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Thread: Weather/Tactics Discussion (Part 4)

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2007

    Default Weather/Tactics Discussion (Part 4)


    The middle third of the SHTP has been dubbed "SLOTCARS" by former SHTP winner and SSS weather treasure Stan Honey. The reason is each Bug Lighter has chosen his/her lane to cross the RIDGE. And must now live in that lane until the "SLOTCARS" section ends. SLOTCARS ends when the wind veers far enough to the East (080m) so Hanalei is Dead Down Wind (DDW) and either jibe may be sailed.

    As one nears the conclusion of the WINDY REACH and approaches Pt. A on the SE RIDGE of the EPAC High, the prevailing NW wind (310m) has slowly veered into the N (350 m -010 m). The wind is also decreasing in velocity and becoming puffy. Seas smooth, and the swell drops to 3-5 feet. Dark "cats paws" puffs can be seen approaching from windward. Sailing on starboard tack, puffs are 15 degree headers, while lifts predominate in the lighter wind between puffs.

    Many miles can be won/lost as one begins SLOTCARS. Three big gainers against less aggressive sailors can create a "jump" during SLOTCARS:

    1) With the wind oscillating both in strength and direction, a windvane, or AP set to AWA, will sail the boat extra miles in zig-zagging fashion. Rather than keeping one trim setting, and wandering all over the ocean, it is better to hand steer as much as possible, or set the AP to steer to a compass course, and trim the sails.

    Trimming while steering means having the main and headsail sheets readily at hand. I accomplished this on WILDFLOWER by "cross sheeting" the leeward jib/spinny sheet to the windward primary winch, just forward of my helming position.

    2) By setting light sails, especially a reaching spinnaker, before other competitors, 1-3 knots extra boat speed (BS) can be gained. Sailing with a heavy jib with the wind light and aft of abeam is just plain slow. The tendency is to wait too long, usually 6-12 hours, before setting light sails.

    3) With the breeze going light and aft, creating apparent wind becomes critical, even in a heavy displacement vessel. When the ocean's surface is wrinkled, but the sails are hanging, head up more onto a reach, and get the boat moving. This speed creates apparent wind, which in turn creates more boat speed, and more apparent wind. SLOTCARS, more than any other part of the SHTP, is all about creating apparent wind.

    Eventually in the vicinity of 135 W the wind will start to build, and patches of blue sky will begin to shine the sun's rays on distant patches of ocean, creating a wonderful lighting effect. The nearly full moon makes night time sailing delightful. The boat is slightly heeled, and water sings along the leeward rail. A bucket bath becomes a possibility as the water temp rises into the mid-60's.

    If you haven't before, now is a good time to check for things stuck to the keel, rudder, and prop (see INTRO.)

    Pt. A has been left astern. Pt.B is now entered in the GPS as your next waypoint, 100 miles upwind of Hanalei at 23N x 158 W. Once again, Pt. B is only a reference point. Chances are, unless flying twin jibs, you won't be steering directly for Pt. B once past the Halfway Mark at approx. 28x140.

    SSB chatter begins to increase, especially just before and after Rollcall. The occasional Matson container ship from the West Coast (Oakland or LA) to/from Hono will be passing on almost a parallel course. Most Matson watch officers are avid sailors and enjoy a brief chat on the VHF.

    MOKIHANA, Matson's only RO-RO ship, sails from Los Angeles for Hono on Sat. afternoons, and is especially easy to identify with a giant multi-story car garage on the after part of the ship.

    MOKIHANA's sister (without garage), MAHI MAHI, runs the same route on opposite weeks. (Oakland/LA/Hono/Oakland.) Leaving Oakland direct for Hono on opposite weeks are the MANOA and the KAUAI.

    All four Matson ships have their bridges forward, travel at 22 knots during their 4 day passages, and have excellent bridge lookouts and radar watches. During normal weather, their radar and lookouts will "see" you at approximately 12 miles.

    Though not weather or tactical related, we would be remiss to ignore the Night Sky. As the low overcast, even drizzle, of the WINDY REACH gives way to more tropical conditions, big patches of night sky open. Several times/night, bright yellow green meteors ("shooting stars) may illuminate the sky with their streaks of light.

    For the uninitiated, these meteors may be mistaken for flares. Enthusiastic, but false reports of flares drives the Coast Guard nuts, as they have to conduct an investigation. These reports have been a plague of past Transpacs. As a reminder, a distress flare is red and floats slowly downward on a parachute.

    Offshore, Naval and Coast Guard vessels predominantly run darkened at night. (No running lights.) Sometimes these military vessels will shoot off brilliant white phosphorus flares that light the night sky for many miles as they conduct search operations.

    Ahead, the brilliant planet Venus sets three hours after sunset and provides a good steering beacon low in the western sky. One sleep deprived Bug Lighter once conducted a radio conversation with Venus, believing it to be the steaming light of an oncoming ship.

    Lastly, I challenge all racers to identify Hokule'a (Arcturus). Just remember Hokule'a is one of the brightest stars, and can be found by using the "arc" or handle of the Big Dipper as a pointer.

    Early Polynesian navigators sailing double hulled canoes from Tahiti and the Marquesas used Hokule'a, the "Star of Joy," as a navigational star, as it passes directly overhead when reaching the latitude of Hawaii. These early Hawaiians, knowing they had reached the latitude of Hawaii, would then sail west in the trade winds to their landfall.
    Last edited by sleddog; 06-15-2010 at 09:30 PM.

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