Isbjorn Racing: Crew preparations continue in Falmouth

There's just over 24 hours to go until the start, and less than that until Isbjorn leaves her anchorage in Falmouth and heads for the line. As I write, Paul and the crew are ashore having breakfast while I'm tidying up the boat, charging the batteries, making water and getting her ready to go out sailing today for a quick practice before tomorrow's race.

Three of the crew are staying on the boat with Paul and I - Dan, Charly and Vanessa - while Michael, Ken and Keith are bunked down ashore until tomorrow morning. The crew is great. All are experienced sailors, many with racing backgrounds, and the training with Paul is going smoothly. 

Yesterday's priority was re-splicing the Colligo Dux synthetic backstay and making it fit. When we replaced the furler, the entire headstay wound up five inches longer than the old one. The mast had a reverse bend in it when everything was tuned up under the old set-up. We tuned that out before building the new furler, but the consequence was we ran out of adjustment on the backstay, and therefore couldn't get enough tension in the headstay. Paul was adamant we fix this before the race start.

"Headstay tension affects the draft of the sail," he explained to the gang yesterday, "so if we can't adjust that, it's going to be a real handicap."

I went aloft on Friday afternoon before we actually met the crew, to remove the backstay. Down on deck Paul and I respliced it, only after a re-assuring conversation with John Franta from Colligo that it would indeed be possible to do so. When you splice Dux, you lose some length in the splice itself, then get a percentage of that loss back when you re-tension it and reset the braid of the rope. So when we went to fit it, we were about 7 inches short of the fully eased backstay adjuster.

So that's where we started yesterday morning. I put in a temporary lashing so we could really crank down on the adjust and get the last of the stretch out of the newly spliced backstay overnight. Vanessa helped me ease the headstay turnbuckle while Charly and Dan cranked on the mainsail halyard, which we'd attached at the stern, to move the masthead aft as much as possible to make the backstay fit. On the third try, it worked! Now we've got about 7 inches of adjustment on the adjuster itself, plus about 7 inches on the turnbuckle that sits above the backstay adjuster, so lots of room to play with on the backstay. Paul is happy.

In the midst of all this, Paul had the crew alternating on memorizing the running rigging and practicing plotting on the chart, and we had a visit from the RORC media team around midday.

"It's a navigator's race," Paul explained, "and we've got to be dead-on accurate in our plotting in some of these close island roundings."

Louay and Emma came out in the dinghy to snap some photos and get some video of Paul discussing the weather for the race. All the photos in this post are courtesy of RORC/Emma Louise Wyn Jones. Aren't they sweet!?

It was a bit surreal to read yesterday's press release on the RORC website. They did a feature on the weather, highlighting three navigators from three different boats. The first two were Phaedo and Concise, the two gigantic MOD 70 trimarans in the race. The third? Isbjorn! The last photo in the press release was of Paul and I at the nav station on the boat. Pretty freakin' cool!

Today will be the first time we get the new crew out sailing. We'll practice a bunch of headsail changes, set and drop the spinnaker a few times, and get the boat all dialed-in after all the rigging work we've done in the past two days. Maurice and his merry band of divers are on their way out right now to clean the bottom of the hull, and Paul is filling the last of our emergency water ashore. Charly and Dan have the last of the grocery list, and with that, we'll be ready to race!