Our Awesome Ride to the Finish!

When last we spoke, Bodacious IV was 100 miles from the finish of the Tranpac, proceeding along the north coast of Maui and through the Hawaiian Islands towards Oahu. Sailing along at 10 to 12 knots, after so many days, turns things a little less exciting and more mundane as the miles pass and your senses become accustomed to the speed – that is, until nature decides to throw something unexpected in your path.

Matt, Tim and Jim ...
Matt, Tim and Jim … in the islands … on our last day at sea.

So it was during our last 100 miles. Just after Midnight (Hawaii Time) – we were caught by a stalking “squall” which zapped us with a 30 degree change in wind direction and kicked the wind speeds from 16 to 25 knots, while at the same time managing to spit a few buckets of rain on us – which threw our groggy crew into “sail or fail” mode! Fast action by Matt Scharl at the helm and by all hands, none of whom were able to sleep through the excitement, kept the boat on her feet and scooting on through the Molokai Channel on the course for Oahu, and Honolulu.

During those squally conditions, we sailed 17 miles in 80 minutes … and that was “as the crow flies.” So, actually it was probably more like 20 miles in 80 minutes if you figure in the gybes, which add in extra zig-zag miles. That’s some good fun sailing to say the least, but it also takes a pretty strong and alert crew to take full advantage of all that extra wind speed. As the squall moved on, once more indifferent to us, we settled into a more relaxed sail to the finish. The Molokai Channel, for us post-squall, didn’t quite live up to its reputation for accelerated winds and large surfing seas.

Once across the 25-mile wide channel, we sailed down the coast of Oahu, much of it glittering with the lights of civilization. These shimmering strands provided an interesting perspective from the sea — the lights of the streets and buildings coursing along the veins of the ancient lava flows of the island’s origination, highlighting the major formations as if they were solidified lava flows.

As we cleared Makapu’u Point still in the middle of the night, light from the bright full moon silhouetted majestic Diamond Head, causing us to focus our final moments of racing on the red flashing light that signaled the finish line of the 2250 mile long Transpac Race. Moments after crossing the indicated finish line, our finish was officially confirmed by the race committee – the first boat in our Division (#6) to the finish!

Bodacious IV at the Finish
The Crew of Bodacious IV at the Finish (Photo courtesy of the Transpac)

Even at the hour of 5AM, a rousing reception awaited us at the docks of the Hawaii Yacht Club, as we rolled into harbor and into the traditional and festive welcoming party for finishing boats. This made our arrival in the early, pre-dawn light such a delight for the brined and blurry gang of Bo IV. Leis were placed on all crewmembers and even one on the bow of our beloved Bodacious IV as well. Obviously, this tradition also serves as a ploy to displace the seasoned smell of 9 men after 11 days of sailing in the confines of small boat crossing the huge Pacific Ocean!

Now as far as the actual scoring for the race goes, the way the Transpac works (and other races too) is that boats – even boats of similar length and design, have certain distinctions between them in terms of mast height, keel configuration, etc. and so a handicapping method is used so that once the boats finish, times are corrected to account for those handicaps and from that, final positions are determined. So it is, that while we were the first through the “barn door,” our final placement in our division was third behind Horizon and Medusa.

Div 6 Final Standings
Division 6 “Corrected” Standings

So, after some thick as concrete slumber, it’s time to clean up Bodacious IV; wash the salt from the equipment, dry out the sails, pack away the equipment and prepare her for a reception in honor our friends at HAEA (the US Hereditary Angioedema Association).


As I expect you all know by now, we’ve been sailing this race to bring awareness to this devastating disease. I’ve learned a lot about it in the process, and as I hear more about the effects that attend to someone missing vital blood protein and how quickly it can take away the very breath of life, I am honored to share a part of my lucky life to help bring some awareness to the goals of the HAEA. In fact, this afternoon, we will be sporting our HAEA insignias and hosting them all for a party at the Hawaii Yacht Club.

Beyond that, VIDEOS and more PHOTOS of the sailing and the crew will be coming here and to our YouTube channel here very soon.

I’ll also do my best to get you updates on the various celebrations going on here this week in Hawaii. Least you think that it’s all party time now, Captain Tim Eades and I will be spending the next week or so disassembling Bodacious IV, and packing her up for ocean shipment back to the US mainland and then across land to Newport, RI where she will await her next races. Hawaii though … not a bad place to have to work on a boat!

Until later … many thanks to all of you for your support!

– The most grateful crew of Bodacious IV
Skipper Jeff Urbina, Capt. Tim Eades, John Hoskins, Matt Scharl, Jim McLaren, Chris Pike, Christer Still, John Ayres and Dave Rearick.

Transpac Update – Day #11 – 100 miles to go!

Day #11 arrives and it finds us in the Islands! 100 miles to go … and we are now into the final hours of the race!

We sighted Maui in a distant haze about 4:30 PM Sunday, and at this point, have passed along most of its length. We seem to be continuing to add miles to our lead, as our Division 6 cohorts all begin to converge on Oahu. Naturally, we’re hoping the winds stay fair for us, and that our navigator extraordinaire John Hoskins and his grand strategy and navigation plan continue to pay dividends.

First Sighting of Maui
First Sighting of Maui

Along the coast of Maui, we saw a pod of whales today. We’re pretty sure they were pilot whales; three of them surfaced and crossed our path; always a joy to see such amazing creatures. We continue to see flying fish, as well as more and more birds and occasionally some dolphins.

Fatigue and endurance are constant factors that arise at this point in a long distance event such as this. Each crewmember has a different level of endurance balanced by different sleep requirements. What makes a team like ours work so well is that some of us get by on less sleep, while others need more. At the same time, some sleep sporadically while others sleep at least a portion of every off-watch!

The Coffee Grinder
The gang gathered around John Ayres at the Daily Grind

When it happens, as it did Sunday, that we encounter unexpected problems, various crewmembers must spend extra time on these chores, while others step up and take on extra hours of duty to give those physically more tired, a chance to rest up.

It would be a very interesting study for a sleep specialist to look at the nine of us in order to map and compare our various behaviors. What is most important to realize when considering the racing lifestyle is that though we have four hours on and four hours off, no one ever gets a full eight hours of sleep. So, unlike our lives on land, where most of us sleep seven or eight hours, and then are up for sixteen or seventeen, out here we are up for four hours and then down for four – assuming of course that you can actually sleep in the available window. Long distance sailing like this … and even more extreme events like the extended singlehanded sailing events that some of us compete in individually, can be among the most physically demanding of sporting events.

Here’s the latest race standings from late Sunday night!

Late Sunday Night Leaderboard

So, here we come HONOLULU! We’re hoping for an early morning arrival … so look for some kind of announcement on the Transpac website and on their Transpac Facebook page. Big kudos to Dobbs Davis and Jeremy Leonard and the Transpac Media Crew for doing a great (and difficult) job!

We’ll post something as soon as we can … so expect some news one way or another – either in your inbox, on our BD CAPTAIN’S BLOG or on our BD FACEBOOK PAGE very soon.

Another big thank you to all who generously gave to our HAEA! It’s never too late to help.

And lastly, a big shout out to Mark Petrakis of Firm Solutions … for his adept handling of the shore-side communications – and making sure that all of this groggy sailor’s missives got out to you as intended!

Ok … more after we land, and after we pop a few cold somethings!

Once more, all of our gratitude for keeping up with us the way you have, and for all your welcome notes and comments.

– The Intrepid Crew of Bodacious IV
Skipper Jeff Urbina, Capt. Tim Eades, John Hoskins, Matt Scharl, Jim McLaren, Chris Pike, Christer Still, John Ayres and Dave Rearick.

Coordinates: +21.05480, -156.06334
SOG (Speed over Ground): 10 knots
COG (Course over Ground): 280 degrees

Transpac Update – Back in the Lead on Day #9!

Saturday was another day of fast downwind sailing! What incredible fun we are having … though at times I can’t help recalling my Dad saying, “Too much of a good thing isn’t such a good thing.” Hopefully, Dad wasn’t referring to open-ocean sailing when he said that!

We’ve been on this latest gybe all day now and we keep a constant vigil on the tracker to see how we are converging with Horizon, which is north of us and still slightly ahead. Perhaps, by the time you read this, that will have changed! It seems to us at least, that with each passing hour, we catch up a little bit more … but it will still be right down to the wire as we approach the Hawaiian Islands, where the Moloka’i Channel winds may whip up peaks of powerful waves. We are also heading now into a large area of lighter winds around the islands. This is where the race may very well be won or lost.

chris, christer and tim Chris Pike, Crister Still and Tim Eades

Reflecting a moment on this great expanse of water, a few thoughts for you expeditionary-minded followers. The Pacific Ocean makes up 46% of the water on the earth, and its total mass is near equal to all the Earth’s land masses put together. That’s a LOT of water obviously, but out here, you can feel that immensity all around you and at all times. We haven’t seen a speck of land, since we lost sight of California. I think I said once, that a six-foot tall person standing on deck, can see approximately six miles before the curve of the earth falls away. If you view it from all sides of the boat, we can see in circles of about twelve miles in diameter … and we’ve sailed now about 2000 miles inside that small moving circle of perception. This means that so far, we’ve seen about 24,000 square miles of water! What we’re rolling on top of here is big BIG! If you were to look at an ordinary student globe, that much water stretched the length of the Transpac route would be about the width of a string!

Take me down to the Waterline

The water has grown steadily warmer the farther south and west towards Hawaii we go. In the change of temperature, we’ve seen a lot more flying fish, and a lot less seaweed and kelp of the sort that you find close to the California coast. Just today, we started to see some birds too. Imagine if you were an ancient navigator – no GPS, no cell phones, no computers and even a sextant or compass. As the water temperature warmed and the flying fish became more ubiquitous, you would take them as cues for your navigation. I also find myself looking out and imagining I’m one of those ancient navigators who has none of our modern instruments, and who is forced to ask how this voyage compared to any I had been on previously, or to accounts that might have been given to me by others who had sailed these same waters before me. I also look at these seas, at the sky and across the water, and compare it in my senses and memory to the Atlantic Ocean that I crossed in Bodacious Dream back at the end of 2012.

Mast Displays
Though it’s fun to dream of being an ancient navigator, we are who we are … and modern navigators and sailors use electronic instruments to help us navigate and sail our boats. On our mast we have three big displays that you can see from the cockpit. They show us the boat speed (we call that the “fun meter!”) Presently, our top speed has been 21.4 knots … set last night! Under boat speed, you can see our compass heading and below that, our wind speed. These are all important readings that help us stay fast and on course.

cockpit displays

We have six other instrument displays in the cockpit that show us other information that the navigator sends up to us, and that we consult in the course of our sailing. It’s really pretty amazing all the technology that we are using at the moment to get the absolute peak of performance out of this incredible boat.

It’s been comforting not to see much debris the past few days, but that just means we are moving farther west and south of the big Pacific gyres of debris. We do keep a lookout every day just to add to the data we share with the scientists at Earthwatch, who are part of a growing alliance of scientists and concerned citizens who are seeking better ways to preserve and protect the Earth’s oceans.

A view from the fridge ...Meal Plan complete, the “improv” phase begins …

While sailing well is our primary goal here, there are always maintenance chores that have to happen each day as well. We must manage and prepare our meals, take care of personal hygiene, check steering cables for wear and tear (just like checking the tires on your car.) We must also check the boat for any worn equipment and frayed lines. We “roll” our halyards and lines … meaning we tighten or loosen them regularly so they don’t rub or wear too much in the same place, which might lead to breakage. We had one line part earlier in the trip. Today we had to repair a large tear in our spinnaker with some special cloth tape that is made just for that job, and tonight, we found a short in the electrical system and had to rewire that. All is well though, but these are just some of the many things that need to be tended to daily, to keep a floating enterprise of nine people intact and safe for the duration of a long race such as this.

Well, that’s enough to consider for one sailor’s log, not to mention the fact that we are less than 250 miles from Honolulu and by the time you read this, we will be in our last 24 hours of sailing. Checking again this morning, the Race Tracker leaderboard (copied below) looks to have tipped back in our favor (yay!) … so, while we are not home yet, it indicates that the strategy decision of the past few days seems to be working out pretty well. So, ready or not Div 6 … we are b-aaack!!

Also, be sure to keep a lookout for our HAEA-logoed spinnaker as we approach Diamond Head and the Transpac finish line.

Transpac Leaderboard
Div 6 … Bo IV up top again … July 21, 7AM …

So, that’s it … until later … thank you again for all your great support!

– Dave & the new ancient mariners of Bodacious IV!
Skipper Jeff Urbina, Capt. Tim Eades, John Hoskins, Matt Scharl, Jim McLaren, Chris Pike, Christer Still, John Ayres and Dave Rearick.

COORDINATES: +20.18681, -152.05674
SOG (Speed over Ground): 12 Knot Avg.
COG (Course over Ground): 270 Degrees

Atlantic Cup Inshore Racing & Last Day Recap!

The 2013 Atlantic Cup is over and Bodacious Dream had a fantastic run of it … placing first in the two offshore legs and a respectable second in the third element, the inshore series, which combined to put us at the top of the leaderboard and first overall in this year’s event!

Sunday was the last day of the competition, and it arrived with weather similar to how it was for Saturday’s last race, which we won. Wind speeds were again between 18 and 25 knots with an overcast sky, though fortunately no rain.

Boats at the dock
Sunday morning before start – Photo by Billy Black

Racing in “sporting” conditions like these is always challenging … physically as well as mentally. The decisions come even quicker and the pure physical energy needed to handle sails in such wind jumps exponentially. Along with that, your chances of making mistakes that can cost you places, goes up as well. Often these regattas are won by whatever boat makes “the second to the last” mistake. There were plenty of mistakes made out there on the water, and we certainly had our share.

Lecoq Cuisine, Icarus, Bodacious Dream & Gryphon Solo 2
Lecoq Cuisine, Icarus, BoDream & Gryphon Solo 2 – Photo by Billy Black

One such costly mistake happened on the last turn to the finish during Saturday’s final race. We were chasing down Lecoq Cuisine who had the lead, when they had a problematic spinnaker takedown while rounding the mark. Their spinnaker caught the water and began dragging behind the boat, which allowed us to pass them and continue on to win that race. This is all part of what makes racing so exciting to watch, but what also makes it painful when it happens to you or to a tough and valiant competitor.

Going into Sunday’s races, we remained in the overall lead, but again we had to keep even or ahead of Lecoq Cuisine in the day’s two races in order to preserve it. Our plan was simple … race hard, not let Lecoq get ahead of us and solidly cement our place at the top of the standings.

Bodacious Dream & Gryphon Solo 2We started the first race in a very good position with water ballast in place for the long starboard sail to the first mark off Beavertail Point. I’m pretty sure we were the only ones with water ballast loaded, as we saw Bo surge ahead when the heavy gusts of wind hit, leading the entire fleet around that first mark in what was a rather tricky, high wind gybe. This is a maneuver that can really go wrong if everyone doesn’t do their job exactly on cue.

We pulled that mark off perfectly, and then set up our Code 0 sail, an asymmetric sail designed for a broader angle to the wind. With the sail up and rolled, ready to be deployed, we delayed the decision to deploy it as the winds were still in the high 20’s. All of a sudden, on its own, the Code 0 unfurled and took to the wind, jamming the furling line in the process. This meant we suddenly had way too much sail area up. Crewmember Ryan Scott and I moved quickly to the foredeck to get the sail partially furled and dropped back to the deck where we got it under control. Not only can a problem like this cost you places in the race, but it can cost you personal injury and broken gear as well. We were lucky and only lost three places on that one. We stashed the sail below, but it remained unusable for the rest of the race.

We sailed extra hard for the rest of that particular leg and rounding the next mark, we were again headed upwind – certainly one of Bodacious Dream’s very good points of sail. With Lecoq ahead of us after the Code 0 mishap, we set to sailing the upwind leg as perfectly as we could, and so were able to pass them halfway up that leg! Now back in third place, we chased the leaders all the while keeping Lecoq behind us. We jib reached down to the last turn mark, where we had Bodacious Dream doing over 19 knots across Narragansett Bay. Quite the thrill for all of us that was! Later, we learned that the camera boat was having a tough time keeping up with us! We turned the last mark, set our A3 spinnaker and sailed to the finish, taking a third behind Gryphon Solo 2 and Icarus, but leading Lecoq and gaining one more point on them.

Bodacious DreamLeaning in … – Photo by Billy Black

Our confidence was high going into the second and final race, and we got a great start which put us ahead of the fleet to the first turn mark … at which point we made a tactical error, which dropped us behind three boats and into fourth place. Frustration almost always leads to determination, and we got our focus together enough to pass two boats on the way to the next mark – one of which was Lecoq! In second position now, we saw that our job was to sail perfectly around the course and to stay ahead of Lecoq. In similar circumstances on Saturday, we did just that, even nearly pulling ahead of Icarus at one point. As we crossed the finish line in this final race of the competition, we knew we had done the job, and cleanly won the overall event with a solid second position in the inshore series, on top of our two closely fought victories in the offshore legs.

Worn out, tired, beat up by the windy days of racing, we were all elated and feeling victorious on our return to the harbor. My abiding appreciation to our hardy inshore crew: Jay Hansen, Jay Cross, Christer Still, Skip Mattos and Ryan Scott, and of course to Matt Scharl for his stellar tactics and fortitude on the offshore legs, all of which combined to bring Bodacious Dream to the podium at the awards ceremony Sunday afternoon to collect her first prize overall in the 2013 Atlantic Cup!

Bodacious Dream on the podium
On the Podium … Photo by Billy Black

Not only that, but thanks to you, our loyal fans, we also carried the vote for the “Most Popular” team! What an extra kick that was!

My heartfelt thanks to all of you Bodacious Dreamers out there for supporting us, following us and sharing in this great event.

My congratulations as well to an amazing international group of competitors who gave it their all with some consistently great sailing. The special camaraderie that we all shared here in American waters makes this event a standout event worldwide. We send out a challenge to our friends across the oceans to come prepared for some great racing next year!

All the teams on the podium
The Teams on the Podium … Photo by Billy Black

A special thanks to Julianna Barbieri and Hugh Piggen of Manuka Sports Management and 11th Hour Racing for making this event a truly spectacular one!

That’s it for the moment. It’s time to go give Bo a wash-down and find her a place to stay for a couple of weeks, while I head for home to catch my breath and recover from the amazing events of the last three weeks.

We’ll be adding photos to our Facebook page and right here on our website soon … and I’m sure I’ll have another story here in a day or two, so stay tuned for more coming right up!

– Dave & the Bodacious Dream Team!

Bodacious Dream Expedition #1 Baja Recap

So much to catch you up on! So, Bodacious IV is safely secured back in her San Diego slip … her “racing” crew has recovered from a great run from Newport Beach down to Cabo San Lucas, and the “delivery” crew has dispersed back to their homes following the completion of our very first “Bodacious Dream Expedition” back up the Baja Coast to San Diego. And what great fun we all had!

Not being onboard for the NHYC Cabo race, I got to follow the race tracker as Bodacious IV got off to a slow start in light winds. But soon, the winds picked up and Bo IV began to work her way through her section up to second place in boat-for-boat competition. Her corrected finish was fourth. Great job guys! This proved a great test run for the upcoming Trans-Pac Race to Hawaii in July. Reports from the Bo IV crew are that the boat holds steadily fast when heading off the wind, which 75% of the Trans-Pac race is … so excitement is really building for that race.

Once Bo IV was docked in Cabo, the delivery crew took charge of the boat, setting her up and provisioning her for Bodacious Dream Expedition (BDX) #1 – the first in a series of learning and exploring adventures along the way to the even greater adventure of my sailing Bodacious Dream around the world later this year!

BDX on Facebook

Did you get a chance to follow along with any of the Expedition on our BDX website or on our BDX Facebook page? Over the course of the week, we published 7+ daily updates with photos and videos sent right from the boat and posted to both sites. (All these materials (plus more to come soon) will remain available for viewing at your convenience at the above links.

Joining me onboard Bo IV for this trip were Captain Tim Eades, Jonathon Pond, Heather Pond and Dave Hardy. What an amazing group of folks they are! We set off on the morning of Saturday, March 30th to a fare-thee-well wave from a humpback whale … just as we pulled out of the Cabo harbor.

BDX CrewThe Bo IV Crew, Tim, Jonathan & Heather w/ Dave Hardy on camera

The coast of the Baja is notorious for its incessant winds, referred to by sailors as the “Baja Bash.” Well, we proved no exception to that rule, quickly getting hit with 20 to 30 knots of wind right on our nose the whole way. We followed local directives to stay in 60 feet of water along the coast, which kept the winds and waves somewhat under control.

Day by day, we worked our way up the coast; laughing, telling stories, sharing our lives and watching the wonders of the Baja Peninsula unveil themselves to us as we rounded each corner of coastline. We saw a number of whale spouts, but none of the whales proved brave enough to come visit us up close. We did see a few dolphin stampedes, watched and recorded a feeding frenzy as the dolphins pushed bait fish to the surface where pelicans feasted in a rolling boil of water. We were visited by some fun-loving seals, and watched them play in the waves, body surfing alongside the boat like kids at a waterpark. All this amidst the magical cycle of sunsets, sunrises, fogs, and winds kept us all constantly engaged and inspired.

BDX Baja Map
Our BDX map of the Baja

Prior to the voyage, our BDX onshore team and I had drafted up a cool map and a set of six “Explorer Study Guides” specific to the nature and wild life of the Baja Peninsula, as well as guides for sailing terms and math. Along the way then, I wrote daily updates (not always easy in 30 knot winds) and sent them along with photos and videos to our onshore team who promptly posted them to the BDX website, to Facebook and to our BDX YouTube Channel. We also responded to several questions that were sent to us, and gained hundreds of new followers over the course of the week.

Midway on the journey, we stopped in Turtle Bay to refill our fuel tanks and refresh, taking the afternoon off from the winds. Leaving again that evening, we worked our way along the inside of nearby Cedros Island before crossing the bay back towards the Baja mainland and continuing northwards.

The Baja CoastThe rugged Baja Coastline

The night before landing in San Diego, we watched as light rising from Tijuana and San Diego seeped into the night sky causing the slow disappearance of the many softer, more distant stars that simply aren’t bright enough to pierce the luminous glow that rises from our big cities. I have observed this phenomenon many times now, and often find this transition from the open ocean into more densely populated areas, something of a passage between two worlds – the ancient one and the modern one … the entirely natural one we were born into, and the world that has been entirely made and remade by us.

Knowing that we were on an expeditionary and documentary “mission” kept the crew busy scanning the horizons in search of interesting things to share with our online audience. For myself, the experience opened my eyes to just how unique and amazing such open-water exploration experiences can be, and how many things that I have perhaps taken for granted, might be newly framed and better communicated to people everywhere, who have not had the pleasure of a lifelong conversation with the great waters of the world and with their many breathtaking wonders. And then of course, there is the world ABOVE the sea too, which more than ever proved to be just as intriguing. Especially memorable was a solitary morning visit from a friendly seagull, which our ever-alert crewmate Heather managed to capture on video.

The boat was often abuzz with discussions of what else we might do to better help young people to connect more with this limitless world. It seems that we are just at the beginning of a great transformation in models of education, and that “real-world” experiences like ours, once connected to the global Internet can play a significant role in that transformation. “Follow your bliss” is what Joseph Campbell famously said. Having taken that advice long ago, I now see a different sort of joyful opportunity that exists in sharing my experience with curious youngsters wherever in the world they might be. How many kids are there out there who have never even once thought what it would be like to stand aboard a sailboat as it slices through the water? So many unimagined possibilities yet to explore.

With these expeditions, we are also looking to build more “professional” scientific, educational and media alliances … such as the one we have recently initiated with the Earthwatch Institute. If you have a moment, you might want to take a look on our website at our Explorer Guides and our Mentor Guide – and if you have any thoughts or suggestions, please let us know. We are entertaining all kinds of new ideas for this newest bodacious initiative that we will begin to fold into our future plans for upcoming Bodacious Dream Expeditions.

Speaking of which … our NEXT expedition will be back aboard Bodacious Dream during the Atlantic Cup Race that begins May 11th, which starts in Charleston, SC, and where we will be racing to New York City and then around to Newport, Rhode Island. On this 2nd expedition, we’ll have the added excitement of the race to track plus many interesting elements of the Atlantic Ocean to explore – the currents of the Gulf Stream, the impact of weather and the history and geography of the cities on the constantly changing Atlantic coastline. As it is also a race … and a very competitive one at that, there will be a little more adrenaline in the mix this time. It will be interesting to see if we can keep all that excitement and interest contained … and uploaded to the web!

In closing then … for all of us on Bodacious IV, the racing crew and our stellar expeditionary crew as well as our onshore team and dear friends and spouses, we thank all of you Bodacious Dreamers for being there and for allowing us to share all of this with you. … Dream on …!

– Dave Rearick

BoDream News – 8.20.12

Transat Quebec—St. Malo
The River Portion Race day in Quebec City, July 22nd, dawned warm and sunny as predicted, but with more wind than expected.  The last minute scurries all went well… breakfast for Mark and I, weather for Matt, details for Emma… check out of the hotel, drop the crew, drop the rental car, return to the harbor… a typical busy time.  And as it would work out, the boats were on the other side of the lock, which was open when I got there and heightened my anxiety wondering if it would close so I could get to the boat. It did, but then again, trapped Emma on the other side… and once again they closed it to let the crews over. Never a start without a last minute worry!!

Quebec-St Malo - Beginning of the Race

We exited the harbor to cheers and announcements over the loud speaker… something new for us Americans but typical in these events.  The boats paraded up the river to the starting area and spent time sailing about the river giving the press the opportunity to photograph the event.

Quebec-St Malo - Beginning of the Race

Quickly enough, the start gun fired and the fleet was off on a downwind start, colorful spinnakers flying in 10 to 12 knots of wind, gybing back and forth in close quarters past the beautiful waterfront of Quebec City.  The race organizers couldn’t have asked for a better situation — 21 Class 40’s, another two monohulls and five multihulls filling the waterfront with colorful sails on a beautiful Sunday! Wish I’d have had the time to take a few photographs of the show, but I’m sure the picture was better from the shore.

The winds and currents in the river kept the rankings continuously changing. One moment we’d be up in the front of the pack, the next gybe we’d be further back… a current change and we’d be smoking boats… and then, in reverse, it’d be our turn.  Through the entire afternoon and into the evening, we’d considered various routes down the river — constantly referring to the tide and current charts we’d acquired to predict where the best places might be.  And as it would be, as night fell, the winds let up and we all struggled to keep the boat moving forward again, constantly watching competitors move forward and then back aft.

This sailing went on for two days… working gybes and sail changes, watching currents and navigation and wondering where competitors had gotten off to and when they might show up again.  The one beautiful distraction to it all was the occasional sighting of a whale and the wonderful sighting of Belugas… so magical — almost glowing white against the blue waters.  At night, when the winds had gone away and our progress was marginal at best, sometimes only forward by way of the currents, you could see the stars overhead and hear the sound of whales blowing around you. And as if that wasn’t enough, the lonely wallow of a Northern Loon would break the stillness giving a grandness to this St. Lawrence River.  As a Great Lakes sailor, I’d always thought of sailing out the St. Lawrence.  Next time, I’ll take my time and make this part of the trip last a few weeks.  There’s so much unspoiled grandeur to be explored.

Quebec-St Malo - On the Water

The race spotted six “marks” along the route out the St. Lawrence at six different harbors along the way.  This gave the residents the chance to enjoy the race passing their shores and provided the fleet an opportunity to consolidate and reconnect with their competitors.  A few of these marks were especially beautiful coming near sunset with a beautiful backdrop of a small harbor and lights… and some came in the middle of the night.  Most all of them came with some frustration as the winds turned fluky near the shores.  More than once we saw huge swings in leads and positions pending our location with the wind and currents — fun if you were on the good side of things and not so much fun if you weren’t.

One especially un-fun situation occurred late at night.  Mark and I were on watch and blasting along the shore on a Jib Reach, Matt and Emma has passed a few boats on their watch and had left three or four for us to catch. We were overtaking them one at a time and feeling pretty good about our position having moved to the front of the pack, when we learned from Matt that we were supposed to turn a mark just behind us… Mark and I had wondered why the other boats stayed so close to shore!!  Embarrassed, like scolded little boys, Mark and I tacked about, returned and rounded the mark, our lead now gone and in sixth place in this pack of boats. With frustrated determination, we worked hard the next hour and passed all six boats once again. We wondered the rest of the race how we might have advanced with winds and currents if we’d not missed that call.  Be assured, that story will get better as time goes on, and likely in about five years, we’d have won the race if we’d not missed that mark!!

Stay tuned for the next section of the race…

– Dave

P.S. If you have the chance, pick up a copy of Sailing Magazine and read the story on the Atlantic Cup Race!!