“Got That Out of the Way.” Carl Buchan and the Transpac

“Got That Out of the Way.” Carl Buchan and the Transpac
Merlin closing in on the finish with Bill Lee at the helm. Sharon Green photo.

There were plenty of big stories in this years Transpac Race. Comanche‘s 5-day, 1 hour record, Mighty Merloe‘s stunning victory and the return of Merlin are probably the top three.

The Merlin story includes a part that’s very near and dear to us in the Pacific Northwest. It was Carl Buchan’s first big offshore race of the kind. Pacific Northwesterners are eager to claim Carl as one of our own, and with good reason. He’s won an Olympic Gold Medal (with Jonathan McKee in the Flying Dutchman) an America’s Cup – sort of – (with Dennis Conner in 1988) 505 North Americans (with Carol Buchan) Tasar Worlds (with Carol) and last but not least the Star Worlds (with Hugo Schreiner).

On Madrona, a 40-footer to his own design, Buchan is a perpetual force on the PNW race courses including events as diverse as Round the County and the Race to Alaska.

Most importantly, through all of it, he has retained both his humility and energy for the sport. Both came in handy on Merlin this year. As one might expect, Merlin‘s crew was rife with experience led by The Wizard himself, Bill Lee. Buchan may ooze boatspeed and racing smarts, but he was the offshore newbie aboard Merlin. Staying in character, he did his job and learned a lot.

Lessons Learned

Transpac sunset – not necessarily time to sleep. Buchan photo.

Sleep The first learning curve is one of the most important and challenging. “I was starting to get into a rhythm the day before we finished. I was a basket case before that sleep-wise,” Buchan explained. I’m not sure how he did it, but accepting that you have a problem is always the first step.

Knowing the Boat “One of the things that became clear was the importance of knowing the boat, in particular the polars and (sail combination) crossovers. You usually don’t have other boats around to get that performance feedback. It was great to have Pyewacket out there. They were always pushing us. We were expecting to fall behind early, but our goal was was to be within about 20 miles when the high speed running conditions started to favor us.” In the end, Merlin beat Pyewacket into Hawaii by a couple of hours and only trailed the much higher rated Runaway on elapsed time. On corrected time, the Alan Andrews-designed Pyewacket won, followed by the Santa Cruz 70 Catapult and the Merlin.

Merlin While it may have been tempting to think of Merlin’s 2017 Transpac as a trip down memory lane for a 40 year old boat, it was obviously a lot more that that. Over the years she’s been modified and upgraded many times, and since buying the boat a year or so ago Bill Lee has put in a number of other changes. Here’s a Scuttlebutt post with more on the program. “Once in a while Bill would say something like ‘at this point in the race back then’ but he’s really forward thinking,” explains Buchan. “It’s not clear what the next phase will be for the boat, perhaps chartering or selling.”

Offshore Tactics Buchan is used to finding the fastest way upwind, downwind or to a point somewhere along the course that will take advantage of current or expected windshift. In the Transpac, the usual course of things is to be lifted on starboard gybe as you make your way to Hawaii. The big decision is when to gybe to port. “Things happen more slowly out there on an ocean race. You set a waypoint into your plans and maximize your speed to that point. But conditions are always changing, so you’re constantly updating that information and updating the game plan. You have to be set up to take in that information.”

Madrona lighting it up in Round the County. Sean Trew photo.

A Transpac for Madrona? Watching Madrona take shape locally in carbon, with many helping hands, was fascinating for many of us. At the time we heard Transpac mentioned. “Even when I built the boat it was on my mind,” Buchan says. Madrona‘s moderate beam and relatively full ends not only look like it would go fast downwind, it does. A couple of memorable Round the County runs revealed Madrona as not just a really fast 40-footer, a blisteringly fast 40-footer in the right conditions. “In many ways, the Transpac would be right up Madrona‘s alley,” Buchan said. Hmmm.

 

In the end, Buchan’s understated summary was “I got that out of the way.” Tellingly, he also said “I certainly enjoyed the longer distance race. I came away seeing it’s a very interesting challenge, especially for the navigator.” My guess is he did a lot more than check something off a list – I’m pretty sure he absorbed a tremendous amount of Transpac know-how, and we’ll see it again, processed and upgraded.

 

 

Triumph finishes Transpac

Triumph finishes Transpac

The Santa Cruz 52 Triumph, with Bruce and Gregg Hedrick aboard, finished their Transpac last night and are presumed safely docked and mai taied. Congratulations all. Raisin’ Cane and Kinetic V finished last night as well, and BlueFlash is closing in on the finish line fast. Merlin, with Carl Buchan aboard, finished in the wee hours Friday morning to finish second over the line in class and third in class on corrected time. I’ll try to get more details on each of the stories. Results here.

In the meantime, here’s the last report from Bruce Hedrick, filed just before the finish. It’s a fun insight to life onboard and a well-run program.

TransPac Update 15 July 2017

What a long strange race it’s been. Sorry I wasn’t able to get more info out to you however we’ve been working really hard to keep the boat moving in difficult conditions. Even though records were set by the big boats, we’ve spent a lot of time sailing in 9-13 knots even on this final approach to the Islands when we should be sailing with our full sized, heavy kite in 20 to 25 knots of trade winds. Instead we are just comfortably cruising along making about 8-9 knots in 14 knots of breeze.

We had a great first half of the race and it seems like after we had hit something large and soft, we lost our boat speed edge. Even though we could see nothing on our keel or rudder, we also couldn’t see the full length of either one of them. After three days of the slows we finally bit the bullet, dropped the spinnaker and did a complete back down. We never saw anything come off the bottom but we definitely got our speed back and went from 30 miles behind the other SC-52s to within 3 miles of them last night. At sunset we started aggressively gybing on the shifts to try and get past them and actually ended up losing time, go figure. So now we are just keeping the pedal down and are once again sailing up to them. We have about 100 miles to go so it will be interesting.

Our crew has been great and we have had a great time. Our skipper, Steve Sellinger, did an outstanding job of putting a diverse group together and getting them to function as a team. There is no question that any of us would happily sail on Triumph with Steve again, any time, any place. Our boat captain is Gregg Hedrick who did a superb job putting the boat together and getting us ready for this long trip. We have not had one single failure of any piece of equipment or any of the many complex systems aboard. A true testament to his skills and abilities.

We have two watch captains, Scott Mason and Scott Poe, who bring a wealth of knowledge to the table along with an incredible amount sailing skills and abilities. They know instinctively the right thing to do at the absolutely the right time. We also have the considerable fortune to have Bruce Cooper aboard, our sailmaker and living, breathing human crossover chart who knows, without looking, exactly what sail we should have up and where we should be sailing it.

The person you would race anywhere with is Grant Wooden because he is constantly trying  to figure out how to make the boat go faster by always trimming and re-trimming to get the very most out of you and the boat. The most dangerous job on the boat is running the foredeck which entails never ending trips to frontier land (the bow) to get the sails up and down as well as get the spinnakers through that complex series of maneuvers we call gybing which involves coordinating the entire crew. We are so fortunate to have Zack Hannah in charge of all of that; he is just amazing as well as totally fearless. Regardless of the task, time of day or night, even if he just came off watch, he always answers the call with a smile on his face.  A truly outstanding group!

So what worked for us on this 10 day trip? Besides everything, there are notable standouts. Top of the list was the food, and it was incredible. There was none of that freeze-dried junk. Instead we had real food that had been completely prepared, vacuum packed and then deep frozen. All you had to do then was take the breakfast for the next morning out the night before or take dinner out in the morning. Once it was thawed you simply placed the plastic bag in the boiling water of the pressure cooker, let the pressure come up to about 4psi, and your meal was ready! The meals were planned to meet the expected conditions so for the first night, which is traditionally rough, we had easy to eat chicken and rice or bean and cheese burritos. Other dinners included carne asada, pork roast and veggies, pappardelle, sabatinos sausage spaghetti, turkey meatloaf, and for our last supper we’re having barbeque chicken with Trader Joe’s cabbage salad. Not a marginal meal in the bunch. We do have five days of backup freeze-dried meals however things would have to get pretty desperate before we went to those.

Lunch and breakfast were less organized because of the watch system however as the days go on and the days get warmer you generally transition from three meals to two meals and more snacks. Even todays snacks included carrots, celery, apples, oranges, beef jerky, and Kind bars. We’ve all lost some weight but not for lack of food.

A very cool addition to the boat was a coffee grinder mounted in the cockpit which allowed one person to sit on a Home Depot bucket with a boat cushion and easily trim the kite with the option to going to three speeds if needed. So much easier than trying to sit on a winch island and grind a top action winch.

Bruce Cooper, our sailmaker from Ullman Sails, also introduced us to the latest and greatest when it came to aids in the nighttime trimming of spinnakers. For years we’ve used contrasting strips of cloth in a chevron shape along the luff. We got these new luminescent strips which glowed in the dark and were easily seen from the cockpit. They got a little fainter towards dawn but then recharged themselves when the sun came up. He also small strips of the same tape you could place on the sheet so you could easily return to the same fast setting.

Lastly, my Don Leighton autographed sailing gloves were worth every cent. Every time you touched the wheel with them the boat went almost a knot faster. If you reached over the side and touched the water, seas were instantly calmed. Amazing.

Overall, the thing to remember is that when you can sail across the pond with such a great group on such a well prepared vessel, it is an experience like no other and you should never miss an opportunity to do so. Again, I apologize for not getting more of these out to you. Needless to say, if you’re going to be around TransPac Row in the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor tonight around 2300 hours, come on by and say hello.

Transpac Updates – First Tri In, PNW Boats On Track

Transpac Updates – First Tri In, PNW Boats On Track

The Transpac is already coming to a close, at least for the three ridiculously fast trimarans and Comanche. Mighty Merloe as smashed the elapsed time record by more than a day, and that record now stands at 4d, 6hrs. Yes, Virginia, four days to Hawaii in a sailboat. Comanche is expected to break the monohull record when she finishes tonight.

Our PNW boats are in the thick of it. Triumph has given up her lead of Division 4 and is taking a southerly approach to the island. I’m sure Bruce Hedrick has a plan in mind. Raisin’ Cane and BlueFlash are behind but sailing fast in Division 3. Kinetic V is smack in the middle of Division 1 on corrected time. And Merlin (PNW-adopted because Carl Buchan’s aboard) is standing fourth in Division 2 corrected time, but second closest to the island. Go Teams!

Here are our onboard reports, very entertaining! Our heroes even saw each other on the water!

Triumph TransPac Update 10 July 2017

Yahoo! It’s time for our 1/2-way party. Sailed over that line at about 1000am this morning. As of this evening we have just over 1,000 miles to go. Now everyone is getting ready for the big party tonight! Showers, clean clothes, practicing their karaoke etc etc.

Race has been tough, weather is not very settled and we’ve taken a bit of chance by staying to the north. We had a semi-fluky day yesterday and last night and as a result Horizon got by us to the south. They are about 40 miles south of us. However, as we say in rule #1, there’s a lot of race course left and a lot can happen in the next 5-6 days. Yesterday and last night were prime examples as one of the big boats, Rio 100, hit a log and lost their starboard rudder. We hit something last night that caught on the rudder and set up the most amazing harmonic that went up and down in frequency as a function of boat speed. Interesting, but slow. This is where once again our amazing crew kicked into action. Scott Mason grabbed our kelp stick, Zack Hannah slithered into the stern compartment to watch through the rudder window and as Scott went way out over the side, Steve held onto his legs. In one amazing pass, Scott brought the kelp stick down the leading edge and our problem was solved. We went back up to speed and only had a short wait until the challenge; we were attacked by a school of flying fish. One tried to grab the wheel from Steve but Steve dropped him to the deck where the fish bit Steve in the ankle. Steve then kicked the fish into the wheel well while the on deck crew cried, “GGGGGOOOOOOAAAAAALLLLLLL”! As always, we are very cautious when things like this happen; however, given the craziness of this attack we are erring to side of caution and assuming sea rabies. Luckily we found that symptoms won’t kick in until 24 hours after you step on land. If you administer the cure immediately upon landing, known as mii tiii in the native tongue, it shouldn’t be a problem.

This morning we saw a boat that had crew from the Pacific NW on board as they slowly but steadily sailed past us, Raisin Cane the J-125, with Jamie Stewart, David Brink and Bob King aboard. After seeing no boats after the first day, we have seen three today.

It will be another challenging night sailing under thick overcast and total darkness. Wind will be in the 15-20-knot range and we shouldn’t have any squalls. All is well and we’re having a great time. We should finish sometime on Sunday.

–Bruce Hedrick

Raisin’ Cane

(assembled from the email string)

Saturday, 10am EDT: Good relative speed of 11.8 kts.  78 miles behind 1st place Varuna.  27.6 miles behind Resolute (showing 12 knts) but have dropped further south. Fast Exit continues to do well (showing 11.4 knts) and closer to HI by 15.3 miles. All distance calculations are based upon differences in Distance To Finish (DTF).

Saturday, 11pm EDTRC is moving along faster than all other boats in their division @ 12.9.  Relative to Fast Exit @ 11.3 & BlueFlash @ 12 & Varuna @ 12.7 & LK @ 12.4 and Resolute at 12.7 knts.  Meanwhile all the Santa Cruz 52’s are below 12 kts.

Sunday, 10am EST:  RC appears to have lost some ground in the past 7 hours (since the last report that I checked) and is now 46 miles back of Resolute.  Doing 10.7 knts vs. Resolute’s 11.8 knts. They have also been heading up (more northerly) vs. much of the fleet.

Monday, 1pm EDT: Cruising along at 12.1 knots back around 3am HST. Based on leaderboard we have passed the half way point and are now showing less miles in the DTF column than in the distance sailed column. Yeah! Based on trackers current estimates we could be finishing early morning 07/15, that does not give the shore crew much time to arrive and get the place set up for them. The shore team was hoping for at least 1 full day before they arrive. But, the weather is fickle and who knows what tomorrow will bring.

Monday, 8pm EDTRC hit the 1/2 way mark today and now the DTF is smaller than the Dist Sailed. As a treat many of us received personal emails from loved ones, very sweet of them. Projections are having them arrive on 7/15 or 7/14, which is great for them but not for shore crew who will not arrive until 7/14 2:00pm. The Hawaii reception family today so they are ready to step in if RC does arrive before the shore team. 

Tuesday, 8am EDT: RC is moving along nicely at 12.3 knts. We are now 958 miles from HI and 28 miles closer to HI then Fast ExitLady K is at 765 from HI.

Mighty Merloe finishing, photo by Sharon Green.

Mighty Merlot

From the Transpac web site: Congratulations to HL Enloe and the crew of the ORMA 60 trimaran Mighty Merloe, the first to finish in the 2017 Transpac Race, and new holders of the multihull Transpac Race record elapsed time! Mighty Merloe has been racing just about every west coast offshore event for the last few years, often with no multihull competition to measure themselves against. Getting the opportunity to welcome Phaedo3 and Maserati to the west coast, go head to head against them and come out on top is a dream come true for Enloe’s team. We’ll hear more from them shortly.

Enloe sailed this year’s Transpac with his team of Steve Calder (Main Trimmer), Jay Davis (Bowman), Artie Means (Navigator), Loïck Peyron (Helm), Franck Proffit (Helm), Will Suto (Grinder), Jacques Vincent (Co-Skipper).

Mighty Merloe crossed the finish line under helicopter escort at 17:03:30 (HST) on Monday, July 10th. Their elapsed time of 4 Days, 6 Hours, 33 Minutes, 30 Seconds beats the 20 year old record of Bruno Peyron’s Commodore Explorer by more than a day, previously set at 5 days 9 hours 18 min and 26 secs.

TransPac Update Triumph 8 July

TransPac Update Triumph 8 July
Triumph

On-the-water update from Bruce Hedrick aboard Triumph.

I usually get these out sooner however we’ve been a very busy boat. The boat has been going very fast and we’ve had ZERO problems. Gregg (and Ben not on the boat) Hedrick have done a great job getting us ready. As the newbie on the boat I’m totally stoked about the great team our captain and owner Steve Sellinger has assembled. It’s the main reason the boat is going so fast and we’re having so much fun.

It’s been a pretty normal TransPac so far, going through the usual progression of sails. It hasn’t been super windy however the nav station is on the starboard and it can be a challenge to keep from falling out of the nav seat, that’s my excuse for not starting this sooner. We started with the heavy#1 and then changed to the #3 at the west end of Catalina and then back to the H#1 about 2 miles later. Beyond San Nicholas we changed back to #3 and carried this combo in 18 to 25 for about 12 hrs before we put a reef in the main. As the wind slowly eased and clocked we added a genoa staysail and then later dumped the reef. Yesterday morning we set our first spinnaker, the A3.

This necessitated that we change our watch system from 3 on deck to 4 on deck; 1 driver, 1 grinder, 1 trimmer, and a mainsheet trimmer. We then change one person an hour. We were close to beam reaching in very confused seas so everyone on deck rotated a position every 30 minutes. Our foredeck king, Zack, led the way in increasing speed by breaking the 9, 10, and 11-knot barriers somewhat effortlessly.

Last night was one of those just great nights of sailing, even though it didn’t start out that way because we’ve been sailing under a heavy marine layer which had done a great job of wiping out the nearly full moon and almost all of the stars. Near midnight the full moon found its way through an opening and provided us with a sparkling silver surface upon which to sail. The best part was that this coincided with a visit from a large pod of dolphin and they were extremely happy to be playing right alongside us, coming so far out of the water you could see the reflection of the moon under the flying dolphin. It doesn’t matter how many times this happens; you never tire of watching these amazing creatures.

All for now, everyone is well, working hard, and enjoying some great meals. Hopefully more tomorrow.  Looking forward to another night of fast sailing.

I remain, your humble scribe.

Ed. Note: Thanks, Bruce, sitting down will become easier as the wind moves aft…. We’ll have several updates from Raisin’ Cane, which has a great shore team conveying info. And, by the way, I forgot to mention that well known PNW sailor Bob King is also aboard. Thanks to Mitchel Nimon for that reminder. Basically, all our PNW boats are moving along nicely, their relative positions unchanged from yesterday. Comanche broke the 24-hour speed record (now 481 odd miles).

Transpac Update – Giving Chase on Raisin’ Cane, Triumph Still Wears the Crown

Transpac Update – Giving Chase on Raisin’ Cane, Triumph Still Wears the Crown

We’ve had several Transpac updates relayed to us from Raisin’ Cane. They had some unspecified challenges that slowed them down, but they’re back up to speed and chasing hard. Here are some of the updates in chronological order:

Raisin’ Cane is now 41 hours into the Transpac and doing OK. Typical early passage bugs and deficiencies are being overcome and conditions aboard are improving as we settle in, shake down, and sort out. It also helps that the wind is drawing aft.

We set our first kite 30 minutes ago and, if your typist’s collected weather forecast data can be relied upon, we expect to be under spinnakers for the foreseeable future.

The deck guys are busy flaking and stowing jibs so I can get away with being brief with this message by passing none of their remarks along. This is good because it is “peppy” at the nav station as it is everywhere on board.

Regards from Raisin’ Cane.   

Raisin’ Cane had an issue yesterday that affected their speed for a while. Issue appears to be resolved and they have been steadily gaining speed through out today and are doing their best to catch up.   Let’s all send them pleasant thoughts for good wind and increased speed.  

Not sure how close they were or if RC saw them but Comanche, a 100ft competitor, passed by them earlier today.

•Update from Ted Naughton:  Good relative speed of 11.8 knts.  78 miles behind 1st place Varuna.  27.6 mikes behind Resolute (showing 12 knts) but have dropped further south. Fast Exit (white boat furthest north) continues to do well (showing 11.4 knts) and closer to HI by 15.3 miles.  All distance calculations are based upon differences in Distance To Finish (DTF).

Other boats with Northwest connections are all speeding along just fine. In the tracker class leaders are designated with a little crown icon. Triumph, with the Hedricks aboard, wears that crown for Division 4. The young crew aboard the Oregon boat BlueFlash are close to Raisin’ Cane on a more southerly route. Carl Buchan aboard Merlin finds himself in a cluster of 70 +/- footers on a northerly route. Kinetic V is steadily losing ground to the Pac 52s Bad Pak and Invisible Hand, but had this report posted yesterday on the Transpac site:

A big moon brightens the night sky, broken cloud scuds. Navigation lights from some of the other race boats are still visible. Boisterous conditions continue. This is definitely a challenging start to the adventure. No easing in gently …

Waves pummel the boat, creating a violent motion onboard. Wind and boat speeds continue to produce a wild ride with waves sending sheets of salt spray over the deck and on-watch crew. Three crew seasick.

A blood-red sun rises through horizon haze to announce the official arrival of day. A few plump seabirds flap comically along the rough sea surface and scatter as our bow cuts a swath. The slowest-rated boat in the fastest-rated monohull division, we are at the back of our division, chasing the faster boats, now unseen in the distance, somewhere ahead of us.

We have stacked our not-in-use sails, as allowed by the rules of this race, along our weather deck, improving stability and creating a partial shelter for the crew from the waves and spray. Onward we press.

Comanche is doing what Comanche does, and will soon have passed all the boats that started two days before. The big trimarans are of going faster, of course. The Mod 70 Maserati has veered off almost due south, but no word on what that’s about, or if it’s a tracker glitch.

The tracker is delayed by four hours, so we’re a little in the dark about this instant. But we’ll keep checking in and get onboard updates if we can.

Transpac Update, Buchan on Merlin and the Youth Movement on BlueFlash

Transpac Update, Buchan on Merlin and the Youth Movement on BlueFlash

There’s been scant onboard reports from our PNW heroes on the Transpac Race. They’re probably a little busy right now. Triumph/Hedricks is leading her division, Raisin’ Cane is a few miles astern of her sistership Resolute, and has dropped further south from a northerly position. Kinetic V is trailing the two Pac 52s by about 20 miles. Comanche is ridiculously fast at 20+ knots, nearly up into the Wednesday starters already. The two Mod 70 and one ORMA 60 trimarans are already abeam of the Wednesday starters.

Buchan

Right in the thick of it is Merlin, with the Northwest’s Carl Buchan aboard. It’s his first Transpac, in fact he says “this is the farthest offshore I’ve ever been.” He said he’s probably missed it up until now because he hated the idea of missing the beautiful Northwest summer. He added rather wistfully that he’ll probably catch an early flight home after the finish.

“I didn’t hesitate for a moment,” Buchan says. He and the Merlin crew expect that the beamier, more powerful boats will do well initially, and Merlin will shine in the later typical planing Transpac conditions. So far they’re hanging in very well with their fleet.

BlueFlash

Alert reader Chris Gedrose read the initial sailish post on the race and jumped right in with “What about BlueFlash.” First of all, thanks Chris for pointing out my oversight. It’s great to have readers engaged and pointing out what’s missing or wrong!

And it turns out that BlueFlash is a great story. Outstanding sailor and North Sails loft manager Kerry Poe chimed in with an explanation of a boat sailed by younger sailors:

BlueFlash is owned by Portland resident Scott Grealish. He purchased the boat last fall. The boat is sailing with two adults, Scott and Bill Blazer. The other crew are teenagers which include Sean Grealish, John Ped and Kyle Collins. Scott enjoys giving the kids an experience. Last year I sailed with Scott and 3 teenagers on a J-88 in the Chicago Mac race, in which we won our class. Scott has also spent his time and money on building an outstation for Willamette Sailing Club for a 29er program. He has also raced his J-88 in Southern California in some of the shorter distance races with a crew of WSC kids.

Scott, Sean and John are WSC members. Bill is a amateur from Santa Barbra. Kyle is from the Long Beach area.

Currently BlueFlash is smack between the two J/125s in a very respectable position. We’ll be tracking them. Thanks again, Chris and Kerry.

And They’re Off, Wait, Over Early?

And They’re Off, Wait, Over Early?

From these pictures it seems the crew aboard Bruce Hedrick’s Transpac ride Triumph are extremely happy. They should be, they’re racing across the Pacific on a sunny day! And they’re winning. Several hours into the race they were standing first in Division 4. But it didn’t exactly start out that way. What looked like the perfect pin-end start on a heavily favored line turned out to be an over-early, or OCS for those who like acronyms. Or at least that’s what the video commentators Chris Love and Katie Nastro seemed to think. I couldn’t confirm that on the tracker. In fact, I couldn’t duplicate anybody re-starting, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

Check out the video, taken from the birds-eye (drone) perspective. Triumph is second up from the pin, coming on wiht speed.

Hedrick has them keeping north of most of the boats, and that seems to be paying off.

This evening’s tracker

 

No word from Jamie Stewart aboard Raisin’ Cane, but she is 1/10th of a mile astern of her sistership Resolute, which is leading Division 3.