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Big Change for Tom Conerly of Santa Cruz

January 10 - St. Barth, FWI

While walking down the dock in St. Barth's only port, a couple of days before New Year's, we bumped into Tom Conerly of Santa Cruz. Talk about a guy who has made a big change! For a quarter of a century, most of his sailing had consisted of racing on Moore 24s, one of the smallest 24-footers around. Down in Santa Cruz, he raced his own Wildfire, and when on the Bay, he skippered the St. Francis YC-based Snafu-U. For coastal races, TransPacs, and West Marine Pacific Cups, he raced aboard larger monohulls such as Santa Cruz 50s.

Tom Conerly and David Lewis

Conerly's sailing life changed dramatically last year when he and David Lewis of Massachusetts became boat partners in HaPai, a F/P 42-ft Venezia cruising cat they'd bought in a liquidation sale in Fort Lauderdale. "I'm a recovering racer," Conerly admits. And the recovery doesn't seem to be that hard. "I like sailing on the cat. Instead of it being 'camping with the boys' like on the Moore 24, with the cat you get your own big cabin, a big salon with 360 degree visibility and standing headroom, and a huge cockpit. It's a great platform for being on the ocean. In fact, I can't even imagine going cruising on a monohull."

HaPai, and some other big yachts
Photos Latitude/Richard

Although Conerly's first catamaran experience was aboard a Lagoon 42 on a charter with his family, they are not cruising with him. "My wife is not a sailor, so she flies into the places she likes, and my kids are grown now." It's the same with boat partner Lewis, who flies in to meet him at selected places.

For a guy who had raced Moore 24s for 25 years, we were surprised to learn that when looking for boats Conerly didn't care at all about the boat's sailing characteristics. An architect on sabbatical, he was primarily interested in the use of space on various cats. The Venezia is considered to offer the performance typical of French cats built for the charter trade, which means they don't point particularly high because they don't have daggerboards, and they don't sparkle in light air because they have modest sail area. But Conerly reports that given the right conditions, HaPai gets up and goes.

"On our way down from Massachusetts to the Caribbean, we had a period of 30-knot winds with 12-ft seas, and we were doing 12 to 14 knots with a reefed main and a small jib. This resulted in a lot of pounding, however, so we double-reefed the main and slowed down to 8 to 10 knots. I have a tendency to keep too much sail up, but have to shorten down in order for the autopilot to handle the boat."

After buying the boat in Lauderdale last year, Conerly and Lewis put in a lot of time fixing her up, then had an even better time taking her up the East Coast to Massachusetts. "We hung around Annapolis for a while, then got a berth for just $10/night at the 79th Street Boat Basin in New York City, where we were right next to Roman Abramovich's 350-ft Le Grand Bleu. It was even fun on the IntraCoastal Waterway - also known as 'The Dismal Swamp' - where I was surprised at how much open space there was."

When Conerly arrived in Antigua in November, he was surprised at how hot and humid it is. It's become much nicer since winter has arrived. He's found the clear water of the Caribbean much to his liking, but has been disappointed that there's not more coral.

Conerly and Lewis have an 'endless summer' concept, that in theory means they'll be sailing to the Pacific in a few months, and then in the southern hemisphere. "I'd like to catch up with West Marine founder Randy Repass and his new boat," says Conerly, "I've known him for many year. But plans are always subject to change."

Hitching Boat Rides Around the World

January 10 - St. Barth, FWI

When people tell us they'd like to cruise the world hitching rides on boats, we always tell them the best place to start is Antigua, preferably at the end of April, which is the start of Antigua Sailing Week and the end of the Caribbean season.

Jolen and David Vonwinkle
Photo Latitude/Richard

David Freuden and Jolen Vonwinkle of Sydney, Australia, took the 'start in Antigua' part of the advice after reading it in a book, and that's how they've ended up crewing on HaPai. The couple's sailing experience was limited to Freuden's time aboard Hobie 16 beach cats, but shortly after arriving in Antigua 2.5 months ago, they snagged a ride on a 112-footer racing down to Guadaloupe, which has pretty much plugged them into the network. They've had several offers since.

When looking to crew, it helps to be conspicuous. When you don't mind singing jazz at a sailors' bar, you can't help but be conspicuous. So it was that after Jolen sang one song, she met Tom and David, and she and her partner have been crewing on HaPai ever since.

David and Jolen have plans pretty typical of most Aussies. "We'll return home in about 10 to 20 years."

Nuts to Nikon, Because Fujifilm Is Finer

January 10 - St. Barth, FWI

If you care about taking sailing photos, or just photos around the water where there are lots of greens and blues, the quality of color is going to be very important. But if you're not a professional photographer, you might not realize that there's a tremendous amount of difference in the quality of the color among the different brands of digital cameras.

When we at Latitude bought our first digital SLR camera - in the bad old days when they cost a king's ransom - it was a Fuji FinePix S1. But when we got it, the body was so flimsy that we immediately returned it for a much more expensive Nikon D-1 that everybody was raving about. How could the D-1 not be great? It cost more, it was 'the' camera of all the professionals, and therefore we assumed had to be the Buddha of shutter snapping. Well, the D-1 had great features for the time, was built like a nuclear bomb shelter, but took surprisingly dull photos. We were quite disappointed.

When the second round of digital SLRs came around, they were much cheaper and had a lot of great features. Since the Fuji FinePix S2, their newer model, came in a more robust body, we invested in several of those. We were extremely happy with the color, as every shot had better color than what we got from our old Nikons. Alas, the camera didn't work quite a well as the Nikon, and they weren't as reliable.

Indeed, when we arrived in St. Barth, the monitor on the back of the camera started to only work intermittently, then gave out. With all the great yachts around, we had to get a replacement camera immediately.

Fortunately, St. Martin - where they have great deals on jewelry, electronics, cameras and other stuff - was only 16 miles away. And, several of the stores were carrying the Nikon D-70, which every digital camera reviewer had been coronating as the greatest-for-the-price digital camera ever. And since it only cost $900 - $100 less than we'd seen advertised anywhere in the U.S. - we bought one. As we fooled around with the camera, we were tremendously impressed. It was compact and everything worked terrifically. Plus, the rechargeable batteries lasted about 10 times as long as those in the FinePix.

Then we took a couple of hundred photos of the Around the Island Race - and were crestfallen to discover that the Nikon's color wasn't any better than the D-1's. The photos weren't horrible, but we couldn't give them more than a C- against an A+ for the FinePix 2.

Think we're full of baloney? Check out the accompanying shots and see for yourself. The first was taken from the porch of our little room in St. Barth with a $250 Fuji FinePix S3000, and the second taken with the heralded Nikon D-70. The Fuji's color is clearly superior, is it not?

The Fuji looks at the world

The Nikon view of the same world
Photos Latitude/Richard

When we've asked professional photographers who use Nikons what they do with their photos, they've talked about touching up the color in Photoshop - right, shoot 300 photos in an afternoon and then spend a week fixing them up - or downloading some color adjustment program from the Internet. What nonsense! Why doesn't Nikon just license Fujifilm's color program?

The bottom line is that when we get back to Northern California in a couple of days, we'll have a once-used Nikon D-70 for sale at a very attractive price.

Some of you will suggest that we pick up a new Fujifilm FinePix F3 as our next camera. We would, had they not decided to make it a very high end camera with 12 million pixels - 9 million of which aren't needed for most purposes - and attached a fat price tag.

All this is a very long way of recommending that sailing readers looking for a digital camera for use around boats and the water buy a Fujifilm. Or at least check out its color compared to that of other brands.

By the way, you can get incredible digital cameras for just a couple of hundred dollars now, with up to 10 times optical zoom and other great features. The one thing you still have to pay at least $900 for is minimal shutter delay, which is necessary for being able to reliably capture action photographs.

Zihua SailFest Schedule

January 10 - Zihuatanejo, Mexico

Tom Collins of Misty Sea asked us to post this schedule of events for Zihua SailFest, in hopes that it may encourage any fence sitters in Barra, Tenacatita, or PV to slip on down for the fun.

Regatta en El Paraiso
Zihuatanejo SailFest 2005
Schedule of Events

Wednesday, February 2
10:00 AM Northbound and Southbounder's Cruising Seminar at Rick's Bar.
6:00 PM A No Host Kick-off Party at Rick's Bar.

Thursday, February 3
9:00 AM Cruiser Seminars presented by, and for, cruisers
11:00 AM Beach Party and Games Day with games, games, games.
7:00 PM Flare Shoot-out. A chance for cruisers to set off their expired flares.

Friday, February 4
12:00 Noon Pursuit Race. An absolutely "NO STRESS" fun event.
4:00 PM Dinghy Raft-up and potluck appetizer party aboard a vessel, possibly Profligate.

Saturday, February 5
10:00 AM Dinghy Poker Chase. A fun activity that can involve everyone aboard.
2:00 PM Chili Cook-off and Street Fair on the street in front of Rick's.

Sunday, February 6
11:00 AM Sail Parade, a procession around the Bay, up to Ixtapa and free sail back.
4:00 PM Wrap-up Barbecue on Playa Madera, awards ceremony, auction and raffle.

"We will be selling raffle tickets for a huge list of great prizes," adds Tom, "all generously provided by local merchants. Here is your chance to have fun and participate in a great charity in the process."

The America's Cup Story at the Corinthian Yacht Club    

January 10 - Tiburon

This Friday night, January 14, the Corinthian Yacht Club will host a special screening of The America's Cup Story, a one-hour documentary on the history of the America's Cup, which is hosted and narrated by a sailor named Walter Cronkite, and written by John Rousmaniere. The America's Cup makes for spectacular story-telling, with its tales of great ambitions, deep intrigues, and ferocious competition between the world's best sailors and world's wealthiest men with over-the-top personalities. For more on the film, see www.americascupstory.com. To make a reservation, see www.cyc.org/speakers/movie.html.

The schedule for the evening: 6:30 to 7:30, Cocktail Hour with no host bar and hors d'oeuvres; 7:30, Dinner with film to follow. Cost: Hors d'oeuvres, dinner and film $27; Film & hors d'oeuvres only $14.

The film will lead in to the Corinthian's first weekend of midwinters, which finishes up in February. As anyone who's done one knows, this is big regatta with lots of boats, beer, a buffet and a band on Saturday night. For more info, see http://home.pacbell.net/cycsf/races.htm.

Vendée Globe - the Golding Standard

January 10 - Atlantic Ocean

British sailing may soon have a king to stand beside Queen Ellen (MacArthur). And he may be coronated by the same race that catalyzed her fame, the Vendée Globe. That prince is a 44-year-old former firefighter named Mike Golding and - but for a broken halyard yesterday - he might be leading the current edition of this singlehanded, nonstop round-the-word race even now.

In the last Vendée, you may recall that Ellen drag-raced French sailing star Michel Desjoyeaux up most of the Atlantic in the homestretch (the race starts and finishes in France). Desjoyeaux's PRB eventually won, but Ellen's close second aboard Kingfisher catapulted her to renown beyond even that of the winner. Even the French loved her. The sailing-crazy French may find Golding a bit harder to adore, but they have to admire his incredible drive.

Sailing Ecover, a new Owen Clarke 60 that's a tic better upwind than his two French rivals - Jean Le Cam on Bonduelle and Vincent Riou on PRB - Golding has slowly but steadily moved up the ranks since the start. He finally caught up to the two leaders (at least in the same weather system) shortly before rounding the Horn. Since then, on the wind, he's averaged 1.3 knots faster than Riou, and 2 knots faster than Le Cam (who is farther to the east in less wind at the moment). Golding passed Riou over the weekend. Then - with the three front-runners less than 6 miles apart (after some 18,000 miles of racing!) and Golding less than 2 miles from taking the lead for the first time - the main halyard on Ecover snapped. Golding immediately depowered and headed up the mast to make temporary repairs. At this writing, he should be finishing a permanent repair and getting back on the attack. In the meantime, Vincent Riou has taken over the lead. (Le Cam hopes his easting will play to advantage later.)

Golding will lose precious miles during the repair. But this Vendée Globe is far from over. The leading trio are at the latitude of Buenos Aires and with three weeks to go and the doldrums dead ahead, anything could happen. It could
even come down to another drag race between a British boat and a French boat. And talk about déjà vu - Riou's PRB is the same boat aboard which Michel Desjoyeaux narrowly beat Ellen MacArthur in the last edition of this race.

To keep up with the daily drama, log onto www.vendeeglobe.fr/uk.

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