By Len Bose
This is the easiest subject for me to write about this week because I am sure you do not want to read about the calls I received from clients on why I have not sold their boats yet or read about the tears coming down my face as I write checks to Uncle Sam today.
As expected, this year's Cabo race was not a barnburner, although there was still a lot of lessons learned on my 29th Mexican Ocean Race.
As navigator aboard the Santa Cruz 50 Flaca, the “Old School” tactic of staying 50 miles offshore and playing the shifts is no longer a winning combination. NO! NOW you need to be a master of Satellite Communications. In the Trans Pac race it has been this way for sometime now, but I have always perceived the Cabo race as more of a sprint. So while walking down the docks before the start and noticing all the boats with the KVH Tracphone antenna I started to think that I was already behind the first wind shift.
So, there we were after the start, slowly working our way offshore to the 118 Longitude line where all the information we obtained before the race told us to go. The full moon was so bright it reminded me of the days when the police helicopter would chase me home from parties in my youth. We had about 15 knots of breeze and I was confident in our tactics because of the competitors around us. About 5 a.m the first morning of the race, a number of competitors started gibing to port to pick up the first shift off the land. I had originally elected to ignore this first shift in an effort to reach a desired waypoint a weather friend of mine pointed out. This is where the KVH would have first helped me by watching the IBoat tracking system and noticing that most, if not all, of our competitors jibing inside. Note to self “keep between your competitors and the next mark.”
Rumor had it that Dr. Laura, on her J125 “Warrior,”had already spent $1,500 worth of Internet time and hit that first shift. Just before the shift, “Warrior” was only one of two boats that had reached 118 Longitude line with us and went on to win the race overall. I could not get “Flaca” in phase with the wind shifts and we finished a deep 6th place in class.
Another new item in this race was the daily check-in system done over the Satellite Phone rather than the ship's Single Side Band Radio. I thought this system worked great and we could report our position within one minute rather than the old system of sitting by the SSB for over an hour. I still spent some time plotting our competitors after receiving the fleet's daily position. This is another advantage the people with the KVH systems had over us. They would just pull up the latest Iboat track and all the information you need was in front of you. The only drawback with this system is the loss of tradition with the SSB. Although I do believe with a couple of changes the new system is the way to go.
Now we have missed the first shift and fell some 20 miles behind the leaders in our class. Nothing more fun than looking at the owner of the boat and the crew and informing them that you have just blundered the race away in the first night. Only one thing to do at this point and that is to compete for the boats' overall speed record. We only had one night of big breeze and that was just past Cedros. I had also kind of fixed the watch system to make sure I was on watch at sundown where I have found that most of the best breeze of the day seems to gather. As the breeze started to build we could not help to keep our excitement from the other crew members, when we hit 17 knots of boat speed as the wind speed started to reach 30 knots. This is the only time when the upcoming watch finished up their dinner fast and moved for the helm. The owner of the boat came on deck first and was kind of giving me a funny look, because I was always on deck during the best breeze.
“You can go eat now Len,” the owner said, and I set the boat up for a hand off. The wind was building and I set him up on a perfect wave where he beat the speed record with an 18.4 knots. I put my head down and pouted the whole way down the companionway, and then noticed there was still 40 minutes left to my watch, so I powered my dinner down and returned back on deck and asked the owner if he wanted a small break at the wheel before he started his watch. I received another concerned look from him as he handed the helm to me to go put on some warmer clothes and his life harness. This is when the wind really started to build and we where getting puffs in the 36 knots range now. With a small trim to the spinnaker pole and the change to my favorite spinnaker trimmers I was locked and loaded, baby.
With the full moon we had, nothing in life is better than being on a Santa Cruz 50 in these conditions. We soon broke the speed recorded with a 19.9 and the owner quickly came back on deck ready to start his watch. “Okay Len, my TURN!” he then stood behind me and said, “Umm, maybe would should stand behind me in case I have any trouble." "No problem," I said. " Just give me one second and let me put on my life harness." I ran down below, grabbed my harness and thinking that the wind might last through the night, I downed two five-hour energy drinks then went and sat behind the helm.
A couple of minutes later the wind started to die and returned down to the low 20s. This is when the owner looked at me and said, “I think I can handle this now, you can go off watch.” I replied, “ But , But, But … I just downed 10 hours worth of energy drinkkkkkkks!"
One last “note to self” – let the client-owner win the boat's speed record. I think he was more upset with that than our finish!
Speaking of finishing, I did pretty good on my bets. Criminal Mischief won class A, Grand Illusion won Class B and Morpheus won class C. I almost went four for four, but Dr. Laura and “Warrior” won class D. I did say a J 125 would win the class, and at the airport I was told that the normal navigator in Reinrag2 had to miss the race.
Next week I will be back on the docks with a new subject. Thanks for reading. Its now time to give the government their cut. Anyone want to buy a boat?