If you haven’t been keeping up with the Vendée Globe, you’ve been missing the race of a lifetime. It’s almost unthinkable that two boats — François Gabart’s MACIF and Armel Le Cléa’h’s Banque Populaire — should have remained within sight of each other for most of the length of the Southern Ocean, but that’s exactly what they’ve done. Since passing Cape Horn on New Year’s Day, the pair have separated a bit — currently by 12 miles — to apply their own strategies for avoiding a large high in the Atlantic.
Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec 3) and Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) were the next to round the final major milestone of the course, with Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel) a good 1,300 miles behind Thomson. Clumped behind him, approaching the final ice gate of the course, are Mike Golding (Gamesa), Dominique Wavre (Mirabaud), Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat), Javier Sanso (Acciona) and Arnaud Bossières (Akena Verandas). Just 5,000 miles behind the lead boat, Alessandro di Benedetto in now sailing in the Pacific but he’s been plagued by autopilot problems.
Another first for the event came when Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat) became the first person ever to be disqualified from the race. On January 2, a five-person International Jury concluded that Stamm violated the race’s rules, namely receiving outside assistance.
Readers may recall that, on December 22, Stamm had received permission by the race organizers to use his engine to seek shelter at the Auckland Islands, where he would repair two failing hydrogenerators. Shortly after anchoring, Cheminées Poujoulat began dragging in heavy winds toward a Russian research vessel. He radioed the crew to alert them and began making preparations to weigh anchor and secure the boat to the ship. Stamm reported that he’d gone below to turn on some instruments, and when he returned topside, a crewmember from the ship had boarded the boat and was pulling up his anchor. "When I saw him on board, I didn’t not find any reason that could justify to send him back from the board [sic]."
Undoubtedly the situation was dire, and Stamm did what he did to save his boat, but allowing the crewman to stay aboard the boat and that mooring to the ship are clear violations of the race’s rules, which strictly prohibit both. The jury’s decision — which we have to believe was a difficult one for them to make — has created an uproar in the sailing community, especially amongst Stamm’s fellow racers, who have been very vocal in their support of the Swiss sailor. Stamm is appealing the decision, asking for the jury to take into consideration testimony from the ship’s crew.
In the meantime, Stamm has put the pedal to the metal and has been the fastest boat in the fleet for the last few days. Considering this is his third attempt to finish the Vendée Globe, it would be a shame if the DSQ stands, but regardless, he’s vowed to soldier on to the finish.
We’re thrilled to report that our Tahitian partners at the yacht agency CMA-CGM will again be offering a special bond exemption deal this season to all officially registered Pacific Puddle Jumpers. For a reasonable price, participating boats will get clearance in and out of French Polynesia, duty free fuel privileges beginning in the Marquesas, and — most importantly — exemption from having to post repatriation bonds in cash, equivalent to the price of an air ticket to each sailor’s home country. (Not required of EU citizens.)
Because CMA-CGM has offered similar deals to Puddle Jumpers for the past few years, you might think that the repeat of last year’s program would be a slam dunk. But due to the sting of being burned by several boats in both 2011 and 2012, they almost opted out. Those unfortunate incidents were classic examples of a few bad apples — or more accurately, selfish, dishonest sailors — potentially spoiling a great deal for the whole cruising community. In 2011 the agency got stuck with well over $4,000 in flight costs when a Canadian couple broke their bond agreement by leaving their indigent son behind in the islands. (Having bonded the boat, the agency became responsible in the eyes of the government.) And in 2012, at least two boats skipped out on their bills and refused to answer emails after contracting and receiving special services.
Call us naive, but to our way of thinking a sailor’s reputation is still something to take pride in — or at least it ought to be. And those whose lifestyle involves crossing vast stretches of open ocean really ought to be careful about the karma they create.
In any case, CMA-CGM is on board for another season, with a few new twists to their offer. The cost of this year’s bond/clearance/fuel deal will be $230 for two crew or $275 for four. There will be an additional charge this year for admin work associated with embarking and/or disembarking crew, and those boats staying longer than 90 days (generally only Europeans are allowed to) will incur a small additional fee related to a 3-month check-in with customs and immigration.
One other change this year would seem to be obvious under international law, but has never before been spelled out so clearly: Every captain whose crew is bonded must be responsible for those crewmembers — that is, make sure they stay out of trouble and actually leave the country when their visas are up. If captains can’t trust their crews to do that, they should simply not include them in the bond deal and let them post their own cash bond, which is refundable the day they depart French Polynesia. (Possession of a valid homeward plane ticket also serves as an exemption.) "If a captain has any doubt about one of his crew before reaching the Marquesas Islands," writes CGM-CMA Manager Stephane Mercadal, "he just has to warn us. We will cancel and reimburse immediately the bond exemption for this crew. This will protect us and the captain." Stephane and his all-too-trusting staff have grown weary of getting threatening calls from the Papeete gendarmes when cruisers misbehave.
That said, the vast majority of Puddle Jumpers in past years have been great people whose natural inclination was to show respect for local people as well as their cultural traditions and laws. And as a result, many tell us later that cruising French Polynesia was one of the absolute highlights of all their sailing adventures.
Pacific Puddle Jump 2013 dates to note:
– January 26 & 27 — PPJ Seminars at Seattle Boat Show; 5 p.m. & 4 p.m. respectively
– March 1 — PPJ Send-off Party at Vallarta YC, Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico; 3-6 p.m. (at the Paradise Village Resort & Marina)
– March 9 — PPJ Send-off Party at Balboa YC, Balboa, Panama; 12-4 p.m. (western side of the Canal)
– Mid-April (TBA) — PPJ Seminars at Strictly Sail Pacific
– June 28-30 — Tahiti-Moorea Sailing Rendezvous (beginning at Papeete)
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We took 24 people out on Profligate on New Year’s Eve, including about 18 teens. As those who have had them know, teens have an incredible ability to instantly grasp such subjects as music, smart phones, and members of the opposite sex. But they don’t tune in on other subjects — such as how to work a marine head. So when we returned to the dock, Profligate had a totally destroyed head — with the requisite thank you ‘present’ left in the bowl. It wouldn’t have been so bad, but whoever installed the head did it in such a way that you have to remove the bowl before you can get to the mount, which means . . . well, it means we need to hire somebody to do the job.
We have four Groco Model K-H Manual Heads on Profligate. These aren’t the cheap ones. In fact, West Marine sells them for $879 — a whopping $550 more than the Groco HF manual head. The K-H’s that we and Dona de Mallorca use haven’t been a problem, but the other two . . . don’t ask. And these have been used mostly by folks who know how to use a marine head.
Some friends have encouraged us to look into electric heads. And when we checked the prices, we found there are quite a few that sell for less than or no more than the Groco K-H. Hmmmm. Anybody with lots of experience got a ‘heads up’ for us on marine heads? Is electric really better? What’s the story on electric and water consumption — if using fresh — when out cruising?
Or should we ‘keep it simple, stupid’ with guests, giving them the choice of either ‘holding it’ until we get back to shore, or using the $28.99 Bucket Potty Seat by Todd? Email Richard.