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Photo of the Day: The Most Extreme Holiday Card of the Year

January 8 - Mill Valley

Cool indeed!
Photo Thijs Heslendfeld

We get a lot of great cards for the holidays but Thijs Heslenfeld's is definitely the most extreme one we received in 2006. As a travel photographer/journalist from The Netherlands, Heslenfeld travels all over the world for most of the year snapping fantastic shots like this one of the Dutch barque Europa in Antarctica. Check out his amazing photography at www.thijsheslenfeld.com.

- latitude / ld


The Low High Season

January 8 - St. Barth, French West Indies

No less an expert than Tom Reardon, for more than 20 years the skipper of the legendary 72-ft Herreshoff ketch Ticonderoga, claims that the best time to be in the Caribbean is right after New Year's. This is because most of the manic vacationers to places such as St. Barth have returned to their manic lives in the States and France, leaving the islands to become peaceful once again - at least until the high part of the high season starts about the end of January.

However, this certainly doesn't mean that there is nothing going on. Just the other afternoon, for example, the crew of Jimmy Buffett's new motoryacht, as well as the crews of numerous charterboats, were bug-eyed at the spectacle of Tom Perkins' Belvedere-based 287-ft Maltese Falcon sailing into the outer anchorage. Lordy, what a sight she is!

The magnificent yacht with the three free-standing masts is not only huge in absolute terms, but with her 15 yard-arms stretched wide of the beam, appears even larger than she actually is. Thanks to her dark hull and silver superstructure, Falcon has a bit of that Darth Vader look going on. It's considerably lightened, however, by the fact she almost always flies more flags and pennants - one of which must more than 100 feet long - than just about any other boat in the Caribbean. The effect is accentuated by the fact that Perkins' other yacht, the 115-ft Atlantide, which was built 75 years ago but is considered by many to be the "most luxurious yacht per square inch" in the world, was anchored nearby and was similarly decorated. The two yachts added a real pizzazz to the anchorage.

Maltese Falcon, prior to being rigged with her flags, and Atlantide, give a little style to the outer anchorage.

This morning Falcon unrolled her 15 sails and headed off in the direction of St. Kitts.

Lest anybody get the wrong idea, most of the 250 or so boats in the anchorage are more modest, in the 35 to 50-ft range.
Photos Latitude/Richard

As for us, life has been good but is getting better. It was great to have our daughter with us for a week, as well as a number of friends from the West Coast, but we were getting partied out. Now it's swim/sail/boogie-board/hike early and often each day, and watch sunsets from the boat rather than the bar. The natural life. The only downside is that we were nearly killed twice within 20 minutes yesterday.

It started when we decided to swim out to the reef at Baie St. Jean. We were impressed with the power of our stroke. Only later did we realize that our speed came not from our stroke, but from a fine rip transporting us out to sea. We had to huff and puff to make it over to the waves breaking on the just-deep-enough-not-to-grind-us-up reef, which allowed us to make it safely back to the shallows. But no sooner were we free of that danger than another one was approaching us at about 100 miles an hour. The runway at St. Barths has planes struggling to get into the air before hitting the waters of Baie St. Jean, and people like us standing in the shallows. Well, the next plane out was so low that people on the beach were screaming in fright, and we, almost in her path, were ducking. Before we had time to think, it had cleared us by about five feet in height and 10 feet to the side. We had no time to be shaken up, because it was clear that the wave-skirting plane was headed directly for the hill across the small bay, and there was no way in the world it was going to clear it. "We're going to witness a plane crash," we said to ourselves, feeling like it wasn't real. But at seemingly the last second, the pilot whipped the plane into the air and just to the left of the hill.

When we got back to the beachside bar, the near-disaster was temporarily the talk of the area. That is until the bartender scoffed, "I can't believe the authorities allowed that guy back. That pilot and his plane were banned from the island four years ago for repeatedly pulling the same stunt, and I expect they'll ban him again."

So, life is proceeding as normal down here.

- latitude / rs

2007 YRA Calendar: Get Yours Now!

January 8 - Northern California

Like Latitude 38 and the wind, the bigger and better 2007 Northern California Sailing Calendar and YRA Master Schedule is free.

As useful and versatile as a Leatherman tool or Swiss Army knife, the YRA Calendar is guaranteed not to rust.
Graphic Latitude/John A.& Chris

You can pick up this all-in-one racing guide at NorCal yacht clubs, marinas and businesses that cater to sailors. They're being mailed out to all 2005 and 2006 YRA members. If you still can't find one, send a check for $5 (P&H) to Latitude 38, 15 Locust Ave., Mill Valley, CA 94941, and we'll mail you one.

- latitude / cw

Pacific Cup Takes On a New Partner

January 8 - San Francisco

For the first time since 1988, the 2008 Pacific Cup will not feature West Marine as the title sponsor. While the marine retailer will still play a role in the event, the Pacific Cup Yacht Club just announced that in 2008, it will partner with the Storm Trysail Club in the planning and execution of the 15th running of this biennial (even years) ocean classic.

In last summer's Pacific Cup, Tom Akin's Belvedere-based Santa Cruz 52 Lightning made a clean sweep: first to finish, first on corrected time in class, first on corrected time in fleet.
Photo Latitude / LaDonna

This is the first West Coast event for the East Coast-based Storm Trysail Club, which celebrated its 70th year in 2006. The club has long been in the forefront of supporting safe ocean racing, from organizing the Block Island Race Week to working with the TransPac YC to develop the 65-ft box rule, to (with help from the St. Francis and New York YCs) introducing the IRC rating system to America. Besides working on the Pac Cup race itself, the influence of the STC will be felt in other areas including expanded safety and preparation seminars, review of equipment requirements and recruiting entrants and additional sponsors.

Lou Ickler, Commodore of the Pacific Cup YC, sees the new partnership as a win-win for everyone. "The Storm Trysail Club is an acknowledged expert in key areas of ocean racing, crew and equipment preparation and safety at sea. The ultimate goal is to put on the best possible event for the racers, whether this is their 10th race or their first major ocean crossing."

More information and future updates on Pacific Cup can be found at www.pacificcup.org.

- latitude / jr

As Predicted, World ARC Fleet Reaches Capacity

January 8 - Cowes, UK

Although the entry fee is an average of about $10,000, plus crew fees of $1,000 for everyone including the skipper, the World Cruising Club had absolutely no problem attracting a full fleet for their newest event. As of December 22, 45 boatowners, including seven from the United States, had committed to the circumnavigation rally, which starts from St. Lucia in January of '08 and finishes the following March at the same island. Because of political problems in the Red Sea area, the World ARC route will go via South Africa instead of the Med.

Buoyed by the response to World ARC '08, World Cruising Club has announced that they are accepting applications for World ARC '10. Boats that don't want to circumnavigate in just over a year are being offered the opportunity to drop out of the World ARC they begin and resume on a later World ARC.

The World Cruising Club puts on a number of events, the best known of which is the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) from the Canaries to St. Lucia. This is the original long distance cruising rally, and has been going gangbusters - often 225 entries - ever since. See www.worldcruising.com for more.

- latitude / rs

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