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Chuan's NE Passage Triumph Is Bittersweet

September 16, 2015 – The Bering Sea

(Click on the photo to enlarge it.)

Guo Chuan (second from right) and his international crew were thrilled to cross the 3,200-mile Northeast Passage nonstop and unscathed, thus setting a new benchmark time.

Photo Courtesy GuoChuanSailing
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Although there was no brass band to greet them when they arrived at the Bering Strait, renowned Chinese sailor Guo Chuan and his five-man international crew set a new sailing benchmark yesterday, having completed the first nonstop crossing of the Northeast Passage in a sailboat, the 97-ft trimaran Qingdao China. (We're talking about the opposite side of the Polar Ice Cap from the Northwest Passage.) The 3,240-mile voyage from Murmansk, Russia, took them 13 days.

Having made the treacherous crossing in the name of world peace, Chuan, 50, is undoubtedly thrilled with his team's success and the attention the effort has garnered from international media, but his taste of glory was probably bittersweet. Early on, Chuan was quoted as saying: "In view of sailing, I do not want to see any Arctic ice as it would be dangerous for the fragile hull. However, it is really sad to see such disappearance of icebergs caused by global warming. Though it makes the route navigable, I would like to see more ice deep in my heart."

Talk about lonely waters, we have to wonder if Qingdao China's crew saw any vessel traffic during their 13-day crossing. 

Photo Courtesy GuoChuanSailing
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

If you're struggling to recall previous attempts to cross the Northeast Passage by other sailors, you're not alone, as there have not been many. Swedish scientist Nils Adolf Nordenskjöld first did it aboard a vessel called Vega in 1878, and in modern times Russian Nicolai Litau crossed in 1999 aboard Apostle Andrew. Although parts of this route are now used by commercial vessels traveling between Russian ports and Europe, before the contraction of Arctic ice in recent years, transiting this desolate region of planet Earth would typically only have been possible in an icebreaker. And we can only imagine the red tape a sailor would have to go through in order to get permission from Russia to attempt it. (Chuan wisely included a Russian in his crew.)

Chuan's team saw a wide range of wind and weather conditions during the two-week passage. Starting on September 3, the big tri showed her speed potential during the strong winds of the first several days — at one point clocking 37 knots, and logging a 466-mile day. The team first encountered ice on day six, an experience that was both thrilling and worrisome. As they passed the most northerly Russian land mass, their track reportedly passed north of latitude 78N — less than 800 miles from the North Pole.

Now an ambassador for 'Sport and Peace', Chuan reportedly caught the sailing bug on his first daysail in 2000. 

Photo Courtesy GuoChuanSailing
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Qingdao China is the former IDEC, which Francis Joyon solo circumnavigated in 57 days in 2008. Remarkably, Chuan, who is regarded as China's shining star of offshore sailing, was first exposed to the sport only 15 years ago. In 2008 he completed the Volvo Ocean Race as a media crewmember, and in 2013 he became the first Chinese to solo circumnavigate the globe. We have to wonder, what's next? (See the website for more on the crossing.)

- latitude / andy

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Fall Crew List Party

Classy Deadline the 15th

See the current magazine here

See the current magazine here.

Weekend Racing Preview

September 16, 2015 – San Francisco Bay

For a lot of sailors, volunteers, and assorted shoreside supporters in the San Francisco Bay Area, the weekend starts tomorrow, when racing commences in the Rolex Big Boat Series. Registration, weigh-ins, and a competitors' briefing are happening today — as well as a Mt. Gay rum tasting from 5 to 6 p.m.

Orion flies a couple of hulls on SF Bay

"The Rolex Big Boat Series is one of the greatest sailing competitions on the planet, run with the precision of a Swiss watch," said Tom Siebel of Redwood City, chairman and CEO of C3 Energy. Siebel will be racing his MOD70 trimaran Orion.

© 2018 Daniel Forster / Rolex

Organized by St. Francis YC since 1964 and title-sponsored by Rolex for the tenth year, the Big Boat Series has 91 entries in PHRF Sportboat, ORR, HPR and Multihull divisions, plus one-design classes for Express 37s, Melges 24s, J/111s and J/120s. The biggest class with 27 entries, the J/105s will be competing for their North American championship. Absent this year is the smallest Big Boat competitor, the J/70 class. The Farr 40 tribe will save their mojo — and gear — for their Worlds, hosted by Long Beach YC, on September 24-27. See

Farr 40 preparing to hoist the spinnaker

Stuart Townsend's Virago on Lake Michigan in the 2012 Rolex Farr 40 Worlds.

© 2018 Kurt Arrigo / Rolex

Conflicting with RBBS on Saturday will be the Singlehanded Sailing Society's Half Moon Bay Race. The deadline to enter is tonight at midnight, and the skippers' meeting will be held this evening at 7:30 p.m. at Oakland YC in Alameda. No race committee will be on station to record finishes in Half Moon Bay; rather, racers take their own times and turn them in to the SSS volunteers at HMBYC, or call in their time over the VHF. Socializing, dinner and prizes will follow at the clubhouse.

The start of the SSS HMB race

The start of last year's SSS Half Moon Bay Race, off Golden Gate YC. Though next door to Rolex Big Boat Series, the ocean race starts early enough to clear the area before the Big Boat action starts.

© 2018 /

For the first time this year, the OYRA fleet will be joining the SSS fleet for the dash to Pillar Point, making this the second race to Half Moon Bay Race in the OYRA season.

Levitation II

Larry Levit's Express 27 Levitation II in last year's YRA Season Closer.

Photo Latitude / Chris
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The YRA Season Closer is coming up on the last weekend in September, with racing for monohulls, multihulls, sportboats and one designs off Corinthian YC in downtown Tiburon. Saturday the 26th offers a chance to sail under the Golden Gate to Point Bonita, and Sunday will feature buoy racing on the Central Bay. Saturday's post-race activities on the CYC deck will include live music, dancing, drinks and a buffet.

- latitude / chris

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Ad: PredictWind

September 16, 2015 – On the Water

© 2018 PredictWind /

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Golden Rule Visits Bay Area

September 16, 2015 – San Francisco Bay

After a zillion hours of volunteer labor, the Golden Rule is whole again, and sailing the West Coast with her message of peace. 

© 2018 Golden Rule Project

If you have sympathies for the anti-nuke movement, you won't want to miss the chance to check out the original 'peace boat', the Golden Rule, which is scheduled to arrive in San Francisco Bay this Sunday.

As reported earlier, here and in Latitude 38, this wooden 34-ft ketch was resurrected from a Humboldt Bay mudflat a couple of years ago, and was painstakingly refurbished by a team of dedicated volunteers, many of whom are members of the Veterans for Peace organization. 

The Golden Rule holds a special place in the hearts of antiwar and anti-nuke activists and sympathizers, as she was the first vessel to attempt being a nonviolent impediment to nuclear testing in the Pacific islands, and her crew — one of whom was a former US Naval officer — is credited with inspiring many subsequent anti-nuke efforts.

Following recent visits to Monterey and Santa Cruz, the Rule is expected to arrive beneath the Golden Gate sometime this Sunday. You'll know her by her tanbark sails emblazoned with a peace sign and a white dove. She'll be in the Bay for three weeks from Sunday through October 10, September 21 being the International Day of Peace. Viewing locations have not yet been announced, although either Berkeley Marina or Sausalito is likely. Check out the website for details or call Gerry Condon, National Board Vice President of Veterans for Peace, at 206-499-1220.

- latitude / andy

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