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January 7, 2009

Le Cam Rescued

VM Materiaux upside down, sans bulb, while skipper Jean Le Cam waits for the arrival of friend and competitor Vincent Riou.

© 2009 Marine Chilienne / Vendee Globe

If you grew up sailing dinghies, you probably had sailing instructors who implored you to "stay with the boat" whenever you capsized. That’s exactly what VM Matériaux skipper Jean Le Cam did — just long enough to be rescued from his sinking IMOCA 60 by competitor Vincent Riou.

Le Cam spent 10 hours inside the hull of his overturned boat — which capsized when his keel bulb dropped from the fin after a collision with an unidentified awash object — before Riou was able to arrive at his position.

"I always had it in my head ‘do not leave the boat’," Le Cam said. "Then I didn’t know how long I could live inside."

Thankfully, he didn’t have to push it to the very edge, because yesterday morning Riou showed up. But it wasn’t just a matter of a simple step-aboard transfer. Le Cam had to transit the length of his boat, from bow to stern, to reach the escape hatch. Sound simple? Well, maybe with an upright  boat — and without gear, spares and food plastered to the ceiling. Consider also that the stern of VM Matériaux was completely awash when a fatigued and chilled Le Cam had a decision to make with his life hanging in the balance.

"I heard Vincent’s voice in the morning, and thought, ‘Am I dreaming or not?’" Le Cam said. "Then I heard it again so I was sure he was there, and that’s important, because if you get out and there’s no one there, you’re in really bad shape, because possibly you can’t get back in. There’s only one shot at this. So I opened the hatch and things kept pouring out of the boat. Vincent saw things come out of the hatch, so I put my feet out first and got out in one movement with a wave. I held on, lifted my head up, and saw Vincent, which was a great moment.”

But that wasn’t the end of it. It took Riou three practice runs before he was able to reach Le Cam — who had managed to scramble atop the hull and was hanging on to one of the rudders — with a heaving line. On that fourth attempt, Riou sailed so close that one of the deck spreaders that support the wingmast’s standing rigging made contact with Le Cam’s keel fin, damaging the spreader and later forcing the duo to crash jibe to save the rig.

Jean Le Cam, left and Vincent Riou – both very relieved!

© 2009 Vincent Riou / PRB / Vendee Globe

“I came close the first time, I came close the second time and I missed him, and on the fourth try I managed to throw him the rope," Riou said. "The closer I got, the more risks I took. One big wave is all it would have taken for Jean to be sent off — you can’t resist the pressure of the water. The fourth time I got really close — the hulls didn’t touch but the keel hit my outrigger. At the time I didn’t really care. First I get Jean, then I’ll take care of my outrigger — my priority was set on getting Jean, no matter what.”

Oman Tri Attempts Nonstop Circumnavigation

Mohsin Ali Al-Busaidi hopes to become the first of many Omanis to circumnavigate.

© 2009 Oman Sail

The list of nonstop circumnavigators grows longer every year. But no such campaign has ever been launched from an Arab state — until now. The 75-ft trimaran Musandam is poised for departure tomorrow from Muscat, in the Sultanate of Oman, on an around-the-world romp via the three great capes.

Although Oman Royal Navy officer Mohsin Al-Busaidi, 33, is the sole Omani within the five-man crew, in the near future the campaign’s government organizers intend to train a team of Omani sailors to represent the Arab nation at future world-class events. If successful, Al-Busaidi will be the first Omani to circumnavigate, nonstop or otherwise.

You might say that Musandam already knows her way around the planet, as she is the same boat sailed ’round by Ellen MacArthur in 2005 (then B&Q/Castorama). At the campaign’s website you can follow Musandam’s progress as she races against theoretical 80-day and 100-day pace boats.

“I Just Wanted a Sandwich”

Oops! Forgetting to check his tidebook, the owner of Dionysus took a longer-than-expected lunch at Oyster Point Marina . . . by 12 hours!

© 2009 Ken Shuford

Local knowledge can be a precious thing. Take for example the owner of the 35-ft Brisbane-based Dionysus: Feeling a little peckish around lunchtime a couple days after Christmas, the sailor decided to stop at Oyster Point Marina to grab a bite at the Bait, Tackle & Deli. "The poor guy had always tied up next to a friend’s boat and used his key when he came to visit," reports Ken Shuford, who keeps his DownEaster 42 Danser Nu at Oyster Point. "But the friend had sold his boat so he tied up at the public boat launch . . . on an ebb tide."

Dionysus‘s skipper was surprised to find that, when he returned an hour later on a full stomach, he was hard aground. Nothing would budge the boat, and she was now starting to list.

"Oyster Point Marina officials were quick to respond," noted Shuford, "but no one dared drag Dionysus backward, as she was soundly stuck and they were afraid of damaging her." Everyone did their best to secure her, then settled in for a long wait.

“Who knew?”

© 2009 Ken Shuford

"The owner was a good-natured soul," Shuford said, "and not only took the kidding of the gathered marina tenants in stride, but joined in on the joking." One by one, the jokesters went back to minding their own business, leaving Dionysus‘s owner to await high tide — and freedom — with a friend. Freedom came just before midnight with no apparent harm done — other than a battered ego, that is.

Dionysus‘s misstep is a good reminder to check your tidebook when stopping for a spell. Don’t take for granted that, just because you’re at a dock, you’ll be able to get out on your schedule — high spots abound in some Bay Area marinas. But if you do get stuck, take a page out of Mr. Dionysus‘s playbook and just go with the flow.

What a Difference a Few Hundred Miles Makes

When people ask us about cruising itineraries in Mexico for the winter, we always suggest they do the Sea of Cortez before December 1 or after March 15. That’s because the water is too cold for swimming, and there’s only about a 50% chance the air temperature will be comfortable in the dead of winter.

Cruising the Sea of Cortez is bliss – in the high season. It’s just too darn chilly come winter.

© Glenn Twitchell

The proof comes in the following report from David Addleman and Heather Corsaro of the Monterey-based Cal 36 Eupsychia: "We are in La Paz with engine troubles right now, which wouldn’t be so bad except that it’s freezing! I swear it’s going to snow or we’ll wake up to see frost on the decks. We’ve had a bit of rain this past week and chilly winds in the 15- to 18-knot range."

We don’t think there’s any danger of snow in La Paz, as the lows haven’t gotten below the 50s at night, but the highs haven’t been getting above the high 60s either. Compare that with Puerto Vallarta, just 400 miles to the south, where it’s 85° almost every day. Not everyone is a warm weather cruiser like we are, but we’d never want to do a winter cruise where we couldn’t jump overboard into a warm ocean. And you can’t do that in the Sea.

A few hundred miles makes a world of difference – you can actually get a tan in Puerto Vallarta in January.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Speaking of which, every year some cruisers in the Pacific are surprised to learn that New Zealand isn’t tropical. The latest to report this are Rob and Lorraine Coleman of the Honolulu-based Angelman ketch Southern Cross. The tropics are from 22°N to 22°S. Auckland is 38°S, which means it’s as far from the tropics as San Francisco. In addition to not being tropical, New Zealand — because nowhere is further than about 80 miles from the ocean — is subject to rapid and major changes in weather.

Ira Epstein, who still has a house in Bolinas, drives his classic Robert Clark 65 Lone Fox on the windward leg of the New Year’s Eve Race/Parade.
Did you get what you wanted for the holidays? If you forced a gracious smile when you opened the package of socks that you secretly hoped was a hot Latitude 38 t-shirt, now’s the time to treat yourself.