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Photos of the Day

November 27 - San Francisco Bay

The crew of Home Free seemed pretty thankful for the outstanding weather on Thanksgiving Day.

If you didn't get out on the Bay over the long Thanksgiving weekend, you missed spectacular weather and some lovely sailing, as attested to by today's Photos of the Day.

A surprising number of boats were out doing their thing on Thursday in a nice breeze under cloudless skies - until dinner time approached, that is, and everyone raced home for some grub. We trust everyone gorged themselves - we certainly did.

Banker's Hours looks like they're in a hurry to get home for some turkey.

Friday and Saturday were just as stunning so anyone who didn't want to brave the crowds at the malls had to brave the crowds on the Bay. Sadly, the weekend was topped off by a soggy Sunday.

Nomi got in on the action on Saturday afternoon after the breeze finally started to fill in.
SF Bay Photos Latitude/LaDonna

If you were bemoaning the rain, just take a look at what Rich and Jen Fleischman get to deal with up in Alaska, where they act as winter caretakers for a lodge.

This Alaskan lodge may be picturesque but only one word came to mind when we saw this shot: "BRRRR!"

Rich reports they've had over seven feet of snowfall for the month of November - last year, they had 12 feet of snow over the entire winter!

As a testament to Jen's good humor, she actually smiles while shoveling snow.

So the next time you think you're too busy to take advantage of our mild winter sailing, remember Jen and Rich, buried under a blanket of snow, and get your boat out there.

- latitude / ld

Bob's waterline tends to rise when there's seven feet of snow on her decks.
Alaska Photos Jen and Rich Fleischman

Rubbish for Two Skippers in Velux 5 Oceans

November 27 - Fremantle, Australia

A dramatic turn of events hit the Velux 5 Oceans race over the weekend. Hugo Boss skipper Alex Thomson abandoned his boat after the section which attaches the rams to the canting keel snapped off early Thursday morning. Despite attempts to secure the free-swinging keel, Thomson and his shore team decided it was no longer safe for Thomson to remain on the boat in the South Atlantic. At the time of the structural failure, Thomson and Mike Golding on Ecover were racing neck-and-neck for second place, 1,000 miles south of the Cape of Good Hope. (At one point they were only one mile apart.)

Golding and fourth-place Kojiro Shiraishi immediately offered assistance, and with Golding in the closest position 80 miles due west, it was decided that he would sail upwind to Thomson. The two waited until daylight Friday morning to complete the transfer, which took four attempts and nearly two hours. Though Thomson injured his hand in the process, both skippers were relatively unscathed. Once Thomson was on the boat, Golding returned to racing. The plan was that Thomson would remain aboard Ecover as a passenger, offering no assistance, until it arrived in Fremantle.

"This has been without doubt the most terrifying and emotional experience of my life," Thomson said once aboard Ecover. [Hugo Boss] has been my life for three years. It's wrong to leave her down here and I would have done anything to save her. But to be stranded in big seas 1,000 nautical miles from land, with an irreparable keel which was swinging uncontrollably, I really had no other choice. It was very distressing to look back and see Hugo Boss in such a sorry state. I am hugely grateful to Mike for turning back to rescue me."

Alex Thomson (left), still in his survival suit after abandoning Hugo Boss, and Mike Golding aboard Ecover. The photo was taken before Ecover's mast fell over.
Photo Courtesy onEdition

Six hours later, while both skippers were down below decompressing from the morning's events, Golding's mast broke in two places: just above the main spreaders and again about five feet from the top of the mast. With the mainsail intact and nearly all sails still onboard (the genoa was lost overboard), Golding and Thomson secured the loose parts of the rig and effected a jury rig.

"It was slightly odd the way it happened, but since then we have both come to the conclusion that it was probably damage that was already there," Golding said later. "Yes, it was a squall. Yes, we were going fairly fast, but we were not pushing and since the pick-up we had spent most of the time drinking coffee, catching up and generally recovering from what we had both been through . . . This just doesn't seem terribly fair after what has happened in the last day - what we have both been through. It is rubbish for me and rubbish for Alex. The last thing Alex wanted to do was get plunged into the middle of another problem, and it's clearly rubbish for me, but it is one of the things that can happen when you are engaged in racing like this. We are fortunate that we have been left with the tools to continue sailing and make some choices about where we are going."

The boat is now headed to South Africa. Ecover has a spare mast, but the team will wait until the boat arrives in South Africa before deciding whether to continue in the race.

Meanwhile, the race - which started with an anemic fleet of seven boats in late October - is looking more and more like a survival of the fittest. Four of the remaining five skippers are battling equipment problems. Race leader (by some 960 miles) Bernard Stamm reported breaking a halyard and three mainsail battens last night. One of the battens is caught in the leeward backstay, meaning he is unable to lower his mainsail beyond one reef. Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, currently in fourth, is attempting to fix his problematic autopilot system. He has decided to sail to Fremantle rather than stop to make repairs along the way. Graham Dalton, the sole 50-ft entry in the race, describes himself as "flying blind" without position reports or weather data because of problems with his communications equipment. Unai Basurko, on the newest Open 60 in the fleet and 34 miles behind Dalton, is keeping an eye on his delaminating port rudder. He expects to continue on to Fremantle.

- latitude / ss

Dramatic Overboard Rescue During Harbor to Harbor Race

November 27 - Ventura

If it weren't for the sharp eyes of an oil platform worker and the disciplined rescue techniques of the Ventura County Sheriffs Department, longtime SoCal racer Randy Alcorn might have drowned last week, after being knocked overboard during a broach. At the time, he was racing with two friends aboard a Hunter 33 in the third race of the Harbor to Harbor Series. Although wind and sea conditions were moderate at the start, as the course took the fleet farther offshore - not far from an oil platform - winds increased to as much as 35 knots, according to a Coast Guard observer.

After Alcorn was knocked overboard, his boat and another in the fleet tried unsuccessfully to find him. The following is an excerpt from Alcorn's recollections of the mishap:

"When I saw the boats coming towards me, I was confident they knew where I was. It was not until they went right by me 40 yards away that it hit me that they didn't know where I was and they didn't see me. I waved, blew that little whistle they give you for sunny days when you fall overboard with flat seas. Then the other boat was coming towards me and I tried to swim to get ahead of it. The seas had to be 12-15 feet now and I thought if I could get in front of the boat's path, they might see me, but then it rounded up and missed me again by another 40 yards or so. I did the same whistle routine and waved my arms and even called them a few choice names. I kept yelling 'I am over here.' I took off my life vest and waved it at them hoping someone would turn their head and see it. I could see them on deck looking forward but not turning their heads from side to side or looking back. I blew that stupid whistle and sucked in more water. I knew they could not hear a human voice and the whistle was all I had."

Luckily, Alcorn was eventually plucked from those treacherous seas by a rescue swimmer and helo crew, but the experience has led him to some deep reflection. Look for a more in-depth report on this incident in the January issue of Latitude 38 (to be published on December 29), including some thought-provoking lessons learned.

- latitude / aet

Smith Wins Audi Etchells Worlds

November 27 - Fremantle, Australia

The Etchells fleet sets their kites in Race 6
Photo Steb Fisher/Audi Etchells Worlds

Three-time North American Etchells champion and four-time Worlds runner-up Jud Smith of Marblehead, MA, took the gun in the final race over the weekend to win the 2006 Audi Etchells World Championship in Fremantle. Shortly after Smith and his crew of Canadian Dirk Kneulman and Kiwis Andrew Wills and Thomas Saunders crossed the finish line, the Star Spangled Banner boomed from Black Swan, the same tender that boomed Men at Work back in 1983 when Australia II took the America's Cup.

Americans took the last race 1-2-3 as the Fremantle Doctor pumped winds into the 20s. Smith led from the first mark, but was overtaken by San Diego's Chris Busch down the run. Smith rounded inside Busch, and halfway up the second beat crossed ahead. He was never overtaken again. Busch finished second, with Marin's Craig Healy third. "I thought that we did not deserve to win the Worlds last year in San Francisco," Smith said dockside. "We just did not have the speed, and we came up short. We are good in under 15 knots, but it took a year-long campaign to improve our heavy weather sailing. The Australians, New Zealanders and British are better in heavy air, but today we have Americans 1-2-3 so we are learning."

Healy, sailing with Keith Stahnke and David Gruver, pulled himself up to fifth in the final standings. Busch finished 12th overall. Of the other NorCal teams, Andrew Whittome, Jim Gregory and John Callahan finished 39th in the 70-boat fleet, while Kers Clausen, Kjeld Hestehave and Matt Noble finished 57th, and John Gilmour, Andrew Minkwitz and Terry Dobell finished 66th.

- latitude / ss

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