Wednesday, December 29, 2010

GREETINGS FROM 46 SOUTH - HAPPY NEW YEAR 2011

2011! Wow, are you kidding?? That makes me really middle aged. I thought that would never happen, but bring it on! I have the distinct pleasure of ringing in the New Year in the middle of nowhere with no champagne, no woman to kiss at midnight, no ball dropping and nobody to sing that "old acquaintance be forgot" song that must be sung in unison annually. Instead, I will be pondering the meaning of life in what is forecast to be a moderate Southern Ocean sailing experience with all my Southern Ocean friends.

What will I do for New Year's 2011?

First, Le Pingouin (LP) and I will have a chat as she has a lot to say about being middle aged. Boats live in dog years.? It is about seven years to one human year so she actually just broke through 60 years old. She also has more circumnavigations under her voluminous brazier than I do. She has done this race twice before and the Vendee globe twice as well, so this is her 5th solo circumnavigation race while it is my 3rd. It is quite amazing to think that she had more than 150,000 miles in global racing mileage before we even started this adventure. The ole girl is still one of the fastest monohulls ever conceived. Combined LP and I have spent more than a year of our lives hanging out down here in the most remote place on Earth. I still feel hardly welcome and am a strong advocate for the "tread lightly and garner safe passage" theory to get through this inhospitable but beautiful place.

Following my chat with LP, I will speak with the animals that constantly escort me along my route. The birds here are fantastic. They seem so fragile as they fly in circles around the boat and flitter about in the wake of LP as we charge along. Regardless of the weather they are always there and seem genuinely interested in why I would be asking for permission to transit their private place on Earth. The flock of birds I constantly encounter represent as many different sizes and shapes as the fleet of aircraft man has built, and they look their part. The Albatross look like B52 bombers with huge glider shaped wings and robust torsos as they fly forever while seemingly never flapping their wings. On the other end of the spectrum are the petrels which are like little compact fighter jets that zip around and jet through the waves, flapping their wings to give them super speed like they are using an afterburner.

Finally on this special transition to 2011, I will speak to the things that I hopefully won't see. This includes the whales (of which I have only seen one since leaving Cape Town) and the icebergs which harbor so much of our world's ecosystem in their frigid existence.

The primary message that I will try to convey to this watery world as we enter 2011 is an apology. I'd like to be an "eyes wide open" witness to the impact our human existence has on this place. Maybe I am a lone ambassador of sorts? As I write this I am sailing in 9 degree Celsius water in a place that should have far cooler water temperature. I am sailing deliberately further north than ever before because the Antarctic convergence (ice zone) is hundreds of miles further north than when I first sailed the Southern Ocean in 1998. The birds are far less in numbers than I have ever experienced, and the whales... well, we all know that story. My message will be a hollow New Year's apology because I need to be honest with my friends down here. There is really nothing being done that will change the tide of globalization and human growth. We can hope that the pioneers of sustainability and green energy will be rewarded for tangible results. We can hope that rather than a typical New Year's resolution that is a lot of promise and little movement, that maybe the human population of our fragile home will put some action behind the rhetoric.

I don't pretend to know how much we affect this place through our actions and I am a firm believer that cyclic global temperatures are a natural weather occurrence, so I don't wish to be tied up in the politics of it all. I just speak of plane facts that we know we can change. The whales are gone because we kill them for food and resources we no longer need. The bird population is off because we kill them with bad fishing practices and by throwing trash in the water that they eat. This planet is 70% covered in water. The life and delicate balance that water provides is the brine from which all known life came. Can you imagine if that balance is upset? Water can take the life away just as easily, and in a much shorter time, than it was given. The oceans provide every ounce of water we drink. If the ice caps were to melt (which they are) the vast majority of the world's cities will become submerged. The sun and water are the two things that make every weather anomaly occur.

For crying out loud, the human body is something like 80% water isn't it? We better start taking care of our oceans or they aren't going to be here to take care of us.

This will be the somber but special New Year's message I will share with my friends in the Southern Ocean. It will be a very "glass is half full" conclusion, basically stating that mankind is good and wants to continue to exist, and that we will do as a race what we have to do to survive.

Happy New Year's and may you all take a few minutes to enjoy the beauty of the natural world in 2011.


Cheers,
Brad


Looking Aft

Looking Forward

Video Footage of 46 South

Howdy All,
I hope you're all getting ready to ring in the New Year! I've collected some pretty good video of Le Pingouin and I haulin' ass in the Southern Ocean. Enjoy!

http://www.velux5oceans.com/#/latest-news/on-deck-in-the-southern-ocean-with-brad/1202

More news soon. Thanks for checking in,

Brad

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Southern Ocean Sailing At Last

The weather has not been kind to us since the Leg 2 restart in Cape Town. It has been a very slow and arduous journey thus far. Sailing one of these boats upwind is difficult and uncomfortable. It puts a lot of strain on the boat and I know I was not the only competitor out here concerned about the conditions taking someone out of the race. I am happy to say that with Christmas here, the tides have changed. I am FINALLY sailing downwind in north-westerly winds. It is a welcome Christmas treat! I have about 20-25 knots and we are hootin’ along feeling like the boat is happy and well prepared for the conditions. With that happy news, I also realize that this is one of the most remote and dangerous areas of the race.


This week marks the most remote piece of Leg 2 from Cape Town to Wellington, New Zealand. It is daunting as there is no place to stop and no one to help should I run into trouble. Countless sailors have faced adversity in this area over the years, most recently Bernard Stamm who ended up running aground on a beach in the Kerguelen Islands during the Vendee Globe race and the young teen sailor Abby Sunderland, who was rescued earlier this year. The weather can be so violent, it is definitely a place to tread lightly. In saying that, this is also a race. My mission is to get through it safely without being too conservative. I don’t want to compromise the lead now that I have taken it back from Gutek! He made some very good tactical decisions early on, and dove south of me to take the lead. I don’t think he ended up being very comfortable at 45 South, when there have been recent iceberg sightings at 46 South.
The unusual warm weather of the first 5 days at sea has changed dramatically to a bitter cold. One of my compromises to save on weight aboard was to go without a heater. Bad call! I am cold, and I expect I will be cold for the remainder of Leg 2 until I see the promising sight of New Zealand’s summer coast. Thanks goodness I am fully outfitted with Gill apparel. The layers are great and closures are keeping me dry even in the extreme conditions on deck. If you didn’t get what you wanted for Christmas, you should treat yourself at http://www.gillna.com/.
I realized after doing a bit of old school math, that I have spent 25% of the last 10 years at sea for Christmas. It never seemed this hard, and it is clearly more difficult now because I feel like I am missing precious time with my children. Christmas without children just simply sucks! I did get to chat with them via satellite phone and can’t wait to see them in New Zealand.
Merry Christmas to all and please keep the wind coming strong from the right direction!
Cheers,
Brad

Friday, December 17, 2010

Emotional Funk and Unexpected Weather

My emotions have been running high after having to gear up for the original start date, then down for the delay, then back up for the start yesterday. It began what has been the oddest combination of variables for the start of a leg that I can remember. I have been very emotional compared to the start in France. I am apprehensive about going back down to the big noise in the south and I miss my wife, Meaghan, and my children very much… which has led to a bit of an emotional funk.

It didn't help at all when Tate, Wyatt and I all had to wish each other Merry Christmas on the dock as I left on December 16th! It is one thing to wish Meaghan as a grown up Merry Christmas; but missing the kid’s Christmas is making tears well in my eyes even as I write this.
So we were finally able to escape South Africa in a weather window that wasn't guaranteed carnage, yet it was still South Africa. Talk about “Full Noise or No Noise,” our team’s motto! The fleet starts in light fluky up and down breeze in Table Bay and by the time we get ten miles offshore, BAM, the forecast shows 15 knots of wind on the nose and is blowing 30+ knots instead. This lends more justification for holding the race start off when they were forecasting 40+.
Then it goes light! Very light. And now Derek, Gutek and myself are all drifting along in sight of each other coxing what we can out of 2-6 knots of breeze for the last 18 hours or so. This too is very odd. The Aghulas Current is a warm water current that wraps around Africa and really makes the entrance to the Southern Ocean a warm paradise for sea life. I have only seen this place sailing at full speed like most people; but wow is it different when you’re going 3 knots. I have had yellowtail swimming in the shadow of the boat, weird eddies of swirling debris, jelly fish everywhere, flying fish and 23 degree Celsius water temps.
Is this the calm before the storm? All the above is happening while I struggle to work my way south to the frozen sea scape of the Southern Ocean which is only a mere couple hundred miles from here. Like I said… weird! Hopefully all of this is a good omen that will deliver a good Christmas experience and the South will allow our fleet safe passage!
Regards and Happy Holidays to all,

Brad

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Upwind in Lots of Wind

After the a morning of very light wind making our way out of the shadow of Table Mountain, everything changed and now I am bashing upwind in 25-35 knots of wind. It has been about 5 hours of this, and I am hoping the fleet makes it through this unscathed. I have a 3rd reef in the mainsail and the staysail up for now. Going from the docks and mellow start into these conditions is intense to say the least. Le Pingouin seems to be taking the punishment well. I am certain the delayed start was a good idea, as I can’t imagine what this run would have been like a few days ago. It is supposed to lighten up and I may be parked Fri-Sunday, which will be equally frustrating. I am anxious to head east! Thanks for checking in.

Cheers,
Brad

The Start at Last

The forecast was disappointing and it became obvious quickly that starting Leg 2 of the VELUX 5 OCEANS on Sunday, December 12, was going to be dangerous. Severe weather conditions at the Cape of Good Hope and in the Agulhas Current would bring damage to my boat or others. I find it a difficult place to be. I’m ready to go. The boat is ready. It has been strange being geared up and ready to go and not being able to take off. I’ve been trying to stay in the groove and remain mentally fired up to start, especially considering it is a leg of the race that will send us into heavy weather. I’ve been waiting for the word from race admin to go and it finally is here today.


It appears we will have light conditions. It is no secret that the entire fleet will aim to get south as quickly as possible. I look forward to hitting the westerly winds that prevail in the Southern Ocean. The extended forecast looks pretty good for the first week with consistent westerlies. The huge storm that prevented our original start last weekend has moved off now to the west leaving mellow conditions for the next few days.

One of the nice things about the delay in starting out of Cape Town is that I got to see the wedding of Jeffrey Wargo, my Project Manager and friend, who tied the knot yesterday in the winelands of Stellenbosch. Congrats to Jeffrey and Lizzie!

Stay tuned for more news as I leave the dock and sail south. Cheers,

Brad

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Look Back Before I Look Ahead

I have some good stories to tell you about my time in South Africa, but before we go there I thought a brief recap of Leg 1 from La Rochelle, France to Cape Town, South Africa might be of interest. My wife Meaghan posed these questions to me, in her best attempt to egg-on my communications of the lifestyle aboard an Open-60 alone at sea for 28 days. Here goes…

Best Moment?
The start and finish

Worst Moment?
The start and finish

My answer to these questions comes for different reasons. The start in France was amazing and a big “wow” moment for sure, but it was also hard to get my head around being alone for a month. The finish in Cape Town was also hard because I really enjoyed being out there. It was the end of a special experience with Le Pingouin, getting to know her and creating a relationship with a boat I will spend thousands of miles on alone.

Favorite Meal?

AlpineAire is my staple whenever I am offshore. It is a great product that offers what the solo racing environment requires – light, compact, easy-to-use energy. I brought a variety of their dehydrated meals (about 80 bags to be exact) but here are my favorites…

On a special day (maybe once a week or a Sunday morning with mellow breeze) I like to customize the Bandito Scramble. It is the only AlpineAire product I take that actually needs to be cooked, but it is a great one. I add some water to the egg powder and the potatoes and peppers are already in there. I have been known to add a little onion and chorizo if it is onboard. My regular favorites for dinner include Leonardo da Fettuccini or Forever Young Mac and Cheese. All I have to do is heat some water with my little camping stove, throw it in the AlpineAire bag and let it sit for 12 minutes. I picked up some miniature packets of spicy oil used for pizza in France that adds a nice touch.

My typical breakfast is Grawnola, which I discovered right before departing Charleston. This adds diversity to my diet and is a raw, yummy, fiber source that helps my whole messed up digestion process function offshore. The Grawnola bars are super convenient if it is rough and I need to be on deck, but the regular Grawnola in a cereal form is my favorite.

Treats?

When we were in La Rochelle, France the Mayor held a ceremony to welcome us and recognize the Eco-60 Class and goals of sustainability. In the process he gave me a bottle of Cognac (lucky for me!). Once in a while offshore I would have a small shot or sip of the Cognac in the evening. I have to say the biggest treat while sailing offshore is yet to be had. JC Caso is part of our small team and his parents live outside La Rochelle in France. They are some of the sweetest people I have ever met and knowing I was headed off for the long race, they cooked several homemade dinners from their farm raised products in the country and canned them specifically for my journey. This is not your Chef Boyardee canned food but homemade dinners like Beef Bourguignon. Of course cans are heavy so I cannot justify taking many, but I am planning one per week in the Southern Ocean.

Forgot?

Music. I am not that into music, but when you don’t have any for 28 days, it is painful.

Packed too much?

Nothing. There were no extras onboard.

Biggest difference from last race?


The biggest difference I can identify is that in general I don’t feel the pressure to win as much as I did in 2002-3. I am having fun with it and genuinely enjoying being offshore. Don’t get me wrong. I am racing as hard as I can, but I am enjoying the experience more.

I am busy preparing for Leg 2 which will set off on December 12 from Cape Town and send me south into the Southern Indian Ocean headed for the next port of Wellington, New Zealand. Thanks for checking in and taking part in the adventure.

Cheers,

Brad

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Restless Sleep, Fresh Food,Family & Fellow Racers

Since arriving in Cape Town I have been enjoying relatively long nights of restless sleep. After 28 days of severe sleep deprivation offshore, my dreams have been pretty wacky since offered a more “normal” overnight rest. The transition is a bit tricky. I am always restless overnight, partly out of habit and partly because I really don’t want to get out of the groove of the offshore environment. It may seem like we have a lot of time on land, but December 12 is right around the corner. I attempt a nap each day to try and stay in the groove, but it does not always work out.


I have also been enjoying red meat, fresh food, and spending time with my family. We went up Table Mountain over the weekend, which was the first time I have ever done it despite being here twice before. We are going to try and get away together as a family and explore South Africa for a few days, which will be a total escape from my work on the boat.

Jeffrey, JC, and Nitro are busy going through the boat work list that I prepared before my arrival. I am spending most of my time on the electrical side and heading up the charging system modifications. We are changing how the hydro generators and the rest of the charging system keep the batteries charged on the boat, to provide the electricity for the autopilots and other important electronics. I’ve been working closely with B&G to make sure the autopilot and instrument package is fine tuned for optimum performance in the Southern Ocean.

I have learned a lot about the B&G system and I must say it is absolutely amazing. There are so many variables; it is like you can keep making the system better and better as you go. They auto-learn, so they adjust their own parameters as I encounter different conditions. My time on this is critical as I need the autopilots to drive through anything and everything. Over the first leg of the race I’ve been learning the system, and it has been learning itself – both great assets for the upcoming Southern Ocean legs.

I’ve also really enjoyed being onsite to greet the other competitors as they have arrived Cape Town. It is a race tradition to greet your fellow competitors, and inherently the time in port creates great bonds and friendships. I cooked a steak on the dock for Derek, which he promptly enjoyed with South African wine at a small table beside his boat with his wife. CSM arrived yesterday and we all went to the local pub for a beer.

My focus right now is trying to get the boat work sorted enough for me to take off on a short walk about with my family. Thanks for checking in,

Brad



Sunday, November 14, 2010

Finish in Cape Town

I felt like I had the boat totally prepared for the finish. Not so. I was hit by 40 knots of breeze last night. It was upwind conditions in 40 knots of breeze with a following Southern Ocean swell. Not what I was looking for in the final hours of my 27+ day voyage.


Welcome to Cape Town! The weather systems are notably unpredictable and challenging. Following the chaos offshore was a painfully slow approach. All the noise stopped. It took one hour to go from 40 knots to nothing. And I do mean nothing… I think I could swam faster than the boat edged along off the coast of Greenpoint headed to the finish.

The joy of seeing Meg, Tate and Wyatt was awesome. Velux delivered a cold beer and burger, which was much appreciated. Thanks to all that have followed the journey this far. I need a shower and a bit of sleep! More tomorrow…

Cheers,

Brad

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Le Pingouin seems to be less of a bird and more of a raging bull!

Le Pingouin seems to be less of a bird and more of a raging bull! It has been full noise out here trying to keep up with this front and shaking Gutek. Cracking along at 20-25 knots on this thing is something else. The other night the forecast was 28 knots, but it piped up to 40+ knots. I wish I could have captured footage of those few hours on video, but it was pitch black. From the air this boat must have looked like a mast and sails sticking out of a surfacing submarine! It was nuts and a whole lot of work with no sleep, food or water. All I could do was hang on to whatever I was working on at the moment.

All is well and it feels good to be within 1000 miles of Cape Town, even if I will have to sail more miles than that to actually get there. Thanks for keeping up with the action offshore and stay tuned for the finish in South Africa, which I am hoping for on Sunday/Monday.

Cheers,
Brad

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Gutek the Hunter on my Tail

It has been constant sail changes and working non-stop to keep my slim lead on Gutek. He has been hunting me down, and doing it at Mach 2 speed with precision. Thankfully I am hauling right now on a tight reach. A satellite pull on the boat earlier today had me trucking along at 22+ knots. I’m averaging 14-15 knots and it looks like the weather pattern is pretty good for the foreseeable future. I was really frustrated that I had to work my way around the high pressure system and Gutek was able to cut the corner, devouring my hard fought lead. It will now be a full-on drag race with an unknown outcome.  

The data you see online shows a margin of about 100 miles between Gutek and I, yet remember that is based on distance to finish in Cape Town. The reality is we have both chosen a lane. Gutek has been forced to try and come down closer to my latitude. I have a slight advantage on him… let’s say VERY SLIGHT. My advantage is of course being in front. I have a strategy and I’m sticking to my plan. My disadvantage is that I am being hunted. Gutek can come up with tactics to crush my plan.

The St. Helena high is a series of high pressure systems that form and come off the Brazilian coast. They tend to march toward Cape Town and I am hanging on to one the best I can. When it gets out in front of us, we’ll have to start gybing. This will offer up tactical opportunities and passing lanes right to the finish. The situation will keep me very busy, but should also make for exciting racing!

Thanks for checking in. Don’t forget to view some of the videos at www.velux5oceans.com.

Cheers,
Brad

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Free of Doldrums, Crossed Equator and Cruising in Trades

Hello from Le Pingouin,

I am trucking along in the southeast trades off the coast of Brazil making some miles, but it is not comfortable sailing as it is almost upwind  and very wet on deck.  Everything with the boat seems in order and the autopilots have now had enough mileage in all conditions that their never ending auto-learn software has the boat so wired that it makes me look average at steering.  It is really quite remarkable that the technology has come so far in the last few years.  The last time I did this race, the “cat’s meow” was being able to rely on true wind steer features while steering off the breeze.  At that time NKE, Raymarine and B&G were all in on the game and now have it pretty wired. The next challenge seems to be eliminating masthead movement through motion sensors and software, which makes for very steady wind data. The net result is that the wake in my current 20 knots of tight reach steering to wind looks like a pair of train tracks off the twin rudders. B&G seems to have it working.  We’ll see very soon how this all works in the “full noise” atmosphere of the southern ocean very soon!

It was a big day of excitement crossing the equator yesterday. The gratification of getting half way to Cape Town was brief, as I quickly realized there is still a long way to go.  I am really enjoying the boat and getting to know her traits.  I swear, she has more lifelike personality than any boat I have sailed. One very nice lifestyle factor is that I have not been running the engine to charge the batteries. It makes for really nice sailing! The wind pushing the boat along also spins my hydrogenerators, which have been making enough power so far to drive my electrical needs. 

Harnessing the power of the wind is how the world connected for centuries on sailing ships. It is my opinion that it will once again be the wave of sustainable living.  The Cape Wind project in New England, and founder Jim Gordon, get it and inevitably will prove this concept on a commercial scale. I think the tides in the U.S. reluctance to real change will set in.  That is my prediction and why I proudly support their cause. 

I think someone is also going to get very rich when they figure out how to harness these tradewinds I have been sailing in for essentially 10 days (see I am already beginning to force the Doldrums from my memory).  Another certainty is that our world will be a lot quieter, cooler and peaceful if my little pod here on the ocean is any indication, using only wind, sun and waves to power the 30,000 miles around the globe. It may be a small slice of what could happen on a global scale, limiting or eliminating the use of fossil fuels to power our modern day needs.

Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox.  But it’s true!

Cheers,
Brad

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Okay, Let's Get Personal

Okay, let’s get personal. Leaving land and taking on this incredible race has been epic. But there are some very important people at home. Here is a small glimpse of the few communications I have with those that mean the most!

Tate, my 8 year old daughter, October 25 

Daddy,
It is Tate writing you from bed. What are u doing right now? Can u send a photo of what u are doing when u get this message? I wonder what I will do tomorrow. I wonder what u will do tomorrow. I wonder about a lot of things. I want u to put a note in a bottle and send it out to sea. I wonder what the sea looks like right now. I hope u are saying goodnight because I am. Love, Tate. Miss u a lot.


My Reply to Tate, October 26

Hi Tate,

I got your message last night.  Thank you for the note.  I think of you too a whole lot and miss you.  I can’t wait to see you in Africa in 3 weeks or less.  Everything out here on the ocean is fine.  The boat is doing great and out here. She is sort of my only friend so I talk to her sometimes.  I know it sounds weird but it helps me not be lonely. I was telling her that we were going to have a family slumber party on her in Cape Town.  She then started going really fast like she liked the idea and could understand me.  I think she also likes to show off a little because whenever she knows the race people are watching how fast we are going, she goes a little faster than the rest of the time.  Another crazy girl in my life, like you and your mommy weren’t enough!   I sent you a photo of me with the ocean behind for you to see, like you wanted.  I took it right when I got your note in the very early morning.

Of course I can leave a message in a bottle for you.  You have to think about what you want the message to say and let me know.  If you want I could leave it right at the equator and then if someone finds it and contacts you, then you will know whether it went into the southern hemisphere or the northern hemisphere.  Maybe your mommy can show you what I mean on a map or globe.

I promise I’ll keep thinking of you lots especially when I am going to sleep.   You do the same, okay!

I love you very much,

Daddy


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Flying the Kite

Flying the spinnaker only happens when you are certain (at least as certain as you can be) that the weather isn’t going to expose you to a scary situation. I am speaking of the very tricky maneuver of trying to get the kite down solo in winds that exceed your ability to slide the sock, a housing that contains it like a sausage, down over the sail bringing it to the deck.

It sounds like Gutek and I were playing the same game about a week ago, using our kites to get through the low pressure system (which is when I took the below photo).  Fortunately, I did not get caught with my pants down in a gale like he did.  I have had it happen, and it is truly frightening. You wonder whether you can contain the situation before the rig jumps out of the boat with the sail. In addition to that very unfortunate scenario, you know if one little piece of the sail hits the water while you are trying to contain it, a lot more sail is about to be dragged into the water and you will be trying to get it back on the boat for hours while parked and losing precious miles. 

Below is a photo of probably the largest unbranded spinnaker in all of pro sailing.  Let’s do something about that! Honestly, these beautiful Quantum sails are working their magic and there is a lot of space for logos. Cape Wind is our latest supporting sponsor and they have an eco-challenge out there to encourage additional sponsorship funds from both individuals and companies. Check it out online at www.oceanracing.org

Thanks for checking in,

Brad

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Hauling the Mail on a Flat Reach - Balancing the House of Cards



I am finally experiencing the textbook reaching conditions these boats are built for. All of a sudden, the pain of working through and around the low pressure system for the first few days seems a sensible trade.  It was a painful baptism by fire but Le Pingouin (LP) and I are better for it.  We are forging a great bond, but more on that later. I don’t have all the answers yet to her full cadre of personal charms and challenges. I can tell you that this boat flat out “hauls the mail” on a flat reach and I have never soloed such a weapon. 

My Finot 50 (Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America) was a fantastic boat and deserved retirement as a movie star (Charlie St. Cloud), but this thing feels like wielding Excalibur.  Sometimes I have to just stop… and say there is something just not right about doing 22 knots in 20 knots of breeze on 60 foot monohull.

“Should I really go lie down right now?” 
“What would happen if we hit something right now?”

It is fantastic to experience and I although the fleet and I will share many videos from offshore, I still don’t feel like enough people have felt the raw exhilaration of such an experience. At least this was my feeling alone by myself on a beautiful full moonlit night.

BUT!!!!

All of the above comes with a counterpoint.   There is a scary backside.   These boats are incredibly powerful and seem barely manageable by one person, despite all of the sailing I have encountered alone at sea.  It does feel at times as if you are constantly balancing a house of cards; that when, and sometimes it will, come tumbling down; your race boat or life could well be over.

That kind of moment occurred on board LP the other night when my yet to be named, and super necessary, port autopilot lost power to the drive motor.  While I was lying down on the floor next to the nav station the boat steered through a gybe (steered through the wind from behind) which instantly left everything, including the powerful sail plan, swing keel and yours truly all on the wrong side of the boat.  It was a sudden and violent maneuver with the boat slammed to its side far enough that the sails lay flat against the sea. A fleeting moment passed quickly in the chaos as I feared hearing the crack of the carbon mast exploding, leaving the boat’s rig and my dreams of a circumnavigation to fold. I am familiar with this type of situation, and so are other solo ocean racing sailors, but it has never happened for me like it did on this boat.  In my dazed and nearly asleep state of mind on a dark, rainy night, the event was so violent that I initially thought my keel had snapped and the boat was going turtle. 

I was able to resolve the mess and slowly pick up my cards and build my house again. LP gave me a break by not letting anything break.   Now we have another bit of respect for each other.  Initially I thought the batteries had drained low enough that the hard working autopilot wasn’t being given enough to eat, but while moving along yesterday on the other autopilot, a thorough inspection revealed that a power wire to the drive motor had come loose and was only intermittently making contact.  Yes, I was the one who wired the pilots myself, so I felt pretty darn stupid upon this discovery.

All’s well that ends well. Excalibur is an incredible weapon but can easily cut both ways.  On a lighter note, let’s get back to the fun part; anybody have any mail they need delivered?

Best,

BVL and LP

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Dog Fight on the Water

Do you remember in Top Gun when Viper (the old war veteran trainer at Top Gun) was dog fighting Maverick for the first time? After not being able to knock him out quickly, he says “damn this guy is good.”  Well, that is how I feel about Gutek.  He has played the right side of the course perfectly and I was trying to cover both sides as long as possible. He got out on me.  I am putting all I have left to get over there in time to stay in touch with him.  I have been through every sail change known to man the last couple of days, including night gybes of the Spinnaker. I try to reserve this maneuver for very special occasions as it is a big sail and having something go wrong could spell hours of clean up or worse.

My shout out of this blog is to Samson Rope.  I was sitting here last night with every ounce of sail this huge rig can muster. I stopped to think to myself “wow what a mess it would be if that little rope for the tack line on the kite parted.”  I don’t know what to do to fix that mess. It didn’t and as usual the rest of the Samson ropes on the boat are taking the punishment with a smile.

Thanks for checking in,
Brad

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It Ain't Easy To Get Used To Things

Update 19 October 0600

I'm still a bit under the weather, haven't been able to get any sleep just yet.  The weather's very tricky, plenty of big holes in the breeze, and lots of work; reefing and unreefing and changing the big front sails.

Ironically, one of my super eco-friendly hydrogenerators - the tools that will allow me to sail around the world without burning fossil fuels - caught a plastic trash bag and needed some repairs to the system that holds it down.  But we're good for the moment with a temp fix.

It is definitely a bit strange, getting back in the groove after so long away from solo racing, but lots of work aboard keeps my mind off shore side life, and things will settle in soon.  Looking forward to being more at home out here!

Love to all of you guys, thanks for checking in.

Best,

-Brad


[photos from Luiz Kahl; www.intercreate.com]


Monday, October 18, 2010

Truckin' To Finisterre

After a few minutes in second place just after the start of the VELUX5OCEANS race in La Rochelle, France, Brad overhauled the leading boat and was over the horizon within a few short hours.  Luiz, Nitro, JC, and Wazzle followed on a RIB and we'll have some pictures up shortly.

Brad extended his lead overnight, running with full sail downwind in beautiful autumn conditions.  As of 2000 CET/1400 EST Le Pingouin leads Operon by 16 miles, and continues to sail faster than his competition. 

You can see the fleet's progress at the official VELUX5OCEANS tracker here, and check back later for Brad's own update and the photos of the start.  Also check out Sailing Anarchy's story "Gone, Daddy, Gone" for links to the farewell ceremony on the dock and video coverage of the start.  VELUX has a great movie up as well.  Thanks for all the interest!


-Meaghan Van Liew

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Good Morning Start

Sunday, October 17

The build up to this morning has been amazing. Velux and the Clipper Ventures have really developed such an incredible experience, not only for the skippers and crew, but for the entire public. The docks are lined. Family, friends, fans and thousands of others have rallied for this special day. I want to thank all of the individuals and sponsors who have helped get here. It is nice to have family here. My father is on the docks, along with his cousin from Annapolis. It will be hard to say goodbye to Meg and the kids. I am eager to see how the “42 year old version” of this race works.

The weather looks good. The first 500 miles will be focused on getting through safely. Cape Finisterre is heavy with fishing and other commercial traffic. The Bay of Biscay can of course be one of the most treacherous places on Earth, but right now it looks as if we may have pleasant North to Northeasterlies and 15-20 knots. Not bad considering the beating the bay has delivered in the past.

I look forward to getting offshore and sharing the journey with you!

Au revoir,
Brad

24 Hours to the Start

Saturday, October 16

Le Pingouin is looking good and the “keys” have officially been passed from my incredible shore based team to me. We’ve cleared all pre-race inspections and met the criteria for the start. The scrutineering is a rather involved process. The sails were all checked in with race officials and to comply with the stability test we had to move the keel back and forth to verify that it does not cause the boat to heel beyond the allowed limit. The displacement of the boat was also confirmed by measuring freeboard.

Today was filled with the last activities in prep for the start on Sunday. This included shopping for fresh provisions to accompany my staple diet of AlpineAire dehydrated meals and Grawnola. I’ve packed some fresh fruits, bread, and sausage which will be nice treats for the first week offshore. Other than the shopping I put my head around the lifestyle onboard for the race, so we cleaned the boat, took any unnecessary weight off, added sleeping bags and double checked utility items like flashlights. It is somewhat of a “pre-launch” sequence to make sure I am ready to roll tomorrow. The tiniest detail can in fact throw you for a loop. In 2002 I forgot a hairbrush and spent 40 days forking my hair.

Every racer has their own way of preparing for the adjustment from life on land to the solo racing lifestyle onboard. My fellow competitor Chris from England has already started torturing himself a bit with sleep deprivation and the transition to sleeping in small bits. My philosophy is more like jumping into a cold pool. I’m not very good at doing things slowly, so I go straight from a pretty standard schedule on land to the intensity of 25 minute naps and a total of about 4 hours sleep in each 24 hour period. The first 24-48 hours is tough and I won’t sleep. I tend to knock myself into exhaustion mode in those first couple days at sea. The first 5 days at sea tends to feel like 1/3 of the journey. The next 5 days feels like another 1/3. From there on out the pain has a nice settling affect and I hit my groove. This is all of course based on my past experience of solo races around the world in 1998/99 and 2002/3 and ocean crossings before and after those epic events. We’ll have to see if the VELUX 5 OCEANS of 2010-11 changes those patterns.

I’ll be sending one more blog as a Sunday treat, and then it is on the boat and on my way to Cape Town. Thanks for checking in and please do continue, as the stories will get more interesting as the race begins!

Brad

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Competition Strong and Talent Runs Deep

The competition in this race will be as intense as anything I have faced before. Some have asked me about the number of entries and suggested that fewer boats might equal less intense competition. Not so. The racers that are here in La Rochelle appear 100% committed and the talent runs deep.

Here’s a quick look at the competition I face:

Derek Hatfield cannot be underestimated as a serious threat, sailing a boat that has previously beaten my Le Pingouin on many occasions. During the 2002-3 Around Alone, Derek’s boat (then sailed by Thierry Dubois) smoked Le Pingouin (then sailed by Simone Bianchetti) in every leg of the race. Derek is a man on a mission in his third solo race around the world. He is determined to have a successful voyage following a valiant sail in the Vendee Globe that ended exactly half way around with damage to his rig.

Gutek Gutkowski from Poland is determined. He is a strapping strong guy with experience. He ran the ORMA 60 Bonduelle and also served as Watch Captain onboard WARTA-POLPHARMA in The Race, the non-stop race around the world for multihulls. He appears totally determined and would be the first Polish sailor to race solo around the world. He also has a hefty load of inshore racing experience, a strong team on land and a new sponsor.

Chris Stanmore-Major will be an interesting challenge. He is super focused and intense. Having just finished captaining one of the Clipper Round the World boats, his skin’s still wet and his oillies (foul weather gear to those in the US) still smell. That can be an advantage, having been in the offshore mindset so recently for a complete circumnavigation. He is confident and has a strong look of intent, which reminds me a bit of me when I took on my first solo race around in 1998-99. Chris is no underdog though, sailing the champion boat Giovanni Soldini won the race with in 1999.

Christophe Bullens may have been the best prepared of all entries, until the devastating loss of his rig and sails on his way to the start. He completed his qualifying sail before anyone else, and seemed to have ample time training with his boat. With no time to repair the boat he intended to sail, he is faced with looking at other ECO-60 boats end how race-ready they might be. The guy was a tank Commander in the military for eight years and sails 10,000 miles per year, so his boat maybe a wild card, but he appears ready to race. I hope he finds a race boat that he is comfortable and confident racing.

So there you have it. My brief and personal look at those that are here to face 30,000 miles at sea alone in the VELUX 5 OCEANS. Some have done it before; others are new to the game. All appear steadfast in their intent to compete hard and win. I’m sure we will learn more as the race gets underway and we are all challenged by the elements. If you have not been checking the race website at www.velux5oceans.com there are some great news stories, photos and videos posted everyday.

Cheers and stay tuned as we get closer to Sunday’s start,

Brad

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Pace is Picking Up

The pace is getting faster as time marches forward. The start of the race is within sight at only eleven days away. The race village is taking shape. Tents surround the waterfront, with the Velux House as a central attraction adjacent to the race boats here in La Rochelle. It is a delicate balance right now between the logistics that go into preparing to start a 30,000 solo race around the globe and the emotions to do the same. The bottom line is that in less than two weeks I will depart here and head out with not just a goal to sail from France to South Africa as the first sprint of the race, but leave my children, Tate and Wyatt, and all the comforts of life on land.

On the technical side, we hauled the boat last week to work on one of the rudder bearings. We anticipated putting her back in the water this week, but the weather forecast changed enough that we had to rush and get the boat re-launched in front of a significant rain and wind storm.  We have been looking over everything onboard with a fine tooth comb and have the running rigging work complete, as well as the sails getting a thorough check in the loft.  The engine and charging system have been serviced.  There are a lot of moving parts, and with our small team it is important to stay in tune with how the work list looks when positioned beside the timeline.  I am busy in a few different directions and need to juggle training, scrutineering by the race committee, boat prep, family and several other areas.

The unfortunate news of the day is that Cristophe from Belgium has dismasted while delivering his boat to La Rochelle for the start of the race. This is a really big bummer as he was the first qualified racer and had accumulated more experience on his boat than any of us.

As we used to say at USC (that is So Cal for those reading from Charleston)… Fight On!

We’ll be back with more news shortly,
Brad

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It is Great to Be in La Rochelle

Location: La Rochelle, France

It is great to be here in La Rochelle, where the VELUX 5 OCEANS race will start on October 17th. That final stretch across the Atlantic was frustratingly slow, however light winds in the Bay of Biscay are always welcome. It was refreshing to dock in the beautiful, historic city of La Rochelle and step off Le Pingouin to old but familiar faces and the tackle that came from Tate and Wyatt. A huge thanks goes to my small but able crew who not only endured the challenges of sailing across the Atlantic despite tropical storms and hurricanes, but also readily accepted the small living space, limited sleep, constant review of systems, water rations, and such. Thanks to JC Caso, Brendan Fitzgerald, and Tim Eble! 

We have a long list of work to take care of on the boat, but nothing too daunting for the time we have before the start. All would be better if we had a Title Sponsor, but the team is working hard and getting the job done. Kudos need to go out to the Velux and race organizers Clipper Ventures for the professional team they have assembled and the loads of support and incentives they are providing to qualified entries in the race.

It is also great to see Derek Hatfield and his Active House race boat arrive in La Rochelle. Other competitors are expected to arrive this week and it will be nice to see the fleet taking shape as we near the two week countdown to the start this Sunday.

Thanks for checking in. Enjoy the photos below from the arrival in La Rochelle.

Cheers,

Brad
My wife Meaghan and the kids caught their first sight of Le Pingouin from the lift bridge





I steer the Le Pingouin into the basin through the lock

Our children Tate and Wyatt tackle me on the dock



I am joined on deck by (L to R) Brendan Fitzgerald, JC Caso and Tim Eble
The crew is ready for a cold beer and a home cooked meal

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

09:00 UTC
Lat: 046 degrees 30.491 North
Long: 004 degrees 54.009 West
Heading: 105 degrees
Average SOG: 4.61 Knots
 
In early fall a high pressure system centered on the Bay of Biscay is a very unlikely occurrence. It is actually currently centered on just about our exact location. Le Pingouin and my anxious crew are slowly motoring the last 200 miles of our voyage to La Rochelle.  An open 60 is not a very pleasant motoring environment, with barely a cover over the engine to keep things from getting fouled in the moving parts.  While our 27 horsepower Italian friend (the engine is a Nanny built in Italy) bangs away in the living compartment, talking is more like yelling at each other and ear plugs are a good way to keep from going hard of hearing while sleeping. We endure this to watch the speedo register 4.5 – 5 knots.  After averaging better than 10 knots over the last 4,000 miles we have sailed, and being so close yet so far away, it seems an unjust reward.

This transat has proven to be exactly what the boat and I needed.  I have learned a great deal about the boat and have become comfortable with the new Harken deck layout and handling characteristics of the latest version of Le Pingouin.   In the meantime, we have had every weather condition and sailing angle. Over 4,000 miles we have shaken the boat out pretty hard.  We have a long list of minor repairs and tweaks to do that is headed up by battery charging and water maker issues.  The improvements and changes to the boat have already proven their value.  The new set of sails by Quantum are awesome and the nicest I have owned. The B & G autopilot and instrument package has proven capable of taking over the helmsman position whatever the conditions, which in 50 knots of North Atlantic slop is saying something.   The speed record for the yet to be named pilots is so far 22.4 knots but I am sure that will be a mere memory as the new Le Pingouin crew of "B & G and me" get more miles under our belt.  The Samson rope package is now pretty well fine tuned with the ongoing tweaking that we were doing as we plodded across the pond.  All this and the lifestyle package of Gill foul weather gear, Dubarry sea boots, the familiar Alpine Aire food that has accompanied me on my 2 previous journeys around the world, and some Grawnola for breakfast have proven to provide for a comprehensive yet minimalist approach to long distance voyaging in the name of safely getting to the next stopover as quickly as possible.  If this all sounds like a sponsor plug it sort of is, but the reality is that not only are these suppliers one of the reasons we have gotten this far, but they are also hand chosen to create a comprehensive on the water package for successfully pursuing a 3rd circumnavigation. 

The whole team is anxious to re-assemble in France.  The shore support crew has a daunting list and with a super limited budget they need as much time with the boat as possible.  Meaghan and I are anxious to be together with the kids for a couple of weeks before the race starts, while we are also distracted by the very serious business of keeping the campaign alive through an ongoing and exhaustive sponsorship search.  It is a bit shocking that we have come so far and have yet to find the sponsorship necessary to ensure we can make the race happen. Through the help of companies like Ondeck and many others (some of whom would rather not be named) we will be qualified with a race ready boat on October 17th when the fleet departs on Leg 1 from La Rochelle to Cape Town.  Now it is time to pull a rabbit out of the hat and get some big bills paid before the start so the show may go on.   I guess if it was easy, everyone would do it!

As a way to thank everyone who has put their back into this project I am going to randomly and periodically give a shout out in my updates throughout the race.  It may not mean something to all who follow these reports, but to those who do know it is a small tribute of appreciation.  So, Kurt Oberle and his crew from High and Dry Boatworks… you are the inaugural super stars.  The Awlgrip job is hangin' tough.

It is great to be back on the line with my feet in the chocks and I look forward to sharing another great adventure with all who may be interested.

Until next time,
Brad         

Monday, September 20, 2010

Under 1000 and Counting

September 20, 2010
14:30:00 UTC
Lat: 047 degrees 07.748 North
Long: 013 degrees 35.154 West
Heading: 085 degrees
Speed (SOG): 13.61 Knots


We are under 1,000 miles to La Rochelle, France and we all feel ready to be there.  The sailing at the moment is easy miles with winds out of the SW at about 15 knots with Le Pingouin gently loping along under a full main and Code sail. We are doing 12 knots or so with spurts up to 15 knots.   We have accumulated a list of plenty of things to get done prior to the start, but nothing alarming.  It includes a whole lot of shake down type items from tweaking the rig to electrical and other minor repairs.  We hope to arrive Wednesday afternoon in France, but the wind could go soft while we transit the Bay of Biscay. Getting slowed down in this notorious body of water is better than the alternative. Hopefully it won’t knock us off our time line.

We have been trying to get some things off the punch list as we have worked our way across the Atlantic, hence the shot of me whipping a line that has been cut to its race ready length eliminating as much spaghetti in the cockpit as possible. For anyone who has the impression of a yachty lifestyle aboard an open 60 in full regalia, see the shot of Tim Eble taking a relaxing bit of time off between watches to catch a nap. Thanks for checking in with us during the final few days!

All the best,
Brad



Thursday, September 16, 2010

North Atlantic Pounding

Position Sept 16, 11:00:00
Lat: 044 degrees 31.350 North
Long: 039 degrees 09.450 West
Heading: 053 degrees
Speed Over Ground: 8.5 Knots

Check for the latest position 24/7 online at http://live.adventuretracking.com/velux191

The night before last proved to be a real test for the recently refit Le Pingouin. We had a pretty intense 45-50 knot North Atlantic pounding and she took it in good stride with only minor jobs being added to our checklist for the final prep in France. With the start of the race creeping up on October 17, we will have our work cut out for us. A small tear in our very stellar new mainsail is a frustration, but we know what we need to do to change the lazy bag and reef setup to keep the rain and sea water from taking such a toll. 
  
We’ve made nice headway despite the beating and laid down a few good 24 hour runs, which means our friends Igor and Julia (current hurricanes in the Atlantic if you haven’t been following the weather as closely as we are) won’t mess things up too much. I can tell you by looking at the grib files that there is no way I would want to be where we were two days ago in the coming week.  Yikes! These Atlantic transats during tropical season can present some interesting situations! So following our great 24 hour runs, we are currently parked up in a ridge that is dogging us. Thanks for checking in on our progress. We are looking forward to arrival in France! Keep up with the blog, Facebook and Twitter on our website at www.oceanracing.org.

Best Regards,
Brad 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Getting Comfortable... Not Really

Lat: 040 degrees 10.763 North
Long: 065 degrees 01.831 West
Course: 059 degrees
Average Speed over Ground: 11.48 Knots

Today feels like a turnaround, as we have settled in as a crew and the boat seems to have settled in as well.   The days are starting to melt together and we are clicking along at 15-18 knots, well on our way to France now.  Lifestyle onboard is very “Open 60.”  It is wet, fast and hard to do much more personal hygiene than brush your teeth and baby wipe some salt off.   Meals consist of our staple Alpine Aire dehydrated food along with Grawnola for breakfast. Lots of coffee and tea keep the crew in and out of the bean bags (AKA beds). For a crew of four living aboard in this stark, small space designed for one, it gets especially interesting when we are forced to relieve ourselves in a bucket with our head poking out the aft hatch. No visuals:) The boat feels very happy to be back to work at last, as do I.  She and I have been having a few discussions and I think we agree that coming out of hiatus is a good idea, but reluctant at times. Thanks for checking in with our progress. 

Check out our latest position at http://live.adventuretracking.com/velux191.

Cheers,
Brad

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Offshore Report #1

September 8, 2010
Position at 13:00:00
035 degrees 22.293 North
074 degrees 52.664 West
Course: 034 degrees
Average Speed over Ground: 10.38 Knots

I know y’all have been patiently awaiting this first report from offshore! It was a great send-off in Charleston and thanks to all the amazing people that came down to the docks and also got out on the water to bring us all the way to the jetties. Live video coverage supported by Gill and Ondeck allowed even remote friends, fans and family a chance to experience the moment.  A special Labor Day indeed!

Yesterday was a lot of upwind sailing with me and the crew tacking Le Pingouin up the North Carolina coast. I think we are in for some much better conditions today and hopefully continuing throughout the week. As anticipated following a major refit, we are discovering various little gremlins on the boat as we sail that need to be fixed underway or noted for the worklist in France. We are having some alternator issues so JC and I are spending a good part of today working on it. The hydrogenerators are cranking away and their performance in generating juice for our electronics is just amazing. All is well onboard and I’ll report back as often as possible. The best news? You can track us at your leisure with the Yellowbrick system onboard. It is updated periodically with our position and other data. You can zoom in or out for as much detail as you wish to see. Here is the link…


http://live.adventuretracking.com/velux191

Cheers,

Brad

Photo by Dustin Ryan
Photo by Dustin Ryan
Photo by Dustin Ryan
Photo by Dustin Ryan

Dustin's website: www.dustinryan.com/Charleston-Photography
Link to view more photos and/or purchase: http://dustinkryan.photoshelter.com/

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Live Coverage of the Departure Online

If you are in or near Charleston, we hope you will be on the water tomorrow to see Le Pingouin and Team Lazarus depart to cross the Atlantic for the start of the Velux 5 Oceans race around the world. If not... our friends at Sailing Anarchy are going to bring it to you LIVE online. They'll start shooting at around 9am ...at the docks and continue for the 11am dockside send-off and ongoing 'til we are out the jetties and off the France. Supported by our favorite technical apparel company Gill! Catch it live: http://www.oceanracing.org/LIVE.html

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Leaving for the Start

We are preparing for a departure at 11:00am on Monday (Labor Day). This will be the time we expect to leave the Seabreeze Marina dock in Charleston. Busy today and tomorrow loading gear, provisions, etc. Landlubbers can wave us off the dock at 11am Monday and those planning to get on the water will see us shortly thereafter in the harbor. Please stay tuned to this blog or our Facebook page for any updates/changes. Thanks for all your enthusiasm and support!

Brad

Monday, August 30, 2010

Second Day on the Water with More Wind

We had more of the same yesterday on our second day of sail testing, tweaking and prep work for the race. We had 20 knots of breeze out of the east, so the winds were up a bit. We’ll be working with Spinlock today on the jammers and continuing to tune the rig. We’ll also mount the hydrogenerators and get them running again for our zero fossil fuel goal. Thanks to the Quantum Sail team for all their help and the best looking sails I have ever owned!

Cheers,
Brad

Photos by Dustin K. Ryan

Sunday, August 29, 2010

First Real Sail Ends in Blasting Down the Channel at 20 Knots

Yesterday was our first real sail following the complete refit of Le Pingouin. We took off from the marina at about 11:00am and headed out of Charleston Harbor. The weather was looking perfect for a true test of our complete new sail inventory. Farley with Quantum Sails was onboard, along with my crew, volunteers, and a computer specialist who continues to dial in the nav station equipment and offshore communications.

We had some real breeze once we were out of the harbor, but everything went as smoothly as I could hope for. We started with 3 reefs in the mainsail and the staysail, then 2 reefs in the mainsail and the solent, and worked our way up to the gennaker. Of course we have a punch list of things to do after this initial outing and some refining to do on the deck layout, but overall this baby can run!

On our way back into the harbor in the late afternoon we were blasting down the channel at 20 knots. We will continue to tweak and tune the boat on another sail today. Thanks to Dustin Ryan for enduring the rough weather to capture images and John Bowden for driving the chase boat!

Cheers,
Brad
Photo by Dustin K. Ryan
Photo by Dustin K. Ryan

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Getting Close to Launch

I am excited to report that Le Pingouin has moved out of the shed. She is looking great and we are on our way to having the keel installed. Installing a canting keel into one of these boats is a very involved process. We’ve used hydraulic jacks to pump the keel up into the bottom of the boat. CMMC Machine has made some beautiful new stainless steel parts for us and all of their machine work looks to be spot on. The crew at Detyens Shipyard has once again proved they are real pros. After we get the keel affixed to the boat, we’ll move on to putting the rig together and getting this baby in the water. Enjoy the photos below!

Thanks for checking in,
Brad



Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Le Pingouin

Allow me to introduce Le Pingouin. This name is actually not new to the boat. Back in 1998 when the boat was built in France Catherine Chabaud registered the boat with officials as Le Pingouin, although her sponsor Whirlpool took the large share of branding. Although the boat changed hands several times and donned the graphics of many corporate sponsors, it has always been technically registered as Le Pingouin. Having circled the globe three times already, I think she has a rich heritage in the world of ocean racing.

Despite an enormous amount of time and effort in seeking a Title/Naming Sponsor for the upcoming race, we have not secured a company wishing to brand the 10,000 square feet of space available on the sails and hull and enjoy the vast media and hospitality perks. So without an all-American brand or global company involved, we went back to the roots of the boat, just as I have gone back to my roots of ocean racing after years of land-based activities. We hope the graphics, designed by cre843, showcase the potential for creative branding onboard. When we land a Title/Naming Sponsor, the name of the boat and lion’s share of graphics will be changed to reflect the graphic choices of the sponsor.

So what about that penguin? Meg thinks he looks angry. I say he is determined. The prospect of sailing 30,000 miles alone in some of the roughest ocean terrain is intimidating, and I think you need a certain amount of tension to face the challenges. A perky, happy penguin image would not be right for the race. I expressed my emotions about the race and preparations for the event with Brian Zimmerman of cre843, a design firm based in Charleston. He developed the friendly but fierce penguin and the design of the hull, deck and sails.

You might see our tagline in some of the photos which states “FULL NOISE OR NO NOISE.” It takes extreme measures to get a boat race-ready with a small team and limited funding. We are either pushing really hard or chilling out. We do it right or we don’t do it at all. Offshore, this translates into an attitude of determination and using every ounce of physical and mental energy I have to compete well and be the first American to officially complete three solo races around the world.

We will get more great photos as the branding is complete and we roll Le Pingouin out of the shed. Thanks to all the individuals and companies that have been supportive of our efforts thus far, including B&G, Simrad, Gill, Samson, Awlgrip, Harken, High and Dry Boatworks, Alpine Aire, Detyens, CMMC Machine, Charleston Rigging, and many others. Thanks for checking in!

Cheers,
Brad

Photos below by Tim Eble:


My son Wyatt checking out the boat - Photo by Meaghan

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Come Visit Us This Thursday

Hi All,

Many local businesses have been supportive of the Lazarus Project and getting us (almost) through the refit and race-ready. West Marine has been a great help and will host a casual reception this Thursday evening starting at 6:30pm at their West Ashley location. I'll show some video from the last race and also provide a personal update on the current project with photos of our progress. Come down for a visit and check it out before we launch the boat in August and take off for the start of the Velux 5 Oceans in France on October 17. The race will not visit Charleston until April/May 2011, so it should be fun to get together now and tell you more about the upcoming race and the fleet to expect next year. Food and beverages will be served courtesy of West Marine.

West Marine in West Ashley
Thursday July 15, at 6:30pm
975 Savannah Hwy. (by the Coburg Cow)


If you have any questions, feel free to call West Marine at 843.573.0123

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Refit Continues at Full Throttle

We are slammed at the shop right now trying to wrap up all the work on the boat while she is off the keel.  We are starting to make real headway on putting the boat back together at this point.  I am fully absorbed in the wiring and installation of the new B&G system at the moment, while others are working on a complete new deck layout.  I wish we were rolling out of the shed now but it will probably be the 1st of August at this point.  The work also continues with having to re-fair the keel. A pretty serious survey required taking the fairing off the keel to conduct the necessary ultrasound, flex test, and die penetration testing. The really great news is that the boat will be fantastic and I feel very confident in the work Jeffrey and all the boys have put in.

Outside of the boatyard, the last two weeks have been busy with media commitments. A videography crew from England came in for three days to capture all the pre-race preparations and the lifestyle of getting ready for the big race. Charleston Magazine also sent over a photographer for a feature coming out in their August issue. It is quite a balancing act with the hard core work at the yard, sponsorship talks and making sure we keep the story rolling out for all to see. The start is just three months away, so it feels like there is still a lot to accomplish. Thanks to my shore support team, volunteers and supporting sponsors for all the hard work that is going into this endeavor!

Thanks for checking in. I will keep news posted as we make progress.

Cheers,
Brad

Thursday, June 24, 2010

TV News and a Bright New Paint Job

Big news this week!  First, the announcement of the reality TV show for the North American market related to the Velux 5 oceans is a HUGE step forward for getting attention to the sport of single-handed racing in the US market. Phil Keoghan is a big name in Hollywood and he is committed to hosting and producing a show that brings major exposure to the sport. Can we actually get the sport to the same revered status here in the US as in France and England? If so, then Katy bar the door on the future of this sport!

Second, the boat will be very yellow.  At least until a title sponsor tells us to cover it with their branding.  We are talking bright yellow… “watch out, here I am yellow.”  Things are going well and thankfully we have some supporters that feel the passion of what we are trying to do for the sport of sailing and allowing the project to stay on track.  However, we do need to secure a Title/Naming Sponsor that sees the value in 10,000 square feet of branding and 12 months of media exposure worldwide. Supporting sponsors are a big help and collectively make a big impact, plus add credibility to all we intend to do. There is no doubt we have real evidence of the media return and benefits to sponsors, with Balance Bar and Tommy Hilfiger seeing $25 million+ in media value.

For now the campaign is about all of us that love the sport of sailing and what it offers in so many ways.  Please take pride in the bold and brash statement this boat will make when it comes out of the shed.  Race cars have nothing on the adventure of sailing the world’s oceans. It is time for the rest of the world to reunite with the sport that spawned the way the world was explored and traded upon for thousands of years!

Regards and more info soon,
Brad

Photos courtesy of Kurt Oberle, High and Dry Boat Works and Awlgrip


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Paint is Flying

At this point we have really turned the corner with the refit of the boat.  We are putting new paint on and next we will be putting all the systems back together.  This will involve electronics, deck hardware, rudder bearings, standing rigging, running rigging and everything else that makes a race boat ready, right down to the line bags in the cockpit.  While we are behind our original schedule, we are still very much focused on getting the boat launched with plenty of time to be fully up to speed for the delivery back to France later this summer. 

The fun part over the next two weeks or so will be sharing the re branding of the boat as the paint continues to fly.  As with any paint job, the rewarding part is to see the primers and colors start to go down. After weeks of prep work the payoff is when you lay paint on the boat to see the fruits of all the labor that went into sanding, filling, sanding again and again and then finally prepping for the color. Thanks to Awlgrip for their support and the many others that have contributed to the refit.

More pictures of the painting will come soon.

All the best,
Brad

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Shop Talk

Sailing Anarchy stopped by the shop for a 19-minute interview about the campaign, the challenging nature of corporate sponsorship in ocean racing, and the meaning of 'Full Noise or No Noise!', Team Lazarus's slogan.  Check out the Sailing Anarchy Innerview below!
http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=406307449338&saved

Or visit www.sailinganarchy.com

Monday, May 10, 2010

Down to the Bones of the Boat - Time to Rebuild

May 10, 2010

At this point we are deep into the refit of the ECO 60 for the upcoming VELUX 5 OCEANS race. Considering the start is merely five months away, we still have a whole lot to get done. The location we have in North Charleston is proving to be a great shop, albeit hot and getting hotter by the day. You will see by the photos posted that we are at a stage where the boat is completely deconstructed. There is nothing left on deck. A huge hole was cut out to remove the housing for the old Fleet 77 satellite gear. This bulbous techno-ball of communication will be replaced by something about 1/8th the size and weight thanks to modern technology. The winches are all off and we are rebuilding the winch package and replacing parts as needed. There is exposed carbon fiber (itchy!) and we are building carbon parts to facilitate the new deck layout. It has been hard work for all involved, but also refreshing as we have turned the corner and can begin reconstruction. We are anxiously awaiting some new gear from Harken and Spinlock, who have been super-supportive.

The workspace we created at the warehouse includes some work benches we built, stairs to get up on deck, and ample space for all the gear coming off the boat. We brought in some retired luxuries from home as well, including a mini-refrigerator and old BBQ grill. So half-way through the day we all take a short break and someone is in charge of mastering some hot dogs, hamburgers, or hunting treats like venison and wild hog. Too bad we don’t have that awesome custom of siestas here in the U.S. By the end of the afternoon we are all pretty much shagged. There is only one place to go when covered in grease, carbon fiber, and other goodies… the shower!

Thanks for checking in.

Cheers,
Brad


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Off the Keel and in the Shed

It has been another couple very busy days at the shipyard, getting the keel removed from the race boat and moving her into the shed. The keel has not been removed from the boat since 2004, and the good news is that it was terribly difficult to detach from the hull… hard for the crew yet reassuring that it was built right and should never be easily separately from the bottom of the boat! It took a great deal of physical labor, with the guys banging on the different plates that hold it into the boat, lots of wiggling, and the final use of hydraulic jacks to lower the keel out.

Once the massive tungsten keel was detached from the hull, we lifted the boat out of her cradle and onto a flatbed trailer. Once again, the skilled crew at Detyens Shipyard proved invaluable, helping us carefully move the boat into the warehouse in North Charleston. We then devised a system using chainfalls from Charleston Rigging to hang the boat from the rafters of the building, which allowed us to get the boat off the trailer and lower it down onto the bunks from the cradle. Essentially this whole process will allow for the shore team to have reasonable access to the boat in a safe and shaded space. We are ready for the refit to begin!

Cheers and thanks for keeping up with our progress,
Brad