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February 20, 2008

Gitana 13 Just a TransPac Away

Gitana 13 – shown here in sea trials last year – hasn’t been doing much of this in the Pacific.

© 2008 Gitana S.A./Yvan Zedda

The latest report from the 110-ft catamaran Gitana 13 found them gliding along in light air just north of the Equator, hoping for a breath of wind while at the same time holding their breath that they keep what wind they have. Such is the frustration of every sailor who has ever transited the Intertropical Convergence Zone, an often windless area on either side of the Equator better known as the doldrums. As you know by now, Gitana 13 and her 10-man crew are attempting to break the sailing record from New York to San Francisco, a 14,000-mile jaunt around Cape Horn that they call the Route de L’Or — the route of gold — in honor of the ships that used to carry 49ers to the gold fields in the mid-1800s. Those ships were sometimes becalmed for days in the doldrums in both the Atlantic and Pacific.

Navigator Dominic “Big Dead Cloud” Vittet (with mouse) plays the ultimate video game – find the hidden wind.

© 2008 Gitana S.A.

Thanks to her weather routers, Gitana 13 "found a mousehole" through the Atlantic doldrums and never stopped moving. Once through, she slingshotted down the east coast of South America, arriving at Cape Horn only 18 days out of New York. (By contrast, the boat that holds the 57-day record, Yves Parlier’s Open 60 Aquitaine Innovations, took a month to get that far.)

However, starting with a five-day delay to wait out bad weather before rounding Cape Horn, followed by two weeks of battling a series of contrary highs and lows off South America just to get back to the Equator, the Pacific has yet to smile on skipper Lionel Lemonchois and his crew — especially when early estimates had them arriving under the Golden Gate today! But as of this morning, she was still 2,200 miles away from the Bay — about the same distance as a TransPac — struggling to keep and chase every scrap of breeze while avoiding squalls. G-13 has about 300 more miles to go before popping out the northern side of the ITCZ, and are crossing their fingers that lots of wind will be there to greet them. For more on this exciting record attempt, log onto

Richmond II Overdue in Cabo

International Boat Watch Network is asking for help in tracking down Ralph "Jeff" Peak, 59, aboard the 32-ft woodie Richmond II. The double-ender, built in 1934, is a flush deck cutter with a cream hull and white sails. Peak was reported to have left Puerto Salina — just north of Ensenada — around February 1, bound for Cabo San Lucas. His shoreside contact, Stuart Adkins, expected to hear from him by Valentine’s Day but he has yet to make contact. If you have any info on Peak or Richmond II, contact Adkins by email or at (740) 403-9738.

IYC’s Sadie Hawkins Race is a Go

If you think the threat of a little rain is going to stop the hardy ladies signed up for this Saturday’s Sadie Hawkins Race on the Estuary, think again, buster. Joanne McFee wants everyone to know that, come rain or shine, the race will happen and she’d like to see even more boats sign up for this fully crewed (with a woman at the helm) event. She reminds everyone that they can warm up and dry out after the race at the clubhouse with a bowl of hot chowder. Call her at (510) 521-7442 or email to sign up.

“Hey Mon, You on Fire!!!”

Prior to starting the Baja Ha-Ha in ’94, we used to pass out the famous salmon-colored ‘Some Like It Hot!’ shirts to every skipper who sailed from California to Cabo San Lucas. We still give the shirts out to every skipper who does the Ha-Ha, but that’s beside the point of this story.

Last night we were in the Bank of Bagdad art gallery in St. Barth, when a guy who got his shirt in the ’80s told us a funny story about it. "I was over in St. Martin hitchhiking when a guy picked me up. He was smoking a joint that was the size of a cigar, and handed it to me. While I was taking a big hit, there was a popping noise, as a couple of the seeds exploded. Suddenly the driver shouted, ‘Hey mon, you’re on fire!’ Indeed, the exploding joint had burned a hole in my shirt right next to the Some Like It Hot sun."

Take it easy – no pot was harmed in the making of this picture.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Ah, life in the Caribbean, where the smell of burning pot is often in the breeze.

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