Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pushing Hard to Keep the Lead

I have been pushing really hard in pretty rough conditions. Right now I am tight reaching with 20-25 knots of wind with it gusting a bit higher. Le Pingouin and I are covered in water almost all the time on deck. She is handling it well – I must say better than I am for now.

Derek is a man on a mission and he is not letting up. It is a great to have a small lead, but I am definitely dancing on the edge of control. I have to believe he is as well. Derek is a tenacious bugger and his boat is fast. In fact our boats competed against each other in the 2002-3 Around Alone race (now the VELUX) with their previous owners onboard and his boat (then named Solidaires) beat my boat (then named Tiscali) by quite a margin. I think we are both anxious and excited to be sailing toward home in North America. I can almost smell the sweet reward of arriving in Charleston. But for now I need to deal with a low pressure system coming off of Rio, and trying to stay in front of the fleet. The introduction of stealth mode should prove to be a fun dynamic to the tactics of this leg, and I look forward to seeing who uses it and when. Thanks for checking in and stay tuned as we race up the coast.



Tuesday, March 29, 2011

On the Way

After an anxious start morning where I sorely missed the usual send off from my wife Meaghan and the kids, it was finally time to get on with the ocean sprint 4 from Punta del Este to my hometown of Charleston.  The family had a great adventure following the race around the world but with budget, business and school hanging over the 'reality' portion of our world, it was time to pay a little attention to the need for the family to re-enter into a more normal life.  Net result was that Meaghan and I had to process the necessity to be apart for the first time in my 13 year career of solo racing starts.

The weather was picture perfect for a nice send-off and the fleet delivered a textbook start from just a few yards off the jetty on the Punta Del Este waterfront. Big crowds turned out to watch us go under bright blue skies and it was a very special way to leave.  It is wonderful to now have a few days of favorable conditions on the cards while we get in the groove and get some miles towards the north under our belt. The weather is forecast to get very tricky in a couple days time, so some time in good conditions while we readjust to life racing alone at sea is always appreciated.

As I write this in the early morning I am only a few miles from the location where I was violently dismasted in terrible weather while sailing this race in 1999.  It is a nice milestone to be charging along in nice conditions this time as I process the emotions and memories of what was one of the more difficult things I have ever dealt with.

The current running of this leg from Punta to Charleston represents an entirely different set of mental challenges for me. The fact that Charleston is now home and my family and friends are the light at the end of this tunnel is going to make for a leg full of anticipation and a whole new set of incentives for a good performance.  I have told myself over and over to relax , be careful and just sail smart but I wish I had a magic button to make the boat or at least the clock go faster.  I am sure I will settle in as things proceed but for the moment it is hard to forget that Cape Horn is behind me and LP, and that Charleston is the next stop.

The stopover in Punta Del Este was as hospitable as could be and I recommend the beautiful city on the peninsula to anyone who is interested in a fantastic South American adventure.  The people, food and beaches are a really cool mix of city and resort type atmosphere.

All the best from off the coast of Southern Brazil!


Thursday, March 24, 2011

South American Hospitality and Final Days on Land

I love Punta, but let’s get on with it, as I am ready to Rumble.

Yesterday we took Le Pingouin off the dock to test all the repairs and go for a sail during a beautiful Punta day, that proved perfect to do our final boat inspection. After yesterday’s outing it is official; LP is ready to roll and so am I.

I was sitting on deck at one point after calibrating the B & G autopilots and looking at all the Quantum Sails tugging LP along at 11 kts in 10 kts of breeze, and I quietly thought to myself, “boy it would be nice to just drop the team on that photo rib and hang a left and haul ass home”. However, I am sure the last few days in Punta will be a great chance to enjoy the wonderful hospitality and finish provisioning as we wait for a nasty front to come through with squalls and ugly winds from where we wish to go.

This stopover has been as wonderful as a ‘post Cape Horn’ stopover can be, and a perfect antidote to all the stress that has gone before. One of the activities laid on for us was a wonderful outing that presented a rare opportunity for all the skippers to spend a little bit of downtime together. We were hosted by Velux at a beautiful Uruguayan Estancia (a remote ranch with a restaurant and swimming pool etc) and were escorted around the working cattle ranch in some of Uruguay’s most stunning terrain via horseback and on foot. The four skippers on horseback was a bit of an odd assortment of fish out of water but a fun exercise as a group. We even had the true adventure experience of coming across a nasty venomous snake that spooked the horses on a tight section of our trail back to the ranch house.

A big thank you goes out from me and Team Lazarus to the Punta Del Este Yacht Club, Velux and Clipper Ventures for what has been a remarkable stopover but it is now time for LP and me to get focused on a real highlight for this race around the world. Getting stuck into the leg home to my hometown of Charleston.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Settling in South America

It feels fantastic to be here in Punta del Este. The last leg was emotional and full of stress, with the rounding of Cape Horn as the pivotal moment. My target has changed. It has been rounding Cape Horn and now it is the finish line in France. It really is a different feeling once you pass the Horn and start sailing in the Atlantic. A huge relief!

The yacht club here in Punta is fantastic and it is great to see so many familiar faces from my last visit in 1999. When I was dismasted about 24 hours after starting the race here, the entire community came together to offer their support. It was endearing and the same friends are here to welcome the Velux fleet. It is also very cool to see the healthy attitude and accessibility of sailing for kids. There are about 150 young sailors here getting ready for the Optimist Nationals, and the community is super supportive. It obviously does not matter what neighborhood you live in, and typical yacht club exclusivity doesn’t mean a thing. These kids want to sail… and the people around them are helping make it happen!

Thanks for checking in. Cheers,


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tacking Up the Rio de la Plata

Working my way upwind for 4+ days now seems worth the effort. I was sailing upwind in the shallow waters (60 feet or so) of the Rio de la Plata for days before the finish in Uruguay. I had to work close to the shoreline in order to keep west of a high pressure area. It felt a bit like tacking up the beach, which is not necessarily a breeze after 20+ days at sea alone. The good news is that I started to thaw and as the water and air warmed up, I was able to shed my layers of clothing after the brisk Southern Ocean chill. Cheers to warm weather and the always hospitable Yateste in Punta del Este!