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A letter from the captain of the LYNX

Posted by Tall Ships America on July 31, 2008


Hello All:I am happy to report that Lynx and her crew have once again proved their mettle in what was an incredibly challenging and hard fought victory over the HMCS Oriole in the Port Alberni to San Francisco Race. The ships traversed over 850 miles of ocean and finished only 14 minutes apart! Here are some particulars from the Lynx‘ log book:

Sunday, 13 July
16:20 hrs. Oriole reports to Tofino Traffic that she is 90 degrees west of Cape Beale lighthouse. She has crossed the starting line. Eight minutes later, Lynx crosses and rapidly climbs to 9 knots, carrying all her lowers, jib topsail, main topsail and starboard course. Wind is out of the west at 20 knots (kts), seas 2-3′

18:00 hrs. Set main topmast staysail. Oriole’s lead increasing with her one knot speed advantage.

19:00 hrs. Lynx attains 12 knots in a powerful gust. Steering south by east on a beam reach and averaging above 9 knots in 20 knot winds. Seas up 3-5′.

21:59 hrs. Oriole‘s lead is 7.1 nm

Monday, 14 July
03:04 hrs. Oriole still barely in sight, her navigation lights glowing atop her main mast. Winds veering to northwest and diminishing.  Broad reach. Steering south southwest, speed 7-8 knots

08:11 hrs. Set starboard studding-sail (pronounced stuns’l-long and narrow sails, used only in fine weather, on the outside of the large square sails). Winds northwest 8-10 knots. Speed drops to 6.8 knots. Oriole appears faintly on radar, 20 plus miles ahead.

14:00 hrs. Wore (or jibe) ship, 109 miles west of the Columbia River. Steering southeast, wind northwest 10-15, speed 8-9 knots

14:30 hrs. Lynx has attained 190 miles her first day. Oriole is gone.

20:06 hrs. Took in stuns’l. Winds northwest 15-20. Speed 9-10 knots.

Tuesday, 15 July
04:04 hrs. Winds continue to veer toward north, but diminish to 5-10 kts. LYNX slows to below 7 knots for the first time. We are 60 miles west of Newport, Oregon.

09:13 hrs. Speed down to 4 knots, 4′ following seas

11:06 hrs. Oriole spotted, 2.5 miles behind us!!! She had stayed closer inshore and was deprived of the big gusts we felt 100 miles out. Also, she reported having blown out two head sails early in the race. She changes tack and heads offshore. We do likewise, reasoning that in the same air, Lynx will do better downwind. Heavy winds are due to arrive so we take in light air sails. This was a mistake, as winds did not materialize until 18 hours later.

13:00 hrs. Oriole appeared to be heading more west than south this time and has disappeared again.

Wednesday, 16 July
06:00 hrs. Winds increase, slightly, to 15 kts and keep coming out of the northwest sector. “Fresh Breeze and Flat Seas”

08;00 hrs. Set main topmast staysail. Speed 8 knots on a broad reach.

20:03 hrs.  Averaging 7 knots over the last twelve hours we are well offshore again. Wore ship 135 miles west of Trinidad Head, California. We must get under Cape Mendocino on this tack or we will lose considerable ground heading out and back in again.

Thursday, 17 July
00:00 hrs. Watch leaders are encouraged to fight for every inch of southing. We are losing speed, steering by the lee with the wind only 5 degrees off our port quarter.

10:00 hrs. Spoke to Oriole on VHF 16 and 68. Her reported position, course and speed place her 10 miles abeam of us on the same tack. She has a better chance at clearing Mendocino than we do.

11:00 hrs. Wind and seas building, 25-30 kts with 5-8′ following seas.

12:00 hrs. Seas increase to 10′. Lynx slews down wave after wave at over 11 knots, eventually reaching 13.2! Gale Warning bulletin for tomorrow.

14:12 hrs. Pivot iron on the course yard snaps. Took in port course and rigged rolling and truss tackle. We’re holding on for now but we’ll need to figure out how to brace back for the opposite tack eventually.

14:58 hrs. Gusts to 37 knots and very large sets of swells making steering by the lee impossible for all but a few stout helmsmen. Reefed mainsail. Steering more manageable now.

20:00 hrs. Still making 9-10 knots, well under Mendocino and Point Arena but now must clear Point Reyes. Seas as high as 14′ -hissing and lapping at the davits. Northwest wind wrapping around Point Arena becomes west-northwest and forces our bow up uncomfortably. Bosun J.P. Wickham steers the entire four-hour watch, as focused as a surgeon.

23:50 hrs. Foresail clew outhaul splits, converting the foresail into a wild beast. Fortunately, oncoming watch was on time and helped wrestle it into a gasket.

Friday, 18 July
03:00 hrs. Passing well abeam Point Reyes. Winds diminish as they back toward the west. Fog and haze as we close with land, coming within 20 miles for the first time in four days.

04:00 hrs. Swell decreasing, 2-4′ wind 10-15 kts becoming more westerly. Steering east southeast at 8 knots. Lots of large commercial traffic.

06:00 hrs. Oriole in sight, 2 miles ahead!!! Shook out mainsail reef, set port course and stuns’l. Oriole getting nervous.

07:00 hrs. Winds decrease. We are crawling now. Oriole 1.5 miles ahead. Flood tide sets both ships to the south of the main channel.

08:28 hrs. Oriole passes under the Golden Gate Bridge.

08:51 hrs. Lynx passes under the Golden Gate Bridge, 35 hours ahead of her.

Lynx sailed 850 miles to Oriole‘s 880. We averaged over 7 knots on what is arguably a schooner’s worst point of sail. Our passengers were fantastic, proving quite capable on the helm, at chart plotting and even radar observing. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to command such a fine ship with an able, ready and enthusiastic crew who met every challenge with good cheer, honesty, professionalism and teamwork. Their diligent sense of duty made this victory possible.

Captain Michael Kellick


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