Wednesday, 15 May 2013
by Dave Rearick
It’s just after midnight on Sunday night, as I write this. A few hours back, we passed Cape Hatteras, the legendary “Graveyard of the Atlantic” … but to no ill effect. Right now, we’re on a nice jib reach sail through the night. A “jib reach” is when you are sailing towards the center of the wind, but not as closely as is possible, which we call sailing to windward or on a beat. So, our sails are slightly eased now, making for a nice somewhat easier sail. As we moved, a fingernail sliver of a moon and one planet to the right lit the early night sky, leaving a dusty trail of moonlight on the water. As those celestial visitors passed below the western horizon, we were left with a canopy of beautiful stars, some phosphorescence … and the disappointing realization that I had forgotten to buy cookies before we set sail, leaving me now with mighty slim pickens for my midnight snack.
The first day of the race offered us some great sailing. Through last night, we sailed with our A3 spinnaker and though it was often difficult sailing, we made pretty solid gains and some time on the boats near us. After that, the fleet split up … taking one of two different strategies. One group stayed closer to the shoreline, choosing not to seek out the Gulf Stream. The other group, which included us, headed straight east to meet up with the Gulf Stream, before turning more northerly towards Cape Hatteras.
Things were moving along quite well … with one exception; Matt had eaten something bad, and underwent a pretty nasty bout of stomach nausea and weakness. We’re not sure the cause, but we think it was some year-old French peanut butter.
Once we made it out to the Gulf Stream, we attempted a gybe – changing course where the back of the boat turns through the wind rather than over the bow … which in strong winds is a complicated enough maneuver with a crew of 8 … and all the more edgy with just two of us. We then furled (rolled) up the A3, which gave us problems when the furl snarled up, leaving us unable to unfurl the sail. After much hard work, we were able to lower the sail and stuff it below decks, and sail on with our jib. This left us in a compromised situation for speed, not to mention that both of us at that point, and Matt with his stomach problem, were pretty exhausted. By about 04:30 hours, we had to make the decision to throttle back and attempt a recover – physically. Not long after that, the winds increased and the jib proved to be a fortunate choice of sail.
So, I guess when I say it was some great sailing, that’s what I mean – not easy, but still great. We eventually got the A3 unrolled below decks and reset it about 08:00 hours and sailed with it most of the day. Lots of sail changes followed and just a little sleep. With Matt partly compromised and mostly staying in the cockpit steering, we both wore ourselves down. As the winds eased up some this afternoon, we were able to regain our energies, and Matt has been able to eat once again. Thank goodness for such tender mercies.
All in all, all is well – it’s just a day in the life of shorthanded sailors pressing to race on to New York. It appears on the last position schedule we saw, that we are still in contention, which we think has been because we were able to use the 2-knot assist of the current from the Gulf Stream to make up the miles we lost with the sail problems. I just learned that we are out front of the fleet at the moment. Well, what do you know? We’ll just have to stick around and see how the rest of the race plays out, won’t we?
(See AC Race Tracker here!)
As it turned out, the Gulf Stream was a bit further off-shore than we anticipated, and it took us a while to get there, but once we were there, it was pretty obvious. Our speed over the ground was greater than our speed through the water, not to mention the warmth of the water spraying in our face as well as the warmth of the air. We saw sargasso grass along the western edge and numerous flying fish playing about. These are all traditional signs that you’re getting close to or into the amazing Gulf Stream. (To learn more the Gulf Stream, check out this Environment Explorer Guide on our Bodacious Dream Expeditions website.)
Cape Hatteras, which we just passed, is one of the most significant barrier island areas on the Eastern Coastline. While we were quite a few miles offshore and so didn’t actually see the barrier islands, we know they are there from other trips when we passed very close to them. The ever-changing edges of the barrier islands were a big problem for the builders of the famous Cape Hatteras lighthouse who had to find a way to build it so that it didn’t get washed into the sea. (More on Cape Hatteras at the History Explorer Guide and the Environment one too.)
So, on we go into the dark of night – straight onto morning. As I write this, there’s about 275 miles left to NYC, and we figure that will take us about 2 more days. This leaves us with lots of opportunities to catch up and pull ahead, or to make some tactical mistakes and fall behind. The Atlantic Cup is a very tactical race – one where you have to take into consideration a confluence of natural events surrounding prevailing weather and currents to find the quickest route to the finish line. That’s one of the interesting and amazing things about sailboat racing. While it requires that you be a good athlete, it’s not just about one’s physical abilities either. As boats derive their power and speed from the wind and course they take through the water, a big part of the game is to harness Ol’ Mother Nature to your advantage, so that you can get you to our destination, quickly and safely. I guess that’s the Mother’s Day message we’ll leave you with; pass gracefully through the world, and be careful to leave no trace in your wake. Try as best you can to maximize your life, and minimize your impact!
So, for now … back to business for us … and a good new week to you all!
- Matt, Dave & Bodacious Dream