1:00 am this morning in the pitch black damp of the North Atlantic, as we plunge foward at 14 knots of boat speed under spinaker.
Cold, wet and suddenly surprised. The bow jumps up as the boat decelerates instantly. I yell; "We hit something." Another yells over the noise; "Is it the chute??".
In the prearranged signal to those below, I repeatedly pound my fist on the deck next to the wheel as we all bellow "Everyone on deck, on deck, on deck, on deck...".
When inevitably asked why spend vacations racing across the North Atlantic, I give pretty much the same answer; it is an enormous challenge. I think some people perceive that as a macho response to man vs nature or some ancient Poseidon complex. Not in the slightest. If asked further I explain that the challenges are multiple, varied; dynamic and great fun. Almost all the time. Truly invigorating time in a different environment from our day to day.
If you are reading this you probably already know these challenges; weather, navigation, boat performance, crew dynamics, tactics, maneuvers, trim, preparation for the totally unexpected. Drilled into me for years was the notion that 90% of a successful race happens before the starting line. And while history has proven that to be largely correct, the best prepared boat cannot change weather, the pounding of wind, seas and salt water on boats and people. Exhaustion and concentration or simple boat chafe consistently derail preparation. And when asked about crew and who fits best to create a fun experience in this environement the answer always the same--how they handle the surprise at 3 am in the dark. And the humor to laugh later, whatever was faced.
So last night's challenge in the dark was the strop connecting the tack of the sail to the loop that attaches the tack line on the bow sprit. As everyone rushed on deck, some only in boxers and boots, a torch shone on the A2 flying from the top of the mast like laundry flapping on a clothesline. The retreival line daragging in the water out of reach. It all worked out... spinnaker taken down, sent below to a massive packing job, tack strop replaced and by 1:30 am spinaker up and we were full speed.
Back to the main challenge of the high and low systems shoving each other like wrestlers as we race north around the high and boats behind catching us with the winds from the low they are riding.
Happy July 4th from the North Atlantic