The start of the Singlehanded Transpac is less than a month away and with an upcoming deadline, it was time for US 101 to complete her required 400-mile solo qualifying sail for the race. With a weather window that showed 20 knots of breeze, more or less, I set sail from Sausatlio on Thursday morning to close reach 200 miles out and then turn around and set a kite back to San Francisco. Things didn’t quite work out as planned….
Sailing out of the Golden Gate in a heavy-air, choppy beat with reefed main and #3 jib, breeze soon went lighter and I was back in a full main and genoa, beating to weather on a starboard tack. Breeze gradually built throughout the evening until I was beating into a gale by 11 pm with both reefs in the main and a borrowed storm jib. With 101 cranking out the miles, the breeze kept building and by 2 am I was under main alone making about 3 knots into a seriously sloppy sea state. No forecasting service ever predicted this gale and the gribs never caught up to show it, but my friends confirmed offshore buoys blowing 38 sustained for the duration of Thursday night and Friday with puffs into the 40s.
Becoming completely soaked to the core when on deck, I repeatedly went down below and proceeded to get everything down below wet too. This presented a new challenge that I have not really had to deal with before: hypothermia. My morale dropped in accordance with my core temperature and getting through that first night was one of the worst nights i’ve ever had while sailing. I wanted off the boat and into a warm, dry berth with a cup of coffee in a very bad way, but had to press on to complete the qualifier.
Never able to dry out, we beat into the big breeze until we were about 150 miles offshore and then turned around and began reaching away from the weather system. I was done with that thing. (Race rules require going at least 100 miles offshore during the qualifier.) Under double-reefed main and storm jib, we blasted back to California with reckless abandon, crashing off multiple waves at speeds in the teens. Knocking out 110 miles in less than 10 hours at one point, we clocked a high speed of 17.8. It’s amazing what little Moore 24’s will do with 35-40 on a broad reach, even when very deeply reefed. It’s a shame that I couldn’t enjoy this part of the trip more than I did, as in hindsight it was some great sailing in truly epic conditions as the swells built to 12-foot plus breakers which created fantastic surfing conditions.
Day sailing around Monterey Bay for six hours, I dried out a bit but was still pretty messed up from the hypothermia. I had lost weight, strength and energy during the past two days and was seriously incapacitated. Beating back up to San Francisco made for a loooong night and I think I only got through it by pounding caffeine and calories. Gu Energy has sponsored me for the past couple of years and the stuff is magic offshore. I was still so miserable that I didn’t even have the motivation to boil a cup of water for some freeze dried, so being able to merely reach for some nutrition and energy is pretty awesome in such a raw environment as a Moore 24.
Finally catching a break the next morning, the trip was capped off by a beautiful kite run back under the Gate on a warm, sunny Sunday morning. Catching a ripping flood, we shot back to Sausalito in record time. The boat was flat, I finally started stripping layers and my body instantly warmed up when actual sunlight hit my skin. My friend Ladonna greeted me on the dock with a cup of coffee and offered to make me breakfast. It is absolutely amazing what a warm, sunny kite run and a real breakfast does for a sailor’s soul…
My bad attitude aside, the boat sails absolutely awesome. With a full, brand new set of Quantums and all new running and standing rigging, 101 truly feels like a new boat. Jeff Thorpe of the Point Richmond Quantum loft built me an incredible offshore inventory that is perfectly suited for racing a Moore to Hawaii, including reaching sails, new headsails, a downwind runner and some custom touches to my main like two full battens at the top and sail slides instead of bolt-rope for easy reefing singlehanded. These were crucial as I was constantly shaking or tucking in reefs. I had hoped to have it done before the qualifier, but I am just now in the middle of a full autopilot and instrument install, which will include a B&G Hydra 3000 system and below-deck hydraulic drive. With my solar and lithium-powered electrical system working out great so far, the boat should be a weapon with the new sails and new B&G pilot. Singlehanded Transpac starts June 30. Can’t wait!
US 101 out.
Massive thanks to all of my great sponsors who are making the Singlehanded Transpac a reality for me: Hope for the Warriors, Quantum Sail Design Group, West Marine Rigging Service, B&G Marine Electronics, Forespar, Marina Village Yacht Harbor, Bruce Schwab Rigging and Systems, DMK Electronics and Gu Energy. – Ronnie Simpson.