Category Archives: Sailing

Why I’m Racing in PV 2012 – Part Two

I’m answering more of your questions regarding the upcoming Puerto Vallarta 2012 race (PV 2012).  We’re at the starting line on Friday March 2nd at 11:55am.   We’ll post tracking links so you can watch our progress.

How are you training and preparing?

I am preparing physically by running and doing more yoga. I’m not taking on any hard training which could give me any chance of getting hurt, so nothing severe but mainly eating and sleeping well. I am already in good shape physically, but after Transpac, I learned the best preparation is making sure I get food and water for me. The rest of the crew loves the freeze-dried food that comes prepackaged but I hate the freeze-dried stuff; I just can’t eat it. On Transpac 2011, I had prepared food in a cooler with dry ice and it evaporated sooner than we thought so the food went bad.

This race I have snacks coming out of my ears: String-cheese, cool flavored Yoplait yogurts, cinnamon graham crackers, prunes, peanuts (very good for protein), dried slivers of apple, hard boiled eggs, cling peaches, Triscuits, granola bars, oatmeal with cinnamon and maple syrup for breakfast, and the great staple of the ocean, the most important food known to sailors – peanut butter and jelly. When nothing else works, every sailor can eat peanut butter and jelly. Protein. Sugar. Good to go.

I am also very prepared for the cold. The rest of the crew has a lot of muscle to keep them warm but I’m bringing a million layers. The cold is something you have to deal with because if you get too cold then you can’t function.

What do you hope to accomplish?

I hope to WIN! Plus I’m looking forward to having a different crew than during Transpac 2011,  gelling together as a team and practicing for next year’s Transpac.

What fun parts of the race are you looking forward to?

Many times during the trip,  if there is a squall or if someone gets sick then there are horrible moments and you ask yourself why am I here? But when you cross the finish line and it’s all behind you, then you have a million great stories to tell.

In the first Cabo race, Sam, my good friend and crew member,  got up every morning, stuck his head into the cockpit, and said, “Where am I?”  It’s hilarious becoming familiar with all the quirks of the people you are on the boat with. Everybody has quirks. Dave is very tall, so he can’t sleep in a bunk. Instead, he spreads out the sails below and falls asleep on them. Fortunately, these guys don’t snore and if they do, I go over and pinch a toe — that usually stops it.

I’m looking forward to the crazy funny things people say in the moment. When you get home everybody disbands and does their own thing and we see each other here and there. But, when you are out on the middle of the ocean, you feel intensely close. It’s a wonderful feeling because you count on each other, depend on each other, and support each other. I find myself very touched. There is always some point in a race when there is a lull, when we sit and talk and people say crazy things and humor comes out of nowhere.

The world becomes a 47-foot boat, totally separate from the rest of reality.

What is your main role on the boat?

I’m the main driver and also the safety nag.

We take four hours shifts in the boat: four hours on, four hours off. You’re supposed to sleep or eat when you are off, but I usually sleep four hours and then stay awake the rest of the time. I like driving for other people so they can get the things done they wouldn’t get done if they were driving.

I’m also the safety “nag” because I’m always making sure everyone has their life-saving equipment on, their life vest on. And if it’s blowing or bouncy, then I make the guys tether in. I am ultimately responsible for them and if something happens then we might not be able to get them back, especially if we are in the middle of the ocean in bad weather.

Why I’m Racing in PV 2012 – Part One

This Friday, March 2nd, my crew and I are racing in the 31st Biennial San Diego to Puerto Vallarta Race (PV 2012).  This is a biennial event which starts off San Diego’s Shelter Island and finishes off Punta Mita in beautiful Banderas Bay, Mexico.

After that, we’ll be participating in the 22nd edition of the MEXORC (Mexican Ocean Racing Circuit) regatta and the Regatta Copa Mexico.  MEXORC and the Regatta Copa Mexico are a joint effort between the Mexican Government and the Mexican Sailing Federation.  We’ll be participating in 7 one-day races then.

Over the next few days, I’ll be answering some of your questions regarding this next adventure…

Why did you choose to do the PV 2012 race?

For about five or six years, I was only doing buoy races and wondered about what it would feel like to have a big sailing adventure. I decided I wanted to have one and came up with idea of doing the Cabo race where you sail from Newport Beach to Cabo San Lucas. I put together a crew with one pro and assumed we were going to lose because we weren’t a bunch of pros. Lo and behold… we took everything and won in all three categories.  It was so much fun!

I had never been out in open sea before and I wanted to see if I liked it. At that point, after we won in Cabo, I decided to do Trans Pac. Trans Pac was extremely difficult – physically and emotionally – with the squalls, not being able to eat and being dehydrated. It was very tough.

But it was an incredible experience, feeling the team work together and at one point we were the farthest you could be from land in the whole world. It was a sobering experience… it felt like we were in a fishbowl. There was no land anywhere and we were alone on a boat with a bunch of people and we had to keep each other alive.

Trans Pac was an amazing experience emotionally. We went the wrong way, didn’t place and afterwards I was determined to do it again — and do it better.

The PV 2012 race is a hard one; it takes eight and a half days.  This race and the other long distance races I am doing this year are all preparation for next year’s Trans Pac.

We are much better prepared for this race to Puerto Vallarta and for future races. There is enough food and water;  I have noise-isolating headphones so I can sleep better; and I am well equipped with loads of snacks.

So, the reason I’m doing PV 2012 is 20% adventure, 80% prep for Transpac.

What are the different challenges in this race versus Transpac 2011?

This race is a lot easier, and takes half the time. Overall it is less grueling physically because it’s much shorter and also we are closer to land. The second part of it, called MEXORC is a five-day series of day races that are sponsored by the Mexican government. This time around, my son Deryk is going to be a grinder on the MEXORC races, and is also coming along as part of my security.

Getting Ready for Transpac – A Sailboat Race to Hawaii

This is my last day of preparation before TRANSPAC – the sailboat race from California to Hawaii in which I’m participating.  I have to organize all my gear (which is easier for guys who seem able to live in the same clothes for days and days).  Since we start out with cold weather and end up with very warm I have to bring a range of layers.  I don’t have much subcutaneous fat so I am cold when the guys are in t-shirts, shorts, and flaps!

Today I shop for my last piece of gear: a hat which keeps the sun off my face and neck – a necessity the closer we get to Hawaii.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) morning we all meet in Long Beach early to take KATANA (my boat) out for a shake down; we will do the same thing Thursday.  Thursday night we will have our “last supper” on land for a week or more.

Friday morning early we will get on Katana and get ready for the start.  It seems funny in a way that we will be revving up for a great start when the race is a week or so in duration and over 2200 miles.  But, as it turns out, every second of every day counts.  People have won by minutes or seconds!

We will all be on deck for the 1 pm start until 6 pm.  Then our “watches” begin with teams having different schedules.  I will be the 6 pm to 10 pm watch.  At 10 pm I go to sleep for 4 hours.  At 2 am ’til 6 am I am on watch again.  On watch means you are on deck sailing the boat and responsible for everything.  Two of us have the same watch and two others overlap by 2 hours. 

If there is an emergency or a major sail change…everyone may be called on deck.  It takes a few days for all of us to acclimate to the schedule without feeling “weirded out”. 

I love the 2 am to 6 am watch….well….I don’t like the 2 am part….but I like being up for the sunrise….it is beautiful out on the ocean at sunrise.

In the midst of all of this we have to take time to eat and clean ourselves up. 

Just in case you wondered….we are all a little wound up; even the folks with experience.  Butterflies are normal – it is a major undertaking and huge responsibility.  None of us take it lightly.

That’s all for now…I will write more tomorrow after we get to Long Beach and go aboard KATANA.

Camaraderie

A few weeks ago, I participated in a 45 mile ocean race with 6 other crew members and a 33-foot boat.  There were 10 other competitors in our class.  One of them – a very fast boat-had a handicap rating, which meant we had to beat them by 20 minutes (in a 61/2 hour race).

We did our best and did a good job with tactics and sail changes.  But our handicap was such that this just wasn’t enough.

A big boat from another class was right behind me, bearing down hard, some 13 miles from the finish line.  My tactician said “Okay, now I’m going to teach you something new.”  He had me maneuver the boat so they’d go under me (meaning I was between the wind and the other boat) so I would not slow down in their wind shadow.  Once they almost passed me, and I turned the boat down to catch their wake.  Evidently, this is the “on the water” version of what bicyclists do when they follow another closely – it actually makes you go faster!  And it worked, because, suddenly, I was going a knot faster.  The waves were big, fast, and furious.  It took a lot of strength on my part to keep my boat directly behind the bigger boat and stay in their wake.  I stayed in his wake for 8 miles and 1 hour.  When the wind died down a bit, his boat took off, and I was back to just being a small boat in the race. 

The guys in front on my boat were getting soaked and when one more huge wave actually broke over the boat, I too was soaked.  One of them leaned back and said sympathetically, “Oh, did you get wet Doc?”  I said “Yes,” as I spit out salt water.  As if orchestrated, they all turned and said simultaneously:  “Awwwwwwwwww.”  It was hilarious, and it felt great.  The team was working together, kidding each other in the heat of battle, and I just loved it!

When we docked, we all got off the boat extremely wet and all body parts hurting.  We all moaned and groaned as I said “Whose stupid idea was this?”  Again, they all turned, laughing, and pointed at me.  We hit the restrooms and cleaned up, and then went out to dinner to celebrate a job well done…done as a team, and done with humor.

We were at the restaurant toasting each other and laughing and throwing food down with passion, when we realized we were happy and didn’t even know if we had won anything in the race or not.  That was the best part – that we didn’t need a “win” to enjoy our camaraderie and our time out on the ocean.

It wasn’t until the next day we discovered we had won the race by (remember, this was a 45 mile race that took 6 1/2 hours)…..TWO SECONDS!  Bless that big boat’s wake!  We were all stunned at the result.  Whew!  But even without the win, we had a great time together facing the elements.

A Man With A Vision

I want to tell you about an extraordinary man’s vision and commitment.  In this case, “vision” is figurative, because he is, quite literally, blind.

Urban Miyares is a Vietnam veteran.  At the end of a particularly horrendous firefight, he was mistakenly put into a body bag for dead.  Two days later, when the bags were opened to do identifications, a medic assistant noticed that he was not dead.  His injuries were severe, and he is now blind, but he didn’t miss a beat to stay involved in life.  He has started and operated many businesses and has always used his talents.  He didn’t “quit” on life.

Urban is the founder and director of Challenged America (www.challengedamerica.org), whose mission is to introduce sailing as a therapeutic and rehabilitative-enhancing activity to individuals with disabilities. That sounds very nice, but what put me “over the top” was his firm commitment to working only with people who are committed to being involved in work and life.  If they aren’t working or in work training, he won’t take them into the program.  He told me that the folks who just get disability and sit around are directed toward regular sailing schools.  He works hard with people who are equally committed to working hard.

That sounds more than nice.  It is brilliant.  Never be more committed to helping someone than they are committed to helping themselves!  When Urban made those pronouncements, I was all aboard with ferocious enthusiasm, as I share that philosophy and that’s why I chide so many parents and other family members for trying harder than the one they’re helping.  Continual rescues only serve to let the person they’re “helping” continue on his or her destructive path, and to assuage any feelings of guilt on the part of the helper by keeping the other afloat when that person is not even trying  to tread water.

I participated in a wonderful dinner (where I was the keynote speaker), silent auction, and regatta in support of Challenged America.   I was very proud to be part of all those events to benefit such a worthy operation.  Check them out at www.challengedamerica.org.

Facing Your Fears

Recently, on a Friday afternoon, I had an experience which challenged my fears and comfort level.  I went out sailing in 20-30 knots of wind, with 6 – 8 foot swells, in a very, very narrow boat only 41 feet long.  I have five experienced crew with me.  And I was nervous.

Believe you me, it is an intimidating experience when a little sailboat is planing at over 20 knots with gusts and crazy waves.  You don’t have a lot of opportunity to think things through or to hesitate – a five degree wrong move and….WIPEOUT!  In the cold water and sloppy big waves, that could mean “man overboard” with the boat temporarily out of control. (Watch the experience.)

I am learning to skipper a boat under these conditions, where you have to run on “feel” and not so much on thinking things through.  I have lots to learn and practice, but whoo hoo!  What a ride!

In doing this, I faced rational fear and was out of my comfort zone.  It took 48 hours for me to come down from that exhilaration.  It changes you.  I feel proud of myself; I know I’m getting better and better.  Facing fears and limitations, while scary, leads to such acceleration in joy of life and a growing self-confidence, that it is more than worth the scary moments.

As I keep nagging at you folks, things are scary until they become familiar.  Practice and forcing yourself to face the experience time and again gives you familiarity which gives you confidence, and a natural, free, and legal “high.”

The Ride of My Life

Last week, I took part in my first international ocean sailboat race.  There were six of us in a narrow, 42-foot sailboat with teams working around the clock in shifts of four hours awake and four hours trying to nap, unless we had to do a sail change, in which case it was everybody up on deck.

I did this because I wanted an adventure, and I got it:  whales, dolphins, sharks, flying fish (we tried – and failed – to catch a fish for dinner), and giant sea turtles.  The race covered 850 miles from Newport Beach, California to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.  The days before we launched, I have to admit that I was afraid.  The days after we finished….well, I was transformed.  My most vivid memory is racing the last ten miles in the moonlight with a brisk wind:  I was steering with tears running down my face because I was so moved by the whole experience.

Facing fears and enduring hardships changes you in a very good way.  When you know you can get through extraordinary challenges, it makes everyday issues “mellow out.”

I want to thank my crew:  Kevin Miller (tactician), Eric Bohman (navigator), Kit Will (one of the stars of Morning Light), Sam Solhaug, and Paul Wolthausen for the ride of my life!

Dr. Laura Skippers Warrior to Finish First Overall in Cabo
from left to right:
Sam Solhaug, Paul Wolthausen, Eric Bohman, Dr. Laura, Kevin Miller, Kit Will