wind strength and wind direction have improved. The Q-scat chart that we downloaded shows more headed pressure ahead. That's exactly what we are looking for.
Fundamentally, we have 5 days to get to Honolulu to be inside the record. We are about 1375 nautical miles on a Great Circle distance from Honolulu. On a plane, the line that minimizes the distance between any two points is the straight line. On an orange, that minimal distance line is called a Great Circle. Sailboats generally don’t travel Great Circles because their courses are dictated by the wind. Therefore we never get to travel minimal distances as the geometry of our courses is a bit different. So let’s say that we need to travel an extra 200 nautical miles. That would be a sailboat travel distance of 1575 nautical miles. That would mean averaging about 13 knots of boat speed. If we get the wind, we can do it. However we need to get the wind.
July 20th, 14:45 utc - lat 25 46 N, lon 133 14 W
About six hours ago the wind started to lighten up on us. We downloaded some very recent satellite images and noticed that there must be a lightning effect from the cold front that went through. The wind direction has not changed and we seem to be pointed towards the better breeze. In the last 24 hours we sailed 260 miles on a great circle. That’s good given the moderate conditions. All in all, it was an uneventful night when we each stood watch to let each other catch a couple of hours of sleep. Now we feel fresh and we’re looking for more wind.
July 20th, 01:00 utc - lat 25 31 N, lon 130 52 W
Beautiful sailing in the trades with the wind holding up nicely. Now we’re entering the third part of the race: running to Honolulu in the trades. The race course is a mine field of squally clouds that build up in the late afternoon when the ocean is still warm and the air temperature cools down rapidly creating a condensation effect. These clouds can build up rapidly with considerable vertical development and ‘mature’ during the first part of the night, creating massive updrafts and sucking the air behind them. They tend to collapse around 4 am and can leave you trapped in zones of no wind for hours on end. And, of course, that tends to be the time of the night when we have the hardest time focusing. Richard has great eyes for those weather features. So I’m going to make sure that he gets plenty of rest early.
Here is where we are on the chart. We are very happy with our approach to Honolulu. Now we are in our slot: we are sailing a true wind angle of roughly 40 degrees, the wind is from the North East at 30 degrees and our course over the ground is about 256 degrees. Straight to Honolulu. In Honolulu, the trade winds are blowing at about 80 degrees. Therefore, we expect a persistent right shift of 50 degrees over the next few days. As the wind shifts, we will jibe to port inside the layline to Honolulu as we expect that persistent shift to occur. When and where to jibe will be a big decision for us. And, jibing this boat with only two of us in over 20 knots of wind is quite tricky.
We are in the trades. Our two on-board barometers show us around the 1019 isobar and that is exactly where we want to be. Those two barometers are a Vetus recording barometer and the Suunto watch that I wear on the wrist. They are carefully calibrated and together give us an objective assessment of the weather forecasting models, gribs and other modern tools. Guess what: there is no single weather model that has been matching our barometers. In fact, according to all the models, we should now be sailing in 5 knots of breeze. I cross my fingers, but I can see that we are sailing with a wind direction of 25 degrees (North Easterly) at 15 knots around the 1019 isobar on a favorable heading to Hawaii. All good things.
It is now a tough job at keeping everything going on the boat with just the two of us. I mean everything. On a fully crewed boat you have trimmers, bowmen, navigators, helmsmen, cooks. The two of us split all of these responsibilities. Richard does the trimming, the bow and the cooking. We split the driving and I do the navigation and the blog. We’re a great team. No job too big, no job too small. When we have to, we both pick up anything. When we do sail changes, it’s full on. In the last 6 hours we went through 2 spinnakers and staysails. We now have our big gear up - the A2 with the bigger spinnaker staysail. We’re surfing our way to Hawaii. Just like they said in the brochure.
Navigators and Innovators
Navigating this complicated weather pattern is much akin to navigating the future of technology and science. There can be no long term success without clear vision, knowledge and know-how, intuition and some luck.
Before the age of GPS, as navigators, we spent a large portion of our time figuring out where we are. Many think that now navigators can focus on figuring out where they are going as opposed to where they are. I disagree. That’s because the process of working out where you are gives you many clues as to where to go next. You look at the sky, measure angles, look at the clouds, the ocean, look for horizons and you take it all in. You literally tune yourself to the environment. Navigating without mastering the craft of navigation is like driving at night without lights. There is a long tradition of navigation that dates back thousands of years with the Polynesian people. It is well and alive today.
For innovation to happen first you must know where you are and then know where your going. You have to be a navigator. Progress is driven by navigators and explorers.
All is well this morning on-board the good ship Pegasus. The night sky was incomparable. First, with the moon and Venus on our bow, then as they set in the West, Jupiter guided us for a while even matching that 15 degree right shift in the wind in her walk down to the West. Yes, in a period of an hour the wind shifted right 15 degrees. I used the opportunity to take some sextant sites (skip this part if you have no interest in sextants and celestial navigation). At 20:45 pst, the sextant showed me that Venus was at an altitude of 18 deg 30 minutes, azimuth of 270 degrees, Jupiter was at an altitude of 37 degrees 45 minutes and an azimuth of 152 degrees. With an assumed position for lat 26 n and lon 127 w, this tells us that we are 15.8 miles away on a line of position perpendicular to 153 degrees (as it relates to Jupiter) and 5.9 miles towards our point of assumed position on a line of position perpendicular to 270 degrees. That's pretty reasonable accuracy given the fact that GPS was telling us that our exact position was 26 06.681 n, 127 09.086 w. (More on sextants if I have time later in this blog)
There were lots of little squalls last night with a boost of pressure and a left shift in front of them and a big right shift and no pressure behind them. We saw ten and only got caught up behind one. We did well.
We are more than happy with our position. We seem to have cut the corner and been able to fight ourselves into a chance at the record. Now we need some serious wind. We’re fast in the breeze!
July 18th, 19:45 pst - Lat 26 10 N, lon 126 58 W
We found the trade winds
High five! Now we’re going with 12 knots of wind, the kite and staysail up, and 10.5 knots of boat speed, pointing straight at Honolulu. The nice trade wind cotton puffy clouds are unmistakable. We’re pushing the boat hard and the reports are going to get shorter. It gets pretty physical. Coltrane’s Giant Steps are rocking the boat soon to be followed by Dave Matthews as the sun goes down we're thinking about the Magic flute as we start going down the waves. We have all the playlists loaded!
There is only one way to Honolulu: Surfing. Soon. Real soon. We hope.
Night is settling in, a fast and busy night we hope.
We are roaming around 26N 126W and we like it. We call it our lucky number 26! With just the two of us 24 by 7 in a confined space the size of your kitchen table, we’re an easy audience. Take a look at the 48 hour surface analysis that our friends at NOAA just put out. That’s one complex set of systems... We’re just making sense of it. There is a slow swell with a long period of 100ft going from South to North that combines with the normal North Easterly swell. Two waves of vastly different wavelengths and yet similar in proportion so that the resulting motion seems to ‘hang us in the air’ in slow motion. We believe that the Southerly swell was generated by Cosme, the weakening tropical depression. Quite an experience.
My home page when I am on land is Gizmodo. Those guys are the best; never a dull moment. And, as we were sailing today, Richard and I were thinking: OK we’re doing some pretty crazy stuff, but this racing boat is the ultimate Gizmo and it is full of gizmos. Everything including two types of satellite communications systems, water resistant barometers, radio transmitters, waterproof phones, iPhones, iPods, toughened computers, real-time sensors, sunglasses and it goes on and on... So I thought that I'd share with you what we think of these gadgets and how they work as time allows and we’re pretty busy 24 by 7 (by the way, we get both less than 4 hours of sleep every 24 hours, but we’re now in the groove… more on that later.)
This morning about everything that could fail failed. Not the sailing part. That always works. And we were down to the sails and the good old compass. That actually felt good. Richard is one of the great dinghy sailors and I sail mostly dinghies these days. So we were back to basics. One steering while the other was trouble shooting. Eventually we found all the faults. I think that we must have made 10 sail changes during the night in trying to get out of the hole that we dug ourselves into. There is not much that we could do. I was steering and running things while Richard took a nap. I felt the rain and by the time I realized, I was happy, the wind was peeking to 18 knots and we were zooming down the track. Then a bit more rain. Then the wind got sucked out of the air and it was dead calm. And then we battled to get out of our wind hole. In the process, all electronics on the boat decided to reset themselves to factory settings and be completely uncooperative. The good news: we’re back trucking South. The bad news: that record looks pretty tough right now, but the adventure is fantastic. We’ll work extra hard to make up the miles. We really like our position.
Where no iPhone has gone before!
On a fully crewed boat it’s hard to agree on a soundtrack. That’s because music is such an emotional and cultural thing for all generations. And we get a full mixture of generations in sailboat racing. We’re double handed - Richard has an iPod and I have an iPhone both packed with music. So we alternate. That makes our soundtrack for a great adventure. Yes, we have a stereo, and yes, it’s running as long as we’re not sailing in light air. Richard loves U2, Dave Matthews and all sort of Canadian bands and I like all good music but carry mostly straight ahead Jazz and classical music, the kind that I like to play. So we shuffle the songs and we shuffle the iPhone and the iPod. Now I bet this is a first for the iPhone: racing on a sailboat in the middle of the Pacific. The iPod that is ‘inside’ the iPhone is great!
Half of the night was spent drifting. Our 24 hour run was just 135 nautical miles. We probably skirted the high too close. I'm no rock-star navigator, sorry Richard! Now we’re back sailing with a bit more speed: 8 knots heading 200 degrees. It feels like a hurricane! Speaking of which, the one that we are watching will miss Hawaii and should not be too much of a factor for the fleet. Now let's see how quickly we can get into the Northwesterly trades. When you are headed Southwest, you get a cool sunrise every morning. Time for breakfast.
The wind vanished. Gone. For several hours we were becalmed, making sail changes, climbing the mast, seeking the puffs. And now the wind is back. Light, but it is back. This is going to be a short 24 hour run on miles but a critical one in terms of positioning. Richard is a fantastic light air sailor and his superior skills are infinitely precious. We really work well as a team.
So what do you do when you are becalmed? I get Richard to practice single handed sailing: I dove off the boat and went for a magical swim with more than 5000 ft of pure open ocean water to support me. What a treat. If you try it, make sure that you time it right with the puffs, else it is a long swim to Honolulu, about 1855 miles at a bearing of 254 degrees magnetic.
As the sun sets we are settling in for the night. There are no opportunities to take sextant sites at dusk as we are under full cloud cover. From a sailboat racing perspective, it’s going to be tricky getting out of this light spot and within the next 48 hours into the trades. That’s a busy night ahead with a lot of concentration and focus.
July 17th, 15:00 pst - Time to crunch some weather
We’re happy: we entered the ridge of high pressure that extends to the southwest of the Pacific High and we seem to have a good angle. For a few hours we had very little wind, did about 5 sail changes and now are settled into a 9 knot northwesterly. We’ve seen big right handers, all the way to 35 degrees, so we are happy to get away from this ridge of high pressure. The barometer is starting to come down. I think that we’re making the South work. What we thought would happen North happened and, for now, we are very happy where we are.
This is now obviously not a record year for the Transpac race, but it is a great one. Our 312 nautical mile 24 hour run yesterday was close to the record of 340 miles. Not bad for our first full 24 hours of sailing together!
Tropical depression Cosme is heading for Hawaii, but we figure that we’ll solve one problem at a time. We’re too far away for it to matter.
July 17th, 06:30 pst
The mighty Pegasus performed well in the last 24 hours: our 6 am position yesterday was 32-58 N, 119-20 W. This morning at 6 am we were at 28-35N, 122-39 W. A simple spherical geometry calculation gives us a great circle distance of 312 nautical miles at a course of 214 degrees true. That’s a pretty good 24 hour run double handed on a 50 foot boat. Pushing hard has its rewards: we averaged 13 knots of boat speed over the last 24 hours and we went South.
The Weather is very unsettled. There is a tropical depression ahead of us as the following chart shows.
As I hopped on deck at Twilight, there was brand new sliver of moon to the West together with Venus on one side and Jupiter opposite. Spectacular and a great opportunity to take one of the 4 mandatory sights. I’ll catch a quick snooze while Richard watches over everything. In a few hours, it will be his turn to sleep.
July 16th, 20:00 pst
This boat is wet, wild and fast. She comes alive in 18 knots or more and then flies. But she's really wet. Very wet. Check out the pictures. When it looks wet in the pictures, you know that it was wet! As the sun comes down, the wind pulled back from low twenties to low teens. It's probably the diurnal effect. We are still sailing with our three sail combination: big roached main, big genoa and genoa staysail. If the wind stays light after sunset, we will put a reaching kite on a spinnaker staysail and sail a little lower. The weather pattern is getting more complex. The South looks trickier and trickier, but we're committed. No risk, no reward!
So it's time to switch to the warm gear for the night and get ready for wet, cold and dark. It will be a no moon dark night. However all the stars should be out and that will be spectacular! We'll take celestial shots at Jupiter, Altair and Polaris. Now I must find them in the sky.
July 16th, 11:39 pst
This morning we know that we paid a high price to get South. In fact the position reports seem to show that we are to the left of most of the fleet. To get there, we've lost a considerable amount of distance. Now we must make it up by sailing fast. The conditions are perfect, 18 knots of wind from 280 deg mag. We expect the wind to continue building to the mid twenties during the day.
We are not racing the fleet. We are chasing the double handed record.
So why is that different? Aren't we trying to get to Honolulu as fast as we can anyway? Yes and no. When we compete with others, we are trying to maximize our chances to win. And, in doing so, we generally make conservative decisions that are not conducive to establishing records. To us, this means that if we were racing the fleet, we'd probably not be the furthest left boat: we'd be right in the middle of the pack. To establish a new record Richard and I need to go all out. We need to start collecting those 250 mile days or we'll be so far behind that we won't be able to make it up. And we can only rely on Richard and I, just the two of us on the mighty Pegasus. We've got wings!
This morning during position reports Richard took the helm and I caught him rocking to his Oakley Thumps in this picture. I hope they are waterproof! That's a cool MP3 player and a great pair of glasses. We've got both iPods in watertight cases. We each get a personal soundtrack for a great adventure.
July 16th, 05:55 pst
4 am, pitch black the wind built to 14 knots and then died, and then built again. Double handed is great fun. Richard is sleeping tight, and I get to play with everything on the boat. When the wind dies, boards up induces leeward heel with the keel, trim, run to the bow to see if everything is fine. Then rush down to the navigation station to check for weather. Wow, that's busy and fun. Very empowering. That's a life worth living. So when people ask me why I'm doing this, the answer is *because it's cool*. This is a great adventure. A busy one. An exercise in partnership. A personal Everest.
July 15th, 21:15 pst - 10 miles West of Catalina
The race-start was very confusing in light winds. Lots of boats with a full Catalina Eddy going. We started in 7 knots coming from 140 deg with the line set square to the course to Hawaii which is 247, the port side of the line was so favored that the whole fleet pretty much started on port. We were the only double-handed boat starting with 20+ fully crewed racing machines. We decided to start safely late on port to leeward. Transpac is a long Ocean race, risking a collision at the start is silly. We had the start that we wanted on port to leeward of everyone. The wind quickly headed. There was a light and variable transition period to a lazy sea breeze. The wind reached 14 knots at Catalina then died. as we passed the Island. There were boats on all boards point in every direction with 5 miles of each other. Most boats seem to have opted for a northerly route, tacked several times. The wind is picking up a bit. Let's see when we get to the strong North Westerlies. For now all is quiet as the night settles in.
So at Catalina we had a decision to make. I spent an hour crunching weather information, Richard and I debated. We saw most of the fleet go North. We decided to go South. So now we are sailing a heading of 210 degrees. It will take a few days to figure out who got it right. For now, we think that we got it right, by going left of the pack.
July 15th, 11:36 pst - Go West young men!
That’s all that we can be sure of this morning: Go West! Most models point to the North, with some uncertainty: Two days upwind in 20 to 30 knots and big seas, then a nice run to Honolulu. Forecasters and models agree with first waypoints around: Latitude 31.30 N and longitude 125.00W. The good news is that the tropical depressions look like not being a factor. However down to the South, just behind them there could be much less wind. That makes a Southerly routing tricky.
As we cast off the dock, we’d like to give a big thank you to our team: 90 days ago we didn’t own an Open 50! Team you made miracles happen: This is a super complex system that involved articulating bow-sprits, hydraulics with canting keels, two shaped dagger boards, two rudders and all the systems to monitor them. With the pressure and the excitement, there sometimes were harsh words. You were unwavering. Now we get to race the fantastic package that you all put together. See you in Honolulu!
July 15th, 03:35 pst
Last minute preparations. With how busy we’ve been at Fullpower, a lot of things are pushed to the last moments. We were laughing that all the other race boats were all tidied up and everyone was tucked in bed while we are burning the midnight oil. Our watch system started 24 hours ago!
In the mean time our two depressions are developing nicely. The consensus among navigators (if they aren’t bluffing) is that the Northerly route is the better route and that the South has both too many miles and a lot of uncertainty with those two tropical storms.
July 14th, 14:00 pst - Update: Two tropical Storms on the way
Now it's a bit of a game of chicken: There are two tropical depressions
active in the eastern Pacific (See the chart). Both of these systems are
forecast to strengthen into Tropical Storms in the next 24 hours. The first
one, TD5 will likely weaken after 28 hours, while the second one, TD6 is
likely to continue strengthening to a moderate or strong Tropical Storm
while moving slightly north of due west. So now, does anyone have the guts
to go South and "catch a little lift from the big ones"? This is going to be
one interesting race!
July 14th, Long Beach, California
Choices, choices: Looking at the chart today, the great circle route crosses both a high and a low… And anything in between. That’s when you think about the deer crossing the road: When you drive, you aim at “where the dear came from”. That of course works unless the deer is caught in the headlights. That’s a pretty good analogy.
Either those weather features will move fast or they will be stationary. If they move fast, you aim at them and you avoid them. If they are stationary, it would be better to get out of their way! That’s mainly true for the highs. The lows on the other hand bring some nice wind.
Yes, this could be the year of the rhumb line. It could be the year of the Northern route and it could be the year of the deep Southerly route, sailing 500 extra miles. And maybe there is a way to make them all work.
Later in the evening we’ll have a team dinner with the families, and then the last preparations. More later.
July 13th, 2007
All is good with the Pegasus. Except for the electronics. In the last couple of days we found challenges in interfacing our computers to the real-time sensor network that gives us wind, speed and position information. So I've been a bit hand's on trying to fix this one and let Richard focus on the preparation of the boat above decks. My goal is to get things working below deck.
Yesterday morning finally decided to rip out all the computer systems in the boat and replace them with two laptops. By Midnight, we were happy every thing worked again and was stable. I spent the rest of the night working on the system. With a a few early morning business commitments I decided to start practicing sleep depravation < smile> . I'll have to take the night watches now...
The weather pattern is still unsettled. Either slightly North of the Great Circle (the shortest distance between two points on a sphere) or very South sailing a lot of extra miles to find some more wind. That would be a lot of extra miles to sail. The open Ocean is usually windier than what the computer models forecast. So how much more wind can you get by going South? Is that enough to sail 350 to 500 extra miles?
July 12th, 2007
The Open 50 is in Long Beach getting provisioned and pampered. I'm in Santa Cruz, working with the Fullpower team and getting our portable weather systems to work and help with the routing. This year is going to be pretty tricky. This is my 10th time across and I think that the weather systems may be more complex than they have ever been. Check out the following analysis: The track today goes right through the high. So that high will move and some routes want you to even go North where some others want you to sail minimum distance and follow the great circle route closely. Usually that option leads to challenging light conditions. However this year, anything is possible. Will this be the year of the rhumb-line?
July 11th, 2007
In full prep mode. These boats are complex with canting keels, dagger boards, water ballast. Everything has to work perfectly because at the five minute gun, it’s just Richard and I for 10 days. Our start is with more than 25 fully crewed boats. And big boats too. “Starboard-Leeward is our friend”.
June 27th, 2007 - San Francisco
Here is our first serious sailing on the new Pegasus Open 50. Richard Clarke (didn't get a shot of Richard's face, but that's Richard's back...) and I are training for the double-handed Transpac. Just the two of us for 10 days across the Pacific. Yesterday we had a great sail from San Francisco to Santa Cruz. We saw from 5 to 30+ knots and the boat was awesome to sail. Great job all! - Philippe - PS Thanks Sonia for taking this picture.
June 05, 2007
Boat exited yard at 2030 last night and she hit the road heading west at 0500 this morning. She was shrink wrapped in clear so she will make quite an impression across the USA over the next few days!
Boat , keel, mast and boom all weighed by measurer yesterday, completion in SF.
June 04, 2007
The morning departure from Goetz boatyard in Rhode Island to San Francisco. It will take 5 days to get across the country.
June 01, 2007
Putting the finishing touches on the Pegasus Open 50....
David Giles, Faye Lin
Onshore Pegasus Racing team:
Bruce Mahoney, Mark Golsh, Jana Madrigali, Shane Illidge, Paul Allen,
Cameron MacDonald, Seth Larkin, Joe Dolister
Communications: Caleb Dolister, Arthur Kinsolving
Sailor’s food: Bonnie Willis
Copyright 1998 - 2007 Pegasus Racing, all rights reserved.