The Wrap

It has taken a day or two to collect our thoughts, let the flack over the ratings and standings settle, and find a computer. But it's time to close the book on this race and get back to life again. What a wacky finish!

Our last day was our fastest of the trip. We averaged 9.5 knots for the last day, and came in under Savai's big red and grey kite to the finish. When we sighted land about 20 miles out we let out a whoop, and then chewed away at the last few miles. They seemed to take forever, in spite of our boat speed.  But finish we did, in 10 days, 23 hours, and with memories of the trip of our lives.

Kotukufinish Photo

We were met at the finish by the Pac Cup escort boat, and by a powerboat loaded down with kids, family, and the nicest pilot you could ever meet, Thanks Kevin for taking everyone out to the finish.

It made it extra special to be able to share that with our family.

When we finished we thought we had won. But it turns out we had miscalculated the time delta between us and Elan. Those of you watching the tracker closely probably guessed that we might not be able to save our time on the last day- Janna was pretty sure we were in trouble.  But ignorance was bliss, and we were congratulated as champions.  Which made it doubly bitter when we woke up in the morning to find that after the final day's handicap was applied, we were second by 52 minutes.

The team on Kotuku sailed an amazing race though and we are proud of our effort.  We drove hard when we could, sailed safely when necessary, and had a heck of a lot of fun in the process.  Rather than being sick of sailing and tired of our shipmates, we are already scheming about the next great adventure.  One of the first things we did was liberate a three sailing dinghies from the Kaneohe yacht club, and six of us had a spectacular battle up and down the bay to the delight of its inhabitants.  (Yes, I was the one who flipped the dinghy--sorry KYC!)

A big thanks to everyone who supported us, from the shore team (Janna, Talia, Savai, Amy, and an army of friends and family).  The folks in Kaneohe have been wonderful.  We were met with Leis and Mai Tais, we did a Jimmy Buffet Buffet last night, there is a Luau this week, and a Rum party where I will present the Commodore with a Sloop Tavern Yacht Club burgee.  And a big thanks to the Light My Fire team, who posted our blogs faithfully on Facebook so that we could share this with you!

I am guessing that for the next few days Team Kotuku will be seated around the pool, scheming, dreaming,  complaining about our rating--a little grumbling adds balance to all the fun we are having.  And we might be working on some video too...stay tuned...Nick is threatening to publish both our high speed surfing and my wipeout-- both were, um, memorable...and should make for good entertainment.

Thanks again from all of us on Team Kotuku, Matt, Emily, Al, Alex, Eli, Nick and I feel honored to have had the chance to do this, and loved all of your comments, wishes, and support.  We feel like we did this with one great big family, and it was fun to share our experience with you.

The Crew At The Finish

We finally found the tradewinds

We finally found the tradewinds.  Man, it was a tough road getting here.  We have had 3 straight squally nights, with high winds and confused seas. Then we had a patch of light wind.  Then, this morning while I was driving the clouds seemed to organize themselves into marching marshmallow men and begin an orderly tromp toward Hawaii.

The water is very warm and very blue.  The wind is a steady 18 knots. We moved up a spot in the standings and are currently 1st in our class and 6th overall. And this afternoon we caught a beautiful Mahi Mahi, about 6kg (13lbs.) She put up a good fight but was no match for our seasoned crew, and we are having ceviche for happy hour and baked mango mahi for dinner. Care to join us?  We are living the dream out here.  I think about work occasionally, wonder if people are ready for the show in Salt Lake City.  I am sure they are, or that they will be.

In the meantime, we have a bit more work to do ourselves on Kotuku.

We have tough competition in our class just waiting for us to make a mistake. And we would like to see if we could move up another place in the standings tomorrow.  Oh, we have a lot of fresh fish to eat too. Better get to it then!

Half way baby!

Sloppy Weather (2)

Wow, what a day. Spent the night doing terrifying drops off of large waves in the pitch blackness of a cloudy, squally night with winds 25-35 knots. Definitely some hero driving, Alex being the real hero of the day. He put together three straight hours of surfs, cliff jumps, and non-stop acts of boat preservation. Al and I got the rest of it done until it got light, but the whole crew battled the night through trimming and grinding frantically just to keep the boat from rounding up or rolling down as we flew through the darkness. We were exhausted by the time the sun finally showed up. But we were past the halfway point, and still in first place. Matt then served up smoked salmon benedict and we opened the half way boxes.  A civilized ending to an otherwise brutal night.

And what fun were they!  We played the wonderful CD prepared by Talia and Savai (and sung beautifully, it brought a tear to my eye!)  We fired off the poppers and the Canadian breath spray.  We admired the bacon salt, hung the aloha sign, the Hafway Kotuku picture with the smiling sun, and the Coconut air freshener in the head.  Then we ate the smoked herring, read our mail (Emily isn't sure what to do about the utility bill!) and generally had a great party which I later bragged about on the radio to the fleet during the evening check-in.  The image of Emily driving with the white boa streaming behind her in 25 knots of breeze will stick with me awhile. Thank you so much friends and family for all the thoughtful gifts! Not sure what do do with the reindeer, but we taped it to the steering pedestal with the Smile bracelet around its neck.  On Dasher, to Kaneohe!  

Two boats in sight...

Let's see. Day 6? Beginning to lose track. Blue sky, puffy clouds. Squall lines caused by the heating tells us that we are getting closer to the tropics (currently at 30N, 138W, a bit south of San Diego, still about 480 miles north of Honolulu) Sailing is actually work today. Wind is shifty, spinnaker is going forward, aft, forward, aft. But there are two boats in sight, and we are in a dogfight with one of them. For a bottle of rum, of course. They are the class leader in the class in front of us, and they started before us. But they are damned fast, the boat's name is Lightspeed, and Einstein must be driving right now because we can't seem to catch them.  

Food continues to be a real joy. The Poke yesterday that we had for happy hour will be hard to beat, but I think Matt is talking about smoked oyster tapanade. A beer sure would go good with it though! (No drinking allowed on passage.  Skippers rules. Bastard.)



Lost at sea

Lost At Sea.  One heroic red spork died protecting her owner from a bit of fish bone.  Swept over the side when the boat jumped suddenly. She will be sorely missed as I think we may be down to 8 sporks...(In hindsight, they are light enough that we could have carried a few more.)  Also noteworthy is the stellar performance of our team's FireKnives.  Some are strapped to the mast, the steering station, or as emergency knives on our life jackets.  Others are pressed into duty in the galley. Today one orange FireKnife cleaned and filleted our first tuna, chopped it up into bits and made Poke (a delicious Hawaiian fish dish). All hail the FireKnife!

When will we see those tradewinds?

So, a big reason the sail to Hawaii is such a popular one is because it gives everybody the chance to sail in blue skies, with moderate winds to push the boat along.  Picture puffy clouds, just the slightest whitecaps on the waves, and fast comfortable sailing.

Fast, comfortable sailing?  Check.  Small waves, perhaps a whitecap every now and then?  Check.  Blue sky and puffy clouds.  Nope. Try grey misty clouds.  Bit like pea soup when you get inside them.  And the worst part is that they eat the wind, leaving you cool, misty, and bored.

We're from Seattle though, so cool and misty we can work with.  We have been charging the batteries with the engine, making water with the watermaker, washing dishes, and snoozing.  Books are more common today as we get caught up on sleep.  All in all, pretty pleasant considering that we are locked in a fierce racing duel with Andromeda, our much larger rival.  (They may not even know we are back here, frantically trying to catch up.)

Having fun yet?  Definitely!

This is what it is all about

Our second night was dark and a little windier than the first.  Our  first position report showed us in 4th place overall, but only in 4th in our class!  We went to work and drove the boat hard all night with the spinnaker up.  The big boats will come charging behind us, so we needed to do some miles.  Crew morale is excellent, food is great--eating much better than we do at home, but hopefully none of us are gaining weight.  Lots of highlights, at one point Nick had to go up the mast and swing out over the water dangling from a halyard while we tightened a leech cord on the sail.  All I could see were these boots, swinging from side to side out over the water.  Hey, where is the rest of him?  There were a lot of times when we looked at each other and said "this is what it is all about.  Good boat, good crew doing our damnedest to come from behind."  As the skipper, I am proud as peaches of our team and our performance so far.

First night at sea

Well, we are settling in to our first night at sea. So far, the sailing has been good with the boat rumbling to weather (into the wind)around 7 knots with about 10 knots true wind.  We are still 2030 miles from Hawaii, but we are moving instead of drifting, so the morale aboard is good.  Quinoa Salmon Medley with cranberries and hot sauce might have helped our spirits too.  So far we have seen at least 8 whales, sea lions, one porpoise, and birds galore.  The Coast Guard got on the radio and warned of many whales transiting the Gulf of Farallones and advised concerned vessels to slow down.  Um, sorry, we are in a bit of a hurry, but we will drive carefully and honk if they get too close.

Signing off now, almost off watch.  Happy Day 1 aboard Kotuku!

We are ready!

Photo Before

Here is a quick update on our progress. We have been working like beavers to get the final touches on the boat, studying the weather, testing our watermaker--we
make water by reverse osmosis because carrying water is slow.  We are ready now. Crew went out for dinner last night, our last meal of real food for the next couple of weeks. Energy level and excitement levels are very high!  Now if we can just get some wind in the forecast. It is looking like we will be drifting for the first 24 hours or so. Whatever the weather the crew of Kotuku will do the best we can with it. We have been training, planning, and dreaming for two years for this. We are completely prepared and will do the very best we can with the cards we are dealt.


The Pacific Cup is a 2070 nautical mile (3000km+) race from San Francisco to Hawaii that is held every two years.  There are about 50 boats racing this year, with a variety of boats from 8m up to 20+m long, some with professional crews, some with families.  All of us share a common dream:  to race a sailboat to a tropical paradise.  The boats race non-stop across the Pacific Ocean for 10-14 days.  If you want to win, you won't sleep much, and your understanding of weather and waves ultimately decides whether your ride is fast and crazy, or slow and maddeningly frustrating.  Boats must sail under or over the Pacific High, an area of high pressure without much wind.  Get too close, and the wind dies all together.  Sail too far away, and you'll be faster but you will also be sailing hundreds of miles further than your competition.  Sounds easy, except the pressure system moves.sometimes unpredictably.  Kotuku will be competing in the Pacific Cup for the first time.

About the Boat and Crew: Our boat is named Kotuku, which is Maori for Great White Heron.  She is a Farr 1220, 12.2m long (40') and is much more comfortable than many of the other boats.  It has 3 staterooms, an oven, a refrigerator, a water maker, and many other conveniences.  We won't have much time for baking or cold drinks until we get to Hawaii though!  It is an older boat, she turned 20 last year, but she has seen a fair bit of the world since she left her birth place in New Zealand.  She is also fairly well known for winning races.  In 1991 she won her class in the Transpac (Los Angeles to Hawaii), and has won the Van Isle 360, Southern Straits, and many other races in the Pacific Northwest.  She likes windy conditions, but doesn't much care for light air days.  So let's hope for a windy ride to Hawaii, shall we?

The Kotuku team is made up of 7 people, aged 23-65.  We are all fairly experienced, with many of us having sailed across the Pacific before, including a couple who have won Hawaii races.  Our "old man" Al, who is the navigator won the singlehanded Transpac 3 times in a row (that would be alone, by himself, sailing very fast, and not sleeping.)  At least he has company on this trip.  Alex, one of our watch captains also won the Vic-Maui race as a navigator last year.  The other sailors are Emily, Eli, Nick, Matt and me, the skipper. 

About Me: I am a father of two beautiful girls, aged 3 and 6 who are fated to grow up on boats whether they want to or not.  Luckily they love Kotuku as much as I do.  I am married to Janna, who wrote a book about our honeymoon, a sailing trip to Hong Kong from Seattle.  She sold too many copies if you ask me-her opening line of the book is "The skipper of this very small ship is an asshole". What a way to start a book, or a marriage, eh?  (That would be me she was talking about.)  I get very little respect from any of the women in my life it seems.  But we sail a lot!

In the real world, I am also the Director of Product Development at Industrial
Revolution-the US distributor of Light My Fire.  That means I have access
to many wonderful products.  And it means that my girls think I make Sporks
in my spare time.  We will be sailing with a full drawer full of Sporks, by the way.  Weight is critical, the lighter the boat is the faster we go.  So one tool (titanium, preferably) beats three.  

One other thing that you should know about me is that sailing is like a drug for
me.  And this is not always healthy.  I obsess about the weight of the boat, I spend long nights working out preparations, training, studying, buying bits of carbon and titanium and dreaming up ways to make the boat go faster.  I guess I am a little competitive, but I try not to show it.  If in the course of this blog I talk too much about the competition, or I complain about how slow we are going and how we had to pump all our water overboard and shave the bristles off our toothbrushes to save a little weight, well, I warned you up front.  I get like that sometimes.