Day 11 Race Report

Posted on June 20, 2014 in Battleborn, Boatylicious, CC4 Pacific, Crews, Elsa Hammond, Fat Chance, General, Great Pacific Race 2014, Jim Bauer’s Row for Hope, NOMAN, Pacific Warriors, Project Flight Plan, Rowing 4 Reefs, Team Pacific Rowers, Uniting Nations


LEAD BOATS: Winds from the N / NE at 10-15 kts; 5-7 ft swells

MIDDLE BOATS: Winds from the NW at 15-25 kts; 6-8 ft swells

BACK OF THE FLEET BOATS: Winds from the NW at 20-25 kts; 10-15 ft swells in choppy seas

The Great Pacific Race is the biggest, baddest human endurance challenge on the plant for a reason. It’s hard! The conditions are harsh. The waves are big. The wind has been strong. And for now, it’s cold. This is the Pacific. It’s an ocean. There is nowhere to stop and tie up. There is no escape. From land we are all watching as our rowers learn to cope and to deal with these unfamiliar conditions on a small craft that will be their home for weeks to come. This is a home that is constantly wet, perpetually moving and far away from land.

Before teams left the comfort and protection of the Monterey Peninsula Marina, they underwent extensive scruitineering. Rowers attended meetings where safety measurers, marine operations and medical procedures were explained to them. They experienced the roll test to know what it might be like to experience a capsize. And much, much more. Now they must utilize the skills they learned and remember the lessons they were taught to succeed in the challenge of crossing the mighty Pacific. This is the challenge of the Great Pacific Race.

We watch from the comfort of our homes, while typing on our computers that have high speed internet connections and a wealth of knowledge and information at our fingertips. For our rowers, the most important item to have at their fingertips are the oars. Their focus is on rowing, the safety of themselves and their team, and the challenge of this adventure. If we don’t hear from them for period, it’s OK. We must remember that they are quite busy. This is a long race are we are still in the early days.

For our rowers, the conditions continue to be harshest for those closest to land and those closest to land are our solos. It is also our solo rowers who struggle the hardest to make headway because they are alone and they must rest and sleep. Those rest periods are crucial for their bodies to recuperate, but these periods also make them more susceptible to the conditions as they run the risk of losing any headway they may have achieved while rowing. Add in a little sea sickness, as Daryl Farmer / Rowing 4 Reefs knows, and you lose a lot of ground. Farmer and Jim Bauer / Row for Hope had been rowing virtually side by side since they left Monterey Bay. When Farmer succumbed to sea sickness and took to his cabin for an extended period, Bauer was able to continue on and make significant progress in heading to the south, gaining 9 NM over his former rowing partner. This also puts Bauer only 7 NM behind solo frontrunner Elsa Hammond / Elsa Hammond’s Pacific Solo Row.

Mary Rose / Project Flight Plan continues to struggle with what has become known at race headquarters as the “Groundhog Vortex” of the Monterey Bay. She rows west when she can but then when she rests she is pushed back to shore. Over and over again we see this happening for her in a vicious cycle, just as we had seen by the solo rowers who had gone before her. But we know it is possible to get out of the bay and we also know that Rose has the strength and determination to row beyond the Monterey Bay. As an added precaution, the Great Pacific Race support boat Galen Diana was in close proximity to Rose over the course of last night keeping a watchful eye over her. During one of their passings, Rose called out to them “This is HARD!”

Hammond has also had a tough time but has persevered and managed to row off the Santa Lucia Escarpment (the continental shelf). This means she is now in much deeper water which should mean that the waves will round out, providing for smoother seas and better rowing for Hammond.

Our open pairs team of Fat Chance Row is currently adopting a rather unconventional rowing method that has them acting more like an ultra strength solo rower rather than a pairs team. Sami Inkinen and Meredith Loring have determined that they can’t make the progress they want with just one person rowing at a time, so they have adopted a system of both team members rowing for a period then both resting, at least until the conditions flatten out. Race Director Chris Martin explained that “this approach in beneficial when trying to make headway in adverse conditions but there are benefits to having someone on the oars at all times. You are able to ride the conditions better when there is someone at the oars.” Fat Chance Row has held onto position 7 on the leader board over the last 48 hours. These are still early days for them so we will see how this approach works out over time.

Our front runners are reporting sunnier skies and calmer seas. However, teams are still rowing in their full foul weather gear because it is cold out there on the Pacific and it will continue to be for the next several hundred miles of rowing. Barry Hayes of team Battleborn writes in their recent blog:

“Probably the most frustrating thing that we’ve found that we did not expect is the heat… or the apparent lack of. All four of us are still having to wear full foully gear; thick jackets, salopets, waterproof socks, woolen jumpers, etc – even during the day. There are many reasons for us wanting to get down to the trades, but one of them has to be just that it’s a bit warmer, and less hassle getting dressed before and after a shift. At the moment all that suncream in the aft cabin seems to be a little wasted on us.”

For now nothing is ever dry. It’s wet. It’s cold. Their clothes are damp when they put them on to take their time at the oars. It takes a few strokes at the oars to get their blood flowing and get them warmed up. The vision of going from the sunny California coast to the warm Hawaiian Islands may have given the impression of being a balmy pleasure row as it seems to have surprised the crews as to how cold and wet they have been thus far. Challenging conditions at sea extend into the boat as teams struggle to keep themselves dry, stay clean, and avoid chafing.

Wet decks also mean slippery decks as team NOMAN reported some challenges in keeping their sea legs below them over the last 24 hours. Pacific Warriors were having similar issues and apparently one crew member actually fell off the deck in what was described as a “heroic and comedic effort to successfully achieve a task at hand.” Just what that task was, we do not know.

While Pacific Warriors were taking a quick swim, CC4 Pacific were able to gain 2 NM over them, decreasing their separation to 29 NM. Could it be that the French rowing secret of wine, cheese and “saucisson” are slowing allowing them to make gains on their competitors? Or perhaps the French were inspired to row a little harder and faster when they received the report that other teams had broken oars, which surprised them. The overall broken oar count is currently at 5 for the fleet.

Uniting Nations, one of our quietest teams as far as communication goes, have quietly gained 4 NM over the second place Battleborn. The Battleborn team seems to be facing a few other issues on board as they have reported a “Cookie Crime Wave” on board. The primary suspect is Alan the Albatross. Click here for their blog for the full report and let us know what you think happened in the great cookie caper.

As we sign off for the day we remind you that part of the adventure of rowing across an ocean is being “unplugged.” Race Director Chris Martin reflects that during his 189 days rowing across the north Pacific he choose to check in every day, whereas his rowing partner Mick Dawson only communicated about once per month. Everyone and each team is different. We don’t expect to hear from each of the crews or teams every day. The assumption is that no news is good news. Trust us – if there is a problem, we will hear about it. We leave the teams to row and have their adventure across the Pacific in the biggest, baddest human endurance challenge on the plant.

Solo Racers:

Project Flight Plan: ROWING – Position 12, 2082 NM to finish, Rowed 32* NM
Rowing 4 Reefs: ROWING – Position 11, 2069 NM to finish, Rowed 56* NM
Elsa Hammond: ROWING – Position 9; 2053 NM to finish, Rowed 175 NM
Row for Hope: ROWING – Position 10, 2060 NM to finish, Rowed 101* NM
Pair Racers:
Clearly Contacts CA: Preparing to row; Waiting for next weather window
CC4 Pacific: ROWING – Position 5; 1968 NM to finish, Rowed 362 NM
Fat Chance: ROWING – Position 7; 2035 NM to finish, Rowed 84 NM
Four Person Teams:
Battleborn: ROWING – Position 2; 1768 NM to finish, Rowed 482 NM
Boatylicious: ROWING – Position 6; 2021 to finish, Rowed 100 NM
Pacific Rowers: ROWING – Position 8; 2039 to finish, Rowed 92 NM
NOMAN: ROWING – Position 3; 1878 NM to finish, Rowed 387 NM
Pacific Warriors: ROWING – Position 4; 1939 NM to finish, Rowed 277 NM
Uniting Nations: ROWING – Position 1; 1724 NM to finish, Rowed 529 NM

*The miles rowed reflect all miles rowed since the start of the race which include miles from any first attempts before returning to shore and re-joining the race.