February 12, 2010

USA Gets a “W”

USA hunts down Alinghi 5 in the pre-start, drawing a penalty on the Swiss team shortly after this photo was taken.

© Gilles Martin-Raget

It didn’t start until 2:30 p.m. local time, but the first race of the 33rd America’s Cup finally got underway today in Valencia. BMW Oracle Racing’s USA exposed the reason for the Swiss team’s dithering by hammering Alinghi 5 by a 15.5-minute margin in race one — the third largest margin in an America’s Cup race. Having won the starboard advantage in a coin toss, USA‘s skipper James Spithill put to rest the much-asserted notion that there wouldn’t be a bare-knuckles pre-start between the two multihulls. I mean come on, did anyone really think they’d be sitting there at the start, waving at each other across, saying, "you first," "no, you go ahead," "no, please, after you?"

Alinghi 5 rolls past USA at the start of Race One of the 33rd America’s Cup.

© Gilles Martin-Raget

Spithill quickly drew Alinghi 5 and skipper Loïck Peyron into a penalty when the latter couldn’t cross the big trimaran while getting into the box in the 6- to 7-knot southerly. Things went pear-shaped for USA after that though, when they got stuck in irons on the starting line and spotted Alinghi a 1.5-minute lead at the beginning of the beat on the 40-mile windward/leeward course.

USA had built a healthy lead by the race’s only weather mark.

© Gilles Martin-Raget

“We did a pretty nice job," Spithill said. "We were able to get the penalty and really had them on the ropes. But we got locked in to windward and tried to tack out but had a bit of a fumble and got stuck in the breeze. It didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to! But leading up to that, the guys did a great job of putting us in a very powerful position.”

USA dusting Alinghi 5

© Gilles Martin-Raget

Just 15 minutes into the first beat, USA had passed Alinghi 5, sailing higher and faster — as expected — to amass about a 3.5-minute lead at the weather mark. Downwind, Spithill and company, including tactician and Bay Area-product John Kostecki extended their lead, much to everyone’s surprise, including the skipper. “I always thought if we were able to fly a-hull we’d be faster upwind, but I was genuinely surprised downwind,” Spithill said.

Flying a Code 0 from its massive wing, USA added some seven minutes to their lead on the run to the finish, with Spithill crediting Kostecki and navigator Matteo Plazzi with calling a great angle to the finish. From there, things got even worse for the Swiss team, as they botched their first attempt at their penalty turn, lengthening what would have been a 10-minute delta, to a 15-minute one.

We’re curious what you think of America’s Cup 33; is it better or worse than a more traditional cup? Tell us how you feel in one line only.

A Ride on the Plastic Fantastic

Plastiki, a 60-ft catamaran made entirely of recycled — in the form of used irrigation pipes for the masts and old soda bottles for flotation — and recyclable materials, is nearly ready for an offshore shakedown cruise. The team is just waiting for the right weather window.

latitude/Rob
©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

For the last couple months, David de Rothschild’s eco-adventure cat, Plastiki, has been seen stretching her legs on the Bay. The 60-ft boat has made international headlines, partly due to de Rothschild’s celebrity — he’s the 31-year-old son of prominent banker Sir Evelyn de Rothschild — and partly due to the whacky nature of the project.

David de Rothschild admits to being a novice sailor, but that hasn’t dampened his enthusiasm for this project.

latitude/LaDonna
©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC
A little inspiration — Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon Tiki not only inspired Plastiki’s name, but inspired the project itself.

latitude/LaDonna
©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

When we first reported on the project in last April’s Latitude 38, the Plastiki team said the craft would be finished and on her way to the South Pacific within a month. But as any sailor knows, you can’t rush boat projects. A year later, Plastiki is finally plying the waters of the Bay, working out her kinks and bugs, and is nearly ready to shove off on her international voyage to promote ‘upcycling’ — the practice of reusing items in a new and different way.

Experienced ocean sailor and Plastiki skipper Jo Royle says of the boat’s seaworthiness: “Would you attempt to cross an ocean on a boat you didn’t think would make it? I sure wouldn’t!”

latitude/LaDonna
©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Yesterday, we had the pleasure of meeting the Plastiki crew and going for a daysail aboard the much-misunderstood cat. We’ll have a full report in the March issue of Latitude, but we would be remiss if we didn’t tell you that, although we stepped aboard with some reservations and concerns about the project, we left Plastiki with a new-found respect for the boat, her mission and the talented crew that have made her what she is.

Sail Seminar for Solo T-Pac

The Singlehanded TransPac — a 2,120-mile run from the Bay to Kauai — is really gaining a head of steam, with the entry list expanding and seminars out the wazoo. This month’s seminar, ‘Sail Selection and Repair’ presented by Santa Cruz Sails’ Synthia Petroka, will be Monday night. Petroka is a veteran of the ’06 Solo TransPac, so she has firsthand knowledge of what this summer’s crop of Hawaii racers need. Socializing at Oakland YC will start at 7 p.m. with the seminar starting promptly at 7:30. Anyone interested in the topic — not just racers — is welcome.

Has Norm Goldie Gone Off the Deep End?

Norm Goldie, who moved from New York to San Blas, Mexico, something like 35 years ago, has long been a controversial figure.

On the positive side, he’s helped a lot of cruisers over the years with normal questions about the San Blas area and how to safely enter the channel to San Blas. On at least several occasions, he has helped cruisers get urgently needed medical care. And some cruisers have developed deep friendships with Norm and his wife Jan.

On the negative side, countless cruisers over the decades have accused Goldie of sticking his nose in where it wasn’t wanted. Many cruisers enjoy figuring out things about new areas on their own, or getting the information from cruising friends. Both of these actions seem to incense Goldie, who appears to think only he knows anything about the San Blas area. Dave Benjamin and Jean Harrison of the Alameda-based Amel Maramu Exit Strategy describe such a recent incident:

"Goldie has been verbally attacking some of the cruisers here, who being cruisers, tend to reach out and help each other. For instance, when we came here a buddy of ours told us what we needed to know to safely enter the estuary. Basically it’s just hugging the right side on the way in. Goldie came unglued and chastised the guy for not having us call him. There is much more, so about six of us cruising couples are writing the publishers of the various cruising guides and the Seven Seas Cruising Association to get the word out. If nothing else they need to spell out the guy is looking for money, and no matter what he says, it’s not going to charity."

The San Blas Estuary is lovely in a tropical way, and doesn’t require any particular expertise for entering.

© 2010 J. Mills

Goldie has also been accused of giving the impression that he has some kind of official capacity with the Mexican government — which he does not. He has frequently been accused of saying his advice was free, but later all but demanding that money be donated to one of his ‘charities’. When unhappy with cruisers for whatever reason, Goldie often gives the impression that he’s going to make trouble for them with the authorities — even if nobody has done anything wrong. Most recently, we’ve been told that he’s been using profanities against some cruisers over the VHF.

It’s not uncommon for Latitude to get a couple complaints a year about Goldie’s behavior, but lately the complaints have been more frequent and describe even more uncivil behavior than usual.

If you’d like to weigh in on Norm Goldie, pro or con, we’d like to hear from you.

Cyclone Rene Bears Down on Tonga

Hang onto your hats. Here comes Rene.

© Fiji Met Service

As we go to press with this edition of ‘Lectronic, we’ve just been informed that a nasty category 2 cyclone, dubbed Rene, is bearing down on the Kingdom of Tonga and is expected to build in intensity. Category 2 is defined as carrying maximum sustained winds of 83 knots or higher.

Although we are awaiting firsthand reports from cruisers in the area, Fiji Met Service reports "Global models generally agree on a WSW track into an area of decreasing shear with further intensification within the next 24 to 36 hours." The service’s last posting had the storm center near laltitude 13.8S and longitude 167.4W.

“Say, Joanne,” says Randy, “why don’t you and I take this big guy out for a little sail while everybody is busy at the post-no race press conference?” © 2010 D.
"We thought you’d like to know that the Super Bowl wasn’t the only thing happening on Sunday," write Pat and Carole McIntosh of the Alameda-based trawler Peregrine.