Alec already gave the lowdown on day 1, but I’ll add a few things.
The first is what is going through everybody’s minds before you shove off. Inside there’s a lot of thoughts being processed, from the “did we miss something” to “this is so cool” to “holy crap, what am I doing?” You feel weak until you walk about and see you’re not the only one with all this in your head. But then you gear up and hit the water, you’re in it, and the only thoughts that stay with you are the ones for sailing.
As Alec said we goofed the start pretty bad by getting to the line a little early and stacked in a bunch of boats at the committee boat. We opted to ditch out and come in again, but turned out as port against some starboard boats coming in. In short, DFL at the start! But we started working some boats and moving up a bit. When the wind started shifting a bit and picking up some, the chutes came out, got put away, came out, and finally stayed out as the course turned downwind somewhat. We found ourselves early on battling with Chums and Adrenaline, something that would repeat over the length of the race!. The water was absolutely clear coming out of the Keys, something we’re certainly not used to up here on the Chesapeake! Off the mouth of Biscayne Bay the water turned emerald green. Not much for waves, decent wind, two on the wire with the spinny, absolutely magical! Somewhere around there we rolled past Trey and Tad (looked they had something going on), and fought with them for awhile before resuming our previous position!
The wind dropped some, then piped up leading into the finish, where we got our first taste of reaching with the spin as we got into the building short waves near shore. We also saw the goodness of following the shore as we watched some of the boats make time on us along the shore. We dropped the chute for a little to figure out the wave forms, then it was back with the spinnaker for finishing. The beach at Hollywood was steeper than we remembered, and we approached under spin at speed I said to Alec “this is going to hurt” anticipating catching a bow in the sand and tripping. But we hit just right! Very cool.
Some other things – seeing our first turtle was awesome (it would be the first of many as it turned out)- it was just floating along the surface, looking like a bunch of seaweed. That served notice for us to not take the seaweed to lightly! Got to constantly keep an eye on when to clear the blades of all the seaweed we’d pick up. All in all an awesome day of sailing and a great way to kick off the whole event!
In addition to getting the boat in shape, the sailors need to be in shape too. To that end, Alec spent time in the gym every day (credit Complete Fitness Concepts) doing a variety of workouts with an emphasis on cardio. For my part, I hit the elliptical machine almost daily combined with some free weights (emphasis on cardio). I know Alec shed some weight, and for me 18 pounds were dropped. Yet we still weighed in at 205 and 215. But it paid off, most notably in the efforts to get off the beach in light air when Alec got to paddle like a mad man. We did very well getting off the beach, in one case moving up to being the 6th boat after the start. Alec mentioned that one of his motivations was to avoid having to repeat the work if we got knocked back to the beach…
In the pictures you may have seen it – the team enjoying(?) a refreshing ration of rum upon finishing a leg. We found, of all things, Pirates of the Chesapeake rum! The bottle made the trip with us, and starting with the first finish at Hollywood beach, we shared a ration with the goal of finishing the last of it at Tybee. As each leg brought us closer to Tybee, the bottle trended toward empty. At Tybee we finished the last of it, and even gave the boat a taste. The bottle was to be saved, signed by the crew and become our own trophy, but alas it is missing, most likely tossed in the trash by somebody doing us a favor. Oh well. But whatever the quality of the rum, it tasted sweeter to me with each leg finished!
Getting there, and getting back. And getting around during. We start out by driving down to Islamorada. Then we go sailing while the ground crew follows us by road. Then, we drive home from Tybee. So, for just one van (mine, 2000 Astro), here’s the numbers (from the trip computer) for getting there from Annapolis and back:
Miles driven – 2747.0
Gallons of gas used – 188
Average mph – 51.0
Average mpg – 14.6
We took two vehicles. There were 24 teams. Hmmm…
It’s hard to believe that I’m back in Maryland, looking at a van full of wet stuff and a boat on a trailer that needs to go back to West River Sailing Club. After a whirlwind week of activity, action, and people, there’s a profound sense of withdrawal that I suspect will last awhile. It’s hard to not simply slip back into the mind’s eye view of the places you’ve been and sailing you’ve done.
So here we are at the culmination of an effort that has taken a bit of time. As I was talking to Adam, it came out that Alec bought the boat in the end of 2005, we sailed it all of 2006, and gave our first try at the Tybee in 2007. Not such good results that time. So here we are in 2009! Nobody got sick, the boat didn’t get whacked, and Mother Nature served up some awesome sailing conditions for a whole week.
One of the things that happens when an effort like this winds down a bit you find yourself remembering some of the things you intended to do, but didn’t. For one, I intended to put something in writing on this site after every day. The other was that I had bought a bunch of mounting stuff for my Hero video camera with the intent of catching a bunch of cool footage. But once the action started, neither of those things happened. The blogging can be updated later (although probably nobody’s paying attention now), but I’m bummed I forgot about the camera. But that’s how wrapped up you get. Checking the boat, weather, and making sure everything that makes the boat go (gear and people) becomes the thing. Maybe after a doing the race a couple of times these things become easier and other details get attention – we’ll see. But I’m still bummed about the camera!
So I’ll fill in more details in the days to come, but here’s a few things (and like me it will be long-winded) –
The sailing was awesome, long, and sometimes tiring. I began to think of thing as boot camp for cat distance racing. We got to sail the boat in ways we just don’t get to do in the Chesapeake. One thing is reaching – when you do a lot of beer can races, the thing everybody tries for is a nice windward leeward course. But then you don’t get the experience of really airing the boat out. Starting with day 1 we were spinnaker reaching, two on the wire. Then we get to spin reaching on the wire surfing the waves just outside the breaking surf. Then you get to spin reach on the wire pacing world-class sailors you only get to read about most times. Launch through breaking waves, beach through breaking waves. Trap off the stern driving the boat in a building breeze on the ocean watching the Speed Puck blast to 19 knots and over.
The Nacra 20 is an awesome machine for this kind of sailing. Tough, forgiving, and fast. Our boat has seen this kind of use since its birth, it’s still got speed, and stood up to yet another round. After this effort, there is one thing that is obvious this platform is screaming for – development, consistency, and quality in the sail plan. We’ll go into details another time, but I think it’s time for the distance racers to form an association and come with a new sail development and supply option – who cares if it doesn’t fit the buoys racing class, as long as it is recognized by the distance racing organizers.
The F-18s were awesome as well, and definitely proved themselves in these conditions. There are definitely times when the power of the 20 wins, and times when the efficiency of the 18 is king. There is room for both in this world, to exclude either would be a huge detriment in my opinion.
You’ll maybe remember that the last time I put anything up here, we were in Islamorada and I was still wondering whether we would use the gen 1 or gen 3 rudders. We stuck with the gen 1, and had no problems with cavitation like we did before. I think maybe that reflects our increase in familiarity with sailing the boat. They do make the boat very responsive, and it takes a different approach to driving. I don’t have any hard data to say which is faster, but the consensus is still that the gen 1 blades are.
So, I’ll end this with another long round of thanks. Thanks to the whole Tybee race committee for putting this thing on and running it the way they do. Thanks to the Team Velocity effort for putting together the race package we raced under, they were professional and organized and we would had a very hard time doing this without that support. Specifically Trey, Tad, Allie, Adam, Ryan, and all the others. Thanks to Wendy and Doug for keeping us going. Thanks to the veterans who unselfishly offered up advice and wisdom even when it was unsolicited. Thanks to the sponsors, both the companies and individuals.
That’s all for now, I’m off to empty a wet van and deliver a boat to her usual home!
21 boats are in and we are waiting for the Pirates and an f18 team with a broken mast. My best guess is that Alec’s hands were just too torn up to use the spinnaker and that they’ve been sailing without it. It’s been a nerve wracking hour, but we can barely make them out now on the horizon. Here’s the scene at the beach, where some teams are actually going back out to sail around for photo opportunities.
I forgot to mention Adam’s hard work last night when I posted our status this morning. Just to give you a bit of background, we on the ground crew are beat also. Hauling gear, eating on the road, running and fetching, taking care of our sailors, and taking care of our own business as well – this is the life of a ground crew member.
Adam has been a joy, and we feel so lucky to have had him as our honorary pirate during this race. Truly, our guys wouldn’t have made it this far without him and I am being completely honest when I say that. Last night Alec and Keith were shot, and Alec was mostly worn out from running the spinnaker for the past 5 days. He didn’t think he could do it another day, but they decided he would try if they could rig the boat with a spinnaker doubler. Don’t ask me what it is or how they did it, but it was Adam who actually rigged it last night.
I was worried about Alec and Adam said not to worry, that he and Ryan (another Team Velocity Racing ground crew member) would get it all set up. Alec didn’t have to lift a finger, as Keith did the other part to help out Adam and Ryan. Keith is a champ, too, by the way – he was beat also but did his all to stay out and help the guys rig the boat for this morning. Anyhow, I just wanted to brag on Adam and give him full credit. I truly believe we wouldn’t be in this race still if it wasn’t for him.
By the way, Adam will begin a sail around the world in November, so you can follow his progress and/or support his cause at his website, Eye of the World.
The last 12 hours were the most grueling of the whole race, as Alec went from questioning whether he could go out the next day after they came in last night to resigning himself to going out around 2am this morning. Keith is mentally worn out as well. Neither can imagine what the sailors from the Worrell went through, knowing that at this point they wouldn’t have even been halfway.
They punched through the surf with no incidents this morning, though it was tough going for a while. I would have bitten my nails had I not been taking photos. Here are a couple from this morning.
I finally had some time yesterday to go through and cull out the best photos from the past couple of days, and hope to post them today. Keep posted!