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September 26, 2008

Gitana 13 Breaks Tea Route Record

Gitana XIII smokin’ up the Bay between breaking records this February.

© 2008 Peter Lyons

Remember Gitana XIII, the 110-ft maxi-catamaran that visited the Bay back in late February and early March? We sure do! We’re not sure it’s possible to forget what it feels like to hit 30 knots in a bear-away, or cruise up and down the Cityfront with a 110-ft hull flying well clear of board-flat water with nearly 50 knots of apparent wind in your face.

The boat has finally finished the records tour she began in January by breaking the Tea Route record from Hong Kong to London with a time of 41d 21h 26m 34s — over a day less than it took her to get from New York to the Bay on the successful Gold Route record attempt that brought her here. Skipper Lionel Lemonchois explained the crux of the boat’s records trip upon reaching London:

"The seven records are clearly a great satisfaction, but I am particularly proud of the human success story that has come about as a result of this long record campaign," he said. "We relished the idea of bringing some maritime routes, which have a real historic value, back into the limelight. I hope that the times set throughout the year will inspire others to revive these routes which are positively brimming with history."

And they probably will, given the fact that just about every record, despite being very fast, is beatable. On the Gold Route passage for example, Lemonchois was forced to wait five days for a weather window before rounding Cape Horn.

Also, consider the reality that breaking records with a second-hand, giant multihull is actually cheaper these days than running a top-level IMOCA 60 campaign — where 20 other teams are competing for a slice of the press coverage.

Race Editor Rob Grant will not soon forget his amazing ride on Gitana earlier this year.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Combine these two factors — along with potential sponsors’ desire to reach burgeoning Asian markets — and you get exactly the circumstances needed for what Lemonchois envisions. We’d like to go on record as being strongly in favor of such a scenario, as long as it means that more giant multihulls visit the Bay . . . and take us sailing.

The records of Gitana XIII’s 2008 records tour:

Route de l’Or — NY to SF, via Cape Horn: 43d 3m 1s
North Pacific Crossing — SF to Yokohama: 11d 12m 55s
Tea Route  — Hong Kong to London: 41d 21h 26m 34s
Yokohama to Dalian: 3d 20h 19m 11s
Dalian to Qingdao: 23h 50m and 20s
Qingdao to Taiwan: 3d 52m 15s
Taipei to Hong Kong: 1d 58m 27s

Jury Selection Begins in Deleon Trial

Jury selection began this week in the trial of Skylar Deleon, the alleged ‘mastermind’ behind the 2004 disappearance of Newport Beach-based cruisers Tom and Jackie Hawks. Prosecutors contend that Deleon, along with two accomplices, lured the Hawkses into a test sail of the 55-ft trawler, Well Deserved, they had for sale. Once at sea, prosecutors say, the three overpowerd the couple, tied them to an anchor and threw them overboard. Later, Deleon and his pregnant wife, Jennifer Deleon, supposedly tried to use documents the Hawkses were forced to sign to gain access to their finances.

A jury found Jennifer Deleon guilty on two counts of murder — she wasn’t aboard the test sail but the state proved she’d used her pregnancy and young child to gain the trust of Tom and Jackie Hawks — and sentenced her to two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parol. The prosecution is going for the death penalty in Skylar Deleon’s case. The selection of the jury will take a couple weeks, then the horrifying details of the case will be heard once again.

The trial of John Kennedy, one of the alleged accomplices, is slated for January. The other man who claims to have been aboard that day, Alonso Machain, has cooperated with authorities in hopes of a lighter sentence. His trial and that of Myron Gardner, the man who supposedly put Deleon in touch with Kennedy, have yet to be announced.

All Things Falcon

There was a nice front page story in The Chronicle today announcing that Tom Perkins’ 289-ft mega sailing yacht Maltese Falcon will come under the Gate Saturday at 2 p.m. Reporter Carl Nolte got some of the information from us, and we feel it’s important to make one clarification.

According to the article, the publisher of Latitude was "invited aboard the Maltese Falcon by Perkins for a cruise on the Mediterranean not long ago. . ." Not quite. We were among the many people that Perkins invited to the launch festivities and party in Italy. We were only able to justify such a trip because we also needed to travel Europe to take photos, see some boats, and speak with members of the sailing industry. We coordinated the end of that trip with the launch of Falcon, and greatly enjoyed the festivities. Although we were invited to sail on Falcon the next day, along with many other people, it wasn’t possible because we had to return home to a deadline. So for the record, we’ve not only not "cruised the Med" with Perkins, we’ve not even sailed on the boat. But we’ve been invited to do just that a week from Sunday, and will not miss it.

For what it’s worth, while we admire mega sailing yachts for the incredible artistry and engineering they embody, and Falcon in particular for its daringly innovative DynaRig, we’re personally not crazy about them. We think along the lines of Ron Holland who, despite designing many mega sailing yachts, says anything over 60 feet is more than he’d want. Once you get much larger than that, it seems to us that you start to remove yourself from the elements you want to enjoy. In a typical year, we sail on a mega sailing yacht once, at the St. Barth Around the Island Regatta. Being the simple sort, we don’t feel any great desire to do it again until the next year.

There’s also the issue of how tasteful such mega yachts are in today’s world, what with the world economy in the condition it’s in, and with the importance of reducing one’s carbon footprint. With regard to the former, we’ll remind everyone that the design, building and running of yachts such as Falcon created and continues to create countless jobs which contributes lots to the economy. That’s a good thing. As is the fact that Perkins made most of his money providing the seed money for companies that ultimately came up with products that have made your life and ours so much better and less expensive. Can you say ‘Google’.

As for how megayachts, even mega sailing yachts, fit into today’s world of shrinking resources and perhaps climate change, the answer is not very well. As we’ve written previously, we’ve given Perkins’ Falcon, Joe Vittoria’s 247-ft Mirabella, and Jim Clark’s nearly 300-ft Athena passes, because they were all begun seven or eight years ago when the world was a very different place. In fact, the last megayacht we’re giving — for what it’s worth — our seal of approval to is Bill Joy’s 190-ft Ron Holland designed Ethereal, to be launched this fall. Joy, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems, has gone to great lengths and expense to make his boat as ecologically friendly as possible. But still, it seems to us it’s like trying to make a diet version of a Double Whopper with cheese and bacon. Despite the weakening world economy, the megayacht business is still booming. This is something we’re not at all happy about, nor do we think it’s in good taste. As time goes on and resources become more dear, we suspect that the people who launch such yachts aren’t going to be looked on with envy, but rather with growing disapproval.

But for now, we suggest everyone check out Falcon when she comes beneath the Gate tomorrow afternoon, as it’s really going to be something to see. Once again, we recommend the pedestrian path on the east side of the Golden Gate Bridge as perhaps the best viewing site. That’s where we’ll be.

Sailing the Patch

Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer and Dr. Jim Graham are oceanographers and drift analysis experts. Although they’re based in Seattle, they work on ­— and are interested in — all sorts of things that go adrift at sea, from lost buoys and abandoned ships all the way down to sneakers and rubber duckies. Some of their early work — remember the thousands of Nike running shoes that broke out of containers about 15 years ago? — generated so much interest among scientifically-challenged folks (in other words, most of us), that Curt started the newsletter Beachcombers Alert! a decade ago. Published six times a year, Alert! intersperses serious drift analyses alongside heartwarming ‘message in a bottle’ stories, and celebrates the other weird and wonderful stuff that people find on beaches.  

Occasionally, our paths intersect and Dr. Curt has been a great help when we have questions about yachts that have gone adrift. He recently informed us that one local boat is going to be the subject of an upcoming Alert! article: the Olson 40 Pterodactyl, which was ‘abandoned’ after her owner and a crewman were washed overboard — and recovered quickly by another boat — during last spring’s Doublehanded Farallones Race. The boat has been spotted twice since then, once by a Navy ship and once by a commercial ship. All known coordinates were forwarded to Ebbesmeyer and Graham. Here are a few ‘sneak peek’ highlights from the upcoming article:  

  • In the 45 days she was adrift before the commercial ship found her, Pterodactyl covered 726 nautical miles, a speed of 16.1 nm a day.    
  • The verdict: Pterodactyl is moving into the Pacific Gyre, or as Ebbesmeyer calls it, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. “The Patch is the great dust bunny of the Northern Hemisphere where winds collect flotsam beneath the Pacific Subtropical Pressure cell,” he writes. “It’s at least several times the size of Texas.”

Once in the Patch, Pterodactyl will join a long list of lost or abandoned vessels that goes back centuries — literally to the days of native canoes and Spanish galleons. And she may be caught there for years. Ebbesmeyer thinks there may be ‘dozens’ of yachts out there, endlessly ‘sailing’ the Patch.

For more on the Beachcomber’s Alert, check out

Tragedy struck the opening race of the Regates Royale off Cannes yesterday. British attorney Wilf Tolhurst, 64, was killed when his classic 50-ft 8-Meter Safir collided with a larger British yacht shortly after noon.
For those of you tracking the progress of Maltese Falcon on, you’ve already noticed that Tom Perkins’ megayacht pulled into Drakes Bay this morning around 6 a.m.
The coastal region of west-central Mexico was rocked yesterday evening by a magnitude 6.4 earthquake, centered offshore, approximately 130 miles SW of Manzanillo, in the state of Jalisco.
An old salt once said, "You can learn everything you need to know about sailing in a day — then you spend the rest of your life getting it right."