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December 3, 2007

Photo of the Day: Pucker Factor

Talk about ‘pucker factor’ – this monster is bigger than the storm that killed the crew of the northbound catamaran Cat Shot last December.

NWS/NCEP – Ocean Prediciton Center
©2007 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

If you were thinking of going out for a daysail today anywhere along the Washington, Oregon or Northern California coast, you might want to rethink those plans. A 957 mb low is spinning up off the West Coast with hurricane force winds predicted to hit today.

While Oregon will see the brunt of the storm — 65-85 knot winds with upwards of 45-ft seas — Northern California will also get spanked with 45-60 knots and 27-ft seas in the northern portion. NOAA has issued a storm warning for the entire coast as far south as Point Arena, and a gale warning to Pigeon Point. They are also warning of hazardous seas through Wednesday.

What’s bad news for sailors could be good news for surfers as the Mavericks Surf Contest is slated to ‘start’ this Friday off Half Moon Bay. The contest is unique in that its ‘start date’ is really just a guideline — once conditions are deemed ‘perfect’  by event organinzers, 24 pre-picked surf gods will have just 24 hours to make their way to Half Moon Bay and get suited up. The call could come anytime between December 7 and March 31. The contest was cancelled last year as conditions were never acceptable so organizers have to be drooling over the early start to the storm season.

A-Cup Update: The Plot Thickens

It wasn’t too many years ago that America’s Cup promoters were doing anything they could think of to make the contest for the Cup more appealing to the general public — that is, ready for prime time. But the hubbub created by defender Alinghi‘s proposed rules changes to the 1887 Deed of Gift and S.F.-based BMW Oracle’s resulting lawsuit, have certainly tarnished the Cup’s image in the eyes of diehard race fans and neophytes alike.

The latest salvo, according to a variety of published sources, is that the Swiss Alinghi team (Société Nautique de Genève) has refused to negotiate with challengers in the wake of the NY State Supreme Court’s recent decision which declared that BMW Oracle would be the challenger of record in the next A-Cup series. As it stands now, the competition would probably take place next summer in 90-ft multihulls.

A further twist to this messy business is that Grant Dalton, head of the New Zealand team, has reportedly disclosed an agreement with Alinghi that if the Cup competition were postponed until 2010, the Swiss would pay the Kiwis around $24 million, or $37 million if postponed to 2011. So much for retooling sailing’s reputation as an elitist sport.

Stay tuned for further developments, as this plot will surely thicken before these thorny issues are resolved. 

Multihulls Racing Around the World

If actual racing, as opposed to America’s Cup lawyering, is your passion, you should direct your attention to the Atlantic Ocean right now. While the nine-boat Barcelona around-the-world fleet is certainly worth following, by no means miss the efforts of singlehander Francis Joyon and his new 100-ft trimaran IDEC, who are going after the singlehanded around the world record set by Ellen MacArthur with the trimaran B&Q / Castrorama, as well as Franck Cammas and his crew on the 105-ft maxi trimaran Groupama III, who are going after the Jules Verne around-the-world record for crewed boats.

Francis Joyon set off from Brest, France 10 days ago in an effort to break Dame Ellen MacArthur solo around the world record.

© Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI / Idec

IDEC and Groupama III were to start at the same time, which would have made  for an interesting comparision, but while Joyon and IDEC were able to start 10 days ago, Groupama III was delayed and is only expected to start today. In a friendly radio chat the other day, Cammas told Joyon that he’d gotten such a great start it wasn’t clear whether the bigger crewed multihull would be able to catch him.

And it’s true that IDEC has gotten off to a very fast start. For after just 10 days of sailing, Joyon and his bright red trimaran are already 752 miles ahead of the pace that MacArthur set in establishing her 71-day record run. You’ll recall that in making a new record, MacArthur beat Joyon’s previous time, set in a very old boat with old sails, by a matter of just hours.

As for Cammas and his crew on Groupama III, they have a very tall order — to beat the 50-day, 16-hour around the world record established by Bruno Peyron and the 120-ft maxi cat Orange II. But they have proven that their big tri — which is much lighter than Orange, and therefore theoretically better in light winds and capable of higher bursts — is capable. After all, Groupama beat Orange II‘s trans-Atlantic record last year, averaging nearly 30 knots all the way across, and  in the process, set a new 24-hour record of 796 miles. And no, 796 is not a typo.

So like we said, if you like your sailing heroes to prove their stuff on the water, with incredible courage and mind-boggling speeds, the Atlantic Ocean is the place to look right now.

Ooooommmmm, 15, ooooommmm, 20, ooooommmm 25? latitude/Richard
©2007 Latitude 38 Media, LLC Today’s Photo of the Day is of Eugenie "all the stories you’ve ever heard about me are true" Russell, Commodore of the Punta Mita Yacht & Surf Club, meditating on the number of boats that will participate in next weekend’s first-ever Banderas Bay Bash.
As you read this, the December issue of Latitude 38 is being delivered to marinas, yacht clubs, boatyards and chandleries all over the Bay Area — just in time for the weekend!
In the latest of a long line of legal squabbles that have tarnished the America’s Cup, Grant Dalton, head of Team New Zealand, has sent a letter to Alinghi owner Ernesto Bertarelli, demanding compensation for the postponement of the America’s Cup to after ’09.