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July 9, 2008

Ragtime Takes Top Honors in Tahiti

As luck would have it, every arrival was at night. Last night Fortaleza was greeted at the line by the commodore of the Tahiti YC and others, who welcomed the crew with an armload of cold Hinano beers.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Latitude‘s Tahiti bureau chief (ahem!) stayed up until the wee hours last night to help welcome Jim Morgan’s Santa Cruz 50 Fortaleza, the fourth and final finisher in the newly reconstituted Tahiti Race. Although it was three in the morning by the time the weary crew reached the downtown quay in Papeete, they were greeted with fresh flower leis, rum punch and the sweet melodies of a traditional Tahitian band.

Fortaleza corrected out to finish second overall, with Chris Welsh’s Spencer 66 Ragtime taking top honors as the overall winner. As reported earlier, Doug Baker’s Andrews 80 Magnitude 80 took line honors, crushing the old record by more than 3.5 days, with Bob Lane’s Andrews 63 Medicine Man finishing second. In fact, the first three finishers broke the old mark, set by Fred Kirschner’s SC 70 Kathmandu when the race was last run 14 years ago.

The unique Tahiti Race trophy is truly a piece of sailing history. Past winners include such legends as Eric Tabarly and Jake Wood.

©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

In addition to the fact that the Tahiti Race is nearly 1,400 miles longer than either the TransPac or the Pac Cup, another obvious difference is that racers must deal with the threat of little or no wind when crossing the equatorial zone (ITCZ).

But for both Ragtime and Fortaleza the notorious ITCZ was a non-issue: "The doldrums really didn’t exist for us," said Welsh when we caught up with him last night in Papeete. Both Rags and Fortaleza dove south on longitudes farther east than the frontrunners, and ended up sailing in consistently stronger winds — up to the low 30s during a few squalls.

Another essential difference between this and the Hawaii races, is that about half of the course required reaching rather than running. Chutes were set rarely, if ever, south of the equator. Look for a complete report in the upcoming issue of Latitude 38 due to hit the stands on August 1.

Silver Eagle Takes Flight

Women’s Circuit Queen Lucie Mewes asked us to remind everyone that the 33rd Annual Silver Eagle Long-Distance Bay Race is this Saturday and it’s not too late to sign up. Considering the fantastic weather we’re supposed to have this weekend, we can’t think of a better excuse to get out on the Bay! "This year’s courses are new and shorter," Queen Lucie said of the newly redesigned race. Check out for more info on the race or contact Joanne McFee by email or at (510) 521-7442.

Rest of Vic-Maui Fleet Closing on Hawaii

Warren Hale’s C&C 44 Turicum arrives in Maui after more than 16 days at sea in a slow Vic-Maui Race.

Vic-Maui Race
©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The Paul Bieker-designed Riptide 50 Strum took elapsed time honors in the 2,308-mile Vic-Maui race on Saturday. A little over twelve days after the start, Wink Vogel’s silver-hulled speedster arrived at the Lahaina YC with only the vague threat of losing corrected time honors from the rest of the chasing pack. The next finisher, Warren Hale’s C&C 44 Turicum was within striking distance, but missed by five hours, finishing yesterday at 3:10 p.m. local time.

The rest of the fleet is now in a new race — to make the finish before the time limit. To count as finished, the four remaining boats must make a deadline of 11:55 p.m. tomorrow night, and given the speeds they’re showing now, it’ll be close. The finish tally of two teams now equals the number that dropped out and arrived in the Bay Area instead. In all, three of the nine boat fleet have dropped out due to too little breeze. A look at the race’s online tracker tells the wrenching tale — the plots of  the boats’ tracks look like strings of beads instead of Lincoln Logs.

The closer together the dots are, the slower the boats are moving. Compare Strum’s widely spaced dots (dark green) to Seeker’s tightly spaced dots (gold).

© Vic-Maui/FISTracking

To John Guggins Olson 40 Red Heather, Kenneth Greff’s Pretorien 35 Seeker, Steven Shainin’s Stevens 47 Passepartout and Dan Mathieu’s C&C 39 Black Watch, all of whom are sticking it out, we salute you! Follow their race against the deadline at the race’s website.

And Then There Were 92

Barritt, Renee, and a friend, standing beneath the Colombian flag at Cartagena, one of the many great places they’ve visited.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Perhaps thanks to the new online sign-up for the Baja Ha-Ha, the entries for this fall’s 15th running of the 750-mile cruisers’ rally from San Diego to Cabo are running well ahead of last year. As of today, there are already 92 fully paid entries!

If you’re thinking about signing up, the way to do it is by visiting First, you should get all the details by hitting buttons labeled ‘Schedule’, ‘Notice of Rally’, ‘About the Ha-Ha’, ‘Southbound Berthing’, and ‘Latitude‘s First-Timer’s Guide to Cruising in Mexico’. If you’re satisfied that you qualify and want to do the event, then hit the ‘How to Register’ button. You can even pay by credit card. If you’re computer illiterate, you can get all the same information the old-fashioned way by sending $20 to Baja Ha-Ha, c/o Latitude 38, 15 Locust, Mill Valley, CA 94941. Once you receive your entry packet by mail, you can simply mail it back and you’ll be entered.

The Grand Poobah is chuffed to see that quite a few veterans of previous Ha-Ha’s — and other cruising adventures — have already signed up. Among them are good friends Barritt Neal and Renee Blaul of the San Diego-based Kelly-Peterson 44 Serendipity, who are entry #83.

Barritt cruised his beloved sloop for a number of years in the South Pacific, then with Renee for about six years in Mexico and six years in the Caribbean. They say that they like the latter two places so equally that the only solution would be to have a boat in both places — which is what inspired us to put a charter cat in the yacht management program at BVI Yacht Charters in Tortola.

If you’re new to cruising and think it might be a good idea to start out in loose company with wonderful folks such as Barritt and Renee, put some serious thought into doing a light-hearted Ha-Ha.

Latest entries to date (the full entry list can be found here):

79    Seeker, Caliber LRC40, Kevin McCabe, San Diego
80    Wanderer, Jeanneau 43DS, Patrick Stewart, Ventura
81    Sisiutl, Gulfstar 44, Bob Bechler, Portland
82    Faith, Morgan 41, Sandy Smith, Portland
83    Serendipity, Kelly Peterson 44, Barritt Neal, San Diego
84    Providence, Valiant 39, Jill Geary, San Diego
85    About Time, Downeast 38, Jeff Smith, Huntington Beach
86    Gaia, Liberty 458, Robert McLeod, Lake Oswego, OR
87    Babeeze, Hunter 45, Rene Amyot, Edmonton, AB
88    Eva, Nor’Sea 31, Michael Traum, Cape Mendocino
89    Patience, Tayana 42, Dennis Mahar, Houston, TX
90    Rocinante, Islander 36, Dan Martone, Point Richmond
91    Kalewa, 50-ft catamaran, Kevin Millett, Nawiliwili, Kau’ai
92    Carinthia, Lagoon 440 catamaran, Dietmar Petutschnig, Las Vegas

Doug Baker’s Andrews 80 Magnitude 80 demolished the Tahiti Race record by 3.5 days, finishing Thursday with an elapsed time of 11 days, 10 hours, 13 minutes and 18 seconds.
Since the early 1990s, the California Department of Motor Vehicles has been handling drunken boating convictions — aka BUIs — like drunken driving convictions in the sense that they’ve suspended the driver’s licenses of the offenders.
There are only a few days left before the 22 competitors in the Singlehanded TransPac start their 2,120-mile odyssey to Kauai, and they are no doubt busily putting the finishing touches on their boats and gear.
Bay Area sailors couldn’t have asked for a better weekend to celebrate our country’s independence.