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Post-Cyclone Relief Arrives; Sailors Among Dead

March 18, 2015 – Vanuatu

(Click on the photo to enlarge it.)

Vanuatu is not an ideal place to weather the cyclone season, but by choice or necessity some boats winter over there. Reports indicate that roughly 20 of them were driven ashore by Cyclone Pam's massive tidal surge.

© 2018 UNICEF Pacific

Given the reports of sustained winds higher than 150 mph with a 25-ft tidal surge, you might assume the death toll from Friday night's Category 5 Cyclone Pam would be staggering. But thanks to early warnings that led Vanuatu islanders to seek shelter in the strongest buildings available, the official United Nations' death count currently remains at only 11 — although that tally will surely rise. Among the dead are at least four (as yet unidentified) sailors whose bodies were found floating in the harbor of Port Vila, the island nation's capital, according to Guardian Australia. Reports indicate that some visiting yachts may have survived the storm on Port Vila's so-called cyclone-proof moorings, but as many as 20 broke loose and piled up ashore against port infrastructure.  

Although aid workers and relief shipments have been pouring into Port Vila since the weekend, the entire country remains in crisis. The latest reports from sources on the ground there indicate that 90% of Port Vila homes have been destroyed, and as yet there has been no contact with some of the outer islands of the archipelago which are accessible only by boat, other than flyovers by aircraft that revealed destruction of crops and buildings, with islanders signaling for help. Electricity and communications infrastructure are still out throughout the country. Yesterday a BBC correspondent reported that some desperate islanders have resorted to drinking seawater to survive. With most food crops wiped out, livestock killed, and fishing fleets destroyed, experts say it will be months before the normally self-sufficient islanders can produce enough food to feed themselves. 

Outside the capital, most Vanuatu islanders normally live a self-sufficient lifestyle. But thanks to Pam, thousands have lost everything. Even fresh water is scarce. 

© 2018 UNICEF Pacific

The latest reports indicate that volunteers from various international aid organizations are now distributing drastically needed food and water to residents of Efate Island, where Port Vila is located, and home to roughly 20% of the republic's total population of 266,000. The island of Tanna, which lies 105 miles south of Efate, is said to have been the hardest hit, as the heart of the massive storm rolled right over the top of it. Aid for its 29,000 people is just starting to arrive there. 

Although Vanuatu is considered to be among the world's poorest nations, with a GDP only a quarter of Fiji's, it has long been a favorite of cruising sailors, who appreciate its unspoiled waters, intact cultural traditions and minimal development. Bay Area-based cruisers Jim and Kim Coggan spent the past two seasons there (although their Schumacher 40 Auspice is now in Australia). "The people are friendly, generous, industrious and self sufficient," writes Jim. "Their most immediate needs are food, clean water, health care and medicines. The Ni-Vanuatuans, especially those on the remote islands, feed themselves with their highly productive gardens, tropical fruit trees, seafood gathered from the reefs, and fishing. All these resources have been largely destroyed, with the possible exception of their root crops. Their gardens will be replanted as soon as seed is available. But it will be many months before these plants begin to produce. The tropical fruit trees, which have been mostly blown down, will take years to become re-established. Meanwhile the reefs have been severely damaged, and the ability to get out on the water to fish will be extremely limited. To hew out a new dugout canoe takes a month or so.

Map of the South Pacific islands

Pam roared almost due south through the archipelago, passing just to the east of Efate, and directly over Tanna, a popular cruiser stop due to its active volcano.

© 2018 CIA Factbook

"Transportation of goods to the outer Islands will be extremely limited. It is unknown if any of the inter-island transport boats are operational, or even afloat. Any cruiser in the region should load up on bulk items of food, milk powder, medicines, seeds, clothing, soaps, flip-flops; as much as your boat can safely carry. Be prepared to help with the repair of outboard motors, generators, refrigeration and solar systems. If a jerry can of petrol can be safely carried, it will likely be the first seen in any village you can get to in many weeks. And don't expect to find any of this stuff in Pt. Vila or Luganville.

"For those of us in more distant locations, consider making monetary donations. During our time in Vanuatu, we became acquainted with New Zealanders Lynn Chua and David Colbert, who have operated the Butterfly Trust, strictly nonprofit, for several years. These people are the real deal, and completely trustworthy. Their efforts are directed to the remote areas, assisting in health care infrastructure, and facilitating training programs for the locals. We will donate generously." (Contact Butterfly Trust via their main website, their donation site or email here.) Other agencies known to be currently distributing aid on site are CARE Australia, UNICEF, OXFAM Australia and Save the Children

An undeniable indication that Vanuatu islanders live a simple life, wedded to age-old customs, is that on Pentecost Island they still practice this ancient vine-jumping ritual — said to have been the inspiration for bungee-jumping.

© 2018 Kurt & Katie Braun

- latitude / andy

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Classy Deadline the 15th

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Puerto Vallarta Pounded by Rain

March 18, 2015 – Puerto Vallarta, Mexco

Abnormally heavy rainfall pounded the Puerto Vallarta area a couple of days ago, leading to the closure of a key highway bridge, Puente Ameca, that spans the Ameca River, and separates the popular cruiser and expat destination of Nuevo Vallarta from Puerto Vallarta itself, where most yachting infrastructure and the international airport is located.

Yelapa Bay is mud

Normally pristine Yelapa Bay, located south of PV, became chocolate brown due to muddy runoff from the nearby Tuito River. Incredible. The photographer, Gael Simon, did the 2012 and 2013 Baja Ha-Ha's on the X-40 Gravlax.

© 2018 Gael Simon

By mutual decision of officials on both sides of the river, Puente Ameca, was closed as of yesterday. A newer bridge which spans the flooded river remains open, but traffic has reportedly been a nightmare, so at least one privately owned boat volunteered to shuttle people between Nuevo Vallarta and downtown Puerto Vallarta. For more photos of the storm's aftermath, see

- latitude / chris

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March 18, 2015 – USA

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Weekend Racing Wrap-Up

March 18, 2015 – California

Spring One Design spinnakers at the bridge

We're glad to see some J/105 fleet members getting more colorful spinnakers these days.

© 2018 Chris Ray /

On Saturday at St. Francis Yacht Club's Spring One Design regatta, it seemed everyone was there on the Cityfront — 80 boats, 300 sailors, eight fleets — everyone but the wind. A string of postponements ended with no racing. But with Sunday's 7-15-knot breeze, the racers were able to get in four races after all.

Crew waves from Primordial Sloop

Greetings from the (leeward) rail of the Express 37 Primordial Sloop in SeqYC's Winter Series #5/St. Patrick's Day Race.

© 2018 Tim Petersen

Sequoia YC ran their fifth and final race in the Winter Series, which is also the St. Patrick's Day Race, on Saturday. "The first place prize of a bottle of Irish whiskey is up for grabs to the winner of this individual regatta," said the club's Tim Petersen. The Spinnaker whiskey went to Open 5.70 skipper Charlie Watt and the Non-Spinnaker to Rick Dalton of the Hunter 380 Iowa

girls in tutus on Meliki

If you want to get your picture in Latitude, wearing tutus while racing is not a bad way to do it. This is the Santana 22 Meliki (now pronounced me-LIKE-ee) at EYC's Jack Frost midwinters.

© 2018 Margaret Fago

Also on Saturday, "It was T-shirts, shorts and tutu weather for the final Encinal YC Jack Frost series races," writes EYC volunteer Margaret Fago. A postponement until noon was followed by two short races in a 5-ish-knot breeze west of the Berkeley Pier. 

Express 34 Traveler

Suzanne Lee and David Ross won their doublehanded division on the Express 34 Traveler in OYC's Rites of Spring.

© 2018 Erik Simonson /

Starting north of the Jack Frost on the Berkeley Circle, Oakland YC's Rites of Spring for doublehanded and singlehanded sailors also endured a postponement due to Saturday's excessive pleasantness, but patience paid off, as about three-quarters of the starters were able to finish. The offer of a women's full crew division and a women's singlehanded division had no takers this year, but Alerion 28s, Catalina 34s, multihulls, and 'Fat 30s' all had their own classes. We'll have more on the above races in the April issue of Latitude 38.

The Port of Los Angeles Harbor Cup was sailed in delightful SoCal weather on Friday-Sunday in Catalina 37s. For the fifth time in a row, Vallejo's Cal Maritime Academy Keelhaulers topped the fleet of ten college teams, a nice parting gift for director of sailing Charlie Arms, who will retire from Cal Maritime next month. The College of Charleston Cougars kept the pressure on, finishing three points back after 15 races. Coming in third were the U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen. See for complete results and a summary.

After a 67-hour delay to avoid Cyclone Pam, Dongfeng Race Team led the way out of Waitemata Harbour in very light air as the six VO 65s departed Auckland, New Zealand, on Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race. MAPFRE has since pulled ahead. The fleet's next stop is Itajaí in southeastern Brazil, but first they must tackle Cape Horn.

- latitude / chris

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Bucket Tips Off Tomorrow

March 18, 2015 – St. Barth, French West Indies

Friday will be the start of the three-race 19th St. Barth Bucket, which is for megayachts about 100 feet and longer, and is arguably the the most magnificent spectacle in big-boat fun racing. There are 36 entries this year, the largest of them being the 192-ft Perini Navi ketch Seahawk. (Not only is she the longest, she’s the only one with brilliant red standing rigging.)

The 35-boat fleet has great variety. There are two ancient schooners: the 85-year-old 108-ft topsail schooner Altair and the 112-year-old 184-ft Adela. There are six multistory Perini Navis, which are all about spacious luxury. And there are modern rocketships such as Hasso Plattner’s R/P 147-ft Visione. As such, the boats are divided into four divisions.

Even though almost all major boat functions are powered on most of the boats in the fleet, the boats still require large crews. For example, the last time the spectacular 180-ft Herreshoff schooner Elena of London competed, she had a crew of 64. Small wonder every room on the tiny island in the French West Indies is spoken for and the streets are clogged with an unprecedented amount of traffic.

One reason boats need big crews is the size of the chutes, which have to be semi-manhandled if something goes wrong with the socks. How big are the chutes? We’re told that one of the yachts that hoped to be sailing this year — until the build schedule fell a year behind — will have a spinnaker "roughly an acre in size." It will weigh 2,400 pounds.

You don’t find crew for the skill positions for these huge boats just anywhere, so owners fly in the best sailors in the world from all parts of the globe, and it becomes like old home week for many of the legends and lesser-known but tremendously skilled sailors of the world. Owners of the bigger boats might spend $200,000 on the three-race event. And at least one owner hasn’t raced on his boat in 10 years.

The weather for the Friday, Saturday and Sunday races is looking a little on the light side, 11-16 knots, for boats that displace as much as 550 metric tons. If the racing won’t be quite as exciting as normal, the three-day air show in support of it will help make up for it. Nine World War II-era airplanes, including perhaps the very last Japanese Zero, have come all the way from Texas to give everyone a thrill.

Because of the threat of two or more boats worth tens of millions of dollars colliding, special rules have been implemented to keep the behemoths at a safe distance. And there is a 'win the party' credo. But as the owners of these boats aren’t accustomed to coming in second in anything, the racing can still be quite competitive.

View the complete entry list here.

Complete entry list (for the convenience of our American readers, we've converted the Length Overall [LOA] from meters to feet):

Les GAZELLES des Mers (8 yachts)
Visione, R/P 148 LOA
Win Win, Baltic 109
Better Place, Wally 151.5
Ganesha, Dubois 137.7
Ghost, Luca Brenta 122.8
Inoui, Briand 110
P2, Perini Briand 114
Rainbow, Dykstra 132

Les ELEGANTES des Mers (8 yachts)
Lady B, Dubois 147.5
Elfje, Royal Huisman Hoek ketch 153
Rebecca, Frers ketch 140
Marie, Hoek ketch 180
Moonbird, Dubois 122.8
Adela, Dykstra schooner 142
Bella Ragazza, Dubois 142
Koo, Dubois 142

Les MADEMOISELLES des Mers (10 yachts)
Windfall, R/P 94.4
Varsovie, Swan 100.6
Freya, Swan 91.4
Cape Arrow, Farr-Nauta 99.7
Sunleigh, Jongert 109
Lush, Oyster 86
Drumfire, Hoek 79
Wavelength, Holland 89.8
Bequia, Stephens yawl 91.4
Altair, S&S schooner 96.4

Les GRANDES DAMES des Mers (9 yachts)
Elena of London, Herreshoff schooner 137
Axia, S&S ketch 124
Seahawk, Perini Navi Holland ketch 193.4
Parsifal III, Perini Navi Holland ketch 177.5
Meteor, Royal Huisman Dykstra schooner 150.8
Zenji, Perini Navi Holland ketch 184.8
Rosehearty, Perini Navi Holland ketch 148.5
Thalia, Holland ketch 160
State of Grace, Perini Navi Holland 132

- latitude / richard

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