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December 10, 2008

Big Bang on Gitana Eighty

Peyron’s ‘big bang’ has taken him out of the running.

© Yvan Zedda / Gitana SA

In one of the real heartbreakers of the singlehanded, nonstop round-the-world Vendée Globe Race, Loïck Peyron reported that his IMOCA 60 Gitana Eighty had dismasted early this morning in the Southern Ocean. Peyron, who was in third place at the time, was below when the spar failed and was not injured. He reported that the boat had been sailing in 30 knots of breeze at about 6 p.m. local time (5 a.m. PST) under a single reefed main and solent when he heard the dreaded big bang. "When I went on deck I noticed that I no longer had a mast," he wryly reported to his shore team. He said that the carbon spar, which at that point was broken in three or four places, took about an hour and a half to cut free of the boat. All that remained was the boom, which he was able to save, and about a five-foot stump of mast sticking out of the deck. Peyron is currently busy putting together a jury rig and seeing how the boat sails before deciding on where to go from here. At the time of the dismasting, he was sailing with the leaders about 180 miles south of tiny Crozet Island and about 650 miles west of the Kerguelen Islands, at the southern edge of the roaring 40s.

Gitana Eighty’s mast was built by French spar builder Lorima, which also supplied spars for 10 other Vendée boats. While the cause of the failure is not known (and may never be), it may be relevant that the spreader attachment system was similar in design to Jérémie Beyou’s Delta Dore, which retired earlier in the race due to problems with the upper spreaders breaking loose.

Gitana Eighty’s mast crumpled into three or four pieces.

© Jacques Vapillon/DPPI

Gitana Eighty herself is one of a stable of globe-girdling boats sponsored by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild. She is a Farr design built in at Southern Ocean Marine in New Zealand, right next to a sistership, Jean Pierre Dick’s Paprec Virbac 2. Both boats were launched within a few months of each other in 2007. The two skippers have sailed together in several events on other boats (they won the 2005 Transat Jacques Vabre) and their new boats were apparently something of a collaboration of their combined experience. 

Among Peyron’s claims to fame are wins of the Transat B to B on this boat, a second in the very first Vendée Globe in 1989 (he also entered the ’92-93 edition but retired due to damage), and another second in 2000’s The Race, in which he skippered the 110-ft maxi-cat Innovations Explorer. He is also the younger brother of Bruno Peyron, who holds the current crewed round-the-world record on the maxi-cat Orange 2

The 2008-09 Vendée Globe started off Les Sables D’Olonne on November 9 and is now in its 31st day. In one of the closest Vendées ever, the race has so far seen more than 20 lead changes. Peyron himself — a pre-race favorite for overall honors — led the race for 16 days. Jean-Pierre Dick’s Paprec Virbac 2 currently leads, with Sébastien Josse’s BT less than a mile behind.

For more on the Vendée, log onto

Kiteboater Aborts TransPacific Attempt

Anne and her unique vessel in better times.

© Adrien Challenge

When French adventurer Anne Quéméré set out from San Francisco on November 4 bound for Tahiti, getting stuck in the equatorial doldrums (ITCZ) was undoubtedly one of her greatest fears. She was, after all, traveling aboard a 16-ft one-person craft propelled only by a special kite, similar to those used by kitesurfers.

Although full details have yet to emerge, an initial report indicates that Quéméré made the difficult decision to give up yesterday, after idling with no wind for 10 days. During the past month she had completed roughly half of the 4,000-mile voyage. Making matters worse, about a week ago, the kite was damaged by what we assume was a sudden squall (our French translation skills are a bit rusty).

Although the Tahiti attempt failed, this same boat has already successfully conquered the Atlantic.

© 2008 Adrien Challenge

A cargo ship has been diverted to rescue Quéméré, but the rendezvous may be a challenge as her tiny craft, named Oceankite, no longer has power to activate its lights and nav gear. Luckily, the courageous French sailor was able to relay her abandonment message via a satellite phone.

In 2006 Quéméré successfully sailed this vessel across the Atlantic from New York to Ouessant, France. She previously rowed, singlehanded and unassisted, across the Atlantic — in both directions. Look for further details in the January edition of Latitude 38.

BMW Oracle Racing Says “No Thanks!”

BMW Oracle Racing has put a lot of time and effort into the preparing this monster trimaran to race Alinghi in a Deed of Gift AC challenge. If they lose their appeal in the New York Court of Appeals, they may not get to race anything in AC 33.

© 2008 Gilles Martin-Raget BMW Oracle Racing

With the deadline looming for entry into what may or may not be the 33rd America’s Cup, BMW Oracle Racing and the Golden Gate YC have elected to take their chances in the New York Court of Appeals. Alinghi and the Société Nautique Genève have set an entry deadline of December 15 for the multi-challenger, mutual consent event they’ve been planning for the last month. In a letter sent Monday, Golden Gate YC Commodore Marcus Young explained the team’s decision not to enter and we’ve excerpted some of the team’s more compelling arguments here.

"As you know, the Court has set a date of February 10 for oral arguments and is expected to rule on our appeal by the end of March," Young writes. "Given the stakes involved for the future of the America’s Cup, we do not believe a few more months represent an unreasonable delay.  
"In fact, we find it quite odd that SNG has set an arbitrary registration deadline of
December 15 in light of the fact that a Court decision is so close. Indeed, the timing of your whole revived preparations for the regatta — initiated immediately after Golden Gate YC filed its opening brief in this Court — is only a transparently blatant attempt to influence the Court. Even so, we were willing to consider entering the event if SNG had given us an opportunity to review the Protocol and compare it against the Ten Point Plan we had proposed to achieve fair rules. Regrettably, SNG did not accede to this reasonable request.

"Over the past 17 months, we have made a number of constructive suggestions to resolve the dispute outside of court and get the America’s Cup back on track. Yet SNG and your defense apparatus have consistently refused to negotiate with us in good faith.

"SNG’s defense apparatus has a track record of excluding top competitors from sailing events when they pose a real threat. Moreover, your recently revived preparations process has not been conducive to attracting a strong field of competitors. We have been excluded from the recent meetings, as has any challenger that declined to sign your non-negotiable nondisclosure agreement, thus creating a conspiracy of silence around a rules meeting of America’s Cup competitors unprecedented in Cup history. This is not the inclusive, open, transparent and democratic process required to develop a Protocol that will ensure the full participation of major teams in a fair and competitive America’s Cup."

The bottom line is that if BMW Oracle Racing — the event’s biggest team from both the 2003 and 2007 editions — is unsuccessful in its appeal, then there will be no 33rd America’s Cup for them. Remember that their appeal hinges on whether the definition of "having for its annual regatta" means that CNEV, the Challenger of Record, had already held said regatta, which it hadn’t.

Sailors Run Setting Off for Cape Horn

Debbie & Jeff Hartjoy enjoy one last cocktail together before Jeff sets off on his Cape Horn Adventure.

Sailors Run
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Our Coupeville, WA-based Baba 40 Sailors Run is set in the blocks and my Cape Horn Adventure is ready to begin. I’ll be dropping off the buoy at 6 a.m. tomorrow morning and I find myself facing the greatest challenge of my life: a 5,000-mile nonstop solo passage around Cape Horn to Buenos Aires, Argentina. I knew this day would come four months ago when, while beating down the coast of Peru to Callao, a suburb of Lima, I noticed I was within 3,000 miles of the infamous Cape Horn.

Cruising had lost some of its excitement for me as there were no big ocean passages planned for the near future but rather short hops and hanging out. Granted, this is a delightful part of cruising but one I had personally become a little bored with. My wife Debbie was going back to the States to work for several months so when I saw the Horn was with in my grasp, I said why not! There are lots of reasons not to do it, and many of my friends pointed out several I’d overlooked, but not being one who’s put off by the fears of others, I just did the best I could to deal with my own fears.

One of the many ways Jeff prepared for his trip was to rig Sailors Run with freshly made baggywrinkles.

© Jeff Hartjoy

Sailors Run has been gone over thoroughly from stem to stern and I feel she is ready for the voyage. I personally have been running five miles a day and can actually run the distance in 34 minutes — not a bad time for an old guy of 62.

The first 2,000 miles will most likely be beating to weather against the southeast trades and looks to be the easiest part of the trip. Once through the South Pacific High and into the roaring 40s and howling 50s, there will be 2,000 miles of the wildest sailing conditions that are likely to be encountered anywhere. It’s here that weather faxes and actual timing of approaching lows from the west will be most critical. I’ve been studying these for over two months and feel I understand their typical routes along my intended path.

Hartjoy’s survival gear includes his commemorative T-shirts from the ’99 and ’06 Baja Ha-Has.

© Jeff Hartjoy

I’m praying my electronics stay dry and operational throughout the entire journey — they should if I can keep this thing right side up all the way. Follow my progress in the pages of Latitude 38 and here in ‘Lectronic.