Photos of the Day

February 24 - Indian Ocean

Today's Photos of the Day are of Ellen MacArthur's Kingfisher2, just dismasted in the deep south Indian Ocean during her attempt at the Jules Verne record. It came at a most unfortunate time, for having battled light winds in the early half of the record attempt, they had finally pulled a full day ahead of Orange's (now Kingfisher2) record. Furthermore, Kingfisher2 was making great time on Geronimo, the trimaran currently way ahead of the Jules Verne pace, but becalmed in the South Atlantic. "We're all gutted," said MacArthur.

Why the mast failed is a mystery. They were sailing with a full main and a spinnaker, running rather deep in about 30 knots of wind and flat seas. Those are almost ideal conditions. The mast apparently broke up high first, then snapped again further down. Nobody was hurt, and all but the bottom stub was cut away to prevent damage to the hulls. MacArthur and crew now face a two week sail under jury rig to Perth, Australia.

Photos Courtesy Offshore Challenges

Mast problems are not new to Orange/Kingfisher2. During Bruno Peyron's first attempt at the Jules Verne with Orange, the top of the mast broke a half hour after the start. After the repair and record, but before she was sold to MacArthur, the mast broke. The new mast was made from M46J carbon fiber.

Fossett and PlayStation Crush Other Transatlantic Record

February 24 - San Salvador, Bahamas

About the same time Ellen MacArthur was having the ultimate breakdown in the deep Indian Ocean, Steve Fossett and his crew of 12 aboard the maxi-cat PlayStation were setting another new major sailing speed record. Having crossed from Spain to the Bahamas in 9 days and 13 hours, they crushed the old east to west record by over a day, averaging 16.9 knots over the 3,384-mile course. In reality, PlayStation sailed 4,704 miles at an average speed of 20.5 knots, as they had to detour to find good winds. Fossett and PlayStation already own the west to east transatlantic record. What's next? They are going to sail in the Heineken Regatta in St. Maarten on March 5 "just for fun."

America's Cup Inaction Continues

February 24 - Auckland, NZ

Is it just us or have all the postponements and laydays in the America's Cup caused the excitement to dissipate? With Alinghi up 3-0 over New Zealand, and even more fluky winds predicted this week for the best of nine series, interest seems to be rapidly fading. Imagine the poor folks who spent a lot of money to fly down to Auckland and get on a spectator boat, but have had to fly home halfway through the event. Although what racing there has been has been terrific, the event has passed its 'complete by' date.

Capricorn Cat Gets Stuck on Reef in the Marshall Islands

February 24 - Marshall Islands

If good things really do happen to good people, perhaps that explains why Capricorn Cat got off the reef in the Marshall Islands.

Blair Grinols of the Vallejo-based 46-ft Capricorn Cat has been one of the most active and well-liked sailors on the West Coast over the last eight or nine years. He built his own 46-ft cat, and with wife Joan has cruised relentlessly between California and Mexico as well as to French Polynesia and Hawaii. He's earned the respect and admiration of fellow cruisers, both for lending a helping hand and for making his boat available for charity sails.

Capricorn Cat sailing in Mexico
Photo Latitude/Richard

Although he's approaching age 70, Grinols has more energy than two 35-year-olds, so, rather than do another Ha-Ha last fall, they sailed to Hawaii, and continued on to the Marshall Islands. Blair was having a ball until February 20 when his beloved boat went on a reef. Here's how he describes it:

"For the longest, darkest, and most traumatic half-hour of my life, myself, friends Rich and Sherrel Richmond from Oregon, and Tabal village men fought a winning battle to extricate Capricorn Cat from certain destruction on a large coral reef just off the beach of Tabal, Aur. It brings tears to my eyes just trying to write about it.

"At 2 a.m. Rich woke me up because the wind had clocked 180 degrees and we were hanging on our anchor just a few yards from a coral-strewn lee shore. The wind had come up to about 20 knots and the rain was coming down in sheets. We immediately tried to drive the boat offshore, but the anchor chain was wrapped around other coral heads. By the time I was able to get a knife to cut the rode, the starboard rudder was digging into the coral. After the rope was cut and before I could get to the throttles, one propeller struck coral, which killed the engine. The Cat immediately swung around and the starboard hull ground onto the reef. Between the wind, waves, and the grinding of the hull against the coral, the noise was deafening.

"I jumped into the dinghy and threw Sherrel a line to the front of the port bow while Rich put his shoes on to jump onto the coral. By tying two ropes between the rear corners of the dinghy and the cat's bow, and adjusting their lengths correctly, I was able to pull into the wind and waves. In the melee, a rope caught the fuel line to my 15 hp Johnson. It took me a second to figure out why the engine died. I was able to push the connection into place and hold it with one arm while steering with the other. Two of the village men heard all the commotion and came running into the coral, where Rich was struggling to push the bow toward the sea. After about 15 minutes of running the little engine full throttle, the Cat moved a little. Sherrel came running over to the port side and said Rich reported that he had taken a few steps into deeper water.

"Unfortunately, the starboard rudder had dug down into the coral and was really hung up. Rich and the villagers in the water went to the stern and lifted and heaved with the waves - and after another 15 minutes or so, the Cat began her extrication from the reef. After running the outboard full throttle for so long, I was worried about running out of gas. Finally Capricorn Cat came steaming past me. She was floating! Rich had gotten to the throttles and was driving her out into deep water. The dinghy swamped completely from being pulled backwards, but it was the best bath I ever had.

"The two villagers had climbed aboard with Rich, and we spent the rest of the night running the boat around offshore, trying to miss the other coral heads. The village men knew where they were. At dawn, they showed us a better place to anchor. But it wasn't over yet. We had hardly anchored, showered the village men with praise and gifts, and taken them to shore - when the wind clocked about 100 degrees, once again putting us perilously close to shore. Before we could get the new anchor and rode in, we lost them overboard - and were just able able to drive out into the lagoon.

"We drove into the wind for a couple of hours, and when it appeared we were in for a long storm, we set sail to Majuro. We have just one anchor left and no chain, so we didn't want to spend a night in coral-strewn waters on that kind of an anchor kit. It cleared up just enough for us to see our way through the atoll pass. We will lick our wounds on a mooring in Majuro for a few days, survey the damage, and then go back and try to retrieve our anchors and rodes when the weather stabilizes back to the northeast trades. So far, it appears the Cat came through the ordeal surprisingly well."

Just hours before this posting, we got another update from Grinols: "I dove on the boat this morning to survey the damage. There is about a foot of material gone off the bottom of both rudders. That loss of draft probably helped a bunch in getting her off the reef. The bottoms of both daggerboards look kind of like upside down mushrooms. There is one 5-inch diameter gouge in the bottom of the starboard hull exposing the core and that has to be repaired soonest. I am talking to a fellow here who has a large crane that can lift the Cat with no problem. We may have to take the mast down in order to lift her. This could happen as early as next week. I will remove the daggerboards and get started on repairing them tomorrow. The rudders will probably wait till we are hauled. On Tuesday a couple of friends I met here, Ron on the 46-ft Beneteau Kaimana, and another guy, are going to take me back up to Aur to retrieve my anchor and chain sets. It is just 70 miles so we can drive up there and dive before it gets dark."

We couldn't be happier for Blair, who has been our good friend for years, and was instrumental in both last year's Zihua Festival and the Spinnaker Cup for Charity in Puerto Vallarta. That he got his boat off despite no longer being a kid does not surprise us. He was smart, decisive, and refused to give up. You're an inspiration, Blair - but don't do it again!


February 24 - The Pacific Ocean and Cyberspace

Who is out making passages in the Pacific and what kind of weather are they having? The YOTREPS daily yacht tracking page has moved to

Weather Updates

February 24 - Pacific Ocean

San Francisco Bay Weather

To see what the winds are like on the Bay and just outside the Gate right now, check out

The National Weather Service site for San Francisco Bay is at

California Coast Weather

Looking for current as well as recent wind and sea readings from 17 buoys and stations between Pt. Arena and the Mexican border? Here's the place - which has further links to weather buoys and stations all over the U.S.:

Pacific Winds and Pressure

The University of Hawaii Dept. of Meteorology page posts a daily map of the NE Pacific Ocean barometric pressure and winds.

Pacific Sea State

Check out the Pacific Ocean sea states at:
For views of sea states anywhere in the world, see

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