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Photo of the Day

October 29 - San Francisco Bay

Photo Greg Turner

"We need to see more young'ns with the sailing bug like my daughter," writes Greg Turner of the Express 27 Bohica. "With all the crud children have to deal with nowadays, sailing is a perfect way to get them out in nature and expose them to real world learning situations that build character and self reliance. Morgynn just turned eight and is all set to take sailing lessons next summer. But if she has anything to do with it, she will be on the boat every weekend until next June."

Drama in the Rolex Middle Sea Race

October 27 - Valletta, Malta

Just concluding as we write this is the Rolex Middle Sea Race, beginning and finishing in Malta and circling Sicily and several smaller Mediterranean Islands. This year's running included a dramatic crew overboard incident.

As reported on the event's Web site, after days of little or no wind, the Sea to the west of Malta became reminiscent of a scene from the Old Testament as a massive thundercloud complete with 50 knot gusts, hailstones and sheet lightning wreaked havoc on the fleet. Worst affected by the conditions was Alfa Romeo, a highly successful 90-ft maxi from New Zealand. During the pitch black night the wind increased to 12 knots and the crew had furled the powerful Code Zero headsail and were halfway through dropping it when a 30-kt gust came through. The furled sail began to writhe around on deck, six crewmen unable to control it and the last to hang on to it, America's Cup grinder John Macbeth, one of the beefiest guys on the Kiwi maxi, was tossed overboard like a rag doll.

Macbeth was recovered after 12 minutes in the water. "The guys on the boat all knew what to do and I had full confidence in them. They did a great job," Macbeth said later. "When I was in the water, I kicked off my shoes and wet weather gear and waited for them to come back. All credit to them, they picked me up very quickly, and I never really felt in danger at any time." More drama was to come two hours later for the Alfa Romeo team when sailing along in 8 knots the wind suddenly piped up to 30 and then 58 knots, knocking the boat flat under full mainsail and furled Code Zero.

Alfa Romeo

Alfa Romeo went on to win line honors - crossing the finish line with her mainsail's leech hanging off and three of its five battens broken. Owner Neville Crichton said that a decision on the 2004 Rolex Sydney to Hobart Race, which begins the day after Christmas, has now been delayed pending an assessment of the damage to Alfa Romeo and the availably of replacement sails.

Black Dragon

On another Reichel-Pugh maxi, the British entry Black Dragon, they were more fortunate. Rounding the final turning mark, they broke the top batten in their mainsail and pulled into the lee of the island to drop the mainsail and replace it. "Just as we did that all hell broke loose," described racing skipper Jesper Radich. "Hail, 46 knots of wind and we were doing 20 knots of speed downwind under jib. Fortunately it wasn't chaos on the boat. We continued with only the jib on for two and half hours averaging 12 knots." Black Dragon finished ahead of the other maxis on corrected time.

The Greek Farr 52 One Design, Optimum 3, corrected out to be the overall winner of the race.
Photos Courtesy www.rolexmiddlesearace.com

November Preview

October 29 - Europe

Across the pond, three major events get underway next month. We'll have more on all of these in both 'Lectronic Latitude and the December issue of Latitude 38. (The November issue, incidentally, hits the streets today.) Here's a quick preview of each in the order they will occur.

Jean Le Cam's Bonduelle practices in the Bay of Biscay. Imagine doing this alone on a 60-ft boat 24/7 for weeks on end.

On November 7, the Vendée Globe Race starts from Les Sables d'Olonne on the south coast of France. Twenty high-tech 60-ft boats and their intrepid skippers will battle the elements, each other, and their own exhaustion to complete the world's premier, nonstop singlehanded race around the globe. Among them is the only American, Alameda's Bruce Schwab sailing the Wylie-designed Open 60 Ocean Planet. With nine days to go until the start, high winds and huge seas in the Bay of Biscay kept the fleet in port for the third straight day. That was just fine with the huge crowds which visit daily. This may be the biggest event in Les Sables of the year and they do it up right, complete with a Ferris wheel and Disneyland-like atmosphere. Quite a contrast to the solitary existence these 18 men and two women will feel for the next three months. See www.vendeeglobe.fr/uk/ for more.

Huge crowds have been visiting the Vendée Village, and yachts, in Les Sables D'Olonne.
Photos Courtesy Vendée Globe

Ellen MacArthur is on schedule to do what no woman has ever attempted and only one man has accomplished - sail a 75-ft multihull around the world nonstop in record time. Unlike Francis Joyon, who amazed the world by accomplishing
this feat only a year ago aboard an old boat, Ellen has big-time backing and a thoroughly prepared trimaran, both courtesy retailer B&Q. The reigning queen of British sailing plans to go on standby in Falmouth around mid-November, and then wait for her weather routers to give her the green light. She'll start off Ushant, using the same line as the Jules Verne course (although this would not be a counting Jules Verne attempt). The current record, set by Joyon, is 72 days, 22 hours, 54 minutes. See www.teamellen.com.

As mentioned in the last 'Lectronic, some 205 boats are signed up to do the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, which departs the Canary Islands on November 21 and ends in St. Lucia in mid-December. So far, 24 nations are represented in the 2,700-mile event, with the majority being Brits (43%), followed by Germans (14%). The U.S., Netherlands, Norway, Italy and France are also making good showings. The average size of an ARC yacht these days is 47 feet. See www.worldcruising.com/arc/english.htm.

Back to Nam

October 29 - Nha Trang, Vietnam

Grant Wharington's all-conquering Skandia just obliterated the course record in the second running of the 656-mile VinaCapital Hong Kong to Vietnam Race. The 98-ft maxi, which took line honors in the last Sydney-Hobart Race, started the race on Tuesday, Oct. 26, and finished in just 42 hours, 45 minutes, and 41 seconds - a blistering 15.3-knot average. Skandia knocked 20 hours off the old record, set by the ULDB Ffree Fire in 1996 in the race's only previous edition.

Photo Carlo Borlenghi

The Royal Hong Kong YC organized the race to Nha Trang, attracting 13 boats for the windy downwind sprint. Apparently, the event may become biennial in the future. SFYC member Heather Flick, a regular on Ron Anderson's J/105 Streaker, competed in the race and sent us the following email just before leaving: "I know, I know. . . people take boats from Vietnam, not to Vietnam, but who could turn down the trip? It's not a fast ride, but sure to be comfy with 51 feet and a refrigerator."

Heather's ride, O'Feeling
Photos Courtesy Royal Hong Kong YC

See www.rhkyc.org.hk/hkvietnamrace.htm for more.

Cheater in Annapolis

October 29 - Annapolis, MD

Longtime Bay Area racer Jim Graham recently moved to Annapolis, taking his Columbia 5.5 Meter Cheater with him. From his recent email:

"Thought I 'd update you on my limited sailing since moving to Annapolis. Julia and I have been here since September 1 and are living in an old brick house in historic downtown Annapolis. Francis Scott Key built and lived in the house across the street from us and the U.S. Naval Academy's main gate is two blocks from here. So we walk everywhere.

"Cheater suffered some minor damage on her trip to Annapolis. The boat was not properly loaded on the trailer and the front pads were not supported by a bulkhead. We had her fixed, but it was a bit of a learning experience, being in a new sailing community where I did not know anyone.

"My goal was to sail in one regatta this year. The Good Old Boat Regatta (GOBR) is sailed on October 2 and October 9 as separate races. Because of Cheater's damage, we missed the first race, but made it on October 9. Similar to the Plastic Classic, the GOBR is for boats of 'some maturity', with the first hull being molded prior to 1975. The GOBR is sponsored by the Shearwater Sailing Club and Good Old Boat magazine.

Cheater finishing the Good Old Boat Regatta
Photo Courtesy Jim Graham

"Using our San Francisco PHRF rating of 186, we sailed in the full keel division of 14 boats and were rated near the top of our fleet. We tried a little haggling on our rating, but did not get any additional time, as they found and quoted the 5.5's performance at 186 in San Francisco, based on your article on the 5.5 Meters in the February '03 issue of Latitude 38.

"We sailed the 6.5 mile course in 5-7 knots of wind and relatively flat seas. We got the gun, and corrected out over the second place boat by 7 minutes, 17 seconds. Oops, there goes our rating for next year! Mike Carlson and Denise Lugton, our regular crew from Encinal YC, came out and sailed with us."

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