July 12, 2017

Records Fall in a Normal Year

Might Merloe crosses the Transpac finish line, shaving more than a day off the 20-year-old multihull record.

© Sharon Green / Ultimate Sailing

All four leaders in the Transpac sailed into Waikiki Bay ahead of the record pace, in what has been called a "normal year," unlike the last two editions of the biennial race. The conditions of relatively steady 10- to 20-knot winds with few holes have been perfect for the fleet leaders, who sped along at more than 20 knots of boat speed, resulting in the resetting of both the multihull and monohull records.

It was due time for the multihull record to be smashed. First to cross the finish line off Diamond Head was H.L. Enroe’s ORMA 60 trimaran Mighty Merloe, on Monday, July 10, at 5:02:30 p.m. Hawaii Time, for an amazing elapsed time of 4 days, 6 hours, 32 minutes, 30 seconds — 26.5 hours faster than the previous mark set in 1997 by Bruno Peyron’s Commodore Explorer. We wondered why the smaller 60-footer was beating the MOD70s Phaedo3 and Maserati, until we saw that the great French record-setter Loïck Peyron (Bruno’s brother) was at the helm. Other crew were Franck Proffit, helm; Artie Means, navigator; Jacques Vincent, co-skipper; Steve Calder, main; Jay Davis, bow; and Will Suto, grinder.

By finishing three and six hours later, respectively, the next two boats to finish, Lloyd Thornburg’s MOD70 Phaedo3 and Giovanni Soldini’s MOD70 Maserati (sailing with a broken rudder), also broke the previous record.

Next up, at 11:55:26 local time on Tuesday morning, came the first monohull, the 100-ft Comanche, skippered by Ken Read and navigated by Stan Honey, who called the breeze "surprisingly strong."

Jim Clark’s great record-seeker Comanche earned a new one on Tuesday.

© Sharon Green / Ultimate Sailing

This was Stan Honey’s seventh first-to-finish achievement in Transpac and the fourth time he has helped win the Elapsed Time Record Trophy (the Clock Trophy) as navigator. The clock hands on the trophy will now be set to the new record time: 5 days, 1 hour, 55 minutes, 26 seconds. The new record is half a day faster than the previous mark set in 2009 by Neville Crichton’s R/P 90 Alfa Romeo II.

Next up, with 300 miles to go as of this morning, is Manouch Moshayedi’s Rio100, followed by Frank Slootman’s new Pac52 Invisible Hand, which is currently first in division and first in ORR overall. Other division leaders are Roy Disney’s Andrews 68 Pyewacket, Tim Fuller’s J/125 Resolute, John Shulze’s SC50 Horizon, Larry Andrews’ Summit 40 Locomotive, the Canadian Hobie 33 Dark Star and Rodney Pimentel’s Bay Area-based Cal 40 Azure. There’s still a lot of racing to be done, so follow along at 2017.transpacyc.com and look for a complete race recap in the August issue of Latitude 38.

“State-Sized” Iceberg Breaks Off Antarctica

Did you feel the ocean ripple a little in the last 24 hours? It might have been a floating ice shelf named Larson C, which scientists confirmed broke off Antarctica on Wednesday and is now being called "one of the largest icebergs ever recorded," according to the New York Times.

Sailors venturing to Antarctica may have to keep watch for an iceberg the size of Delaware. Fortunately, it should show up on the radar.  

© David Thoreson

Does this have implications for the future of our planet? We here at Latitude would like to quote members of Congress: "We’re not scientists." But we are sailors, and we know a few brave souls headed for the high latitudes at the bottom of the planet. The Volvo Ocean Race will now have to avoid a floating Delaware on the Southern Ocean legs.

Clipper Race Recruiting in Seattle

The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race is looking for adventurous Washington State residents to take up the challenge in its next edition. The Clipper 2017-18 Race will feature a Visit Seattle team entry for the second consecutive race, and it’s not too late to sign up.

Today, Wednesday, July 12, 4 p.m. at the Washington Athletic Club, race organizers and the Seattle Sports Commission are hosting a recruitment talk featuring current and former Clipper Race crew from across Washington State. Get more info and RSVP here.

While sailing around the world in 2015-2016, Visit Seattle promoted her sponsor.

© Clipper Race

Crew can choose whether to take part in the whole 11-month circumnavigation or one or more of its eight legs. Fifteen Washington State residents are already in training. They include 25-year-old Seattleite Nicole Stull, who had no sailing experience before signing up for the 6,000-mile Leg 7, from Seattle to New York via the Panama Canal. Stull was inspired by "seeing all of the boats parked at the Port of Seattle’s Bell Harbor Marina when the race first visited Seattle in 2016."

The fleet of 12 one-design 70-ft monohulls will start from Liverpool, UK, on August 20. They’ll arrive in Seattle in April 2018. See www.clipperroundtheworld.com.

We’d be pleased to hear from any Washington State or other West Coast sailors planning to race in this edition.

Sweet on Shore, Sour at Sea

On Friday, we asked if you’ve ever sailed with a ‘Captain Bligh’, or a skipper who is calm and even charming on shore, but screams and belittles their crew once at sea — especially racing.

We realize that such a query has the potential to spark a certain degree of negativity, so we pulled it from our website in order to reframe the question, and try to keep this potentially contentious issue as lighthearted as possible. 

To reiterate: You accept an invitation to sail in a friendly Friday night beer can with a skipper you just met — the captain is loquacious and kind, the boat relaxed and smiling as you motor your way to the race course.

Sir Anthony Hopkins plays Captain William Bligh in The Bounty, the story about a sailor who was jovial and calm on shore, but a madman out at sea. Sound like anyone you’ve ever done a beer can with? 

© 2017 Orion Pictures Corp. Thorn EMI Screen Entertainment

But once the start sequence is underway, something has happened to the easygoing, happy-go-lucky skipper. Like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or like David Banner bursting through his clothes with pulsating rage, the captain has suddenly transformed. They start barking orders. They’re indignant and berate the crew — not just demanding faster action, but shaming sailors who aren’t performing quickly enough.

We’ve heard variations of this story time and again from novices who accepted an invitation to race, and decided to give sailing a try. And this is somewhat worrying — we view beer can racing as a chance to offer newbies access to a sport that can be difficult and expensive to casually break into.

This is our concern, and we’d like to explore the phenomenon of ‘Captain Blighs’ rather than foment any specific drama. We would like to open our couch and analysis to the skippers who experience a notable change, a transformation of personality when going from shore to sea.

Funny hats make for a fun sail. We have fun, sail hard and occasionally do well at Friday night beer cans. 

©2017Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Is the phenomenon part of an unchallenged tradition of bad habits? Are ‘Captain Blighs’ behaving in a way that they learned from another aggressive skipper? Like high-level chefs in a busy kitchen, have ‘Blighs’ inherited a particular language laced with expletives and beratement, and do they believe that that’s simply the way one sails and motivates the crew?

"I have done beercans and other races where the [skipper] was convinced that the louder he yelled and the more he berated his crew, the faster the boat would go," one commenter wrote last week. 

"I am familiar with the phenomenon," another reader wrote. "One boat I crewed aboard brought a ‘Pro’ in for a big race event. Decent enough guy ashore, but . . . aside from general beratement of the entire crew, the man would lay into the foredeck gang with a vengeance I’ve never heard before or since.

"We generally would tell the foredeck what we wanted, and let them do it. But the repeated and now infamous refrain from this gentleman was a manically screamed: "WHAT’S TAKING SO LONG?" This does not increase the productivity of the bowman. Now, to be fair — the screamer was fairly fast, and perhaps the stress of needing to perform was the cause of it all, but, don’t we just do this for fun?"

Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab in John Huston’s 1956 adaptation of Moby Dick. 

© 2017 Warner Bros.

We’d like to hear your stories, as well as your thoughts on whether you think beer cans are or should be a chance for the uninitiated to dip their toes into the sport. What’s more, do you think we experienced sailors should help facilitate newcomers’ getting out and enjoying themselves on sailboats? 

We want to keep it positive so more people can have more fun sailing. We are not interested in the names of skippers or even boats. And, while we’re asking what makes a ‘Captain Bligh’, it’s a good time to ask what makes a great skipper whom you can’t wait to go sailing with.

Let us know.

Last Chance

Last chance to fill out the Latitude 38 reader survey. The online survey will close down this Friday, July 14. After that you’ll have to keep your opinions to yourself! Of course we’re always listening, so, actually, after that you can still share your notes and letters.

We’re still wading through the stacks of paper surveys, but we’ll tally the results soon.

©2017Latitude 38 Media, LLC

We’ll be drawing names for prize winners for the Bainbridge bag, Jim DeWitt tie and Latitude 38 gear shortly after we finish entering all the submissions.

Bill Lee’s 68-ft sled Merlin started the Transpac on Thursday. Pro sailor Morgan Larson drove the start.
According to sharks, rich people just taste better than poor people.  Somebody on Facebook
©Latitude 38 Media, LLC Here’s a photo to give a belly laugh to those who are envious of the obscenely wealthy crowd that owns mega-yachts.
Working together, the US Coast Guard, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response, the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, Vortex Marine Construction and the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) District are planning for the removal of the sunken 112-ft freight barge Vengeance. The Vengeance capsized on April 7 south of the Bay Bridge.