Today is a day destined to be full of excitement. We wake up early to find the wind blowing strong, and leave the hotel at 6am headed for breakfast at the yacht club. Our plan is to leave the dock by 7 in order to make the 8:00 start, but as usual there is a lot to do. After a quick bite at the club (thanks Save On Foods!) we walk to the boat to get things squared away.
The first task for me is to climb in the borrowed dingy and finish up the small carbon patch on the bottom of the ama which I put on last night. After removing the peel ply I’m happy to find the glue has dried, even given the cold wet conditions we has last night, and the patch is relatively smooth. Kim hand me a sander and in a couple minutes the bottom is ready and the foil is in. While I’m sanding the rest of the team is busy changing to the heavy weather reacher, removing extra tools and gear, and Shane diligently pumps the hundred + gallons of water out the port ama, which was pumped in yesterday in order to heal the boat enough for the bottom of starboard ama to be patched.
With all the prep done we leave the dock just after 7, unfortunately we inadvertently did it without Morgan. Needless to say Kim is a bit frustrated at this mix-up, but after just a minute to do a quick turnaround in the boisterous wind Morgan is aboard and we’re off. Because of the mixup, Kim gives us all a good-hearted jab saying, “if any of you guys go overboard today I’m not coming back for you.” He would live to regret this statement later... but for now we motor out for the start. The wind is blowing strong, 25+ knots, so we hoist a double-reefed mainsail, small jib and start sailing for the start line.
A small delay with a stubborn reefing line however had slowed us down and it looked like we’d be late for the start. As we blasted toward the start we looked aft to see a beautiful full rainbow arching from one horizon over to come down right on our boat. It was amazing to see that we were in fact at the end of a rainbow...maybe we’d get lucky today! Then as it turns out the race committee was forced to delay the start 15 minutes (our luck was starting) and we nearly made the line, and on time. The lucky feeling was short lived when we realized we had passed the wrong side of the committee boat and had to circle the pin again as the fleet sailed off.
After that small slip up we set sail down the course with a double reefed main & jib broad reaching at 18-22 knots and sometimes surging higher. We were passing many boats and gaining on most of our multihull competition, but not Dragonfly. After a few minutes of feeling the conditions we decide to pull the reacher and add more speed. Now we’re blasting along over 20 knots and sometimes as high as 25.The waves are big and steep and occasionally we leap off the top, as Jason aptly put it...YEEEEEHAAA!
After about ½ hour we come upon large rough fishing boat and start to overtake her. Our course takes us alongside and angling slightly toward her bow. Since we see her skipper and crew looking out at us we hand signal requests for them to back off a knot or two to we can slide cleanly past. They grin as they ignore us and soon we are surfing on their bow wave at 20 knots just a few feet from their hull. Kim bears down as far as he can without jibing, and we all call them dirty names in our heads. Suddenly a good puff hits and we accelerate ahead of them before reaching back to our proper course and ahead of their bow. That was close!
We continue to race downwind. Now that we have the reacher and jib both pulling we are able to pass Bad Kitty at 8:50 and are starting to gain on Dragonfly. Kim and I are both seated on the weather ama, just ahead of the back beam, and the rest of the team is aft in the cockpit to keep the nose high. We’ve also added a bit of water ballast aft. This weight aft combined with the lift provided by our leeward foil allows us to rocket through these 8-foot waves at over 20 knots without stuffing our bows. We’re doing great and relatively comfortable. I’m holding on tight with two hands and Kim and I are talking about what we might do to go faster when suddenly a large breaking wave sneaks under our stern and slaps us hard enough to cause an accidental jibe.
The jibe slams the ama Kim and I had been sitting on well underwater and now I’m underwater and the pressure of 20 knots of boat speed tears my hands from the straps I’d been clinging to. I finally surface so hear Jason cry “man overboard” and am pleased to see him looking at me. Even though I’m floating very high because of the air in my drysuit, I quickly inflate my life vest to increase my visibility and turn around to find Kim. He is close at hand and OK. I immediately think it is a good thing he’s here too because otherwise he might stick to his earlier promise of not coming back for anyone who went for a swim!
So here we are drifting in the icy (well not quite!) waters of British Columbia, watching the boat drift slowly away as Jason, Morgan and Shane quickly go about the task of reducing sail, sorting out the boat and keeping an eye on us. Kim and I are relatively comfortable in the water, kept warm by our drysuits. The suits were an investment in safety Kim had made before the race. Since I’ve traveled from my home in sunny Florida for this race, the locals have been teasing me for days about the water being a bit colder than in my usual sailing grounds. Now I think to myself...this isn’t bad at all. I’m warm and dry, got good company to chat with and it’s a beautiful day, now if those guys would just get #*%@! back here we could get back to racing. Strange things go through your head in these conditions, for me it was regretting not having a power bar in my pocket while I finally had time to eat!
Kim of course has a different opinion. He’s barking commands at the team (un-rotate the mast for example) to assure they do what’s right to not damage any sails. You can’t win a race with damaged sails and Kim always has his priorities straight, which is why I love to sail with him! Anyway the guys on the boat did an outstanding job of sorting out the mayhem that occurs when you crash jibe a boat in those conditions and in about 10 minutes they were back to us. After a few minutes of dragging us in on a line and around to the transom we were back aboard and Kim got the boat headed for the finish again. Morgan quickly got back o the radio to let the fleet know we were safely back aboard.
The reacher had gotten fouled during the emergency furl so we quickly got back about the job of getting it clear and unrolled. The jib sheets had shredded beyond remain to we had to leave it on the deck, but for now the reefed main and reacher were plenty of power. Kim was again steering from the net, but clipped in this time. The rest of us continued to sort out the boat and maximize our speed. We were back to blasting through to waves at over 20 knots toward the finish. We only see one boat ahead, Cassiopea, and we are reeling her in. The wind lightens a bit as we jibe downwind into the finish in Campbell River so we quickly unreef the main. This isn’t fast enough (is it ever fast enough?) So we hoist the chute and successfully pass Cassiopea just before blasting over the fining line just a 100 feet or so off the town pier to the sound of a cheering crowd. We are pleased to realize after almost a half hour of being stopped or with most of the sails down we have still crossed the line second, not bad.
The wind that had lightened has now built back to 25+ knots, and we smoke down the shoreline with rocks just to leeward looking for a spot to safely drop the chute. Fate makes the decision for us as the head blows off the sail and down it comes, a fitting end to a hectic day. Soon we’re tied up sharing tales with others as they arrive, and thanking everyone, especially Shane, Morgan, and Jason for taking the action to assure our safe recovery. What a great racing event...God I hope it blows this strong tomorrow!
PS. Our next update won't be until Wednesday due to staying overnight at the fish farm on Hardwicke Island.
PSS. I finally got the pictures up for Leg 1 here.