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August 18, 2008

Sailors and Scientists Work Together

In places like Papua New Guinea, where Oceanswatch is currently conducting conservation and education projects, sailors have to make do with what they have.

© 2008 Oceanswatch

"I have made four Pacific Puddle Jumps (2003, 2005, 2006 & 2007) and have wanted to find a way to help the islands I have visited on my passages," says Bob Bechler of the Gulfstar 44 Sisiutl. He found what he was looking for in a fledgling New Zealand-based organization called Oceanswatch.

Founded by professional yacht skipper Chris Bone, Oceanswatch is described as a rapidly growing network of sailors, divers, marine scientists and other marine and humanitarian activists focused on using its skills to help tackle the challenges of global warming, collapsing marine ecosystems and their effects on the coastal communities that they support.

More than simply a forum for discussion and networking, Oceanswatch will use sailing vessels and skilled yachtsmen to take volunteers, humanitarian aid workers, researchers and film-makers to the endangered marine ecosystems and struggling coastal communities on our planet. The group currently has projects in Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea, with future efforts being planned for Tonga and other South Pacific islands.

We encourage both active and armchair cruisers to check out the efforts of this well-intentioned group via the website (that’s oceans, with an ‘s’ and .org, not .com).

Hamlin Wins B to B; Railey Takes Silver

Howie Hamlin, Mike Martin and Paul Allen won the 11th annual Ronstan Bridge to Bridge race.

© Rich Roberts

Nipping at the heels of the reigning 18-ft skiff world champions Gotta Love It for the first few minutes of the 11th annual Ronstan Bridge to Bridge Race, Howie Hamlin, Mike Martin and Paul Allen on Team Harken seized the lead when the bright red boat augered in off Crissy Field. The trio rode a knock all the way down the Cityfront, finishing the five-and-a-half-mile course from the Golden Gate to the Bay Bridge in 17 minutes and 52 seconds.

Team Natural Blues leads a kiter down the course.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Their win marked the first time in seven years that something other than a kiteboard has won this battle of the disciplines. Last year’s winner, the Bay Area’s Chip Wasson, was the first kiter to finish some 37 seconds behind Team Harken. Almost five minutes later, windsurfer Al Mirel took the Formula Board honors. The breeze ranged from the mid 20’s in the fog line off Fort Mason to the mid-teens past Pier 39. Coupled with a two-plus-knot ebb, the Bay brought plenty of punch for the 44-strong fleet, as evidenced by the 26 sailors who made the finish.

Team Harken with the starboard advantage on a run during Friday’s jam session on the Cityfront. These two dueled for the lead all week long, with the red Gotta Love It coming out on top.

©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The Ronstan Bridge to Bridge was incorporated into the scoring for the St. Francis YC’s International 18 Skiff Regatta, which Hamlin, Martin and Allen all jumped right into last Tuesday after sailing a breezy 505 PCCs the previous weekend. The trio overcame a broken rig and some already sore muscles to finish second behind the young 22-year-old Australian phenoms, Seve Jarvin, Sam Newton and Tom Clout and Gotta Love it. In what many of the sailors were calling the gnarliest 18-ft skiff regatta they remember on the Bay — every team had at least one ‘letter score’, as in DNF — the Aussies clinched the win over the 11-boat field only in the last race, sailing conservatively and ragging their kite downwind en route to a three-point win after 10 races.

Over in Qingdao, American Finn representative and St. Francis YC member Zach Railey sailed way above most people’s expectations, sailing a consistent series and winning a silver medal in that competitive class. Going into the medal race, Railey was not assured of a medal. And before Friday’s attempt at a race in the light and fluky Fushan Bay was abandoned due to no wind, it didn’t look like he would. But he made good use of his second chance the following day, recovering from a bad start to steadily work himself back into position, with a fifth in the 20-plus knots of breeze and washing machine sea-state. The US Yngling Team fell short in their medal quest, hitting a mark and missing laylines en route to a fifth place finish after lying third going into their medal race. The US failed to qualify for the 470 medal races in both the men’s and women’s divisions.

Latitude 38 ‘Safety’ Gear

Solo Transpac racer Jim Kellam was easy to spot as he crossed the finish line in his salmon Latitude shirt.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

There’s no better way to stand out in a crowd than by wearing a Latitude 38 T-shirt, available in an array of fruity colors. Choose your favorite color in our online chandlery. While you’re at it, pick up an extra for your ditch bag — they make great signal flags!

Fun Facts About the Ha-Ha

At 58 feet, Neil Kaminer’s Tribute was about 15 feet longer than the average entry in last year’s Ha-Ha.

©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Based on surveys returned by 99 of the 150 finishers in the last Baja Ha-Ha, the following interesting facts were learned:

1) As many have wrongly assumed, it’s not an event dominated by novice sailors — not by a long shot. Prior to the Ha-Ha, the average skipper had been sailing for 26.7 years. However — and this is very interesting — for more than 50% of them, it would be their "first significant trip."

2) The average boat length was 42.6 feet, the average age was 17.6 years. Both of these numbers are nearly identical to last year.

3) Of those who responded to the survey, 13% were doing the Ha-Ha only and then returning home; 22% were ‘commuter cruising’, meaning they would commute between their work in the States and playing on their boats in Mexico; 14% planned to cruise for one season in Mexico; and 49% intended to sail for more than one season in Mexico and beyond.

When you can spend early November sailing the tropics next to boats like West Marine’s SC40 Promotion, why would the Grand Poobah – or anybody else – not want to keep doing the Ha-Ha?

©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

4) Where do Ha-Ha skippers get their sailing information? Some 88% of them read Latitude 38, 51% read Cruising World, and 30% read Sail. The top five were rounded out by Lats & Atts at 17% and Ocean Navigator at 12%.

The most surprising comment — at least to us — was "the Grand Poobah gives the impression that he’s tired of the Ha-Ha." Say what?! Perhaps we’re going to need to review our demeanor, because that certainly isn’t the case. While we do get a little mentally and physically tuckered out on the the Ha-Ha — two weeks is a long time to go with so much to keep track of and so little sleep — but we’re certainly not tired of doing and managing the event. In fact, we can’t imagine ever not doing it.

Anyway, here’s the list of the most recent paid entries for the Ha-Ha:

123) Ekotopia, Custom PH 45, Jennifer Towne, Seattle, WA
124) Mamabird, Island Packet 380, Colin Honess, San Rafael
125) Avalon, Wauquiez Centurion 50, Roger Wise, Alameda
126) Sea Level, Schionning 48 cat, Jim Milski, Lake City, CO
127) Bay Wolf, Santa Cruz 50, Kirk Miller, Sausalito
128) Sirius, Baltic 51, Gregory James, Gig Harbor, WA
129) Limerick 2, Lagoon 41 cat, Bill Houlihan, San Diego
130) Reverence, Tayana 58, Jason Scott, San Pedro
131) Moondance, Tayana V-42, Doug Scott, Albuquerque, NM

Santa Cruz’ Ernie Rideout has added another Santana 22 National Championship to his lengthy sailing resume — 79 years lengthy to be exact.
We’re looking for your onboard photos from the 2008 Pacific Cup. As much as we love to run the après-race pictures of mai tai racing and people passed out in lounge chairs or falling in the pool, ultimately the story is in the race itself.