Race To Alaska 2016 – Meet Team Hot Mess Racing

June 24, 2016

Team Hot Mess: Four guys in their twenties get their hands on a 37 year old Olson 30 and after a spring of racing in the Pacific Northwest are ready for the 750 mile Race to Alaska.

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– [Man] So we’re based out of Vancouver, B.C. We have owned this boat since Christmas.

– Hi, we’re team Hot Mess Racing. I’m Nick Schwenger.

– Spencer Weber.

– I’m Neil Roberts.

– I’m Will Schwenger.

– The three of us are kind of small boat sailors. These guys grew up sailing cats. And I’m a dinghy sailor. And then Spencer is kind of the ringer of the group. Learned how to sail 11 months ago.

– So I guess the opposite of a ringer. Normally you don’t ring someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.

– Ringers are good people.

– [Neil] I thought a ringer was like the new guy.

– [Spencer] No, a ringer is like someone you call who is like really good.

– Oh. [Neil] Okay, Spencer is the opposite of a ringer. He’s like, the new guy. The rookie I guess is the better word.

– [Will] His one-year anniversary is pretty soon.

– Yeah.

– I think its in Victoria.

– Learned how to sail a year ago and now he’s racing to Alaska, that’s kind of sweet. But we know what we’re doing.

– Yeah.

– You win some races sometimes.

– Cause dinghy sailing, you do so many races that everyone wins a few.

-Yeah I’ve been doing mostly college sailing for the last couple years.

– Yeah. Nick and I were college sailors, too.

– We grew up sailing on Catamarans in Burlington, Ontario. And they had a rule there that you were allowed to paddle during the races. It was anyway you wanted and when Will and I showed up we were quite young compared to the average competitor. And we used to paddle the boat, the Hobie 18, a lot faster than they did and so we thought we were a good match for this race. Not afraid to paddle when we have to.

– I followed the race a lot last year, saw that it was awesome. And I was kind of talking about it with Nick, and I was talking about it with Spence. And I kind of like was thinking about putting together a team and then Neil started talking about it with me. So we all kind of found each other and we decided to pool our resources and become team Hot Mess.

– So this is an Olson 30. This is hull number 38. So its from 1979. And we purchased it in Lake Washington in Seattle. Our first race was in March and we brought the boat back from Seattle in February and we had three weeks to get it ready for the first race.

– All of March it’s been, it was, from five until midnight every night after work and on the weekends. For the last few months it’s just kind of been tinkering around and fine tuning, which has been nice.

– We’re sailing hard but we’re not taking ourselves too seriously.

– A hot mess.

– Yeah.

– It’s usually a drunken frat girl.

– Loud and visible.

– Yeah.

– And you know that something’s not right there.

– You can probably say it doesn’t have to be a girl.

– It can be a guy. Yeah.

– Anyone who’s loud.

– And the hot part, usually they, like, kind of look good doing it or they can pull it off, you know.

– Back here we have our solar panel. It’s 100 watts and this is charging like a radio or nav lights.

– We’re using an iPad for navigation; also running off the battery in the solar panel.

– This is our ditch bag, if we have to abandon ship. It’s got our radio, epirb, some flares, whatever else you might want if you have to abandon ship.

– We’ll go forwards now, I guess, to… We run both symmetrical and asymmetrical poles.

– Yeah so, that was off the first Olson; the previous owner made it, it’s a pretty slick system. It’s got some nice big sails that go on it.

– Keeping it simple with water jugs. And we latch them to the rail. We’re not gonna have a lot of crew weight on the rail. We only have four crew, so we’re two on, two off, rotating system. So we’re trying to stack as much weight outward as possible.

– Down below is pretty bare bones in this boat. Behind you are the two berths. One of our big performance additions was this aluminum beam, we call it the Beam of Destiny. It adds a lot of stiffness to the boat and helps us go a lot faster. We do all of our cooking off a little propane stove mounted on gimbal at the base of the mast here.

– So, we can cook anything, we can boil.

– And this is the head right here. You just kind of squat down in there and it’s nice you can kind of cover this over your head if it’s raining; stay out of the elements. We put a vapor barrier so, you know, the waft doesn’t go forward.

– I’m doing this race because I think it’s really cool. I like, kind of drag races like this. Like, the whole concept of like, you run what you brung. Goes in the face of one design racing where there’s that one boat is the perfect boat for all conditions. Whereas in this race we’re gonna see so many conditions that some boats will be really quick off the start and light air and as the air builds they might fall to the back or… It’s gonna be kind of an interesting test of designs and seamanship too.

– A lot of long distance sailing seems pretty inaccessible. To the average sailor, it’s either you have to own a boat, which is incredibly expensive. Or you have to find a crew and work your way through the crew to get to the position you wanna be at. And this race just seems so accessible. I’m doing it with my brother and two friends. We’re doing it on this hot rod Olson 30. It’s very affordable and it’s a great way to get some experience for me and it’s just an amazing adventure. It’s really cool, it’s, I feel like I’m at a soapbox derby; everyone’s got a different toy to do this same thing with.

– It’s definitely accessible for Nick. Nick’s kind of the…

– The rockstar here.

– The rockstar drop-in of sailors.

– Where were you last week, Nick?

– I also own zero percent of this boat. I’ve put a couple, I bought the paddles.

– And went to Utah to launch a rocket and came back.

– I left for the week before the race.

– Done some stuff.

– Nick’s the ringer, come to think of it.

– Yeah, I guess that’s true, yeah.

– Hot shot sailor, just kind of shows up.

– [Spencer] Yeah, just the adventure of a lifetime for me. I’ve never spent so long preparing for one single event and the way it’s been going it looks like it could be a gateway drug.

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