Sorry for the long delay between posts. As many of you probably have noticed, our position has slipped from nearly third to fifth over the past few days. Many reasons exist for the degradation of performance. Crew fatigue has certainly been the largest factor. A spinnaker round down on Day 6th, 1000 miles from shore left several of the crew shell shocked and quite afraid of more spinnaker flying. Others were unaffected and yearned for more adventure and to push the boat. This divergence in the crew made it tough to maintain a unified watch and morale.
One mistake we definitely made was flying our 3/4 oz spinnaker all night on Day 5. We now refer to this night as “Speed Racer Night”, because of the insane attention to wind direction and wild helmsmanship that it took to keep to boat from rounding up/down or blowing up the kit. While we gained three hours on our competition, we burned the crew out. In retrospect, I think the kite was simply untrimmed and squirrely. If we were going to fly spinnaker all night, we should have flowing our heavy and flat, 1.5 oz spinnaker (affectionately known as Georgia Pacific because she’s as tough and as flat as a piece of plywood). We made 191 miles that day but really burned up the crew.
In the last two days, we’ve changed our watch schedule of dramatically. Three of us did 14 hour watches during the day, playing with the kite up in beautiful tropical weather and trade wind swells. Yesterday we took bucket baths and drove in our underwear. Kind of the living the life. The other poor souls had a shorter, but much tougher night watch from 10:00 pm – 8:00 am. The original idea was that these crew would just sail on the easier/safer white sails, which they did the first night. Sailing downwind on white sails is ridiculously slow and requires too much attention. On night two, they decided to fly spinnaker with additional help from the day team. This worked ok but at 4:00 am this morning, as I was coming on watch to help the night crew, they flogged Georgia Pacific and we blew out the Ronstan shackle on the spinnaker guy (don’t ever buy Ronstan shackels, as I’ve seen three of the just pull apart in the last two months).
With over 1600 tough ocean miles under our belt, we’ve obviously learned a lot. Six dudes, living for 11 days in a space about the size of two prison cells. Despite our challenges, everyone is getting along pretty good and we’ve learned so much about our teammates, the ocean, and most importantly ourselves. As all of our significant others have now arrived in Hawaii (except one guy who is dating another racer in the race), we’re anxiously pushing the boat 24 hours per day with spinnaker up. Crew and boat willing, we’ll make it there early Tuesday morning.