San Diego to Puerto Vallarta Race – 36 hours in…

Well all right now.
It’s middle of the night here off Baja. All the sensible people are at home in bed. But us head cases, well, we are now some 36 hours into the San Diego to Puerto Vallarta Race. We still have breeze and are still trucking along. It’s pretty spectacular out here tonight.
So we are now on port gybe with the breeze NNE. In the last hour or two we’ve seen a big right shift, almost 20 degrees… to think we could be beam (or close) reaching along the lower bight of a day or two. Interesting times… but I am getting ahead of myself.
Nice day. Really nice day. occasional punches past the 20 knot barrier. Not frequent, but also not rare. The 4A is still up. Been up all day with a brief drop to back down and clear something unruly off the rudder, which turns out to have been nothing at all. It seems that, after charging the batteries this morning, in an honest mistake, one of our gang thought the engine was off when they put it in reverse. Going 15 knots. Ouch. The engine shook and shimmied and otherwise objected. And in the process we broke a shifter cable to the motor right off the binnacle and apparently jammed the prop open (or one blade or???). Who knows, but it was causing the turbulence that felt like rudder drag. We let the prop freewheel for a second, popped it into gear (had to shift down at the transmission), and got her sweet and smooth again. And that was the excitement for the day.
Actually, that was the intermission. The excitement was the sailing. Man, this is some fun boat. Long and lean, she really gets going. The strut/bulb ‘T’ keel really feel great at speed… low drag and the Girl doesn’t want to trip over it on the big surfs. You hang that bulb off to the side as the boat heels when you head up slightly to catch the wave, and you feel it’s weight lever against the rig, against the sailpaln. If you can resist the temptation to crank the rudder over to turn down the wave (effectively killing your speed and hope of catching it), if you can just have confidence in the boat, you can feel the weight out there stand the boat upright, turn her down the face of the wave, and in an instant, you are off to the races…
We’ve hung it out here to the right side of the course…. partially due to intent, partially due to sail choices made early to help keep the wheels on the wagon for a crew who are mostly unfamiliar with the boat. But I’m ok with it. It’s going to go soft,,, we could spend a couple of days in winds close to 5 knots and we are hoping that we 1) might have a better shot at maintaining some breeze and 2) get a better reaching angle in the light stuff. So we are rolling the dice, but when playing against boats as well sailed at Ocelot and Blue Blazes, we have to take our calculated risks.
Now the crew slumbers. Wind 20 knots, plus or minus 2 (although here at the nav table I just looked up and saw a 26 knot puff) from about 010 magnetic. The moon just rose off to starboard. As it gets a bit higher, it’s going to make the ride even more fun… you forget how fast you are going when it’s really dark, but when the light plays off the waves, well, you are ripping across a lunar surface. That all I got for now. Going to grab something warm to drink and get into the cockpit as this nav table is killing the sailor in me. Well, right after I look at the latest weather report… that’s the competitor kicking in…
Cheers all, have a good night and we’ll see you in the morning…
Wayne Zittel and Team Hula Girl
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PV Race – Day 1 Fun…

So, here’s the deal.

We are just 24 hours into the 2012 San Diego to Puerto Vallarta Race, and we’ve already been having a blast of a trip! when we shoved off the docks at SDYC yesterday, we know we were in for a fast ride, then a slow ride. We started yesterday at noon off Shelter Island into a SW breeze… upwind with #1 genoa in a pleasant 8 knots or so out past the point.

Now for the FAST part:…

With the wind angle so far south, no one could lay the Coronados and we all went to the East of the islands. The J125 stayed low, down along the shore, as did Miramar. Blue Blazes was above us for a while, but right at the islands dropped down towards the rhumbline. Looks like Serena, the Thompson 1150, stayed seaward with us, and Ocelot split the difference. When we got to the building breeze, we changed to the jib top and genoa staysail, and carried that into the evening. The wind built offshore (as expected) to a pretty solid 25. Even though it looks solid inside of us too, I like being here as I think it should give us a pretty good angle down the course when the breeze goes light and right.

In the early morning, we set the 4A spinnaker, and are now sailing along at a steady 15 knots, with surfs up into the low 20 in breeze from 22-30 knots. Just awesome out here. As usual for us on J World’s Hula Girl, we have a mostly new crew for this event, so everyone has been putting in the overtime to figure out how to sail this girl… and the team is doing really well. It’s been a windy, wet, somewhat lumpy start to a long race on an unfamiliar boat, but so far I’ve been really impressed. Everyone is settling into onboard life well here. The dial got wound up pretty quickly yesterday. If we can keep in touch with the other boats in the fast early stages, I think these guys and gal will be able to really post a challenge later in the race.

As of 0700 positions, Blue Blazes was on about the same latitude, but a good way inside us. I imagine they set earlier and were able to sail deeper through much of the night. Ocelot is between us, and a bit punched out… those guys were probably screaming all last night. Those are there conditions… we should stand a bit of a better chance against them when it gets lighter. The J/125 Timshaver posted a morning roll call somewhere between Las Vegas and Santa Fe, so clearly that’s a bad position… and just as dubious is Serena’s. It has them over 100 miles in front of the next boat, but as of sunset we could see them behind and inside us, and through much of the night we saw lights over there, so I’m pretty sure their position is erroneous.

So that’s the report for the first 24 hours in the PV race. The ‘big boys’ start today so we are happy to have clocked some miles before they start reeling us in. Supposed to go softer (then soft) starting anytime from 8pm to midnight, depending on what model you believe.

I’ll try uploading some pictures later, but our Sat phone connection has been poor (to say the least). I’ll send this via SSB… then I think it’s time for some sandwiches, and I really need to go sit in the cockpit for a while, maybe do a bit of driving out there… it is pretty nearly perfect right now.

Cheers everyone, more soon…
Wayne Zittel & Team Hula Girl

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PV Race and MEXORC preview…

Had a great weekend in San Diego preparing for the SD to PV Race.  Hula Girl is feeling fast and chomping at the bit to head south.   FYI, There are still a couple of spaces left aboard for the MEXORC regatta from March 10-17, which is some serious fun in Puerto Vallarta:  racing in the warm waters of Banderas Bay during the day, a full agenda of great after-sailing parties/dinners/events, then slumber in a beautiful oceanfront (all inclusive) resort in the evenings.  More info here.  

Hula Girl in San Diego
Everyone keeping an eye on spinnaker trim…   Matt (on the pedestal) better be careful:
if he keeps sailing like he did with us, we’ll enlist him as full time crew!
Nice job team, and I can’t wait to get this race going!  We’ll be posting updates here on the blog, of course, so stay tuned.  Our start is March 1.
All the best,
Wayne Zittel and the J World Team