Bishop Rock 2011

With the forecast for gale conditions as a cold front passed, I made sure everything was in its proper place, all lines carefully run. A double reef in the main was carefully put in. I was debating with myself whether to start with the storm jib, but decided to go with a No. 3. It turned out to be a good combination for the start when it was blowing 18-20. Not over on her ear too far, but enough power to get through the waves.

The forecast said the wind would swing to the W after the front moved through, so I footed off the rhumb line a bit to the West. After the first hour, conditions deteriorated. Winds appeared to be up to 25-30 with light rain. I could see Tenacity was having trouble and was heading back. Rubicon, Leilissima, Bullit, Voice of Reason and Slacker were all in the same neighborhood. Around 5:00 pm things got tough as I lost track of Bullit & VoR. I took the main down completely and ran under #3 alone. Winds were probably 30-40 and a hard rain began to fall. Slacker was taking regular white water into the cockpit & I locked the hatch boards down. Leilissima was astern, hard over on her ear but plowing ahead in the gathering darkness.

In the growing blackness and rainfall I lost sight of Rubicon & Leilissima. Getting very cold and very sick, I went below to try to get warm when I found my sleeping bag soaked. A complete disaster! Note to self – get a dry bag for the sleeping bag! At the 1800 check-in, VoR came in scratchy, and Rubicon relayed that VoR had retired. I crawled back into my bunk thinking “just gut it out and get through this wall.” Around 1900 Rubicon came up on Ch. 16 and indicated he was just not having fun and was retiring. Slacker plowed on with me in my bunk trying to stay warm and get a little less sick.

At 2030 or so the wind backed down to 30 and started a move from the SE to the SW. My course went West with it, until about 220 degrees, just about right at Santa Barbara Island. It became very cold. The seas were very lumpy as a cross-sea was quickly building. Around 2200 my autopilot just stopped. After attempting to restart and trying a few things to get it going, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get it going in the dark. Then around 2230, the main sheet attachment to the┬átraveler┬áparted, and the boom clocked me in the head. I could feel blood coming down my face, but managed to tie off the boom.

I had a few choices. I could heave-to, go below and get some sleep and deal with the mess in the morning light, and theoretically stay in the race. With the wind settling in right out of Bishop Rock, the cold air and a wet sleeping bag this didn’t seem reasonable. I could sail back, steering all night to Catalina or MDR, or I could motor a few miles over to Santa Barbara Island & anchor for the night. I chose option C. If the anchorage was too rough I would move off and heave to. At 0030, the hook was down, and my stomach was feeling much better. I slept in my FWG with a propane catalytic heater running all night.

On Saturday morning the wind was 4 knots out of the SW & Slacker motored all the way back to MDR. A brutal race. Of the 6 starters, none finished.