Episode 13: Lucky #13

One last note before they arrive…

P1000164 P1000172Hello all-

We have 44 miles to go before freeeeedommmmm!

It will have taken us just over 10 days, basically three days less than 2014 with an average speed of 8.75 knots. Not bad for a crew of two men who only had a GPS and compass to handle the race.

It was an amazing experience despite all of the issues we encountered. Our next crossing which will involve the Atlantic, a 42’ Lagoon, five crew, functioning plumbing (toilets and showers) and a coffee machine seems much simpler now. The worst was definitely being wet all day and night no matter what. The best was cruising the waves at full-speed with the spinnaker flying hour after hour (our record: 37.4 miles in 3 hours). Regardless of everything, we’ve lived through an epic adventure Fred and I. Definitely different from 2011, 2012 and 2014. We’re even talking about our next race…so, you know, no couples’ counseling needed yet.

Last night was the last of our struggle and to top off our adventure, it was filled with huge winds. We’d kept the spinnaker through sundown and I found myself with the S4 in 35-knot winds for 15 minutes. For those of you who can’t process that: it’s like driving a car without brakes down a hill. Between two patches of tough weather, we were able to lower the sail and saved the spinnaker from a worse fate than our buddy, little taquito. It all ended well and we were even rewarded with a beautiful sunrise.

So, here is the latest news. Tonight, we sleep in a dry bed after a real shower. And I plan on getting drunk on Mai Tai’s…

Thank you to all for following our no-filter accounts of our trials and tribulations. And, don’t forget to donate (had to throw that in there).

Love from the crew,
Charly

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Episode 12, Parts 1 & 2: The Light at the End of the Tunnel

We’ve heard from the crew twice in the last 12 hours so we put both communiques here for you to see where they’re at so far.

Part 1

A little delay today but I blame, shall we say, snafus (we have some more choice words but they might be R-rated).

Anyway, when things want to go to shit, they really go to shit. Murphy’s Law has been in full effect: nothing we do seems to go the way we want. We’d had a great day yesterday (meaning Wednesday) going full speed ahead with the spinnaker. We were falling into a groove that reminded us of our last PacCup crossing two years ago. It was good, refreshing even. And then…yup, you know where this is going…we change spinnakers for the night and all goes well until 2am. Suddenly, the wind picks up and the spinnaker basically turns into a screwed up taquito around the forestay (see Exhibit A although we’d like to call it Exhibit @*$%!). We will be arriving in Hawaii with it in this exact position because…holy shit, we are OVER it. Kinda gives Thirsty a lived-in look, actually.

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So now, we’re advancing at a leisurely pace of 7-8 knots using the mainsail with a wind we estimate is blowing at about 30 knots (who even knows anymore…without electronics, we’ve become excellent guesstimators). This means our arrival will be a little later than predicted. At this point, we just want to get there. We’ll come back and take revenge on this *#&$^$&#* race one day.

It’s a frustrating situation. We obviously had winning in mind but it was not in the cards (so much for the much sought-after NKE HR autopilot everyone fights over to go faster). We are, as mentioned before, basically glued to the helm at all times. I’m now understanding why everyone went with the B&G…lesson learned.

So, we trek along and make mistakes. With two hands always at the helm, it only leaves two hands to perform any manoeuvers. As a result, we’re not a well-oiled machine and manoeuvers are a bit clunky. Also, we’re not sleeping as much. If whoever’s at the helm needs a drink, food, etc., they need to wake the other up to retrieve it. It’s a little annoying (understatement of the year).

Also, in my losing battle against Mother Nature, I seriously injured my finger. Thank goodness Nurse Freddy was there to bandage me up (such a gentle touch that guy). I have some additional bruises that are like a roadmap of our trials and tribulations.

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Since things have calmed down, I can make a recap of equipment we liked and equipment we hated (bet you can guess one of them).

Likes:

  • The carbon fiber mast from Remy- awesome
  • The rigging textiles from Colligo- also awesome
  • All of the running rigging from Ouistreham- also awesome
  • The Pontos winches were excellent a high speeds- but we already knew that
  • The spinnakers from Incidences Brest were exceptional- not sure I could go back to another brand now

Dislikes:

  • Obviously, the $%#^%$%&% electronics- the reason for 90% of our problems
  • The UK and Ullman sails were just OK. A little too fragile for our tastes.

That’s our news for now. We’ll have more soon (note from the Ground-Based Crew: see part 2 below) since we now have the time.

Ciao,

Charles

Part 2

And here we are, almost at the end of this painful crossing.

At the time of this email, we have about 160 miles to go. We’ve rigged the spinnaker to our last halyard (originally from the gennaker) and we still have our little taquito spinnaker in place (should make for an epic arrivals photo).

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Fred’s investigation lead us to discover that our autopilot’s lack of usefulness was due to a broken connection explaining why it worked in neither mode.

We can’t wait to arrive. Neither one of us has ever struggled so much during a crossing. We are exhausted. If we were an iphone, we’d be begging you to recharge us ASAP (less than 10%). We’re working through the night trying to keep our eyes open and our brains fresh…especially since nights have been when we’ve had our roughest situations. We have about 18- 22 hours left at sea. And getting there will be a huge relief.

Anne-Cecile (my wife) and Marie-Christine (Gilles’ wife) will be at the arrival and that makes us smile. It will be the first time Anne-Cecile is at one of my race arrivals in the 24 years we’ve known each other. And for Marie-Christine, it will be the first time she’s back here for a Hawaii race arrival since Gilles left us (she was at the arrival in 2011 for the Transpac when Gilles was part of our crew).

All that to remind you that we are in this race not just because we’re avid sailors, but also to support a cause dear to us: Fighting ALS. ALS, as you know, is the disease that took Gilles from us. We continue to sail the seas in his memory. So, friends, we ask of you one little gesture (if you haven’t already): visit the donations section of this site and donate to the ALS Association’s Golden West Chapter. It’s tax deductible et and it will help fund research into the causes and potential treatments for this horrible disease.

And when you donate, I’ll have your name and I’ll buy you a drink on my boat (not this one…something more comfortable).

Thank you all for your support! You’ve all kept us going these last few days. Charly

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Despite being mended quite a few times, she's still getting us to Hawaii.

Episode 10 & 11: Positive News from the Crew & Renewed Energy

We heard from our boys twice today and both emails were much more uplifting than the previous. They’ve received your well-wishes and thank you all. We’ll start with an email from Charles this morning:

Hello All

Good news for the morning…we are less than 500NM away from Kaneohe Bay. Now, we just need to inject a little NOS to get to Kaneohe for lunch on Friday.P1000097 P1000137

Fairly calm night last night. Not too many gusts. We setup a non-conventional sail configuration: we mounted our larger staysail on the bowsprit to help battle the yaw which allowed us to get some rest through the night so that we can go back into attack mode once it gets to be light out. We hoisted our big orange spinnaker up this morning and we’re moving right along.

Yesterday evening was probably the first real blissful moment of the race. Freddy was sleeping and I was at the helm of Thirsty, which despite it’s injuries and MacGyver’ed repairs was stably blasting down waves between 13 and 18kts right ahead of our first real sunset of the race (it’s been gray and San-Francisco-y the entire time) which happened to generate a superb display of colors. I am happy to report that when the Pacific chooses to be less brutal, it’s just as beautiful as I remember it. Had Moby playing in my earphones (“Everything That Rises” is still my favorite tune for these moments). At this point I am telling myself that at least I came all the way out here for these 30 minutes of serenity and beauty. And then, sunset. And then, a “home-cooked” meal of macaroni and prosciutto.

Our first real sunset. Still as gorgeous as we remembered it.

Our first real sunset. Still as gorgeous as we remembered it.

Macaroni + Prosciutto = Happiness at Sea

Macaroni + Prosciutto = Happiness at Sea. Also, check out that duct tape repair there…duct tape FTW!

 

Stamina-wise, we’ve regained some energy from our 3-day insomnia marathon. We are thinking we’ll inject that “NOS” when we pass the 200NM to go mark in the last 24 hours. After days of running lines, steering, adjusting various trims and re-rigging, I can report that I no longer have finger prints…our hands are wiped out. Oh and I think we’ll probably need to wear long sleeve lycra tops on the beaches of Hawaii otherwise I fear locals will call Adult Protection Services (does that exist?) if they were to see the bruising and cuts we have all over our arms, backs, torsos, and legs. On future crossings, we’ll leave the forward deck work to the young whipper-snappers to get the crap beat out of them on. Yes, you read that correctly: I think this’ll be our last double-handed crossing. Maybe. Not sure. Ask us again next year. But yeah…

Hope today we make good mileage gains because Fred and I are tired of being on this boat. Hawaii can’t arrive soon enough. But hey, we broke a Thirsty/SailingForALS speed record: 18.7kts boat speed. And it didn’t feel like we were flirting with the Grim Reaper of the Pacific or anything like that, so that was fun.

-Charles

 

Later this afternoon, the GBC received another message from Charly. Sounds like the Poseidon and Aoelus had a beer together and said “A’ight, that’s enough crap for now. Let’s let ’em finish.” So here goes for the 5pm update:

First nice day of the ENTIRE race. The boat’s temporary mends seem to be holding and the sea isn’t as violent so the boat is just gliding over the tamed waves under a beautiful sun. We did some more permanent organizing and cleaning of the boat.

[GBC note: One of the things you guys probably didn’t realize through all of this is that without an autopilot, Fred and Charly would barely see or talk to each other except for when sh!t was hitting the proverbial fan. And none of that chat was really enjoyable.]                                                        Today, Fred and I were able to catch up like long lost buddies from our 2012 and 2014 Pacific Cup.

We are moving at 11kts on the direct route to Kaneohe Bay. We’ve decided we’re not gonna take down the spinnaker until we cross that finish line. We just can’t wait to get there anymore. Still, when things are going better for us, this boat is still fairly injured and doing any adjustments with out current state of rigging is headache. We had another broach this morning with our spinnaker up in sprightly gust which sent the boom straight into the shrouds (probably gonna have to re-rig this boat with completely new hardware once it’s back in LA). Anyway, minor mechanical damage, no harm to us (lucky considering a swinging boom like that could really knock you out cold), a slight delay to our course time (take the spinnaker down, re-rig, and re-hoist), but mostly another annoyance we have no tolerance for at this point. 

We are telling ourselves that luck has turned and that maybe the last 50 hours of this race will actually be somewhat pleasant (today was, so why not?).

Sun's out, guns out! Time to dry off the extra poundage of soaking wet clothes.

Sun’s out, guns out! Time to dry off the extra poundage of soaking wet clothes.

Much love from 400NM west-northwest of Kaneohe.

Charly

 

Oh and we wanted to show you what the offshore offices of SailingForALS look like:

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Charly’s corner office. Not for wussies.

Thank you all for following so closely and for sharing your thoughts. We and the guys really appreciate it. Until the next update, take it easy gang.

-GBC

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Episode 9.5: A Word from the GBC, Pictures from the Crew of Thirsty/SailingForALS

Good morning to all of you and happy hump day!

535NM to go.

535NM to go.

Gary here. I spoke to Charles on the satellite phone yesterday at 6:30pm PDT. I’ll be honest: i’ve never heard him sound so tired and so defeated. However brief our conversation was, I got the impression that they have slowly accepted the race is probably out of their hands now, and that they would just like to get to Hawaii safely. By the end of the conversation, it was clear that Charles and Fred are putting their chin up and just trying to maintain 2nd in their division and not drop out of the Pacific Cup top 10 in the overall standings (they currently are in 10th place). But this will still be hard because they are pushing a boat that has sustained multiple small but crippling “injuries” trying to find the right balance between “get there ASAP” and “get there in one piece”. According to Charles, as they’ve gotten closer to Hawaii, the winds have become less stable, especially at night. They are limiting the use of their spinnaker at night, still operating under a very large genoa, but not blasting with their hair on fire down big swells in the pitch black of the Pacific night.

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Kitchen “cabinets” back in order.

Slowing down has allowed them some much-needed rest. According to Charles, he’s slept the most in the past 3 days (approx. 6 hours) between the two of them and Fred is in frustrated Captain “Raymarine” mode (no autopilot). Slowing down means the boat doesn’t move as violently, the rigging makes less weird and scary noises (because it’s damaged), and the implications of a mistake are exponentially smaller as a function of decreased boat speed. This also means that the guys have had the time to take some pictures of the goings on aboard Thristy. After the sh!tstorm of Monday and Tuesday, they are cleaning and tidying up.

Fred, our autopilot, taking a break from steering and digging into some dishes.

Fred, our autopilot, taking a break from steering and digging into some dishes.

And they’re also back to having a real meal (with wine) since the Captain’s dinner on Sunday. All these pictures were received after the sat. phone conversation and it seems like the boys are settling in to a speedy cruise for their last 500NM into Hawaii.

500NM left selfie with the wiiiiiiine out.

As much at seems like Fred has a mil-stache on (that’s sunscreen), our boys are mending their broken hearts with some French wine.

The current projected arrival into Kaneohe looks like it’ll be 6pm Friday. Until an update from Charlie, have a nice rest of your day!

-the GBC

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First sunrise of the race.

Episode 9: Reality Settles In; Thirsty Limps Down to Hawaii

 

Rough past two days for the guys on board: bad luck, broken hardware, missing parts, busted boat, and slightly broken spirits. We won’t interpret what Charlie is telling us. This time, you guys are getting the raw feed.

A great sailor once said, “if you luff, you’re a quitter” and followed it up immediately with “And if you don’t luff, you’re an idiot and the limit between those two is very narrow.”
It seems, we too have found our limit. After having played the part of Marvel comics super heroes (Fred is obviously Daredevil and I’m Thor…obviously) on Sunday, the superheroes have come down a notch with their superpowers depleted.
We already knew that surfing a Beneteau First 30 between 15 and 18kts in high winds in the middle of the night and in the middle of the Pacific is pretty hair-raising, but this time around it scarred us for life…Our underwear too, as a matter of fact. In an event that caught us both off-guard, we hit 35-40 knot winds (an estimate since none of our electronics are working) that caused the boat to make like a lawn dart with water to the base of the mast. There was some cussing involved in two recognized languages and some even that have yet to be discovered. The resulting mess on deck took over two hours to clean up (by myself since Fred is our make-shift auto-pilot) and that doesn’t include picking up the various broken pieces and hardware.

Fred "Raymarine" Courouble, our new "Auto"-pilot.

Fred “Raymarine” Courouble, our new “Auto”-pilot.

We immediately regained our composure and hoisted the small spinnaker because, hey, we’re in a race here. Fred, doing his best considering the conditions, manages to wrap the spinnaker twice around the forestay, delaying us another hour. So now, it’s 5am, we haven’t slept, we have two sails crumpled on deck and the wind is still relentlessly blowing.
At that precise moment, the boat yawed and I see the Pacific go vertical in front of us. I throw my arms out in front of me and I see one of our mast’s shrouds just whipping and dangling in the wind.
It was not our time and thankfully there were no vacancies among the sea gods. It became obvious to us that it was time to call it a day…maybe even a race. This is the limit I mentioned earlier. I went to bed exhausted and quite frankly scared shitless.
We eventually hoisted up another spinnaker but when we sensed it was getting too risky, we pulled back. Our new goal is simply to get the boat and us back safely. After we accepted that, we spent the day assessing the damages, repairing what we could and moving at a much more leisurely (read: won’t get us killed) pace. In that terrifying adventure, we lost halyards and quite a bit of small but necessary hardware.
Last night, we feasted. F@ck it, we deserved it after that craziness. I was able to make three delicious lasagna portions (thank you Barilla!) in a pot…on the stove! Proud of ourselves, we rewarded ourselves with the remaining Lynch Bages from the Captain’s Dinner (which seems like ages ago now). The rest of the night was much more relaxed and we were even able to enjoy the moon.
At 5am, we decided to try out the spinnaker again and again (the damages to the boat make what is typically routine not quite as easy as it should be). No need to go into the gritty detail, but it’s all a shit storm at this point, with nothing cooperating.
So, now you know what the last 36 hours have been like for us. We were on a mission to beat Wolfpack no matter what but have come to the realization that it won’t be possible. Our resident naval architect & aerospace engineer (Fred) seems bent on the belief that they are unbeatable not because of skill and luck, but mostly because they have a “thief’s PHRF rating” making their handicap absolutely impossible to beat in this class of boats. Heck, we thought our extreme weight losses (e.g: buckets instead of plumbing) would make a significant difference, but it’s just not attainable.

We’ve picked up the pace a bit after catching our breaths over the last 24 hours. We still plan on coming in second because the spirit of competition on this boat is alive and well…and that’s our rightful spot anyway (it’s the Breton spirit talking now…).
Much love from us and we hope to arrive on Friday at noon right in time for a well-deserved cocktail…or five.

-Charlie

 

At the moment, the boat is still moving at a respectable pace, albeit about 1.5kts slower than their previous average. Their goal is to maintain the 2nd place they currently hold in their division and to not drop out of the top 10 overall standings. We are transmitting them your Facebook comments via email (accessing Facebook via satellite costs about $14,000,000 per minute). We think any words of encouragement from you guys at this point would really help boost their morale. So don’t be shy.

Distance To Finish (DTF) as of 9am PDT: 679 NM

Distance To Finish (DTF) as of 9am PDT: 679 NM

Stay tuned for the final days of SailingForALS’s Pacific Cup updates.

 

 

 

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