Hi everyone,

This is my first post on the forum and I'm sorry it's a long one! Just wanted to share my SHTP qualifier experience on Werewolf from this past week.

Since I wouldnít be able to get time off from work for the official LongPac coming up, but I had gone through all the trouble of getting the boat ready to go, I decided to do a similar course on my own. An Early-Pac, if you will. The forecast looked pretty good for it, with light winds for the first few days, turning into typical north-west winds by Wednesday/Thursday.

I started out on Monday morning in the ebb tide, making great progress out the gate in an easy 12-15kts from the west. I long tacked out beyond Bonita and then held starboard for a loooong time, going south of the farallones by quite a ways. I saw dozens of dolphins and whales out there in a feeding frenzy. No sharks thankfully. As I got further offshore the wind decreased and turned more southerly so my course veered south as well. I changed to the genoa and kept making decent progress through the night. The autopilot worked great but I did need to make little adjustments every hour or so overnight.

On Tuesday around 7am I had finally made it 100nm offshore. The closest point to me then was Pigeon Point since I was pretty far south. Now it was all about finishing off the mileage. The wind at this point was really light, in the 0-4kt range so I was not getting very far. I got a message from my dad on the inReach that the NW wind was predicted to build into the 35+ knot range by Wednesday night. This did not seem like something I wanted to work my way against on the way home, so I decided to make my way north to position myself onto a broad reach getting home when the wind arrived. So the spinnaker went up and I turned north and things were pretty nice for a while. The wind had built to about 12kts, still from the south. When night fell I dropped the kite and poled out the #4.

Around 1am I got up to check on the boat and things were looking good. We were trucking right along in 17kts of wind, still from the south. When would that NW wind get here? I checked the chart and saw I had sailed over 200nm but was only 150nm from the GGB. More miles to go. By 530am conditions were largely the same but now I had sailed 231nm and the GGB was 169nm away. I was pretty sleepy but double checked that 231+169=400, then took a screenshot of the chart and headed for home!

So now I was sailing east with ~20kts of wind from the south. The sea state was building with the wind too, with a huge amount of northerly set to my course. I had to head up to a course of 95magnetic to make due west progress. And the wind kept building. By mid-day I had wind in the high 20ís and had gone through two reefs in the main. Thankfully I had the #4 up so I hadnít needed to do a headsail change. I had the backstay on max, and my rig has a babystay so that was on tight too. The rig actually looked pretty good. But of course the wind kept building. As it got up into the low 30ís I had a hard time keeping the #4 from fluttering (itís old and dacron) so I ended up dropping it to prevent the headstay from shaking so bad. Now I was sailing with just the double-reefed main, making OK progress around 5 kts at about a 45 degree AWA against sustained 35kt winds from the south. Highest gust I saw was 38. I was really wondering how the weather prediction guys were right on the money with regards to wind speed, but 120 degrees off on the direction!

I kept going along like this, confirming every so often that I was making progress towards home. I had to hand steer the whole time to keep the boat from launching straight off the waves from the south, which were now visibly higher than my spreaders. Some time in the afternoon, all of a sudden, the wind direction changed abruptly to be south-westerly and lightened a bit down to the low 20ís. I eased the mainsheet and the boat stood upright and started making much easier progress towards home. The sea state was still awful so I kept hand steering.

By 2am I was nearing the farallones, giving them a nice wide clearance since I was pretty far north. I approached the gate through the northern shipping channel but cut the corner early towards bonita instead of going all the way down to the lightship. I un-reefed the main to make better progress against an ebb current but didnít have the energy to go put a jib up. At 6am I was in the washing machine at the potato patch and really wishing I had taken the long way around the lightship haha. After making it through that I ended up cruising under the gate around 7am in 20kts of south-west wind and slack tide. Just under 72 hours at the end, and I hadnít slept at all in the second half.

What an adventure! Iím happy to report that my systems all worked fine, including the solar even though it was overcast most of the trip. My energy requirement was pretty low though. I have one of Brianís pelagic autopilots and it worked great and never drew more than 1amp/hour over an extended period. The boat did get a couple little leaks through the windows and some of the toe-rail bolts but I can get those fixed up no problem. Overall, Iím a lot more confident in the boat and the rig now and Iím pretty sure Werewolf can make it to Hawaii next year.

Thanks to the SSS for putting on the races that have allowed me to practice for this, and for hosting this forum which is such a treasure-trove of information. Lastly a big thanks to my parents and girlfriend for their sailing knowledge and support, and most of all for letting me do this!

See you all out on the water,

Jeff