Category Archives: Ocean Racing

Around Long Island Regatta

ALIR chartAll too soon after returning from Nova Scotia it was time for the annual Around Long Island Regatta, a 190-mile race that starts near Rockaway Point on the ocean side of Long Island, goes up the south coast, rounds Montauk Point and ends off the breakwater in Hempstead Harbor near Seacliff Yacht Club. For many sailors, this race is a ‘rite of passage’ as it can be their first time sailing on the ocean. It may be a coastal race with the Long Island coast rarely more than a few miles away, but the ocean swells and waves have caused many a boat to drop out over the years either from crew seasickness or battered boats.

In addition to having Suntex Marinas as our lead sponsor this year, we were also happy to have Landmark Hospitality’s Liberty House Restaurant as one of our other sponsors (a great way to have delicious five-star meals on board!). There were a few new crew members on this race. In addition to our core crew of Paul Donato, Susan Paul, Amir Elmallah and myself, we were joined by some Suntex Marinas tenants. That included Moochie Corrado who was with us on the Annapolis to Newport Race, John and Michele Jerger who had recently purchased a boat in Florida and sailed it up to Liberty Landing Marina, weathering some fierce Atlantic storms along the way, and Jeannette  Lenoir, a journalist from upstate New York.

Sedna ALIR StartIt was a blustery day at the start of the race, with winds blowing between 20-25 knots and seas of 4 to 6 ft. This made for some ‘fun’ positioning prior to the start, but we had set ourselves up well and had a great start, crossing the line with the front of the pack. Settling in, we quickly headed east along the coast, passing Jones Beach and Fire Island in short order as the strong beam winds (blowing from the side) helped propel us quickly up the coast. There was a low that was forecasted to cross the fleet by early evening and it was shaping up to be quite the storm – with a well-defined squall line on radar! Looking back, I could see a shelf cloud (a low, horizontal wedge-shaped cloud at the front of thunderstorms) approaching us. That shelf cloud signaled a strong storm ready to hit the fleet, and we could see the heavy rain below it as well as seeing flashes of lightening through the clouds. There was a constant rumble of thunder.

ALIR wind and wavesWith our sails reefed, we were ready for the heavy winds often associated with this type of weather and we were not disappointed. We could see other boats behind us rounding up and struggling as the winds hit. We were hit as well, but having reefed early, we managed to maintain course – for the most part. There were times Sedna also rounded up even with the helm hard over as there were several gusts over 35 knots. Fortunately, it was a quick moving storm and within an hour, it had passed us by. We did hear over the radio what sounded like one boat being knocked down (mast hitting the water), but fortunately no injuries or damage were reported.

The rest of the race along the coast and around Montauk Point turned out to be uneventful. As we made the turn around the Point it was time to make the decision on the best way to enter Long Island Sound. The shortest route to the finish line would be to go through Plum Gut, approximately 17 miles northwest of the Point. The quickest way into the Sound is through the Race (so named because the currents can race up to 4 knots through here) which is about 13 miles from Montauk Point. In between the two is a channel between Plum Island and Gull Island. The tactical challenge is to enter the Sound as quickly as possible, but not to be caught by dying winds in the evening with the current reversing.

Race Rock

A beautiful sunrise over Race Rock

We chose the channel between Plum and Gull Islands while our rivals split between the Race and Plum Gut. With night approaching and the currents flushing us into the Sound, we headed as quickly as we could down the middle of the Sound hoping to reach a shoal (28 Foot Shoal) where we could drop anchor if the wind died. Alas, that was not to be! Just a few miles from the shoal, the wind died completely, and the water at 170 feet was too deep to drop anchor. So close, yet so far! At the mercy of the currents and with no wind to fill the sails, it was a long painful night as we were swept back nearly 15 miles before the currents reversed and eventually brought us back into Long Island Sound. Early in the morning with the sun slowly rising, the winds finally filled in again and we had a great run the rest of the day westward down the Sound – until Northport.

With evening approaching again, the wind – in typical summer Long Island Sound fashion – began to die off. As we slowed to a crawl, the contest between the two watches became one of which would pass the four smokestacks at Northport first. I should mention that at the time the contest began, we were almost even with the four smokestacks, making it a race of less than half a mile! I think it was two watches later (six hours) before Paul’s watch could declare victory. Unfortunately, the light wind continued to tease us Sunday morning, providing an occasional puff of three to four knots before dying out again. With a high pressure system parked over us and no change in wind expected for the next 24 hours, I decided to end our race this year. At that point, we had traveled just 3.2 miles in 14 hours!

no wind to fill the sail   Crew helping fill the sail

I wish I could say it was with heavy heart that we withdrew from the race, but with no wind, searing sun and heat, not to mention the biting flies, it was an easy decision. Of course, knowing that a pool, a BBQ and a great party were just a couple hours away may have also helped 😉

There’s always next year…

sunset at seacliff

Sunset at Seacliff Yacht Club

Marblehead to Halifax Ocean Race

MHOR CourseThis year, in addition to the Annapolis to Newport Race and the upcoming Around Long Island Regatta, I decided to sail Sedna, my Hunter 45cc, in the Marblehead to Halifax Ocean Race. Since growing up in Western Canada (and avidly reading Farley Mowat) it has been one of my long-time goals to sail around the Canadian Maritime provinces in general, and the rustic Nova Scotia coastline in particular.

The 365 mile ocean race is considered one of the oldest ocean races in the world, with a history that began in 1905, predating the Newport Bermuda, Fastnet and Sydney Hobart Races. The race originally started as an informal competition between the Boston, Eastern and New York Yacht Clubs run sporadically between 1905-1939 and then biennially since then. The race starts just outside of Marblehead, MA (near Boston) and runs 260 miles across the open ocean of the Gulf of Maine before rounding Brazil Rock (a shoal off the southern tip of Nova Scotia) and heading 105 miles up the rugged – and often foggy – Nova Scotia coastline to Halifax.

One of the things that make this ocean race unique are the fast currents that flow around the tip of Nova Scotia and into the Bay of Fundy which is home to one of the largest tidal ranges in the world – up to 54 feet! Miscalculate the tides around Brazil Rock and a boat can find itself being swiftly sucked up into the Bay, bringing a quick end to the race.

martin at helm

Martin at the helm with a warm cup of hot chocolate

This race was several years in the wishing stage for me, and I was very excited to finally make it to Marblehead this year for the start of this classic ocean race. Adding to the excitement was having my younger brother, Martin join me after many years of inviting him on my various ocean sails. Although not a sailor, he is an avid adventurer, spending many years sea kayaking and hiking on the coast of British Columbia. Also racing with Sedna was Susan Paul and Owen McDermott.

The weather forecast on the day of the race looked generally good with fair winds and clear skies expected for most of the ocean crossing. The only concern was that the winds were expected to eventually turn light to variable which added to the stress of navigation and tactics. Following the rhumb line from Marblehead to Brazil Rock is the shortest course, but if the wind dies and the current begins to flow into the Bay of Fundy, then we could get quickly swept up into the Bay, and it’s race over. If we head further south, it adds extra distance to the race, but lessens the chance of being swept into the Bay of Fundy.

All in all, it was a great trip across the Gulf of Maine with clear skies day and night. What made the trip particularly spectacular was all the aquatic wildlife we saw. Dolphins, whales and sunfish were in abundance, and at one point my brother and I counted at least eight whales in a 15 minute span. What a beautiful sight!

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Basking shark Dolphins

sunfishThe award for the most unusual or unique sight though, goes to the giant ocean sunfish. Prior to actually seeing these fish, we would often see fins break the surface and appear to lazily wave at us. Not seeing ocean sunfish before, I had no idea what to expect. Needless to say I was quite surprised at how odd they looked. These sunfish were between five and six feet long and it seemed as if half of their body was missing after the dorsal fin. The one pictured came up to within 10 feet of the boat and just hung around with us for about half an hour.

As we approached the southern tip of Nova Scotia  the fog began to build and before too long, we were surrounded by what could only be described as pea soup fog. At times it was even a challenge to see the bow of the boat. Adding to the stress, we had to pass through a fishing fleet off of Cape Sable and only a few of the boats showed up on AIS (Automatic Identification System). The others had to be found with radar. Fishing boats do not often trawl in a straight line, but instead make a series of turns which make it a challenge to avoid.

Despite the fog and cold, it was a good 110 mile run up the southern coast of Nova Scotia with southerly winds of around 15-20 knots and four foot swells. As we approached Halifax Harbor during the night the fog finally lifted, unfortunately, the wind also died just 10 miles from the finish line. With 3-4 foot swells left over from earlier and no wind, the boat rocked from side to side with the sails either hanging listlessly or banging to and fro every time the boat was rocked by a wave.

Feeling frustrated by the lack of progress we were making to the finish line, I decided to try to use my spinnaker in the light to non-existent winds. That was a bad mistake!! After hoisting it from the pitching bow, the boat rocked again and wrapped the spinnaker around the jib and forestay. Another roll and a puff of wind to partially fill the spinnaker and it wrapped around again even tighter. Ugh!!! It took 45 minutes and having to cut the dousing line to finally free it. But, what a relief to see the spinnaker finally drop down to the deck!

The rest of the night and next morning was a painful crawl to the finish line as the wind remained light and the current began to reverse its flow, threatening to sweep us back out to sea. But, we persevered and finally crossed the line after 365 miles racing across the open ocean and up the foggy, rugged coast of Nova Scotia.

Sedna Approaching the Finish

Sedna slowly approaching the finish line on glassy seas

watermelon salad

Watermelon Caprese Salad

P.S. Having the distinction of being the last boat to cross the line, Sedna was the proud “winner” of the ‘prestigious’ Cook’s Plate. This trophy is presumably given to the last boat to finish as the cook on board has to work the longest. When asked if I was happy to receive this award I answered unequivocally “Yes!” It was my first Marblehead to Halifax Ocean Race, a race I have wanted to participate in for many many years, and I had not only successfully completed it without ending up in the Bay of Fundy, but had done it with my younger brother, Martin.

Sedna at RNSYS

Sedna and Suntex Racing at the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron

Annapolis to Newport Race

Suntex flagI was really excited to be back in Annapolis for the start of the Annapolis to Newport race. I find the city a vibrant, exciting place with a long history steeped in maritime tradition. Sailing seems to be a passion here and it vies to be the sailing capital of the U.S. Along with my regular crew, Paul, Susan and Amir, we invited some of the tenants from Liberty Landing Marina to sail with us on this iconic North American ocean race. Joining us were Marcus Ansell, Jeremy Nash and Moochie Corrado, all avid sailors keen to try their hand at sailing/racing on the open ocean.

Amir the RockstarFor this race I’m thankful for my sponsors who have been very supportive this season. Suntex Marinas was helpful in getting the boat ready for the race back at Liberty Landing Marina, its flagship property, and Liberty House Restaurant, part of Landmark Hospitality, provided some delicious veal and portobello mushroom meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy for some of our meals (there was so much delicious meatloaf!). I should add that Amir was a rock star in the galley. Even when the boat was heeled (leaned) over 25-30 degrees, he was happily preparing meals for everybody.

On the day of the race start, the weather forecast looked good with 15-20 knots out of the northeast. This would make for a great 120-mile run down the Chesapeake from the start off Annapolis to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay near Norfolk, Virginia. This year the race was set up with two race starts on separate days, the performance cruising boats started on Thursday, while the faster racing boats (like the 80-ft maxi, Donnybrook) started on Friday. The Thursday start was also different this year in that roughly 30 boats would all be starting at the same time. That made for a very exciting start, with all the boats tacking (turning) very close to each other trying to position themselves for a quick start at the front of the pack.

Spinnaker Run down the Chesapeake We had a good start and with the spinnaker flying and were quickly sailing south towards the mouth of the Chesapeake, making over 8 knots at times. There were some challenges sailing in the Chesapeake, besides helming at night without the moon or stars or other external visual references to steer towards. The first challenge is the timing and location of currents which could significantly reduce our boat speed if miscalculated. Second, is the heavy commercial shipping traffic (tugs and barges, freighters, tankers, etc) which need to be avoided. These ships travel quickly through the shipping channels and you do not want to be crossing closely in front of them! Third, are the fish traps – some marked on charts, others not – which are a hazard at night. The fish traps are a series of poles with nets stretched between them, often without working lights to show their location. You do not want to get caught up in these!

In spite of those challenges, we safely and quickly navigated down the Chesapeake and by 0600 Friday morning we crossed the Bay Bridge Tunnel in fog and headed out into the open ocean for the next part of the race – a 330-mile beat (upwind sailing) to Newport.

Weather Forecast in GRIB FormatBefore we were out of cell phone range from land I grabbed the latest weather forecast, and that forecast was not good! The new forecast called for 26-32 knot winds right on the nose with 10-15 foot seas by Saturday night. Because it would be on the nose, it would be a rough, rough pounding in the waves with apparent winds in the 35-40 knot range. To put it mildly, that would not be pleasant.  In reviewing the forecast, the winds did look lighter if we stayed closer to land but that would add extra miles to the route. Deciding to put the safety of crew and boat first, I opted for the longer, but safer route closer to shore.

However, before we headed on our new route to Newport, we had a nice surprise waiting for us. Shortly after we rounded a navigational aid which marked the turn to Newport eight miles offshore, Susan, who was at the helm, shouted that the boat had suddenly stopped! I ran up from down below wondering if we had grounded or got caught in a fishing net. We hadn’t grounded as we were in 45 feet of water, and I couldn’t see fishing nets under the boat, so that didn’t appear to be the cause. Then Amir noticed that the anchor had dropped and was holding us fast! Apparently the force of the waves crashing against the bow had knocked the pin holding the anchor out. And, because I had forgotten to ensure it was lashed down (big learning experience for me!) the anchor was free to drop with all 220 feet of chain and rode running out.

It was a tense half hour, as Amir and Paul struggled to bring the anchor back onto the boat. In the middle of raising the anchor, another sailboat, one of our competitors, emerged out of the fog and heading toward us.  Fortunately, the crew saw us and quickly changed their heading. They must have wondered what we were doing with our sails up but going nowhere! The rest of the day was uneventful as we settled down into our watches, and continued our race towards Newport.

Saturday was a mixed day. It started out with more fog and just a light breeze. Eventually the wind picked up as thunderstorms built up around us. Fortunately, the storms passed on both sides of us, saving us from strong squall conditions. I found out after the race, that some boats which went further east were hit with +50 knot winds, and one boat was knocked down (mast in the water) and had its hard dodger ripped off by the strong gusts! Several others had their mainsails ripped by the winds.

Jeremy FishingWe had another small adventure – this time positive – on Saturday when Jeremy decided to try his hand at fishing. It didn’t take long, and within fifteen minutes he proudly caught a fish, the first time one was landed on my boat.

By 1830 on Saturday, the clouds cleared and the late setting sun came out, promising a clear night full of stars. This was a nice change from the previous nights of dark skies and constant fog and mist, water dripping off our eyebrows.

Sunrise at SeaThe rest of the race to Newport was smooth sailing and everybody was happy to have a watch under the beautiful night sky with the stars shining brightly overhead. The rising moon late at night was also a stunning sight as it slowly lifted above the horizon. It also helped that we had some delicious left over meatloaf sandwiches to enjoy during the wee hours of the morning! Thanks again to Ken Trickilo, the executive chef at Liberty House Restaurant. The early morning sunrises were also a sight to behold.

During the following two days, we were fortunate to see dolphins and sea turtles swimming around us. We even passed a few large Portuguese man o’ war jellyfish. One sight that caught those of us up on deck by surprise, was a picnic table floating leisurely far from land with a bird perched on it as if waiting for crumbs.

Race Finish at Castle Hill LightRounding Block Island, all the crew came up on deck for the last sail into Newport and the finish off Castle Hill Light. It was an exciting time to finally cross the line after 460-miles and the crew burst out in loud cheers!

Four and a half days with seven sleep-deprived people on a small boat, sounds like a recipe for conflicts and short tempers. But, that was not at all the case. In fact, it was quite the opposite, and I was very happy with the camaraderie and the positive attitude had by all. I hope everyone came away with a sense of wonder and excitement that ocean sailing/racing can bring.

P.S. – It was sad news to hear that a great, kind person and excellent sailor at Liberty Landing Marina, passed away shortly after we returned. Seymour Friedel will be warmly remembered for the smile he brought to our hearts and the joy he had for being on the water.

Another Racer in the Distance

(click here to see more photos)

Sedna at race start

Ocean Racing For All

Sedna submarinePeople sometimes joke that with my Hunter 45cc, I have a “racing condo.” To an extent, that’s true. It is a fast, mid-price production boat loaded down with all the creature comforts which many people look for in a boat. That includes  a comfortable layout with wonderful dockside amenities which include air conditioning, a couple large flat screen TVs, stereo, microwave, espresso machine and more. It really does feel like an apartment (albeit, NYC-sized) on the water. Yet, I like to race Sedna and show sailboat owners that getting out and racing on the open ocean is attainable for many people with standard production boats, it’s not just for specialized racing boats. Granted, there is some preparation that is important for getting one’s boat and crew ready for offshore sailing/racing but it is easily achievable and well worth the effort.

bird2The excitement and sense of adventure that sailing on the open ocean brings can be so rewarding! I always smile when one of my crew experience something new. dolphinsWhether it is a crystal clear night with the stars shining in abundance without the glare of city lights, the golden glow of the sun slowly rising above the horizon at dawn, seeing whales, dolphins and sea turtles swimming alongside the boat, or bio-luminescence glowing in the water during the night watch, it’s moments like those that are cherished.

In getting the boat ready for the upcoming Annapolis to Newport Race, I worked with the service yard at Liberty Landing Marina, Suntex Marina’s flagship marina. I was very happy with how quickly Dan the service manager arranged to have someone down to my boat to troubleshoot issues. Chuck from service was able to find the source of new house batteries not charging, a great relief before we left on a 800 mile round trip sail. The service yard was also quite helpful in getting the rig checked before the race.

All too soon, it’s time to head to Annapolis for the start of the race, where we will be proudly flying the Suntex Marina flag. Check back for an upcoming post detailing the excitement of the Annapolis to Newport Race.

Volvo Ocean Race – Newport Stopover

VOR Race VillageThe Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) boats had arrived in Newport between May 6th and May 7th with one of the closest finishes in race history. After over 5,000 miles, Dongfeng and Abu Dubai finished just three and a half minutes or a couple hundred meters apart to take 1st and 2nd respectively. With the winds so light near the finish line, crew were even sent up the masts to pop or push the battens in the sail to the other side with each turn.

passionThe excitement in Newport, RI was palatable. In just the first few days more than 40,000 people had visited the Race Village set up at Fort Adams, taking in their first look at the Volvo Ocean Race boats and visiting the team and sponsor pavilions. It was the only North American stopover of this iconic ocean race, and the first time the VOR boats visited Newport, RI, the historic sailing capital of the U.S.

We arrived on Monday evening after a 21 hour sail (actually motor) through thick fog and no wind. Although I was tired from the trip, it was exciting to pass the VOR 65 boats as we headed to our dock for the week. Over the following few days, I spent time at the Race Village and was quite impressed with the energy that was there. Various teams had pavilions set up to highlight their sponsor’s activities and ecological efforts. There were numerous activities for the public including youth sail races, high performance sailing exhibitions, and of course the iconic America’s Cup 12 meter boats. There were also concerts, films, opportunities to meet the sailing teams and other fun activities. All in all fun-filled and entertaining! Suntex Racing was also well represented in Newport and at the Race Village.

Suntex Greg Suntex Paul 1

Sedna VORBut, lets not forget the racing! It was great to be able to take Sedna out on the water and see the in-port race right near the starting line. We were even picked up by the film crew with Sedna being seen on the VOR in-port video (bottom left on the photo). Watching these Volvo 65 race boats accelerate out of the start and head to Castle Hill was thrilling. mapfre dong fengFor the actual race start from Newport to Lisbon, Portugal, we were again out on Sedna watching the action from the water unfold, while Paul Donato and Bjoern Kils from NY Media Boat were out on Paul’s plane taking some great action shots from the air. We were able to get some great photos which were followed and liked by among others, Volvo and Gaastra two of the key sponsors. By the time the boats left on their race to Lisbon, more than 125,000 people had visited the Race Village.

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All too soon, it was time to head back home for a ‘quick’ ocean sail to Liberty Landing Marina. The evening started out with clear skies and it was a nice treat to see the International Space Station (ISS) quickly cross the night sky over us. To think that the Volvo Ocean Race takes eight months to sail around the world (with stops at various ports), yet the ISS circumnavigates the earth in only 90 minutes! That is a study in contrasts.

Rounding Block Island, the clouds rolled in followed by fog, and again it was a sail back with radar and AIS as our best friends. At least the wind picked up on the last third of the sail and we had a great spinnaker run back to New York Harbor and home.

Now that I’m back home, it’s time to prepare for the Annapolis Newport Race which starts on June 4th.

  Newport Sunset 2  Newport Sunset

(click here to see more photos)

 

Procrastinator’s Update

I noticed it’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog. I’d like to say much has happened since in the past year and I have lots of exciting sailing adventures to share. To an extent yes, but not as much as I hoped to.

Yachtmaster Training in Antigua

AntiguaIn February 2013 I decided to escape the cold in New York and headed to Antigua to practice and test for the Yachtmaster certification, a rigorous and challenging practical exam administered by the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) in the UK. The Yachtmaster is highly regarded throughout much of the world as the standard for skippering a boat. In comparison to the Coast Guard Captain’s licence which is only theory based, the Yachtmaster exam takes you on the water and ensures that you can safely and competently sail and captain a boat. The rigorous 48 hour practical exam covers a range of skills from understanding ColRegs (“rules of the road”) to planning and navigating ocean passages along unfamiliar coasts (using paper charts and a compass, not electronic chartplotters), as well as boat handling skills, managing and motivating a crew and meteorology just to name a few.

Antigua Blue SeasI have to say, between my instructor Logan and the examiner, I came away learning so much more about sailing and captaining a boat! It is one thing to navigate only by paper charts at night on the open ocean, and another to navigate an unfamiliar shoreline to a rock-strewn entrance to a bay and anchor under sail within a boat’s length of an island. All this on a moonless night as you hear the surf breaking on nearby rocks. If you think that’s difficult, try tacking upwind in a narrow channel between a reef and the main island using only a compass, your previously prepared passage plan and contour lines and transients. That was not for the faint of heart!

The Yachtmaster Certificate of Competence is a grueling exam, but for those who are keenly interested in developing their skippering abilities, I doubt you could find any better training.

Annapolis Newport Race

a2n 1In early June last year, I set off with my boat, cast and crew to Annapolis to compete in the 473 mile Annapolis Newport Race. With great fanfare, we left New York Harbor in the morning and quickly headed out into the ocean only to be greeted with 20 knot winds on the nose. It was a great 120 nm sail down to the entrance to Delaware Bay, but unfortunately, one of the crew became a tad bit seasick as we were pounding into 4-6 ft waves. Then again, when is one ever only a tad seasick?

Turning into the Delaware Bay, the seas calmed down considerably and Paul cooked a delicious meat loaf that was quickly devoured by a very hungry crew. By the next morning after transiting the C&D canal, we arrived at Annapolis just as a squall came over us making for a very wet arrival.

The start of the Annapolis Newport Race looked like it could be a very interesting one, with tropical storm Andrea heading directly in our direction. However, with the race delayed by several hours, we missed the brunt of the storm and started with 15-20 knot winds out of the North. This made for a great run down the Chesapeake – for those boat which had spinnakers. Unfortunately, I had just received my new asymmetrical spinnaker two days before we headed down to Annapolis so did not have any chance to train with the crew beforehand. The strong winds and gusty conditions at race start was not the time for them to learn (I learned later that one boat was knocked down on its side for over 30 minutes until a crew member cut their spinnaker away!).

Even without the spinnaker though, we did make good time down the Chesapeake with numerous thrills and chills. Roughly 16 hours into the race, a squall on the back side of Andrea hit us with 42 knot winds. Luckily we were able to get the jib down in time, but didn’t have time to reef the main! I decided to head downwind with the main out and run with the squall. We ended up sailing at 12-13 knots before the winds moderated. That was a scary moment but because the squall was moving so quickly, we only had about 20 minutes of “thrilling” sailing! We did eat up the miles with that run, quickly making our way down the Chesapeake. Unfortunately, the wind quickly died after the squall passed and we were left bobbing near the beginning of the Chesapeake with the current taking us out past the Bay Bridge Tunnel.

A2NOn the other side of the Bay Bridge Tunnel we were listlessly drifting around like a cork in a bathtub until the current reversed and we were being dragged backwards within a couple hundred yards of the bridge. At that time I had to make a painful decision to turn the engine on and thus end the race for us. With that decision made, we motored back up the coast and had to endure 28 hours of zero wind with not a hint of a ripple on the ocean. It was only half way up the coast of New Jersey that we began to get a southerly wind which picked up as we made the last dash for home.

Transpac Race

The other race I was looking forward to sailing last year was the Transpac Race from Los Angeles to Hawaii in early July. Unfortunately though, that was not to be and it seemed as if the gods were conspiring against me. First it was my knee that was giving me issues, then a tooth infection flared up in what I thought was one of my molars but turned out to be a sinus infection. Needless to say, it was a major disappointment as I was very much looking forward to racing and sailing again with some friends I sailed with on the Clipper race!

Around Long Island Race

alirAt the end of last July with my sinus infection finally gone, I did manage to participate in the Around Long Island Race. That was a “fun” 190 mile race which started off of Breezy Point on the Atlantic Ocean side, then ran up the outside of Long Island, around Montauk and then down the Sound to finish at Glen Cove.

The weather ended up being less than ideal at race start as a front stalled directly off the coast of Long Island bringing rain, 3-5 foot seas and 20 knots of wind right on the nose. For many of the boats the weather was too much and almost 30 of the 74 boats which had registered either did not start or turned back shortly after the start. Then again, perhaps it was a combination of the boats and/or crews which were not prepared. After all, it is an ocean coastal race for half the course, and having 3-5 foot seas and 20 knots of wind out on the ocean is not unusual. Having said that, I did end up spending my night watch with the two crew on my watch seasick – one on the leeward side and one on the windward side (not happy with that but at least the rain helped to rinse the boat).

It was a great run up the Eastern coast of Long Island and we managed to pass Montauk Light in 10th overall and second in our division. Conditions did begin to calm down a bit as we rounded Montauk Light which helped some crew members’ spirits to improve. Unfortunately, the wind continued to drop and as we got to Plum Gut the wind had left us completely and it was up to the currents to carry us through. The rest of the race was spent trying to find and hold onto any hint of wind. At one point we had the boat pointed in the opposite direction of where we wanted to go, yet the current taking us backwards towards the still-distant finish line (ah, the “joy” of Long Island sailing!). Two crew members decided to take advantage of the windless conditions and go for a welcome swim in the hot July afternoon. Eventually, the wind picked up enough for us to continue sailing and we crossed the line in Glen Cove to finish fourth in our division.

What’s in Store for 2013?

As I sit here on my boat on a cold February afternoon, I’m thinking about the sailing adventures I have planned for this year. Racing half-way around the world last year in the Clipper Round the World race did nothing to scare me away from ocean racing. In fact, quite the contrary! Granted, there were some scary moments (almost losing a crew mate off the coast of Japan and some fierce North Pacific storms), but with the excellent training I received through the Clipper Race program, I feel much more confident sailing beyond the horizon.

I have two ocean races actually planned for this year. The first race is the Annapolis Newport race in early June, and the second is the Transpac in July. The Annapolis Newport race is roughly 473 nautical miles long and starts in the Cheasepeake Bay, heads south to the mouth of the bay near Norfolk, Virginia, then out on the Atlantic Ocean. From there, it is up the coast to Newport, Rhode Island.

The next race is the famous Transpac from Los Angeles to Hawaii. I’m sure this will be an exciting race in July, and much warmer than last winter’s crossing of the North Pacific Ocean! I’m particularly excited about this race as I will be joining two former team mates from the Clipper race, Will Parbury and Bill Kerns.

I will keep everyone updated as I prepare for the two coming races. In particular, the Annapolis Newport race will require some preparation in getting my boat ready, as there is a long list of items, equipment and modifications needed to have a boat meet the requirements of a Category 2 offshore race. Just to give some idea, the compliance checklist for the race is 30 pages long!

But until then, I need to get through a cold and wintery February …

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