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Golden Day for Golden Gate Midwinters

November 7 - San Francisco

You couldn't ask for a nicer day to kick off midwinter racing on the Bay than that enjoyed by the Golden Gate YC fleet on Saturday. Seventy-seven boats in nine divisions enjoyed sparkling sunshine and medium breeze - with a few parking lots thrown in for good measure (such as the one at the Blossom Rock buoy in the photo above) - to complete the first midwinter race of the season.

Razzberries leads the PHRF 3 division around the windward mark (Blackaller buoy). The Cal 40 Shaman, seen here at the back of this cluster, went on to place first in the division.

Joining in on more serious fun, the Melges 24 fleet used Saturday's race (and another on Sunday) as a tuneup for their upcoming Worlds in Key Largo December 11-16. Lending a bit of star power to the proceedings, Russell Coutts was calling tactics on Philippe Kahn's Pegasus 575, while Philippe's son, Shark - who won the 2003 Worlds - was hot on Dad's heels most of the day.

No quarter - Shark Kahn (492) chases dad Philippe and Russell Coutts (575) in Pegasus Racing's Melges 24s.

Division winners (not including the Melges fleet) follow. Complete results should be available soon at www.ggyc.com. For complete coverage, check out the December issue of Latitude 38.

PHRF 1 (<48): Mr. Magoo, J/120, Stephen Madeira; PHRF 2 (49-78): Q, Schumacher 40, Glenn Isaacson; PHRF 3 (79-114): Shaman, Cal 40, Steve Waterloo; PHRF 4 (115-155): Harp, Catalina 38, Mike Mannix; PHRF 5 (> 156): Mr. Toad, J/24, John Hunt; IOD: Xarifa, Paul Manning; CATALINA 34: Wind Dragon, Dave Davis; FOLKBOAT: Frihed, Bill Madison.

The new Wyliecat 44, sailing in PHRF 1, was showing her heels to most of the fleet.
Photos Latitude/JR

Turtle Bay Is a Blast for the Ha-Ha Fleet

November 4 - Turtle Bay, Baja California

One of the Ha-Ha kids having a fine time during the beach party
Photo John Pettitt

As of Friday, the majority of the 130-boat Baja Ha-Ha cruising fleet had been in the little fishing village of Turtle Bay for two days, and the 535 sailors had been having a fine time. And why not, as the weather was sunny and warm, the scenery was great, and the people - both locals and ralliers - were great. The party in town and on the beach weren't bad either.

The garbage collecting Francisco and Francisco hold up their Ha-Ha frisbees.

Most of the fleet had an easy time of the 360-mile first leg. There was an unusually good breeze the first 12 to 18 hours, after which it got light. So light that many boats had to motor most of the way. While everyone would have preferred sailing, at least the motoring conditions were excellent - warm temperatures and bright blue skies and seas. Several boats paused for the afternoon or overnight at West Benito Island or Cedros.

"Last one in is a rotten egg!" Cruising World editor Herb McCormick, a member of the Profligate crew, is one of the first to dive in. Even as far south as Turtle Bay, the water temperature was 65 degrees - cooler than normal.

With the conditions so light, only two boats sailed the entire leg - Nels Torberson's Alameda-based Morgan Out-Island 41- in her sixth consecutive Ha-Ha - and Michael Ganahl and Leslie Hardy's 60-ft schooner Millennium Falcon.

Boats that had problems that resulted in their being out on the course longer than the others got hit by 20+ knot winds and sizable seas, which created more problems. For example, the Hobie Viva catamaran that the Atkins 32 Meralee was towing(!) got knocked over, and the Lee family of Arizona had to drag it behind their boat for an entire night! Remarkably, the little cat suffered no damage, and they used her as a dinghy to sail to the beach party in Turtle Bay.

Given the size of the fleet, there was the normal amount of mechanical problems. One engine was fried, another was almost destroyed thanks to a pin-hole in an after-market oil filter, and an improperly installed Saildrive filled with water. In addition, there were a number of alternator-related problems. Profligate broke her "can't possibly fail" high-output alternator bracket for about the sixth time. Fortunately, we found a skilled welder in Turtle Bay able to build a robust steel replacement for just $60!

Robert Sutherland holds up Profligate's cheesy old alternator bracket while welder Eulises Sinhuedelvalle Arge holds the superior $60 replacement.
Photos Latitude/Andy & Richard except as noted

The bad news on the medical front this morning was that one of the crewmembers of Tom Baldwin's Kalama, Washington-based Cascade 29 Ulysses, suffered a stroke. Thanks to heroic efforts of certain members of the Ha-Ha fleet, particularly Debbie of the Dana Point-based Contest 48 Dawntreader, the patient was flown out about six hours later, in the company of another Ulysses crew, for further diagnosis and treatment in San Diego. The fleet is pulling for him.

Saturday is the start of the 240-mile second leg to Bahia Santa Maria. According to the forecast by Commander's Weather, the fleet can expect anywhere from 10 to 25 knots of wind, depending on how far offshore they go.

First Blood in Volvo Race

November 7 - Sanxenxo, Spain

The seven entries in the Volvo Ocean Race don't take off for their 9-leg 31,000-mile round-the-world marathon until next weekend. But as part of the new, improved Volvo, the fleet had its first in-port, round-the-buoys race in Sanxenxo, Spain, on Saturday. In winds no stronger than 8 knots, the Swedish Ericsson Team, with the Bay Area's John Kostecki calling the shots, led the 14.4-mile race wire to wire over five other boats. (Australia's Premier Racing team did not participate.) In second was Brasil 1, followed by Paul Cayard and his Pirates of the Caribbean team, then the Spanish entry movistar. Bringing up the rear were Netherlands entries ABN Amro Two and ABN Amro One.

Start of the light-air buoy race in Sanxenxo. Some of the estimated 500 spectator boats came so close that the VO70s had to swerve to avoid hitting them.
Photo Rick Tomlinson

Not a lot can be read into this early showing - none of these new 70-footers were built to race in such light air, especially the beamy, double-ruddered ABN boats. Nevertheless, the in-port races (there will be five more of them at stops along the way) count for about 20% of the overall standings, so everyone is taking them seriously. For their performances over the weekend, Ericsson gets 3.5 points, Brasil - 3, Pirates - 2.5, movistar - 2, ABN Two - 1.5, ABN One - 1 and Premier Racing - 0. A total of 112 points are up for grabs over the next few months.

For daily updates, log onto www.volvooceanrace.com.

Transat Jacques Vabre starts

November 7 - Le Havre, France

The seventh running of the Transat Jacques Vabre, the premier doublehanded ocean race in the world, started off Le Havre, France, over the weekend. Nineteen monohulls (in 50 and 60-ft classes) started on Saturday, followed by 10 multis (also 50-60 feet) on Sunday. Both fleets started under reefed mains in difficult conditions - 25+ knot winds from the SSW (on the nose), with reported gusts over 40 during the first night. There won't be much relief for several days until they pick up the Trades off Africa. The rough conditions have already caused several competitors to pull into port for repairs, and one, the 60-ft trimaran Brossard, has had to retire after a large crack appeared in the deck under the mast.

British team Nick Maloney and Brian Thompson couldn't figure out why their Open 60 Skandia was moving so slowly until they found this 60-ft long ship hawser wrapped around their keel.
Photo Courtesy Offshore Challenges Sailing Team

The course takes the fleet 4,500 miles from Le Havre to San Salvador, Brazil. To help insure that all boats finish in the same time frame, the faster multihulls must round a mark in mid-Atlantic: Ascension Island to starboard. The race takes about two weeks to complete.

Begun in 1993, the bienniel TJV attracts the best and brightest in shorthanded sailing. At this writing, Rouland Jourdain and Dame Ellen MacArthur lead the Open 60 monohull fleet on Sill Et Veolia. In the Open 50 class, the only Americans in the race were running 1-2: Maine's Kip Stone with Brit crew Merfyn Owen on Artforms had a 15-mile lead over Boston-based Joe Harris and crewman Josh Hall's Gryphon Solo (Brad Van Liew's former Around Alone winner Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America). But Artforms radioed yesterday that they were pulling into Lorient to make some repairs.

In the ORMA 60 multihull class, Michel Desjoyeaux and Hugues Destremau aboard the trimaran Geant hold a slim lead, while Frank-Yves Escoffier and Kevin Escoffier on the French tri Crepes Whaou maintain a huge 36-mile lead in the Open 50 multihull class.

You can follow the race at its excellent Web site, www.jacques-vabre.com.

Geronimo Arrives in San Diego

November 7 - San Diego

Having set the record for circumnavigating Australia, Geronimo sailed the 4,000 miles from Papeete, Tahiti, to California in 12 days, averaging 16 knots. The giant gray Capgemini and Schneider Electric trimaran glided under a blanket of fog into San Diego at 8 am this morning.

After the boat was cleared by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, she was docked at Driscoll's Boat Works on Shelter Island with assistance from the Genuine Risk team and the San Diego Yacht Club. Kids in the SDYC junior sailing program will get a chance to see the impressive tri up close when they visit Geronimo at the dock this week.

The Geronimo crew on the docks at Shelter Island
Photo Courtesy www.superyachting.com

The 10-man French crew landed in San Diego in good spirits after an enjoyable trip with the boat performing well. The boat will now undergo major preparations to ensure she is in optimum racing configuration for the upcoming Los Angeles to Hawaii record attempt.

"I first came to San Diego 35 years ago with Pen Duick IV with Eric Tabarly," commented skipper Olivier de Kersauson, "and when we arrived we were very hungry - we had no food for one week before we arrived, so when Customs said to destroy all food they were shocked and took us to the closest hamburger restaurant to eat, and we couldn't eat everything in front of us. I was also in San Diego for the America's Cups as a journalist and photographer."

After the record attempt, Geronimo will return to the Driscoll facility in America's Cup Harbor until mid January. Skipper Kersauson will then lead his crew in the trek from San Francisco to Yokohama, Japan, in an effort to break the current record set in May of 1997 of 19 days and 15 hours. For more information on Geronimo's exploits see www.superyachting.com.

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