Saturday, June 28, 2008

Cal 40s?
In the Big Boat Series?

Could happen. Should happen.

The thought comes up for me, right in the middle of trying to draw a comparison between the Newport Bermuda Race now wrapped up and the Tahiti Race still shaping up. Can't get there. Los Angeles-Tahiti is an act of whimsy as much as it's a race, and have fun transiting the doldrums, boys and girls. But this Bermuda thing, well, I got a chuckle out of talking to grand prix navigator Stan Honey about the Cal 40 that won its class for the fourth straight time.

"Sally and I went to see Peter Rebovich before the race," says Stan. "His boat is maybe a little rough around the edges, but in every aspect of preparedness and seamanship it is spot on, and the crew is good. It was also cleverly set up for the Bermuda Race. Peter makes the bet that he won't be doing much, if any, deep reaching—you might expect a lot of close reaching on that course—so he gets Sinn Fein rated for asymmetric spinnakers tacked to the stem.

"Of course, if he ever had the wind over the transom, he'd be hosed."

Hmm. I sailed the Centennial Bermuda Race in '06 and wrote about it from the point of view of an Open 50, then received a letter from a reader saying, in essence: Dude you missed the story; the story was the Cal 40. Okay, he had a point.

Here's Rebovich (in shades) with the crew . . .

Photo by Barry Pickthall/PPL

Stan was home in California (briefly) after navigating Speedboat to first-to-finish in the Bermuda Race, but he red-eyed back across the continent over the weekend to prep for a shot at the west-east transatlantic monohull record, Sunday night being Speedboat's target takeoff time, and Speedboat being a cant-keel maxi, the latest thing from the design board of Juan K.

If Stan, far left, (photo by Lynn Fitzpatrick/PPL) looks like this after 635 miles, Newport to Bermuda, we know it won't be pretty after an Atlantic record shot, however normal one more crossing may be to him. The boat is black down below because it's built of carbon to be light, and paint would only add weight.

For the record, Stan's "Sally" is Sally Lindsay Honey, past US woman sailor of the year and co-owner of the family Cal 40, Illusion. In that boat they once won the Pacific Cup doublehanded (overall, with the best corrected time ever recorded in that race) and Stan once won the Singlehanded Transpac (with the fastest-ever Cal 40 passage, California to Hawaii, with crew or without, and that's 100+ passages since 1965).

Stan sails cutting-edge boats all over the world, but he and Sally are royalty in the Cult of the Cal 40, and I think I caught a quickening of the pulse when I mentioned a movement on behalf of a Cal 40 class for the Big Boat Series. Get some boats up from Southern California to race on San Francisco Bay. Heck, bring enough for a north-south team component. Maybe down from Seattle? Then line'em up at Tinsley Island. Make it an Event.

Bill LeRoy, who is a relatively new Cal 40 owner, threw the idea at me, but he was talking September 2008. When I pinged my friends in Los Angeles, I didn't get any traction for 2008 but nobody said, Heck no, on 2009.

St. Francis is cool with this, but the club wants a minimum of six boats for a class start. Even if we got that out of the local fleet, it wouldn't be the same as a gathering of the tribe.

Hey, Peter Rebovich, when was the last time Sinn Fein went for a truck ride?

Moving on. Here's a Jas Hawkins pic of Illusion rumbling down the Molokai Channel at the finish of the Centennial Transpac, one of 14 Cal 40s in that race, with Sally Honey and an all-woman crew. I was, ah, some place behind them, and my crewmate Ric Sanders sez, "My wife has no idea I've spent all this time chasing girls."

A Thousand Miles and Gone

Having sailed a tiny bit with Captain Morgan (who is very much that) on his Santa Cruz 50, Fortaleza, I'm naturally following along with Jim and the crew at their blog for the Tahiti Race,

They crossed the thousand-mile mark late last week and spent the weekend digging into the doldrums, the grand tactical challenge of a race that crosses the equator.

Only four boats (the "whimsy" in a race of 3,571 miles), and there's Magnitude 80 at 80 feet, compared to Jim's Santa Cruz 50, and a few weeks ago on a crossing home from Catalina Island Jim quipped, "I just hope we get across the equator before Magnitude 80 passes us on the way back."

But the fleet's not spread that wide, as we see in this doldrums chart that I grabbed from the Transpacific Yacht Club web site.

With the equator at bottom, we see Magnitude 80 farthest down the track, west of the rhumb line, with Medicine Man to the northwest of them. Good old Ragtime, everybody's sentimental favorite, is east of rhumb ahead of Fortaleza.

From his writing, I can tell that Jim is having an experience not unlike mine in the 2006 Newport Bermuda Race, when all the fine-tuned tech data in the world read like fiction: "Today has been a bit of a challenge as a navigator. We have all kinds of technology now, so we can get the latest forecasts, as well as the satellite that actually measures the speed of the wind over the ocean. This is supposed to make it possible to find a path through the Doldrums (officially the Intertropical Convergence Zone/ITCZ).

"Unfortunately, the model predictions do not match each other, even for present conditions. They also don't match what the QuikSCAT satellite has been showing for wind. To top it off, the QuikSCAT doesn't seem to match what we are seeing on the water.

"So, what to do? If you are following us, you can see I'm doing some ‘naviguessing.’ If it were the old days and we had no idea of the future wind, one would just try to make best miles to the finish. We aren't currently doing this. We are instead hoping the gap in the ITCZ seen on QuikSCAT will be there when we get to it, and/or we will get some extra pressure from the tropical low pressure system to the east. At the very least we'll get some significant squall activity soon."

They left on June 22.

They'll make the halfway mark some time this week—Kimball