Sunday, February 1, 2009

Super Sunday

Sunday - February 1.  Beautiful day - hit 50 F, wind south at 8-10.

Rowed out a mile to the 46 Nun (opposite Stepping Stones) that marks the shipping channel into the East River.  And ran into plenty of shipping.

A February thaw is necessary to achieve the goal of rowing every month of the year.  Got one in January too.  And December.

Steelers (with Obama on their side) 27.  Arizona (with McCain and Derek on their side) 23.

Vendee: Victory for Desj., Survival for Great America

30 started.  1 finisher.  11 still racing.

"Sailing more than 28,303 miles, averaging around 13.2 knots, French solo skipper Michel Desjoyeaux has shattered the Vendée Globe race record today  by 3 days 7 hours and 39 seconds on his way to becoming the first skipper ever to win the solo non stop around the world race twice. 
Desjoyeaux crossed the finish on Sunday 1st February at 15:11.08 GMT , after 84 days 03 hours 09 minutes of racing. Foncia completed the race in twenty knots of breeze under sunny skies, greeted by a massive armada of spectator boats before being warmly welcomed by huge crowds who gathered along the waterfront and harbour area of Les Sables d’Olonne, where the race departed at 1202 GMT November 9th 2008."

Night from hell - but alive to tell the tale
Rich Wilson, Great America II
Nothing but the full text of his report will do.
If you are not familiar with these boats you need to know that the canting bullet keel is 30 degrees to windward.  In a crash jibe all the ballast is on the wrong side.  The boat is NOT self-righting.  With the boat on its side and the sails in the water you have to get to the controls and bring the keel to midships - and then as the boat lifts you get another crash jibe. 
- gwc

“The past 24 hours have been among the most difficult so far. A huge low, much wider east-west than forecast, has taken its toll. After finally  getting to the west side which had the southerly winds, we took off at high speed with storm jib and 3 reefs in the mainsail in the late afternoon/evening. Into the dark the wind built from 25-30-35-40-45-50 knots. 

It turns out that we had the fastest run for that period in the fleet. It was not intentional. The pilot was doing well, set on its highest response settings, but the wind and boatspeed kept rising. The highest I saw was 24.5 knots, the fastest of the whole race. 

Finally at about 3 am I realized that this could only end in disaster, the wind was not abating, and there was no way to know how much we might get, or how big the seas might get. Already, they were 25' and climbing, just gigantic, breaking in every direction, angry, and huge, gigantic masses of water with no good intentions. Another risk is if the mainsail is down and the boatspeed drops to 4 or 5 knots with just the storm jib, then you are at the mercy of the seas, and could get rolled over. There is dynamic stability in speed. 

Anyway, decided to try, had one arm in the foul weather gear, and the worst happened, the boat veered high, then low as the autopilot tried to correct, I saw the number 40 degrees low, OH NO, then a huge CRASH, and the boat laid over on its side. 

The boat had gybed, and now the wind was on the wrong side of the mainsail, and the keel was canted fully on the wrong side. The boat laid over at about 70 degrees of heel and just sat there, then the autopilot alarm went off, just to add to the fray. 

Got the jacket on, helmet on, gloves on, and went into the cockpit sideways. All old handholds are useless when you turn your world on its side. Waves were washing down the deck, but not too much coming into the cockpit because it was to leeward. The mast was still there. I tried to jam the tiller over, no response. 

Then I remembered, that is not the sequence. This has happened in various conditions 3 times before. OK, got to the keel, walking along the walls below, center the keel with the keel motor winch, was able to do this, and good that the batteries were up. Then go to the cockpit and try the tiller again, to try to gybe back. The boat was now more upright with the keel movement, and I pushed the tiller over hard, nothing, then something, then here it comes, she's turning, oh boy there's going to be a gigantic CRASH when it gybes back, hang on and duck, BAM, the mainsail gybed back again. 

I write this in the late afternoon, the wind is down to 35 knots, the seas are still gigantic, and perhaps I'll try to get the main back up before it gets dark if the wind continues to abate a bit. Anyway, dodged a gigantic bullet there, could have lost the rig, runners, could have gotten hurt trying to get the boat back in its right direction, or in bringing the sail down.”
Rich Wilson (Great America II) in his daily message