48 miles to go. BEOWULF has the proverbial bone in her teeth and she’s rolling along at a steady 13 to 14 knots. Winds are in the 16- to 18-knot range, and backed slightly to the ENE. She’s flying her working canvas plus the mizzen blade-the sheets are set, pilot is steering, and her crew is cleaning up.
It is nice to just aim the boat and let her go for a change. Last night, on the other hand, was a pile of work. Towards sundown winds started clocking towards the southeast, and we were barely able to fetch the finish line. The angle was so tight that we had to bring the jib lead to the inboard track, something we never do offshore. What saved the day (ok, the night) were a series of vigorous squalls. By sailing to windward of them, we were lifted as much as 40 degrees from our course, allowing us to make up some valuable distance to weather. One squall in particular, a large horseshoe-shaped system, was kind enough to stay with us for a full two hours. Not only did we have stronger winds than the surrounding area, but we were gaining ground to weather.
Between squalls the wind was on/off repeatedly, shifting through 40 degrees. If we were cruising, we’d have rolled up the jib, furled the mizzen, and motorsailed all night. But as this is a race, we decided to work the boat. At lest half a dozen times per hour we needed to adjust sail trim, set the mizzen blade, or roll it away. By early this morning we were out of the area of unsettled weather and into the steady conditions we are now enjoying. The only question now is how much time we’ll take off the record-assuming of course that things continue to go as they are right now!
Meanwhile, back in the fleet, the boats closest to us last night shortened sail for the evening. That showed up in this morning’s roll call as we put over 60 miles distance on the second place boat in just 12 hours.
Anega Island, a reef-strewn area, lies directly in our path and just a couple of hours ahead. It is really nice to have a system like SetSail-MaxSea to keep us clear. But we still want to be on deck, keeping an eye on things!