Exit Strategy…

Well, sometimes the wind does what it is forecast to do, and other
times it doesn’t. And sometimes it doesn’t at first, and then later
does. And sometimes it doesn’t at all, unless you are looking at a
different forecast, then it pretty much does until later when it
doesn’t at all. You get the picture. Sometimes the breeze can be as
fickle as, well, the wind. And so it has been for many of the racers
out here in the 2014 Pacific Cup thus far. With our start aboard J
World’s Hula Girl not until Thursday (many of the smaller and slower

On Port?

boats started as early as the previous Sunday in an effort to get us
all to Hawaii about the same time), we watched the earlier fleets work
their way from the California coast with no small degree of
difficulty. LIght and shifty breezes kept things challenging. And
weather patterns were in no rush to go back to ‘normal’ so it was into
this uncertainty that we sailed on Thursday.

We expected that the natural wind-generating geography of San
Francisco Bay and the (in)famous ‘slot’ thorugh which seabreezes are
accelerated would give us good wind at the start, and such was
certainly the case. Team Hula Girl shot out the Golden Gate and into
the Pacific where we met the first windshift to the south (as
expected), and away we went, heading (more or less) towards Hawaii on
port (!?!) tack. Conditions held into the first night, where things
started to get lighter and shifty. We use two weather models to
forecast the wind: COAMPS and GFS. The former takes into account
geography and the impact of land, so since we were just off the coast,
this one should have made moire sense. But COAMPS hadn’t been dealing
with the weird weather patterns of the last week terribly well, go it
had a high uncertainty rate. Which left GFS. It did ok, but not
great. The bottom line was that both of them told us to expect the
unexpected, and hence we resolved to stay close to the straight line
track (the rhumbline) , and keep moving towards Hawaii. That was our
basic exit strategy. I know it seems logical, but it’s easy to get
tempted to a side of the course, sometimes realizing short term gains
but at a cost down the line.

We were able to see maybe half our fleet spread out around us the
first night, some fairly distant and a couple close by. And we
crossed tacks with Delicate Balance a couple boat lengths away a
couple hours after sunrise on Friday. The morning roll call had us in
a good bunch, too early to have too much separation and still anyone’s
race! Conditions since leaving the Gate had been 5-10 knots, mostly
upwind, and we carried the #1 jib since Thursday afternoon and all day
Friday. The breeze was blowing anywhere from east of south to to just
north of west. Reflecting the instability of the winds, the
conflicting swell patterns make it a bit lumpy out here… especially
when it gets light! Early this morning the wind veered a little bit
and so just after first light we shifted to the Code 0 and staysail.
Been sailing like that all day as we work a touch south to avoid a
patch of high pressure in front of us and to keep with our fleet a
bit. We were second in our class as of the roll call this morning.
Not that it means too much this early in the race, but it’s

Life on board is great. Everyone is getting acclimated to life on
board, and accumulating lots of practice sailing the Hula Girl with a
jib up, which will pay dividends later as the spinnakers go up! We
have a fun bunch of people on board for this race, including three
veteran ‘Huligans’ which is actually making life easier for coaches
myself, Geoff, and Jasper. One Sunfish spotting. A small turtle. A
number of fishing net floats, all plastic (no glass ones), Some
lonely seabirds. And that’s been about it for the day. Not much else
to report, which is good news!

I think it’s time to start up dinner, so I’ll sign off for now but
will be beck in touch shortly…

All the best to our friends and family ashore, and we’ll see you in the morning!

Wayne Zittel & Team Hula Girl

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