Friday, March 27, 2015

Finished!


Hola Westward Fans!

As you certainly know by now, we've finished. We drifted across the line at 4 am on Thursday and motored around the point to the marina where a small but enthusiastic welcome party consisting of Shauneen, the race committee and and old sabot friend was waiting for us. Our total elapsed time was 4 days, 15 hours. That corrected to 2 days 21 hours, good enough for 5th in our class and 13th overall. We are pleased and proud to know that we sailed Westward probably about as well as she could be sailed and are completely happy with our results. 

When the sun came up and the restaurants opened, we all headed up for breakfast. By that time, our party had grown and we had a great morning of swapping stories and getting our land legs back underneath us. The rest of the day consisted of napping, catching up with friends, sharing stories of the days and nights of the race, touring some of the other boats, swimming and of course a celebratory drink or two. 

Last night was the awards fiesta on the beach. After that, Graham, Alli, Sam and Ric followed family friend and Cabo expert Rob Wallace to experience what this town has to offer. Today we will take the Martins (who used to own Westward's sistership and are our #1 fans) on a cruise. We will spend the rest of the day prepping Westward for the return trip. Graham and Sam are taking on the yeomans task of delivering the boat home. The trip up Baja can be tough and unpleasant, but the next couple days' weather forecast is favorable, so our boys and boat should be ok. 

Thanks for following us. Rest up, because Transpac is coming soon!



Wednesday, March 25, 2015

60 Miles!

Buenos Tardes Westward Fans!

As I'm sitting here writing this, we are about 60 miles from finishing this race. Just a few days ago, I would have said for sure we would be motoring into Cabo after giving it our best effort, but at this point, it looks like we have a real chance at beating the finish time limit. This thanks to two days of great wind and us beating our target boatspeeds. Westward has clearly been stretching her legs and loving it.

When you approach the end of a race like this, it's funny to see how the attitudes aboard change. Today, at about 5 o'clock, Sam emerged from the after cabin in a boisterous mood. He had entered "King of the Cove" mode. In this mode, he's jolly and full of stories about the days of yore racing Westward. This is a change from the normal conversations about VMG and calculus to find the best route to the finish. Today, we had a surprise of the most amazing bubbles you've ever seen. These bubbles skipped over the waves and lasted at least a couple hundred yards away from the boat. Dana--we did a good job of picking those out.

When Westward approaches the finish, there is a lot of clean up to do...both of boat and of crew. Today was shower day, which entails standing on the back deck with some Prell and a bucket and giving yourself a good ol' seawater wash down. The important thing about shower time is to keep your eyes forward or else you might see something you don't want to. Alli for sure spent the day carefully keeping her eyes forward. Westward also is getting cleaned up and ready for the finish.

Sailing-wise, today was beautiful sailing...the kind where you never wanted to let go of the wheel. Of course, there was always a line of people waiting for their turn, so you didn't get to be on a minute longer than your allotted time. Around mid-day, we gybed to keep from getting too close to shore and ended up also switching sails. Unfortunately, another sail is out of commission and Alli's cabin, where the broken sails are stored, is getting a little fuller. Quick crew work ensured that an unfortunate situation didn't turn into a bad one, and we had a new sail up and flying within about 10 minutes. Ever since, we've been averaging 8-9 knots in about 12-16 knots of breeze.

We're planning our approach to Cabo and the finish. There was just a meeting of the minds around the GPS and chart table. The decision? Well, can't give that away on a public blog, but track us on Yellowbrck to see how we did!

With any luck, we'll be finishing shortly and we'll send our final blog margaritas and tacos in hand!

Shauneen, Rosey and the Martins, we're looking forward to seeing you at the dock!

Team Westward

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Night Four

Hola Westward Fans!

After a couple of days of winds up to 30 knots and boatspeeds not often seen on our old girl, the winds and seas have started to calm. The crew is currently sitting up in the cockpit enjoying some Mint Milanos and the sunset after a leisurely dinner at watch change. The weather has started to warm a bit and it's drier on deck than it has been the last 48 hours. Even though we're not going as fast, the change in conditions is nonetheless welcome.

We've had a little bit of everything this race. At the start, as you saw if you were tracking us on Yellowbrick and we mentioned in a previous blog, the winds were light and we had to work hard to get everything we could out of Westward. The newer, lighter boats were able to sail away from us a bit and got into the wind more quickly. We did find the wind, though, in a big way and had a couple of days in it. Yesterday, we sailed over 200 miles in 24 hours, which is pretty good for us...and good news, too. This particular race has a time limit for boats to finish of 5pm on Thursday. After our slow start, we weren't sure that we would be able to make it in the time limit. With our high average speeds and miles of the last couple of days, it's looking more and more possible that we will finish on time.

Some boats have already finished. The first boat to finish, a multihull named Mighty Merloe, passed us on Sunday night. While the non-beards were on watch (that's Willie, Graham, and Alli), Graham noticed a red light directly off our stern. We looked at the computer and saw that it was our friend Mighty Merloe. Within about 30 minutes, they passed us and were again out of sight. We learned that they finished with an average speed higher than our highest speed. It really was something to watch.

All in all, our trip so far has been great. We've seen whales and dolphin, with a school of 50 or so following us at sunset yesterday...the sunset dolphins! We've had some great and challenging sailing conditions and are all learning a lot. We've been putting the boat through her paces and she's been handling it pretty well. During some of our windier moments, there's been a lot of groaning and creaking down below, and that wasn't all from the old guys. Some of it was the boat.

One of the more entertaining parts of sailing this old girl is that some of our sails are older than some of our crew. On Transpac, the kids got a kick out of flying the Great Pumpkin (a bright orange spinnaker) for a while. The thing was older than any of the kids (Alli was 32 at the time) and smelled just like a sail locker. Often, spinnakers are on the loud side because the material is so crinkly. The Great Pumpkin was quiet as a mouse. When the wind started to die today, we needed a replacement for the sail we ripped the other night. Fortunately, we have the Golden Lion on board...a sail that's probably more than 20 years old and, as you've probably gleaned from the name, is white and bright gold. It didn't smell as badly as the Great Pumpkin (which, by the way is Alli's bunkmate and Alli was the happiest girl in the world when it was finally dry enough to open the portholes), but it sure was quiet. We flew the Golden Lion for several hours until the wind died enough to put up one of our bigger, newer sails, which will probably fly most of the rest of the race.

Our crew has been getting along nicely. Lots of laughs and stories. As the only female on board, we thought Alli was helping to keep things clean (in a metaphorical sense, not a literal sense--Willie is in charge of overall cleanliness). But, seems we may have been too optimistic. When we took the Golden Lion down today, Alli, Graham, and Zack were downstairs putting the sails in their bags and Alli told Zack he could go into the fresh air if he wanted. It was hot and gross down below. His response? No. I'd rather be down here stuffing sails with you guys than up there listening to two old dudes talk about girls. I don't know any details, and I don't want to, but happy(?) to report that the presence of a girl on board hasn't dampened any spirits.

All in all, it's been a great trip so far. Keep doing your wind dance for us and we'll hopefully be finished by 5pm on Thursday and ready to celebrate in Cabo!

Team Westward

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Roaring Down Baja

Hola Westward Fans!

Well, after a very slow start with not enough wind to get this baby going above around 4 or 5 knots for a day, we are now off Cedros Island off of Baja. Mid-day yesterday, the wind started to improve. About mid-afternoon, we had our lightest-air spinnaker up. We have four total spinnakers on board (spinnakers are downwind sails that are often colorful and pretty big) for the different wind conditions. By about 5 am, we had put up and taken down all of them, except for the one meant for heaviest wind, which is what we have up now. How did that happen?

Watch 1 (the non-bearded watch of Willie, Alli and Graham) put up sail #1, and by the end of the watch, replaced it with sail #2 (with the help of the bearded watch of Sam, Zack and Ric). In the middle of their watch, the beards woke up the non-beards to take down sail #2 and put up sail #3 because the wind had increased so much. In the middle of the next non-beard watch, the sail that was up got a small tear and to be on the safe side, the bearded watch was woken up again to change to sail #4. Needless to say, it was a night of togetherness and...skill building.

We've been cruising along with the sail we've got up at about 9 knots. And, we've set some personal records. Willie currently holds the max speed record with 18.4. Everyone else has hit at least the high 16's. It's been fun, but tiring.

The bearded watch is currently on deck and hopefully they can keep us moving for the next four hours. The non-beards will come on deck at around 11. Here's to hoping we maintain this speed but also get more sleep than last night!

Love to you all,
Team Westward

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Saturday, March 21, 2015

First night out

Hola Westward fans!

We've had a great although light day (you already know this if you've been checking out Yellowbrick). Around 0930, Westward and crew left Alamitos Bay Yacht Club to much fanfare that included Dana Bell, Shauneen Bell, Whitney Rush, Monika Sanders and Terry Bishop who gave us a tradition conch shell send off!

We cruised down to Newport Beach, hugging the shore enough to check out the surfers and draw the attention of the Huntington Beach lifegaurds. We arrived at the starting area and it became quickly clear that we were a bit of an...outlier...among the ultra-light racing machines that also started today. Certainly, Westward is also a racing machine, but of a different vintage.

The wind was light and we spent the afternoon waiting for the lift Graham promised to get us where we needed to be to get the wind we want. It's hard to be patient and not get greedy as wait for the wind to lift us and point us where we want to head (basically we need the wind to change direction and allow us to steer the boat the right direction. Alli has won the pun award for the day and has advised us all to not look a lift horse in the mouth (that this is funny is a good indication that things have already gotten a little weird out here). Willie is even making jokes.

If you're tracking us and wondering if it's bad that we're the farthest behind, the answer is maybe. Like golf, sailing is handicaped to try to put boats on an equal playing field. So the total time that we take to get to the finish line will be corrected based on our handicap (or rating) and it is the corrected that really matters. We'll know how we're doing in a few days. For now, we're racing the clock and trying to help Westward stretch her legs down the racecourse and move as quickly as possible.

Cheers to all!

Westward and crew



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And they're off!

The crew was excited and oh so well coordinated this morning in their trademark Hawaiian.
L to R Graham, Willie, Ric, Zack, Alli and Sam
There was some heavy lifting and a conch shell send off for them. 


 They motored to Newport where they leapt off the start line around 1:20PM.
Next stop, Cabo!
Boats jockeying for position at the start line. Westward is on the far right. 



Friday, March 20, 2015

Cabo Eve

Hola Westward fans!

Tomorrow we head for Cabo. The first start was today at 1pm. According to Yellowbrick, those boats are about off San Diego. We'll learn lots from their tracks and positions in the morning.

For now, though, it's last minute gear prep, enjoying running water, eating big dinners and resting up for the next few days.


Westward is all ready and looking mighty fine at her temporary berth at Alamitos Bay Yacht Club:


Keep an eye on this blog and Yellowbrick...we'll keep you updated!