Monday at the 50 Yard Line

Photo above courtesy of Will Suto, Mighty Merloe

In San Diego Yacht Club's Puerto Vallarta Race last night, a good portion of the fleet passed the metaphorical 50 yard line… or the "500 miles to go" mark. The combined average of 'Distance to Go' for the fleet is 495 miles. You can witness this compression if you review the YB Tracker. Today, the Saturday starters are approaching the 'catch', and will begin sailing through the Friday starters, who have already overtaken the Thursday boats. Outside of all of that, there is a lot of commercial traffic off the coast of Mexico... not just our intrepid sailors. Visit to witness vessel traffic transmitting AIS world wide. Then zoom in to the race course and you will see the virtual highway used by hundreds of container and tanker ships, likely transiting through the Panama Canal and moving goods up the west coast. It can seem like a vast empty ocean, until you open your digital eyes. Look carefully and you may spot a few of our racers with their AIS-B permanently on. This “B” signal is low-power, and usually only visible for 10-15 miles by other vessels. These positions are relayed automatically by passing commercial vessel with commercial AIS-“A” systems with a much greater range.

There were a number of comments from 0600 boat reports (read below) regarding what they see or know out on the race course. Some can just ‘feel’ the fleet (Thursday starter Marjorie (BBY Custom 59, Tracy Obert) baiting the fleet down to Cabo, but due to Satellite server issues, can’t reap the reward of reviewing the hourly YB tracker data), while others are running their AIS, which keeps watch within 10 or so miles. Still others just look across their beam. Horizon (Santa Cruz 50, John Shulze) and Lucky Duck (Santa Cruz 52, Dave MacEwen) are two such conjoined racers, who as close rivals within Division 5 were within 100 yards of each other this morning.

Horizon (Santa Cruz 50, John Shulze)
Monday, March 5, 2018, 0640

“We have seen Lucky Duck for most of the race. They won’t go away... The main effect of seeing them is in sail selection and amount of risk we take. We are always trying to position ourselves for next shift regardless if it happens or not. Also to not allow them to make any large gains. We finally put them over the horizon today but on the tracker it looks like are jibes are still synchronized."

Lucky Duck (Santa Cruz 52, Dave MacEwen)
Monday, March 5, 2018, 0620

"YB Tracking reports are a constant interest, if only to see how the rest of the fleet is doing. We are in constant contact with Horizon, so the four hour delay is irrelevant.

Last night's trick on the helm, 9 to 10 PM, end of our watch was marvelous, nay superb, nay epic. The moon, just risen, behind light clouds, created a wide highway of light, just off the bow. The moonlight glinted off moderate swells, showing their form, hiding any hint of menace. The breeze, developed to 20 knots, was very comfortable for the A2, the one with the giant duck logo. The breeze direction, not steady, was only modestly challenging. The helm, oh so responsive in the Duck's new configuration. So then, position the Lucky Duck on the face of the swell, and let it happen. Intuit what to do at the bottom and connect with the next swell. Repeat deliriously, endlessly, happily.”

Speaking of digital eyes… that includes ears. Heeding Peter Isler’s passionate reminder of Safety Fundamentals at the skippers briefings “always monitor VHF 16”, this morning Pyewacket (Andrews 70, Roy Disney) provided a relay for Good Call’s (J/65, Tom Barker) 0600 report not 10 min after a request by RC over email. And Prospector (Mills 68, Larry Landry, Paul McDowell, David Siwicki) is wrestling with satellite coverage, oddly only in the morning, and unable to access email but using their Sat phone to call in each morning. Tropic Thunder (Beneteau 46, John Miller) is living-email free… but texting old school from the Sat phone in short bursts. Remember that? (scrolling through alphabet via phone buttons where “Roll Call” is spelled ‘777, 666, 555, 555, 222, 2, 555,555’, etc.) As amazing as all the technology is to enhance race communications, sometimes it just doesn't work. Is it a loose connection or a corroded antenna fitting. Maybe it’s just a satellite that isn’t quite up in the sky high enough to lock on to, or is it some software menu item you haven’t checked, or a ‘subscription thing’?. Thus Safety Fundamental #2. Have a Plan B… and a Plan C and expect to use them all.

By example - It’s a good thing when you can use the word ‘accident’ qualified afterwards with the word ‘fortunate’. There have been two accidents reported so far on the race course and both of them, while unfortunate, have had solid responses (fortunate) from trained medical persons (plan B - a nurse and an EMT on board). See below for a note from Stark Raving Mad’s crew Drew Friedes regarding his unlucky injury with the ‘fortunate’ Plan C outcome.

“I’m doing well. Had [my finger] operated on at UCSD trauma sat at 1am thanks to Andy Rasdal’s connections. Everyone from San Diego Yacht Club has been amazing. Enrique helped with transportation in Mexico. That was the most difficult part — getting back from 300 miles down track in Mexico.

I lost the very end of my fourth finger on my left hand. About half way down the nail. It was a freak accident with my hand getting caught in the main sheet block. Fortunately we had an EMT racing with us, Tony Pierce. He was awesome taking care of me. In typical Jim Madden (owner/skipper Stark Raving Mad VII) fashion, we were prepared.

I will be fine. I just feel bad that SRM had to drop out. We were positioned to win. The team and Jim worked so hard to prepare for the race." 

More News Direct From the Race Course

Marjorie (BBY Custom 59, Tracy Obert)
Sunday, March 4, 2018, 1115

“No one in sight since the first day but we can feel them coming from the later starts. We've heard VHF comms between ships and later starters suggesting they are catching up. Unfortunately we're blind to the YB trackers. A problem with the comms set up has left us without access via Expedition.”

Chim Chim (Gunboat 62, John Gallagher)
Monday, March 5, 2018, 0500

“I brought up YB in our comments of the report. We have found ourselves to be somewhat near Mr. Bill (Andrews 70, David Happ) for most the race. When we get within 10 miles of them, they show up on AIS. We have ours transmitting as well. Last night we gybed out as they continued on, and they crossed ahead by about a mile, so we had visual contact for about 1/2 hour. We also had a brief conversation with them yesterday early evening, exchanging greetings.  We assume that now they are pole back and headed down wind.”

Tropic Thunder (Beneteau 46, John Miller)
Monday, March 5, 2018, 0622

“Multiple AIS (non-reporting) targets seen last night and today on chart plotter and water; assuming that the fleet has caught up and blowing by us. All puns intended.”

Medicine Man (Andrews 63, Bob Lane)
Monday, March 5, 2018, 0615

“Steady winds of 23-26 with gusts of 31 and washing machine seas. Precise calculations of waves made the gybes easier. Beautiful morning!”

Mighty Merloe (Orma 60, HL Enloe)
Monday, March 5, 2018, 0000

“Greetings from the crew of Mighty Merloe. We are currently at the southern tip of Baja positioning to make the transition into the Gulf of California. Clear skies, bright moon, 13 knots of wind, cruising along at a civilized 20 knots of boat speed. Saturday, race morning, a front passed through on the way down to the boat, dumping rain. We thought we'd be leaving San Diego Bay in light wind, but we were gifted a few hours of beam reaching in 10-12 knots, a zippy mode for us. Unfortunately we outran the wind and into the back of the mornings front. We spent a good portion of the first night furling and unfurling headsails in the rain as the wind danced circles around us. Once the breeze came up, we were off.

Classic Mexico race conditions. 15 knots, blue water, short, steep waves. Plenty of action onboard. We sashimi'ed a huge fish with our starboard foil. Jay caught the world's biggest flying fish. Broken gennaker halyard cover disabling a winch and requiring some technical work arounds. Several watches with boatspeed averages in the high 20s. The typical waterboarding on deck. Looking forward to making the transition into the Gulf and hopefully arriving in Puerto Vallarta PM tomorrow (Monday).”

Bretwalda3 (Rogers 46, Bob Pethick)

“Skies clear, great day of sailing yesterday! Covered over 300 NM. Top speed 24.5 kts.”

Cabernet Sky (Beneteau 48, Charles Buckner)

“Exciting night rolling thru sustained 25 kts winds in 20’+ seas. A turn at the helm tested one’s mettle. In true ‘Corinthian spirit’, crew appreciated having dined already on chicken Tikka Masala over basmati rice, paired with a ration of Oregon Pinot Noir. All aboard doing well.”