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Thread: Team Tortuga - Recap

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2012

    Default Team Tortuga - Recap

    Ahoy! Tortuga and I made it!
    Iíll call it this year - The EXTRA LongPac

    I canít sail as high an angle into the wind as most boats because Tortuga has a full keel so I end up having to sail out even farther to hit the longitude mark before turning around.
    This year proved its intensity with the first night packing a punch of 35 knot of winds and large seas.
    Team Tortuga finished the race at 1:19:30am today for a total time of 3 days, 11 hours, 14min & 30 sec.

    This was the fifth time Iíve sailed this race and Iíve finished it three times. Once, there was so little wind it was like being on a glassy lake 100 miles offshore, with no chance of wind in the forecast for days, I packed it in and motored back. Another time it was so rough at the start I decided that after passing under the Golden Gate Bridge I wasnít going to get beat up that year and withdrew.
    For reference here are my previous times:
    2017 - Time - 3 days 4 hours 49min & 11 sec (I won first in class on corrected time that year)
    2011 - Time - 4 Days 18 Hours 26min and 12 sec (that year literally the first day there was barely any wind so I bobbed around the Farallones for almost a day and then it was breeze on with only 4 boats actually finishing the race because there was so much gear and spirit carnage)

    The three times now Iíve finished the race it delivered on its reputation of big winds and seas. All to make sure youíve got your boat prepped properly to sail to Hawaii and beyond.

    Day 1
    The race started at 2pm July 3rd off of the Golden Gate Yacht Club along the SF city front. We had a lot of wind at the start and even more once we got past the bridge at Pt Bonita. Iím glad I had started with the storm jib, staysail and double reefed main. It cost me a little speed getting out, but better that, than having to try to switch from the working jib to storm jib in the wave cauldron that is the mouth of the Golden Gate entrance. The wind was really westerly getting out so I couldnít point that high. I saw a 3-4 boats still behind me which is good since Iím usually DFL. Once we cleared Pt Bonita we headed parallel to the coast and got caught in the edge of the ďMontara HoleĒ as itís affectionately called with super light wind. I didnít realize that it went that far offshore. Gave me the chance to bake a nice Pizza for dinner while it was calm. We worked our way offshore in the lighter breeze and then it really picked up again once we cleared the Farallones and Pt Reyes to the North before midnight. It was giddy up all night with wind up into the 30s. Those are the moments you question why you do this race Sailing amnesia I suppose. I had to really fall off at that point to minimize the waves crashing over the boat and burying the port rail in the water too much. I was back down to double reefed main, staysail and storm jib. I tried the 2000 role call on SSB but no one was on it. (or maybe I was on the wrong channel.) Iíll try again tomorrow night. After sunset I saw Sunquest, the other Westsail 32 behind me and then on AIS for a little while but then he went dark. I also saw one of the racey boats, X-1 on AIS for a little while headed the other direction. (perhaps retiring?)

    Day 2
    We made it through the night and I really had to get some sleep. Iíd been cat napping all night while we were still getting out of the shipping channel and I wanted to keep an eye on things. Got a few longer naps this morning and woke to find the wind had calmed down a lot and we were only doing about 4knots. I shook out all the reefs again and we are back into the 5/6knot range without making it an uncomfortable ride. I was also able to start pointing back higher so hopefully we can have some Northing in the bank when we make the turn. Made a nice spinach frittata for breakfast and took a tour of the foredeck to make sure everything was copasetic.
    The rest of today was much calmer than last night with winds in the high teens and 20s. was mostly grey but iíll take that over the pounding wind and waves.
    Reefed back down again with the 1st reef and staysail and storm jib. Spoke with Cliff on Rainbow at the 2000 SSB check in. No one else was on station except us. He took a pounding last night too and said he hove too for a few hours. Believe me, the thought of turning and running for Half Moon Bay last night crossed my mind. It was down right nasty. Got some sweet potato chips in the oven making the cabin nice and warm and will have that with some bbq ďchickenĒ for dinner.
    Hopefully the wind stays in this range for the next 8-10 hours and Iíll make the turn around mark early Friday AM.

    Day 3
    Had an uneventful night. I think I should have headed up more during the night but I was keeping the boat comfortable and was heading higher than the last 12 hours. Hit the 126.40 mark at 0944 this am. Tacked around and started to head back. Saw what looked like an Albatross when I tacked back. Super cool, the only sea life Iíve seen the whole trip. Hard on the wind out and hard on the wind back for this boat. Have a single reefed main and staysail and storm jib and making about 6 knots. It keeps the boat balanced and comfortable without burying the rail too much. still get the large breaker every 10-15min that crashes over the boat. At my current speed etc I should be back in the bay late Sat eve early/Sun am. But that could all go poof if the wind gets really light offshore in the evening on Saturday. Time for another nap.
    This afternoon the winds are toying with me today. It gusts up and then I take in the second reef only to go light and then it gusts back up again. Iím alternating between the 1st and 2nd reef on the main. Iíve lost track of how many times Iíve reefed and unreefed the main sail now. I keep waiting to enter back into the ďgale alley.Ē Not looking forward to that as we get closer to the coast. itís going to be a rough night I think. Got a message from my SoCal sailing buddy Ed that lifted my daily spirits. We doublehanded the Newport to Ensenada race at least 15 times together. Thats a different animal than sailing the NorCal waters in the summer. Had another good 2000 SSB chat with Cliff on Rainbow. No other boats were on station.

    Day 4
    Finally got to ease off a bit after about 1am. Wind still in the 20s. We are a bit more reachy now. I ran the staysail sheet outside the leg of the mast pulpit and eased the jib and main. Still trying to point higher than probably needed just in case it goes light as we get closer. Itís still pretty wet with some waves breaking over the boat on the beam. Banking some more sleep/naps before we get closer to the shipping lanes. Well it got real again last night with wind back in the 30s. I had to take in the 2nd reef in the main and loose some speed but the boat was just way too over powered and the autopilot was on the edge of strain. I got pasted going out on deck to take in that reef. Lost about 1/2 knot-1 knot of speed. That really makes a difference when your counting down the hours left to the Golden Gate Bridge entrance. But I donít want to break anything. Hopefully this wind and seas will abate soon as itís really uncomfortable and hard to move around the cabin. Really curious to know how many boats are still left out here? I only know of Rainbow but I would imagine the heard was thinned out that first night with tough decisions, sea sickness and gear failure. Weíve been doing about 6-6.5knts all day clicking off the miles toward home. The winds are still in the 20s with higher 20+gusts. The sun is out charging up the batteries nicely. Every 30 min or so a big roller hits the port bow with a SLAM as we plough through it sending a wave and salt spray crashing over the deck. The wind build into the 30s this afternoon making for a more pleasant ride as the added wind really flattened out the sea state. Been beam reaching the last 75 miles or so, making good time. Iíve seen quite a few shearwaters today flying in and out of the waves. Iím really praying to the wind gods to not lose wind as I get closer to shore as it would possibly keep me out here all night bobbing around in super light wind and rolling waves.....
    Itís just about sunset and the waves are crashing on the boat right forward of the beam making for a cascading seawater bath every 20min or so. I tried for one last 2000 SSB check in tonight but when I turned my SSB radio on I got a ďNo MMSIĒ message. No idea what that means but Iím glad that happened on the last night. The 20+ knot wind held through the evening and puttered out about 12 miles out so I got worried that it would be a super long night! Lucky it picked back up in about 30min and I had a great flood current pulling me back into the bay. Sweet reward - Iím baking cookies as Iím only a few miles out from the GG Bridge.
    Team Tortuga finished the race at 1:19:30am for a total of 3 days, 11 hours, 14min & 30 sec.

    Looking back the only things I think I could have done better - sailing the boat harder on the 2nd day and try to push for more speed, headed up higher and probably put up a bigger head sail. Thatís why Iím no great racer as I usually sail too conservatively and keep the boat comfortable and in control. If everything is balanced well and Iím moving along nicely, am I going to go up and make a head sail change at 3am? Not likely for that extra .5 knot.

    Team Tortuga

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Montara, CA


    Nice recap, Randy! Welcome back. You're a racer after my own heart with all that lovely cooking and keeping the boat balanced and comfortable. In the 2017 race, I believe you were also around third overall. I'll need to check that.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2012


    And here’s some video footage. Funny how it looks like a relaxing day sail in the video!

    Day 1&2:
    Day 3&4:

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2010


    "... baking cookies as I'm only a few miles out from the GG Bridge." Randy, you kill me.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Discovery Bay, CA


    Quote Originally Posted by Philpott View Post
    "... baking cookies as I'm only a few miles out from the GG Bridge." Randy, you kill me.
    Yea, he's always bragging about baking pizza while the rest of the fleet are freezing their buns off. That is... when he's not helping people like me with gummed up rudders.

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