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February 18, 2008

Groupama 3 Capsizes

Groupama 3 upside down off New Zealand; game over for their Jules Verne Record attempt.

Groupama 3
©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

A reported failure in her port ama has turned both Groupama 3 and her Jules Verne record attempt upside down some 80 miles off the coast of southeastern New Zealand. Skipper Franck Cammas and the rest of 105-ft trimaran’s 10-man crew were successfully airlifted yesterday from the capsized trimaran to the city of Dunedin, where they were all given medical evaluations. According to reports, all were wearing survival gear and made it through unharmed.

"We have just capsized," Cammas said while Groupama 3 awaited rescuers. "The leeward float broke in two, leading to the breakage of the two beams and then the subsequent capsize."

The boat’s track shows an abrupt northerly course change near the longitude of Stewart Island off the southernmost tip of New Zealand. Groupama 3 — who was some 24 hours ahead of record-holder Orange II‘s pace at the time of the capsize — then appeared to get very near Dunedin before changing course back to the east. Was Cammas hedging his bets toward a more expedient rescue? We don’t know. Onboard reports from the previous day explained the course change as necessary to minimize the trimaran’s exposure to the 20- to 25-ft seas and winds of 40+ knots they were experiencing south of New Zealand.

Could Groupama 3’s sudden northerly course change indicate the crew knew the boat was breaking up before the capsize? The team says otherwise.

Groupama 3
©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

At this point, the details are sketchy, and we’ll have to take the team’s account with a grain of salt. After all, for five days the crew kept delamination in one the port crossbeams under their foulie-hoods — this even before they got into the meat of the Southern Ocean. The shore team is saying the two issues were unrelated and the immediate goal is to salvage the main hull and starboard ama quickly, as a portion of the broken ama is grinding away underneath the main hull and will quickly damage the remaining structure.

Look for our full report in the March issue of Latitude 38, due out February 29.

Tin Can Heads Back to the Bay

David Vann wisely ended his planned circumnavigation when he found some failed welds on Tin Can.

© 2008 Peter Lyons

Adventurer David Vann’s trip south in his 50-ft trimaran Tin Can was cut short over the weekend when he was towed into Santa Cruz on Saturday after discovering cracked welds on one of his crossbeams. Vann is a 39-year-old writer and sailor whose dream is to sail this self-built aluminum craft solo around the world. He left the Bay Area last Thursday on a shakedown sail to San Diego, but diverted to Santa Cruz when he discovered the cracks. Vann was towed out of the harbor yesterday morning (he has no engine) and is presumably on his way back to the Bay. We have not spoken with him directly (he is prevented from giving interviews by an agreement with Esquire magazine to write about the trip for them). Fortunately, Jeremy Leonard of Surf City Catamarans went down to talk to Vann over the weekend and took a few photos, which he has generously shared with us.

This failed weld caused Vann to reconsider taking Tin Can any farther south.

© 2008 Jeremy Leonard

“Without getting into the debate of whether Vann’s adventure is ill fated or not, I would like to say that I admire his spirit of adventure,” Leonard wrote on his website, When Vann and a friend went to dinner, he even let Leonard climb all over the boat, where he got a taste of all the bad press Vann has received in some of the sailing media. “Many people in the harbor were checking it out, and several of them thought it was my boat. There were a few people that had been following the story and came up to me with a hostile attitude. I had to come clean and tell them it wasn’t my boat. Vann must get that reaction all the time!”

In addition to the cracked welds, Santa Cruz’ Jeremy Leonard saw several lines that had nearly chafed through after only two days.

© 2008 Jeremy Leonard

As far as his plans go, Vann told Leonard that he’d left too late this season, and that he would take the boat back to Napa, where he completed and launched it, and “try again next year.” He also said he was going to make some modifications to the design so the boat, which features flat-bottomed hulls, wouldn’t pound as much.

We’ve made our opinion clear about Vann’s voyage, so we won’t rehash it here. But like Leonard, we also admire Vann’s adventurous spirit. He built the boat he said he was going to build the way he said he was going to build it. And he did sail it out the Golden Gate. Although a failed weld is surely embarassing, he’s not the first person who has had to stop a proposed great voyage shortly after the start. He deserves a chance to prove himself, and we surely hope he will.   

Festival Nautico – Vallarta Race Week

Blue skies, tropical temperatures, great sailing breezes – no wonder cruisers love the Banderas Bay Regatta, which is just one part of the Vallarta Race Week.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

John Moore has all the latest on Festival Nautico ’08 – Vallarta Race Week:

This biannual, week-long event started in 2006 as a celebration of Mexico’s greatest natural treasure: Banderas Bay. The Bay is one of the finest sailing venues on the west coast of the Americas, and is listed as one of the most beautiful bays in the world. The Festival is held from March 1 through March 8 and consists of four separate events.

The celebration begins with the finish of the San Diego YC’s Vallarta Race ’08, a 1,000-mile bluewater ocean race. More than 20 of the fastest yachts in the world will finish their race at Punta Mita, and then be welcomed at the docks of Paradise Marina by members of the Vallarta YC, the Mexican host for the event.

On the afternoon of March 1, there will be a welcoming reception at the Paradise Village Amphitheatre followed by a Ballet Folklorico and the Vallarta Race ’08 Awards Dinner.

Starting at 10:30 a.m. on March 2, there will be a Grand Boat Parade from Nuevo Vallarta traveling along the coast to Bucerias. Prizes and awards will be given to the best themed and decorated boats. “It will be a Mardi Gras on water,” said parade chairman Mike Gowen.

Beware of the women! Two years ago the Mexican women’s team looked lovely – and kicked ass.

©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The Governors Cup Race, a 21-mile distance race, will begin at 1:00 p.m. Spectators can enjoy the parade and the race from boats, beaches and hotels along the Riviera Nayarit. The Governors Cup Race is also the first race of the MEXORC Regatta, which is Mexico’s premier International Grand Prix Regatta, hosted by the Vallarta YC this year. The best Mexican racers will sail up from Acapulco to compete against the boats arriving from the States.

On Wednesday, March 5, there won’t be any regatta racing, but there will be a special America’s Cup match race between elite Mexican and U.S. teams aboard two of Vallarta Adventure’s IACC race boats. At the same time, there will be a Laser regatta in the Nuevo Vallarta Lagoon.

The Banderas Bay Regatta XVI, a series of fun races around the bay for cruising boats, will begin on Thursday, March 6, and continue through Saturday — as does the MEXORC. Both Regattas will have award dinners Saturday evening.

The serious racing boats enjoy the great sailng conditions in MEXORC and the Governor’s Cup.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The hub of all these activities is the VYC, located in Nuevo Vallarta. For more information on these events check out,, or

In Monday ‘Lectronic, we ran a sensational photo of a whale and a dolphin frolicking together, said to have been taken near Punta Mita by a cruiser.
The 110-ft maxi cat Gitana 13 continues its assault on the sailing record from New York to San Francisco.
Jack Sutphen, Dennis Conner’s ‘coach’, will be signing his book Messing About in Boats for 80 Years with Jack Sutphen at the Spaulding Wooden Boat Center in Sausalito tomorrow from 2-5 p.m.
Jim Williams and Deborah Stern of the Encinal YC love to sail, as evidenced by their owning the Cal 39 Spindrift and the Islander 28 Dog Days, both of which are kept at Marina Village in Alameda.