Author Archives: Charles

Episode 8: Short but not so sweet

Hey everyone, this’ll be a short one…

Right, so right off the bat, I should tell you that it’s World War III on deck here. We just endured the worst f%&#ing night since we started the race. Enormous gusts pushing 40kts under full spinnaker, boat surfs between 17-18kts with no letting up resulting in broach after broach after debacle. Like the worst we’ve ever had. Everything we needed in the moment broke: boom-vang, spinnaker pole, lines, you name it. We channeled our inner Mark Watney and started troubleshooting one problem at a time, but the spinnaker just wanted to keep wrapping itself like a damn burrito around the forestay. Lost 2 halyards and I’ll unhappily make a list later of the sh!t that went down. With all this, we still don’t have a damn autopilot and must continue to switch off helm duty: there has been no rest whatsoever since the Captain’s Dinner.
Right now we’re just continuing to sort through minor issues and organizing the deck, but the wind is much stronger than it was before. We’re soaking wet and exhausted. We can’t wait until the finish line: that’s pretty much all that matters to us now. At this pace, we are projecting a Friday morning-to-noonish arrival.
We’re covering our asses, safety-wise, so no worries there.
Much angry love from the disastrous deck of Thirsty.
Foul weather gear is finally off!

Episode 6 & 7: An Email from Charlie and Some Prose from Fred at the Halfway Mark

Well, it’s Monday morning. That means you guys are back at work, but our boys have been at work nonstop since they left San Francisco last Tuesday. So…feel better! Before we share the emails, we have an important position update as of this morning at 4:00am PDT, our boys have unfortunately dropped to 2nd in their division, and to 6th overall. But there’s still over 900NM to go, so let’s all cheer them on and keep our fingers crossed.Position July 18 at 4AM

Yesterday was a big day for our two intrepid sailors, which is why we didn’t hear from them until late in the evening. Your GBC (Ground-Based Crew) went to bed early and didn’t catch the emails in time. So first, and in chronological order, an email from Charlie talking about Saturday afternoon and the start of their Sunday:

Ladies and gentlemen, I ask that you please bow your heads, as we celebrate the passing of Patator, veteran of 2 Pacific Cup races, he was a small but mighty spinnaker used for night time sailing when the winds were capricious. Patator succumbed to his injuries from a 3:00am gust that inflicted many entry and exit wounds. Patator is now Resting In Pieces (see what I did there?),  but thanks to his donor card, we hope he will live on and maybe be used to make handbags for classy ladies.
The evening started out fine: I steered 4 hours and Fred was sleeping… Quiet for the first time since we passed the starting line. Moonlight, peaceful ups and downs of the boat on the road to Hawaii with 16 to 20 knots of wind… Dire Straits, Coldplay, Moby …. Auditory BLISS! Then it was time for Fred to take over and an hour later, the winds started acting up, clouds… and all hell broke loose! Not much sleep for me: we had to clean-up the mess and throw up the S4.
Yesterday was nice. Good meal: filet mignon and potatoes for lunch, then fish and rice for dinner. No wine. Not exactly light, but… We will probably have wine today: it’s a tradition that Gilles started in 2011 for our Captain’s dinner during the TransPac. We will have duck confit, maybe some foie gras and possibly some Bordeaux like Lynch Bages. We still have 2 oranges for dessert (no longer worried about the scurvy).
Yesterday was problematic. We covered 208 NM but we could have gone 10 or 15 more. We kind of had to stop for another “sail repair clinic” on the main. I McGyvered some kind of aerial anemometer on the stern and fixed the rod at the helm, basically Mickey Mouse style for that one. At least we get real info as far as the wind direction and speed. Then it was time to put some order below after what had happened the previous night. At night, with the debris in the water and the fussy winds, it’s like Russian roulette as we speed at 14-15 knots and we don’t really know what we will encounter. Loud noises happen, they are quite frightening, and often remind us that we have a digestive tract.
That’s my news for now. Fred said he would share a few thoughts: I worry when he starts talking about his “dreams”. If you followed us during our TransPac in 2011, just know that he still hasn’t found the keys to the Renault Kangoo that he lost with Jacques and Thomas in Vatican City. Don’t even ask…P1000061


Shortly thereafter, resident poet and hula girl, Fred, sent us an email and some pictures (finally). We hope you enjoy his metaphors intertwined with technical jargon that even the most well-versed in French sailing jargon on the GBC can’t fully decipher…Fair warning: we did the best we could. It’s just that Fred is that… talented.

Ah the joys of ocean racing!
Half way through yesterday! Looking back:
For 2 days, we knew we should jibe on a direct route to Hawaii sometime today… but when exactly? As I was resting yesterday I heard Wolfpack talking to another competitor on the VHF. They are our main competitor. I could hear them very well. They had just jibed, which is extremely important info for us, and we decided to jibe too 5 hours later in order to get between them and the finish line. As a rule, everyone knows not to divulge their strategy on the VHF. We jibed around noon which was an excellent decision. Now, it’s very clear: just race on a direct route to Hawaii. It will be tough: we are racing against an all carbon prototype that weighs 1.5 tons less than Thirsty and the fight is not exactly fair in the sense that we must arrive less than 5 hours behind them as opposed to 12 hours 2 years ago over a period of roughly 10 days… it really feels like PRHF are rating their friends somehow differently than crews who are not from the San Francisco area (If any of you guys are Formula 1 fans, it’s kinda like when Ferrari breaks a rule and ends up being punished with the most minute penalty). Our only hope is that we might be able to get lower on the wind path thanks to our symmetric spinnaker and they will surf higher.
Yesterday, we got our share of crap. We had to lower our main for the 2nd time and patch a number of areas: our 1st attempt didn’t last. This time, It has to work: we just ran out of Kevlar, and my underwear isn’t strong enough to patch a mainsail…a spinnaker maybe…but not the main. Then we got a line in the rudders, lost the weathervane on top of the mast, the electronic weathervane stopped working as well… everything stopped working and we had to shut it all off. All we had left at that point was the GPS. But it’s simple right now: we go fast on a direct route and that’s it. Kinda like heading to Catalina from Marina Del Rey, except it takes another 5 days.
Right now, we are going with the main, a heavy spinnaker and a staysail: it’s overkill but we take turns at the helm. No more auto-pilot at this point and we lost our legendary small spinnaker (RIP Patator)… between all the repairs and cleaning-up, we lost about 1 hour. Otherwise, everything is working well. Charles’s cooking skills are flabbergasting… homemade patés, confit de canard, Lynch Bages 2005. This is our legendary Captain’s dinner as we celebrate being half-way there, a classic… and our way to honor and remember Gilles, our great friend who was also our cook on our 2011 TransPac.

We are 1.000 NM from the finishing buoy and despite all of our mechanical and electronic difficulties, we are going fast. The sun is starting to show up, the temperatures are starting to creep up, and the wind is strong. Night watches will be tough until we get there, but we plan on sleeping more during the day in order to stay sharp at night.

That’s it for now, folks.|

Please don’t forget to share this on your own social media: encourage anyone who has it in their heart to DONATE to the cause. We’re Sailing for ALS here, not Pokemon Go’s.



Episode 6: Sailing into the Garbage Patch

Back-to-back posts! Yeah buddy! Charlie wrote us two emails early this morning: more good news pouring in. The first one is to let us know that they are projecting an evening to early morning arrival between Thursday July 21st and Friday July 22nd, which would effectively be their fastest Pacific Cup time, so fingers crossed that the weather persists this way. Also to note, as of 5:00AM PDT, our boys are not only still in the lead in their division, but they’re also in THIRD place in the overall race standings! Which is a HUGE feat!

Dum dee dum dee doo...we're creeping up in the leaderboard!

Dum dee dum dee doo…we’re creeping up in the leaderboard! 1,300NM to go!

Here is Charly’s second email below:

Hi friends !
The Alps… straight down… full speed ahead in full-tuck position. We average “only” 214 NM every 24 hours, 231 on the direct route. A few mishaps. First we got into the ” garbage patch”, the giant plastic-filled dumpster. We’re not happy to report it’s still there! We hit the rudder with some random piece of something: that’ll always keep your nice and alert and high-strung! We saw buoys of all kinds and even a construction helmet: didn’t get a chance to check if it had a Fukushima sticker on it or not. The biggest shit happened on my watch: wild jibe at 2 am, main sail stuck in the mainstay, spinnaker loose. Well… as Fred said “big fucking mess!”. At least 30 minutes to fix it! And then, we got some huge bag stuck onto the engine’s propeller.

Two ways of getting it off:

  1. Glénans School – lower the sheets and back up.
  2. Thirsty “School” proven in 2014 – full speed ahead any which way, sails tight. With current winds at 20 knots and dips of roughly 10 ft, it’s not easy but effective and quick.
  3. The Max Power way: it’s the wrong way, but faster!

Life on board. Yesterday we had salmon and rice for lunch and “blanquette” veal stew/rice for dinner. As an appetizer: paté on toast from Pitchoun bakery. Thank you Pitchoun! And treats from my nephew . We’re HAPPY! We still have a couple of oranges and a grapefruit (scurvy could settle-in by next Thursday…right on time for our Mai-Tai’s). Still not drinking wine: facing 11-12 knots of wind on average, drinking is not appealing (I think it even says on the bottles “Surgeon General’s Warning: do not consume alcohol while racing the Pac Cup if you are in the lead”). We are opening a bottle tomorrow at half-way point for the Captain’s dinner, because that’s a tradition. Other bottles to be opened in and around Hawaii.
This has become a wild boar race… aroma-wise. We hope we can shower today because even our shadows can’t take the smell anymore. We change our clothes, seal them in plastic pouches and hope they won’t pollute the boat. It’s that bad…
About the race: we are still 1st in our Division and now 3rd overall. We will jibe around noon and get on the freeway towards the sun and Hawaii. Wolfpack (our enemy) jibed this morning and the jackass called another boat on the VHF to advertise the fact: heard the whole conversation. We are expecting strong winds and better temperatures as we go..

Don’t worry Wolfpack, Charlie and Fred are nice guys…except when they’re in race mode and suffering from severe wine withdrawals.

Enjoy the rest of your Saturday friends!


Episode 5: Fred Joins the Writer’s Guild

Happy Saturday folks!

Believe it or not, we got the hula girl of the boat to write us a little something today. Actually, we got this last night, but the GBC was recovering from the Gleason event and fell behind on its duties. Here’s Fred’s email:


Hygiene and stuff..
The first 2 days were freaking tough with crazy crosswinds, huge waves… lots of water… water everywhere inside … and the freezing cold that could only be made in San Francisco. We were steering manually when the pilot engaged and veered the boat: we had to shut down all electronics and continue steering manually for 2 whole days and nights. We were doing our best work in our puke competition for 2 days straight and kept missing the stupid bucket that moved even more than the boat! Resting, eating and drinking? Forget it! Mission impossible! All I could swallow were some crackers and a banana: same thing for Charlie. You know what they say about bananas, right? Tastes the same going down as it does coming up…
On day 3, we were finally able to prepare a warm meal: chicken & mashed potatoes. Best meal ever! This morning we made our 1st cup of coffee since the start: instant coffee that somehow tasted better than an espresso made in Italy.
For 3 days, when not on watch, we tried to sleep with 7 layers of clothing. Oh and our supposedly waterproof boots? Not so much! Add some sweat inside the foul weather gear and talk about being wet inside and out! We shed 2 layers yesterday… and are now dreaming of a warm shower.
Focused on speed rather than comfort, we used up a tremendous amount of energy to push our wheelbarrow (read: the boat) faster and faster. Luckily, the weather is better since yesterday and we might be able to shower… on day 5! But because we are classy guys and the only source of potable water is Evian (that’s right), we rinse our dishes and ourselves with it! That’s our attempt at “trying to be civilized”.
On another note, we took to the northerly route as planned and we have maintained the speed that propelled us at the start… feels like the start lasted 3 whole days though. Our main competitor Wolfpack is eating salt spray in our wake quite a few NM behind even though they are much lighter than we are: it feels fantastic! Now, we feel human again and are putting the pedal to the metal!

They actually look like humans now, don’t they? Before, Charly and Fred looked a little like the Michelin Man with their 7 layers of foul weather gear!


That’s it for now. Another update coming soon!



Lookin' good boys!

Episode 4: Speed Means Work, and Photos!

Happy Friday afternoon guys!



In the late morning, we received an email from Charly with pictures! They seem to be in even better spirits. Here is the email from Charly:


A2 + stay sail is out!

A2 + stay sail is out!

Here’s how to sumamrize the situation: hoisted the A2 spinnaker last night, and with a shift in the wind, we are hauling ass at 11-12kts boat speed with no letting up. Thirsty broke its own personal record with 220NM in on the direct route towards Hawaii in 24 hours! I think we might be able to do even better.

P1000038We may be French, but we’re not on strike here: more speed means more work. We had a few precarious situations with the spinnaker man-handling us and sending us fishing with our bare arms in the water (what happened to the Sydney 36 guys when they put up their spinnaker…hey it happens to all of us) with spectacular heel-over angles. It’s called “broaching”, but we call it Rapid Unwanted Deck Reorganization, or RUDR for the acronym-savvy. Anyway, it’s not something we like doing in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Still having issues with our electronics and we’re beginning to believe the root of the problem is the connection at the top of the mast. So I have a feeling we’re gonna have to MacGyver a wind vane on the back of the boat here in a few hours…

We’re gonna try and cook ourselves a meal again today. Our next Sailing for ALS challenge will be to successfully make ourselves a cup of coffee without giving ourselves 2nd degree burns: truth be told there’s no real way to walk or move around Thirsty in these conditions…ya hop or slide, but that’s it. But the hardest has really been to get our much needed rest: this a LOUD moped at these speeds. Here are a few pictures of us, we finally had some time to take some…oh and we the times we could have taken some, we spared you our own “Ice Bucket Challenge”.   -Charly

1500NM to go!

1500NM to go!

Two posts in one day? Hell yes! At 7am this morning the guys had 1,500NM to go, which is effectively the first 25% of the race elapsed distance-wise. Also, they’ve moved up one spot in the overall standings: they’re first in their division and 6th overall!

They’re clearly happy to no longer be feeding the fish and we’ve got pictures, finally!

Stay tuned for the next update…