Nothing like a warm shower after 5 days to make you feel like a new man!
As you may know, we missed out on 3rd place by a few minutes. The crew worked extremely hard and sailed what I thought was a near perfect race. I likewise put a huge amount of effort into this race.
The race started out with lovely conditions racing out of Newport. Of course, the forecast was ominous, but improving, and about 30% of the fleet did not start, including such well prepared boats as the 2 Navy entries. With lighter winds on the west side of the course and better currents, the path we took was mapped out well in advance. We had an excellent start – and were on our way.
We quickly settled into the passage routines and enjoyed a lovely dinner. Although the conditions were supposed to deteriorate quickly, the conditions actually kept getting better with light winds and clear blue skies. It quickly became apparent that the strong high pressure system was moving farther south than expected, and the developing low would not be as strong.
The most memorable moment of the race was, after sailing through a pod of large whales and many Dolphins, a very curious small sperm whale breached 3 times right next to our boat (less than 100′ away!!) and was obviously checking us out! A moment we all will never forget.
Having sailed north a month ago, we knew we needed to sail either well east or west of the rumbline. Going east leaves one tacking to Bermuda at the end. The only question was how far west we should go. When we did not find the eddy currents where expected we straightened out our course and tried to minimize the miles. This turned out to be a good call, but the boats that went east did better this time (we think).
The conditions did indeed deteriorate south of the stream, with winds up to 30 knots briefly. The new sails were excellent, and the innovative batten system for the jib a big help.
But perhaps the key sail was our asymmetrical. When I picked up the sails I was quite surprised it was a 3/4 oz instead of a 1.5oz as expected. Nevertheless it performed admirably and helped us keep up with much larger boats before and after the high winds. However, the combination of large waves and somewhat fluky winds led to quite a few collapses.
30 hours before the finish, there was one collapse too many, and our only asymmetrical ripped just above the clew with the foot and leech tapes also completely ripped off. We got the sail down but it was a mess. I immediately announced we needed to fix the sail which some of the crew had a hard time imagining. But we knew lighter winds were coming. I started at 8pm and by 11 had the 16′ foot tape and a few tears repaired. Then I started on the much longer (45′) leech tape and the worst damage – the separated clew patch.
18 hours of nonstop work by Martin assisted by Sean, John Roberts and others the sail was repaired. I only slept 2 hours that night. The winds were dying over the last 2 hours of repair work and we were working crazy fast. There were bets as to how long the sail would last but even close reaching in 10 knots it was fine, and the entire crew
knows a whole lot more about sail repairs!!!
The winds did turn to the SW and we ended up a hard on the wind for the last 10 hours, but the asym was key for 4 hours of sailing where it boosted our speed by 2 knots. If only we finished it one hour sooner we would have been on podium.
Everyone loved the experience and had an amazing time. The great memories will last for longer than the unhappiness over our near podium finish.
Colette and Martin will be sailing the VAr back with hopefully Ivan. Of course additional crew would be welcome!