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

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Hello Westward fans!

An update from the crew:

N 27 18
W 115 38
Wind 15-18 knots NNW
Sea 3'-5'
1020 mbs

Another pleasant race day heading down the Mexican border. Our race plan at this point is stay away from any landmass and work our way back to rumbline. The last 6 hour shift we were able to get about 46 miles down the coast. Averaging 7.7 knots, much better than anticipated. The grib files and the preweather briefing are different than the conditions we are seeing on the water. 

Had another beautiful night sailing under the full moon. Only problem was the hour long discussion on to jibe or not to jibe. It was thus decreed that jibing was the appropriate action. At the shift change, we jibed the 1/2oz spin and were on port pole heading about 110 degrees. The wind is clocking around heading us down. Works for us, as our heading to the next waypoint is about 125 degrees which is about 30 miles off of Cabo. 394 more miles til we get there and hopefully that means we round Baja in a little over 2 days. Keep your fingers crossed as a quicker crossing means more margaritas and tequila.

In other big news, we ate fruit today. Unrecognized by most on board they were charmed with taste of this exotic fruit, the orange. Perhaps next we will work vegatables into dinner. 

We are currently in 2nd in fleet and 11 overall. Thanks to Yellowbrick most of you probably know more about our position and standing than us! Everyone is in great spirits and focused on 3 things; sleep, food and surfing this 31,000 lbs beauty. 



Saturday, March 15, 2014

Westward's Update. Yes, the boat wrote us!

Buenos tardes, Westward fans!

I just got the following email from Westward. Not the people aboard Westward, the actual boat. Seems she misses Mara and me, but is having a fun race nonetheless. If you've got Yellowbrick, they're light blue!


It's Westward, I miss you. These boys are rough around the edges and fouls mouths to boot. Perhaps we can use a bit more femininity aboard next time. To their credit though, that Willie Bell, keeps a clean ship. I am pretty sure he spends most of his time on projects taking care of my needs, if you know what I mean. The others are great too though. Seems we have formed into two tribes; ABYC Lido Fleet 6- Sam, Ron, Tracy and Team LAYC - Steve, Ric, Willie and Graham. Currently, we have LAYC on deck in clear sunny skies. 12 knots of breeze blowing from about 315 degrees and hopefully building. I am moving along at a steady 7.5 knots and moving deeper into Mexican waters. Our new 1/2 oz spin, which we put a hole in on it's first hoist, is up along with our new staysail spin as well. Graham tells me the weather reports are not encouraging for the next 24 hours but as usual remains optimistic about going straight down the course. 

Last night was a beautiful clear night with passing low level clouds that brought fresh dew to the decks. The wind, surprisingly, was steady throughout the night and helped us average about 7.5 knots. The moon was almost full and cast a bright twinkle on the waves until it at last went over the horizon. We also had dolphins jumping in our bow wake and the slowest dolphin in the school ran into the hull. The only major challenge the night brought me was that we added a bow sprit. Thank god we have extra 2x4s laying around. Other boats do to, right? I know I am old but do we really need new wood on board? Anyway, I digress. My modified pulpit was still catching the spin foot in light air. The boys lashed the 2x4 to the headstay at a downward angle so hopefully no more rips or repairs. 

Seems some questions and the subsequent discussions go on in perpetuity, what is the cosine of 5 degrees, do we drive to VMG, how do we reset the GPS, should we be using True or Apparent, what do the polars say, how come Willie seems so busy all the time, am I the most beautiful boat in the race? 

The ocean and also being away from things was supposed to simplify life, but I think it drives these guys into deeper complexity about simpler things. Net, net it's the same. Maybe that is the point. 


N 29  26.2
W 117 01.3 


Headed to Mexico!

The first update from the boat!

I spoke with the crew at the send off party and they sound like they're ready for a fun race. Also sounds like they had a great start!


Currently heading 165 degrees South in sunny skies and in steady 10-12 knots probably averaging 7 knots. Sailing on a reach with our new 3/4 oz spin out, new staysail spin and the pole just off the headstay about 12 miles off the Mexican coast. We had an amazing start at the boat end and hit the line right when the gun went off. We started with our main, staysail, and light genoa with Ron and Graham on bow, Steve, Tracy, Ric and Willie in the cockpit and Sam at the wheel. After passing Point Loma we put up the 2.2oz spin so we could point at the Coronado islands. Bypassing the leward of the furthest North island and leaving the the 2 other island south. A beauitful day and a great start to the race. The forecasts are for a slower race, so let's hope that the wind doesn't shutoff at night. We have made the decision to stay out away from the coastline at night. Tomorrow's position report will bring the decision to light. 




Thursday, March 13, 2014

Westward Rides Again!

Hello Westward fans!

Tomorrow (Friday, March 14) our favorite Bell-owned wooden Transpac racer* starts the San Diego to Puerto Vallarta race. Sam, Willie, and Graham will be joined by Tracey Conn, Rob Clanton, Steve Dair, and Ric Sanders for this international adventure. The other Transpac crew had to sit this one out. Mara (who just celebrated her 30th birthday) is at home in Japan. Jon is practicing saying no, a skill that he'll need when he becomes a dad in July! I (Alli) am being a responsible adult -- and admittedly regretting it a bit.

Since  Transpac, Westward has had a bit of work, including a rebuilt engine and some sail repair. I hear there are some good stories to tell as a result of her having no engine for a while. Ask some of the Bell Brothers about those. Reports from the West Coast are that she is raring and ready to go!

Westward made the trip to San Diego Yacht Club about a week ago. Here she is in her SDYC slip--as an SDYC member, I might be biased, but I think she looks extra-beautiful on these docks.

You can follow race action here:

I will try to do some posting on this site for those of you who prefer my witty narrative. Since I'm not on the boat, I'll be extra creative.

Fair winds and following seas!

*I had to include so much specificity because the Bells collectively own at least THREE wood boats. Four, if you count the one I made freshman year of college.