September 22, 2008

Falcon to Sail Under Gate Saturday

"Maltese Falcon is currently scheduled to pass beneath the Golden Gate Bridge at 2 p.m. on Saturday the 27th," we’re told by Kathy Daly of owner Tom Perkins’ office. The yacht is making excellent progress from Hawaii to California, and will probably anchor in Drake’s Bay on Thursday and Friday nights to clean up and get ready for her grand entrance.

Maltese Falcon is the Belvedere-based Perkins’ 289-ft Dyna-Rig yacht, which is not only the largest privately owned sailing yacht in the world, but the most talked about, too. You won’t believe your eyes when you see her. She’ll be accompanied by Atlantide, Perkins’ beautifully restored 122-ft motoryacht from early last century.

The best place to view Falcon‘s grand entrance? We think the pedestrian walkway on the east side of the Golden Gate Bridge. In fact, that’s where we’ll be — unless it’s foggy — with our cameras. You’ll get a great close up of her from above, and then you’ll be able to watch her sail around the Central Bay in full perspective. Trying to keep up with her on a sailboat will be impossible. But if you do decide to go out on your boat to see her, for everyone’s sake, please give this very large yacht plenty of room to maneuver.

"Belvedere" was the answer Daly gave us when we asked where Falcon would be tied up or anchored. She didn’t know whether that meant Belvedere Cove on the east side of the island, which probably doesn’t have enough water, or the west side. But probably the latter, which would be Richardson Bay. As she noted, "Tom will probably want to look down on her from his house."

Falcon will be sailing the Bay on either October 4 or 5 in support of the San Francisco YC-hosted Leukemia Cup. As we’ve been invited to sail on her, we’ll have a report in the November issue. On October 18, Falcon will be tied up at Pier 35 on the north side of the Bay Bridge, where tours will be given for friends and business associates. We love the part of the invitation that reads: "Rubber soled shoes for all. Ladies’ high heels will be thrown overboard."

After a little more time on the Bay, it’s expected that Falcon will head down the coast to Panama to spend the winter in the Eastern Caribbean.

But don’t forget to mark your calendar for 2 p.m. this Saturday, as Falcon sailing beneath the Gate is a sight no sailor would want to miss.

Liverpudlian Sails 4 Cancer

"I’m not some ‘nutter’ with a death-wish," claims Liverpool resident Tom McNally in defense of his planned double-Atlantic crossing in his 3′ 10" homebuilt boat Big C. "After 25 years of small boat ocean cruising I think I’ve heard it all. I know what I’m doing, and constantly prove it by (eventually) arriving unaided at named destinations across ‘the big pond’."

McNally has indeed been sailing impossibly small boats across the Atlantic for some time. He broke the record for the smallest boat to cross any ocean — originally set by Sunnyvale resident Hugo Vihlen in 1968 aboard his 5′ 11" boat April Fool — in 1993 aboard the 5′ 4 1/2" Vera Hugh. But Vihlen wouldn’t let the record go so easily. He’d been planning another assault on the Atlantic and was in the process of building another boat — one longer than Vera Hugh. There was nothing to do but chop off enough to make it 5′ 4". Later that year, Vihlen snatched the record back from McNally.

Now McNally is leaving nothing to chance. Big C is built with foam-sandwich construction making her stronger and lighter than any of his previous boats. An official start date hasn’t been announced but McNally plans to sail from Cadiz to Central America, then on to Texas and Newfoundland, then back across the pond to Liverpool — a 10,000 mile trip.

While the primary purpose of the trip is to break the record, McNally also hopes to generate donations for Sail 4 Cancer, a non-profit cancer charity. (His mother died of the disease during another of his small-boat voyages.) For more on his effort, go to www.sail4cancer.org.

Incredible Rescue in the Mediterranean

Christophe Bouvet (right) and his savior, Paul Meihat.

© 2008 Figaro Cap Istanbul

Twenty-nine solo sailors were about eight hours into the second leg of the Figaro Cap Instanbul Race when word arrived at race headquarters that one skipper had apparently fallen overboard. The incident occurred last Friday in the Mediterranean south of Sardinia. Chistophe Bouvet’s Figaro Beneteau II 33-footer Sirma had been spotted by another competitor with sails flogging and no one on deck. A race escort boat rushed to the scene and confirmed that Bouvet, a 39-year-old French sailor, was not onboard. The discovery was made about 8 p.m. and nobody knew how long before that he had gone in, nor how far the boat had sailed itself.

Bouvet’s Sirma, as it was found by competitor Mathieu Girolet (right).

© 2008 Figaro Cap Istanbul

Using Sirma‘s own navigation system, race officials plotted the boat’s track and called the nearest racers to divert and help with the search. Within a short time, every one of the other 28 boats voluntarily stopped racing and sailed over to help. But by now it was nighttime and the wind was still blowing 20-25 knots. The chances of finding someone in those conditions, who had no light, no personal beacon and no lifejacket, were slim at best.

Incredibly, about 10 p.m., racer Paul Meihat radioed that he had pulled Bouvet aboard his TS Regate Creteil Val de Varne, and that Bouvet was cold but okay. Bouvet was transferred to an Italian Guardia launch and taken ashore, where he was found to be shocky but otherwise okay. He told of going on deck to shorten sail for expected stronger winds when a 45-knot gust caused Sirma to broach. Bouvet went overboard but managed to hang onto a line. However, when the boat righted herself and the spinnaker filled, the line was ripped from his hands. That was about 6 p.m., two hours before his boat was spotted. So he was treading water for about four hours total. He says he tried to shed as much clothing as he could, and that he was “attacked by jellyfish” while he awaited rescue. He was also heartened to see flares, which the race committee had requested boats light off specifically so Christophe would know that a search was on for him.

Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, Bouvet has become a safety convert. At various press conferences over the weekend, he touted the praises of safety gear and awareness. As well, both racers and race organizers were reflecting on ways to strengthen safety aboard. Bouvet also noted that he was lucky to have been sailing near the front of the fleet, since the boat that first spotted his was coming up from behind. “I dare not think about what would have happened if I’d been one of the backrunners,” he said.

Shortly after the rescue, the 330-mile second leg from Cagliari, Sardinia, to Marzamemi, Sicily, was cancelled. It was restarted yesterday. But Bouvet was not among them. He was aboard a race committee boat that escorted them out. He hopes to symbolically finish the race by sailing the last leg — 110 miles from Gallipoli to Istanbul — with the fleet. “I think my sponsor will understand,” he said.

This is the third running of the Cap Istanbul Race, a five-leg, 1,670-mile race across the Mediterranean from Nice, France, to Istanbul, Turkey.

Ron Holland to Speak at RYC

Ron Holland, one of the top megayacht designers in the world, will give a presentation on yacht design at Richmond YC on October 6 as a fundraiser for the club’s Junior program. Orignally from New Zealand, Holland spent time on the Bay, designing Dave Allen’s 40-ft San Francisco-based Imp. He’s since moved on — both physically and professionally. His most current project is Bill Joy’s ‘super green’ 190-footer Ethereal, which is scheduled for launch this fall by Royal Huisman in Holland.

The $25 fee covers dinner, which starts at 7 p.m., and the presentation. Reservations must be made by this Friday. Contact RYC’s manager at (510) 237-2821 for more info.

Does everyone recall that the Lake County District Attorney has steadfastly refused to file any criminal charges against Lake County Deputy Sheriff Russell Perdock in the death of Lynn Thornton?
It would be funny if it wasn’t real. Most animals who get tangled in trash aren’t lucky enough to be found while they’re still alive.
For all you dinghy sailors out there, you won’t want to miss Richmond YC’s Totally Dinghy Regatta this weekend, with racing on Saturday and Sunday with an inexpensive dinner on Saturday night.