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Profligate's Progress

January 28 - St. Barth, FWI

(Note to readers: This 'Lectronic was written on Wednesday, but due to Telecom France crashing on that day, could not be sent. In any event, it's slightly dated.)

Thanks to our reader mandate - see Monday's 'Lectronic - we're back aboard Profligate in St. Barth, and we're loving it. One reason why is that the biggest thought wandering around in our mind yesterday [Tuesday] was not who was going to win the Democratic primary in New Hampshire, but whether to sail clockwise or counterclockwise around St. Barth. We chose clockwise, thank you, and had the fastest of our four circumnavigations of the island this year.

When we were arriving Monday afternoon from St. Martin by Winair puddle jumper, nobody needed a chart to tell where we were. All we had to do is look down in the water below and see the size of the yachts riding on the hook. It was impossible to miss the biggest of them all, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's curiously named Octopus, a spanking new 413 footer. If you look closely, this monster not only has a huge helicopter landing pad on the back of the boat, but another helicopter sitting on the bow. Trust us, in the Med, you are nobody unless there are at least two helicopters on your yacht.

The Gustavia 'little boat' anchorage as seen through airplane windows while dive bombing to land at the little airport squeezed in between a ridge and the sea. Profligate is the boat highest in the photo in the outer anchorage, pretty much by herself. Sorry about the photo quality, as those airplane windows are a little lacking in optical quality.

Power & Motoryacht magazine has reported that Octopus is the largest privately-owned yacht in the world. That is, of course, until Larry Ellison launches his new motoryacht, which is expected to be about 425 feet. You didn't think that the Oracle honcho could build a yacht smaller than his Microsoft rival, did you?

Octopus from the air. Check out the helicopter on the bow. Then imagine how big the chopper is that lands on the big pad aft.

In the mega motoryacht wars, it's important to remember that Allen reportedly owns three of them in excess of 197 feet, and is rumored to have long been paying some or all of the bill on another 354-footer. Yes, in addition to Octopus, Allen has long owned the 201-ft Meduse, which has a recording studio that has reportedly been used by the likes of U2. He also owns the 301-ft Tatoosh, which was briefly owned by Craig McCaw before his cellular phone empire hit the skids. In addition, there was a report in Power & Motoryacht that Allen has been paying the bills on Le Grand Bleu, which was formerly John McCaw's 354-footer. That report may now be out of date, however, as the yacht has more recently been seen in the hands of some Russian friend of Vladimir Putin. In any event, our best sources indicate that Allen at least owns the biggest, 12th biggest, and 65th biggest privately owned yachts in the world.

As for the rest of Ellison's fleet, it consists of the 192-ft Ronin, often moored at Schoonmaker Yacht Harbor in Sausalito, and the 234-ft Katana. In addition, Ellison has his America's Cup campaign fleet. So we'll let you decide whether it's Allen or Ellison who ought to be crowned the king of megayachts.

To give you an idea of what kind of money we're talking about, Katana, which is at least 10 years old, is for sale for $68 million. And the not yet finished 400-ft Sultan is being offered for sale at a mere $200 million.

What, we wonder, was Allen - who has his fingers in scores of businesses - thinking about when he named his largest yacht Octopus? Wasn't that the title of the famous book in the '30s that railed against the abuse of workers by capitalist owners? On the other hand, we suppose that Allen and Gates have been pretty good to their employees. How else could you explain Skat, the 233-footer anchored next to Octopus? She's reportedly owned by Charles Simonyi, the guy who headed up the Excel project at Microsoft. True, his yacht only has one helicopter, but she's still five feet longer than golfer Greg Norman's new Aussie Rules, which is 15 miles away in St. Martin. There's that much money in golf?

A side view of Skat, the excess funded by the success of Excel. Note the big hatch open up forward. We're guessing that's where they lower in all the royalty checks.
Photos Above Latitude/Richard

Skat from the back. She's an unusual color, supposedly picked to match the color of the owner's house.
Photo Latitude/Doña de Mallorca

Some women readers might be tempted to say that only men would be involved in such on-the-water wretched excess. But that's not true. Savarona, the private yacht that Octopus edged to be the largest in the world, is a 408-footer built for an 'American divorcée'. Of course, that was back in 1931, which if we recall correctly was the height of the Depression.

It's surprising who can afford these megayachts. For example, there's a new Paraffin that must be 200 feet long. She's owned by the couple who reportedly made all their money by founding the Yankee Candle Company. There's that much money in wax and wicks? Who would have thought.

That's the end of our mega motoryacht reporting from St. Barth. Maybe next week we'll tell you about the mega sailing yachts. Meanwhile, we're slated to take a bunch of new and old friends - including Mike Sheats and Hillaire Bell of the Sausalito-based Sceptre 41 Indigo - out for our fifth circumnavigation of the season of this sweet little island. Wish us fair winds, won't you?

In crime news, the scandal of the island is that the Donna del Sol - no relation to Doña de Mallorca - jewelry store was broken into during lunch, and over $1 million worth of shiny stuff taken. On a more personal note, our beloved Fujifilm 3800 digital camera, a real favorite of ours, has disappeared. Doña suspects theft. We think it was more likely misplaced. Anyway, it only cost $300. But what a great camera its been!

Sailors Mix It Up at Rolex Miami OCR

January 30 - Miami, FL

The Rolex Miami OCR will crown its champions today, and some leaders in the 11 Olympic and Paralympic classes competing are holding their breath. Thursday's light breezes, shifty like Wednesday's, provided plenty of power for several races on each of six courses, but scrambled the standings and, in some cases, left very little room for mistakes today.

After two races yesterday, USA's team of Mark Reynolds and Steve Erickson from San Diego has a seven-point lead in the 58-boat Star fleet. The margin is anything but comfortable, however, since the team sailed its throw-out race - a 46th (after six races, sailors are allowed to discard their worst race).

Reynolds and Erickson in the Star Class

In Tornados, Puerto Rico's Olympic representative Enrique Figueroa saved his lead from Wednesday, but Austria's Roman Hagara is closing in, only three points behind.

San Juan, Puerto Rico's Enrique Figueroa and Jorge Hernandez on their Tornado

In Finns, USA's Geoff Ewenson (pictured above) sits in third, only two points behind Denmark's Jonas Hoegh Christensen in second, with 1996 Finn Gold medalist Mateus Kusznierewicz of Poland (pictured below) in first place. Kevin Hall of Ventura is in fourth.

Photos Courtesy Rolex Miami OCR

For more photos, updates and results, see www.ussailing.org/Olympics/RolexMiamiOCR/

National Sailing Symposium - Five Great Days in Oakland

January 30 - Oakland

Just like the 'in-flight' publications that tempt you with "Three Great Days in New Orleans" (or wherever), US Sailing has put together the National Sailing Programs Symposium held this week at the Oakland Marriott. The seminar series covers all aspects of organizing and operating a sailing program. The program has run annually for 21 years and only reaches the West Coast every few years. It's an outstanding opportunity for anyone involved in sailing programs, including yacht club junior program directors, instructors, board members and parents, to learn, understand and improve the intricacies of sailing programs.

Subject matters include Setting Up and Maintaining a Non-Profit Organization, Hiring and Managing the Instructor Team, Developing a Keelboat Program, Teaching Kids, Running a Green Sailing Program and so on.

"This is a collection of the most prolific programs supporting the development of sailing in the U.S.," said Sean Svendsen, attending as a sponsor with Vanguard Sailboats. Indeed it's a cornucopia of great people, great ideas and great programs created by a very creative and dedicated group of volunteers and staff. All of them work hard at the 'front end' of running diverse programs which range from inner city youth programs to adult and Olympic training programs.

As you can see from the pictures below people came from all over (some perhaps to escape the freezing temperatures in the Northeast). In short order we had spoken with people from New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Vermont and more. If you're involved in any kind of sailing program and didn't get the National Sailing Program Symposium on your schedule this time around keep an eye out for it in US Sailing's 2005 schedule.

Pictures from the 'Welcome Cocktail Party' put on by Presenting Sponsor Vanguard Sailboats:

Ward Latimer, San Francisco State Sailing Program Director; Mat MacDonald, Volunteer; Catherine Bartinik; Pam Benjamin, Volunteer

Virginia Howard, Del Rey YC Jr. Program Director; Jeff Grange, Santa Barbara YC Race Director

Lee Comerford, MYC, NJ; Bridgitte Hoey, Beachwood YC, NJ

Rich Jepsen, OCSC, Volunteer Chairman of the Symposium, member of US Sailing's Training Committee; Sean Svendsen, Svendsen's Boatworks, event sponsor

Rob Bey, Dallas, TX, Parks & Recreation; Howard Haines, Lake Thunderbird Education Foundation, OK; Lester Cummings, Lake Thunderbird

From Vanguard Sailboats: Chip Johns, President; Dave Kirkpatrick, One Design Services Manager; Ned Jones, West Coast Rep; Martine Rawlings, Southeast Rep

Janine Ahmed Connelly, US Sailing Training Director; Simon Carey, OCSC Fleet Manager; Antonia Hare, Communications/Environmental Initiatives, OCSC; Jim Muldoon, Chairman of US Sailing's Training Committee and US Sailing Vice President; Joni Palmer, NSPS Agenda Coordinator and US Sailing VP; Saul Schumsky, Commodore, Cal Sailing Club

Pirates Shoot Italian Sailor

January 30 - Caracas, Venezuela

Fabio Maino of Palo Alto alerted us this story making the rounds of the Italian press: "A sailor from Falconara, Italy, was killed on his catamaran while sailing the Venezuelan coast.

"According to the press report, Bruno Bianchella, 46, was sailing from Trinidad to Venezuela with two friends, when pirates from a boat carrying at least eight people boarded the vessel. They were armed, and while Bruno's two friends went below to get the money, the pirates shot the Italian sailor and fled the scene. The two friends were not harmed."

News sources (in Italian):
and www.corriere.it/Primo_Piano/Cronache/2004/01_Gennaio/30/pirati.shtml.


January 30 - 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 www.bitwrangler.com/psn.

Weather Links

January 30 - Pacific Ocean

San Francisco Bay Weather

Check out this guide to San Francisco Bay Navigational Aids: http://sfports.wr.usgs.gov/sfports.html.

To see what the winds are like on the Bay and just outside the Gate right now, check out http://sfports.wr.usgs.gov/wind.

The National Weather Service site for San Francisco Bay is at www.wrh.noaa.gov/Monterey.

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.: www.ndbc.noaa.gov/Maps/Southwest.shtml.

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

The site for the Pacific Ocean sea states has moved to http://www.mpc.ncep.noaa.gov/shtml/PacRegSSA.shtml.
For views of sea states anywhere in the world, see http://www.oceanweather.com/data.

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