November 12, 2012

Vendée Globe Drama

Twenty IMOCA Open 60s started the Vendée Globe; 18 remain.

© Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI

The Vendée Globe, the nonstop solo race around the world, got off to a rough start this weekend. Thousands of spectators crowded the shores of Les Sables d’Olonne, France, on Saturday as 19 IMOCA Open 60s crossed the line. (Bertrand de Broc started 14 hours later due to a last minute repair on Votre Nom Autour du Monde.) The competitive nature of the racers was evident at the start as five boats crossed early, requiring them to restart. Conditions were unusually mild for the Bay of Biscay with unsettled winds, though squalls kept everyone on their toes.

The French are crazy for the Vendée Globe.

© Mark Lloyd / DPPI

But weather wasn’t a factor in the first two retirements of the race. Sailing his Safran, race favorite Marc Guillemot was just six hours out of the gate when he heard two quick bangs before the boat heeled to an extreme degree. He turned tail and limped back into Les Sables d’Olonne to find that his keel had snapped off, thus ending his second bid to win the race.

During the last edition of the race, Guillemot became the people’s hero after he stood by until a seriously injured Yann Eliès was rescued from his boat. He was also plagued with boat problems that left him in third place (after receiving redress for standing by Eliès). Issues with his mast track forced him to sail much of the course under a double reefed main, and he sailed the final 1,000 miles with no keel.

Marc Guillemot wasn’t physically injured when Safran’s keel fell off, but it was an emotional blow.

© Olivier Blanchet / DPPI

Guillemot said that he’d had complete confidence in his new boat’s keel as the boat had undergone extensive training with no hint of what was to come. "It is better [that it happened 50 miles from Les Sables d’Olonne] than being in 35 knots of wind in the south at the Kerguelens," he said at a grim press conference.

Then yesterday, off the coast of Portugal, Kito de Pavant was forced to retire when his Groupe Bel was badly damaged during a collision with a fishing trawler. Traffic in the area was thick, but solo sailors have to sleep sometime. He’d just gone below to catch a quick nap and was awakened with a bang. The hull and deck were smashed and he lost his bowsprit.

Groupe Bel suffered extensive damage after colliding with a fishing trawler off Portugal.

© Kito de Pavant / Groupe Bel

Although de Pavant was bitterly disappointed at having to retire for the second running of the race in a row — he lost his mast during the first 24 hours of the ’08-09 race — he blamed no one but himself.  "I am not angry at the fisherman, but at me because it should not have happened," he told race officials. "It is cruel, but that’s life." Groupe Bel arrived safely in Cascais, Portugal, this morning.

Perpetually upbeat Brit Sam Davies will no doubt keep online spectators entertained with her quirky reports. She’s currently in 14th place aboard Savéol.

© Sam Davies / Savéol

Currently François Gabart on Macif (FRA), Armel Le Cléac’h on Banque Populaire (FRA) and Bernad Stamm on Cheminées Poujoulat (SUI) are leading the fleet, but as has been so quickly and thoroughly demonstrated, the 24,048-mile Vendée Globe is often won through attrition. Keep up with the drama www.vendeeglobe.org/en.

Ha-Ha Recap: Reporter’s Notebook

Having completed Baja Ha-Ha XIX on Saturday evening, we’ve just arrived back at Baja Ha-Ha World Headquarters. As we layer up and try to adjust to the 35-degree temperature drop between Cabo San Lucas and the Bay Area, we’ll share a few final notes and photos from the last days of this year’s San Diego-to-Cabo cruisers’ rally.

For many in the Ha-Ha fleet, getting to the sun-baked latitudes of Mexico is a prime motivator for joining the rally. And those sun-seekers got just what they were after as they neared the tip of the southern cape: Weather that was so hot, hot, hot, that swimsuits and tank tops were the appropriate attire, even into the evening hours.

Although most Ha-Ha 19 contestants have never seen the 1953 movie From Here to Eternity, they did their best to emulate the classic flick’s famous closing scene that depicts Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in a passionate embrace in the Oahu surf. This young couple scored high points with the crowd at the Cabo beach party.

latitude/Andy
©2012 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Having arrived at Cabo Thursday, several hundred Ha-Ha sailors took over the famous Squid Roe dance bar that night. Then Friday, the big activity was a five-hour beach party adjacent to the public anchorage. Saturday evening’s Awards Ceremony, generously hosted by IGY Marina Cabo San Lucas, capped off the two weeks of sailing, sun and fun, where many of this year’s participants vowed to return next year for the benchmark 20th Anniversary Ha-Ha, which promises to feature a few new special twists and activities. (Online sign-ups begin May 1.) Look for a complete recap of Baja Ha-Ha XIX in the December edition of Latitude 38.

These crewmembers from Patsy Verhoeven’s Oregon-based Gulfstar 50 Talion met the most important criterion: keeping their heads above water so they could breathe!

latitude/Andy
©2012 Latitude 38 Media, LLC
At the end of the Awards Ceremony, winners of all 14 Ha-Ha divisions struck a pose wearing their special winners-only T-shirts. Pictured (not in this order) are skippers of Distraction, Oceania, Grey Goose, Rhapsody, The Bequine, Scot Free IV, Silhoette, Mandolina, Wallflower, Talion, Iataia, Camelot, Flying Fox and Oogachaka.

latitude/Andy
©2012 Latitude 38 Media, LLC
For tirelessly rendering assistance to every boat in the fleet that requested it, Dr. Electron (Alan Katz of San Diego) earned the Spirit of the Ha-Ha award.

latitude/Andy
©2012 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

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Latitude Photo Quiz

Every boat ever built has had mysterious and strange modifications made to it by its many owners. One couple we know, who bought their boat from a gentleman named Bob, calls them ‘Bob Jobs’. This writer and her husband have a decidedly less polite term for them. Occasionally, they can be brilliant, but most of the time they’re annoying, and every once in a while just plain dangerous. It’s sometimes difficult to even figure out their original purpose. Ah, the joys of buying a used boat!

Today’s quiz is something that diver Tim Sell found on a boat for her new owners. What is it?

UPDATE: Our quiz was just too easy. We’ve received so many correct answers we’re cutting it short. We’ll have the correct answer on Wednesday. Thanks for playing!

Fall Cruising in Puget Sound

Desert Sage enjoyed a little solitude at a deserted dock in Longbranch, north of Olympia.

© 2012 Berto Napuli

November is a lovely time for a cruise in San Francisco Bay — in fact, check Wednesday’s ‘Lectronic for this writer’s report on this weekend’s mini-cruise to Oakland — but sailors in the Pacific Northwest usually hang up their sea boots in early October. Not Marlene Bellman and Alberto Napuli. This rugged couple get out sailing on their Catalina 42 Mk 1 Desert Sage as often as possible, taking their four-year-old daughter Anna along for the ride.

Late last week, Marlene and Alberto sent in a report as they were sailing south from their homebase in Seattle. "It was a little rough the day we left, with 15-20 knots from behind as we headed to South Puget Sound," reports Marlene. "But today [Friday] is sunny and calm.

"We were in Colvos Passage, between Vashon Island and the mainland, when Anna and I played ‘Riding the Dragon’. This is a game where we sit in the dinghy on the bow, which acts as the saddle. Anna uses the dinghy painter as the reins. The foresail is a wing. I just love a four-year-old’s perspective!"

Anna and Marlene ‘riding the dragon’ down Colvos Passage.

© Berto Napuli

This is a great reminder that anyone in milder climates can set off on a fun and memorable family adventure no matter the time of year. Keep an eye on the weather for a sizable break and be flexible. Those can often be the most precious times in your life.

“She shares my love of the ocean,” says Marlene, a marine biologist.

© 2012 Berto Napuli
Scot Free and the rest of the fleet had smooth sailing down Baja.
The first Artemis Racing AC72 was christened in Alameda on Monday. © Sander van der Borch / Artemis Racing If you thought the devastating loss of Team Oracle’s AC72 USA 17 meant you wouldn’t get to watch one of the monster cats plying the waters of San Francisco Bay for several months, then you obviously forgot about the Challenger of Record, Artemis Racing.