Mini Transpac Race 2013

When I recently heard about the rumor of the Mini Transpac race – which I’ve raced for years in France, I was interested to say the least.  Especially as I still have the winning prototype of the 2005 Mini Transat Race #433.

To try to win the debut ‘Pacific Mini Transat’ would be a dream as this is ‘MY’ route!  The Pacific is home turf and Hawaii – well, my original home-port!  Besides, I’ve sailed between Hawaii and the US West Coast over 37-times on yacht deliveries and racing – so it would be a crying shame for the only Hawaiian entry with a winning Mini Transat boat to boot not to have a go of it – NO ?!

Thankfully, “7STAR” – the leaders in shipping sailing and luxury yachts around the world has come aboard as the first title-sponsor in return for shipping my mini #433 to the US.  I have room for a 2nd title-partner for the other 50% of hull and sail advertising space!

…Below a little taste from the sailing news website XSRACING:

MINI TRANSPAC – For the first time in the USA, a group of single-handed sailors from all over the country are going to race from California to Hawaii aboard Mini-Transat boats – 21-foot ocean capable racers that are barely larger than the average suburban vehicle. The Singlehanded Mini Transpac will be held in July of 2013.

“Mini” is short for “Mini Transat 6.50″. Each Mini (there are a variety of different make and models) is designed according to strict box rules. The boat cannot be longer than 21.3 feet (6.50 meters) and can’t be wider than 9.84 feet (3 meters). There are restrictions for mast height, draft, shape of cabin-top, size of companionway, and also safety constraints such as positive flotation, righting moment and escape hatch to name a few.

Mini architects and builders have created boats that are extremely light, fast, powerful yet stable and safe, even in the most extreme offshore conditions. With the innovations developed for this class, these designers have influenced an entire industry. Open 60s, Volvo 70s on down to production cruising boats have all taking a page or two from the Mini playbook.

Racing offshore with a crew is plenty challenging but now imagine racing offshore singlehanded in a boat this small. For most of these racers the Mini Transpac will be their first singlehanded voyage and there’s no doubt the challenge is huge. Beyond the crossing itself, getting to the start-line will be no small order. Boats have to meet safety requirements and sailors must prove that they can indeed spend 15-20 days alone at sea. Each racer will have to sail a 400nm qualifier,  this will be no laid back cruise – for most of the entrants it’ll be more like a hike up Mount Everest. Some of the world’s most notable and legendary offshore sailors including Vendee Globe legends Ellen MacArthur, Sam Davies and Michel Desjoyeaux have cut their teeth aboard these tough little vessels.

A website is currently being created for the race that will employ tracking software that will enable the sailing community to be able to watch the battle on the water. The Minis, being very equal in boat speed, gives the Mini Transpac the excitement of an inshore one-design race combined with the jeopardy of a round the world contest.

The race has already begun. Sailors are getting to know each other, boats are being prepared as we speak. A quality offshore boot camp is in the organizational stage in Southern California that will launch this winter. This event is only open to Mini Transat boats that qualify as such.

Once in Hawaii, this will be more than a group of sailors arriving. It will be a tight gathering of friends who would have shared the same emotions, intellectual and physical challenges. And last but not least, another factor to file in the “plus” column is these boats are small enough to be affordable and easily be shipped back to the mainland once the race is through.

If you want to learn more about the Mini Transpac 2013, “Like” the North American Mini Class Facebook page. There will be more information very soon.

Also, as a teaser, enjoy this video of Singlehanded Mini Sailors in Europe, where crossing the oceans on 21 foot boat is a must for all offshore sailors 😉

Vendee Destiny

As the Vendee Globe solo nonstop around the world race is about to start in 13-days – below is something I wrote when I sailed my round the world…Funny, I’m not far from doing the same race in one-design format…however, I hope its simple foreplay to more ‘laps’ that might include a Vendee Globe ; )  A small Vendee teaser video below!

CHAPTER 6: HOW THE SCHOOLBOY FOUND HIS WAY BACK TO THE SEA

All men dream: but not equally.

Those who dream by night in the dusty

recesses of their mind

wake in the day to find that it was vanity:

but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men,

for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it

possible.

-T.E. Lawerence

Seven Pillars of Wisdom

“Brian, stop daydreaming and pay attention to class!” The turquoise waters of the past evaporated as my English teacher came into focus. Even before we’d gone cruising, I had a short attention span in class. Now, my vagrant imagination was becoming a real problem.

Until we had set foot back on land, I thought, “Oh what a nice change it will be to live in the fast lane. To meet kids my own age without having to say goodbye the same day.”

True, every person perceives circumstances differently, but I have found existence ashore unacceptable. I just could not fathom the drugs, gangs, school system, and neglect of precious life to say the least. Put simply, there was too much bullshit on land and there was no bullshit at sea- it didn’t work out there. So I began planning my personal mutiny.

Later on summer break, eight hundred miles north of Hawaii in the cold realm north of forty-degrees latitude, this fifteen year old ‘salt’ is steering a boat through diabolical seas. With the leather-coated helm of the racing yacht “Perestroika” in hand, weary eyes revel the knot meter that exceeds speeds of twenty knots in prolonged down-wind surfs. On this third day in the gale-swept westerlies, we have covered a whopping 286 nautical miles in 24 hours…

A week before, in my first summer break since entering high school ashore, I had been offered berth with two others to deliver her to Los Angeles for the Transpacific Yacht Race. After eight months imprisoned on terra firma, I was finally back home, alive in my element.

Life at speed…airborne in long downwind surfs, spray seemingly reaching spreader level. The scream of water racing across a yacht’s under-body still manifests rushes of adrenaline. Imagine windblown nights below a full moon, while your boat tears across moonlit waters and suffers fantastic broaches. Sometimes, the entire boat would disappear underneath a blanket of exploding foam. And with every moment, you evaluate if you’re pushing too far. Life at speed, like watching a fast soaring Wandering Albatross, was very satisfying indeed.

I came to realize on these wild night watches, that by not circumnavigating the world with my family, by coming back for school and work, gave me the comparison between the two distinctly opposite lifestyles, and there was no comparison.

If six years in the South Pacific ruined me, this first yacht delivery was the kiss of death. Undoubtedly, it was the end of life ashore! The name of the boat seemed to fit – “Perestroika”. My reform program consisted of sailing, sailing and more sailing.

While peers went on dates or to football games, I spent school breaks crossing the ‘pond’ – my personal ‘sand-box’ on break – the Pacific Ocean. Yacht delivery followed delivery and by graduation, I’d sailed across the Pacific five times, plus one trans-Atlantic race of which our vessel placed 3rd of 153 boats.

This fever soon took the form of a dream – to become the youngest solo circumnavigator. From the time I was fifteen years old, I pursued sponsorship. No sooner was I out of school than I was seated before an executive friend of my dad or working on some new elaborate proposal instead of doing my homework.

It was nerve-wracking, because I wanted to leave as soon as possible but I was not about to let my newfound love – ‘the dream’ – die for a lack of material funding. The challenge shouldn’t be overcoming the financial aspect, but rather the actual 27,000-mile ‘lap’. It turns out sailing around the world was by far the easiest part of the bargain.

Obtaining support for sailing in America has often been difficult since advent of commercial steam-ships. I often look back and wonder if I had hailed from sail crazy France how much easier it might have been or where i’d be now. If I had known then what i know now, I would have exploited my percentage of French blood for all it was worth…instead I found a French girlfriend!

In my next life i’m going to be reincarnated as a 17-year old French girl/model with a background of cruising and go set the record for youngest circumnavigation while racing the nonstop Vendee Globe and no weapon of a boat I dream up will be out of my reach!  Should i have the sex change now ?!…I tell people, “getting finances is ninety percent of the effort, sailing around the world is the fun part.”

Experience wise, I was ready to go at fifteen, but obtaining the money took another few years. Frustrating to say the very least, but maybe my future son or daughter will cut the dock lines at the age of fifteen or younger. My consolation was the fact that when it came together for departure, the year was the one-hundredth anniversary of the first solo circumnavigation of the world under sail by American Joshua Slocum in 1895…

At some point, as teenagers always do, I met a girl. She’d been adrift in mental turmoil for some time. As I fought to finish my senior year of high school, she fought to keep her emotions in check, insofar as my prospective solo circumnavigation. My will put her through hell. I was never living for the present but forever lost in the future. Looking back, my every move at the time was made to impress on those around me my determination to live my dream.

While gazing at the foam-swept seas off the Cape of Good Hope, or witnessing another humbling sunset, yes, there are times when I feel guilty for being alone. You often feel guilty for witnessing such beauty with no one to share it with and you know you will never do justice to the experience with words.

It’s human to long for companionship sometimes! However, more often than not, my partner was a dolphin, whale or albatross. Needless to say, my yacht – “Mai Miti” – is very much alive…

Sometimes, long before my departure, a dream shook me like an apocalyptic premonition. I saw myself framed in a labyrinth of raging seas that stretched into eternity. Alone in the southern ocean, ice coating the decks and rigging.

I knew it was me, but you wouldn’t know. In a survival or dry suit, I looked like a futuristic man from space. I might as well have been on another planet as conditions below the five Great Southern Ocean Capes are unlike anything ninety-nine percent of humanity has experienced or seen.

Survival by itself is a tightrope walk in this inhospitable place, but this was no endurance competition – it was a race. The longest and toughest race in history. Twenty-four thousand non-stop miles solo around the planet, challenged the contestant to and from the finish line.

Operating yachts on the cutting edge of technology, skippers risked death as much from the elements as from boats that pushed the design envelope too far. This blood sport was in my not-too distant future. The desire to sail the Vendee Globe Race coursed through my veins like a virus.

After looking into the Cape of Good Hope’s ebony eyes, I knew this daunting future was cut and dry. It was now a matter of preparing for war. My every move would be made to prepare for these ice wastelands of my imagination.

So I told perspective sponsors that exposure wasn’t confined to this first voyage, “it’s the first step on a ladder, the age record means nothing, it’s the means to a ominous, but more gratifying cape to round. Spirituality for me, victory in the world’s toughest race for you, this thing called – publicity.”

The champions of capitalism must have seen the vision, seen the raging inferno in this boy’s eyes that store unperturbed though all barriers to his future at the bottom of the world.

Life is fantastic. One day all the toils and effort paid off. True, I gambled security by following this intangible path, but the joker broke the house of cards. In one fantastic ride, I’d transcended the limits of what a great majority thought possible. At the age of nineteen, I had pieced together a credible challenge – to assault the planet while still under the legal drinking age at home.

To quote a going away card at my departure – “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not, nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not, un-rewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not, the world is filled with educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved, and always will solve, the problems of the human race.”

And so began my voyage, a simple childhood dream shared by the many who gave part of themselves to make the impossible come true. People struggling, just to make ends meet, came forward, to sacrifice hard won money for an idea planted by a nine-year-old ten years in the past. “Never loose the youth inside of you, the belief that anything is possible if you try long and hard enough.”

Poised on the deck of my new vessel, I tried to comprehend the events that brought me to this most incredible moment. The fact I now had the platform – the extension of myself, for the tooling of my destiny – was life at it’s best.

-bj caldwell

Working @ my desk in the hot tub ; )

Staying in Newport, Oregon for a few weeks while I order an Aries windvane, some new rigging and fly down to help Linda Pasquariello to refit her own new S&S 34 “Lina 2” in San Diego.  Currently catching up on work now that I’m free from 14-hour work days in the Arctic Circle!  Easy to relax here in a marina with two hot-tubs, a heated swimming pool, sauna and work-out room with the ‘Rogue’ micro-brewery just a few minutes away !!!

…Then I’ll move “Gitano Banou” down to San Francisco solo or perhaps with a crew-mate (you know who you are ; )

Meanwhile, I’m considering doing the first Pacific solo Mini TransPac in June of next year with my prototype 433…stay tuned ; )

Seaflight

Chapter 4:  The culprit.

“Beware of abnormal freak waves up to 20-meters in height…” 

– Marine Warning on lower corner for navigation charts off of South Africa.

Like the broad public miss-conception that things BIGGER are better (particularly in the age of fuel guzzling off-road vehicles that spend their lives driving on clean multiple-lane free-ways).  It is often broad misnomer that a larger boat is safer than a small one.

…Or secondly that rounding Cape Horn is the baddest dog on the block when 99% of the Vendee Globe around the world racers, Volvo sailors and Jon Sanders claim the worst weather and sea conditions they encountered during their circumnavigations was south-east of South Africa while passing the French owned Kerguelen Islands.

Tankers are still broken in half during gales off the notorious South African ‘Transvaal Coast’ (Skeleton Coast), simply because they are TOO big:  When a strong south-westerly gale blows against the six knots of Agulhas Current it creates vertical waves that suspend the bow of a ship on one wave with the stern on another across the span of the trough, and the ship can’t structurally support its own weight and breaks in half!!

…Meanwhile a small yacht like the S&S 34 can be knocked down or rolled but come back and keep going like an oceanic carnival ride from the mind of Stephen King!

Jon proved you could face the Southern Ocean in a small boat safely all times of the year and one young sailor took note.  A young spectator to Jon’s successful record finishes was Australian David Dicks.  His dad had been a famed ‘Royal Flying Doctor’ in the outback but had tragically passed away while David was still young…

Jon had been a friend of the family and it came to be that Jon served as a kind of role model and took David under his wing.  This culminated in David crewing on numerous yacht deliveries across the bottom of Australia and aboard Jon’s boat to and from Sydney Hobart races.

It was on one such delivery in the Great Australian Bight that Dave confronted Jon at age-14 and said – “What would you say if I had a go at your record?”  Jon thought for a moment and said – “I’d help”.

If Jon’s double and triple circumnavigation voyages were revolutionary from the stand-point that no one thought you could do it in winter let alone on such a small boat – then David served to drive the point home further for anyone locked in the bilge that hadn’t noticed Jon’s five consecutive ‘laps’

Chapter 5.

“It speaks for itself I suppose” -David Dicks

Sitting in David Dick’s Hilton pent-house suite in Sydney on the eve of 16-year-old Australian Jessica Watson’s successful finish to become the new youngest solo circumnavigator nonstop, solo & unassisted – Linda Pasquariello and I are sitting with Dave over a bottle of Bundaberg rum…

David’s telling us how he’d get excited versus nervous when it got really rough because he knew the boat could take it.  Keep in mind this is coming from someone who was washed overboard below New Zealand and got knock-down a dozen times on the approach to a May (mid-winter) rounding of Cape Horn.

He’d been heaved-two for almost a week half-way across the Southern Ocean between New Zealand and the Horn during consecutive knock-downs that took his wind generator, a solar panel, soaked his engine and yet his radio report over the side-band to Jon and family continued to be – “All’s well on board!”

It must take allot moxie for a then 17-year old sailor to make such a blase statement on a regular basis while “Seaflight” was relentlessly pummeled…

And a lot of faith in the capability of “Seaflight”.  I think both.  He knew what Jon’s ‘Perie Banou’ had done and what he’d already been thru ‘without mishap’.  In some ways, he probably realized the boat would put up with as much or more than he could. The Southern Ocean in mid-winter is a cold, dark and violent place, the nautical equal of an ascent of K2 in the ‘wrong-season’… ; )

-bj caldwell

‘I’mperfect’

A sample of a small literary experiment titled ‘I’mperfect’ about the incredible story and track record of the the Sparkman Stephens 34 – the official design of the MOD GLOBE RACE!

Chapter 1.
‘Morning Cloud’

The S&S 34’s distance to here: 108,000-nautical miles nonstop…& counting.

“Design in its most effective form is a process, an action, a verb, not a noun. A protocol for solving problems and discovering new opportunities. Techniques and tools differ, and their effectiveness is arguable, but the core of the process stays the same. It has taken years of slogging through ‘design = high style’ to bring us full circle to the simple truth about design thinking: that when used effectively, it can be the foundation for driving a brand or business forward.”

– Fast Company, October 2008

The first inspiration was in the mind of Sparkman & Stephens fertile imagination along with his brother Rod Stephens. It was illustrated on the drafting board and field-tested in her race debut for the Sydney Hobart Race under the name ‘Morning Cloud’ skippered by then British Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath…and the story evolves radically from there.

There are revolutionary moments in human technological history and in yacht design, when an explosive new idea is paired with an exceptionally talented sailor. A seamen willing to push this human and mechanical interface of himself and his yacht to the limit on all oceans of the world. While proving for the rest along the way, how far we CAN push and how far we remain from our own limits. These new technical concepts redefine the considered ‘norm’ and re-direct current evolutionary trends. Everything we thought that was impossible is thus up-ended and turned on it’s head…

In 1982, a West Australian sheep sheerer turned yachtsman would affect the future of endurance sailing more than he would realize at the time, when he dreamed to become the 1st-person to double ‘lap’ the planet by sail, solo and nonstop’ aboard his Sparkman & Stephens S&S 34 ‘Perie Banou’. This epic voyage would be the harbinger for an absolute assault in the years ahead by multiple young sailors of many nationalities.

Fifteen years later, the records keep falling in all categories…

There is a reason why Sparkman & Stephens is the most successful yacht designer in history bar none. Their first big affirmation is they remain the ONLY designer to win the America’s Cup seven times and now hold the absolute youngest solo circumnavigation record for the second time.

Their upwind ability remains second to none thus such an early America’s Cup racing resume to their credit. If you could get to the top of the race-course first, then you could not only claw your way off a lee-shore in a gale but protect your flanks from the competition and usually win the race. As it is always much easier to protect your lead than to pass someone on the race-course!

For the quiet mannered, tall and lanky West Australian – Jon Sanders, it was the fact that British Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath had handily won the 1969 Sydney Hobart Race in what is always one of the toughest yacht races around, and against a slew of much larger boats as well, was part of the reason why he aspired to buy one together with his brother Colin Sanders. Another good reason was that Swarbrick boat-builders had recently acquired the moulds for the S&S 34 and started building them in Jon’s home state of WA (Western Australia).

His inspiration of what to do with the boat had been – ‘What to do if it’s all been done already?’ He’d been referring to the fact that all the big ones had been done and dusted: First solo nonstop around the world – Robin Knox Johnston or (Bernard Moitessier depending on whether you’re talking to – a Frenchman or Englishman). First the ‘wrong-way’ against the prevailing winds and currents of the Southern Ocean: British sailor Sir Chay Blyth.

…So what was left to do?! As I look back now having sailed double-handed and raced with Jon – I know for sure what he was thinking, as his novelist mother Dorothy Sander’s said to him – “Why be ordinary when you can be extraordinary!”

Every other sporting discipline laps the race course more than once. Why is that no sailor or races to date do so? Why not be the first to do it more than once. Imagine sumitting Everest and returning to base camp, but instead of a rest you turn right back around and do it all over again! This is the horizontal or nautical equeivalent but 21,600-nautical miles per accent and descent!

The S&S 34 had proven to Jon to be perfectly resilient in the often boisterous conditions in Perth on the fringe of the Southern Ocean’s Cape Leeuwin. He’d sailed his brother’s in the local regattas and eventually, with his plan in mind, bought Colin out (Colin long since acquired a 2nd S&S 34 and to this day remains the president of the S&S 34 association at the Royal Perth Yacht Club in Western Australia.)

What are some of the notable technical and visual characteristics of the S&S 34? First off, she’s shaped like a drop of water. She has a pronouncedly pinched bow and after-stern quarters, with abundant tumble-home in her mid-sections and pronounced overhangs giving her sexy lines that disfigure the finest runway models ashore.

From the non aesthitic visual eye-candy stand-point, here’s a couple simple attributes that help make sense out of the design math and sheer madness of what she’s achieved over the course of 5-nonstop circumnavigations:

– A 50% ballast ratio to the overall weight/displacement of the boat & positioned proportionately (meaning 5,000-pounds of weight is in the six-foot deep keel for an overall vessel weight of ten-thousand pounds. What does this mean? That if struck by a breaking wave she is far more likely to recover quickly or shun it aside due to her abundant positive stability curve).

– The pinched bow and stern enable her to point upwind better than most anything that exists to this day, even while sailing in a gale while her tumble-home in the mid-section shaped like an egg maximizes the strength of the hull structure on the side, enabling immense resistance to waves breaking onto her beam ends in a gale.

Jon Sanders debuted with a trade-wind route circumnavigation with friends joining along the way in 1975 via South Africa and the Panama Canal which gave him additional respect for what was becoming the technical extensions of himself, his S&S 34 yacht – ‘Perie Banou’.

The centinial Parmelia Race from England to Perth via the Southern Ocean came next. At that point, he knew the boat perfectly and trusted her heavy weather attributes entirely and why wouldn’t he with so many thousands of ‘practice-miles’ on the nautical-odometer?!

…Imagine a clipper ship captain from one-hundred years before during the Great Age of Sail or the 1st-solo circumnavigator, American Joshua Slocum for that matter…If they were told a solo sailor would embark just a century later to circle the world by sail not just nonstop and solo, but more than once!

Keep in mind, it was another eighty-years from the time Slocum completed his circumnavigation with ‘pit-stops’ before a sailor would sail the course without stopping in the 1969 Golden Globe Race (the very same year Sir Edward Heath handily demolished the Sydney Hobart race fleet).

This particular sailor thinks that had Jon gotten his S&S 34 sooner and entered the Golden Globe, he would surely have made fast work of Robin-Know Johnston by the simple fact the S&S was so far ahead of Knox-Johnston’s turn of the century wood built ketch ‘Suhali’. Thus, we’d be remembering Jon Sanders as the first nonstop circumnavigator…However, we’ll forever remember him as something more.

…When its all been done and you’re backed into a corner there IS a way out – go one better, do it more than once. Because if you loved doing it enough the first time, you’d want to do it again – thus, ‘once isn’t enough’…

-bj caldwell

Convoyage Seattle to San Francisco

En-route to San Francisco from Seattle aboard my S&S 34 “Gitano Banou” (Gypsy Queen) with crew Bruce Johnson aka ‘Red Dog’ & Linda Pasquariello aka ‘Meerkat’ and yours trully aka ‘Lab’ ; )  …Waiting out some winter weather to pass in Newport, Oregon now then onwards down the yonder blue road.  Have seen more whales than we’ve ever seen before – they must also be migrating south to warmer latitudes!