I am onboard UA 843 en route from SFO to Rio.
Position: 35 North 85 W,
Course and Speed: 180, 540 knots
I have had a good week at home in San Francisco and am ready to get back into the Volvo Ocean Race. My week was a mix of work and rest, the perfect mix for me. The unexpected chore (forgotten might be more appropriate term) was to prepare my taxes. I came to this ugly realization on the flight from Rio to SFO. Talk about a bubble bursting revelation. For all Americans, this is an annual pain in the back side that occurs in April. Since I wont be home between now and April 15, I had to take it on last week. Done and gone.
I have never been as tired as I was last week. I don’t know….10 feet longer (the boat), 2 fewer people (the crew), and 8 years older (me). I don’t know whether you multiply those factors, add them up and divide by something or what, but the bottom line is that I was exhausted. I weighed 192 lbs. on arrival at SFO which is about 15 pounds under normal. My first run and first day at the gym were pretty slow. I feel pretty good now, back to 202 lbs., and have a base to build on for the next two weeks. I am into fitness as I believe it is key to physical and mental strength.something you need in this race.
I did get some good time in with my family too. My kids are 16 and 17, a son and a daughter, so we have it all going on at home. They went to Santa Barbara for a high school sailing team race this weekend. My wife, Icka, is doing an amazing job of holding down the fort which is not easy as a single parent. All in all, I am very blessed with family and a nice home. And it is all still there!
We had no major damage on the last leg so Rio has been the first stopover where our shore team hasn’t had to do a major repair. They have completely checked over The Black Pearl. Nothing surprising was found. Regular maintenance has been carried out with a special attention to the canting keel system as usual. We even had time to get some fresh paint on the deck to make her look pretty for her arrival in the USA.
Reflecting on the last leg and the race so far, I am pleased with how things have progressed for Pirates of the Caribbean. Before the race started, I predicted it would take until Rio for us to get our act together on the race course. With a 2nd in the Melbourne in port race, 3rd to Wellington and 2nd at the Corn and Rio, the results show that we are now running on all cylinders. It is satisfying to see what we have accomplished in 9 months.
A strong coalition of efforts by our designers-Farr Yacht Design, our builder-Green Marine Southampton, our keel ram manufacturer-Rexroth, and quality workmanship by the Pirates shore team, has dealt with the technical problems we encountered on the first couple of legs in a professional manner. The proof of this is that we have not had a repeat failure.
Everyone has problems, it is how you deal with the problems that defines you. The Pirates have scored well here especially considering we are the youngest boat in the fleet.
Our mast by Hall Spars has always been solid. Our sails by North are good and getting better. This is a key area of speed on these boats. Improving sails requires a coordinated effort by the sail designer and the crew.
Equally importantly, as a sailing team, we are getting stronger. We have learned a lot about how to sail this boat; sail selection, sail handling techniques, steering, and canard usage. Jules and I are getting well versed in deciphering the weather through various sources and then making our strategic decisions. We will change two crew here in Rio as Rodney Ardern and Curtis Blewett return to Alinghi. Jerry Kirby (USA) trained with us last summer and has always been slotted to be Blewett’s replacement. Jerry has won the America’s Cup, done the Volvo with Chessie Racing in 1997-1998 as well as sailing on Pyewacket which is a big version of the Black Pearl.
Jerry is taking over the “senior citizen” position previously held by Erle Williams and previous to that, held by me. I am gradually becoming relatively young again. Ian Budgen (GBR) is taking Rodney’s position. Ian is a 49er sailor with big boat experience from the America’s Cup and Transatlantic sailing. It will be good to get a bit of new blood onboard. I think we have one of the best crews on the race track.
That is where we are today. But as the saying goes; tomorrow is the first day of the rest of this race.
We need to collect everything we have learned to date and use it as a foundation to launch our effort for the second half of this race. There are a lot of points – half of the total for the race to be exact – left to be fought for. I am just as interested in trends as in scores. We have been on an upward trend since our last place ranking after the Cape Town in port race.
We are now in third place and I want Pirates of the Caribbean to continue its ascent. Where we finish, I don’t know. But the direction of our travel needs to be upwards for me to be satisfied.
So, it has been a nice week off for the sailors, but it is time to crank it up.
Paul Cayard, Skipper
Pirates of the Caribbean