Rich Wilson

26th Anniversary of Capsize & Rescue

22 Nov

Last night we alternated between the solent and genoa. The former goes better to windward, whereas the latter, if going to windward, tends to drive the boat over into excessive heel. Or at least this conflict occurs at very narrow range of wind conditions where one just doesn’t know for sure which will be better.

While setting the genoa last evening, I noticed that a pin in the staysail tack had come loose. This could have been bad if gone undiscovered, but after a few quick response minutes, we had the pin back in (thanks to the solid mallet aboard) ...

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Onboard Data

21 Nov

Through yesterday afternoon and into the night, we sailed stably and quite fast. We made minor adjustments to which ballast tanks we filled, or did not, and whether a reef, or not, was useful.

One aspect of this boat that is very different from our boat for Vendée Globe 2008-9 is the amount of data that is available, including the performance polars, for various conditions. Our navigation software can tell us that, according to the numbers provided by the designer, and sailmaker, that we should use X sail, and Y number of ballast tanks, with the daggerboard down Z number ...

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A Chat with the Brazilian Navy

20 Nov

In the night, we had a bird flying just overhead about 30′ up above the cockpit in the dark. I could just barely make out its shape, dark against dark. It was amazing that the bird would be able to see rigging, and avoid it. Some time later, I was in the cabin, and there was a mini-crash and a squawk on deck, and clearly the bird had hit something, perhaps a backstay, and fallen onto the deck, but quickly regained its senses and took off again.

Photo sent from the boat Great American IV, on November 18th, 2016 - Photo Rich Wilson Photo envoyée depuis le bateau Great American IV le 18 Novembre 2016 - Photo Rich Wilson Little Flying Fish

Little Flying Fish

And on occasion, in the cabin, you hear a flying ...

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Crossing the Equator

19 Nov

At 0450 UTC this morning, Great American IV crossed the Equator heading south. It is my 12th crossing under sail, and to see the N turn to S on the GPS holds the same wonderment as the first time. We are in the Southern Hemisphere. And when we get to the Southern Ocean, we will have storms and big challenges. What will happen between now and when we cross this Line heading North – that is the big question.

I set Scott Hamilton’s Prayer Flags this morning an hour before crossing. I thought it was appropriate. A voyage such as ...

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Dream Your Dreams

18 Nov

Today we are on final approach for the equator, only 120 miles ahead. Last night we broke through the last line of big rain clouds – there was a very distinct line of them on the radar – and were then in a building southeasterly wind.

Through the night, we sailed very conservatively, but the boat was still going very well. Staysail (small jib) and two reefs in the mainsail, yet we were still making about 11 knots most of the time, and upwind into a building sea. This morning the breeze lightened up, and we hoisted the mainsail to ...

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Battling the ITCZ

17 Nov

Today and yesterday have blurred together in my mind. Partially this is inadequate sleep, and an inadequate routine. When one puts in a reef, or rolls out a reef, at 0300, it confuses the day and the distinction between work hours and non-work hours. On an Open 60 there are no non-work hours, especially solo.

We encountered the first part of the doldrums (which might have lots of wind) further north than was predicted. The ITCZ can wander north or south, mostly due to season, but also due to other variables. Now, when we have only this morning passed what ...

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Extra: Pirates of West Africa

16 Nov

Pirates aren’t usually a hazard for Vendée Globe skippers speeding along at 20-plus knots, hundreds and even thousands miles offshore. But on Monday, as we passed the Mauritania Exclusion Zone to our east, a curious thing happened.

I checked navigation software for any AIS (Automatic Identification System) targets – nobody around. Then I went to radar, as I do occasionally, and, aha, I spotted a target four miles off the port beam. But back on AIS – nothing. I turned off the radar and turned on the radar detector, and still nothing. The ship had no radar going. I looked ...

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Approaching the Doldrums

16 Nov

Last night I was back at it trying to understand our downwind sails. We have a truly enormous masthead gennaker, about 370 square meters (3700 square feet). Yet somehow it doesn’t seem always effective. Finally I came up with a theory as to why.

The front 3 or 4 feet of the sail are very full (rounded). And so regardless of how much you pull in the sail, to try to correct the inevitable luffing, you can’t do it. The result therefore is that the rest of the huge sail is incorrectly trimmed. Last night, going downwind, I trimmed the ...

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First Shower

15 Nov

In recording our data, I noticed that the hydrogenerators are starting to pull their weight, and also that there were not so many pedestal revolutions as previous days, and it might look as though the last 24 hours were easy – not so! There was a lot of work on the foredeck, both with the winch which doesn’t have a counter, but also simply in the dragging around of big sails and wrestling with them continually.

It is unclear whether in our conditions of light reaching we should use the masthead gennaker, a gigantic sail, but one that also pulls ...

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West of the Cape Verde Islands

14 Nov

The good news today is that last night was quite stable, and I was able to add to my sleep. I had re-hoisted the mainsail from reef 2 to reef 1 (320 revolutions on the pedestal winch) at midnight, and the boat steered well and the wind stayed from the same direction and relatively same intensity through the night.

Also big good news is that our Watt & Sea hydrogenerator, which has elicited so much attention in this first week in trying to repair tiny hydraulic lines, continued by itself in Automatic mode throughout yesterday and last night. This is ...

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