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May 28, 2008

Chillin’ in the Tuamotus

The picture tells the story. . . With any luck, life will slow down substantially when you get out cruising.

©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Sometimes it’s nice to cast off your worldly woes (and clothes), sit down on a deserted beach and simply contemplate the universe.

That’s precisely what New Zealanders Paul and Gina Rae did after arriving at this serene anchorage at Apataki, in the Tuamotus, aboard their Hylas 44 Solace.

"This is where we have spent the last few days in peaceful tranquility," writes Gina. "There has been no wind to speak of and the water is calm. There are enough small reefs around to show us a parade of aquarium fish and sea life. For my birthday, we drank champagne and ate pineapple upside down cake! We’ll hang here and enjoy it while we have it, and will move on when the wind comes up."

Sounds like a fine way to spend a couple of days. Solace crossed from Mexico weeks ago with the annual migration of Pacific Puddle Jumpers. Others within that fleet are currently exploring the Marquesas and Society Islands. Hopefully, many of them will come together at the Tahiti-Moorea Sailing Rendezvous planned for June 27 and 28, where they’ll share passage tales and future plans. Look for a complete report on this year’s migration in an upcoming edition of Latitude 38.

Master Mariners

Gray skies and mellow breezes greeted the starters of Saturday’s Master Mariners race.

©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Gray skies, light winds, and even a little rain greeted 56 boats answering starting guns at the annual Master Mariners Regatta on Saturday, May 24. And that’s pretty much how it stayed through the rest of the day, with perhaps a few brief ‘gusts’ to 10-12 knots. Ironically, on Friday when many boats went out to practice, they enjoyed the usual conditions found during this Memorial Day weekend event: blue skies, bright sun and wind in the high 20s.

The conditions did little to dampen the spirits of the classic yacht crowd. (With a few exceptions, Master Mariner boats must be designed before World War II — or built to a pre-war design using pre-war methods). And the smile quotient seemed as big as ever, both aboard boats passing in front of our cameras and at the post-race party at Encinal YC.

Alma’s salty crew looked very happy and very much at home.

©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

“Sailboat racing doesn’t have to involve beating your brains out in 30 knots of wind to be enjoyable,” said Bill Belmont, a 30-year Master Mariners veteran with his Farallon Clipper Credit. “It was a nice change that this year’s race was more tactical. We had one big flood all day long and a lot depended on how you dealt with it to keep the boat moving.”

The spectacle of these classic yachts made up for braving the early morning sprinkles.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

With a reverse handicap start (using a handicapping system as old and mysterious at the pyramids), the first boat in any division to cross the finish line is the winner. Here are the winning boats in this year’s race:

    Big Schooner — Lynx, Craig Chapman
    Gaff 1 — Brigadoon, Terry Klaus
    Gaff 2 — Blackwitch, Rick Hastie
    Marconi 1 — Santana, Paul Kaplan   
    Marconi 2 — Sunda, Bob Rogers
    Marconi 3 — Corsair II, Mike O’Callaghan
    Ocean 1 — Kate II, John Emerick
    Ocean 2 — Ouessant, Gene Buck
    Bears — Magic, Tim Maloney
    Birds — Robin, Pat Kirrane

For complete results, log onto

Community Outrigger Launched

Steve Mercadante, Assistant Harbormaster at Two Harbors, raises his paddle in celebration as Leilani returns from her first outing.

©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

After last Saturday’s terrible helicopter crash at Two Harbors, which claimed the lives of four of the six aboard, the quirky little community was in serious need of an emotional lift. Fortunately, Sunday, the day after the accident, had been slated as the launch day of the bright yellow Leilani, a Hawaiian outrigger racing canoe that had been lovingly restored by the hands of many of the locals.

Free food, including what had once been Frank the pig, was a big hit at the launch.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

A crowd of several hundred, about half members of the local community, and about half others who were attracted by the the aroma of Frank the pig cooking on the BBQ, gathered for the occasion. Nice words were spoken about the restored outrigger, which is for community use, beer was consumed, music was played, pallets were burned  . . . and perhaps most importantly, people were able to express their grief to others. It was just what many people needed to start getting over the tragedy and get the high season back on track.

What would an outrigger canoe launch be without a bonfire on the beach?

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

By the way, several readers have identified Deborah Hansen, American Airlnes flight attendant and member of the King Harbor Yacht Club, as the person who got to the helicopter crash scene first and was so heroic in her efforts to save lives. 

Soldini Crushes Class 40s in Transat

Giovanni Soldini bow-riding Telecom Italia to a win in the Class 40 division in The Artemis Transat.

© Matt Dickens onEdition/The Artemis Transat

Italian Giovanni Soldini sealed his win in the Class 40 division in The Artemis Transat when he crossed the finish line off Marblehead just after 7 a.m. For the 42-year-old Italian, it was nearly a wire-to-wire win for his year-old Guillaume Verdier design that also won last year’s doublehanded Transat Jacques Vabre. Tactically, Soldini sailed a strong race, staying close to the rhumbline and consolidating at every opportunity. Although we don’t have access to the exact distance, a look at the race’s two-dimensional tracker shows that Soldini sailed what’s probably the shortest total distance of any Class 40 sailor. He continually boxed the rhumbline and minimized his north/south deviations. Meanwhile, some of his competitors were getting as far as 150 miles perpendicular to the rhumbline’s south. "I think I was good in the race," he said. "It was a good choice to stay in the north in the beginning and through the first high pressure."