Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Racing Against Ourselves

21°28.40 N 
039°02.63 W 
Heading : 295 ° 
Speed : 19.6 knots 
Distance to finish : 1975.60 nm

The whole notion of breaking records is interesting.   In our case aboard Maserati we are laying down a benchmark time for the old Columbus Discovery Route.  It is funny to feel so much pressure to perform, but we all want Maserati’s first monohull speed record to be long standing.  This is all more interesting than I would have thought before becoming involved.  The idea of racing yourself is different. In some ways it makes you push harder than you would racing against a fleet of other boats because you don’t really know how hard is hard enough.  There is a different combination of challenges when racing against other boats real time on the same course.  It comes with positives and negatives.  We are always reaching for high boat speeds. However, we are also pushing as hard as we dare in as much wind as possible (within reason of course). 

Yesterday I was at the helm of Maserati with a full main, the biggest kite we could find in the stack and a staysail. We were pushing hard downwind in 30 knots of breeze with boat speeds in the same neighborhood. We quickly found that maybe it was a bit too much, when the kite blew out from head to foot and went for a swim.  Just my luck, I had to be the one driving at the moment!  It is definitely an exciting challenge to say the least. In some ways the racing is even more intense because you are racing yourself. Therefore, no lead is big enough!

A great bi-product of this first record for us is discovering that Maserati (a modified Volvo 70) can do what we hoped if the weather gods treat us nicely.  In the 1900 or so miles that we have covered in four and a half days, we know we have the capacity in boat speed to beat Mari-Cha’s transatlantic record in a few months, if we can find the right weather window.  We have averaged about 18 knots and Mari-Cha’s tranatlantic record average was about 17.5 knots.  In some ways this makes me think we might not even need the big breezes we thought we did. A consistent 25 to 30 would do the trick.

For now the Maserati crew members are enjoying the feeling of the water and winds of the trade winds, as they begin to wash over us on our push to the Bahamas.  It is a rather awesome early February weather situation and a great place to be.  Although the waves of water that crash through the cockpit in just about all weather conditions would blow anyone away, not only literally but figuratively.

I wonder what Christopher Columbus would have thought of knocking off 400 plus mile days on the way to his destiny!

All the best from the crew of Maserati,


Monday, February 6, 2012

Off and Running Aboard Maserati

24°13.48 N 
032°52.40 W 
Heading : 241 ° 
Speed : 23.2 kts
Distance to finish : 2284.20 nm

Follow all the actions including great videos at www.maserati.soldini.it (English option upper right)
Follow my tweets at www.twitter.com/TeamLazarus 

We departed Cadiz, Spain aboard Maserati with a great weather window for our first record.  I say first record because in this case we are setting a benchmark monohull record for what is known as the Discovery Route or more commonly understood as Columbus’s route to the Americas.  With the benchmark as our goal, we want to lay down a serious time to beat for a couple of reasons.  First, we want to set a mark for our abilities and that of the boat. Second, we need to push hard and train together as a crew aboard Maserati in preparation for the other records on the horizon.  An added bonus is that we want this record to stick for a while and hopefully stand up to the test as other boats and crews take a whack at it.  The good news is that we have knocked off roughly 1200 miles in three days which is a pretty good (and wet) clip.  The modifications made to the Volvo 70 (previously Ericsson III) to turn her into Maserati seem to be working out great and she is quite capable.
On a personal note, this has been a great change of pace for me. I not only get to train and sail with a crew of great professionals, but it is also wonderful to spend time with my old (don’t tell him I called him that) friend and mentor Giovanni.  Gio creates a respectful and hard working environment amongst the crew, and also a friendly demeanor, which can be challenging aboard a boat that takes a lot of work to sail. This is especially tough since we decided a crew of 8 would make this first run and serve as a test for what we can really do in some of the other records ahead. When this boat competed in the Volvo Ocean Race of 2005-6, it was raced with 10 crew members.  We really need to have an entire email just about stacking the sails and inventory going on with a mere 16 arms aboard!  Look for that in one of my next blogs! It is great to be offshore with an excellent team facing an ambitious program right now and in the future.  It will be an exciting adventure and we are off to a rip roaring start!

All the best from the crew of Maserati,