Shortly into the night two good things happened. First, there were dolphins, which is always a happy occurrence. Despite it being dark, the sound of these nimble creatures flitting in and out of the water around us is unmistakable, so you know they’re there even if you can’t see a thing.
The second was Henry making pizzas. These doughy wonders were tailored to each person, with a range of options from tomato, cheese, peppers, jalapeños, pesto, olives, and any other suitable ends that could be dredged from the stores. Sometimes it’s like having a live-in chef, and we’re slowly progressing through the upgrade to live-in cleaner as well. Mine was a bit too hot on the jalapeño side, which left me drinking water in the galley for a full ten minutes, while Renaud just laughed at me, for a full ten minutes. A resounding success though, and proves that even after nearly three weeks offshore we can still deliver good food.
The night saw us steadily power up, come up on our desired course, and by morning we were pointing directly on target making 8kts, the wind having decidedly backed and increased. Finally! The sea state has stepped up a notch, and the waves are now capped with white crests all around, perfectly matching the fresh breeze. The swell is a bit short for now, so we are back to the good old days of Disco launching herself off the big ones, everyone tensing as their stomachs go with the boat, anticipating the huge crash that comes moments later; the boat doing her best to create a Disco shaped hole in the ocean where she lands, the displaced water rising up in an ever-increasing bow wave either side, half of it rolling down the deck in a torrent of white water. This is mostly fun.
The real show of the day came in the form of front row seats to the lead pack of the Transpac race. Henry woke me from a nav station snooze in great excitement, having just spotted a big racing yacht on the horizon and discovered it was the legendary Comanche. It’s huge black carbon sails visible in the distance, she was flying along at over 20kts, blazing a trail past us, back towards Hawaii. The rest of the day was spent with a grand procession of the other forerunners running the down the exact same line we’re taking up to LA.
Horizon followed Comanche, then Flying Fiche 2, Rio100, Aszure and a variety of others, all with their big spinnakers up, doing between 16 and 22kts, in ideal downwind conditions of 15-20kts of wind on the quarter. Horizon were closing on us at 22kts on a starboard tack, so we made a big bear away to clear from their path, before coming back up and passing alongside them, close enough to see them standing on deck. It was all I could do to stop Henry from trying to swim over. We’d have probably cleared them without making a course change, but I didn’t want them to have to worry about changing anything on our behalf, or cut it fine with those sort of closing speeds involved, as while we might come out better in a steel vs. carbon collision, it would be rather expensive.
A couple of them called us up on the VHF to say hi, one obviously thinking we were a fellow competitor having had to turn around and asking if we were OK. I assured him that we were fine, other than being silly enough to sail hard on the wind for three weeks back along the course they were flying downwind along. It was great to be so close to the action unfolding and see some of the biggest boats at home in their natural environment. Both Henry and I have hopes of ending up the other side of this equation for at least one Transpac, and it was seriously tempting to turn around, put the kite up, and see how long we could keep up for. However, places to be and all that.
The wind is building further, and going into dark it’s going to be a lively night, now making between 8 and 9kts straight to LA. Now we’re sailing.
Date: 7th July 2017
Position: 28°33.1N 126°24.8W
Wind: NNE 4-5
Swell: N 3-5ft
Sky: Stratocumulus 5/8