'Lectronic Index

Previous 'Lectronic Edition

Photos of the Day: More March Madness

March 21 - San Francisco Bay

Action in the Beneteau 40.7 fleet

Summer arrived this weekend, just in time for St. Francis YC's four-race, no-throwout Spring One Design Regatta. A fresh westerly and big ebb challenged sailors in the four classes on Saturday, and many crews looked - dare we say it? - a little rusty after the winter drifters. Sunday was a lot mellower, but by then each class was already sewed up. Last year's season champions picked up where they left off, as Chance (J/120, Barry Lewis), Eclipse (Express 37, Mark Dowdy) and Good Timin' (J/105, Chris & Phil Perkins/Dave Wilson) had their way with their respective sisterships. Chris Herron sailed Battant to victory in the tiny Beneteau 40.7 fleet, which is already struggling in their first real season
as a one design class.

Good Timin's bad takedown

Our vote, and everyone else's, for weekend MVP honors goes to skipper Chris Perkins and his Good Timin' gang - brother Phil, Dave Wilson, John Collins, Aimee LeRoy and Pete Scott - who strung together an enviable 1,1,3,2 record in the 25-boat J/105 class, launching themselves toward an inevitable fifth consecutive season championship. No doubt all 105 owners are hoping the kinder, gentler Farr 40 Silver Fleet concept takes off, and that the Perkins/Wilson clan will move up to - and probably decimate - that fledgling fleet.

The Good Timin' guys also displayed some fine seamanship and good sportsmanship in retrieving a swimmer - the bowman off Steve Madeira's J/120 Mr. Magoo - during the first beat of the first race on Sunday. "We were on the port tack layline in third place, and realized this guy had fallen over during Magoo's jibe set," explained Chris. "We watched in amazement as the lead 105 sailed
right past him. We figured this guy was in trouble - he had an inflatable SOS thing on, but wasn't responding as we came up on him - and that Magoo wasn't going to be able to get him quickly. We rolled the jib in, luffed up next to the guy, and pulled him in over our lifelines - he seemed pretty happy to see us. Magoo came by, and we transferred him over and jumped back into the race, by then in tenth or twelfth place."

Mr. Magoo with all crew accounted for
Photos Latitude/Rob

Good Timin' battled back to third, so the issue of redress was basically moot. "We were in a perfect position to help out, so it wasn't that big a deal," claimed Chris modestly. Our hat is off to Chris and his crew - they're champions any way you want to look at it.

For complete results see www.stfyc.com.

Kentfield's Cayard Takes Lead in Star Olympic Trials

March 22 - Biscayne Bay, FL

Paul Cayard and crew Phil Trinter twice nailed a pin-end start on Day 1 to end the day in third place.

Eric Doyle and Brian Sharp led Andy Lovell/Magnus Liljedahl (8061) and Paul Cayard/Phil Trinter (8159) on the offset leg at the top of the course.

After four races in the U.S. Olympic Trials for the Star class held in Biscayne Bay, Florida, Paul Cayard and crew Phil Trinter have taken the lead - but 12 races still remain. Eight of the top nine boats, we're happy to report, are from California:

Standings after four races with no discards (22 boats):
1. Paul Cayard/ Phil Trinter, 2-6-1-2, 11
2. Eric Doyle/ Brian Sharp, 1-1-9-8, 19
3. John MacCausland/ J Brad Nichol, 6-8-3-6, 23
4. Mark Reynolds/ Steve Erickson, 5-2-10-7, 24
5. Andrew Macdonald/ Austin Sperry, 11-7-5-4, 27
6. George Szabo/ Mark Strube, 4-5-14-9, 32
7. Vince Brun/ Mike Dorgan, 23/OCS-9-2-1, 35
8. Howie Shiebler/ Will Stout, 3-3-6-23/OCS, 35
9. Rick Merriman/ Bill Bennett, 7-4-17-13-41
10. Karl Anderson/ Ezra Culver, 13-10-15-5, 43
For complete results, see www.ussailing.org/Olympics/OlympicTrials/2004/Star/Results.asp.

Downtown Miami forms a backdrop for the sailing on Biscayne Bay.

Andy Lovell (left) and Magnus Liljedahl sort out the damage that ruined their day.
Photos Rich Roberts

Just 5,500 Miles to Go for Cheyenne

March 22 - Atlantic Ocean

After ringing up another 526 miles, following several days of slow going working around a high pressure area, Steve Fossett and crew on the maxi cat Cheyenne now just have 5,500 miles to go to the finish off France, and still maintain a theoretical lead of 800 miles over Bruno Peyron's record run with Orange.
However, after nine straight days of more than 500 miles, Olivier de Kersauson and his maxi trimaran Cap Gemini and Schneider Electric are ahead of even Cheyenne's pace, although having started later, are quite a bit further back on the track. Both of these mega multihulls are turning in sensational times.

and crew crossing Cape Horn on March 17. Steve Fossett at the helm. Lined up in front of him, L-R: Damian Foxall, Mike Beasley, Fraser Brown, Mark Featherstone, Brian Thompson, Justin Slattery, Jacques Vincent, Dave Scully and Guillermo Altadill. Crouching in front are Adrienne Cahalan and Paul 'Whirley' van Dyke. "Of course I am not in the picture (Nick Leggatt)!"
Photo Nick Leggatt / Marathon Racing

Details on Possible Pirate Attacks

March 22 - Gulf of Aden

Because of a lack of space in the April issue of Latitude 38, we won't be able to publish Don and Katie Radcliffe's account of what they believe were attempted pirate attacks on their Santa Cruz-based Klondike while in the Gulf of Aden. So we're publishing their entire report here:

"The Gulf of Aden between Somalia and Yemen has had numerous acts of piracy against yachts in recent years, and 2004 has been no exception. The primary months for yachts to traverse the Gulf are January through March, the monsoon season, and so far there have been two successful attacks on yachts and three reported instances in which yachts were chased.

"We've just transited the Gulf of Aden, and had several experiences ourselves. The first incident started at 8 p.m. local time on February 23 at 13°50'N, 50°05'E. It was about an hour after sunset and an hour before moonset. We were traveling with only a small white light to avoid being seen, when we saw a single white light slightly off our starboard bow that the radar indicated was a small vessel about two miles out. We turned 40 degrees to port, at which time the other vessel changed course to intercept us. As the other vessel closed to 50 meters of our starboard quarter, we could see that it was a 30-35 foot diesel-powered boat, perhaps a ship's lifeboat, with several men on the bow. The diesel smoke pouring from their exhaust made it obvious they were trying to catch us. Fortunately, we turned on our diesel and were able to accelerate away. We broadcast a Mayday on VHF 16 as we pulled away, giving our position and the situation.

"Our Mayday was answered by a yacht 12 miles astern, and we advised them again of our situation and position. We again extinguished all lights and varied our course. After about five minutes, the other vessel broke off their chase. The ultimate intention of the other vessel remains unclear, as we were able to keep them from coming within 50 yards, but it clearly looked as though they were preparing to board us. No weapons were seen or heard.

"Our second incident took place at about 11 p.m. local time on the same night, at 13°39'N, 49°49' E. While traveling without lights, we noticed a single white light on our port beam that the radar indicated was about five miles from us. Since it appeared to be trying to intercept us, we changed course by 50 degrees and began motorsailing. They continued to converge on us at about eight knots.

"After about 20 minutes, the other vessel had gotten to within four miles astern, so we changed course again and accelerated to our maximum speed of 7.5 knots. After 20 minutes, we repeatedly hailed the vessel on 16, informing it that if it continued to follow us, we would broadcast a Mayday. But we got no response.

"When it closed to within three miles, we broadcast a Mayday and our position on both VHF and SSB. The only stations that responded were a group of four yachts some 12 to 15 miles ahead of us. We requested that Solara, one of the yachts, use their Satphone to call the authorities. They called the Australian Marine Safety Authority (61 2 6230 6811), who told him that they would report the situation to the Piracy Control Center in Kuala Lumpur (60 3 2031 0014), and told him to call back in 30 minutes. We fired two parachute flares during this time, which were reportedly seen by the group of following yachts.

"After 20 minutes, the pursuing vessel was within two miles and had swung directly behind us. We altered course dramatically once again, changing the wind angle, allowing us to reach along at 8.5 knots. The other vessel turned out her lights, making her more difficult to track, but then seemed to slowly fall back. After another 30 minutes, we changed course into the waves, hoping to discourage the other boat from following us. The other boat didn't follow this change in course, and disappeared from the radar screen after 20 minutes. We told the yachts following our situation on VHF to report to the authorities that we were no longer being pursued, and eventually joined up with them. We had no more incidents that night.

"The second vessel had never gotten close enough for a visual description, but it was clearly more sophisticated than the first, with a speed of perhaps 10 knots, and probably a VHF and radar. It had no problem tracking our radical course changes at a distance of 3-5 miles on a night with no moon. We believe that the combination of the flares, the VHF traffic with the other boats, and their only small speed advantage discouraged them from chasing us for longer than an hour.

"The following morning we were contacted by a helicopter from the Coalition naval forces, which had been alerted by Kuala Lumpur. That afternoon we were visited by a Spanish warship. A boarding party came aboard to verify that we were not being held hostage, and took details of the incidents. The Spanish warship provided a loose escort for our group until we neared Aden. Words cannot express how grateful we were for the escort, as it was provided in the region where numerous yachts have been attacked in recent years. We had made arrangements to convoy through this dangerous area, but our problems had occurred about 80 miles east of the historical attacks.

"Was the first boat manned by innocent and curious fishermen? Was the second vessel unable to understand English and trying to come to our aid after we set off the flares? Did we overreact? We'll never know for sure, but when a boat tries to intercept your boat at night in lonely waters 60 miles offshore in the Gulf of Aden, we believe it's most prudent to assume the worst. Our fears were confirmed by reports of successful attacks on yachts in the following days.

"The first reported attack was on the French yacht Le Notre Dame, which was boarded and robbed by armed fishermen/pirates on February 27 at 13°30'N, 47°51E. The yacht was approached at 1 p.m. local time about 30 miles off the coast of Yemen by a small fishing boat with five men aboard. The men were armed with knives and automatic rifles, and took cameras, binoculars, alcohol, and other easily accessible valuables. The crew was shaken but unharmed, and proceeded to Aden. In this instance, a Coalition warship heard the relayed distress message on VHF, asked commercial shipping to assist, and responded with a helicopter some six hours later.

"The second attack was on March 5, when the American singlehander on Salt Air was boarded at 13°13'N, 48°33'E - or some 50 miles southeast of the attack on Notre Dame. He was approached at 6 p.m. local time by a 50-ft boat, whose crew fired three shots in the air from about 75 yards away as a warning to stop. Three men came aboard Salt Air. One man held the American skipper at gunpoint while the others took his VHF and HF radios, plus cameras and $20 in a 'decoy' wallet. The men left with smiles and goodbye waves - and fired another shot into the air. The pirate boat was black with yellow trim and had orange plastic tarps on the bow. It was loaded with people, mostly women, and was likely smuggling Somalis into Yemen. The American skipper had been unable to issue a Mayday before his radios were taken, so there was no response from the authorities.

"Another suspicious incident took place on March 7, when the yacht Silver Girl was chased for 20 minutes by a 50-ft fishing boat at 14°26'N, 52°E, at 4 p.m. This boat had a high bow and cabin - typical of the fishing boats in the area. Silver Girl is a big boat and was capable of 10 knots, so they outran the other boat, and issued a Pan call on the VHF.

The Gulf of Aden is regularly patrolled by Coalition warships, helicopters, and planes, whose primary mission - other than a military show of force - is to monitor commercial shipping. When we are in range of one of the warships, we hear them 24 hours a day calling other vessels in the following manner: "Vessel at 13°32'N, 48°12' E, traveling 242° at 17.8 knots, this is the Coalition warship 12 miles from your starboard bow." They keep this up until someone on the ship gets the captain out of bed, and he gets to answer questions about the ship's name, tonnage, registration, ports of call, cargo, and so forth. At the lower levels, the Coalition navy would be happy to provide protection to yachts and do something about the piracy, as it is much more rewarding than harassing ships. At the command level, the yachts have not been put on their political agenda, and they are not ready to risk aggravating the local authorities by interdicting the pirate boats. We sent an email to the coalition via the Kuala Lumpur Piracy Center asking them to open better communication lines to the yachts. Their response is that we should call on the VHF when we had an emergency.

"The local authority is the Yemeni Coast Guard, which is rumored to be funded and trained by the United States. The Coalition warship that aided us suggested I file an incident report in Yemen, so I went to the Coast Guard office in Aden with a written report. The pistol-packing, qat-chewing commandant (qat is the local narcotic leaf) couldn't speak much English, so he sat me down with an interpreter. The interpreter was a local shipping agent who read the report and said that if these boats could have caught us, they would have robbed us. He reported my story to the commandant, who replied that these pirates were Somali, not Yemeni, and they would keep them away from us.

"Since all of the incidents reported above took place at least 30 miles offshore, the next group of six yachts tried to run close to shore. On March 7, the group was intercepted seven miles off the coast by big Yemeni Coast Guard inflatables, who tried to force them to the nearest port so their boats could be 'searched'. After a half hour of yelling and VHF calls to the Coalition - which the Coast Guard tried to jam - the Coast Guard boss received a cell phone call from someone in higher authority, and the yachts were turned loose. After their experience with Yemeni 'protection', these boats headed offshore for the rest of the trip. Yemen is a very conservative Muslim country, and there are many people there who have been told to hate Westerners - especially after what they view as Western aggression against Muslim Arab countries.

"The basic problem is that every boat fishing and/or smuggling off the Yemeni coast is learning that yachts are unarmed, full of cash and valuables, and there will be no intervention by the authorities. The convoys have been successful, as the pirates prefer to attack single boats. The attackers are not interested in harming the yachties, although an Australian woman was shot in the leg in 2001 when the pirates fired at her catamaran. The attacks will probably increase in frequency until an armed yacht fights back or the Coalition gets told to protect the yachts."


March 22 - Cyberspace

In order to streamline 'Lectronic Latitude, we've moved the weather and YOTREPS links to our links page, www.latitude38.com/links.html. You'll find YOTREPS under Resources and Other Items of Interest and the Weather links at the top of the page under Local Information and Weather.

Top / Index of Stories / Previous 'Lectronic Edition

Subscriptions / Classifieds / Home

©2004 Latitude 38 Publishing Co., Inc.