Monday, July 12, 2010

Sunset Picture

While the crew of Cirrus tries to make the boat go fast, I thought I'd
contribute a picture I took on the delivery. The open ocean is a very
special place. Enjoy ~~Chris

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Race Flags and Yacht Club Burgees

Since I started sailing back and forth across the Pacific Ocean I've picked up a few race flags. On my first trip in 1992 the boat I was on "Arianna" did the daily roll call and communications but was not entered in the race. If they got a flag it is probably still with the boat. In 1994 I did the Pacific Cup race on "Sonata". If we got a flag for the Transpac race I did in 1997 on "Ka Ula Lani" it is also probably still with the boat. When I finally did the Pacific Cup race on my own boat "Cirrus" in 1998 I got to keep the flag. The same goes for the 2000 race. We did the race in 2004 but the flag is missing at the moment. We do have the flags for 2006 and 2008. The Transpac 2007 flag is especially nice, not only because it is big, but also because it shows that we were the winner of Division "Aloha B".

Over time we've also accumulated a few yacht club burgees. The one at the top is for Kaneohe YC here in Hawaii, where we are currently senior members. The one below is for Richmond YC in the SF Bay area where we were senior members for quite a while, and are currently listed as non-resident members. The next burgee is for Aloha YC in Pearl Harbor, where I once got an award. After that is the Hawaii Women's Yacht Racing Association burgee where (I think) I'm still an honorary member. The bottom burgee is from Waikiki YC where we were members for a time. The big burgee in the upper right that I skipped over is for the Pacific Cup YC.

By the way, counting some deliveries I've done, this was my 15th time across the Pacific Ocean.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Pacific Cup 2008 Awards

Well, it's awards time and this is the big one. Cirrus gets to keep the beautiful carved wooden statue for two years because we were the "Fastest Boat from Hawaii". In addition there is a heavy glass vase that we get to keep that is also associated with being the fastest boat from Hawaii.

The other award was a gimbaled brass chronometer in a polished wooden box that we won by being the third fastest boat in "Division B". The two boats in front of us were quite a bit faster than we were but the boat behind was similar to us and gave is a good race for third place.

We finished in 12 days, 13 hours, 41 minutes and 26 seconds.
At a nominal 2070 nautical miles for the whole trip, that would be
164.7 nautical miles per day,
6.9 nautical miles per hour (knots),
0.11 nautical miles per minute

An Appreciation from Howard Green

Hi Everyone:
Now that Cirrus is "in the barn" for the 2008 Pacific Cup, I would like to add some remarks to Ulli's that I only now have had the chance to read.

From my point of view as a racing skipper, Bill's 2008 effort was truly remarkable. The team members themselves were remarkable and the way the team worked together at critical moments was also remarkable. We started on a beautiful (for San Francisco) afternoon at 1:30 with moderate winds and almost no seas, and an ebb tide. Cirrus is equipped with a good Dacron main and a 125% Dacron roller furling jib that was enough to keep her competitive in these wind conditions. With Bill on the helm, we were under the bridge and out in almost no time. With two extra tacks along the north point then gone.

Ulli's “Cirrugator” computer program told us go south and we did...while a good part of the fleet continued tacking up the north coast toward the Farrallon Islands. Once we were on route, Bill's watch plan went into effect. It was a great plan. Each shift was four hours. Two people were on shift at all times. Every person worked four hours on and eight off...three of us, Larry, George and I were experienced race skippers, and Bill sometimes referred to us as "the A team". (But be assured, the other crew members were equally valuable with their contributions.) My shift was six to ten, morning and night, followed by Larry ten to two, and George two to six. Paired with the three of us were the other three: Chris, who had done two deliveries on Cirrus as Navigator and Communications expert, Ulli, with his huge additional responsibilities as navigation, tactician and communications officer and Bill, who had the responsibility for everything else on the boat. There were no shift captains...Bill was ever present or available. Bill wanted each person to get an even amount of helm time, except in crisis situations. Although for navigational matters Bill is a great navigator in his own right, he deferred to Ulli and his “Cirrugator” computer program at nearly every step in order to give the program a chance to prove its value. And prove it we did.
For sail trim matters Bill mostly deferred to the "A team" group on matters of helm sailing angles and sail trim. None of us was ever "in charge" but over and over, experience from each of us bubbled to the top and found its way into the nuances of the boat's sail trim and sailing strategy, and the boat was fast nearly all the time. Where there were conflicts between Ulli's program and the opinion of the sailing people the Skipper’s job was to work with everyone to get the best result.

There are many items of special equipment on Cirrus not usually found on a racing boat, and actually, not often found on cruising boats either. They each provided a measure of safety or security not ordinarily found on boats...and allowed things to be done with fewer hands. Things took longer to do, and were more cumbersome...but it was rare that we had the sort of equipment screw ups as are common on short distance race boats where the speed of maneuvers is often critical. On Cirrus, the boat is set up to achieve the long distance safety and security of the crew the boat and the race can be won with a spinnaker that is blown.
Because of the way all the special equipment worked, Bill was the lead foredeck person. As racing sailors know...we greatly value our foredeck people, but skippers do not often venture onto the foredeck. If there was one staffing shortcoming of our crew it was that many of us are in our sixties and seventies...not the material we usually look to for the extraordinary challenges of foredeck work. When the spinnaker was going up and down, I was often on helm, and we had Bill at 72 together with Larry at 74 and George at 64 up on the foredeck. For you guys who have sailed a long time and never seen Larry and George on the foredeck was a sight to behold. They always got the job done, but because of the special equipment it sometimes took a little longer.

For the spinnaker they would first secure the pole in position using a pole after guy (as opposed to the separate spinnaker after guy) as well as topping lift and fore guy. Then the spinnaker was raised inside a sock, the sock would then be hoisted and at the same time the spinnaker after guy and sheet would be brought in. The sock stays at the top of the mast until time to douse. At dousing, the boat heads down, the spinnaker guy is released, the sock is brought down, then the spinnaker is brought down and the pole is brought down. From the helm perspective the goal was keep the foredeck as flat and steady a working environment as possible, while all this is going on so that the guys can stay aboard and get their work done. So you stay steady at about 140 degrees apparent wind until the sock was hoisted and then go deep downwind, which is often a little unsteady and insecure, long enough to hide the sock from the wind behind the mainsail, and then to raise the sock and fill the spinnaker. It works and it never twists, but it did take quite a while to do it this way. So we had a few jokes about the geriatric guys up on the foredeck and the time it took. We accused them of forgetting what to do and so stopping to have tea or take a nap...but we actually knew it was an all out effort up there.

Our first near disaster happened early on when the port spinnaker halyard parted in the middle of the night and the spinnaker just began floating down into the ocean. It was blowing like stink. It was George's shift with Chris between two and four a.m., but I was up with them because I thought it would be good to have three people on board at night when the spinnaker was up. Luckily, George was on the helm. I knew from past experience that if the chute got to the water and it filled while we were going along, it would rip it to shreds. "Slow the boat down, head to weather." I told him. Meantime I figured that the best thing to do was to send the foredeck crew up to get the chute in. Then it dawned on me, only available fore deck crew was me. So I moved my safety clip, went foreword and started pulling the chute out of the water and inside the lifelines on deck as it was falling. George and Chris tightened the sheet to keep the foot out of the water. We managed to pull it aboard before it filled with water and with no damage to anything, something I’ve never actually seen achieved before on any other boat. Then we got the jib out and were sailing with little delay. In the morning we could see that the spinnaker halyard had jammed and the wire frayed at the top all in one place, and it was still in place in the mast. But we had no young buck to send up the we had only the starboard spinnaker halyard to finish the next 1600 miles...and we took extraordinary steps to avoid wear on that halyard. We put the spinnaker back up and were off and running.

After the first time we took the spinnaker down for the night it became clear that, even though it was prudent, if we were going to be in the race, we were going to have to carry it at night. So we extended everyone's night time shift two hours so there would always be three on deck at night...and it worked, but after only a day of this everyone was a little too tired. The middle of the race is a long sail...many days we had enough wind and the boat was challenged and we were cruising along with average speeds in the high sevens and low eights. Other days the speed averages dropped to as low as 5.9 with everything working.

Now about Ulli's computer program: The program does what it is supposed to do and does it well. It told us the most desirable route by comparing weather predictions for the next week with our boat's polars (These are speed predictions at various points of sail at every different level of wind.) and then telling us the route which the computer found to be the fastest through the predicted wind conditions, for our boat. The program kept us in wind, told us generally where it would be best to be, and we went there. It kept us out of trouble and sailing fast. The limitations of the program in practice are that the weather actually varies from predictions, and as wind speeds and direction vary, the exact direction the boat should sail will also vary. One big problem with the weather forecasts is that on a sailboat, the difference between 8 and 14 knots wind is big deal...and the direction a boat should sail to get the best results varies greatly...but even what is regarded as an accurate weather forecast often varies by that much or more. So while the general routing plan might work, the actual sailing courses can change.

Some comments on my fellow crew members:
George was an always happy jovial helmsman and crew member. He was also one of the best intuitive down wind helmsmen I have ever met, and clearly the best on Cirrus. Watching George helm in a squall was like watching a great artist at work. Rarely was the helm in need of large adjustments...and the boat stayed always under control. Even if you are not an experienced sailor you can appreciate that when a helmsman is sailing down wind, the forces that can come to play in causing the boat to go one way or another can overwhelm the ability of the rudder to steer the boat. So a helmsman is not really just steering a boat, but using the direction of the boat in the wind and the waves to keep all the forces affecting the boat in balance so the boat can keep traveling in the fastest possible direction. A truly good helmsman doesn't react to forces on a boat but anticipates and adjusts for them before they begin to affect the boat. Adjustments made, when timely are small and appear almost casual... Larry's first Pacific crossing occurred in the 1950's. His range of experience in racing has been vast, and his counsel always was even tempered and thought out. If anything had ever happened to Bill I am sure Larry would have been everyone's choice to become the captain. He also is an excellent helmsman.
For myself…sail shape, boat speed, a never ending quest. Almost a religion. George once asked me if I sleep with my GPS. It was a joke for him, but he laughed even more when he realized that, yes, of course I do. It works below deck. I was always watching the boat's performance, and was up on deck to help tweak things when it seemed slow. Larry and George had sailed together before...and as we all got to know and respect each other more, it was interesting to see each of us consulting more with the others about best sailing adjustments of the rig. On the last day we got trapped in a hole behind a mammoth squall that blew itself out and just parked in the ocean, leaving us in a permanent dead zone. It was George's shift, but I got Larry to take the helm and I babied the spinnaker on the rail for two hours till puff by puff we worked our way out of it. Chris was the least experienced in competitive sailing, but he was always looking for things that needed to be done, and cheerfully doing them, mostly before anyone else even realized they needed to be done. Chris became our main cook, a job at which he is clearly talented. Not to take away from Chris's sailing capabilities. He was on shift with Larry and George and had hours of instruction and practice in downwind helmsmanship. He is a smart natural sailor so he learned what he learned well. He will be a great asset to any boat. Ulli has sailed mostly in the past on Cirrus. As a helmsman on Cirrus he was quite experienced and very fast. His computer program “Cirrugator” will also be a great contribution to sail racing if he ever makes it available to sailors generally. Ulli's disciplined attention to detail in communication and navigation kept us organized and on track. Captain Bill...Cirrus is not just a good is a fitting, evolved expression of Bill's years of thoughtful experience in ocean crossings and ocean racing. His boom brake should be required equipment on ocean crossings. Bill has said that, “On this trip, Cirrus was better sailed that it has ever been sailed before.” Larry, George and I take a lot of pride in making that happen for Bill. But anyone who wants a challenge in life ought to think about trying to keep three captains who are used to making all the decisions on their own boats working together with each other and the rest of the crew and the navigator all in good spirit and cooperation...Bill's patience and social skills...well, incredible. This isn't to take away from his sailing skills. Once during an early morning squall, I clocked Bill's top speed as a helmsman at 13.9 knots, right up with the best from the A team, and a speed which any knowledgeable sailor will tell you is near impossible from a 40 foot 1970's racing design weighing 22,000 before crew and provisions.

There were two afternoon race incidents that deserve review: Twice the boat rounded up in strong winds and shortly thereafter saw its spinnaker guy come free from the pole. In the first incident, as the spinnaker was moving back and forth across the boat, the boat actually also rounded down, and did an unintended gibe. The solution to all this was amazing. First off, Bill's Boom brake functioned as designed, so that the boom made a controlled unintended gibe which did not damage anything. We flew the spinnaker free for a few moments on the lazy sheet. Bill was forward in a flash and reattached the pole guy as crew members in the cockpit --- I think George, Chris and Larry --- adjusted the lines to help Bill accomplish the work. Critical to this was the extra pole guy that kept the pole completely under control, even when the spinnaker guy had jumped out of the pole. Quickly the spinnaker was brought back under control. No damage, no injuries. No ripped spinnaker. Amazing. On a second occasion, the same thing happened, but as soon as the guy came loose, Ulli told George “You take the helm.” and George did and the boat remained under control as Bill, Larry and Ulli went forward and pulled the sock down then dowsed the spinnaker. torn sail.
It is hard to overstate how unusual it would be that with the incidents I have recited, on a sail with plenty of strong wind, except for one broken halyard, the boat sustained no damage to equipment or sails. Incredibly good, well thought out equipment, and experienced sailors working together with a great Captain.

So I thought everyone might like to hear one crew member's observations about some of the boat and crew dynamics that helped us do as well in this race as it was possible for Cirrus to do.

Howard Green

Monday, July 28, 2008

Cirrus is in the Barn

Cirrus has crossed the finish line at 03:11:26 Hawaiian time on Monday morning. We went the last miles under white sails with the jib poled out, with strong winds in the 20 kn range. Approaching the finish line was easy, but crossing it was an adventure! Some 100 feet from the finish line, close to the Pacific Cup buoy, a squall set in with such vigor that the communication with the Finish line by radio failed, and visibility dropped to zero! I sat in the back of the boat and with hand held GPS and VHF radio in my hands and was soaking wet from the rain. That wasn't the last douse - before docking we got two more squalls putting buckets of water on us. Finally, after getting rid of the soaked T-shirts we donned the Aloha shirts and posed for the photos. Kisses from the spouses, Mai-Tais and sinful sweet Hawaiian pineapples bites rounded the picture.

We made it again!

Aloha and Mahalo to all on-boat and on-shore crew and our faithful readers,

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Cirrus on Day 12

This is our last day. We are now 60 miles away from finish, and will go into the barn this night.

Standings report today was a bit confusing, as the finish times of the already finished boats were not published. But not much of relevance for us seems to have changed. If we don't screw up in the last minute, we should be able to keep our position. If!
Last night got wild. We had the spinnaker up, but wind became so strong, Bill wanted it down at about 10 pm. It was dark, the moon was not up yet, and only a few stars were visible in the sky. It was really dark, the best time for a major sail change! Anyway, the whole crew was on deck, it worked well, and we did make decent progress on a poled out jib through the night with the help of some squalls. In the morning the light spinnaker came up, and we kept going.
George was at the helm when a squall hit again. George set a new record of 8.9 kn average over 5 miles, so Larry's record of 8.7 kn lasted only a few days. However, it then happened what I had described a few days earlier: we got stuck in the hole behind the squall. We basically did not move for 2 hours! Larry and Howard proved their skills and brought the boat into an area with wind. Howard took position on the rail as a kind of Spinnaker-Whisperer, and Larry on the helm watched every trajectory of an air molecule towards the sails to squeeze the most out of every puff of wind. It was a bit of a miracle success, but nevertheless it had cost us 2 hours. Now we are moving again, and have prepared for the final run towards the finish line.
It won't be the Hawaiian midnight any more when we cross over, but 2 - 3 hours later (assuming no further surprises). Hopefully the bar of the the Kaneohe Yacht Club will still be open - a cold drink would be so nice! I imagine there will be a few more boats to finish tonight; in a few moments we will be overtaken by Rage, one of the fast boats.

It was asked and suggested that we catch some fish, have an "Ocean Sushi Diner" eating place, and publish pictures of big fish that we have caught. As we did in all other races. Unfortunately, not this time. Nobody felt inclined to do it, and we also really had no spare time. The fish may have liked it. Therefore, I am attaching a picture in lieu of a that of a big Mahi-mahi or Tuna; it is surprising for what purposes red tape can be used :-)

Aloha, Ulli

Position: July 27, 2008, 2106 PDT, lat 21n54, lon 156w47, cog 260m, sog 8 kn

Cirrus Limericks

Here is a compilation of Limericks from the creative corners of the Cirrus crew and from our readers. We'll add to it when we get more. So far this is the count:
Cirrus: 4
Readers: 4

From the Cirrus crew:

Cirrus, the old gal of the ocean,
Still fills the boys with the notion
She can fly down a wave,
Respond to a save,
And thrill the whole crew with her motion

We are the Cirrus geriatric crew
Went to the foredeck and forgot what to do
Went down for a nap,
let the spinnaker wrap,
But finally we did reattach the clew.

There once was a head from Nantucket
It was bad news, we can't duck it,
The pump broke apart,
Just days from the start,
Now Cirrus has brand new flush bucket.

There once was a head from Nantucket
It was bad news, there's no way to duck it,
The pump broke apart,
Just days from the start,
Now Cirrus has a brand new flush bucket.

From the Readers:

The Vogels
There once was a ship out at sea
Afraid of Klabautermann's glee
But the crew made a charm
Letting nobody harm
'Cept a small fish with too much esprit.

Jan (Jan's Paint By Words)
Another day out in the ocean,
Klabautermann created commotion.
He stirred up a squall,
We sailed thru it all,
With the mask on the mast as our potion!

Jan (Jan's Paint By Words)
We're racing the ocean so Cirrusly.
Driving and sailing so Furiously.
To be first in the fleet,
Would be quite a treat,
OK, we are thinking deliriously!

From nic:
There once was a guy named Lou,
whose limericks end on line two.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Cirrus on Day 11

A wonderful day and no adverse reports!

As I had expected, it was a slow night. No squalls came through during the night nor today. That wasn't the case for some boats, who did loose spinnaker, halyards and other goodies during intervals of heavy wind, such as those we had experienced earlier that day (but came through without damage). Since we haven't had any additional ones of these encounters, having the white sails up did not give any more protection, but did hurt our performance. While the rankings actually haven't changed, my Cirrugator program allows a little bit of crystal balling and it told

me that other boats are working hard, a bit too hard for comfort. Kokomo isn't standing still, and Urban Renewal showed some amazing improvements. I convinced Bill that we needed to have the chute up, and we did hoist the heavy 1.5 oz one. This was done by our foredeck team with a combined live experience of 210 years. The picture is enclosed to prove it: Bill, George and Larry are at the mast and prepare the hoist. If they look a bit puzzled it is because they have forgotten what to do, but this is explained in our recent limerick ;-)

The weather is as you expect it from a Pacific Cup: sunshine from a cloudy blue sky, it is hot, big waves, and wind up to 20 kn. Driving was more of this Wiggle-Your-Butt thing: Standing at the helm requires a constant dancing to counterbalance the boat motions and keep a clear view on the boat, the water and the instruments. Your body posture and movements are a bit like in

downhill skiing, and you can imagine that after 40 min at the helm - our standard time - you are ready to hand the helm over. But it is wonderful when you are able to master the big waves and ride the boat up and down the mountains of water, and feel and hear it gushing by.

To my surprise we still haven't seen flying fish. At this location we should be chasing them out of the water by the hundreds of swarms, but nothing this year so far. What we did chase out of the water was - a whale! I have seen it come up only a hundred feet away, but the watch crew said that he first came up no more than 50 feet away. Other boats have seen a whale too, possibly the same one, described by one as a juvenile humpback whale, and one boat apparently had suffered some damage from this encounter! There may be more on this topic on the PCup website.

We exchanged a friendly chat on the radio with E.T., a boat from Division D, when they crossed our stern in close proximity. See the picture which we took. This is a very unique event; for me it is the first time in five Pacific Cups that we come that close to another boat. We were jealous to see how easy and fast they went by. However, this is a sport car E.T. meeting the SUV Cirrus.

We are almost on a Great Circle Route to the finish line, and with a bit of luck we may not even need to jibe again, but go straight through with the current port pole. Expected arrival is midnight Hawaiian time on Sunday, or shortly after.

Aloha, Ulli

Position: July 26, 2008, 2051 PDT, lat 23n6, lon 154w09, cog220M, sog8.0kn

Friday, July 25, 2008

Cirrus on Day 10

No complains about mellow weather today, and Klabautermann took more shots at us, but failed thanks to our effective counter measures.

Once again, our standings haven't changed much, but we lost a little against the ones ahead of us, and gained a little against the ones behind us. Given the events of today, we are happy to still being in the race ...

The wind picked up today, the squall activity increased, and the waves got higher up to the point where you couldn't see the horizon over the wave ahead or behind. Worst of all, the waves came from an angle from behind. The wave lifts the boat, say, from stern port side, rolls the boat to starboard and raises the stern. The boat goes downhill, the wave moves ahead under the boat, lifts the bow, while letting the stern sink, letting the port bow sink before the starboard bow, thereby rolling the boat to port. The next wave repeats that. And occasionally, a wave comes from the other side. At the helm you need to anticipate the boat movement, and counter steer; but be careful not to overdue it, otherwise you may amplify the boat movement and then you run into very significant problems and major damages when the boat dips the spinnaker pole into the water. This is manageable on a normal day. But then there was today:

It was 6 am PDT this morning. Since we are keeping PDT time on the boat, and Hawaii is 3h behind and we being 2/3 there, the local time was about 4am. The moon, now a half moon, was up, shining through a thin cloud layer. So we could actually see the major features of the boat but not details. Howard was just coming up for his watch, and George was going down, with me having the helm. The wind was good at some 10-12 kn and we moved well. Suddenly the wind increased, possibly due to a squall, although no rain was coming down. A furious ride began with boat speeds exceeding 9 kn, sometimes pushing the rail in the water in the attempts to correct the swinging of the boat. The Klabautermann acted, ripping the guy (a line of the spinnaker) out of the clew of the spinnaker pole. The spinnaker, now without pole support, flew wildly.

We later looked at the clew, which has a steel pin about the thickness of a big thumb, which locks the lines in place. This lock was closed when we inspected it. Nothing was damaged. So how could the guy have come out? If that doesn't convince any doubters about the existence of Klabautermann, I really don't know what might do.

Now what to do with the flying, flapping, banging spinnaker? In the meantime we were 5 people in the cockpit, the wind had increased to well beyond 20 kn, howling even higher in gusts. Bill decided to go forward to put the guy back into the clew of the pole. He needed to go forward to the bow, and from the cockpit we had to bring the pole forward handling several lines. Cirrus was moving! She parted the water ahead of her, and the water gushed along her sides with the roar of a freight train. The bow was almost level with the water. Had the bow dipped deeper, the water might have gushed over the deck and swept Bill from his feet. But it went well. We now needed to bring the pole back and tighten the guy. During the whole process the boat was swinging with sometimes the port rail, sometimes the starboard rail being in the water. To recover, the sheet (the other line used to hold the spinnaker) was released to unpower the sail, resulting in ever wilder flapping. Somehow in the process an accidental jibe occurred, sure enough in the moment when Bill was coming back to the cockpit. He was hit by the blocks mounted under the boom and knocked down to the deck. Thank goodness we had the boom break on! Without it, there might have been one skipper less on this boat! If anyone wants to know what exactly a boom break is, just ask, I'll sing accolades for this device. (We had Bill lay down for the next few hours - just in case - but he is ok.) I got the boat back under control, the spinnaker was flying again, and miraculously, nothing was damaged. Obviously our counter measures proved effective. Soon after the wind subsided to the normal 10 kn or so. I had a good workout, but I was not really keen on another one.
But I got one. This one came in my afternoon watch, and came in a very similar situation. Good wind but very manageable, sudden jump in wind speed, and guy being ripped out of the intact and undamaged clew of the pole. This time I handed over to George to drive, and we socked the spinnaker and went on with white sails. We are in this moment still sailing with white sails, and wind is on and off from as low as 6 kn to as high as 25 kn. Speed is matching. I guess on average it will be a slow night.
Two attacks on one day and none successful - isn't that something? What if we had not put the mask at the mast? You can see it in the picture in some previous post. But looking at it again, I wonder which face is whose? What if ....

In the morning hours, before we switched to white sails, we realized that it is not a good idea to have the lightweight spinnaker, the 3/4 ounce, up during such strong wind, and so we decided to hoist the heavy 1.5 ounce one, which he had used in the beginning, and took the opportunity to inspect all lines for chafing. Bill, Larry and George went forward and did lower and reset the spinnakers fast and smoothly. Back in the cockpit we noticed that we had a combined 210 years of life experience working on the foredeck! We hereby challenge all boats to outdo us! Sure enough, in the later discussion in the cockpit this limerick came up:

We are the Cirrus geriatric crew
Went to the foredeck and forgot what to do
Went down for a nap,
let the spinnaker rap,
But finally we did reattach the clew.

Speaking about limericks, why should _we_ do the work and not our readers? Please send us your limericks, and we'll shamelessly present them as ours :-)
Here is a good example from the Vogel family about Klabautermann, which you find under the Halfway Party video post:

There once was a ship out at sea
Afraid of Klabautermann's glee
But the crew made a charm
Letting nobody harm
'Cept a small fish with too much esprit.

What a day!

Aloha, Ulli

Position: July 25, 2008, 2254PDT, lat 24n16, lon 151w42, cog240M, sog 6.8kn

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cirrus on Day 9

And yet another mellow day with hot sun in cloudy sky and moderate wind. But it had its edges, particularly during the rain showers. We only got a little drizzle on the boat, but they brought some good wind with them. And wind shifts, so we had to jibe a few times. We are getting a lot better and faster at it. The waves are also getting bigger and make driving a bit more demanding and, particularly in the hot conditions, exhausting.
Standings are largely unchanged, still 3rd in division, and 1st among the Hawaiian boats. But the low distance traveled in the light wind took its toll in the drop in overall ranking. We hope for some wilder conditions.
Today we were at Cosco's Diner. The food was, hum, good. No, really. Barbecued Beef with ... oh you guessed it already. By the way: I noticed that the chef in all the places we were eating looked very similar, and quite like Chris from our crew!
No boat or ship, no wildlife seen for the last three days, except for another little fellow, who looked pretty dried out to me.
I guess you have noticed our post with a video from our half way party? If not, look below.

Aloha, Ulli

P.S.: Happy Birthday, Petra :=>

position: July 24, 2008, 2041 PDT, lat 26n18, lon 148w58, cog 210M, sog 7.5 kn

Halfway Party on Cirrus on Video

It was a challenge to reduce the video to a format, which could be transmitted through the airwaves. Our main data connection is the short wave, SSB (Single Side Band) radio, which is connected to a special modem. It is similar to a connection via telephone modem on land, only that it is about 50 times slower, transmitting at about 1000 baud, and oftentimes less. The information we can transfer is therefore very limited. We also have a satellite phone, which can be used in a similar way, but it isn't much faster either. And I tried very hard to use the sat phone so to not hog the airwaves, but it wouldn't work. Finally the video made it through the short wave radio. I believe Cirrus during the Transpac 2007 race (Los Angeles to Hawaii) was the first sailing vessel to have transmitted a video in this kind, and let me know, but I believe this is unique in the Pacific Cup 2008? The video compression technology is similar to what is used e.g. in Youtube.

Aloha, Ulli video

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Cirrus on Day 8

Another mellow day with little wind, lots of sunshine coming from a cloudy sky, low waves, and Cirrus trying to find her way through. A bit of excitement came up, when a squall hit us. Squalls are rain showers, limited to a rather small area, like a mile or so. You can see them coming in the distance as a grey curtain ranging from the water to the clouds. It is well known that they always come only during the night. Except when they come during the day. They move faster than boats like Cirrus and bring with them wind, sometimes lots of it, and rain, sometimes lots of it. And with bad luck you are being crossed by them and then remain parked in the lull behind them. Faster boats can actually sail ahead of them, taking advantage of the good wind. We were hit by one last night, made good speed in refreshing rain, and escaped without being parked. During the day we saw many squalls passing by in the distance and got only a little bit of wind, if any, from them. We accommodated wind shifts due to the squalls with two extra jibes. Overall, performance is again disappointing, though it seems to be improving a little bit this evening.
Standings from last day had only minor changes overall, still 3rd in division, and 1st among the Hawaiian boats, but the pressure is mounting.
With a bit of luck earliest arrival will be on midnight from Sunday July 27 to Monday, or a few hours later. So we are pleased to say that we are back to arrival in the dark, as Pacific Cup sailing used to be, and regret the unfortunate break with that tradition as it happened the last Pacific Cup.
Tina's Diner served meat loaf with - you guessed right - mashed potatoes a la skipper. Bad news: Tina's Diner will be closed for the season! We noticed that a Cosco Diner has opened around the corner, and will have to go there tomorrow.
Strangely we haven't seen any flying fish yet, with the exception of the few poor fellows who lost their tiny lives after jumping onto Cirrus. One of them, who dried out on the foredeck, is shown in the picture.

Aloha, Ulli

position: July 23, 2008, 2135PDT, lat:27n28, lon:146w28, cog250M, sog7.2kn

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cirrus on Day 7

It was a rather mellow night and day, with low wind speeds, low waves, a sun shining from a mostly blue sky, although a bit hazy, and so we were oozing along. Low wind is not what Cirrus likes, and so it was not a big surprise that we got bumped to #3 in division, and overall also one position down. The standings among the Hawaiian boats hasn't changed; there we are still leading. We surely hope for better winds, but the grib files are not overly encouraging.
If you are interested in the weather, click on the weather chart on the blog site (right column), and look in the bottom right corner of the chart. A hurricane, in the meantime downgraded to a tropical storm, is coming from Mexico and aiming at us. Likely, however, it will have dissipated before it reaches us.
No big things happened today. We initiated a jibe in the night, and after all people needed were woken up, had geared up and were on deck, the wind shifted by 25 degrees, and the jibe was canceled! We jibed a few hours later. No boats or ships seen today, no wildlife except for a little flying fish who had landed on our deck - surprisingly I have not yet seen a single flying fish gliding over the water - and wind and waves remain low. Right now a rain shower is passing in the distance and we get a little wind from it (but no rain). So we ended the day in "Tina's Diner" with delicious Braised Beef in Red Wine sauce with mushrooms and mashed potatoes.
You know that this Pacific Cup has a Limerick contest among all boats, and here is our work of fine art, which we presented today during Children's Hour on the radio:

Cirrus, the old gal of the ocean,
Still fills the boys with the notion
She can fly down a wave,
Respond to a save,
And thrill the whole crew with her motion

Aloha, Ulli

position: July 22, 2008 2048 PDT, lat:28N01.2, lon:143w37.3, cog250M, sog7.5kn

Monday, July 21, 2008

Cirrus on Day 6

Another wonderful day out on the ocean, where you are exhausted at the end of the day although relatively little has happened.
Last night was rather mellow with the wind being down to 10 kn and less and the waves no more than 2 feet. We expected to have fallen back, being a big and heavy boat, but apparently other boats had similar problems. Our #2 position in the division was confirmed, and we actually gained an additional 1.5h on the first boat. However, we noticed that Music behind us is coming up strongly; we remain alert. Among the Hawaiian boats we are now first. Not sure what happened to Buzz off - they did not report today, and yesterday were way back with their fast boat. Smells like technical problems. Urban Renewal went from 12 to 33; wonder what happened to them. In the overall ratings we actually went one notch up, now on position 13. But the race isn't over yet. The wind is pointing almost directly to Hawaii, so it is like a horse race. The difference, however, is that boats don't sail well directly downwind, requiring some zig-zaging for better speed. The winner will be among those who do this best.
The weather has changed and so has our outfit. The days are warm to hot, with the sun being out occasionally, but mostly hiding behind a cloud cover. Even the moon had been visible for several hours, as well as some stars. But since the moonlight was so bright, and the sky cloud covered or at least hazy, only the most prominent stars were visible. Jupiter is very prominent: look at the sky in a southerly direction - the brightest "star" is the planet Jupiter. Our foul-weather gear gave room for T-shirts and short pants, and boots were put away for sandals. I went through my traditional cut-the-long-pants-once-per-day routine, and will have shorts when arriving in Hawaii. Down below it is now hot and it becomes strenuous to sleep during daytime.
Finally I also got to my first saltwater shower on deck. We laid a long hose from the forward end of the boat down below, where the hose is connected to a pump sucking in saltwater, up to a place forward of the mast, where one can sit down safely. The water is still so cold, it takes your breath away! But it felt great. And here it comes, faithful readers will already be expecting it, my pitch that saltwater showers taken on the high seas do not need a fresh water rinse. Everyone has the experience that after swimming at the beach leaves you somewhat itchy until you had a shower and washed off whatever the seawater had left on your skin. Not so on the high seas. You feel great without that rinse, and can even wash your hairs, and they will be soft and fluffy,. The only problem is that you need a special soap, because regular soap simply does not work!
There were years when we did not see a single boat or ship during the whole race, but this year it feels crowded. Today we saw four (4!) boats, likely all racers, at the horizon at the same time. Strangely, everyone went off into a different direction.

Yes, we made it to the half way point. For me it was earlier than ever before on Cirrus. This point is 1035 nm (nautical miles, some 2000 km) away from land. The whole track is about the distance from New York to San Francisco, or from Moscow to Portugal. There is actually no point on earth, which is further away from any land than this midpoint in the pacific Cup! Downhill from now on; we think we can already feel going faster. The skipper brought out a bottle of Champaign - gasp, alcohol on Cirrus! - and "Tina's Diner" served Braised Chicken Thighs with noodles and green beans in mashed potatoes (the latter a special of the skipper from his yet-to-be written Bachelor's cookbook). Desert was Tina's famous Ka'alua Cake. It was wonderful and with the weather and sea being rather mellow, we could all sit in the cockpit and eat together. Thinking about it, I can't remember that we ever had bad weather during the halfway party.

Unfortunately, as pleasant as the conditions were for the halfway party, it meant that there is not enough wind for decent speed. This morning we took our very first jibe of the race! Cirrugator suggested that, and we did it. Hopefully this will position us better a few days down the road. The next jibe may come during the night; we'll see. We expect the wind to be picking up steadily over the next days. I wonder if the tracking website let's you actually see our route in sufficient details to make out tacking and jibing?

Time to hit the cushions, it is now cool enough in our bunks,
Aloha, Ulli

Sunday, July 20, 2008

In Memory of Jo Schnetzler

It is a very solemn day in Santa Cruz today. Our good friend and sailing buddy, Jo Schnetzler, passed away a week ago. Today, Jo's wife, Valerie, along with Jo's friends and family, have gathered aboard a small fleet and sailed out of Santa Cruz Harbor to scatter Jo's ashes, and to remember him. Here, aboard Cirrus, we cast a lone carnation into the vast Pacific, and we remembered Jo with a special log entry:

6/20/2008; 1130.
30-34 N
137-24 W
For Jo.

Fair winds, Jo.
Chris Doutre

Cirrus on Day 5

Wow, another day on position 2! We celebrate them right away; you never know what comes next. We were surprised ourselves about our performance since while the daytime yesterday saw some hot rides, the night was quite a bit softer. When you look at the standings, you'll see that we had caught up on Checkered Past by 4 hours since yesterday and are now "only" 3 hours behind them. Overall we are on position 14 out of 60 boats, which is also a very good result for us. As part of the Pacific Cup we also have a race among the Hawaiian boats, of which there are three: Urban Renewal (Div C), Buzz Off (Div D), and us (Div B). Urban R. is on position 12 overall, i.e. two positions ahead of us; Buzz Off seems to have difficulties as they are on position 57. Urban R. is 40 miles ahead of us, which is a lead of about 6 hours of our driving. But they are rated much faster than us, so after handicap correction there is a chance left for us. I'll explain this some other time.
In the morning we saw Kokomo south of us, barely visible on the horizon. Late afternoon we were almost running over Plus Sixteen, a double-handed boat from the first start on Monday. Man, are these oceans overcrowded - somebody 's gotta do somethin' about it!
By the way: Double-handed does not mean sailors with some genetic manipulation that grew an extra pair of hands (which would be really useful), but two regular people, each with one left hand and one right hand. But on a boat you do need to hold on to something while you do your work, therefore one person equals one hand available for work. And a double-handed boat then is one with only two people on it. I did double-handing once, and not in a race, but I can tell you that this is exhausting, as you never get enough sleep. We already feel the impact with a crew of six. And we have to do it for 2 weeks!
The sun came out today, and it sure got hot. We dumped the foul weather gear and sailed in a T-shirt (with the life vest worn over it). Now in the evening it is mostly overcast again. Unfortunately, the wind speed continued to drop, and we sailed long stretches at only 6 kn. We can only hope that the competitors suffer similarly.
We were debating a jibe today. Buoy racers will freak out when they here that a jibe after 5 days out is "considered", nicht wahr, Christin? And at the end we did not jibe. Maybe in two days.
"Tina's Diner" was open again, tonight with hearty enchiladas. Highly recommended. Tina was on this years delivery crew for "Cirrus, and I believe she is linked to under "Delivery Crew" on this blog site, so you can read who made our delicious frozen dinners.

Aloha, Ulli

position: 20 July 2008 2125PDT, lat 30n25, lon 138w40, cog250, sog 6.5kn

Anti-Klabautermann measures effective immediately!

Would anyone really believe that a "rumbling" and "noise making" creature is helping the sailors, when at the same time we have seen on multiple Pacific Cups on Cirrus what damage this guy can do? No Valerie, I believe you accessed the "politically correct" version of Wikipedia, valid only in California :->. Maybe our German readers can find out more about Klabautermann?

However, we do take advice from our readers seriously, and in particular I found that Valerie's suggestion of carving a face into the mast was a really good one. If it has helped in the past, why not now and in the future? So I took hammer, chisel and drill and began to work on the mast. You won't believe what happened: the skipper stopped me in my doing after only a few holes drilled into the mast! I had to resort to Plan B and painted a face on the mast, using our good-for-everything-red-tape.
I am attaching a picture; Klabautermann is the LEFT face, the right one is mine.
But taking advice from the readers is clearly taking advantage of outside help, and this post must be kept absolutely secret and hidden from the race committee!

Mahalo for the tip, and Aloha,

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Cirrus on Day 4

What an eventful day! But let's start with the important matter. One word says it all: Lasagne. We dressed up for dinner and went to a good place, called "Tina's Diner". The special of the day was lasagne, which had finally thawed and was put in the oven. It was accompanied with a salad from green salad, tomatoes, and avocados, and skipper's choice of dressing. We had a bottle of red wine with it, although I must say the wine had little color, and tasted a lot like the water we drink all day long. Maybe it was water? Aaah, those were the days in the Pacific Cup 2000, when we had the red wine "Chateau du box" with us, a Premier Crue, carefully filled into a cardboard box... (see our PCup 2000 reports, link is on the blog site).
After this wonderful meal the evening was rounded out by a dolphin show, with a large school of dolphins zipping around our boat, jumping out of the water, and seemingly were enjoying themselves, playing with such a slowly - from their perspective - moving thing like Cirrus.
The morning began with the Klabautermann action, as I have already told you. The spinnaker was flying again, and we were moving, expecting, however, a dip in the ranking. What pleasant surprise to see instead that we had moved up to 2nd place in division! The first place boat is some 20 miles ahead, and although they owe us time due to them being rated faster, it is unlikely that we can get them unless they make a mistake (and we don't!). Defending current position will be demanding enough; these other boats have the annoying habit of not standing still.
Shortly after I finished the good-news-performance-calculations, Bill yelled down "All hands on deck". Oh dear, I envisioned our second halyard being ripped, and the sail in the water again. That would have been the end of the race, because you may get mild penalty from loosing the main (as proven in PCup2006, see our report), loosing the spinnaker is more severe. We do have two additional (light) spinnakers on the boat, but with no halyard to raise them up, they would be of no value. With wobbly knees we went on deck and fortunately saw the spinnaker still flying. However, Bill had noticed some apparent chafing at the halyard near the mast top, and was merely cautious for the same reasons that I had just mentioned. The spinnaker came down and it was quickly determined that the problem he saw would not effect our setup. So up the spinnaker went again.
Cirrus has a couple of lines for spinnaker handling in addition to what other boats have, which makes coordinated handling more demanding, although it makes it safer. We are getting better at raising and lowering the spinnaker.
In late afternoon we suddenly saw a boat ahead of us, sailing under spinnaker. We were expecting to pass them in a few hours, which made our blood flowing hotter again. But they turned south and sailed away. Now, we believe it was one of the racers, but what did they expect from going south? We don't know who that was. They had a white spinnaker with two big horizontal stripes, one in blue, one in red. Anyone knows who she is?
We saw the sun today! Ok, only for a few seconds, but we saw the sun. And now we even saw Jupiter. But the sky is still fully overcast, except for a few small patches of blue sky. And it is getting warmer. The clothing is getting lighter, we are now looking less like Teddy bears, but more like dieting Teddy bears. The first shower maybe no more than two days away; I am not going into this in any more detail ...
About 1/3rd of the race is done. Everyone of the crew in is good condition and looking forward to the next days.
Aloha, Ulli

P.S. more on Klabautermann later :-?

position: July 19th 2008 2153PDT lat 31n00, lon 135w35, cog240M, sog 7.2kn

Elizabeth's "Wonder Window" exclusive Dodger Designs

Yet another plug for the dodger we are so happy with.

When I canvassed the local North Bay marine canvas workers for an emergency dodger cover for the Pacific Cup race I got the cold shoulder. I was told that 6 months was "maybe", 6 weeks "forget it", and 6 days "ridiculous". That is, until I spoke to Elisabeth at Durrant Designs. She has a small shop on the second floor of a tiny little old house in the KKMI Boatyard. Phone: 510-325-7501. Email:

She listened to my plight and said, "Let's get to work."

At first, I specified just a solid piece of fabric in order to speed up the process. When my crew insisted on a window Elizabeth took it in stride. In fact she was smiling. Little did I know. I was about to receive a "Wonder Window". There is fabric on the top and sides but you do not see it because it is edge on from the wheel. The window is a HUGE wraparound, and from the wheel it looks like there is no dodger there.

The experienced downwind sailors in my crew think that the design of the dodger is worth at least one knot of boat speed.


Klabautermann is back on Cirrus

Klabautermann, to all you non-German sailors, is that nasty gnome riding on ships and boats, creating trouble all along. When things go wrong it's him! To know this also comes in handy when you are e.g. working in a manufacturing business!
Here are the - literally - "Breaking News": At 3:30am today the spinnaker halyard broke about a foot above the head of the sail, letting the spinnaker sink into the water in full length. And now comes the fantastic part, which most likely made Klabautermann really mad: We recovered the spinnaker undamaged, and, after lengthy restuffing the spinnaker into its sock, done down below with all space being filled with spinnaker cloth, we hoisted the same spinnaker on the starboard halyard. We are back in business, 8.5kn!
I guess that extra delay of about an hour will soon be seen in the ratings.
Aloha, Ulli

position: 19 July 2008 0832PDT, lat31n40, lon133w38, cog220M, sog8.5kn

Friday, July 18, 2008

Cirrus on Day 3

Standings didn't change a lot. Still 5th in division, and overall moved to 19 out of 54 (a slight improvement). Of course, the night without spinnaker made us fall back. But distance to the first boat is only 20 miles; some catch-up is still possible. As we are rated the slowest boat, all other boats of the division owe us time of up to 8h at the finish line.

This morning 8am we set the spinnaker again, and had a fantastic day at 8+ kn speeds in mounting waves. It has become something like a roller coaster ride, when big and heavy Cirrus rides up a wave and then slides down the hill - coming even a bit into surf mode - then dives into the next wave, scooping up a load of water. Or she comes to a sudden stop when falling into the valley behind a wave, shaking all her rigging and sails. It feels a bit like driving a school bus down a ski slope. Today Howard set an all time record on Cirrus with an average 8.7 kn over a >1 mile distance. That is more than Cirrus supposedly can do. Also, Chris got his Spinnaker-Diploma today, with his first helm time with a spinnaker up. And under those conditions it was not easy; he mastered it well. Adrenalin was flowing freely.

And guess what - the spinnaker stays up during the night! Mutiny canceled.

Today we decided to head over to Mom's Dinner place for a homemade, delicious lasagne. But it turned out that the thing was so thoroughly frozen that we wouldn't be able to thaw it in time for dinner without carbonizing the outside. Fortunately the Can-tina was still open, and so we had noodle soup with chicken. How can it possibly be frozen that much? Well, we have a cooler/freezer installed in the galley, which runs on battery power. And it needs a lot of it, so that we, if we were using it, needed to do the unpleasant thing of running the engine often to recharge the batteries (during that period the propeller must be disengaged to avoid taking illegal advantage of motor power). What we do instead is to stack the freezer with the frozen meals, and put a lot of dry ice around and between those food packets, and then even seal the freezer with tape to eliminate any air circulation. This freezes the food to the temperature of dry ice, which is -76(?, where is Google when you need it) deg Celsius. Then we take out one dinner package at a time and put in a camping-cooler, to cool other stuff while it thaws. You simply need to plan ahead and take into account that solid blocks like lasagne take a bit longer to thaw. This dry ice lasts for about 10 days in our setting; after that we run on battery power.
No sun, moon, or ... oh, I believe I said this before. We still have full cloud cover. How could the old folks navigate using celestial bodies when there weren't any to see? Well, I guess they didn't ;->, and had to rely on dead-reckoning using compass and measured boat speed.

Aloha, Ulli

P.S. I'm sorry that I may have created some confusion about commenting of a kind, which could be construed as illegal outside help. Clearly, none of the comments were anywhere near this border, so please, keep going! But it is a racing rule, and interestingly one that matters only since few years, as those modern abilities of communication simply weren't there before. Has any reader ever heard of "outside help" in a racing context due to information given via a blog?

position: 18 July 2008 2024PDT, lat 32n27, lon 132w09, cog 230, sog 8.3