December 1 – Over one month at sea! Approaching Cape of Good Hope

Dec 1, 2023

There are a number of milestones to be celebrated and reflected upon in this entry. I have now been out here at sea for more than a month. Shipyard Brewing and I have now passed the 1/4 way mark in this long journey of ours; on the theoretical route at least. I am now in the South, and have sailed through two depressions and am closing on my first Great Cape. As of last night, i’ve also moved past Pavlin and Ari, and have thus passed the three boats that started a week ahead of me. Cole and First Light are still ahead of me, but in the grand scheme of things, Shipyard Brewing and I are right on track of where I had hoped to be when this race started a month ago. The boat’s intact and i’m in third place on estimated finish date, behind Philippe Delamare and Cole Brauer. I have now moved into sixth place on the water, but should soon be in fourth as Louis Robein and Edouard de Keyser are not too far ahead and I am closing on them rapidly.

As days blend to weeks and those get lumped in as a month, I find more and more that the day on the calendar becomes irrelevant to an extent, and can be replaced by physical locations and weather systems. Last night saw the passage of my second depression, both of which have brought with them more and more learning for me. I again sailed through the system conservatively, while still managing to hold my own speed-wise. The max breeze that I saw in the first depression was about 48 knots and last night I saw a maximum of 40. So far the boat has handled the conditions well, and by sailing conservatively and smartly, and being well prepared for the conditions, the drama level has remained pretty low. I spent nearly 24 hours with two reefs in the main and a staysail, and that proved to be a good sail plan when it’s that windy out. Right now I have one reef in the main and the genoa out. I could carry more sail, but the waves are still quite large and disorganized and this feels safe and low-impact on the boat. Plodding along at nine or ten knots and being easy on the boat seems a lot smarter than putting up a Code Zero and going 12 knots but with more risk and stress associated.

Shipyard Brewing is far from a perfect boat and is not in perfect shape. There are a number of things that don’t allow me to push the boat as hard as I would like, and this is a frustration. There’s just so much more that needs/ needed to be optimized, and it was such a sprint to get to the starting line that the boat isn’t as dialed in as I would have liked it to be. I am in some ways nursing this funky old Open 50 around the world in 3rd or 4th place instead of having a super dialed and well funded Class 40 that can be pushed into the lead. So there is a real frustration building in some ways, but by the same token, I have become at peace with my situation. I’m just happy to be here, to be in this fantastic race, and to be putting in a decent showing. But I remain hungry for more. I do hope to get another shot at a round the world race, but to take the lessons i’ve learned in this endeavor thus far, and to combine that with better funding and resources to mount a more competitive campaign.

For the most part, Shipyard Brewing is holding up well though, although a light-air project list is always at the front of my mind. Still pretty surreal to be sliding along in the Southern Ocean and closing in on my first major Cape rounding. The moon at night has been beautiful, and is now waning. Thus far, the sun has come out almost every day, at least for part of the day, and with these longer summer days, my solar continues to take care of 100% of my power demands. Just before the race, I installed 1,200 watts of Solbian solar panels from Bruce Schwab’s Ocean Planet Energy (partially sponsored by Solbian), and the system is kicking ass! I have had my wind generator tied off for weeks, I haven’t fired up the motor in weeks and my hydro generator remains un-used since the start; it’s just a backup. With the exception of the first few days in rainy Europe with shorter winter days, we have been a solar powered boat 100%. One thing I have enjoyed particularly while down here is the wild life. There are significantly more birds than I would have imagined. From the graceful Albatross to other smaller birds (perhaps I should learn what they are), there have been been birds flying around pretty much every time i’m on deck. One thing is for certain, this place certainly feels as wild and remote as the brochure described. Truly a great wilderness, although I am just hoping for some safe passage and to get back in the Atlantic headed home. With these low-pressures constantly spinning around, you get the feeling you are playing Russian Roulette with Mother Nature. Be as romantic as you want about being in the South, but when you’re down here, you know that there is a higher degree or risk than other parts of the world. 

I had been having a spirited battle with Daffyd Hughes on the S&S 34, despite the fact that he was so many miles ahead. We had been going back and forth, swapping third and fourth place on estimated finish dates. Unfortunately, Daffyd needs to stop in Hobart, Tasmania to get some autopilot parts and work on his boat, Bendigedig. From a sporting perspective, it’s nice to solidify my third place for the moment, but I am surprisingly sad to hear of Daffyd’s need to stop. He had been sailing a fantastic race and I know that it meant a lot for him to go around without stopping. I have reached out to some friends I have in Tasmania, and it sounds like Hobart is well aware of his impending arrival, and I hope he gets a fantastic Tassie welcome. Hobart, Tasmania is a very special place to me after spending time down there twice with the Sydney – Hobart race, and even racing in local regattas there and doing delivery prep back to Sydney. Stay strong, Daffyd. As the smallest and slowest boat on course, and thus on course for longer, you have won our hearts. From watching you start live on social media while still in Maine, to tracking you across the equator and into the south, you have sailed an amazing race and I wish you a successful stopover in Hobart.

It was Riccardo Tossetto’s birthday today on Obportus, Happy Birthday Riccardo!!!

Thanks to everyone for their support and also please follow my Instagram @captainron_official or the Shipyard Brewing Youtube channel for more updates, as we are doing weekly Youtube episodes. 

Aloha from Shipyard Brewing

40 South by 5 East