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January 16, 2008

Maxi Cat on the Way . . . Maybe

Gitana 13 (shown here during sea trials last year) may be on her way to the Bay.

© 2008 Yvan Zedda

The 110-ft catamaran Gitana 13 may have left New York yesterday on a nonstop record attempt to San Francisco via Cape Horn. (We were unable to confirm departure time by today’s ‘Lectronic Latitude, but will hopefully have that information by Friday’s posting.) If our information is correct, the boat should be arriving here around February 20. And what a boat she is. Originally built as Innovation Explorer for The Race — the crewed maxi-multihull race around the world in 2002 — she took second under skipper Loick Peyron. (Sistership Club Med won and the final ‘triplet’, Cam Lewis’s Team Adventure, took third.) Later in 2002, Loick’s brother Bruno Peyron skippered the boat under the Orange name and livery to a new Jules Verne nonstop round-the-world mark. An attempt at the same record by Ellen MacArthur in 2003 ended when the boat — as Offshore Challenge — was dismasted in the Indian Ocean.

If nothing breaks, this boat will demolish the 57-day record set in 1998.

© Yvan Zedda

In 2006, the Gitana Team, which currently runs a stable of four large offshore racing boats, acquired the big cat and brought her back to her birthplace at Vannes for a complete refit. She emerged last January as Gitana 13, leaner, meaner, prettier — and hopefully faster — than ever. Plans for two Atlantic record attempts last year were scrapped when the boat hit an underwater object that shattered one of her rudders a few days into the Route of Discovery  (Cadiz-San Salvador).

It’s unclear when the decision was made to attempt the NY-SF record. But G-13 — skippered by Lionel Lemonchois — should have little trouble picking this ripe plum. The current record of 57 days, 3 hours, 21 minutes was set in 1998 by Yves Parlier on the Open 60 Aquitaine Innovations — a monohull half the size of Gitana 13. If she is indeed on the way, Gitana 13 would be the largest maxi-cat ever to visit San Francisco, and the first large multi since a brief pit stop by Olivier de Kersauson’s 110-ft trimaran Geronimo in 2006.

Joyon Closing on the Finish

Francis Joyon’s IDEC is skirting over the top of the Azores High, which is centered about halfway between the Azores and the Canary Islands at present. Strong, consistent southwesterlies compressed between the high and a large depression off Newfoundland will soon be propelling IDEC toward Brest, France.

Francis Joyon is pushing his 97-ft IDEC hard toward home.

© 2008 Jean-Marie Liot/IDEC

"They are forecasting 50-knot winds for the worst of the low," Joyon said. "I will need to get in the right place to avoid the worst of the blow. It’s clear I’m going to get 30- to 35-knot winds in any case."

If the indomitable sailor can keep his 105-ft rig aloft, he’s anticipated to finish Sunday or Monday. After scaling it for the fourth time in five days — this time with a  big hammer, webbing and rope — Joyon had good news for his shore crew, the shroud terminal had not budged since his first repair at the equator.

"In spite of the fact that three days of upwind sailing in the tradewinds could have had some very nasty consequences . . ." Joyon said. "I feel reassured and I have regained full confidence in the mast."

Harker to Finish Circumnavigation

Mike Harker expects to finish his circumnavigation this weekend, just a month or so behind schedule.

© Mike Harker

Like Frenchman Francis Joyon and his 97-ft trimaran IDEC, Mike Harker of the  Manhattan Beach-based Hunter Mariner 49 Wanderlust III is expected to complete his circumnavigation this weekend:

"I’m 900 miles southeast of Antigua, and now that I’m in the trades, I’m making better than expected progress. At this rate I will be at anchor in Antigua in five days, and will have completed my circumnavigation in just about one year. I may even make it in time for the famous Sunday night Steel Band party up at Shirely Heights overlooking English and Falmouth Harbors."

A big party on Shirely Heights sounds like a great way to wrap up a circumnavigation.
©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Youth Access to Bay Waters

Local kids take a spin in Clipper Cove.

© Treasure Island Sailing Center

Where will tomorrow’s circumnavigators and Olympic sailors come from? Perhaps from youth programs right here on the Bay.

After doing a little digging into the subject of youth sailing in the Bay Area, we’ve found that there are a boatload of opportunities for local kids to become familiar with the basics of sailing while gaining an appreciation of nature and teamwork at the same time. And many are free of charge, through scholarships and grants.

We plan to bring you a comprehensive report on the broad scope of such programs in an upcoming issue, but we’d hate to leave out any such programs. So, if your organization offers youth sailing locally, please drop us an email and we’ll follow up. Many thanks!

It Really Is a Small, Small Cruising World

Here’s an example of just how small the world of sailing can be:

While doing the Banderas Bay Blast in Mexico in early December, we became friends with new Profligate crew Tim Dick of the Hawaii-based Beneteau First 42s7 Eau de Vie, and his lady friend, Kim Le, of Sausalito. A week later Tim, who knew we’d be in St. Barth after the New Year, asked if we could welcome Makana, a very good Hawaiian friend of his who is recognized as one of the top Hawaiian slack key guitar players in the world. Makana has played around the world and opened for the likes of Sting and Santana. He’d been invited to play at the St. Barth Music Festival, despite the fact it was/is all classical. We guess that makes sense, because slack key is classic Hawaiian guitar.

Despite the fact that St. Barth is such a little Island, we didn’t manage to cross paths with Makana until he’d already been here a few days. By then he was already having the time of his life, appreciating the beauty of the young French women, surfing at Lorient where it wasn’t a war getting waves like it is in Hawaii, playing in a few restaurants . . . stuff like that. With St. Barth being such a small community, it wasn’t long before the young and gregarious Makana was plugged in like a guitar into a speaker.

We caught Makana’s music festival performance, which was held at night in the open air out by Saline Beach. He was not only absolutely brilliant, but he was a terrific representative for Hawaii and the slack key guitar tradition. Hawaii, Tim, Kim, and all his friends back home would have be proud.

Having such a good time, Makana decided to extended his stay for about a week, and quickly fell in with the sailing/surfing crowd. After a Sunday sail with  about 30 people on Ira Epstein’s Bolinas-based classic Robert Clark 65 Lone Fox, which had been built about 50 years ago for Colonel Whitbread of the Whitbread Brewery and Whitbread Round the World Race fame, it was decided that Makana should play a little gig on Lone Fox in the harbor last night. That’s when the first photo in this piece was taken.

Makana and music lovers Hilda, Doña and Sylvie aboard Lone Fox.

©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

So who is in the photo? At the left, of course, is Makana, who doesn’t even know what it’s like to be 30 yet. To his right is Hilda, who was visiting from Ventura. Her connection is that she’s the sister of Chris Van Trampe, who had previously owned Lone Fox and did a metriculous refit of the yacht in Ventura before bringing her back to the Caribbean. Having bowed out of the Two Swedes Boatyard in St. Barth, Chris now does the wood construction part of Balinese houses in Todos Santos, Mexico, and St. Barth.

The next woman on the right is Doña de Mallorca, who has always had a thing for music, and swears that in her next life she’s coming back as a rock ‘n roll star.

The last woman in the photo is Sylvie, who sailed into St. Barth 20 years ago on a three-masted schooner, and loved it so much that she said, "That’s it, I’m not leaving!" She teaches yoga and actually does leave the island from time to time, visiting her and her husband’s home in Santa Monica.

The people in the photo just scratch the surface of the folks with West Coast connections who were at Lone Fox last night. Also there was Chuck Wilson who, although he now lives on a boat in Florida, was the mate to Bruce Kendall, the skipper of Jim Kilroy’s Los Angeles-based globe girdling S&S 79 Kialoa III in the ’70s. Not only did he help supervise construction of her at Palmer-Johnson, but he helped her set the long-standing record in the Sydney to Hobart Race, raced her against Windward Passage in the St. Francis Big Boat Series when both were still ketches, and all those kinds of things ‘back in the day’. Then there was Alf, who is one of the Swedes in the Two Swedes Boatyard in St. Barth. Longtime sailors will remember that James Arness, star of the Gunsmoke television series, built and raced a famous CSK catamaran Sea Smoke out of Marina del Rey. Alas, the composite construction went mushy and needed to be repaired. Alf tells us that, while living in Marina del Rey in the ’80s, he removed the inner skin and core of the hull of the cat — while she was still in the water! After replacing the core and putting in a new interior skin, she was better than new.

Ira Epstein, far right, with Hilda and Makana, plus a couple of Swedish locals. After decades of commuting from Bolinas to downtown San Francisco in time for the opening of the New York Stock Exchange, Ira owns the classic Lone Fox and is living his dream, which includes sharing his boat with as many people as he can.

©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Do we show you all these photos and tell you all these stories to make you jealous? Au contraire. It’s just to remind folks who are living the grind, who for one of many reasons can’t take off now, that ultimately there are good and great reasons to go cruising. The people mentioned in this article? None of them came from wealth. They all worked hard — often very, very, very hard — to now be enjoying, at least part time, the fruits of their labors.

After 10 days of unusually calm conditions, it’s still calm – but the squalls have started to come through. A couple of days from now, the trades are expected to blow with a vengeance.

©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

But make no mistake, into each life, even a cruising life, a little rain must fall. As you can see from the accompanying photo, this morning it fell heavily for about 20 minutes, as a series of squalls came through the anchorage, preventing us from getting into our dinghy for our five minute commute to our office ashore. However, if you’re in the right place — and this is one of them — rain isn’t necessarily a bad thing. With the air and water here in the low ’80, the squalls gave us a perfect excuse to jump off the back of the boat and swim before work. That’s not something we’d want to do in San Francisco Bay.

Capt. Scotty and his family and crew romp along aboard the schooner Juno on the way to the Columbier anchorage.
Peter and Antonia Murphy, who embarked last summer on what they called the Trans-Pacific Baby Project aboard their wildly painted Mariner 36 Sereia, welcomed their new deckhand, Silas Joseph Murphy, into the world at 2:23 p.m.
Over the last year or so, we’ve gotten several reports of cruisers having to pay big bucks to: 1) Use an agent; and 2) Clear out of Puerto Madero, which is at the very southeastern tip of mainland Mexico.
With all the miserable weather we’ve been getting this winter, this weekend’s sun and relatively light breeze were a welcome relief and we hope to see more of it, including for the upcoming Three Bridge Fiasco.