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Post Race Recap from Mirthmaker

July 25, 2017

The first three days we headed south after a trip around the west end of Catalina Island. This decision was based on an private weather routing service Kirk and Rob arranged. The fast track was not going to be a direct line or the great circle route, but move south rather quickly while the high developed well to the North which will kick up the trades that will suck our little boat all the way to Diamond Head. We were very excited and optimistic about our chances of not only finishing but doing well in our division.

It was light wind all around the first couple of days,  and very frustrating as we read the daily progress reports that we receive  from our race committee.  Heading south was a commitment and we still don't know if that strategy would pay off. But we felt we were pushing as hard as we could without doing any damage to the boat or performing dangerous manuvers.

On day three the spinnakers started to come out and we enjoyed a good boat motion for a couple of days, the wind continued to move behind us with a 5 foot swell that is fun for us to surf on but makes good sleep elusive due  to being rolled from side to side. I moved from the rear quarter berth to the starboard pipe berth which has some Lee cloth rigged to keep you locked in place. Anyone who has laid down in the back of a pick up truck with their eyes closed while the truck be bops down a winding, hilly country road can imagine the sensation, lots of unpredictable movement coupled with the whine of the hydro generator really makes no sense to your brain and I found that earplugs really did help with the clutter. 

Communication by satellite was quirky, we just dont know if all our messages got through. So after awhile I stuck with emailing Wendy and the occasional blog post. 

We sailed as fast as we could with just two men on deck at a time. We tried to be quite on deck so that the off watch guys could get much needed sleep. Roark and I were admonished several times for talking to loud, or making more noise than was necessary. We really did try to improve but it turned out that we had a lot to say to each other and i could not have chosen a more fitting watch mate than him.

Seven days out from Long Beach we would occasionally see other boats, but after seeing the tracker at the end of the race (we did not have access to it during the race) I would have thought we would have seen more competitors. 

Nine days in we had light winds through the night and all day, gybing, changing sails , made no difference, we could not lay a line on Hawaii,  we were 650 miles out and it did not seem like a race any longer, just a huge effort to try and keep the sails full. Kirk was predicting a Saturday finish. A mood came over me, Im not sure why I was so unsure of our strategy, probably just the frustrating winds. The 2 A.M. to 6 A.M. am shift had us running next to a couple squalls catching some breeze off of them while we took light rain for 20 minutes or so. This was the first time in about 6 days in which in stars, moon and sun came out, on the one hand we were spared the intense sun during the last 6 days, but we really missed the stars and the late rising half moon. I crashed at 6;05 in the morning and slept until 11:30 that was the most sleep since tne beginning of the race. After that I started to feel better and was more engaged, I think the sleep really set me right. 

Day ten brought slow going and low wind all day with a really intense sun, no shade other than an occasional cloud, we finally got the boat moving around 6 pm. Because we stayed on Pacific Daylight Time from the moment we left until we were a 100 miles out from Honolulu, the sunsets were coming around 10 PM, and the sunrises around 10 AM. Which made our  6:00 a.m. 6:00 p.m.shifts feel a bit odd. We had a gorgeous sunset with lots of towering cummulas clouds all around. We skirted more squalls as would be the case until we finished. The stars, Milky Way and satellites came out in all their glory with a wanning moon rising around 3 A.M.

Day eleven was a brutally slow day , light winds, more intense sun, we tried different sails, it felt like the boat was being repelled from Hawaii.  We either lost latitude, longitude or stayed on a very slow course depnding on which tack we were on. So much for a weekend finish. We removed an A3, set the Code "0", gybed the boat, went ten miles put up the big S3 gybed then found something that worked, not the exact angle we wanted but it did keep the boat moving in the right direction. I went off watch at 6 and crashed. When I came back on at 10, it was magical. Flat seas 10-14 knots of breeze and steering straight for Hawaii, Kirk and Robb were giddy with the conditions. I dipped my toes in the ocean over the side rail, that was the first time since the beginning of the trip that I actually touched the water,  so nice.  All the hi-tech shirts we were wearing really held up.  The amount of body fluids soaking through them at this point was staggering. Hot on deck in the sun, hot and steamy down below, Roark and I repacked most of the spinnakers down below and would come up eight onces lighter, it's a good thing that Kirk and Rob sprung for personal handheld fans for each of us, there was also a fixed fan in each berth which made it easier to sleep. 

The last couple of days were a blur, the wind came up and intensified as we approached the Molokai channel. It was a very fast ride before daybreak and we spotted a navigation light on Molakai, our first sign of land since our start, although we did see a glow in the clouds over Oahu earlier that night. It was daybreak by the time we entered the channel and Kirk decided on a really stable wing on wing setup that allowed us to hold a dead down wind course which lined up perfectly with the large waves that were forming. The driving at this point was awesome and everybody relished their turn on the tiller surfing toward the finish line. We had to be careful of our surroundings as this was the area in which Gilligan and the Skipper were purported to have gotten the "Minnow" off track, and we all know what happened to them. 

As we approached the finish line we had Diamond Head and Honolulu in site. It started to sink in that we were actually going to be ending this epic voyage in our little boat. Smiles all around, I turned on my cell phone to snap some pictures as a Transpac committee boat was circling us and documenting our finish, the amount of noise from the message alerts was disconcerting and I quickly turned it off as we were now in local cell service. We actually caught a wave and surfed over the finish line with Kirk at the helm, very fitting for sure. 

As we made our way into Honolulu Harbor and as we approached the Honolulu Yacht Club we started to realize what a big deal this was. We were thinking a quick tie-up, a few back slaps and "thatta boys" from the Transpac members. Well that's not what happened, there was an announcement on the load speaker, some cheering, a quick tie up, then we were told to stay on the boat until all our  paper work for island entry was processed. But while we were waiting our sponsors Steve, and Pam (who knew) slipped us a tray with 4 large hollowed out pineapples bearing ice and Mai Tai's, both of which hit the spot. And they were huge, at least 3 drinks in each one. Once we were ok'd to come ashore the party was on, we caught up with some sailer's from other boats whom we had met at the send off party in Long Beach that had finished before us. At this time we knew we had finished last in our division, but with the knowledge that we worked and sailed as hard as we could, I still felt an huge sense of accomplishment and total respect for those who made it there ahead of us. Drinks, lunch and reliving the highlights of the trip continued for a few more hours. I dug a clean shirt and shorts from my bag that I had been saving for this occasion and found the showers. I could have stayed in there for an hour but as it turned out I had to catch a flight home, as I had anticipated a 12 day crossing with 2 days to re-cover. All in all it was a 14 day adventure and my shore time was absorbed at sea. After a few hugs and hand shakes I headed for the airport.

Uber is awesome, and thats all I'm going to say about that. The next leg of my trip somewhat concerned me. I had sprung for a Business Class ticket on United. When I was seated I spoke with the steward letting him know that I had been on a sailboat trip with very limited sleep for the last 14 days with more than a few Mai Tai's on top of that and there was a good chance the snoring would be deep and disruptive to my fellow passengers, and what was his plan for dealing with that. Without missing a beat he assured me he was fully trained to take care the situation and not to worry. As soon as was permissible the seat went flat, I turned on my side and it was 100% lights out until final approach. I missed every First Class perk available with the exception of the bed. With the drone of the big engines my snoring was a non-factor I was told. 

Thanks to my wife Wendy for picking me up at SFO at 4:30 A.M. and getting me home so I could yet again pass out. I have been back for four days and have finally shaken from the haze of the 14 day sleep deprivation that is reality when participating in this type of event. I've been asked if I would do it again, the answer is, I love to sail fast, I love to push myself mentally and physically, and I love the ocean, so yes someday, I would take it on again. The real problem is the time commitment away from family and work, if I could just get Wendy to commit...