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Hurricane Earl Approaches

August 30, 2010 – Eastern Caribbean

(Click on the photo to enlarge it.)

Hurricane Earl is giving the British Virgin Islands the evil eye. Photo Courtesy NOAA
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"The eye of Earl will pass near or over the northernmost Virgin Islands this afternoon and this evening," NOAA reported this morning.

This is spooky stuff, because Earl is a Category 3 hurricane, with winds over 100 knots, and the Virgin Islands, British and U.S., are home to thousands of charter and privately owned sailboats. Among those is 'ti Profligate, the Leopard 45 cat owned by the publisher of Latitude. She was to go out on charter starting tomorrow, and is heavily booked for the upcoming season.

While Earl has been continuing to build, there is some reason for limited optimism. The eye of Earl, which is moving WNW at 14 knots, is currently forecast to pass just to the north of Tortola, the biggest of the British Virgins. If so, the winds will be coming from the NNW, which would be the weakest quadrant, and most of the boats would be in the lee of the mountainous island. There would still be extensive damage, but not as much as if Earl were to pass to the south of Tortola. Both Anegada and Virgin Gorda, less populated islands with fewer boats, are closer to the current path of the eye.

Earl's Track
According to its forecasted track, Hurricane Earl should miss Hispaniola, but he hasn't been following his forecasts . . . Photo Courtesy NOAA
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Earl, however, is not to be trusted. Just a couple days ago, he was forecast to pass safely to the north of the Leeward Islands. But then he continued to move more to the west than the north. As of 8:00 a.m. Pacific Time, Earl was about 150 miles NNE of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. As he moves WNW, he's going to get closer to that island, but hopefully not much closer. By Tuesday, he's predicted to move much more to the north and away from land.

Earl has hit St. Martin, Anguilla and St. Barth already. While there hasn't been much communication because everybody is hunkered down and in many cases the electricity has been shut off, the strongest gust reported in St. Martin, a huge sailboat center, has been 70 knots. That's not good, but it could be much worse. So let's everyone keep our fingers crossed for the people in the path of Earl.

- latitude / rs

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Fall Crew List Party

Classy Deadline the 15th

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Weekend Racing Wrap-up

August 30, 2010 – The Bay

Open 5.70
Joe Wells' The Rooster gets lit up at the Sarcoma Cup. © 2018 Erik Simonson /

If you were out on the Bay this weekend, you know that someone turned on the fan. While Saturday's forecast was for a sedate 15-18 knots, if you were on the water after about 8:00 a.m., you know that it didn't take long for that prediction to prove short by about half. With sun and a relatively warm breeze that reached the low-30s near the Gate, it was a good day to tuck in a reef and wear just about every item of clothing you brought to the boat. At one point Bob McIntire, whom we joined aboard a Knarr for a WBRA race, looked up and rightly commented, "look at these clouds, every single one is lenticular."

J/105s Sarcoma Cup
Seventeen J/105s constituted the largest One Design Class at the Sarcoma Cup. © 2018 Erik Simonson /

A venue change didn't hurt the third edition of the Sarcoma Cup, which drew an impressive fleet of boats to Berkeley YC. Split between six one design and two PHRF divisions, 67 boats showed up for Saturday's buoy racing. The J/105 fleet led the charge, drawing 17 boats followed closely by the Open 5.70s with a whopping 13 boats! Nine Express 27s, five Wabbits, five Alerion Expresses and five Viper 640s were joined by 13 PHRF boats on two courses, one on the Circle and another on Southampton. With the breeze a little lighter than the 30-plus knots seen in the slot closer to the Gate, there weren't a whole lot of letter scores in the results.

Barry Demak
Barry Demak's USA 290 with the hammer down on the Circle. © 2018 Erik Simonson /

After the boats hit the dock and the sailing gear was hung out to dry, it was time for the aprés sail. With a kegs and wine providing the lubricity, those who didn't end up in an ambulatory food coma after the dinner spread put out by the club hit the dance floor for some shake 'n bake to live music — and even a karaoke performance by a J/105 sailor who will go unnamed. There was a silent auction and chair massages for the weary, and probably more than a few bleary-eyed sailors who showed up for Sunday's pursuit race — the J/105s and Alerion Expresses sailed another day of buoy racing.

Winning Baffico
Synthia Petroka, Nick Burke and Tom Baffico won their first regatta in Baffico's brand new Open 5.70. Photo Latitude / Rob
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Adam Spiegel's Jam Session took the J/105 division, while Tom Baffico's nameless, brand-new Open 5.70 carried that division — some boats had traveled from Southern California — in his first regatta in the boat since trading down in size from an Express 27. Two-time defending season champion Tom Jenkins and his crew from the Morro Bay YC on Witchy Woman took the Express 27 division, while Tim Russell's Weckless was the top Wabbit. Ralf Morgan's Ditzy took the Alerion Express 28's, while the Viper 640 honors went to Ike van Cruyningen's Ilex. PHRF A went to Henry King's Frers 40 One Ton Jeannette, while Daniel Coleman's Olson 25 Balein handled everyone else in PHRF B.

Benino Knarr
Mark Dahm's Benino won Saturday's race in the Knarr fleet's adventure on Knox. Photo Latitude / Rob
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

It was also a pretty big Saturday for YRA. We went Kuh-naring on the Kuh-nox racing area under the direction of the Kuh-rinthian YC, which pulled R/C duties. We joined skipper MarK Adams, mainsheet trimmer Jennifer Dunbar and jib trimmer Bob McIntire for a slop-Krushing windward-leeward in breeze that easily exceeded 30 Knots. We wanted to see what the boats were all about, and we have an answer — bilge pumps and tight-fitting seals on your foul weather gear.

Robin Kirae Bird Boat
Cissy Kirane's Bird Boat Robin takes flight on Saturday. © 2018 Erik Simonson /

While two races had been scheduled for the day, the second race was lost to the conditions. A long delay as the R/C waited for the rest of the fleets to finish left everyone pretty exposed to the elements during the downtime. The committee wisely postponed the second race until another day and the grateful sailors aboard the Knarrs, Folkboats, Birds, IODs, and Bears wasted no time heading for their barns. The full results will go up on the YRA's website soon.

The Express 37s do battle with a breeze on Cityfront race course. © 2018 Erik Simonson /

The ODCA and HDA divisions were hosted by the SSS. For the Express 37s, it was their last season counter prior to the Rolex Big Boat Series, and the Cityfront also dished up some big breeze in the 30-plus range for what looked like about 20 boats — those results weren't yet posted as of last night. If you haven't yet received the memo, after many years in historic Fort Mason, the YRA offices are moving across the Bay to Alameda. The new office is located at 1070 Marina Village Parkway, Suite 202-G. The office will be fully up and running by tomorrow. The email address, phone and fax numbers will stay the same, only the mailing address and physical location are changing.

And speaking of the Singlehanded Sailing Society, the Half Moon Bay race — its first event since the Singlehanded TransPac — went off on Saturday. While the results weren't posted as of last night, there were 70 entries for what we heard was a real s#*tkicker of race in big breeze and big waves.

Looking ahead, the Finn Gold Cup gets underway in earnest today after a day of measurement and a practice race yesterday, with 95 sailors from almost 30 different countries. As the class's world championship, the event is a must-do for the serious Olympic aspirants — some of whom are former world champions and/or Olympic medalists who are midway through the quad prior to Weymouth '12. So this will be a serious event, where some of sailing's fittest of the fit will square off in what will potentially be some really testing conditions — for six straight days. Unlike some of the other world Championship formats, there are no lay days for these guys. Keep in mind that while the St. Francis YC is hosting the regatta, the event will actually be based out of Marina Bay Yacht Harbor in Pt. Richmond, where the ample parking, generously-sized launch ramps and quick access to the Circle should make for a great regatta. We went over there yesterday afternoon to get the lay of the land, and the set-up is pretty impressive. So make sure you go by to check it out!

We've posted September's Sailor of the Month at the homepage for the Northern California Sailing Calendar and YRA Master Schedule, so follow the link to find out who it is. . . We'll be showing you some great photos of the San Francisco YC's Great Schooner Race on Wednesday, in the meantime, have a great week and make sure to take advantage of those final remaining Beer Can races; the season will be over before you know it!


- latitude / rg

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The Cruising Diet

August 30, 2010 – California to the Caribbean to California

When Gary left California on his sailing adventure, he weighed nearly 300 pounds. He looks more lean and healthy in this photo, wouldn't you say? Photo Courtesy Gary Burgin
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

When you see somebody with a big cat, you assume he/she has a lot of money. But as Gary Burgin of the Capitola-based Marples 55 catamaran Crystal Blue Persuasion can tell you, that's not necessarily true.

Gary left California as part of the '08 Baja Ha-Ha hoping to get to the Caribbean coast of Mexico as soon as possible to begin service in the charter trade. He didn't have much money, but that was to come with the charters. Alas, when he got to the charter site, the deal and facilities weren't what had been described. Then there were some serious mechanical problems with both engines and both transmissions, some of which Burgin manfully acknowledges were a result of a foolish mistake he made with a couple of t-valves. Things got so bad he was forced to clean bottoms for money at Isla Mujeres, and all but became a subsistence fisherman while making repairs to the cat's mechanics. He figures he was living on $200 a month.

But there was a good side to it, too. When he left California, he was muscular, but weighed nearly 300 pounds. Because he'd basically had to switch from a steak and burger diet to a fish diet, and because he was working so hard, he dropped 80 pounds.

"When I left California, I was wearing pants with a 42-inch waist. When I was in Mexico, I got into pants with a 32-inch waist." When he saw the accompanying photo of himself, he said that he couldn't believe it was him. "And I later got even thinner than that."

About six months ago, Burgin got the cat in good enough shape to head back to the Canal and California, funded mostly by a series of paying guests. But there were lots of crew changes, and times when he had to singlehand the 55-footer — and without an autopilot. And with virtually no food or fuel. He describes times when he had to make a choice between reefing the main to keep from ripping the sail and reeling in a fish so he'd have something to eat. And times when going north from southern Mexico and along the coast of Baja he only had a jib, twice ripped, for propulsion. It took him 10 days, for example, to singlehand the 300 or so miles from Manzanillo to Mazatlan.

Burgin eventually made it back to California — thanks, in part, to Servicios Annabelle in Turtle Bay coming forward to offer him $500 in diesel. Gary is currently on the hook on the cat at Capitola, not sure what is coming next. He's a construction worker, and like almost all construction workers, is having a very hard time finding work. In fact, he recently flew all the way to Alaska to take a three-week job.

Burgin says it's been a very interesting sailing experience, and that he's a much better sailor and boat mechanic than he was before. And waxing philosophical, he echoed Nietzsche's maxim that what's doesn't kill us makes us stronger. He's hoping he can do another Ha-Ha next year, but can't say for sure. We wish him and his cat the best of luck.

- latitude / rs

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