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Photo of the Day

January 7 - Honolulu, HI

Photo Laura Wong-Rose

"My husband and I live aboard our 27' Albin Vega Lealea (along with our cat) in the Ala Wai Harbor in Honolulu," writes Laura Wong-Rose. "We are treated often to great sunsets, but this one was the best in a long while. Chuck and I are planning on 'cutting the lines' this year and going cruising; Baja Ha-Ha is on our list of activities. Can't wait!"

Which Is Bigger? You Decide

January 7 - Belvedere

In the last several 'Lectronics, we've been talking about the world's largest privately-owned yachts - Jim Clark's 297-ft LOA clipper ship Athena, and Larry Ellison's 452-ft motoryacht Rising Sun - because they were both here in St. Barth and because they are both owned by Northern Californians.

In the course of reporting that, we mentioned that another Northern Californian, Tom Perkins of Belvedere, is building a yacht that depending on how you measure yachts, may become the largest privately-owned sailing yacht in the world.

Mirabella V, Athena and Maltese Falcon

Perkins was nice enough to write us and give us a graphic and numerical comparison of what might be considered the three largest sailing yachts in the world. On the left is Mirabella V, Joe Vittoria's new sloop, which clearly has the tallest mast in the world. The second is Athena, which is the longest if you include the bowsprit. On the right is Perkins' Maltese Falcon, due to launch next year, which is actually the largest in terms of on-deck length, as well as weight and volume.

When it comes to looks, we think Maltese Falcon wins hands down - although we're still getting used to the rig.

Graphics Courtesy Tom Perkins

We Hate to See Him Go

January 7 - St. Barth, FWI

What makes St. Barth such a great place is the people. And we're not talking about the billionaires, the movie queens, and other celebrities. We're talking about the regular local folks - more on them in a later issue - and the folks who actually run the sailboats. (Most of the powerboat folks, except for the cooks, exist in a different universe.)

This hasn't been the greatest winter season so far in St. Barths for several reasons. It's been windy - the 20+ knot fan has been on since we got here - it's been overcast, we've been sick, we've been having equipment problems, the prices are shockingly high, but the worst has been that some of our old friends from boats aren't back and new ones haven't replaced them. John and Kate aren't back with the great Hinckley yawl Nirvana, once owned by Commodore Vanderbilt. Allesandro isn't back running the Bristol 55 Nightrain. And a bunch of other folks are either in Antigua, the British Virgins, or just didn't make it down this year. So it goes in the ever transient sailing life.

As such, we were sorry to see Toby Felix and a couple of crew set sail for the British Virgins yesterday afternoon on Flying Colors, which if we remember correctly, is a Bristol or Hinckley 51. The 31-year-old Felix grew up in San Diego, where his dad owned the schooner Renegade III. "I just about grew up on the schooner Rendezvous," he says.

Flying Colors

Toby is a quiet and low-key guy, so although he was here last season, we don't even remember him. We met him this season while spending the afternoon at the dinghy dock trying to get a dinghy belonging to our old captain Antonio to fire up. There were two minor problems. First, the old gas in the lines and engine had deteriorated into something akin to varnish and dried to everything; and there was water in the fuel. Since we didn't have our boat here, we didn't have any tools - and thus the work, although pleasant enough, was going pretty slowly.

Despite the rather frantic pre-New Year's buzz, Toby was kind enough to stop by, give some tips, and even go out to his boat and bring back some tools, rags, spark plugs, and WD-40. It was a kind gesture by a nice guy who knows how things go in and around boats.

Toby Felix
Photos Latitude/Richard

So if any of you folks from San Diego remember Toby, he's doing well running a lovely D.C.-based private yacht, enjoying life, and helping out where he can. We sure hope we cross paths with him again.

Tsunami Update - Winlink Boats Safe

January 7 - Thailand

Although many tsunami horror stories are still circulating, and the death count is still rising in some areas, we are happy to have some positive news to report.

As many 'Lectronic readers know, Winlink is an HF radio email service (similar to SailMail) which is widely used in the Indian Ocean and elsewhere. Amazingly, every single WinLink subscriber within the tsunami area has been accounted for. Apparently none of these boats were lost and all of their crews are safe. Given the severity of casualties ashore, this uplifting news is, of course, truly remarkable.

Wave action in Thailand
Photo Courtesy Aragorn

According to Eric Steinberg of Sausalito's Farallon Electronics, Winlink administrators know each vessel's location, as each automatically generates its current GPS position whenever a message is sent from on board.

Working in cooperation with Winlink administrators, Mike Pilgrim of International Boat Watch Network has compiled a database of all Winlink subscribers in the tsunami area. As shown in his database - viewable at www.boatwatchnet.org, click on Past History - all have reported in and are okay.

Vendée Globe

January 7 - Cape Horn

Only 100 miles separate the three top boats in the sprint to the finish of the 2003-2004 Vendée Globe Race. Jean Le Cam aboard Bonduelle, holds onto a slim lead, but as of this morning,Vincent Riou aboard PRB, is only 59 miles
behind, and British ironman Mike Golding on Ecover - who has made an amazing recovery since having trouble in the early going - is only 97 miles behind Le Cam. With just 6,500 miles to go, it's going to be a real drag race up the Atlantic to the finish.

The first land that Jean Le Cam saw since the November 7 start was, fittingly, Cape Horn. Bonduelle rounded the infamous mark on January 3 at twilight, 56 days days from the start. This is 5 days and change faster than race leader Michel Desjoyeaux did it in 2001. (Interestingly, Desjoyeaux's boat, PRB, is the same one that Riou is currently sailing in second place.)

When the top three rounded the Horn, incredibly, an entire ocean separated the leaders from the tail-end boats. The former had just exited the Pacific, while the latter, still off Australia, had not even entered it. Two other participants dropped out before the new year - Marc Thiercelin on Proform, because of an accumulation of damage all over the boat (including a broken bowsprit and traveler), and Patrice Carpentier, whose boom on VM Materiaux had broken a second time. Both skippers intend to get outside assistance, repair their boats and finish the race unofficially.

14 boats now remain of the 20 which started the race on November 7. Alameda's Bruce Schwab is not only still among them, he is currently running in ninth place, and the Wylie-designed Ocean Planet is holding up well. See www.vendeeglobe.fr/uk/ for more.

Oryx Quest

January 7 - Doha, Qatar

In less than a month - February 5, to be precise - four of the world's eight jumbo multihulls will shove off from the oil-and-gas rich port of Doha, Qatar, and race nonstop around the world in the Oryx Quest 2005. The quartet, all over 100 feet and tried-and-true veterans of previous circumnavigations, are the trimaran Geronimo (skipper Olivier de Kersauson, FRA) and three cats: Cheyenne (ex-PlayStation, David Scully, USA), Qatar (ex-Club Med, ex-Maiden II, Brian Thompson, GBR), and the long-in-the-tooth Daedalus (ex-ENZA, Tony Bullimore, GBR). The winner of the mad dash will take home a cool million U.S.; second place will reap $300,000; third will get $200,000; and fourth, nada. We suspect there's more than a little appearance money involved, too - making this a pretty nice paycheck for almost everybody involved.


Photos Courtesy www.qisel.com

Because Qatar (pronounced like 'cotter', as in 'Qatar pin', more or less) is located in the Middle East instead of Europe, the race is somewhat shorter - about 20,000 miles vs. the more standard 24,000 mile course - and is projected to take around 50 days. (The Jules Verne record, currently owned by Geronimo, is 63.5 days, and the absolute record, set by PlayStation in April 2004, is 58 days and 9 hours.) The way we see it, the race will come down to a tussle between the two 'Indian boats'. Cheyenne will be fastest off the wind and in the Southern Ocean, but Geronimo will have an edge upwind, which will include the homestretch. The two have never squared off before, so who knows what will happen?

The new event is the brainchild of female British sailing star Tracy Edwards, who sold this race and another one, the Quest Qatar 2006 (another race for mega-multihulls, but with stopovers), to the wealthy, sports-loving Qatarians - none of whom are actually sailing in the race. Another person (and boat) you won't find at either Oryx Quest is Bruno Peyron, skipper of Orange II and organizer of The Race, which attracted six boats in its first and only running. Peyron apparently is livid with Edwards - not to mention suing her - for undermining his second edition of The Race, which was meant to take off at about the same time. Like the song says, "money changes everything" - and the Qatar events obviously have barrelfuls of it.

Intrigue, money, icebergs, politics, lawsuits, and did we mention money? This race has it all! It even has a Bay Area connection - inimitable Kiwi multihuller Peter Hogg will be spending 10 days in Doha as one of four members of the international race committee. Hogg is naturally excited about the upcoming race, and promises to fill us in more thoroughly on it as the time approaches. He's also hoping to sneak off to the 'camel races' while over there - Hogg swears such a thing exists, but he doesn't think you can bet on them.

The tiny Persian Gulf country of Qatar occupies a peninsula off of Saudi Arabia. Doha, the capital, is midway down the east coast.
Map Courtesy University of Texas Libraries
See www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/middle_east.html

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