J/65 Brand New Day- 2006 Puerto Vallarta Race Logbook

J/65 #2, BRAND NEW DAY, was launched in early February in San Diego, CA and only two weeks later set sail to Mexico in the performance-cruising division of the 2006 San Diego to Puerto Vallarta Race. Following are excerpts from the onboard logs kept by owner Jim Madden and J Boats’ Jeff Johnstone during the passage.

Feb. 23, 1100

JJ: Four zones of air conditioning, 12KW genset, 30 gallon per hour watermaker, push button controls for winches, windlass, state-of-the-art communications hub, not to mention enough tankage to take a “topping off” of 100 gallons of diesel and water. This might be a check list you'd expect to see on a luxury power yacht, not on a new J/65 heading out to the starting line for an 1100 mile race in light to moderate air. But then again, this is not a normal race.

This is about as relaxing as it gets. We're expecting mostly reaching and downwind conditions in light to moderate winds. We're allowed to use powered winches and when things get too slow, even turn on the engine. We even know what day we're going to finish (our deadline is Tuesday afternoon).

Feb 23, 1430

JM: Crew on board is Jim Madden, Jeff Johnstone (J-Boats President), Jeff Brown, Jon Gardner, Greg Nelson, Erik Rogers, Wayne Terry, Chuck Sinks, Jeff Gordon, Tom Pollack - mostly a mix from San Diego and Newport Harbor YC.

Started at 1200 under beautiful San Diego skies with 10 knots of breeze out of the WSW. "Brand New Day" a new J/65 and "Free Range Chicken" a new Perry 59 composed Performance Cruising Class A. Though we can motor in the cruising class, our objective is not to. Shortly after the start, the breeze continued to build and clock west, allowing us to set a 3A reacher before passing the Coronado Islands through the middle, just west of the middle grounds at only 90 minutes into the race. We are now going at 9-10 knots, heading about 165 degrees in 15 knots of breeze with a 2A runner up.

Very different experience so far on this boat as compared with racing other boats. She has a very light feel to the wheel, and is quite responsive for a 65 footer. We're also not quite used to having a chef (Wayne), a wine locker (28 bottles for a crew of ten over 5-6 days), an LCD and DVD player in each stateroom and the main salon, an ice maker, and enough space to store my former J/145 inside.

Feb 24, 1230

JM: Let's start with dinner last evening (first night out). Sushi and sashimi appetizers, followed by freshly tossed salad, home made stew, and pecan pie for dessert, accompanied by a Syrah. We are now approaching Cedros Island at about 10 knots of speed with about 110 miles to go. Winds overnight ranged from 11 to 16 knots, freshening this morning to 15-17 knots. Biggest debate among the crew so far is who gets to push the button to trim the kite.

Feb. 24, 1400

JJ: We're now 26 hours into the race and have sailed 250 miles, averaging little bit over 9 knots. Winds over the past 16 hours have been oscillating between 12 and 18 knots anywhere from 300 to 330 in bearing. Our course has taken us well offshore (116 miles) but we think we'll be well set up wind wise when we jibe in the next few hours. We still have the 2A with staysail flying, and hit 12.2 knots while gliding down a wave in 18 knots of wind sailing at 150 TWA.

Life aboard has been amazingly comfortable with 10 people. Nine of the crew are rotating on a 4-on 5-off basis staggered on the hour, with Wayne, our master chef and sail trimmer on flex time. So at any given time 5-6 people are sleeping. Despite everyone having a large gear bag, personal sleeping bags and pillows, plus 10 sets of foul weather gear, the main cabin is free of sails and gear, and there is locker space to spare. Everyone is raving about how quiet the boat is below, and how comfortable the sea motion is, despite an awkward quartering swell.

Most people say that they lose weight on a distance race, but there’s no chance on this one. We feasted last night and this morning enjoyed a full plate of fruit, muffins and eggs for breakfast. Everyone's now grabbing hot showers, which is no problem according to Eric Rogers, our bowman and onboard systems guru. We’ll just run the 30 gallon per hour watermaker for two hours a day and everyone can enjoy a hot shower.

On deck, there's one driver, one crew tailing the spinnaker sheet and a third to push the winch button when needed. With the spinnaker pole squared further aft now (sailing at 150-160 TWA), one person can both tail and push the winch button while watching the luff of the kite, making it a two person boat. Not bad for a 65 footer. Everyone on the boat is getting a chance to drive, which makes it more fun.

JM: Update at 1707: First jibe of the race - from starboard board onto port. Crew was thrilled to have something to do! Now onto cocktail hour.

Feb 25 1650

JM: This is when we're thankful we're entered in the performance cruising division where motoring is allowed and especially thankful the DVD collection is stocked with variety. At 2:05 pm Saturday afternoon, although we preferred not to, we turned the engine on as the wind went out like a light switch off.

There's a big high sitting now over the middle of the Baja. We're now heading for Cabo, which is about 300 miles away. We're still hoping the breeze will fill in again. The chef was concerned we were not consuming enough of the green cans and wine. That has now all changed.

Feb. 25, 1700

JJ: Up until about noon today, we had averaged about 8.8 knots over the prior 24 hours, sailing mostly in 10-16 knots of wind. We jibed onto port tack yesterday at 5pm, and carried a long steady header (wind shifting from 320 slowly to 350), allowing us to make great VMG directly towards Cabo San Lucas. It appears that we couldn't have picked a better jibing point, which was a little earlier than the Expedition computer program was calling for. This morning, when the wind consistently dropped below 12 knots, the Code 2A kite was snuffed and the all yellow Code 1A kite was deployed. In about 10-11 knots of wind the boat could sail at 8.4-8.6 at about 85-90 degrees apparent. When it died further, we saw about 7 knots of boatspeed in 8 knots of wind at 70 apparent.

The motoring penalty is quite punitive in this race, in that we have to add 2 hours to our time for every hour of motoring. But when the sailing speed drops below 3 and you can't head along rhumb line, motoring is well worth it. Highlight of the last 2 hours was the passing of a freighter (first boat sighting in nearly 20 hours), followed by a small pod of dolphins who enthusiastically leaped off the bow, long enough to capture them on video.

This trip has continued to set records for ”firsts.” At one point earlier today, four DVD players were on at the same time, only being paused once during a sail change. If the light air holds, and the forecast is looking fairly grim, then it looks like more motoring; but I have to confess it’s an entirely new feeling to turn on the engine and still be in the race. Right now under engine, we're making about 8.9-9.0 knots at 2900 RPMs with a Martec 2-blade prop.

Feb 26, 1120

JM: Still thankful we're in the cruising division and able to motor. Though we were able to sail just about all last night, early this morning the breeze shut off once again. While sailing in winds out of the North from 5 to 8 kts, the boat was consistently near, and occasionally above TWS under a 1A spinnaker.

Beautiful sunrise this morning with high clouds, courtesy of the high pressure system effect from the low now coming into California. Last night's menu included carnitos tacos, Hagen-daz ice cream, a chardonnay and a merlot accompanied by different movie selections in different cabins - everything from "Get Short" to "Waking Ned Devine." Breakfast this morning was omelets, fruit, and pastry. Cabo about 140 miles away.

Feb. 26, 1415

JJ: Last night things got more interesting. After several hours of motoring earlier in the evening, we finally had enough breeze to rehoist the 2A. The breeze then built nicely to about 11-12 knots and we slid through the water in the mid 8s to low 9s on a clear, star-lit but moonless night. We then started to see some boat traffic, a cruise ship passing inshore of us on a slightly converging course, and a northbound freighter outboard of us. Another white light appeared about the same time and we watched with interest as it appeared to close faster and faster on us. Just as it looked like we were passing by, we could hear the sound of an outboard engine and the light appeared to turn and follow us, about 300 yards away. Then the white light disappeared and all was dark, though the motor was clearly audible. We took out flashlights to shine on the sails (to show them that we were big and that it would take some time before we could “pull over”) and got Jeff Brown on the radio. About 30 seconds later the white light re-appeared, and rapid Spanish came over the VHF. It fortunately turned out to be a small Mexican patrol boat scouting the area for a distress signal. The crew refrained from any wise cracks about square grouper and so the patrol boat took off towards the northbound freighter.

At about 0130 the breeze softened to 7-9 knots and headed, so we switched to the 1A. We found that the easiest way to make the spin change was to snuff the kite and drop to the deck, then quickly reattach all the gear to the new kite, hoist and unsnuff. Losing the few minutes in order to do it safely was well worth it, and much easier than running double sheets, guys and tacklines. Having now done it about 5 times, we have the time down to about 2 ½ minutes, and don’t need to wake the off-watch crew.

After sailing the J/65 for three days, we’re convinced that, for ocean sailing or long straight-line work, squaring an A-Sail aft on a spinnaker pole is a great way to go. You get the aerodynamic efficiency and easier steering groove of the A-Sail with the luff stabilizing and deeper sailing angle features afforded by the pole. Fortunately, the handling is not unlike deploying a snuffer, in that everything is sequential. A crew of two (plus an auto-pilot), could conceivably hoist the spinnaker (flying off the tack line), and then hook up the pole and strut, and then square the pole back. To jibe, it's really only a matter of allowing enough time to remove the pole. Even then, if the guy is eased forward, tackline trimmed down to 2 feet off the deck, and the pole topping lift is dropped so that the pole rests in the pulpit, you could quickly jibe, and once settled, go forward and reattach the pole and strut, and pull the new guy aft.

On my last watch (0700-1100), the engine came back on as we motored through a becalmed sea near Mag Bay. If we were on a site-seeing trip, we probably would have ducked into the Bay to see the Grey Whales breeding. This is THE spot where it all happens. The whales migrate down from Alaska for a 2-3 month period, breed, and then swim north. We did see some jumping marlin, a first for me. Several jumps about 300 yards off our transom. After breakfast, the breeze freshened to about 7-8 knots, enough to rehoist the 1A. I then took both video and still camera up the rig and hung out at the 2nd and 3rd spreaders to capture the boat in action.

Being on a timetable and still 450 miles from the finish, Jim has calculated that if we motor half way at 9 knots, we'd have to at least average 5-6 knots sailing in order to finish by Tuesday evening. We have enough fuel to motor the whole way if necessary.

While we've eaten like kings the entire trip, the crew eagerly anticipates tonight’s feast of filet mignon and lobster tails Jeff Gordon has selected several bottles of fine wine to accompany both the cockpit hors d'oeuvres, followed by dinner around the salon table.

Feb 27, 0900

JJ: We made landfall at Cabo at 5am this morning. We had been sailing since 0230 yesterday cranking out 8.5-10 knots of speed in 12-17 knots of wind. We got a nice lift at about 10pm and then jibed to port, making a bearing of 120 degrees, about 10 degrees wide of the Cabo. As we neared the point the wind gradually died to about 10-11 knots and lifted. Then at 8 miles we hit the wall of no wind, and then turned on the engine. Dawn broke noticeably earlier this morning, now that we're much further east than San Diego. It was as close as most of the crew had gotten to Cabo, but of course we were taking our engine allowance into account. The normal strategy is to give Cabo a wide berth (like by 40 miles). A few minutes ago we started sailing again with mainsail and a jib-top reacher.

Feb 27, 1430

JJ: Went from the jib top to the 1A in 10 knots of wind and were then doing 8.1 – 8.6 in 10-10.6 kts of wind at 125 TWA, making good tracks down the rhumb line to PV. The wind then backed to about 330 and filled in further to 12-14, so we went to the 2A. Big highlight of the morning was passing by several hump back whales, with several waving tails and breaching. Wayne was on the helm and gingerly steered around the pre-occupied pod. Shortly thereafter, we saw some fish boils with flying fish and later some porpoises. All seem to ignore Jon’s tasty looking lure dragging behind the boat. Current estimate is to finish mid-day Tuesday.

Feb. 27, 1538

JM: We’re currently 1/3 of the way across the gulf to Puerto Vallarta, with a 10-13 knot breeze coming from a heading of 330-340. Boat speed is steady at about 9 knots of speed, sailing now with the 2A spinnaker under beautiful skies, with Chris Isaak playing from the stereo. Dinner last night was filet mignon and lobster tails with a Peter Michael Cabernet and Chardonnay. This is what performance cruising is all about.

Feb. 28, 1446 (PT)

JM: Finished off Punta Mita in 10 knots of breeze under a A Kodak moment. Lot's of fun along the way - racing and enjoying the views. Though we wish there was more wind, the trip was well worth it. Time schedules required us to be in by end of day Tuesday; otherwise we might have enjoyed more sailing time. The J/65 performed nearly flawlessly during her 1,000 "shake-down" cruise. With the outside temperature at 84 degrees, we're thankful to be heading to the dock with the A/C on below. Looking forward to the next Mexico race.