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French Sailing Legend Florence Arthaud Is Dead

March 11, 2015 – Rioja, Argentina


(Click on the photo to enlarge it.)

A young Florence as she stunned the sailing world by beating French sailing legends in the 1990 Route de Rhum. 

© 2017

Fifty-seven year old Florence Arthaud, once the most famous sports figure in France, and the one in whose wake all female ocean racers must sail, was one of 10 people killed when two helicopters collided in Argentina on March 9. All were part of the French survival show Dropped. In 1974, at age 17, the daughter of a French publishing family was in a coma and partially paralyzed after a serious auto accident. It was two years before Florence fully recovered, but when she did, she made the first of her many transatlantic crossings.


Florence as she should always be remembered: a small woman who thrived on big boats, big oceans and big challenges. 

© 2017

The diminutive Arthaud reached the apex of her sailing career in 1990. First she beat many of the all-time French sailing legends with the VLVP-design 60-ft trimaran Pierre 1er in the ultra competitive, 3,500-mile, singlehanded Route du Rhum Race from Brittany to Guadeloupe. It was not an easy race for her, as both her radio and autopilot went out. It was also reported that she suffered a hernia, but friends tell us she actually had a miscarriage in the middle of the Atlantic. Later that year she used Pierre 1er to establish a brilliant new singlehanded transatlantic record, thus becoming the inspiration for every female sailing great from Isabelle Autissier to Ellen MacArthur. (Pierre 1er was later bought by Steve Fossett, who named her Lakota and used her to set many other sailing records.)

West Coast sailors got to see Arthaud in 1997 when she crewed for Bruno Peyron in setting a new Los Angeles-to-Hawaii Transpac elapsed-time record with the 86-ft maxi cat Commodore Explorer.

While in her 40s, Arthaud tried to raise money to buy Olivier de Kersauson’s maxi trimaran Sport-Elec for an attempt at the around-the-world record. Alas, the fact that she partied every bit as hard as she raced worked against her. “Florence was someone extraordinary on the water, but uncontrollable on land, and that worked against her,” said Isabelle Autissier, her great protegé. “She ate. She drank. She smoked at a moment when the byword was ‘no limit’. That worked against her getting sponsorships.”

“If you’re not living to the limit,” Arthaud was famous for saying, “you’re just taking up space.”

Nonetheless, Arthaud was highly respected by fellow sailors, and she continued to sail competitively across oceans into her 40s and 50s. In 2004, for example, she did the Doublehanded Lorient to St. Barth race with Lionel Pean; in 2006 she did the Odyssey Cannes-Istanbul with our good friend Luc Poupon; and also did the Transat Jacques Vabre with Luc the following year.

In 2010, at age 52, she hoped to celebrate the 20th anniversary of her Route du Rhum triumph by singlehanding the 100-ft catamaran Oman. She was disgusted when sponsors gave the boat to a man to race. “Well I quit!” Florence responded.

It was unexpected that such an unrelenting sailor as Arthaud would die in a flying accident, as she’d had brushes with death on the water. For example, she flipped Pierre 1er when racing across the Atlantic. “I bent over to light a cigarette,” she once told Latitude, “and the next thing I knew we were upside down.” In October 2011 she fell overboard from her boat near Corsica. But she had a headlamp and waterproof cell phone with GPS, and managed to call her mother, who alerted authorities. Much to her surprise, she was rescued hours later, suffering only from hypothermia.

Arthaud is the godmother of the late La Gamelle restaurant in St. Barth, the namesake for our Olson 30 La Gamelle, having broken the champagne bottle to celebrate its opening. Her name is also immortalized in Arthaud Reef, a group of barely submerged rocks just off St. Barth’s Le Toiny that she once hit with Pierre 1er. “I’ve lived the life of a free spirit and adventurer,” Arthaud told Le Monde in 2009. Truer words were never spoken.

- latitude / richard

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A Float Plan Can Save Your Life

March 11, 2015 – World of Sailing

Coast Guard search-and-rescue (SAR) personnel have told us they're always elated when they're able to bring stranded or injured mariners home safely. But that elation is offset by all the times that mariners in peril are never found, despite exhaustive efforts by SAR personnel. 


When mariners find themselves in trouble, Coast Guard personnel don't hesitate to come to their rescue. But it helps if they have some clues — like a pre-filed float plan — about your route or location.

© 2017 PA3 Adam Eggers / USCG

Late last month when a Southern California sailor was reported long overdue, multiple Coast Guard air and surface assets were deployed to find him. But after a search of 15,744 square miles of ocean over several days — from Catalina to south of San Quintin, Mexico — the effort was reluctantly called off.

For professional SAR personnel, there is never any joy in throwing in the towel, especially because they know the outcome could have been different if a few simple steps had been taken. As OSCS Doug Samp of the Alameda Rescue Coordination Center reminds us, "The Coast Guard highly recommends that all mariners file a float plan with a responsible person ashore for every voyage, and notify that person when their plan changes. Although not required by law, mariners are encouraged to carry an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) and a properly configured VHF-DSC radio that will assist the searchers to narrow the search area, thus providing a quicker response if you ever find yourself in trouble." 

To confident offshore sailors, giving a float plan to a responsible friend before setting sail may seem to be unnecessarily cautious. But if you ever find yourself in peril with no way to communicate, you'll be really glad you took the time to jot down your intended route and schedule. And EPIRBs? When offshore emergencies arise, they are worth their weight in gold.

- latitude / andy

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Crew List Party Tonight

March 11, 2015 – Golden Gate YC, San Francisco

Tonight's the night! Whether your goal is to race to Hawaii or race around the cans on San Francisco Bay, sail off into the sunset or simply to Angel Island, Latitude 38's Spring Crew List Party is for you. For an amazing 32 years, Latitude Crew Parties have offered neutral ground for skippers and crew of various interests to find each other and get acquainted.

bar at GGYC

Chatting with fellow sailors is the primary activity at the Crew List Party.


Photo Latitude / LaDonna
© 2017 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The party tonight, March 11, will be hosted by Golden Gate YC on the Marina in San Francisco from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. The price of admission is $5 for ages 25 and under, or $7 for everyone else (cash only). Included are munchies, name tags, door prizes, a slideshow, and the 'popping' of a liferaft from Sal's Inflatable Services right in the middle of the party. Volunteers from SailSFBay.org will be on hand to help seekers figure out how to connect to sailing in the Bay Area.

Liferaft demo / party-goers

Left: Sal's liferaft demo is always a crowd-pleaser. Right: Color-coded name tags help identify interests.


Photo Latitude / LaDonna
© 2017 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Bring cash for the door, cash or plastic for the bar, a smile and an open attitude. Also consider bringing business/personal/boat cards, a sailing résumé if you have prior experience, or pictures and/or a spec sheet of your boat if you're a skipper. Creative approaches to getting noticed are encouraged!

If you can't make the party, or even if you can, be sure to sign up on and check out our online Crew Lists. They're free and simple. See www.latitude38.com/crewlist/Crew.html.

- latitude / chris

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Weekend Racing Wrap-Up

March 11, 2015 – San Francisco Bay Area

Cal 20s wing on wing

The Cal 20s had their own division at Big Daddy. Pictured are Howard Martin's Recluse (left) and David Gardner's Coyote.

© 2017 / www.norcalsailing.com

An inclusive Big Daddy Regatta was hosted by Richmond Yacht Club over the weekend. Small boats like Cal 20s and Santana 22s were included on Saturday, and, carrying on a tradition practiced by the late Bob 'Big Daddy' Klein, many skippers invited kids aboard for the pursuit race on Sunday. After a drifting (mostly in the wrong direction) start on Sunday, a 20-knot westerly blasted through the Slot, making for an interesting pursuit race. We'll have much more, including results, in the April issue of Latitude 38.

SC27 sails past powerboat on fire

Near Belvedere on Sunday, the Big Daddy racers pursuing each other around Angel Island sailed past this 43-ft motoryacht on fire and the responding emergency vessels. The seven people aboard were rescued by two fishermen in a RIB. The smoke followed the race fleet down Raccoon Strait.

Photo Latitude / Chris
© 2017 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Golden Gate YC's Seaweed Soup midwinter series ended on Saturday. After a windless morning, the westerly piped up to 18 knots, and racers flying big genoas coped. Repeating their wins from 2010 and 2013, Gordie Nash and crew on the remodeled Santana 27 Arcadia captured the Seaweed Soup Perpetual Trophy for best performance in the regatta.

Dinghy fleet with big boats approaching

The big boats sailing with GGYC intersected with the dinghies sailing with StFYC west of Alcatraz on Saturday. The big boats were on a tight headstay reach, trying to slip past Alcatraz without dousing on the way to Blossom Rock.

© 2017 Erik Simonson / www.pressure-drop.us

Though racing was postponed on both days of St. Francis YC's Spring Dinghy Regatta, Saturday’s breeze filled in and Sunday served up some seriously exciting conditions, with puffs in the 20s recorded.

hiking out on a trapeze on a C420 on the Central Bay

Maria Casciani's crew hikes hard in the strong breeze on the C420 in StFYC's Spring Dinghy Regatta.

© 2017 Chris Ray / www.printroom.com/pro/crayivp

Although spring made an early appearance in the Slot over the weekend, it was still 'winter' on the South Bay. Sequoia YC's last Redwood Cup race of the season was sailed on Saturday, with flat water, blue skies, and t-shirt conditions. "The breeze was a bit light for the 'uphill both ways' tide conditions," said race director Andrew Rist.

Slo mo sailing with the red Open 5.70 and a Merit 25

Slo-mo Redwood Cup, with Charlie Watt's as-yet-unnamed Open 6.50 and one of the Spinnaker Sailing Merit 25s.

© 2017 Tim Petersen

Coyote Point YC's regatta on Saturday was the John Pitcher Memorial. "After over an hour of flat, glassy calm, the first boat retired from the race, and one by one the fleet started up motors and headed for port," reports Mark Bettis from the J/29 Smokin' J. Tom Fedyna's Santana 525 Smooth was the only boat still in the race when the wind appeared from the northwest.

Cheers from the 3 guys on Run & Reach

Despite the lack of wind or actual racing — running or reaching — at CPYC's John Pitcher, Saturday wasn't looking like such a bad day aboard the Peterson 32 Run & Reach.

© 2017 Tom Fedyna

Vallejo YC racers also remained in the grip of winter on Saturday, with temperatures in the high 60s and a light breeze.


In Vallejo's Mare Island Strait, Mary Kraybill works the bow as skipper Gary Cicerello navigates his Cal 2-27 Ringer into position pre-start ahead of Frank Gonzalez-Mena on the Olson 25 Citlali.

© 2017 Martha Blanchfield / www.renegadesailing.com

Island YC's Island Days midwinter series wrapped up on Sunday with a "fantastic light-air romp on the Estuary, after a half hour delay," said David Ross of the Merit 25 Faster Faster! "T-shirts and shorts were the uniform of the day."

Light-air pre-start on the Estuary

"Check out this gorgeous start for IYC's midwinter," wrote Sailor Cherry, who took the photo. "All those reflections — very beautiful and Monet-esque."

Photo Courtesy Hooked
© 2017 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

We'll have results and more from most of the above races in April's Racing Sheet.

The Sailing Instructions for the Doublehanded Farallones Race have been posted and registration is open at www.sfbama.org. Key dates to note are:

  • Saturday, March 21, midnight: Entry fee increases.
  • Wednesday, March 25, 7:00 p.m.: Skippers' meeting at OYC and final entry deadline. All skippers are requested to attend and bring their handheld VHF radios for the DSC demo.
  • Saturday, March 28, 7:55 a.m.: First warning for the race at GGYC.
  • Wednesday, April 29, 7:00 p.m.: Trophy presentation at OYC.

- latitude / chris

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