The thing is, it’s not even windy! Outside it’s maybe blowing 18-22 knots true, ICEBEAR is schralpin’ her way to windward at 7-8 knots. But jeeze it’s a rough ride, especially after 4 days of this. We used to joke that ISBJORN was such a good upwind boat that you actually paid for that windward progress in exhaustion. The Swan 59 even more so - she heels maybe slightly less, and you can actually ‘rest’ in the galley by propping your hips against either side.
On deck she’s a bucking bronco. I was getting frustrated yesterday afternoon for our sluggish progress - it felt like we should have been able to easily make 7-8 knots in this breeze, even despite our horrible headsail (more on that in a sec). But all along we’d only make 6-6.5, and the boat would slam hard in the troughs of the bigger waves. So yesterday before dinner I tweaked a few settings, took the helm and ICEBEAR took flight.
By just footing off a few degrees we accelerated and heeled, hitting 7-8 knots at 40º apparent. If you timed the waves right, you could coax her up even higher with the momentum, and after a few minutes of concentrating on the helm, we were blasting upwind at 8 knots, 30º off the apparent wind. I’d finally figured her out. If that had happened two days ago, ISBJORN wouldn’t be 90 miles ahead of us, having gained 30 miles since the wind shifted to the NE.
Speaking of which, Matt & Ben and crew are killing it over there on the 48. “She doesn’t pound. She doesn’t round up either. I can see why you like these boats!” Matt emailed us that last night when Mia asked him what he thought of the Swan 48’s upwind prowess. Matt jokingly said he was looking forward to the windward work in the forecast way back in Key West. “That’s what these boats were made for man! I want to see what she can do.”
They changed down to the 105% genoa yesterday, giving ISBJORN “some performance enhancing drugs,” as Matt put it, and they’ve been climbing all over us ever since. That blade of a jib sets so damn well that they’ll be able to point 30º apparent and hit 6-7 knots boatspeed mile after mile after mile. Which is what they’d been doing. I also think they’ve been tacking more than us, taking advantage of the little headers and lifters we’ve been sailing through (lazily), hence the miles they’ve put between us.
Last night we got tired of being tired so stopped. After my dialing in upwind mode on ICEBEAR with Bob (Kuy had since retreated to his bunk, seasick, so Mia & I have been filling in for him instead), lots of water started flying around on deck as the seas built. The easterly wind was lifting us on starboard tack, so we were square on to the waves, and the lee deck was awash more than it was dry. The cockpit stayed mostly dry. Down below gravity got heavier and heavier, making it impossible to do anything but lay in your bunk. When Bruce & Holly came on watch at 2100 we hove-to. Bruce was “on the margin” of his comfort level, while Holly had already surpassed it. I was “on the margin” of my own comfort level, knowing they were uncomfortable in the dark night in those blaster conditions, so we shut it down for a few hours.
I slept like a rock and the cockpit crew got a respite. We got underway again this morning, having stopped for about 6 hours to get through the darkest of the night. We’re sailing again now with a partially furled genoa and two reefs in the main, making 7.8 knots to the SE and biding our time before one final tack and a windshift should finally lift us towards Bermuda.
The genoa on ICEBEAR is beautiful when it’s fully deployed. Like any furled headsail though, the smaller it gets the less efficient it becomes. At 1 reef we’re able to make it pretty flat, though the leech cups off pretty good. Beyond that, she luffs like crazy at the top of the sail and has way too much camber for 25 knots apparent wind. No matter where we put the car on the track, it makes little difference, so we live with sailing 5º wider than we could, and heeled over 5º more than we should be.
I’ve already ordered a 105% sail, much like ISBJORN’s, which we’ll be getting (along with the new spinnaker) in a few weeks time when we get back to Annapolis before heading north to Canada. If only we’d had that sail now, no way ISBJORN would be so far ahead! But not to make excuses - they are sailing a fantastic passage and I look forward to hearing about it from Ben, Matt & the crew when we (finally) get to Bermuda.