Doublehanding across the Pacific on a Cal 40, Robb Walker gives us the latest…
We gybed to port and headed for the islands about noon on 13th July. The Expedition router was calling for us to proceed a bit further west before gybing in order to get a slightly more northwesterly angle and stay in breeze, however it looked to us that the breeze would be fairly even between our track and the "optimum" route, and that danger of lighter airs would be further south. Seeing as we could lay the mark (albeit 1000 miles away!) it seemed to make sense to get going towards the mark!
So, we have been sailing down the rhumb line on port pole, directly towards the finish line, for 72 hours now. COnditions have been 18-24 knots wind speed and regular pacific tradewinds waves. The other boats in our class, and our benchmark, the Cal 40 Green Buffalo sailing in Class A, proceeded a bit further west before gybing are now a bit north (and ahead) of us but on the same track to Hawaii.
We have been very conservative in our sail choices and have spent most of that time under main and a poled out headsail. This combo has proved fast (and low) in winds of 20-22 kts and higher, but is a bit slow when the wind drops to below twenty. We had the chute up a couple of times but experienced some control problems under autopilot and scared ourselves a bit, so we have lost some ground over the past couple of days to other boats that are being sailed more aggressively, but have just not felt comfortable pushing it harder.
The doublehanded game is really different in a lot of ways. Rowena and I would feel quite comfortable sailing the chute in 20+ breeze if both of us were on deck and one of us was hand steering the whole time, however this is not feasible. We have to stand watch alone generally so that the other can stay rested and we can’t hand steer much because the person on watch has to handle trim, as well as navigation, lookout, logs, etc. We have to be able to set up the boat in a fast mode and stable mode so that we are confident in it’s ability to steer itself. The challenge is basically to learn how to tweak the adjustments on the autopilot (Alpha Spectra pilot with WindPilot software by Stan Hone)and we have had some difficulty doing this, resulting in spending more time under winged-out jib than would have been optimum.
We got the chute up today and finally seem to have to pilot dialed, resulting in a great day under spinnaker in winds of 18-22 knots under good control and going fast. Hopefully this will stem some of the daily loses we have been experiencing and help rebuild our confidence in ourselves for the last stretch of the race.
As of 1855 PDT, 16 July we are at 26 33n by 151 37w, with about 450 miles to go to the finish.
Robb & Rowena