Rolex Transatlantic 2005: Bluebird Sailing

Aboard Sariyah at 1200, May 28th., 41 degrees 42 minutes North by 53 degrees 04 minutes West, 340 miles SSE of St. Mary's, Newfoundland.

Sariyah is booming east, sailing wing-and-wing with the yankee and the genoa poled out. The 130-footer is in sixth overall, but the mood is good and the weather is beautiful. A beautiful sight awaited me as I woke from my deep sleep this morning. Blue skies with puffy white clouds, a deep blue sea, 27 knots of breeze at 270 degrees, and twin headsails poled out wing-and-wing. We've also got a full main and mizzen up as well as the mizzen staysail. We'd have the gennaker up, but it's down in the salon being repaired by Carol and Kuli. It's bluebird sailing, and everyone's got a smile on their face as we head East at 12 to 13 knots. Carol's singing while she's repairing yet another downwind sail in the salon. All is well on Sariyah. Earlier this morning it wasn't so pretty. My watch started at 3 a.m. and since we're so far East, it was already light out, and cloudy and gray. Kevin and Tim told us tales of a 50-knot squall with horizontal rain during their watch. It didn't look too bad as I took the wheel, the Eastern horizon was tinted orange, the breeze was a steady 25, and we were making 11 and-a-half knots in the right direction. Emboldened, we set the recently repaired mizzen staysail and started to clock 12 knots. It was so nice that I went down below to grab my iPod and hooked it up to the cockpit stereo and started blasting U2 and the Grateful Dead. My four watchmates and I were rocking out, drinking tea, and swapping stories. Two hours and fifteen minutes into our three-hour watch, things started to go to hell. Dave Guinan was on the helm as what looked like a small rainsquall approached from our starboard side. It didn't look like much, just a bit of a wash-down for the deck so we didn't worry too much about it. Mistake. After a brief period of lighter air and heavy rain the wind started to pick up quickly, very quickly. Before long the windspeed had gone from 22 to 35 to 42 and was still climbing as we scrambled to get the mizzen staysail down before it blew up. As I rushed to the console of winches to blow the sheet and get the halyard ready, Blair Smeal, and Steve Sims, two of the regular crew aboard Sariyah, and Jeff Gram, one of Corty's friends sprinted forward to pull the sock down over the staysail and grab it as I lowered the halyard. While all this was happening and Dave was straining to push the bow down, we heard a bang. The sock came down, mizzen staysail was lowered, and I left the winches and headed for the pilothouse and the roller reefing controls so we could get rid of the light headsail and unroll the yankee. Once this fire drill was over and we were squared away, Blair told us that the mizzen staysail's luff rope had broken. We pulled the soaked sail back to the cockpit and figured out that, luckily, the luff rope had broken about eight feet from the top of the sail. Since we had plenty of extra luff rope at the tack of the sail, all we had to do was untie the rope at the tack, and milk the broken end to the head of the sail. In other words, we had to push rope. Our next puzzle was how to get at the broken end so we could pull it the eight feet to the head of the sail. We made a small cut in the luff tape and fished the broken end out (later, Kuli, who's been helping Carol repair sails, would call us vandals for not simply pulling a few stitches out). Then Jeff, assuming control of the repair, had us stretch the empty luff tape out as he pushed the rope. After about five minutes, we had the rope at the head of the sail where it belonged. Soon, the sail was back up and drawing. Everybody's awake now, waiting for lunch and enjoying the sunshine. Everyone's smiling and enjoying the day. Dave's driving, Corty and Kevin are reading at the pilot house table (Hornblower for Corty, Grisham for Kevin). Pulp Fiction is playing on the big flat screen TV in the salon, and my watch is on deck. I'd better get out there and do my share, but first, the quote of the day from Kevin Burnham. "I don't care about being rich, I just want days like this. I've got all need."