Hi, my name is Jason Arnold, I have been crewing with Kim for about 10 years now, on the Monkee I look after the foresails, I provide tactical input and whatever else needs to be done, I will just do it. I have seen the many transformations of the Monkee over the years from a stock F31 cruising trimaran, to what it is today, a 33 fully customized rocket ship… it sure is a fun boat.
Last night we were located at the fish farm, rafted in the middle of nowhere with a fantastic salmon BBQ and party aboard Oriole to end the festivities of our last leg.
It was 6:45am when I awoke after sleeping very comfortably in one of the carbon bunks Kim created for sleeping aboard the Cheekee Monkee when at sea or port. After gathering myself I said “what’s for breakfast?” “were having a pancake breakfast, we make our own…” Said the skipper. I assumed it was being put on by our host and we, well, made our own using their skillet. It turned out that Mike was mixing the dehydrated blueberry pancakes and Shane was cooking them on our portable, light weight, butane, single burner stove. Most Excellent.
This morning the crew forced the Skipper to take his happy shot to ensure that we had a “happy” boat for today’s race.
We motored to the start line at the entrance to Chancellor Channel and there was only a breath of air, hardly enough to fill a sail. Mike and I (the night before) planned tactics for the start whereas we would stay to the right of the Johnstone Strait after reaching Helmcken Island. This was a sound strategy especially after 2003 when the right side paid huge dividends where we won this leg after over coming our crash jibe and recovering. We lost line honors to Dragon fly by seconds…
So, off we go with a very nice start, little to no wind and we were executing our plan. We could see that wind was filling in to the left of the island (which we had to go around) and we were starting to move at 4kts. Up went the spinnaker and now we were beginning to move towards Helmcken, it was getting closer and closer when we were at the final decision of going right or left. Kim saw that there was a hole (no wind) on the right side of Helmcken and decided at the last minute to take the left side of the course… you can see our GPS tracking.
To our disappointment, the wind turned off, we were in a hole (no wind) and ended up changing leads with Dragon Fly whom also chose to go left. Kim said “its going to be just like last time, we are going to get beat by the right side boats…” as we were coming to the other side of Helmcken Island we could see Bad Kitty and Flash (a mono hull) doing very well up the right side. It was like last year and we were still going left and staying there. We could have made our way over to the right side however there continued to seem like there was no wind on that side of the Strait and better conditions (slightly) on the left although we knew how the right side paid off for us in 2003, we just must not have believed ourselves that the right would pay so well this year so…
We chose to continue up the left side (which is closer to the finish line) of the Strait under spinnaker (for now). It is very frustrating when you are between two different wind patterns. We would be running with our spinnaker (down wind) then we would sail right out of the wind system into the no wind zone. On the other side of the no wind zone, we would then change sails and begin sailing upwind with our screecher (upwind sail), try to sail for a couple of minutes, then the wind would build behind us again and we would need to change back to our spinnaker. We just kept sailing out of one wind pattern into another, you get the point. By this time I said “lets just stop changing sails, have a coffee and just wait here for the wind to catch up.” Kim said “raise the screecher!” This cycle of changing sails seemed never ending. We could see a similar situation occurring on the right side of Johnstone Strait with Bad Kitty, only it didn’t seem to be happening as frequently for them, another clue, favoring the right side of the course…
A great battle was taking place on the left side of the Strait between the Monkee and Dragon Fly with leads changing hands many, many times. Dragon would advance, pull ahead and then sail into the no wind zone, then we would overtake Dragon, sail ahead into the no wind zone and so and so on… up the left side of the Strait.
The SE winds came steadily now (finally) and we were able to reach speeds of between 12 – 16 kts doubled slotted running our spinnaker, jib and main. We began to catch Bad Kitty quickly advancing towards the finish, making up ground on the lead boat Flash. There we were, Bad Kitty, Dragon Fly, Cheekee Monkee and Flash all battling towards line honors for this leg. Very Exciting!
We now were able to go anywhere within the Johnstone Strait (left side or right side) and we were jibing downwind from the left side of the Johnstone Strait to the right side, passing behind Bad Kitty and ahead of Dragon fly. After looking back, there were many times that we could have stayed on the right side but we chose to jibe back to the left. In retrospect, we could have worked our way down wind on the right the first time we reached that shore but we didn’t.
This continued for about 30 minutes when we finally over took Bad Kitty,
by this time Dragonfly had caught the wind and was now accelerating away in the lead. 4 or 5 jibes across the Johnstone Strait and I could see that we were gaining on Dragon, they were in less pressure which was what happened to us. Bad Kitty began to regain some of the distance between our boats closing the gap between us. Bad Kitty again went to the right side under Spinnaker and we had raised our Code 0 screecher which is specifically designed for light air conditions so we can sheet in (tighten the sail) or sheet out (loosen the sail) for fluky winds that are not quite upwind or down wind that move between them both so you can use the sail to maximize speed and minimize sail changes.
Dragon was close to us now, approximately half a mile and they chose to go to the left side, close into shore. We were analyzing the wind conditions and they did not look good on either side of the course, the wind continued to fill in ahead of us for the entire race and we were on the left side already. We followed Dragon soon they found themselves caught in a hole right along the shore, we jibed away leaving them without wind and the Monkee began to catch the wind again, we were in the lead for line honors now with the entire fleet to our stern with less than 8 miles to the finish line.
We raised our spinnaker (again), we were double slotted when the wind began to fill from behind, once again we were on our way, 7kts, 10 kts our speed was building and then we saw the Dragon catch the wind and off they came in pursuit of the Monkee. I could see that Bad Kitty was quite a way behind us on the right side and I was concerned that the wind would continue to fill for them and they would once again catch us therefore beating us overall for this leg.
It was a fantastic race, especially the last 10 miles, the wind steadily built and we were ahead of the Dragon… 5 miles to go and Dragon was advancing on our position with good boat speed 14-16kts. These conditions pretty much evened up our boats, we were in a drag race to the finish pushing for the coveted line honor, first across the line…
We jibed and Dragon jibed towards the island to bring both our boats closer to the finish line which was located just at the mouth of telegraph cove between the orange flag on shore and a beacon on Lewis point. We held this line until we saw that Dragon jibed, so did we to cover them. We were reaching speeds of approximately 16-18kts and running for the finish line on final approach on our lay line. It was very close whom was ahead.
We were closest to the flag and Dragon was headed for the middle of the finish line, we are both squeezing every last bit of boat speed we could for the finish. We are so close to the line when… the boat goes upright and decellerates, we loose our wind and BEEP, BEEP. Two finish horns less than one second apart. We were so close to the flag that we were able to ask the Race Committee who won, it was Dragon Fly! A true photo finish after 40.3NM of racing less than 1 second apart. I congratulate all the guys on Dragon Fly’s for their 1st to finish win today it was an excellent day of racing and they worked very hard and it paid off.
It is a truly amazing race; I know that if it were not for my family’s caring love and support I would not have this opportunity to circumnavigate Vancouver Island experiencing an awesome day like today. I miss my family dearly and I look forward to seeing them soon in Victoria.