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December 14, 2007

Risking Your Life for Freedom

The ‘Freedom 32’ raft designed by Fidel Castro.

© 2007 Rod Williams

Today’s Photo of the Day, of a 10-person Cuban refugee raft that washed up on San Pedro Reef in Belize, should be a reminder to everyone just how good we’ve got it in the United States — and just how bad people have had it in Cuba under the tyrant Fidel Castro for more than 40 years. If we citizens of the United States don’t like it here, we’re always free to take up residence elsewhere. But if you’re a Cuban, you’re nothing more than a prisoner because, in addition to not having freedom of speech or assembly, the poor bastards don’t even have the freedom to travel. Instead, they must risk their lives, as 10 did on this pathetic raft, to try to escape the ‘Worker’s Paradise’. Six of them were still in the hospital at the time this photo was taken.

The shot is the work of Rod Williams of the Alameda-based Catalina 42 Azure, who just happened to be in Belize at the time. "My wife Cheri and I spent a wonderful 10 days sailing in Belize with our good friends Fred McElroy and Alice Heiman of the Tahoe City-based Catalina 270 Grand Cru. We chartered Aubisque, a 47-ft Lagoon catamaran owned and skippered by longtime San Francisco sailor and racer Cliff Wilson. He was assisted by gourmet chef Zoe Ryznar, so we didn’t have to do any navigation, deck work, or cooking! We had so much fun that I almost had to put a gun to my own head to make me come home!"

Joyon Gets Ready to Rip Again

The day after setting a 24-hour singlehanded record of 616 miles with his 97-ft trimaran IDEC, Frenchman Francis Joyon followed it up with a near 600-mile day yesterday. Today, however, the winds have died and he’s limping along at a mere 15 to 17 knots. But Joyon says the winds will pick up again tomorrow, at which point he’ll be "galloping" again.

While an apples to apples comparison is difficult, Joyon’s pace during the first 20 days of his assault on the solo around the world record (71 days) has been approximately 30% faster than Ellen MacArthur’s. Indeed, Joyon is almost at the pace of Orange II, when that crewed maxi catamaran set the Jules Verne Around the World record. What we’re following right now is truly an historic sailing achievement.

Joyon isn’t in it for the glory, he just loves to sail.

© Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI / Idec

What kind of man is Joyon? We put that question to Javier de Muns, Latitude‘s man in Brittany, who is privy to the innermost circles of French multihull sailing:

"Joyon is a very unassuming, down-to-earth guy, capable of accepting without  fuss both breaking the solo around the world record a few years ago as well as losing his boat on the rocky shore of France after setting a new solo transatlantic mark.

"His 97-ft trimaran IDEC reflects his personality. It’s spartan, unsophisticated and efficient.

"Among his peers, Joyon is very much respected, and his psychological strength and resiliency are legendary. But his peers also know that he does not belong to their world, for he hates being center stage. In the ocean racing world of today, which is dominated by high-profile sportsmen, Joyon is probably the last true sailor."

By the way, both Franck Cammas and his crew on the maxi trimaran Groupama, and Thomas Colville, who will be chasing Francis Joyon for the solo around the world record with his trimaran Sodebo, are still on standby in France waiting for ideal conditions in which to start.

Exciting America’s Cup Inaction

The America’s Cup inaction has been moving along at a furious pace.

After BMW Oracle won their court case against Ernesto Bertarelli and Alinghi on November 27 —  which meant the default became BMW Oracle racing the next America’s Cup in 90-ft (presumably) multihulls against AlinghiBMW Oracle suggested a meeting with Alinghi to negotiate a more traditional America’s Cup, with as many participants as possible. Alinghi reacted by twice having their representative fail to show for meetings with BMW Oracle. Sticking their head further in the River Denial, Alinghi then met with the New York YC over the longer term vision of the America’s Cup, seemingly ignoring a much more immediate decision they have to make.

Coming off as the good guys in all this have been Larry Ellison and BMW Oracle. Despite having been stood up several times, they have remained polite but firm, reminding Alinghi that they can’t hold off the decision of whether to build a monohull or (presumably) a multihull much longer. But still nothing from Alinghi.

You might remember that Bertarelli had said that he would not appeal the New York court’s decision because they "had the best lawyers." Well, Alinghi has just hired a new legal team in New York and is apparently threatening to appeal after all. That’s what you can do if you’re the richest man in Switzerland. The New York court’s November 27th decision was to be finalized today, which means that Alinghi would have 30 days to appeal before the clock runs out.

Is BMW Oracle serious about building a multihull? Our man in Brittany reports that Franck Cammas, skipper of the maxi tri Groupama that’s about to go after the Jules Verne record, has been hired as a consultant by BMW Oracle. Cammas, however, refuses to say whether or not they are considering building a catamaran or a trimaran. We’d bet ya a nickel it would be a trimaran.

Tragedy on the ARC

Tragedy has struck this year’s Atlantic Rally for Cruisers. On December 7, John Thompson, 54, of the Great Britain-based Oyster 41 Avocet was hit in the head by the boom during a broach and was severely injured. Literally in the middle of nowhere, the crew had to endure a tough night before the cruise ship Costa Mediterranea arrived the next day to transport Thompson to land. Under the care of the ship’s doctors, Thompson made it to Barbados, where he was rushed to the hospital. Sadly, Thompson did not recover from his head injury and passed away late yesterday. His crew — minus his son, who accompanied him to Barbados — is expected to arrive in St. Lucia today aboard Avocet.

Meanwhile, the great majority of the 235 ARC participants have made it into Rodney Bay, St. Lucia. James Eaton of the Belvedere-based Hallberg Rassey 43 Blue Heron — the only West Coast entrant — was the 101st finisher when he crossed the line on Wednesday. The remaining 56 boats expected in the next couple days. 

Did You Get Bashed?

Several readers thinking about doing next year’s Ha-Ha wondered what kind of experiences people had doing the Bash back north right after this year’s event. Care to share?

From the reports we’ve heard so far, most Bashes were pretty benign, but don’t think that’s always the case. So if you’ve done a Bash just after a Ha-Ha, we’d love to hear from you. Just shoot us an email.