Thirty-eight of 40 boats that started Island YC’s 37th annual Doublehanded Lightship Race on Saturday finished the 25-mile course around the Lightship buoy and back. One dropped out early rather than face the challenging conditions out in the ocean — 20-25 knot winds with gusts into the 30s, and 10-ft seas. Tragically, the other, Kirby Gale’s Cheoy Lee Offshore 31 Daisy, was apparently claimed by those conditions — lost with both hands on the way home. (See related story below.)
Dave Kuettel’s custom Thompson 1150 Serena was the first boat to finish, blasting across the finish line off Golden Gate YC shortly after noon to post a 3-hour, 8-minute elapsed time. That was a personal best for Kuettel, who also finished first in the 2006 DHL, and only three minutes shy of Trevor Baylis’ blazing 3-hour, 5-minute mark set last year with the catamaran Lightspeed 32.
Second in was Dave Austin’s Corsair 31R Little Bear. Third across was Jonathan Livingston’s Wylie 39 Punk Dolphin, which (provisionally) corrected out to win overall. Complete results were not available at presstime but should be posted later today at www.iyc.org.
The local sailing community is in a state of shock over the news that two sailors were lost during Saturday’s Doublehanded Lightship Race. Kirby Gale, 67, and Anthony Harrow, 72, were on the way home from the Lightbucket aboard Gale’s Cheoy Lee Offshore 31 Daisy when they simply disappeared.
As noted in the race report above, conditions were rough for this year’s DHL — high winds and big seas. According to other racers, Daisy made it out to and around the Lightbucket in company with the last few boats. But they never made it back. Possibly the last sighting of the boat was from competitors aboard a similarly-rated boat who recall glimpsing back now and then to check if a sail behind them was getting any closer. "Then, about six or seven miles out, we looked and the sail was gone," says Rob Tryon, skipper of Aaron Dunlap’s Valiant 32 Feolena. "We thought it was because we were sailing faster."
Feolena finished about 2:45, leaving only Daisy still unaccounted for. When she had not finished by the race deadline of 5 p.m., nor responded to repeated calls on VHF, the Coast Guard was contacted. They began a search Saturday night that continued through Sunday. About midmorning, they found "debris that fit the description of Daisy" near her last estimated position. About an hour later, the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office reported they had discovered the body of Harrow, still wearing his lifejacket, in a tidepool near Half Moon Bay. At this writing, Gale’s body had not been found. The search was suspended at 6 p.m. Sunday.
What happened to Daisy and her crew remains a mystery. No distress beacon was activated, there was no 911 cellphone call, no mayday was made by radio. (It’s unknown whether Daisy had an EPIRB aboard, but she did have a working VHF when she checked in with the race committee before the start). Authorities also say that, based on inspection of the debris, they do not believe Daisy collided with another vessel, although that couldn’t be ruled out.
Reports are trickling in from this year’s Pacific Puddle Jump fleet that boats have begun jumping off from a variety of locations along the Mexican coast.
Native New Zealanders Paul and Gina Rae of the Hylas 44 Solace are among the earlybirds. As predicted, winds were very light last week as they worked their way off the coast from Banderas Bay: "We only made 105 miles the first day, as we hit a calm patch and wallowed along at one to two knots," Gina reported. But the breeze picked up eventually, inspiring her to write, "All in all, things are moving along the way we like: We’re sailing, we’re happy and we’re well fed." At the time, David and Candy Decker’s Colorado-based Saga 43 Chinook was somewhere up ahead of them.
Meanwhile, John Bringetto and Amanda Berks of the San Francisco-based King’s Legend 41 Gingi reported that five boats set out last Thursday from La Paz after an ‘adios‘ dinner at the Giggling Marlin in Bahia de Los Suenos (formerly Muertos): the Brinnon, WA-based Mason 44 Hannah, the Juneau, AK-based Catalina 36 Wind Dancer, the New Mexico-based Rhodes Bounty II Linda, a boat called Prairie Oyster and Gingi.
For would-be Puddle Jumpers, Linda Maggart of Linda offers these reflections on the cruising life: "To the uninitiated, the idea of cruising brings to mind cocktails while watching a glorious sunset from the deck of your boat in a calm, tropical island anchorage, or a carefree downwind sail while listening to Jimmy Buffett. These things are part of cruising, but so is pounding to weather in 12-ft seas on a moonless night with seasick crew, cleaning out clogged heads, spending days searching for an engine part, and missing family. Cruising has the same highs and lows of everyday shore life; we find they just tend to be higher highs and lower lows. Knowing this up front and being prepared for this reality will make cruising more rewarding. Reaching your destination after many days at sea is a high that can’t be overstated."
Mike and Kay Heath of the Marina Bay (Richmond) Santionge 44 Finisterre report that they did two 360º turns inside a lock of the Panama Canal during their February 13 transit. One was a mistake caused by a line-handler on the 120-ft mini cruise ship Discovery flubbing his job. The second was to extricate themselves from the situation.
Fortunately, there was no damage to any of the boats, but we’ll have details in the April issue.
Have you had any serious incidents inside the Canal or a Canal lock, or have first-hand knowledge of anyone who did? If so, we’d like to know so shoot us an email.
The family of the late Jim Forquer has announced that a memorial ceremony to commemorate his life will be held at 3 p.m. next Tuesday, March 25, at the Balboa Yacht Club in Corona del Mar. The well-known sailor died as the result of a tragic accident late last Sunday at Barra de Navidad, Mexico.