Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Refit Begins

An enormous shipbuilding crane hauled our ECO 60 out of the water at Detyens Shipyard in North Charleston yesterday, where hardworking shipbuilders and technicians supervised the gentle placement of the racing yacht in a custom-built cradle nearby.Yes, it made us all a bit nervous seeing the light, thin skinned carbon baby swinging from water to land, but thankfully we had experts on hand! We will conduct a comprehensive refit over the next three months in a building on the old Charleston Navy Base in preparation for the VELUX 5 OCEANS 2010-11 race.

The complete refit will include extensive work disassembling the rig, rudders, keel and daggerboards, while the entire deck layout and sail handling systems will be modified to suit my sailing style and the intricacies of sailing a 60-foot boat competitively alone. The electronics package is one of the most important performance tools on a modern racing yacht, and we will replace the entire system currently aboard the boat. The new system of radar, chart plotters, autopilots, and communications gear will be from B&G, with the latest high-performance chipsets and software.

A special thanks to Charleston Rigging, Pierside Boatworks, Seabreeze Marina, and Urban Electric for their support offered to the project.

Thanks for keeping up with our progress,

Photos by Meredith Block,

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Final Sail Before Haul & Refit

Today marks a significant milestone for our team as we proceed into boat rebuilding mode rather than acquire and evaluate the boat mode.  Tomorrow we plan to haul the boat out of the water and disassemble the rig, rudders, keel and dagger boards. That gear, along with the hull, will be safely at home in the shed where the refit will take place.  I will report with pictures on that process later this week.

While Meaghan and the rest of her team continue to pound the pavement for financial support and sponsorship, the boat side of our team had some serious things to consider for the upcoming refit.  We had to evaluate what to change and what not to change in an effort to make the boat as competitive as possible without busting our slim budget.  That process included going out for a sail off Charleston harbor one last time to finalize a few decisions before we haul the boat out of the water.  The good news is that we need to do fewer modifications than I initially thought. The list is still considerable.

The entire deck layout will be modified to accommodate a more current layout with reefing system lead aft, more adjustable jib lead systems and many more tweaks being able to happen from the cockpit.  We are even going to move the utility winches inboard and tie them to the coffee grinder in an effort to make the boat more “adjustable on the fly.”  This process will involve the special project teams from both Spinlock and Harken, in an effort to establish a think tank of resources to make sure things all mesh at the cockpit in an ergonomic and reliable way.  The other big job is that we will be replacing the electronics package.  The newer B&G pilots with the latest software have an uncanny knack for driving an Open 60 in the Southern Ocean and will be at the heart of our modernization of the boat from a performance point of view.  There is also going to be a long list of “freshen up” items as well.  The boat has done a Vendee Globe and a handful of Transatlantics since its last serious “fluff and buff” so that represents a significant portion of the work list.  Our final sail ended up being a great exercise in finalizing a work list and now it is time to execute!

Thanks for checking in,

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Eagle has Landed

Boy the crew was happy to see us. There was a particular look of relief on the face of my Project Manager, Jeffrey Wargo, who has been gone from his Johns Island home for more than 2 months. The extended delivery from France to Charleston was his longest offshore voyage, despite thousands of miles on competitive and leisure sailboats. His partner Liz Orsi and their dogs came out with me on the chase boat to cheer them on, as did Dr. Kevin Hogan, who was part of the original crew leaving France. The crew received our treats of food and cold beer with open arms, and continued their slow motor to the dock. It was great to greet my old friends Jeffrey and JC Caso, who will stay here in Charleston to execute the refit and preparations for the race, and also travel to each port of the race as my core shore support team. Adam Currier, who was just onboard for the delivery from Tenerife to Charleston, is a great guy who helped us out when we were in France as well. He barely made it here in time for his flight home to Lorient, France, but I’m sure we will see him again when we head to La Rochelle for the start of the race. The boat looks great and truly had a good beating on the delivery from France. She needs some love and we will get to work as soon as the boys get some sleep and feel rested enough to dig in to a pretty major project.

Thanks for following our progress.
Photo by Pepe Hernandez

Photo by Pepe Hernandez

Boat to Arrive this Morning in Charleston

I received word this morning at about 6:30 a.m. that the race boat was at the jetties entering Charleston Harbor. They are coming in slowly as they are fighting the tide and have limited horsepower for motoring. They expect to be at the dock by 8:30 a.m. at Seabreeze Marina on Immigration Street in downtown Charleston. I'm headed out onto the water to greet them and deliver some treats. I think food and sleep are probably high on their list at this point!

Thanks for checking in,

Sunday, March 7, 2010

No Rest for the Weary

15:00 GMT
30° 37’ North 79° 32 West

I remember the last few days of the Around Alone race in 2002/3. After more than 9 months and 140+ days cumulative at sea, I was afforded no gifts in the form of agreeable weather. It was brutal off the coast of the Northeast and I had propped myself in an interesting braced position down below to weather the violent pounding of upwind conditions and rough seas. My vision of the finish line was so tangible and real, yet seemed so far away considering the last beating I had to endure.

I think the crew may feel somewhat similar, in that they have been handed crappy weather throughout this 5-week odyssey… and the last 24 hours will be no different. I spoke with Jeffrey this morning and he, JC and Adam are REALLY ready to reach Charleston. However, the winds are all over the place, with Northerlies ranging from 330° to 020°. They are currently sailing West toward the coast between Jacksonville and Savannah. The weather models suggest they have a high pressure system coming which will provide them light and variable conditions for a while. Not exactly good news with an anxious crew! I expect they will arrive sometime between late this evening and 12:00 noon tomorrow (Monday). I’d place my marker on 7:00am, but as we always say, boats don’t have ETAs, they only have destinations. Thanks for checking in.

Specific requests of the crew upon arrival:
Fried chicken (hot or cold)
Mashed potatoes
Cole Slaw


Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Final Miles

14:00 GMT
29° 07’ North 76° 03’ West

The crew reported in this morning and they are about 300 miles from Charleston. They are shagged after several brutal days of 40+ knot winds, and 5 weeks at sea. I'd be cranky too! They'll likely be entering the Gulfstream later this evening and have high hopes to arrive Sunday evening. Right now they are headed due West upwind toward Jacksonville. This has been a truly good (and nerve racking) test of the boat. The crew has been stellar in their patience, as well as skill and determination. I can't wait to pass them a cold beer upon arrival in Charleston Harbor. Hopefully that will be Sunday night and not Monday morning!

View our latest newsletter here.

Thanks for keeping up with our news. As the boat comes in we will be sending the latest to Twitter via cell phone from the chase boat (AKA "the sandbox").


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Marathon Delivery Gets Longer as Intense Weather Halts Progress

14:00 GMT
27° 10’ North 72° 28’ West
Heading 000°

With just 400 miles to go, progress of our new (to us) Open 60 racing yacht in its quest to reach Charleston has been halted.  I guess it's sort of a fitting end to this most extraordinary of transatlantic marathons...I mean, deliveries...

In some ways, I wish I was with the boys to help them through what has proven to be a serious ass-whupping, and my help routing them feels a little inadequate considering what they've been dealing with.  With the mountains of weather data I had available ashore, I knew it was coming, and just before the storm hit them, I told Jeffrey "if you feel like boat or crew are at risk, even though it is a tough choice, just take a big left and put Charleston behind you."  Sure enough, after my fourth call with the crew last night, they'd done a big about-face and limped South with the handbrake on in 50-60 knots of wind.  The breeze isn't necessarily dangerous, but the sea state can be, and with the crew hand-steering in 30 minute shifts through true 30-footers (with the occasional monster breaking wave) in full survival gear, getting washed to the end of their tethers on a regular basis, they did what they had to do - stay safe!  

The end result is that our lovely new girl and our good friends are now 500 NM from home, having been beaten back about 100 miles by the weather.  Hopefully that's the last of it, and be sure to stay tuned to this blog and our website at for an updated arrival time, and for stories and pics from the crossing.

Thanks for checking it out!