Shawn Ivie’s Express 37 Limitless is off to a good start in the 2022 Pacific Cup race from San Francisco to Hawaii (start time was 11:00 am on July 5). Unfortunately the navigator had to bow out due to testing positive for Covid, leaving a spot open on the 5 person team. Amber Moffat (foredeck) was a last minute addition to the crew and is excited to race in her first Pacific Cup.
It looks like a very challenging year in terms of wind conditions and the high sitting right in the way of getting to Hawaii!
Fun fact: in 2016 Limitless set the course record for an Express 37, completing the race in just under 10 days. On arrival, one of the crew (Gabriel) proposed to Amber (his girlfriend at the time) in the companionway, and then they did the 16 day delivery back together with Shawn and Jenna. And now, 6 years later, married with a 3 1/2 year old daughter, it’s Amber’s turn to do the race!
Good morning, All. I had not even had a chance to share Doug’s 1st update with you from yesterday. I have included it below.
But, the big news is that Limitless is turning back home and retiring from the race. I spoke with Doug this morning by Sat phone, and all the Crew is well and fine (though spirits may be low from the huge disappointment of not being able to continue). Apparently, an issue came up with the rudder (a lot of friction and grinding noises that did not improve over time) .So, after trying to remedy that problem, the Team reluctantly decided it would not be safe for them to continue the remaining 1,700 NM to Hawaii. They are now headed directly to Point Conception, and Doug estimates that they have 58 hours to go: ETA Monday, 7/16 around 2pm PDT. They are currently in 17 knots of breeze under sail doing 7.5 knots. From there, they will sail to San Pedro, with an ETA of Tuesday, 7/17, between Noon and 4pm PDT. Please see more detail from Doug below:
“We have had to make the tough decision to retire from the race. All team are OK. Please forward this to family members so that they know.
We started to experience binding sounds from the rudder post/bearing assemblies that we initially thought were coming from the rigging assemblies. However, after spending 12 hours pushing the boat hard in wind conditions from 14 to 23 knots, the sounds became louder and it was evident that there was an issue with the steering. We lowered the spinnaker to reduce loads and investigated. There is no action we can take to remedy the situation at sea, and made the decision to retire from the race, rather than continue to push at race pace. All are well. We are making a return to mainland, a trip which should take about three days.”
Also below, FYI, is Doug’s initial update from yesterday, when things were slow but optimistic:
First of all, Happy Bastille day. Clement started the day off playing La Marseillaise, and is wearing his French national flag as he works! We are now playing Phoenix’ Wolfgang Amadeus. And, while Clement does not know it, that will be followed by Plastic Betrand’s “Ca Plane pour Moi”. A song that well pre-dates Clement!
The pre-race activities were hectic with final prep and loading of provisions for what was anticipated to be a 13-day and change trip, now looking like a 14-day and change trip! The night before we departed, Minda arranged for a fun Teppanyaki-style dinner for the entire crew, along with our San Francisco sailor friend Joan Byrne and her friend Jenny. During dinner, Shawn’s rental car was broken into, and an old A3 spin taken. Go figure! Drama that was not needed.
Start day rolled around, with grey skies sloping around San Francisco and a weather model that looked more like a funeral processional dirge than a useful tool for routing to sunny Hawaii. Final shopping was completed, crew loaded up and farewells made. We motored to the start area and prepped for the off.
Our main competition is the local hotshot and classic IOR yacht Sweet Okole. A gorgeous, strip-planked, wooden race yacht that has been to Hawaii so many times, you could just push her off the dock and she would find her own way home. It was quickly obvious that they were gunning for us as we wound up into the final start sequence. We used an unfortunate and not completely aware Hobie 33 as our pic, and trapped the Farr to weather of us and into a second row start. Off the line on starboard, we were able to cross them after a port tack and lead them all the way out of their home waters, right into the wall of nothing. After passing Point Bonita at the Northwest headland to San Francisco Bay, the wind shut off and the highly contested drift fest began in earnest.
And so the third morning finds us in glassy conditions well north of the usual route to Hawaii, after three days of slowly going nowwhere in particular. It is at this point in the story that I tell you, dear reader, (I’ve always wanted to write that), that we are storming along with a brightly coloured spinaker up in sunny surfing conditions. Well, we’re not. The sky is still as sullen as it was when we left San Francisco. This morning’s model suggests ten more days to Hawaii and we have food for nine! On the bright side Craig, managed to narrowly avoid having us cruished by an errant Coastal steamer tramp driver who was either asleep at the wheel or on anti depressants. In the end he admitted via VHF, that he would not crush us. Lucky days or rather nights for us indeed.
Competitive drifting will continue until Mother Nature decides she is done toying with us. She is the mother we all need, but she can be a real bitch at times.
Another update from Doug:
I’m still trying to get my head around the fact that we are no longer racing. After 3 days of slow going, we finally got into the wind. The routing had us in a great position to start moving up the standings again. We were starting to build good runs with an A3 and a staysail set, reaching in breeze up to the low 20’s. There had been this low creaking sound in the previous days that we thought was a check stay that was too tight. I came on deck at midnight and started driving. The creaking sound was now very loud and the steering was behaving abnormally with some binding and definite movement between the tiller and the rudder post under load. We were seeing high 9’s and several bursts into 10’s, with a quartering sea state that meant a lot of helm input.
Unbeknownst to me, Clément, on the off watch, was below deck with a light on the rudder tube listening to the same sounds. At the watch change, 0300, we both simultaneously said, “we need to look into this.” We turned the boat down to try and unload things, and went below and aft. There is not much to see, as the boat has a solid rudder tube, with the rudder post and bearing assemblies inside and only accessible by hauling the boat. However, putting a hand on the rudder tube, we could clearly feel the bearings loading up and binding. These are new assemblies, but clearly something is amiss; and continuing to press at race pace could lead to a catastrophic failure. We spent the next 40 minutes discussing the options before Shawn, Clément and I came to the difficult conclusion to pull the plug. We cannot risk a total failure of the rudder shaft, which could in turn break the rudder tube and lead to flooding.
We are now headed home under a storm jib and a reefed mainsail to keep the loads down as best as possible. I start second guessing myself only to hear the awful creaking and grinding sound that reminds me, in order to compete properly everything must work 100%, 100% of the time.
Shawn has put in a tremendous amount of preparation and we assembled a really solid team. Every system was gone through, including removal of the rudder, new bearings and even some structural rudder repairs. We have some detailed investigative work to do when we get back. It is gutting to have to drop out, but the safety of the team and boat come first.
July 11, 2018 – 1401
Limitless has left the building!! Aloha!
July 11, 2018
In my office for next, gulp, 13 days! Express 37 Limitless. Pacific Cup 2018. Weather is pretty much as I wrote about several days ago.
July 8, 2018
I’ve been running routing files for nearly two weeks now. The fastest route I ran was 12 days 5 hours. That was much slower than 2016, but not too bad. Since then I have not seen a route under 13 days. When we started boat prep at the beginning of the year, I said it was going to be a light year race. I didn’t mean this light though! The two different modeling algorithms don’t have much agreement, other than it will be slow! The weather faxes don’t show an awful lot of promise either. Locally we should see a break from this high pressure dome heating SoCal, but big picture wise, I do not see enough upper level activity that will help stabilize the Pacific High.
For those of you who don’t happen to follow Doug Johnstone on Facebook, you may have missed his excellent series of write-ups and recaps of the race from his perspective as navigator on Express 37 Limitless for 2016 Pacific Cup. Below is a copy/paste of his thoughts, shared with permission. It’s somewhat long but a nice recap of the adventure.
July 8, 2016
Weather route planning for Pac Cup on the Express 37 Limitless. Looks pretty decent right now. In the 11 day range.
[Notice the Fruit Pastilles Doug packed — SO GOOD!]
July 12, 2016
Start day for Paccup 2016
July 14, 2016
(via Minda, Doug’s wife)
An update from Doug on Shawn Ivie ‘s Limitless, en route from San Francisco to Hawaii: Day 3 and we are sailing with the A3 kite up. Everything below decks is soaking wet, which is odd because everything above decks is also wet, and the whole point of the deck is to keep things dry below! Most of the systems work most of the time, and when they don’t, it is a source of continual frustration. At the moment, I cannot get any weather update because the sat phone only works intermittently. So if you are reading this, then I got lucky and am doing a happy dance with a new Grib. Pac Cup communications boat is also struggling to figure out how to do roll call, mainly because most competitors are using e-mail or sat phone call. So, while we know we are doing well with good daily runs, we don’t know what the standings are yet! Hopefully I’ll be able to update later.
July 17, 2016
(via Minda, Doug’s wife)
Pacific Cup update from Doug on Shawn Ivie ‘s Limitless: Day 6 –
We are finally drying out but pretty smelly and looking forward to sea water showers. We have been running with a large kite and main in about 18 to 24 knots of wind and maintaining a small lead over our division, but it is slowly being whittled away! Finally have full Satphone comms back and can now download weather grib files, which evens the playing field somewhat. Made our first move today with a gybe to port, but have gybed back again. It will be interesting to see if that shows up on the Y B tracking (http://pcup.org/track.html). We should be halfway by tomorrow afternoon which will be a nice milestone. More later.
Sent via OCENSMail satellite email service. www.ocens.com
July 25, 2016
So now that the whole race is done and I’ve sobered up a little, at least enough to operate a keyboard I thought I would put together a race report of sorts, similar to the format I do for the Wednesday Night Worlds, only longer, because the race was, well, longer. I will put it together in sections with some photos which might make it easier to read, over the next few days.
To begin at the beginning which is always a useful place to start. I showed up at the boat at KKMI Boatyard on the Saturday before the start kind of expecting to be 90% ready, but to find we were anything but. All the team had arrived, a little like something out of Oceans 11. Mike Kennedy, pro boat captain who could fix anything when the shit hit the fan, just in from Colorado, Cliff Stagg, pro sailmaker, driver and capable of disarming anyone of the opposite gender, in from the East Coast. Gabriel Serafini, the local go getter, you want it I’ll get it!. Bowgirl Lori Tewksbury, capable of asking more questions in a 30 second period than Macualey Caulkin in Uncle Buck, and of course Shawn Ivie, “Don’t tell me I can’t do this”. Organised chaos seemed to be the catch phrase of the next few days, as systems were made operational, failed, repaired, failed again, repaired and finally hit with a large assortment of hammers and other impact type tools until they cooperated. The day before the start we went for a sail, the first time as a team. Upon getting back Mike discovered that the water tanks had managed to drain themselves into the bilges. That evening was spent with Mike tearing the fresh water plumbing apart and fixing it with new components. The dinners showed up at around 6 pm, almosty entirely but not exactly unlike frozen. That lot got sent back to be frozen, or at the very least more chilled. Tomorrow was start day.
Race day. First and most importantly was breakfast in a dining room with chairs and tables. Nice, very nice indeed. Secondly and even more importantly the use of a toilet that did not move and did not require a week’s worth of arm curls in the gym prior to using. We had an 11:25 start and needed to be at the start area in front of the St. Francis Yacht Club at least forty minutes prior. Shoving off at around 09:30 was our last chance to say Au revoirs to family ashore. It was grey, chilly and a little breezy, an indicatior of what was to come in the next few days. Weather routing had us sailing essentially rum line, with big breeze in the 20’s for the next two days at least. The local sailing website Pressure Drop, posted odds as follows:
ALASKA AIRLINES C Start: Tuesday, July 12, 2016 – 11:25
Sweet Okole Farr 3 585 3/1 great rating, crew history; but no hodges
Elan Express 37 581 3/1 SpinCup in D beat 16 boats
Bullet Express 37 581 3.5/1 locally hot
AERO Hobie 33 551 4/1 w/ Synthia might surprise
Mirthmaker Archambault A35 574 5/1 Kirk mucho ocean
Limitless Express 37 581 7/1 better bring “A” game
One-Eyed Jack Express 37 586 7/1
Tiki Blue Beneteau 423 580 8/1Rune “McGiver” Storesund a plus
Nota BeneBeneteau 411 589 8/1 Bene battle possible
7:1 odds! Wish I had known that going into the start!
A good start had us in the hunt with the main competition, Elan and Sweet Okole, a very cool Farr 36 that had sailed to Hawaii so many times it could have got there uncrewed! We quickly worked into a small lead and covered the fleet as needed while we made our way out of the bay and into the Potato Patch, an area so called for it’s confused sea state in wind against tide conditions. A couple of whale sightings to guide us out and we were well on our way. We had started with a small jib and full main, but by the time we got past the Farralone Islands we were into a reef in the main and the Blast Reacher. We maintained a lead on our class although we were sagging more to the south early on. I had wanted to be left of the class, but was a little concerned about how much ground we were giving up. All day on the 13 and into the 14 was reefed main and blast reacher, accompanied by big wind, big waves, no appetite, general queeziness and malaise. Drive, sleep, drink water, don’t eat, repeat! Roll Calls via SSB revealed a bit of attrition in the fleet due to the conditions. On the 14th we got into the A3 spinnaker and then quickly into the A4 with a full main. The hammer was now down.
Racing in a competitive fleet
Elan, another Express 37
PacCup ReCap, The middle part:
It’s the end of the 14th, day two. It should be blowing 15 to 18, but it is still in the 20’s. I had estimated a nearly 11 day race at an average of 180 miles per day. We had already run a 200 mile day on day one and just ripped off a 218 mile day with reaching sails on day two. Hmmmm, this was not as the brochure had indicated. Spinnaker reaching with the A4 (not really the right sail) but sailing right down the line slightly to the south of rum and moving like a Rhino on Crack. The morning of the 15th we spotted a huge floating cylinder type thing. About 15 feet in length and four feet in diameter. Called it in for the others at Children’s hour (the afternoon SSB chat show). Everyone was now into the routine of life board and the watch cycle was working very smoothly. Appetites came back with a vengeance and the marine toilet started to face the first of many major challenges thrown at it. Every thing was still pretty much wet, pretty much all of the time, and major decisions involved how long one could stay in this wet gear before getting dry gear wet! The other big headache involved the sat comms. I could call in daily positions but I could not download weather files. With help, we tracked it down to a bad USB cable of all things. We found a new cable and voila, we had e-mail and weather files. All things were now all good. We were wet, mostly cold, which was better than always cold, fed, going the right way in the lead and knew what the weather was going to do in the next day or so. What could possibly go wrong?……………..
PacCup ReCap, The middle part, part II:
July 16, Day 5. Morning roll call shows us with another 200 mile plus run, again better than anyone in our class, more importantly because we have chosen a more direct or rumb (rum!) line route, we are losing less mileage to the goal then our competitors, with the exception of Bullet today, but at 59 miles behind us, it doesn’t matter. We are making ground on both Sweet Okole and Elan. We have been getting steadily lifted (turning to the right) so call for a gybe to port (left) which gives us a great angle with the swell and towards the goal. There has been a strong southerly swell component the whole race that has made steering on starboard gybe tricky, but now on port gybe much easier. It is a little atypical to be on port so early, but this race has been anything but a typical run. Into July 17, we did one spook the herd gybe back to starboard after being lifted for a while and then to port again. We have stayed on port since and are making big gains on anyone who did not gybe, read everyone else! Around midday after e-mailing our position report I go to plug then USB cable into the satphone cradle and “pop”. Off comes the USB socket! This thing was only mounted with soft silver solder. The whole unit is way too fragile to be on a boat and we are now totally with out weather downloads. This is going to be challenging! But the bad news bears are not done with us yet. Around 0500 July 18, we get passed by a squall, with a bit of rain and some breeze. Mike hands over the helm to me and goes to get some coffee started. Literally not 5 mins later and the breeze builds to high 20’s then 30 plus. Launch off a big wave at around 15 knots,and lose it into a massive round up. Boat is on her side sails flogging, no helm. Dump the kite sheet, slowly get upright, sheet on and then massive round down the other way. Call for help, or rather scream like a little girl, and it’s all hands on deck. Slowly get the boat upright again, then sheet in and we’re off. Breeze now in the mid 30’s when another puff comes in at 42. Boat speed is 16.56 (about 19 mph), when she tries to accelerate more, and the kite says…….No. Leech explodes and we are in take down mode. With the kite finally on deck we are still doing 10 knots under main only. Go to a jib top reaching sail while we gather ourselves and take a bit of a breather. After that we grab an old kite that says 1.5 oz (or does it?) Put that up and continue on as the clear air squall has left us in it’s wake. Roll call 0800 reveals that we were not the only carnage that morning. Lots of teams went through pretty coloured sails and pairs of underwear. Just after 0800 the 1.5 oz blew up. It turns out that it was in fact a light weight .5 oz kite, that was mis-labeled. The only thought this kite could have had at being launched in 30 true, was…..This is the end!
PacCup ReCap, The final stage:
With the large A4 and the 1.5 imposter gone we are currently sailing the code zero poled out. It works ok but doesn’t have enough power. The S2 is on the lighter side and we’ve been saving it for the final run into the finish anyway. The A3 we aren’t sure about cloth weight. Another close look though reveals it is all Airx 900 (on the heavy side), so it should be able to take the beating we are going to dish out. Up it goes and away we go. It turns out to be the Goldilocks sail. Heavy enough to take the squalls and just the right size to not drag the boat all over the ocean. The fun meter now routinely goes past 11, even though we have the damping dialed way down for better accuracy on wind info. Every now and then there are whoops and hollers from the lads or giggles and clapping from the lass as the fun meter goes to 15 plus, which registers as 17 to 18 on the gps. The next few days are exactly what the brochure described. Sunshine, breeze, squalls and surfing galore. We occasionally swap out to the S2 kite, only to get the willies when it sustains 25 true and go back to the A3. One of the changes results in us losing a spinnaker halyard, which wraps itself around the headstay. The conditions are such that we choose to leave it there rather than beating up the bow girl to retrieve it. Each 0930 roll call on the SSB confirms that we are holding a lead. Sometimes we lose a little, others we gain, buy the net result is pole position in division. We have tried in vain to repair the Sat Comms, but to no avail. We resort to borrowing other boats weather and position ourselves based on the leaders in the other start on our day, and stay between our competition and the mark. This works out to be a sound strategy. While Sweet Okole takes a dive south, we maintain the middle and more direct course to the goal. We give up very little distance to the finish and they cannot go fast enough to make up for the extra mileage. The final stretch into the finish has us with about a 30 mile lead over Sweet Okole. We call in the 100 mile check in at 2300 on the 21st. The last 24 hours we switched from the 4 on 4 off watch sked to a rolling 3 on 3 off to rotate drivers as much as we can. Our final days run was a 235, so this move paid off. There was talk earlier at the Children’s hour radio show about Tropical Storm Darby, and while we are well ahead, the sea state has picked up somewhat, and several of the slower boats/later starters are being advised to take steps to avoid finishing on Sunday. This race has been one for the books on all accounts. We call in our 25 mile check in at 0330 HST, and finish 3 hours and 6 minutes later after 9 days 22 hours 11 mins and 54 sec. That is pretty bloody fast for an Express 37! First in division, First in the Schumacher division (Very Cool!) and 4th overall.
We caught Cliff dancing while driving during day 7 of the 2016 Pacific Cup on Limitless. If you watch the entire video you can also see some good surfing moments. We averaged 9-11 knots over the 9+ days we took to race to Hawaii. Limitless is a fast Express 37. 🙂
Aloha everyone!!! If you’ve been tracking our progress, you may already know that Limitless crossed the finish line yesterday in Kaneohe Bay at 0936 PDT, finishing first in our division, 4th overall out of the entire fleet of boats, and possibly setting a new record for fastest PacCup finish for an Express 37. Total race time for Limitless was 9d 22:11:54.
THANK YOU for all your support, cheers and encouragement! It meant a ton to us to know that you were out there when we were racing. We have a lot of pictures, video and stories to share and will be posting in the next week or so.
Hi everyone, sorry again for the lack of updates, it’s taken a while to get everything dialed in. We discovered the issue with the satellite phone connection — a bad USB cord as it turned out. Who would have thought! It was very frustrating trying to use a system that seemed to be working in every way except it would time out right during the actual transfer of data. We’re able to now send email as expected, so will try to get a few blog posts in during the rest of the race. Using a computer is much better for this than typing everything character by character into our backup satellite texting gizmo (a Delorme inReach). Thanks to everyone who has been wishing us well and keeping us in their thoughts.
The first couple of days were very wet. We were traveling upwind, and couldn’t really dry out ever completely. This is the traditional “uphill” portion of the race, and was physically and mentally exhausting, with no time for anything other than racing, fixing things, eating and sleeping. We got a pretty decent start in front of St. Francis Yacht Club on Tuesday and were excited to learn the next morning at the 0930 roll call that we had established a good spot in our division. In the meantime, it was all about racing hard and getting to the breeze as quickly as we could.
We’re doing a 4/3 watch system, in 2 teams. Team A is Doug (our fearless navigator, doing his 10th PacCup / Transpac race), Mike (aka “Pops” aka “Mr. I can and will fix anything”), and Gabriel (the most junior member of the crew). Team B is Shawn (skipper of Limitless), Cliff (an amazing driver and sailmaker who knows every dirty joke that was ever invented, and who is doing his 20th Pacific ocean crossing race with us), and Lori (fearsome foredeck and person also helping make sure people get sandwiches and their vitamins). The way it works is this: at 0600 Team A is on for 4 hours while Team B rests / has downtime, then at 1000 it switches, then 1400 again switches for the final 4 hour shift. Evening / night shifts are 3 hours in duration. This means practically getting about 1.5-2 hours of sleep at a time during the night, and slightly longer rest times during the day, with each team alternating days for a 2 4 hour rest period. Today (Saturday, July 16), it is Team A’s 2nd rest period. Mike and Doug are sacked out, and Gabriel is typing this blog post while everyone else is above decks on watch driving and making the boat go as fast as possible.
We’ve been working our way along the race course and are almost to the halfway point, which we’re all excited to get to. The past few days have included some pretty challenging downwind driving conditions, with swells coming from multiple directions, and instructions to drive as deeply and quickly as possible, which is tricky when the wind and waves are tossing the boat around. It takes masterful concentration and practice to do this kind of driving well, and Shawn, Cliff, Doug and Mike have all been very generous in coaching the newbies (Lori and Gabriel) with tips for doing it better.
We’ve gotten into a good routine, and crew morale remains high. Everyone has their appetite back after the first couple of days adjusting to life at sea, and we’re eating delicious meals every evening. Each morning’s check-in period gives us new information about our competition and where we stand, and it’s a very interesting race from a strategic perspective because the choices we make in terms of sails, direction and trim all will contribute to how well we do. We can’t see any of the other racers on the water, but we know they’re out there, also doing their best to make it to Hawaii first.
While we’ve taken a number of pictures and short videos, we’ll have to wait to share those until we get back to land, since our satellite uplink bandwidth is extremely limited. In the meantime, THANK YOU again for all of your support, well wishes and encouragement. It’s meant the world to each of us.