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La Racing Vie En Rose

April 21, 2014 – St. Barth, French West Indies

(Click on the photo to enlarge it.)

"Look ma, surfing at 22 knots without a spinnaker!" Photo Latitude / Richard
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The photo above, of a Santa Cruz 70 surfing a wave in 25 knots of wind, looks like a typical finish of a Transpac — except for a couple of things. First, that's Toc Vert in the background, not Diamond Head; the Santa Cruz 70 isn't carrying a chute; and the Transpac was last year. The photo is actually of Steve Schmidt's Hotel California, Too, racing on the final day of last week's four-race Voiles de St. Barth. 

The former Northern Californian is the only one to have ever had a 'cruising' version of an SC70 built. Think a 15-foot shorter mast, an entirely different deck layout, a washer/dryer on the back porch, and four scuba tanks aft. Make that three tanks now, as mid-race one was launched across the back porch, had its head knocked off near the propane tank, and jumped into the water spewing air. Flying just a full Dacron main and Dacron 135 reacher, Hotel California, Too hit 22 knots, the short-rigged boat's all-time best speed. Santa Cruz 70s don't rate well in the Caribbean, particularly in the light air that was prevalent in the first two races. It blew in the mid-20s for the last two races. In fact, the third race was postponed because there was so much wind that one of the seven Melges 24s hit 21 knots without even trying. Hotel liked the breeze, easily correcting out first in the last race to take second in class behind a much better-rated boat.

Bella Monte
The beautiful Bella Mente, at the head of her class in style and points, would lose her rig on the starting line of the third race. Photo Latitude / DDM
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The fifth edition of the Voiles de St. Barth was perhaps the best ever, with a near-capacity fleet of 68 boats, including eight maxis. The most stunning-looking was Hap Fauth's rocket-fast JV 72 Bella Mente from Minneapolis, which had carbon black sails and fluorescent green and orange racing stripes. Her crew was decked out in lemon-yellow shirts for the first race. Wild. Alas, she dismasted at the starting line of the third race. 

The Gunboat 62 Elvis nearly "left the building" for the sky, and later nearly flipped due to a mainsheet mishap. Photo Latitude / Richard
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

There was a strong but diverse multihull class, with San Franciscan Peter Aschenbrenner's Irens 63 trimaran Paradox finishing first each day, but unable to correct out. The fastest 'cruising' multihull was Scott Bradford's Gunboat 62 Elvis, which hit 28 knots off the wind. Her captain also reported that she nearly flipped when there were mainsheet problems rounding a mark. "We were standing on the near-vertical saloon windows, and I was sure she was going over." But she didn't. No Gunboat has flipped yet. The class was won by an unnamed SeaCart 26 trimaran. Brave fellows those.

We don't know which of his many yacht clubs Jim Madden was sailing for, but his J/125 and crew excelled in the heavy air of the last two races to emerge victorious. Photo Latitude / Richard
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

A class winner with West Coast ties was serial boat owner/racer Jim Madden with the J/125 Stark Raving Mad IV. A member of the San Diego YC, the Newport Harbor YC, and the New York YC, among others, Madden came on strong with bullets in the last two heavy-air races to nip Lazy Dog, a Melges 32 sailed by a fine crew from the Caribbean.

Nikki Beach
All racing and no partying make for a dull man and woman, so on the lay day many of the boat owners treated their crew at Nikki Beach. Photo Latitude / DDM
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

It's hardcore racing at the Voiles, and hardcore partying, too. The big Wednesday night crew party on Shell Beach was followed by the big lay day shindig at Nikki Beach. Boat owner credit cards were punished by piles of sashimi and countless bottles of rosé and Champagne. Yes, there was lots of dancing on tables. The one injury was to a crew from the Swan 100 Varsovie, captained by Patrick Adam of Mill Valley. One of his Swedish sailors had a finger bent all the way back. Dr. Fritz Bus, one of the best small-boat sailors in the Caribbean, declared there was no permanent damage to the finger. Nor was there any permanent damage to Bus' Melges 24, Team Island Water World, which was dismasted for the second time in three years of Voile-ing. "I'll be back," he vowed, as did most of the winners.

The Crocs
"And here, in the French West Indies, live from San Francisco . . . " Alex, center, and The Crocs rocked the Friday night quay crowd. Photo Latitude / Richard
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

When it came to nighttime entertainment on the quay, Voiles organizers even imported The Crocs from the Bay Area. The group's leader, Alex, is such a good friend that we don't even know his last name. Alex first visited the island a few years ago and last year married Tin-Tin from Paris. 

The Hotel California, Too crew, on the podium, celebrate overcoming their nasty handicap to take second in class. Photo Latitude / Richard
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

There are a lot of fun regattas in the Caribbean and throughout the world. But when it comes to the best mix of competitive sailing and world-class partying, we don't believe the Voiles can be topped. The good news for half-decent sailors is that a lot of the boats, particularly in non-spinnaker divisions, are looking for crew. That's right, if you were a half-decent sailor, you almost certainly could have been aboard Hotel California, Too for her 22 knots under Dacron.

- latitude / richard

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Weekend Racing Wrap-Up

April 21, 2014 – San Francisco Bay

It was an exciting weekend of racing on the Bay. Conditions were remarkable for the OYRA's crewed Lightship race, which was followed by the Clipper Round the World's start of the PSP Logistics Panama 100 Cup, or Race 11. 

Fifty-four boats raced out to the Lightship on Saturday April 21 in five divisions that included a doublehanded division and a multihull division. It was a tight 24-boat PHRF 1 division though. "Our (corrected) win of only about five minutes ahead of (the significantly larger) Tai Kuai was marginal," says Trig Liljestrand, who owns the J/90 Ragtime. "We were lucky to get the increasing wind of about 20 knots at the end of our race (Tai Kuai had already finished), which made it possible to maintain a steady speed of 15 – 18 knots with our largest spinnaker, compared with 9 – 10 knots during the first half of the run back to the finish."

The increased wind conditions at the Gate proved a bit challenging for some on the way to the finish, but thankfully only two competitors received DNFs. Get the complete results here.

One DLL (background) and Old Poultney beginning the PSP Logistics Panama 100 Cup as a part of the Clipper Round the World Race. © 2018 Abner Kingman

Just as the Lightship racers were finishing in stout Bay breeze, the Clipper Round the World Race boats were getting set up to begin their race to Panama off Golden Gate YC.

It was a remarkable sight to see the twelve identical boats with their mains already reefed and some considering further sail reductions before the race even began. But just as they did two years ago, the Clippers headed out the Gate in breeze that should get them well along on their way on the 3,350-mile nonstop trip to Panama.

You can track the competitors' race standings directly online.

- latitude / ross

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Mid-Pacific Puddle Jump Report

April 21, 2014 – South Pacific Ocean

When we meet soon-to-be South Pacific voyagers here on the West Coast, one of their big concerns is always heavy weather. But when we catch up with them several months later in Tahiti they often complain of not having had enough wind.

That's not to say that heavy wind is an impossibility, but during the 20 years we've been reporting on the Pacific Puddle Jump (West Coast of the Americas to French Polynesia) most vessels have rarely reported winds over 30 knots except in some cases when crossing the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), or doldrums, a constantly changing band of often-unsettled weather near the equator. 

The following recent report from three-time Puddle Jumper Paul Moore of the San Francisco-based Ohlson 38 Romany Star is typical. He and first-time passagemaker Bonnie Wagner should be making landfall soon in French Polynesia's Gambier Archipelago.

Paul and Bonnie met in San Diego and are now breezing west to the remote Gambier Archipelago of French Polynesia. Photo Latitude / Andy
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"The Romany Star will cross the equator in the next couple hours. Proper respect will be paid to Neptune, and the new shellback aboard (Bonnie, formerly a 'pollywog') will be welcomed to the club of offshore sailors that have ventured across oceans.

"The passage so far has been uneventful. There were a couple light days at the start, and the past three days have been a mix of sailing 2 to 3 knots, and motoring. Other than the light air, the ITCZ was an area of a few small squalls about 50 miles wide. The northern trade-wind sailing was glorious, with 15-20 for days.

As you can see by Romany Star's track, recorded at, she crossed from Hawaii before returning to Mexico last fall. Red circles indicate the location of the Marquesas - where most Puddle Jumpers make landfall  and the Gambiers, farther south. © 2018 pangolin

"Since we are bound for the Gambiers, we are only about half way. The crew is well rested and happy, the boat is fine. We look forward to days in a tropical anchorage, and time with cruising friends."

If you're curious about how long Puddle Jump passages typically take, and what sort of conditions are seen, check out the archive of PPJ Recap articles on the rally's website. Each Recap includes a fascinating table that shows boat type, the number of days it took to cross, highest wind seen, longitude chosen to cross the ITCZ, and what broke.

The bulk of the 243 PPJ boats registered this year have now departed from various ports along the West Coast, and many have made landfall in the Marquesas or Gambiers. We hope to catch up with many of them and hear about their crossings at the annual Tahiti-Moorea Sailing Rendezvous, July 4-6. Look for our reports here and in the pages of Latitude 38 magazine. 

In addition to celebrating the fleet's safe arrival, the annual Rendezvous showcases traditional Polynesian music, dance, sport and cuisine. Photo Latitude / Andy
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

- latitude / andy

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