Tuesday, January 6, 2015

March seems like a good time for a sail to Mexico...

...and July seems like a good time for a sail to Hawaii!

Happy New Year, Westward fans!

Here in Washington, D.C., the new Congress is getting to work and the snow is falling, so of course I'm thinking about sailboat racing (and, I promise, boss, higher education policy). More specifically, sailboat races that end in the warm waters of Cabo San Lucas and Honolulu.

Sam and Willie still have the bug, so Westward races in 2015!

First up, some TLC for our fine lady. Westward spent a lot of the summer of 2014 (after her return from Puerto Vallarta) at her favorite spot--Howland's Landing. So over Christmas, an intrepid crew of cousins and uncles spent some time cleaning and unloading toys.
Zack and the Boat Whisperer getting into it with the bilge.

 They also inspected the sails and rig and made lots of lists.

These guys hoisting...

...this guy!

This is actually somewhat terrifying.
Westward will also be spending some time at the shipyard, having some repairs done. Then, she'll sail in some local races to get the crew work down. Finally, in March, she'll head to Mexico. In July, look for her on the Transpac starting line!

Westward is pretty excited to get back out on the starting line (for those of you who might be questioning my sanity at this point, boats definitely have feelings...and Westward can even write blogs). The humans are pretty excited, too!

We'll keep you updated on how the preparations are going and how you can follow us!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Crossing the line!

Hey Westward fans!

Just got word that Westward finished at 7:17 Pacific Time Friday evening. Word from the boat is that they spent 36 hours drifting toward the line in a wind hole. After taking their time, it's reported that Jeff Johnson, SDYC's race manager, brought out well-deserved Coronas and chips and salsa. There is quite the journey between the finish line and the dock, but that can fortunately be done under power. Good news is that the boys will be arriving at prime party time. 

Good on ya, Westward, and have fun in Puerto Vallarta!

It's a rough job

Hola Westward fans!

It seems our boat has sailed into some light wind and is now...drifting. Or at least that was the story 4 hours ago. Trying to get some real-time updates from Mexico and will post as I do.

In the meantime, I understand the welcome crew has been participating in some warm-up activities. Here they are testing coco locos. It's a rough job, but someone has to do it!

Almost there!

Good morning Westward fans!

A check in from your armchair sailor here. The most recent Yellowbrick update has our favorite race boat 53 miles from the finish. At this point, they're able to taste those margaritas! 

The leaderboard has them at 3rd in class and 5th overall. This may change depending on their actual finish time, so it's too early to say for sure how they will finish. If you're new to sailboat racing, you might be looking at the same Yellowbrick graphic I am and, seeing how Westward is likely to be the last boat across the finish line, are wondering how that's possible. Handicaps, baby! Sometimes, being old and heavy has its advantages. The finish positions are based on the amount of time the race took for each boat. But, it's not the actual time. Each boat's time is adjusted (or corrected) to account for a whole bunch of things. The idea is that this makes it more fair for different types of boats to race against each other.  

Anyway, I'm very proud of Westward, but not surprised. That boat is full of some of the finest sailors I know. And, that boat loves them, so she performs for them. We call Willie "The Boat Whisperer" because even when there's no wind, he makes ol' Westward go. And Sam, watch out. That guy knows how to get speed out of both boat and crew in any conditions. With those two in charge, Westward doesn't know how to not do well. 

If you've never had the experience of arriving somewhere after a few days at sea, you should. It's really something. I'll not adequately capture the experience here, but I'll try. The last day, when you know you're near the end, a whole different mood comes over the boat. It's excitement and happiness and a sense of accomplishment. Seeing and smelling land for the first time after more than a week awakens a whole new you. The tiredness and soreness melts away. You look forward to seeing loved ones, flushing a toilet, and taking a shower. It's a bittersweet experience, though. Knowing that the simplicity and quietness is about to come to an end is a bit sad. I was once told that everyone has a food they most look forward to. Mine is cheeseburgers and in those last few hours at sea, I can just about taste one. On Westward things are being scrubbed and polished because, hey, you gotta look good for your adoring fans!

Shauneen has taken on the burden of meeting the boat in PV and we've got some friends who are cruising their own boat and happen to be in Mexico now, so Westward will have a warm welcome. 

Stay tuned for updates as they come in!

Go Westward!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Holy Balls!

Another update from the boat...seems they're going a little slap happy out there. Also, many things in this post make me fee a little happier that I'm not actually on the boat this time. Wait, no, not happy, just less sad:

Holy balls! We are still in 1st in class/2nd overall according our latest position report from the race committee. Waking up this morning dreading the results after our 1st watch of the night averaged 12 miles in 4 hours. We ran hard into a lull and couldn't get out. We tried wing on wing, the 1/2 oz, the 3/4 oz, the drifter and the staysail! You know the only thing that worked, pointing the boat in the direction of waves and letting the current take us. It was completly debilitating. On the plus side the moon didn't come up til late so we had a beautiful canopy of stars to occupy our time. I think we started to go a bit stir crazy. Steve was so impressed with the moon he tried, with his cellphone, to capture the perfect shot with moon barely over the bow. It didn't help as he would set up to take the picture, I would go hard over to port. He would readjust and try and take a picture from the starboard side. I would then throw the helm over to starboard just moving the moon behind the mast and thwarting his photo attempts. This, no joke, went on for a solid 5 minutes back and forth before we broke down and busted up laughing. From the mainland I know this must sounds crazy, but anything to pass the time in 4 knots of breeze and 4 hours left on watch.

We have smiley faces all over the boat. This is a Steve Dair special. What I mean by smiley faces is you take a piece of yarn, say 3 feet long, and tie both ends about 1 ft apart to the lifelines so that the middle droops between the two ends. This is our tailtell. Sailing on the wind will "make Smiley happy" and the drooping part will rise. When "Smiley is sad" it is sagging and static. Leave it up to Sam Bell for coming up with the "Smiley Cyrus" catchphase and boom, it caught on like wildfire. In fact we are still talking about making Smiley Cyrus happy and the term is at least said 20 times an hour. Who would have thought our crew, average age 58, would have such topical references? The boat is full of surprises. 

Last night we had our head, the toilet, breakdown and another project commenced. Sam busted out the rebuilt kit and shuffled down to work on the head. Only to emerge 30 minutes later with this gem, "Shit you heart out, boys!". He had the whole crew laughing with that one. We are extremely mature. Please refer to average age in previous paragraph. Since we started to seriously work on Westward in preparation for Transpac, about 13 months ago, I have keep running tally of Sam-isms. That one definitely goes down on the list. To any wives/girlfriend's reading this, I am just kidding. This never happened.

Willie also had a revelation last night as he was digging through the icebox, bacon! The promise of bacon and eggs tomorrow for breakfast has really been a compelling factor for the crew. The other motivating factor, besides gold dimes of course, is the two handles of Mount Gay Rum, large chunks of ice, and cold coke waiting for at sunset. This trip so far as been very responsible as we have 1 bottle of wine for dinner of Monday. A beer for happy hour on Tuesday. With Wednesday having no wind, we passed. A far cry from my memories of Newport Beach - Ensenada and the other Catalina races I had as a kid. These I remember clearly as I was a few months younger than Rob Jorgensen and held the esteemed position of Beer Boy. What has changed you ask? Good question, don't know yet. I'll keep you posted.

Currently we are 70 miles due south of the tip of Cabo with about 281 miles left to the barn door. Averaging 6.5 knots and bearing 84 degrees, a little high, but we will let it slide as we just got out of another 5 hour hole and boat speed is boat speed. The seas are calm with less than 2' of swell and the pressure is dropping. The door is open and we have a good chance at a podium finish if we keep out boat speed up. 

Everyone is really excited as we coming into our home stretch.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Musings of the armchair navigators...

Hey Westward fans!

An astute Yellowbrick watcher noticed the following (we know that they've since gybed back toward the coast):

Did they see something shiny off in the distance?

Looks like they had a good roll call this morning, Projected 1st in Class 2nd Overall.

Hope these crazy dudes keep up the good sailing, I think they gybe right after this + 4 hour delay, 

Are Gold Dimes Enough?

Hola Westward fans!

The most recent update from the boat. Sounds like spirits are high...even if the wind isn't always!

N 23 46.017
W 113 19.174
Heading 145
Wind 10 knots @ 280
Sea- Calm 2'-3'
1010 mbs

Our midnight watch crew has settled down enough to compose an email to our probably puzzled readers. The wind has not been coorperating since our last update. Why would I mention that we could round Baja in close to two days, idiot. Of course it wouldn't work out perfectly. Last night's discussion, for example, was whether or not to maintain leverage and drive deeper on starboard pole or to head straight at our waypoint. The latter argument won the night and worked for the next 12 hours, but we certainly could have used the leverage today as we had to head up in the light air. Anyway last night we drove directly-ish to about 120 degrees pushing a 9 knot average for night. Woke up to exciting results, 1st in class and 3rd overall. Not sure what today's slow racing will bring for result but positive attitudes abound. We had a great laugh knowing Pyewacket did the same mileage as us. 

Our main competition is Allure. It has quite a few good friends from LAYC. One is Doug Grant who has been intimately involved in helping us prepare and rig for Transpac and this race. Another ,perhaps more important, rivalry with Allure is our own sail savant Steve Dair's younger brother Brian Dair is aboard. Steve reluctantly gave me the information that he was older, but with pride Steve said, "Brian looks older and has more gray hair.It's because that ponytail." 

Sam has instituted a reward system for good driving and max speeds. If any of you know Sam, he either offered you 1)candy or 2)a gold dime. Candy is accessible to all on board. So the gold dime is the trophy.  Ron won our "gold dime" contest today with a high speed of 14.6, Graham not far behind with a 14.5. Tracy won thehighest average 30 minutes gold time. So far Tracy and Ron are the big recipients with more than one to their names. Team LAYC is falling drastically behind due to not really caring about gold dimes. Maybe he starts withholding our cold beers at sunset.....

It's time to put the heavy jackets away as the days get hotter and the nights warmer. More layers keep getting pealed off after every jibe. Let's hope we don't jibe anymore tonight as are running out of clothes. Yikes, bad thought. 

Fair wind and following seas