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Polynesian Vakas Heading for San Francisco

July 13, 2011 – Hanalei Bay, Kauai

Pacific Voyaging Vaka
(Click on the photo to enlarge it.)

We watched in awe last year as this traditional vaka drove to windward across Neiafu Harbor, Tonga, in a light breeze. This hand-built vessel would later join six others en route to Hawaii, then San Francisco. Photo Latitude / Andy
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Every day of the year a wide variety of vessels enter San Francisco's Golden Gate, but none are quite like the Polynesian 'vakas' which will soon make their debut here. Constructed along the lines of traditional voyaging canoes from centuries past, this fleet of seven similar replicas left Kauai Monday, and is expected to arrive here around August 8.

Each of the double-hulled, two masted sisterships was constructed in a different Polynesian nation and then have only recently come together as a group to complete an ambitious goodwill voyage dubbed Te Mana o Te Moana, meaning The Spirit of the Sea. 

These voyages will celebrate the ancient wisdom of Polynesian navigators who followed their routes using information supplied by stars, ocean swell patterns, ocean-borne vegetation and sealife. In addition, participants hope to heighten public awareness of the current challenges facing the world's oceans due to pollution, acidification, and warming. 

(The above video is of the Cook Islands' vessel, one of seven sisterships.)

Although the complete activites schedule of these visiting craft has not yet been published, we understand they will be based at Treasure Island during their one-week stay. We had the pleasure of visiting the Tongan vaka first hand last year, and we can confirm that these finely constructed vessels are both beautiful and well-suited to the rigors of offshore sailing. We encourage you to check them out during their stay. You'll likely come away with some new insights about the time-honored wisdom of the ancient navigators, plus a renewed concern for the state of our oceans.

Although their timetable is changeable, the tentative schedule has them leaving San Francisco for Monterey on August 14; leaving Monterey for Los Angeles August 19; and leaving L.A. for San Diego August 29. See additional details on upcoming events and the sponsoring Pacific Voyagers organization here.

- latitude / at

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Pacific Vision Lost in Australia

July 13, 2011 – Gladstone, Australia

Yacht Pacific Vision Wrecked in Australia
Pacific Vision had crossed the Pacific from San Diego to Australia with apparent ease, only to end up as a wreck on Llewellyn Reef. © 2018 RACQ

As long-distance sailors like to point out to nervous landlubbers, it's not the ocean that's so dangerous, it's the hard stuff around the edges. That axiom was proven true on July 3 by an unidentified couple sailing their sailboat, Pacific Vision, from San Diego to Bundaberg, Australia. The pair had made a successful passage but reportedly ran into trouble in the early morning hours when their mainsail tore. Finding themselves being pushed toward Llewellyn Reef about 90 miles off Gladstone on the east coast of the Oz, the 45-year-old Australian man and 30-year-old Canadian woman did what they could to avoid grounding on the reef but failed. They took to a liferaft when the boat started breaking up. Alerted by the boat's EPIRB, a RACQ Capricorn helo arrived on scene around 7:20 a.m. The couple, who had drifted about a mile from their grounded boat, shot off flares and, in short order, were hoisted aboard the helo in good health. At last word, Pacific Vision was still on the reef.

- latitude / ld

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July 13, 2011 – The Interwebs

Photo Latitude / LaDonna
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC /

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TransPac-ers Get a Case of the Slows

July 13, 2011 – Eastern North Pacific

With much of the fleet at, or past the halfway mark, the 46th TransPac is turning out to be a pretty compelling yacht race. After their remarkably fast leap off the coast, the big boats have consistently seen their breeze drop and become more variable as they compress against Monday's starters. Nowhere is this better seen than on the race's tracker, which shows the virtual boats' long, smooth arcs of the first half of the race yielding to a jumbled mess resembling frenetic spermatazoa. That's caused some reshuffling in the standings, as the more northerly early leaders have precipitously dropped in the skeds, and the overall corrected-time picture is no longer dominated exclusively by the sleds.

Click on this photo to go to the race's tracker. © 2018 TransPac

The biggest change has been in Division 2, where Laura Schlessinger's Kernan 47 Katana has gone from leading the division as of Monday morning's roll call, to third yesterday and now fifth today. Jorge Ripstein's Acapulco-based R/P TP 52 Patches, navigated by John Rumsey with the Bay's Skip McCormack aboard, has held the division lead over Chip Megeath's Tiburon-based R/P 45 Criminal Mischief since yesterday's roll call, but overnight the Criminals halved Patches' lead. Criminal Mischief Watch Captain Campbell Rivers check in with an update on Monday evening that turned out to be prophetic.

"Just cruising here at about 10 to 12 knots of boatspeed in about not much more breeze," Rivers wrote. "Feels like a slow race so far but I think we got super spoiled in last year's Pac Cup! It seems like the longer boats are doing really well against us in these moderate (waterline) conditions. But we still feel like there will be some point in the race where it will be more extreme conditions one way or the other. At this point there's still a long way to go and our mood is good. Our little man (Mike) Polish (Radziejowski — sailing his first TransPac) got sick first day but has been doing great and didn't miss a single sail change. We spent the first night jib reaching with J2 and one reef before progressing to the jib top and genoa staysail, then a full main and then the MHG (masthead genoa), then to the A7 (spinnaker) all in about a 12-hour span. We've had running kites up since early Sunday morning. We had a slight issue with the rudder bearings but now that we are running it is way less of a concern. All in all its all good. We're not trippin' on the Katana; we feel it's gonna get lighter up there and the big part of righty will come much later."

Navigator Jeff Thorpe had put the Criminals in a good position and they've continued to consolidate their gains. The Bay Area's Will Paxton is sailing aboard James McDowell's SC 70 Grand Illusion, which leads overall for yet another day, having added a few hours' cushion to their lead. Division 1 still belongs to Hap Fauth's R/P 74 Bella Mente, although by only about 1.5 hours over Lorenzo Berho's Vallarta-based Kernan 68 Peligroso. We weren't surprised to see Jack Taylor's Horizon take the lead in the SC 50 fleet, and Simon Garland's Hobie 33 Peregrine is still slaying it in Division 6. Tom Holthus' J/145 Bad Pak is looking to reprise their '09 division win and has moved up in the standings to the division lead as well as the 10th spot overall. With four divisions now making up the top ten, even the corrected-time honors are more up for grabs now. Bella Mente is projected to finish at 4:30 a.m. local time on Friday morning, but with a lateral split of over 90 miles against Doug Baker's Andrews 80 Magnitude 80 to the south, the race for elapsed-time honors has opened way up.

- latitude / rg

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Weekend Racing Wrap-up

July 13, 2011 – San Francsico Bay

Bob Johnston Ragtime! Sailing San Francisco Bay
Bob Johnston's Ragtime! claims the honors after a brutal LongPac. © 2018 Danielle Machado

There's a new fab four on the scene, and they're not a group of instrument-toting minstrels, they're the four skippers who finished the Singlehanded Sailing Society's grueling LongPac over the weekend. After a slow start last Wednesday, which saw many of the boats stuck in the vicinity of Drake's Bay for the first 24 hours, the breeze and swell arrived with a vengance, often hitting the mid- to high-30s (depending on who you talk to). It didn't take long before boats were dropping out left and right, and by the time Day 3 was in the books, only four boats remained — all of them hailing from the 19-boat Singlehanded division, split between two classes.

Bob Johnston
Okay, so maybe the ambient conditions were a little different in this photo, but here's Bob Johnston at the finish of the '08 Singlehanded TransPac. Photo Latitude / JR
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

But there was one boat that set the pace, blazing out to the race's virtual destination — 126° 40'W — way faster than anyone else: Bob Johnston's J/92 Ragtime!. According to Johnston, it was no accident. "Before the race, the only place there was going to be any breeze was right on coast," he said. "The whole Gulf of the Farallones was going to be dead."

With the bulk of the fleet headed toward Drake's Bay, Johnston decided that strategy just wasn't going to work. "Around dinner time, it got a point of diminishing returns," Johnston — a two-time Singlehanded TransPac veteran — said. "We had a seminar with Stan Honey where he did his typical TransPac talk about the 'slot cars', and we asked him to address the LongPac weather also. He stressed the importance of the synoptic winds and getting far enough out to get to the night breeze, and how if you're still on the coast it will shut down. That was rumbling around in my mind. I decided I was going to stay up and work the boat off the coast. I spent Wednesday night on the low side and managed to keep the sails full and got in a few naps. I woke up at 5 or 5:30 a.m. on Thursday, and the breeze was in the low-teens, so I tucked in a reef and changed from the 155% genoa — which I'd almost left in my stoarge shed — to the 125% jib top. An hour later the breeze was in the low 20s and I had tucked in another reef."

Ragtime! Sailing San francisco Bay LongPac Long Pac
Ragtime!'s jib top, seen here through the fore hatch, was Johnston's workhorse sail. Photo Courtesy Ragtime!
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

From there things only got crazier, with waves that some reported to be in the 12- to 15-ft range and building breeze, Johnston lost his SSB antenna off the backstay, and because he was already so far ahead of everyone else, he couldn't establish VHF contact with anyone. "The wave pattern was weird," Johnston said. "The waves were topped with wind waves, but they weren't from a consistent direction. The boat was getting slapped around 35 or 40°. It's not quite a ULDB, but it's not heavy enough to resist the slapping, which made it hard to do anything. I'd just installed a lot of grabrails below and I'm glad I did!"

Still, Johnston said he never really thought about throwing in the towel. "I'd never done the LongPac as a race before and I wanted to see it through," he said. "But I can see where someone would drop out. Psychologically it was hard because there was such a dramatic change in conditions, and the light boats like the Express 27s got hammered."

After touching 126° 40'W, Bob jammed for the barn with his jib top still up, sure that a big hole awaited him at the Farallones. Instead he was greeted by breeze in the low-teens and a perfect angle for "Pete's Mongo Runner," a max-area 1,018-sq.-ft running kite that he carried all the way to the finish, despite having to harden way up at one point, when a fully-crewed boat with right-of-way in the OYRA's Junior Waterhouse somehow decided that it couldn't let the bedraggled solo sailor just play through [editors note: we know who you are]. Johnston crossed the line just before 11 a.m. on Saturday to take the elapsed and corrected-time honors.

Tom Watson's Pearson Triton Darwind gets GPS confirmation of making the meridian. Photo Courtesy Darwind
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Johnston was followed by David Morris' Wylie 31 Moonshadow, which finished just minutes before midnight on Saturday, and had been the only remaining boat to take a more direct course to the meridian like Johnston. The other two, Tom Watson's Pearson Triton Darwind and Randy Leasure's Westsail 32 Tortuga, sailed a more southerly route, with Darwind finishing on Sunday afternoon and Tortuga finishing at 4:30 Monday morning. The final corrected-time order followed the finishing order, with Ragtime! taking Class 1 and Moonshadow pulling down the Class 2 honors. We'll have the other three boats' stories, as well as those of some who didn't make it, in the August issue of Latitude 38 magazine, which will be out by the time the rescheduled trophy presentation — it coincides with the Half Moon Bay Race Skippers' Meeting on August 3 at 7:30 p.m. at the Oakland YC — rolls around. And if you go, don't be surprised if it's an unusual sight: Gordie Nash told us there's a movement afoot to get Johnston a cape to wear in recognition of his superhero-like effort.

The LongPac wasn't the only thing going on last weekend. As mentioned already, the OYRA's Junior Waterhouse hosted by Richmond YC went off on Saturday. Although the fleet was light at just 17 boats in five divisions, the corrected time deltas were pretty close for the OYRA's Fall Series Opener. PHRO1A, PHRO1 and PHRO 2 sailed a different course from PHRO 3 and SHS (Shorthanded) divisions, with the first three sailing a 42.7-mile Course 3 to the Lightship, South Approach Buoy and Center Channel Buoy and home. PHRO 3 and SHS sailed the 31.6-mile Course 2 to the Center Channel and Bonita Buoys before coming back in. OYRA President Andy Newell's Santana 35 Ahi caimed the overall and PHRO 3 corrected-time honors, with elapsed-time honors going to Buzz Blackett's PHRO 1A-winnning Antrim Class 40 California Condor at 6h, 7m, 50s. John Liebenberg's always-successful Antrim 27 Always Friday took home the PHRO 1 honors while PHRO 2 went to Richard vonEhrenkrook and Paul Sutchek in the former's giant-slaying Cal 20 Can O' Whoopass. The Shorthanded Fleet went to Sean Mulvihill's J/120 Jamani. Complete results are up at the link above.

Rocket 88 Catamaran Sailing San Francisco Bay
Brendan Busch, Ian Klitza and Pepe Parsons put Rocket 88 through her paces on the way to the multihull win in the Island YC's Silver Eagle Race. © 2018 Erik Simonson /

The Island YC hosted its annual Silver Eagle on Saturday which drew an unusually light 14-boat fleet for the 49.5-mile in-the-bay race. Brendan Busch and Ian Klitza sailed the former's D-Class Catamaran Rocket 88 to a win in the six-boat multihull division, while Peter Cook's Ultimate 24 For Pete's Sake was the top sportboat and Jon Rolen's Catalina 320 Phoenix took PHRF >120 by default, yet posted the fastest overall corrected time.

- latitude / rg

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