A strange climactic 'inversion' zone has been hanging over the Pacific Northwest for the past few days, usurping our usual 'grocery-store mist' with fog-like funk that’s been doing a series of diligent overnight jobs icing-up car windows, slicking-up sidewalks and otherwise harshing our fairly mellow winter scene. Needless to say, no one was sorry to see a few hours of blue skies once the afternoon sun (yes, we really do have that here…sometimes) burned-off the inverted funk. The local sailors who took advantage of the great weather window were rewarded with a clear view of the Olympic Mountains to the west, their far-off peaks soaring above a misty 'super sea' of clouds. Mix in a few old-growth trees, a huge rip current and the echoing bark of sea lions and the scene on the beach wasn’t bad either.
Puget-Sound under winter skies
Meanwhile, in the non-stop-and-solo around-the-world Vendee Globe Race, race leader Francois Gabart ('Macif') has carefully cultivated his lead over Armel Le Cleac’h ('Banque Populaire'), increasing his buffer zone to more than 140 miles at the time of this writing. While the two contenders have been neck-and-neck since the fleet entered the Southern Ocean, congenial niceties seem to have dropped off now that the leaders are free of the ice and the remaining (passing) runway is evaporating.
'Armel and I haven’t spoken at all since Cape Horn,' reported Gabart. 'The last time was in the Pacific Ocean. We’ve seen each other, but if I remember well, we haven’t talked.' Given that less than two thousand miles now separate 'Macif’s' bow from the finishing line, it’s fair to say that the stakes are high and rising by the mile.
Unfortunately, some boats are experiencing a particularly 'sticky' passage north as light airs have reduced 24-hour returns, ultimately adding time to each boat’s total elapsed time. For some skippers, this reality is becoming a worry.
17 Jan Last Breakfast, Mike Golding onboard Gamesa - 2012 Vendee Globe
'Things have not been easy as we have not had hydro generators since the Southern Ocean,' reported sixth-placed skipper Mike Golding ('Gamesa'). 'While we did load some fuel [before the start of the race], we had a plan that covered a lot of bases – we have hydro, solar and fuel – we tried to cover our options. However, trying to predict our fuel usage from the beginning of Southern Ocean to the current point has been very difficult and now we are very low on fuel. So yes, pretty nerve-racking.'
Mike Golding, Gamesa - 2012 Vendee Globe
Get the full multi-media Vendee Globe report, inside.
And for technically minded sailors, the Sailing Yacht Research Foundation (SYRF), a 501(c)3 organization, has recently released their post-presentation notes (inside this issue) from an interesting talk that took place last weekend at the Stamford Yacht Club in Stamford, CT. Here, top sailing luminaries—including navigators Stan Honey and Peter Isler and yacht designer Jim Teeters—gathered to discuss the ways that technology and science can make for better, higher-performance sailboats and better rating rules.
'The mission of supporting science in sailing is a critical one, since this is a very technology-intensive game,' said Honey. 'In the past there has been tremendous progress made through various America’s Cup programs, but there are still many areas of research that are needed that are not a current focus for those programs. And yet the demand remains for ever faster and safer boats, so SYRF can help fill this gap.'
Also inside, get the latest whispers from the Artemis Racing-the Challenger of Record for the 34th America’s Cup-regarding their wing inventory, check our Richard Gladwell’s image gallery of the 18-foot skiffs out playing in the gusty stuff on New Zealand’s Hauraki Gulf, and get the latest on two interesting Southern Ocean rescue efforts.
Yamaha and C-Tech - 18ft Skiff Nationals - Day 2, January 20, 2013
And finally, be sure to stay current with the website this week for updates from the infamous Key West Race Week (January 20-25) as top-shelf racing unfolds in a wide variety of classes, ranging from sportboats to Mini Maxis. More, as it unfurls!
May the four winds blow you safely home,