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.


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,

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,

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,

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.


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…




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!