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Kip Stone race prep

Oct 25, 2006
 
Kip Stone of Freeport, Maine is in France this week preparing for the October 29 start of the Route du Rhum, an 86 boat race from France to Guadeloupe. Kip took a few questions from Ocean Navigator prior to the start. You can follow the race and learn more about Kip and his boat Artforms here. The mini-interview: ON: What software and hardware tools do you use to keep track of the weather and plan your transatlantic route?

KS: My primary routing tool is MaxSea, which I've been using now since I launched the boat in 2003. It receives the GRIB files I download through the Iridium and, linked to the GPS, it doubles as a chart plotter. It's a very powerful tool, but if there are inaccuracies in the weather data or if you're not sailing the boat to the pre-programmed polars, you have to be careful before putting too much trust in the routing interpretations.

Because the Iridium connection is quite slow, I'm only able to download relatively small files so I limit it to GRIB files and NOAA weather charts. I can get more if I have someone at the other end cutting and pasting data from other sites, but that starts to get time consuming and expensive.

ON: Can you lay out the major route choices that you face and when and how you will make a decision on which way to go?

KS: At this moment, four days before the start, it's looks like light winds early with a primary objective to get West. The alternative route for this course is to head south early to try to get to the Trade Winds first. The risk there, aside from being a longer route, is having the wind go aft before you've made your Westing. The gybing angles on the Open Class boats are very high, so if that happens, you've had it.

It helps to have a good game plan for the first few days in order to get off the continental shelf and away from fishing fleets and commercial traffic. However, I try not to lock myself into too much of a plan. The conditions out there can be very fluid and reacting quickly to take advantage of local conditions can pay off handsomely.

ON: And what is your sail inventory?

KS: Sailing solo, you don't carry too many sails because because of the weight penalty and because you can quickly wear yourself out making too many changes. The mainsail is fully battened which is very powerful but which also makes reefing easy. The solent and genoa are lashed to the stays to eliminate the weight of the halyards and are furled. The staysail and storm jib hank onto an inner forestay, but they don't see much use before it really starts to blow. Off the bowsprit, I fly a spinnaker downwind and Code sails (furling gennikers) upwind in light conditions and reaching and running in a breeze.

Kip has promised to write us from time to time during the race and if he does, we'll post it here or you can go to his website for your daily briefing.