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Photos of the Day: Heineken Regatta

March 5 - St. Martin

Pyewacket and Morning Glory, with the weather mark in the foreground

What you're seeing here are the first ever published photos of the two hottest racing boats in the world, battling head to head, for the first time ever. It all took place this morning at the Heineken Regatta in St. Martin.

Pyewacket reached by at perhaps 18 knots.

The photos were taken by Vincent C. Rubino from aboard Latitude 38's catamaran Profligate. For whatever reason, the race committee started the multihulls in front of the hot monohulls, which resulted in both Pyewacket and Morning Glory rushing by us not 25 feet away on the second leg. We've seen a lot of spectacular boats, but these two MaxZ86s, charging along powered by 25 and more knots of wind, were sensational.

Morning Glory

Roy Disney's Pyewacket had a slight lead right before the weather mark, at which point Hasso Plattner's Morning Glory was blocked by Rocketeer, an Atlantic 55 catamaran we're pleased to say we'd rolled a few minutes before. Pyewacket crossed the finish line first, but perhaps by only seconds more than she'd lost by being inadvertently blocked by Rocketeer. In other words, these all but identical boats were almost identically quick. At this point it's unclear to us whether or not Pyewacket beat the maxi cat PlayStation's around the island record.

The Chris White-designed Atlantic 55 cat Rocketeer, sailing in the first leg
Photos Vincent C. Rubino

By the way, Stan Honey, who sailed on PlayStation (now Cheyenne) in the Heinie last year, and was aboard Pyewacket this year, says one of the biggest differences between the boats is that Pyewacket tacks in 78 degrees, while PlayStation tacked in 120 degrees. Yes, 120 degrees!

We were able to see Pyewacket nip Morning Glory at the finish because we'd had to drop out after being beset by heavy weather-related problems. We were initially slowed by the screecher tack pulling loose. Then the clew reefing shackle failed. We repaired both of these, but when sailing upwind at over 10 knots in winds gusting to 34 knots, the cover on the core of the jib halyard failed. We figured the writing was on the wall and we'd better drop out to be able to be sure to make the last three races.

John Haste's San Diego-based Little Wing is also racing, with a lot of crew from Mexico. We'd managed to get good lead on them until we had to drop the main to repair the reefing. But we later saw them with a man atop the mast in the windy and sloppy conditions, so we don't know what happened to them. That's it for now, as we've got repairs to make, parties to go to, and three more races to sail in.

Profligate's Progress

March 4 - St. Martin

The Heineken Regatta in St. Martin starts tomorrow [Friday] and two things have been happening: boats have been signing up like crazy and the wind has been honking all week. At last count, something like 258 boats had signed up. The glamor boats, of course, are Roy Disney and Hasso Plattner's new MaxZ86s with canting keels and canard rudders. As for the wind, the other day the French Meteo forecast was for 29 knots of wind, with gusts to 40 in squalls, for the following three days. The wind has been going from calm to 25 knots in a matter of ten minutes, with big seas.

Upon arriving at St. Martin, we had a chat with Stan Honey, navigator aboard the new Pyewacket, Roy Disney's MaxZ86. He says that the new boat points higher than the old one. It will sail 11.5 knots going upwind, about a half to three-quarters of a knot faster. Robbie Haines, who manages the Pyewacket program, says they reached speeds up to 27 knots in 26 knots of wind yesterday. The canting keel has 4 buttons with 3 speeds each, and has to be worked constantly, wearing out the operator's fingers.

Roy Disney is needed back in the U.S. for the goings-on at Disney Corp., so he will have to miss this first meeting of these cutting edge boats.

Stan Honey normally sails aboard Steve Fossett's Cheyenne, and he says it's killing him not to be with them in the Southern Ocean, as they approach the halfway point in their Jules Verne Trophy attempt. Honey talks to Fossett about three times a day, usually helping him with questions and problems regarding the catamaran's electronics.

In other news, Antonio des Mortes, our former captain several times on Big O, and self-proclaimed 'Terrorist of the Caribbean', banged on the hull last night and insisted we come over and meet this incredible sailor friend of his from his hometown on the Galacian coast of Spain. When we learned the fellow's name was Javier Babe - what image does that raise in your mind? - we have to admit we weren't sure if the visit was going to be worth the time. Well, it was. It turns out that the 55-year-old Babe has sailed across the Atlantic 23 times, and has sailed around the Horn twice, all on his own boats. His wife Christina has been across the Atlantic 17 times. His 13-year-old son Oscar has been across 13 times - and not against his will. "The sailing life is la buena vida," he told us.

13-year old Oscar - who has crossed the Atlantic 13 times already

Antonio, Terrorist of the Caribbean, and often times Captain of Big O, with Javier Babe, his friend from childhood on the Galacian coast of Spain.

Initially a captain in the merchant marine, Babe became frustrated with stopping at great ports only long enough to load and unload cargo. Plus, he's a dedicated diver. "I am passionate about sailing, diving and the sea." So he bought and ran a three-masted 110-ft schooner. After several years, it was going to break him financially, so thanks to the help of Mary Crowley of Ocean Voyages in Sausalito, he sold the schooner, and acquired the 65-ft Frers-designed Argentinean-built ketch Peregrina, which means 'female pilgrim'. Anyway, he now runs back and forth across the Atlantic doing sailing and diving charters.

But not next year. Babe and five others will be sailing across the Atlantic on a traditional 26-ft open Galacian fishing boat. Everything used in the boat will have also been available in the 1700s. So not only will they not have a GPS or radar, they won't even have a sextant. When we asked what Babe would use to navigate, he pulled out a crude astrolabe-like device he made from the cardboard from a beer box. "With this, I can get my position, without tables or a watch, to within 60 miles." Babe looks forward to this extremely risky expedition as much as a five-year-old looks forward to Christmas morning.

Javier Babe and the navigation device he'll use to cross the Atlantic later this year on a 26-ft open boat with five others.
Photos Latitude/Richard

Babe is as good a diver as he is a sailor. The last time he was home, he did a lot of drinking in the bars, and when it came time to pay, bet the local fishermen the cost of drinks that he could hold his breath underwater for over three minutes. He did it for 3 minutes and 15 seconds, so he got to drink free of charge. His son Oscar is also an enthusiastic diver. He currently free dives to 50 feet.

We'd have gotten much more information on Babe and his incredible adventures, but he was leaving a few minutes later on a night passage to Culebra. If all goes well, we'll meet up in the Virgins at the end of this month for an interview.

Babe also had some news about a sailor we'd known from the past. About eight years ago, we did a wild Antigua Sailing Week with Big O, with lots of topless women as crew. One of these women was a beautiful young Spanish girl who was cruising with an older Spanish gentleman. Although we could never prove it, it appeared the guy was physically abusing her for racing with us. It was a tricky situation, as she wouldn't admit she was being beaten, so all we could do was warn the guy that if he wasn't careful, a bunch of people were going to beat the shit out of him.

We're not sure what has become of the girl, but the fellow, Isadoro, left South Africa singlehanding on his 42-ft sloop in 2003, and began sending strange messages to Babe and other friends. Over a series of reports, he advised friends that his boat was being taken over by witches and dwarfs. In fact, it was getting hard to navigate because the compass kept transforming into a dwarf's head. The troubled fellow's boat was later found without him aboard. It's believed that he went mad and committed suicide.
If you think life if boring, you've clearly never spent much time living the sailing life or meeting the characters in the Caribbean. And Lord knows, there will be plenty of excitement this weekend in St. Martin.

Rise No Faster than Your Bubbles

March 5 - Marshall Islands

Blair Grinols, sailing his Capricorn Cat in the mid-Pacific reports on an unnerving diving incident in the Marshall Islands: "We were down about 40 feet when the problem started. We were diving a sea mount out in the lagoon at Aur atoll. The air intake tube on the Hooka pressure pump (the pressurized air breathing system we had employed for this dive) had toppled over into the water. One minute myself, Joanna, and Rixzene, (Karmaladen crew and owner) were on a beautiful dive, then our regulators were full of water. I turned to Rixzene and Joanna and gave the signal to surface. They did not need any coaxing. Air under pressure increases in volume upon rising so we expelled air (which I did not have much of anyway) and started the assent. We had only been down eight minutes so the nitrogen in our systems had not had much of a chance to rise. We know people who can skin dive without air to 60, 70, 80 and even 90 feet, so we didn't panic at the thought of reaching the surface. It certainly was unnerving, but we all laughed when we popped out of the water! The rule of diving is to rise no faster than your bubbles, but we were leaving ours far behind. Ash (Karmaladen crew) and I immediately disassembled the Hooka pump and rinsed the salt water from it and straightened the little flapper check valves, and it was ready to go again."


March 5 - 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

March 5 - 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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