It’s 5:00 Sunday afternoon and I’m sitting in the St Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco with my friend and fellow crew member Bill Wright. Psyche, the Cal 40 that we’re racing tomorrow to Hawaii is at the guest dock waiting, like we are, for this race to start.
Yesterday we met up with Jim and Scott Barber along with Steve Calhoun and their families. Steve, Jim, Scott, Bill and I have prepared ourselves and our boat to the best of our ability over the past year and a half and this afternoon we feel as ready as we’ll ever be to get going.
The thing about ocean racing is that it’s all about the weather and it looks like we’ll have plenty of it. For the first few hours after the start at 10:10 tomorrow morning we’ll need to concentrate on tacking out under the golden gate on the ebb tide. Our goal is to reach the synoptic wind before nightfall. The sea breeze (the wind coming off the sea which makes San Francisco so windy in the summer) is projected to to be light at our start (around 6 knots) then building quickly as we reach the Farallon Islands about 25 miles west of the gate.
By then we should start feeling, and smelling, the synoptic wind. The synoptic wind is generated by the high pressure system sitting about 500 miles to the North West of us. This is known as the “Pacific High”. Races across the Pacific are won or lost based on where we go from here in relation to the Pacific High.
For the past few days we’ve been listening to weather reports and going to the NOAA website to see what the weather is forecast to do for the next two weeks. At first it didn’t look pretty. We were looking at winds up to 35 knots the first day out then we would have to fit ourselves in-between two hurricanes whose paths go between us and Hawaii.
This morning we listened to the forecast from a weather “expert” and the revised forecast is for 20-25 knots about 24 hours from now as we get into that synoptic wind. Then we have to race across what we call the “ridge” which are decreasing pressure zones created by the Pacific High. The next big decision we have to make is how far away from the rum line (the most direct route to Hawaii) we should go in order to be in more favorable winds.
At some point along this ridge, we have to decide where to get into the slotcar portion of the race. That’s the part where we’re in the trade winds and we put up our big colorful spinnaker for the run for Hawaii. The weather forecast for this portion of the race is interesting. As I mentioned earlier there are currently two hurricanes heading from Mexico to the Hawaiian Islands at the same time we’re heading there. They’re suppose to disapate into tropical storms and pass ahead of us, but you never know. Even if they do, tropical storms can blow up to 50 miles per hour! Plus the seas are forecast to be big and sloppy.
The software program we use on the race projects that we’ll spend the next 12 or 13 days out there trying to find the fastest, and safest route to the finish line at Kaneohe. You can read our daily reports written by Bill Wright at http://www.billyspaccup.com and follow our track on http://www.pacificcup.org.
I hope the forecast changes in our favor.