Mike Jefferson's Log: 0700 PDT. The skies are overcast again, and the wind has dropped. The weather fax shows that the high has re-established itself in a quasi-normal looking configuration, but the isobars are spread a bit farther apart than we would like for where we are in the course. However, things will change, and in the meantime the miles keep clicking off the log.
Rob on TIGER BEETLE reported seeing many vella vella, a Portugese-man-o-war like jellyfish about 4 inches in diameter with a sail. Ken Roper reported seeing a "zippy bird". We are not sure whether that means that the bird has a flashy lycra skinsuit and a secret identity or Ken just had too many martinis last night. Fred on BRAVO has become an expert at debugging SSB-autopilot interactions. If your autopilot makes a hard right turn and broaches the boat when your sentences get longer than 10 seconds, as his did, than you should consult him for the cure. Dr.Fred advises that grounding the case of the autopilot and using ferrite shielding cores on all of the wires running to the unit has allowed him to evolve from a cryptic mutterer, whose sentences were usually terminated with suspenseful cries such as "AAAHH! We're going to crash!" or heavy grunts as his boat pulled some "g's" to an eloquent commentator on life at sea, such as it is.
It appears that RUMBLESEAT did sustain some damage in it's incredible broach the other day after all. Bruce reports that the starboard jumper strut was damaged when the spinnaker halyard wrapped around it as the kite went in the water. He explains that although it was engineered to handle extreme rigging loads, it was never meant to stop a boat going 17 knots in 1 boatlength, as happened when the chute hit the water. He reports that there is no immmediate danger, but that he has to baby the boat on starboard tack.
There is a real horse race between JOE, RUMBLESEAT, and WILD THING for first to finish and/or a new race record. The record, 10 days and some hours, is in some jeopardy if the wind stay up. Bruce moves very fast in even moderate air, while WILD THING loves the chute up and 30 knots. JOE splits the difference between them. With less than 3 days left for them, this should be fun to watch. NAI'A will be passing many boats at the rear of the fleet today.
We have no information of the whereabouts of BADBOY or BIG MON. Both of these boats are ultralight (BADBOY is an F31 trimaran), and would have gone quite a bit south, looking for hot reaching angles. Since neither has SSB, it comes as no surprise that they remain inncommunicado. It will be of great interest to see when they appear at the finish line.
The response to our position reports has been very gratifying. These reports are being posted on the World Wide Web, and also distributed world wide via Amateur Radio Packet Bulletin Board systems, and the APRS (Automated Position Reporting System). I would like to thank the selfless volunteers who have worked so hard to make this possible. I would also like to thank those who have dropped off notes of encouragement for myself and various other competitors. I have passed along your best wishes whenever possible. If I have not replied personally, it is only because of limited opportunity.
For those contemplating a long ocean race or world cruising, let me comment that both Ken Roper (KA4NZP) and myself (WD6EHQ) agree that Amateur Radio provides a huge benefit. Although Marine SSB is excellent (and often expensive to use), there are limitations to the cross section of people and services one may have access to. Amateur Radio, on the other hand, is enormously versatile, and the world community of HAMs has a long and excellent tradition of generosity, competence, and good will that is unique. There are many very excellent networks, such as the Pacific Maritime Net (14.313 MHz at 0430 UTC) which provide strong support and information to voyaging sailors. In addition there are many thousands of HAMs who would like nothing better than to share their time and expertise and to help you communicate wherever you go. The Amateur Community (and is is a REAL community) spans an awesome range of skills and experiences, and all walks of life. These position reports are only possible because I sent out a plea through the amateur networks for assistence in putting together the tools and skills to make this packet radio work. The response, and offers of help, was overwhelming. I would like to thank those with whom I was not able to communicate directly for their response. Time before the race was short, and rather desperate. I can only say that the combination of Amateur Radio and ocean voyaging sailboats is a match made in heaven. The requirements for an Amateur license are really not as difficult to achieve as most people think, and perseverence will always yield a positive result. There are many excellent free classes for teaching you everything you wish to know. It cannot be done at the last moment, but when one considers the discipline and professionalism of a so-called "amateur" service, it is easy to appreciate the value that having to work a bit to join the community provides. So I'll see you on the airwaves! Regards to all, Mike Jefferson
Mike Jefferson's Log: 1900 PDT. A quiet day on the course. The winds are fairly light, in the 10-12 knot true range. Most boats are just sailing along peacefully, doing the best they can. A lot of books being read today. NAI'A is starting through the fleet. Michael saw a spinnaker ahead and thought it might be SENSEI, but it turned out to be JUBILEE, a Vic-Maui boat. Rob on TIGER BEETLE made a heroic effort to film a tropic bird with his video camera. The ungrateful wretch responded by decorating TIGER BEETLE with a token of his steaming regards. A day for contemplation and reflection. Regards from the (today, anyway) Pacific Ocean, Mike Jefferson
Mike Jefferson's Log: 0700 PDT. WILD THING reports getting knocked down by a massive squall last night, which shredded Ray's last spinnaker and ripped the boom vang padeye off the deck. This makes 3 (enormous) spinnakers which have gone to handkerchief heaven for him on this trip. Ray also reports that the problem he has been having where his lower chainplate compression post has been allowing the tang bolt to cut slowly down the length of the carbon fiber mast has gotten worse. At morning check-in, although it was dark and hard to assess, Ray thought that there was a transverse kink in the mast at the D1 attatchment point. He and Bruce on RUMBLESEAT had a prolonged discussion on methods of tuning the rig to keep it stable. Ray is close to the finish line now and will probably finish in the next 24 hours.
Ed on ORANGE BLOSSOM thought that the problems he had had earlier with a shredding bulkhead might be returning, because he was hearing strange noises below decks. It turned out that he was passing a pod of 5 or 6 whales, and had been hearing their commentaries on his spinnaker handling techniques. Although it was too dark to identify the species, Ed reports that they were very near the boat and showed up well on radar after he had passed them.
The competitive spirit is returning, as people start to smell the land. RUMBLESEAT, WILD THING, and JOE are all likely to finish by noon tomorrow (July 10). Each of us is trying to flog a little more speed from our tired boats, and we are now picking Ken Roper's (HARRIER) brain as to best approaches to the finish line and how to avoid the reefs around the entrance to Hanaleii bay.
The weather is overcast and humid. The sea is still rather flat and there is a small swell. We have not heard from BIG MON or BADBOY in a long time and wonder if they have been reported by other means.
Mike Jefferson's Log: 1900 PDT. Night is a special time at sea. Sometimes, when it is stormy and there are navigational hazards it can be an occasion for anxiety and fear. At other times, such as last night, it can be breathtaking in it's beauty. Last night the sky was like black crystal, with stars one can never see in an urban setting literally blazing above. It had an almost three dimensional depth to it. Every now and then a meteorite would streak by. The wake of the boat was a greenish-bluish phosphorescent streak 100 yards long with thousands of Tinkerbell-like sparkles in the depths from bioluminescent organisms. The boat was running easily over the 5 foot seas, carving a trench in the water at 6 knots. I had the guitarist John Fahey playing on the cockpit speakers and sat there entranced for hours. This is the sort of night people dream of when they think of sailing in the tropics. The peace, tranquillity, and sheer emotional depth of that evening will remain in my memory for a long time. It was truly a night of wonder.
Something else I wonder about is how in the hell everybody keeps putting miles on me. GRRR...
BERSERKER was attacked by a squalid of squid today during the noon hour. Mark reports that 6 fair sized squid landed on deck and as a a mark of their displeasure instantly voided their ink sacks. It took him an hour of scrubbing to clean up the mess.
Most of the racers SAY they are in cruise mode today. This fantasy is especially prevalent among those who hold comfortable leads in corrected time. The day is very pleasant, with 10-12 knots true and small seas. Many puffy trade wind cloude about, and the temperature is rather moderate.
WILD THING, JOE, and RUMBLE SEAT
should finish tomorrow. Those of us in the rear of the pack are green with
envy. WILD THING has suffered a lot of rigging and sail damage
and is now proceeding to the finish under main only. He is still making
8.5 knots. We have finally heard from BIG MON. He is currently
alongside SLIPSTREAM. Apparently BIG MON has
broken the T-bar fitting of one of the lower shrouds. He has jury rigged
a new shroud with a chicken stay and banding tool, and the rig seems stable,
but he cannot set a chute. SLIPSTREAM has apparently lost
all of his spinnaker halyards and cannot set a spinnaker either. They are
presently sailing side by side.
Stay tuned for developments! Mike Jefferson
Mike Jefferson's Log: 0700 PDT. The carnage continues. You would think that we were going around Cape Horn. Last night Rob on TIGER BEETLE had the unpleasant experience of hearing the "Big Bang" at midnight. This well known sound usually is the harbinger of bad news. So it was with Rob. The stemhead fitting which secures the forestay and roller furler had sheared off, and the roller furler was banging around the foredeck. In an incredible recovery, in 1 hour Rob had secured the forestay and was able to go back to bed. This morning his options were discussed on the net. Rob will attempt to beef up the jury rig so that he can set a spinnaker. The moral of the story is that even well prepared boats break when you push them. So beef it up before going offshore. FOXXFYRE had a 3/8" thick tang crack and had to replace the hardware holding the headstay to the stem the NIGHT before the race. Thanks to Bruce Schwab for seeing it.
The 61-year-old retired sheetrock contractor reported a good race. His highest day's run was about 270 miles, his shortest, 140 miles. He enjoyed some of the best sailing early in the race, close reaching into 30 knot winds on days 3 through 5 at 11 to 12 knots.
It was a "destruction derby" for Wild Thing's spinnakers, though. Thayer lost all three of them enroute. Mast damage reduced the sail plan further still. When tension in the lower shrouds started tearing oblong holes in the carbon fiber rig, Thayer reduced sail. He carried only the main the last 30 hours of the race.
At this writing, the next two boats in line to finish are Chuck Beazell on the Hunter 54, Joe, and Bruce Schwab on the 30-square-meter Rumbleseat. Both were expected to finish later in the day on July 10.
Mike Jefferson's Log: 0700 PDT. The news this morning is pretty bad. JOE was dismasted 18 nm from the finish. RUMBLESEAT stood by for awhile, apparently, while Chuck managed to make some sort of jury rig. JOE has now finished under jury rig. Details are sketchy out here on the course, but more information should be available soon.
In keeping with the time honored Hollywood tradition that if they liked it once, they will like it twice, we report that at about 10 pm last night TIGER BEETLE lost his rudder. Rob had previously had his forestay stem fitting fail, but had made repairs and was under way again. Now the big double whammy! Rob has one of the best engineered emergency rudders in the fleet, and since he is directly upwind of the finish, there seems little doubt that he will finish under his own power. This is none-the-less a tragic setback for Rob, who was well on his way to spanking everyone else's butts. He may still beat a bunch of us. Stay tuned!
On a positive note, Ray on WILD THING (who has finished) reports that BADBOY had called the race committee with only a few miles to go, and has presumably finished by now. We had lost touch with BADBOY, since he had only a VHF radio and had elected to sail an extreme southern route. Congratulations to Gary Helms.
It might appear to those of you who are not personally acquainted with the boats and skippers that the breakdowns and problems encountered by this years fleet are due to either inadequate boats or preparations. I would like to comment that this years fleet was perhaps the best prepared in memory. The boats had all been battle tested in demanding qualifying sails in very rough waters. The skippers are all very knowledgeable and competent people who have spent literally years preparing themselves and the boat to do this race. I think that the damage encountered so far may be attributed to the competitive nature of the event, coupled with the very hard early going, and perhaps most important, that the sea puts extreme demands on boats. I have spoken on this point in an earlier note, and would like to reiterate my belief that a proper boat for going to sea bears slender resemblence to that encountered in the usual marina. The ocean is NOT like coastal sailing, and should be taken seriously. The constant working of the boat and the continuous flexing, twisting, stretching, and so forth puts severe strains on all aspects of the hull, rig and sails. Oil canning of a hull which might be tolerable for many years sailing in the Bay could fail after only a few weeks at sea. Even a Hawaii race, which many sailors dismiss as something of a "Milk Run" is NO JOKE. You can even encounter hurricanes out here. Structurally inadequate or poorly prepared boats do not belong out here, and even those which are well prepared are still going in harm's way, so to speak.
The risk factor is one thing which has a subtle appeal to most of us, but it is really NO FUN when the risk comes true. Your best hope is that you are mentally and physically prepared to meet the challenge if it does come. Regards from the sea! I'm looking forward to the finish. Mike Jefferson
FLASH! UPDATE: at 1200 PDT Rob on TIGER BEETLE reports that he has mounted his emergency rudder and that it is working well, and the Alpha Spectra is driving the boat. He is making 4 knots under triple reefed main only and is making for Hanaleii Bay, with course 231 and 491 nm to go.
Three boats arrived at Hanalei Bay within three hours of each other Wednesday night, making a total of four finishers so far in the 1996 Singlehanded TransPac Race.
Bruce Schwab was the first of the trio, sailing his beautiful classic 30-Meter Rumbleseat past the finish line at 8:39 p.m. It was an amazing race for the veteran singlehander, who covered the 2,120-mile course in 11 days, 11 hours, 23 minutes and 46 seconds. Bruce, a 36-year-old rigger at Svendsen's Marine in Alameda, finished slightly more than 12 hours after the first boat, Ray Thayer's 60-ft Wild Thing (which sports twice the waterline of Rumbleseat), but more than "saved his time" on handicap. On corrected time, Rumbleseat is currently the race leader.
Bruce reports Rumbleseat suffered little damage on the trip over -- the most serious was a vang fitting that Bruce says, "was the only thing on the boat that I didn't build myself."
Not so with the next finisher, Chuck Beazell on the Hunter 54 Joe. About 10 a.m. on the last day, Chuck was below eating breakfast, looking forward to finishing second (and ahead of Bruce) when he heard the dreaded "Big Bang".
"I came topside and saw that both sets of lowers were on the deck, and the mast was doing scary things," said the 38-year-old engineer from Alameda. At the time, Joe was sailing downwind with wung-out headsails and no main. Wind conditions were about 20 knots with a sloppy swell.
Beazell knew he had to unload the rig and fashion a quick replacement for the lost support, but he didn't get much farther than the thinking about it stage. The mast folded near the middle and came down on the starboard side, just where he was standing. "I saw it coming and tried to get out of the way," he says. He nevertheless ended up under the boom, receiving bruises and a severe cut on his foot.
The priority now became jettisoning the rig, which was already beginning to grind against the Hunter's hull. He made the frustrating discovery that even heavy duty bolt cutters won't cut heavy-duty stainless rigging, although they proved handy for cutting the running rigging loose. He accomplished the cutting job on the remaining shrouds and stays with a hacksaw, clearing the wreckage in 15 to 20 minutes.
Drawing on his experience stepping the mast of a trailerable Catalina 22 he once had, Chuck quickly jury-rigged a spinnaker pole as a substitute mast and a storm trisail as a "main." Then, noting it was still about 75 downwind miles to the finish, he figured he needed a spinnaker, too. Through the ingenuity with which singlehanded sailors are particularly blessed, he soon had his 1.5-ounce chute flying up forward, with the "foot" secured partially by closing it in the foreward hatch. Under this sailplan, Joe was able to maintain 4 to 6 knots and finish the race. Beazell crossed the finish line at 10:32 p.m.; for an elapsed time of 11 days, 13 hours, 17 minutes, 40 seconds.
The final arrival of July 10 was a surprise of another sort. After maintaining radio silence throughout the race, Gary Helms on the F-31 trimarain Bad Boy called in during Chuck Beazell's final approach to say he was coming in, too. Gary, a 52-year-old yacht broker from Alameda, finished less than an hour behind the Hunter for an elapsed time of 11 days, 14 hours, 10 minutes, 13 seconds for an unopposed first place in this year's multihull division. (His only competition, Michael Reppy on the Shuttleworth 36 Nai'a, had to return to the Bay Area to repair damage and restarted three days behind the fleet.)
No further finishers are expected on July 11. The next two boats expected in early Friday are Eric Jungemann's Olson 30 Big Mon and Greg Morris on the Farr 33 Slipstream. Their drag race is shaping up to be the cliffhanger of this year's event: rig and halyard problems with both boats has equalized their speed and in the Wednesday position reports, they were only four miles apart. (Note: all results are provisional pending confirmation by the race committee.)
'96 TransPac | SSS | Sailing Links | Weather Links | Hawaii