Chris Museler returns us to the up and down world of ocean racing.
Sunday morning. Ocean racing inevitably has its highs and lows, but nowhere is this more prevalent than in the vagaries of the air/water interface of the Gulf Stream. The lowest (I hope!) point of the race for the Grundoom crew occurred around sunrise Sunday morning. After being becalmed for several hours, we watched as a boat appeared on the horizon astern and sailed to within a half-mile of us before parking. We discovered that this boat is Crazy Horse, a Baltic 50 rated significantly slower than Grundoom. This was certainly a serious highlight for them, but for us, after enduring two full calms in two days, there’s been some serious second-guessing. Our track seems to be good for the Gulf Stream, but very poor for the wind.
As if to prove that anything can happen in a Bermuda Race, the crew is having a fine time in these lulls as the sails slat endlessly against the rig. With little trimming to do, there’s a lot of joking and chatting. More mind-numbing is the scenario that has everybody sailing around us, as the Baltic 50 nearly did. Jim Grundy said, “Call me crazy, but if the entire fleet has seen these holes too, maybe that guy is motoring?” That fine thought keeps us from thinking about the alternative.
For now, we have got back into the SE winds and are plugging away, close to rhumb line, and moving ahead of Crazy Horse. We entered and are leaving “the Stream” where we wanted to, and our speed over the ground tells us all is according to plan. We just may not have focused enough on avoiding holes. We’re studying wind forecasts now.
The food continues to be warm, and we had a wonderful eight-inch flying fish surprise arrival on deck, likely escaping last night’s dolphins that looked like glowing torpedoes about to sink Grundoom.
Ocean races test our patience, and “not knowing” is part of the excitement. It takes a wild imagination to think that we and a more sluggish Baltic 50 have a chance to win it all. We have 370 more miles of stories to experience—and distance to make up. And there are Dark ’n Stormies at the end of the tunnel.
Sunday evening. This year’s Bermuda Race, at least for us and the few boats we see, has been an all or nothing affair. To add to our earlier frustrations, we’ve sailed into our third hole in so many days. The outcome likely will be one of the following: either we will be more fortunate than the majority of the fleet, or we’ll be dead last, or we’ll be somewhere in between.
At this point I’d pay good money for somewhere in between. Today we watched Crazy Horse—the boat that caught us early this morning, and that we later left on the horizon astern when the breeze built mid-morning—catch us once again.
The stories are coming out, from tales of Chicago mafia-type clients to descriptions of the personal habits of Iditarod champions. Grundoom originally was a boat full of professional sailors, but owner Jim Grundy, who made racing a friends-and-family affair aboard his previous boat, a Columbia 50, gave into pressure from the kids. Here we are with a ragtag group from Pennsylvania, the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and Rhode Island. Always keeping us in check (and full of energy) is chef Jim Hedleston. Tonight’s meal was his Tuna Surprise, which, he says, kept him alive through college. His two secrets are to use Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup and pour in the tuna fish juice. Matt’s comment was this: “If you close your eyes and don’t look at it, it’s surprisingly good.”
On the racing front, not knowing our position in the fleet has allowed us to enjoy the sailing. It’s been a blast trying to beat each other’s top speeds. The boat is set up like an Olympic dinghy. There are fine-tune sail controls everywhere—the jib tack, main Cunningham, mast rake, jib lead in-out-up-down, and much more, all within arm’s reach on the flush deck. All this makes light air sailing both easier and faster. The difference is obvious right away. And it helps my sanity for sure!