Thursday, May 21, 2009

Decompressing and reflecting

I am now back in Seattle and getting adjusted to this time zone.
Overall the last six weeks were very productive despite the original plan going out the window along with a few revisions too. I am somewhat disappointed with my race results but I am been able to learn some valuable things about both myself and the boat which will help down the road.
The to-do list on the boat is fairly short; sort out the VHF reception issue, modify the solar panel mounts and some sail recuts. The only item I broke was a single Harken 29mm block for the spinnaker tweaker, it likely hooked a lifeline and split so no fault of the block.
I head back to France the end of the month for the MAP and then to do my 1000 Mile qualifier. The qualifier has to be done before June 30 so things are starting to get a little close here but not too critical.
Probably the best part of the whole trip was all the great people I have met: the sailors, the race organizers, the people from Classe Mini and just people I met along the way. Everyone was absolutely great and made me, as a newcomer to both the Mini Classe and Europe, feel very welcome. I know I have made some fabulous new friends. A good example was my last Saturday in Lorient, a large group of us went out to dinner. By my count there were at least 7 countries at the table: Italy, France, New Zealand, UK, South Africa, The Netherlands and USA. Sitting in the middle of the table hearing conversions in a mix and variety of languages was pretty interesting and a great thing.
So now it is back to work here and get ready for the next trip and putting what I have learned to good use.
I have a bunch of new pics which I need to post, some from the sailing and from Monday when I walked around Paris. I had never been to Paris before (on the inbound leg of the trip I went straight to the train) so it was great to see with my own eyes all the sights I have only seen in books and on TV.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Leg 1, Mini Pavois

Am sitting here in Gijon, Spain after what was a little bit of a disappointing first leg. I had planned to stick fairly close to the rhumb line but when the wind freed slightly the first night I was a little too eager to hoist the spinnaker and when the lift never came, I ended up south of the rhumb line and paid dearly for the error.
There was a huge amount of animal life on the leg. Dolphins the first 24 hours, a little shore bird stopped off for a few hours rest on the second night. I managed to snap a picture but have not yet pulled it off my camera. On the second day there were lots of flies and bees which was quite surprising being over 30 miles offshore. Also, lots of small Portugese Man of War jellyfish, I had one get washed onto my foredeck which I had to be careful of.
On a positive note, the boat is plenty quick even in the light off the start. The new pic at the top of the page was taken shortly after the start while getting out of the bay at La Rochelle. Also I had no appreciable damage on the leg, which made things very simple here in Spain.
Leg two starts tomorrow. Right now the weather looks a bit light and unsettled for the first 100 or so miles. The planned course right now is to a light just north of Belle Isle and then to a buoy near Penmarch, south to a buoy off of the mouth of the Gironde River and then back to La Rochelle. The distance is 520 miles so more than double the first leg.
The event blog site should be updated regularily during the leg and each boat has a GPS tracker which appears to poll every hour.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Eve of the Mini-Pavois

So the Mini-Pavois starts tomorrow afternoon. Classe Mini approved my request to race which is a great relief.
The race itself has a blog page that should have pretty regular updates, here is the link to the english version:
The weather is looking a bit unsettled but it should be relatively benign for the first leg which is a straight shot to Gijon from La Rochelle.
The second leg could be more interesting both at it is over twice the distance and the late stages of the leg are close along the coast of Brittany.
Hopefully I will be able to get some stories and pics posted after leg one but it will depend on finding a cyber-cafe in Spain since I am leaving my computer here in La Rochelle. It may be that I will just post on my Facebook page since I will be able to access that with my phone.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Greetings from La Rochelle part 2

Ok now that I have the post I wrote in Pornichet posted, I can get on with telling the current story. I sailed down here on Thursday night, Friday morning, having a nice leisurely sail. Off of the Island of Yeu I managed to find a pretty good squall that was pretty much privately mine. The folks closer to the island got less wind and those outside got no change. I got a big blast, a big shift and a bunch of rain.
Since I have been here in La Rochelle, I am still waiting to hear whether Classe Mini will allow me to race the Mini-Pavois. I am hoping that they will. To that end I have been working on getting all the proper inspections and other required details done.
This race has a lot of the same boats which sailed in Pornichet with a few not here and some new boats here. According to the race director, there are at least 11 different countries represented here. Last night at dinner, our table was two English, two South Africans, one Norwegian and myself an American. As I sit writing this in my boat, I can here the Italians talking in the boat next to me. I am really enjoying meeting all the new people and making lots of new friends.
Also since I have been here, I am getting some of the problems taken care of on my boat. Today, Thomas the builder and I removed the rudders and their fittings and completely rebedded them and then reinstalled with nylock nuts so this problem should not arise again. Tomorrow, Thomas willl be back to do some work on the bow pulpit and fix a number of places where water is leaking in around screws. The folks from TEEM will also be here to install my proper sleeping timer and add a data port to the GPS. The data port will allow me to setup waypoints on my computer and then electronically transfer then to the Furuno GPS versus having to manually input them on the GPS' keypad.
The weather models for the race as looking rather interesting at this point with potentially north east winds to start,swinging to the NW later and then becoming highly variable. As the start is still 4 days away, I expect the models will change and then change some more before the start.
So, things are a little on hold as to whether I will be racing, which is tough, but the sun has been shining and I am getting the itmes that were problems taken care of on the boat so I am feeling a lot better because of boat

Greetings from La Rochelle

Has been an insteresting and somewhat stressful few days. On Thursday night I sailed from Pornichet to La Rochelle with a group of other Mini sailors. Overall was a very nice trip, took it very easy as my rudders were both loose, one more than the other and I did not want to unduly stress them.
Before I left Pornichet I wrote up a posting that I was not able to post, so here is that:

Yesterday the guys from TEEM arrived with two brand new batteries and another fuel cell. The fuel cell is an older model (140) that I will use while mine is sent back to the factory for repair. The one I had originally was the MaxPower 130 which is a brand new model, an evolution of the 110. It turns out that the methanol pickup was changed on the 130 and there have been numerous failures of the cap, resulting in the unit shutting down.
The batteries are ElecSol 100 carbon batteries and both were replaced as one or both were also defective. These batteries are a fair bit lighter that the typical lead-acid batteries but not in the league with the lithium batteries. However, these batteries also are not nearly as expensive as the Li-Ion ones either.
Today it is windy and raining here in Pornichet with the wind from the south-west. The weather pattern is alternating days of good weather and stormy weather. Tomorrow the forecast is calling for, in the wake of the front, sun and medium north-west winds which should be good for the delivery to La Rochelle. Ugrib is the program that most people seem to use which is generally pretty good. It sounds like most of the mini fleet will all be sailing to La Rochelle tomorrow en masse.
There is a Mumm/Farr 30 regatta here in Pornichet this weekend with ~20 boats. Most teams practiced yesteraday and it looks like almost all will be on the water again today. This appears to the be tune up for the Tour de France a Voile later in the year. The level of sponsorship/branding for these teams is unlike anything one sees in the USA in sailing. I think the boat whose graphics I like the most is the one sponsored by New Caledonia. Also here in Pornichet is a fleet of J80s as club boats. For a club boat this seems to be a pretty good choice, is simple, durable and still offers enough performance to be interesting.