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Sailing Voyeurs Delight

March 30, 2011 – St. Barth, French West Indies

(Click on the photo to enlarge it.)

Think it would be fun to be 50 feet away as a 180-ft Herreshoff schooner, such as Elena, rips by at 16 knots? It is. And there's nothing stopping you from doing it. Next year she's expected to be joined by the even larger double gaff schooner Germania. Photo Latitude / Richard
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Just to make sure everyone understands, when we write about the Caribbean, or St. Barth in particular, it's not to shout 'we're so cool and you're not', but rather to let you know about a spectacular place and some spectacular sailing events — events that we think every sailor should experience as many times as possible.

The J Class Hanuman, Jim Clark's latest. She was 1/40th of the greatest sailing spectacle -- by far -- we've seen in 34 years of covering sailing. Like Gaia, Hanuman temporarily lost a crew aboard. Photo Latitude / Richard
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

For us, St. Barth is not only a proxy for all of the Caribbean, which just happens to offer the greatest natural sailing conditions in the world, it's also — despite its diminutive size — ground zero for much of what's going on in many important aspects of sailing. Since it's where almost all the great sailing yachts and sailors stop, it's where we get much of our knowledge and information — and stories. It's no different than golf writers needing to go Augusta for the Masters or tennis writers needing to go to the U.S. Open or Wimbledon. If that makes some people jealous, we're not going to lose sleep over it.

It's astounding to us that such a huge yacht could have such fine sail trim. Those tiny shapes by the side of the cockpit are humans. If you play your cards right, who knows, next year you might be one of them. Photo Latitude / Richard
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

It's absolutely true that you can have great Caribbean sailing experiences all over the Antilles, from the British Virgins to St. Martin to Antigua to Down Island. But we make St. Barth our base because it's the one place that virtually all the great yachts and sailors stop, and because they are concentrated in such a small area. The yachts, for example, can all be found in about a single square-mile area, and all of the great sailors, designers, and builders can be found in the 200 or so feet between Le Select and the Bar of the Forgotten. You don't find that kind of concentration anywhere else in the world.

It doesn't hurt that St. Barth is about the safest place in the world, there are stylish and lovely women everywhere, and that it's still got a magical joie de vivre. For those who don't have enough time to really get to know the island, it also has events such as last week's St. Barth Bucket that give you — yeah, we're talking about you! — the opportunity to be smack dab in the middle of the greatest sailing spectacle ever. All you have to do is cash in your frequent flyer miles for a trip to St. Martin, charter whatever boat fits your group's budget, and sail her 15 miles to St. Barth's Gustavia anchorage.

While the rabbit-start racing resulted in the 40 boats usually being bunched together, it nonetheless sometimes got lonely for certain members of certain crews. Photo Latitude / Richard
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Not only will it give you an opportunity to see the largest collection of great large yachts ever, you'll get to see them raced by world class sailors in ideal sailing conditions. Furthermore, if you look like you're a decent sailor, there's a good chance that you — yeah, we're still talking about you! — can crew on one of the great yachts, particularly in the second and third races, when crew are often in short supply. Not only that, if you don't come across as an ogre, there's a more than decent chance that you — yup, still you! — will be allowed to tour $40 to $50 million sailing yachts, where the crews will hand you flutes of champagne and lovely little canapes. And no, it doesn't cost you anything. If that doesn't sound like something that would appeal to the sailor in you, fair enough. But some sailors are actually interested in experiences such as that.

Lady B
We've never seen an afterguard quite as large as the one on the 145-ft Dubois/Vitters Lady B. Sometimes quantity isn't as important as quality, as the Lady finished down in the standings. Photo Latitude / Richard
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

We'll have a more detailed report on the Bucket in the May edition of Latitude, but to summarize, it was "congenial racing" among 40 of the world's great large yachts, from 100 footers to the 289-ft Maltese Falcon. It's noteworthy that 10% of these yachts have Silicon Valley roots. Falcon, of course, was built by venture capitalist Tom Perkins of Belvedere. The 156-ft Hyperion was built for the Valley's Jim Clark who, nonetheless, showed up for the second year in a row with his J Class 135-ft Hanuman. Then there was the 190-ft Holland/Huisman Ethereal, built for Bill Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems. For those who are disgusted by very rich people who got that way by screwing people over, take note that Perkins, Clark, and Joy weren't born with silver spoons in their mouths — they made their money by saving money for countless millions of people and businesses.

It was a Bucket of sailing fun the likes of which we've never experienced before. Plan ahead, and you too can be part of it next spring. You won't regret it.

Having taken advantage of the generous offer of some owners to tour their magnificent yachts, Tori of Toronto admires a huge stick. The quality of workmanship on the yachts was breathtaking. Photo Latitude / Richard
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Sacre bleu! That's the fully-loaded up 175-ft Marie bearing down on us at hull speed. That's obviously Falcon off her port quarter. Photo Latitude / Richard
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Jimmy Buffett just happened to be walking home past the Baz Bar after the last day of racing, and was asked to play a few tunes. He walked home, got his guitar, and came back to play four or five songs. It was, he said, his first public performance since doing a face plant off a stage in Sydney. Photo Latitude / Richard
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

That's Traci of the Frers/Pendennis 145 Rebecca, Doña de Mallorca of the Frers/Swan 100 Varsovie, and Sausalito's Dawn 'America True' Riley of the Holland/Perini 141 Helios II, just three of about 20 sweaty people dancing on a small table about to fall on Jimmy Buffett's head. We're going to say this one last time: there is no reason, none at all, that you can't be on the table with them after next year's Bucket. Photo Latitude / Richard
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

- latitude / rs

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Classy Deadline the 15th

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San Diego Accident Update

March 30, 2011 – San Diego

The deaths of Jun Chen, 44, and his father, Chao Chen, 73, in a tragic sailing accident Sunday afternoon in San Diego Harbor has raised questions about the wisdom of taking 10 people — eight adults and two children, one of whom was autistic — out on a MacGregor 26. George Saidah, founder of the nonprofit Heart of Sailing Foundation that offers sailboat rides to people with disabilities, says that he's taken that many people out before without issue. He also claims he properly filled Nessie's water ballast tanks and lowered the retractable keel, but that a gust of wind — it was blowing about 13 — laid the boat over. 

Roger MacGregor, founder of MacGregor Yachts, responded that the boat was definitely overloaded for its size. Ten people, including at least one disabled child, on a water-ballasted MacGregor 26? We'll let the Harbor Patrol conduct an investigation to determine the facts about this tragic accident, but we suspect the cause was a combination of ignorance and a lack of common sense.

- latitude / ld & rs

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Ad: Weta Tris at Strictly Sail

March 30, 2011 – Jack London Square, Oakland

© 2018 Weta West /

  • Visit us at Strictly Sail Pacific, April 14-17
  • Ask about spring promotions
  • Dealers in San Francisco, Southern California & the Pacific Northwest
  • Active racing fleet

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Amazing Vid of the Day

March 30, 2011 – Queensland, Australia

This is a bit off our normal beat, but the video below (from Australia's Channel 7 News) is so eye-popping we had to share it with you. As they say at the circus, "Please don't try this at home."

- latitude / at

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The Inflatable Alternative

March 30, 2011 – Oceans of the World

Scotty and kids
Scotty, his two boys, and a spare, enjoy an afternoon of SUP-ing in Baie de Columbie. Photo Latitude / Richard
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Lots of sailors like to surf. One of the big problems they have is that surfboards are pretty large and most cruising sailboats are relatively small. In addition, it can be difficult getting boards off and on boats without banging them, resulting in dings in the fiberglass boards. The problems may not be so big for younger sailor/surfers who ride small boards and are more nimble and have higher body strength-to-weight ratios. But they are a problem for geezers sailor/surfers such as ourselves, who still enjoy the waves.

One alternative is inflatable surfboards. We can hear you laughing, and to a certain extent, you are justified in doing so. If you're a hot surfer, there is no way that an inflatable board is going to be the proper tool for you. On the other hand, there are inflatable surfboards and there are inflatable surfboards. We'd include the Uli — of which we have an 11-foot model on 'ti Profligate — in the latter category. Not only is it of rugged construction, but you can pump the thing up so firm you can bounce a dime off of it. The problem with less expensive inflatables is that they can't take a similar PSI, and therefore sag in the middle when you stand on them.

The best things about the inflatables are the convenience. We've had no problem rolling ours up and checking it as airline baggage. And when lauching or retrieving the board from the boat, you can just drag the admittedly clumsy thing across the deck with no damage at all.

The boards are also a huge hit with kids. We happily loan ours to Scotty and Lila, who run the 65-ft Gannon & Benjamin schooner Juno that is on the cover of the latest Latitude. Their family has a blast with it. Scotty takes his two sons — and whatever other kids are around — for paddles around Columbie. Or they tie the board behind Juno and the kids play on it for hours.

While inflatable surfboards aren't a perfect product, they might prove to be a suitable compromise for your needs. 

- latitude / rs

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