A Whole Lot of Shaking Going On
From the Deck of Prospector
19 July 2019, 1342 PDT
The stalwart Prospector team has been busy. Since our last post we have covered over 600 nautical miles and have 408 nautical miles to go. In that time, we have done 8 jibes and 4 spinnaker peels. There has been a lot more for the crew to do as compared to the first half of the race.
Now, finally, as we close in on the finish, we have gotten the stronger winds that our big silver sled craves. Until this morning the wind has been playing hide and seek with us. A promising 12-15 knot wind Tuesday pm, gave way to a 7-10 knot wind overnight. Wind speeds picked up again Wednesday am, only to give out again in the afternoon. On and on it has gone with the crew buoyed by the strong periods and working hard to keep Prospector moving when the winds get light.
As the fastest boat in the fleet we give a lot of time to our competitors on handicap. With enough wind to get on step we are competitive but in semi planning conditions it’s a lot more work. For example, our ORR rating is 1.359. Pyewacket’s ORR rating is 1.15x. This means that the ORR rating system expects all things being equal we will sail 20% fast than Pyewacket. It is hard in the lower wind ranges to achieve this.
But, when the wind picks up we get up and go. Since early this morning we have enjoyed the 15-17 knot wind speeds the forecasts have been predicting. Suddenly, we are blitzing along at speeds of 15-20 knots and our handicap is no longer an issue.
Today’s stronger winds are arriving just in the nick of time. We are running out of race course and in a dogfight for several trophies. As things stand we are leading in the race to have the fastest elapsed time without handicap. We are contending to be first boat overall to finish, currently second but gaining fast. We are third in ORR overall and ORR Class E, both to Pyewacket and Blue. Pyewacket is going to be tough to catch, but we have a chance to pass Blue. The key to protecting our current standings and moving up the leaderboard where possible, is simple, SPEED. We currently have it and we are hoping it will last to the finish sometime tomorrow pm.
A Few Other items of interest:
Our lives onboard Prospector are governed by two sets of numbers. One is the clock. The other is our sailing performance stats. The two interact with each other in different ways.
Our daily lives are governed by the clock. To begin with it’s a race we want to get there first. Secondly, we each stand 3 four hour watches each day. These watch schedules govern our day. Every hour the watches rotate, two go on, two go off. We are paired with our opposite on the other watch. Our watch captains, Paul McDowell and Dave Scott change on the 12’s,4’s and 8’s. Our navigators Larry Landry and Artie Means change at 6’s,10’s and 2’s. There are at least 8 on deck at all times and 10 during a watch change, so we try to coordinate any maneuvers at the top of the hour when there are more hands available to help. Often there are one or two other crew members on deck resting or avoiding the heat down below. For some maneuvers, like sail changes all crew are brought on deck. Off watch you eat, tend to personal hygiene, and sleep. Not necessarily in that order.
At all times of day, we obsess over our sailing performance. We are constantly trimming and tweaking to improve. Prospector has 17 B&G displays, each displaying 1-4 pieces of data. We have two pc’s that display both visual information and more numbers than you can count. There are 2 iPads on deck to monitor all the information available while on deck. Artie and Larry are constantly looking at wind speed and direction data to plot our fastest course to the finish. The real assessment of our hard work are the hourly position reports that tell us if we have gained or lost against our competitors and what they are up to.
Playing with squalls
Over the past 36 hours we have spent a lot of time playing with squalls. Handling these squalls well or poorly can mean the difference between winning and losing this race. As one approaches, we try if we can, to get in front of it to ride it down the course. If we can’t get in front of it we consider either pushing straight through it, if near the front or middle, or if not, jibing away if near the dead air zone at the back. Sometimes they just disappear as quickly as they came with no effect. It is a constant guessing game to try to gauge the strength and direction of each squall, whether it will help us, hurt us or leave us alone and what we want to try to do with it. We try to wait as long as we can to make our decision on what to do with each squall. This allows us to learn as much as we can about it before committing to a specific strategy.
We are now downwind VMG sailing, jibing frequently to remain in on the favored jibe. We are also sometimes jibing to handle squalls in the best manner available to us. Jibing a wicked up Mini Maxi at 17 to 20 knots of boat speed requires a pretty high degree of precision in sail and boat handling. Generally, our jibes have gone pretty well, but we have thrown in the occasional klunker. For this race, which allows us to stack weight from side to side for each tack or jibe, things are complicated by the need to shift the 7 or 8 sails we are not currently flying from one side of the boat to another to keep the weight on the high side. The Prospector team, who have now formed a union, the Brotherhood of International Yacht Grinders, or BIYG for short (pronounced like big) local 60669, have risen to the challenge developed and perfected a Prospector centric system and become very at moving the stack/
We are extremely sad to report that Matt Landry’s drone, named Near Miss, crashed in the mid Pacific Wednesday morning during its second offshore flight. The success of the initial flight which produced some spectacular footage, a small portion of which was posted online, emboldened Matt to be more aggressive in his approach yesterday. He was flying the drone further forward on the windward side of the sail plan when the boat headed up a wave and the drone disappeared behind the spinnaker, faced with the risk of tearing up one of our big new kites, he reduced the altitude of the drone and tried to fly it away from the sail. The lack of altitude proved fatal when the disturbed air from the sails caught the drone and Matts attempt to pour on the power to fly away from the boat only hastened its demise. No rescue attempt was mounted.