Well we've hit the two week mark of the race and we're all starting to feel it a bit, I think! Where we looked at the countdown whiteboard number and excitedly remarked on how close we were to breaking 4000 about a week ago, we're now sort of pleading with it to get into the 2000s :) But spirits are high, the food is good, the wind at our backs, and we're looking forward to seeing how our strategy of heading south will continue to play out.
At the Race Start, we shot north at the head of the pack to take advantage of the shortest route to San Francisco (the 'Great Circle' route which follows the curve of the earth). But our skipper Simon spotted a potentially huge wind hole that we were sailing right into that would have left us bobbing around for days.
So we made the tough decision to turn on our Stealth Mode, head south and try to avoid the wind hole and gain favourable winds in a more southerly route. We were in Stealth Mode to try and keep it as a competitive advantage, but several skippers had similar ideas. It was a tense couple of days as we reached our southerly route and the wind didn't show up. It's like pouring all your money into a new business, opening the doors, and no customers show up.
Whose idea was this anyway?! But as the wind filled in and we started chipping our way back up to the front of the pack, tensions started to ease. We had a beautiful kite run today, which is the big downwind spinnaker that gives us a lot of speed, but can be a delicate sail that's easily broken.
When you think about what you're doing (too hard), it can seem quite overwhelming; so many miles left to go; so many watches to get up on deck for. We work in four hour shifts: four hours to sleep, then four hours to work. We change sails, steer the boat, move equipment around, cook, clean, maintain, sew, etc.
A common saying in big boating is if you take care of the boat, the boat will take care of you. It's very different than the small boat sailing I'm used to in the San Francisco Bay. With the size of this boat and extreme load the equipment is under, you have to be vigilant to keep it all together (and clean!).
Working towards a common goal with others can be very fulfilling, however. Whenever I'm grinding in a sail, swinging around the mast trying to adjust the main sail, or fighting with the waves to hold our course while on the helm, I keep the mantra in my head, 'this is what it takes to win'. It keeps me going when all I'd really rather do is lay on the deck, put up small sails, and cruise along at a leisurely pace.
Racing is very different than cruising; you need to be vigilant and constantly pushing yourself and your boat to go faster and more efficiently. All the other boats are doing it. And besides, the faster we go, the sooner I get home to beautiful San Francisco (and my own little corner of the world, Oakland!) just across the water.
Support from home has been a huge part of keeping me going. My sailing club, Cal Sailing Club, has been holding a limerick/haiku contest and sending me the results via email. Some of them are unpublishable here (we are sailors after all), but here's a nice one from Caryl W. that's been fitting for the sea state and conditions:
ocean spewing rollers
sails billowing wind
We're finally out of the light winds and in what are more Pacific Ocean conditions: overcast, windy, cold, big waves: joy! In other news, we finally passed the Scoring Gate tonight and I got the honour of driving through it!
Not sure there are any points associated with it as we were fourth I think, but cruising down waves at 15 to 20 knots in a 70 ft yacht was reward enough!