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January 14, 2009

A Mid-Winter Boat Launch

The proud craftsman takes a trophy run around the marina, while his partner’s daughter, Martine, toasts his splendid accomplishment.

Love in Vane
©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"We’ve all read about the magnificent Maltese Falcon, but at the other end of the sailing spectrum is my 7-foot, 7-inch Lil Love," writes John Chille of Alameda. After countless man-hours of labor, she was finally launched on Christmas day.

Despite the limitations of winter weather, John completed this little gem right where he started her eight months ago, on a "utility float" at the Oakland YC. The little Eastport Pram was built using the stitch-and-glue method, from plans provided by Chesapeake Small Craft Company. Rather than buying a complete kit of pre-cut wooden elements, John opted to loft her himself, figuring he’d learn a thing or two in the process. "I shortened her about two inches," he explains, "to fit the foredeck of my Golden Gate 30 Love in Vane, as a working and sailing dinghy."

We’re happy to report that all John’s efforts have resulted in a jaunty little craft that floats on her lines, rows nicely with one, two, or three aboard and will soon be seen sailing on the Estuary — as soon as he completes her rig.

Sailors Run Rounds Cape Horn

Readers — On December 11, Jeff Hartjoy set off from Callao, Peru, on a singlehanded nonstop trip around Cape Horn, bound for Buenos Aires, Argentina, aboard his Baba 40 Sailors Run. We’ll be running his reports in ‘Lectronic throughout his voyage.

After New Year’s, the wind built as I closed in on Cape Horn. Sailing conditions became dangerous, requiring I keep Sailors Run on a very broad reach under reefed staysail alone. At times like these, there’s just three things you must do: Stay on top of it, stay on top of it, stay on top of it!

One night around midnight, I awoke to a thunderous crash as what must have been a huge wave washed over Sailors Run. As I stumbled from my bunk to get a light on, I realized I was standing in water. Turns out, a couple quarts of water had been forced under the butterfly hatch. Thirty minutes later, the mess was cleaned up and precautions taken to protect against a recurrence. The same wave tore my GPS from its bracket; it wound up lodged under the dodger. Thankfully it was undamaged and gets to carry on like the rest of us "lucky suckers" on this adventure.

I had other challenges on my approach to the Horn, such as when the mizzen halyard broke the tips off the wind generator blades, forcing me to climb the mizzen to figure out a fix; or when the staysail halyard shackle let go, dumping the sail over the bow in 50 knots of wind; or when I jibed without rolling in the scrap of genoa — which I had set until I could climb the mast to retrieve the staysail halyard — resulting in about six-feet-worth of new patches.

Day 30 arrived with dying winds, and found Sailors Run just 30 miles from the Horn. At first I thought I might round it under spinnaker (how cool that would have been!) but then the winds increased and I thought I’d have to pass it 25 miles out. That’s when the winds died down to about 10 knots. The winds down here change constantly in direction and intensity, unlike the steady trades.

After 30 days and 3,582 miles, I just wanted to get there so I tried to start the engine but ended up starting an electrical fire in the wiring to the engine’s pre-heater instead. I cleared that, blew the smoke out of the boat, bled the engine, and finally got it started. After two hours, the wind filled in from the north and I had a great beam reach to Cape Horn, arriving at 2130 UTC on January 9.

I’d thought I was emotional when I left Callao, Peru, but that was nothing to the way I felt rounding the Horn. Not only was I still alive, but I’d fulfilled a dream. Suddenly all the frustration was gone and I was happy again!

Rising Star in the Vendee Globe

Sam Davies celebrates Christmas. Is she sailing’s next superstar?

© 2009 Samantha Davies / Roxy Sailing / Vendée Globe

Every now and then competitors rise above their chosen sports to become media stars. Among women, the names Nadia, Mary Lou and FloJo come to mind. In sailing, certainly Ellen MacArthur. But even Dame Ellen’s fame may pale to another British woman who is currently in fourth place in one of the most brutal and carnage-strewn Vendée Globe races in memory: Samantha Davies.

We have to wonder what race leader and possible winner Michel Desjoyeaux thinks. He’s got to at least be feeling a bit of déjà vu. When he won this race in 2001, the victory took a back seat to the media storm that accompanied second-place finisher Ellen MacArthur. Even a second win — augmented by the remarkable fact that ‘The Professor’ started two days later than everyone else after returning to Les Sables d’Olonne for repairs — may not eclipse the competitor who became the media darling of this race only a few weeks after its November 9 start.

Michel Desjoyeaux and Foncia enjoyed lake-like conditions on his transit of Cape Horn and the LeMaire Strait last week.

© Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendée Globe

Desjoyeaux is so serious and is driving his Farr-designed Foncia so hard that he has yet to post more than a half-dozen onboard photos on the Vendée website — and so far none of himself. By contrast, Sam Davies is using the site almost like Facebook, with dozens of photos of Roxy Sailing, herself, and daily life aboard. In 90% of the self-portraits, she’s grinning like someone who’s just won the national lottery. 

This is in stark contrast to most other competitors, many of whose self-portraits show the stress of sailing a high-tech 60-ft boat around the world: calloused hands, unshaven faces, weary looks and few smiles. And with good reason. Two-thirds of the way through the event, the stress on sailors and machines has whittled the 30 starters down to only 12 as of this morning. Boats have dismasted, capsized, hit whales and blown up sails and gear. Sailors have broken bones. Several have had to be rescued. A few of the remaining boats are running damaged, including that of the only other woman in the race, Dee Caffari, who is down to the fourth reef of what may prove to be an unrepairable mainsail. She’s currently in a group of three boats enduring 60-knot winds with 500 miles still to go to Cape Horn.

Some of the repairs Roland Jourdain did to the cracked bulkheads of Veolia Environnement after hitting a whale.

© 2009 Roland Jourdain / Veolia Environment / Vendée Globe

Desjoyeaux rounded old Cape Stiff on January 5 and is on the homestretch up the Atlantic. He is 4,600 miles — three weeks or so — from the finish. Roland Jourdain aboard Veolia Environnement, in second, is currently in better breeze and only 230 miles behind the leader. Armel Le Cléac’h in Brit Air is third. Then, in distant fourth, smiling Sam Davies.

In other developments, Vincent Riou was given redress in a measure we have never before heard of. You may recall that his PRB incurred damage to one of its deck-level ‘outriggers’ when he rescued Jean Le Cam off the capsized VM Matériaux on January 6. That damage apparently led to the dismasting of PRB the next day. Riou had been in third place before he was called to the rescue. So on Monday, an international jury awarded Riou automatic third place — he will share the podium with whichever racer is third across the finish line.

For more on the Vendée Globe, log onto

The Best of 2008

Team Natural Blues skipper Dan Brandt gets a 9.8 for style on this dismount at the 2008 St. Francis YC 18-ft skiff regatta.

© Erik Simonson

Bay Area-based photographer Erik Simonson should be no stranger to ‘Lectronic Latitude and Latitude 38 readers. His images consisently grace our pages, and for good reason — they’re great!

Serena smokin’ under the bridge in a wicked ebb.

© Erik Simonson

Whether he’s shooting from his bright-red RIB, the Golden Gate Bridge or Howie Hamlin’s helicopter, Simonson consistently comes up with great stuff — always more than we have space to use.

Samba Pa Ti shows the crew of this box carrier how it’s done.

© Erik Simonson

With 2008 in the books, he’s put together a "best of" gallery showing some of his favorites from last year. It appears along with everything else he’s taken — which may include your boat — on his website.

Hoot leads the Olson 30 charge at BYC’s Saturday race. latitude/JR
©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC ‘Indian Summer’ finally arrived on the scene this past weekend.
Saturday had to be one of the nicest days of this young year, yet about 90 of the Bay’s most ardent racers chose to spend it in the Corinthian YC ballroom — with every window shade drawn, and not a beer in sight.
Offshore sailors always worry about getting run down by ships. The danger is less now than anytime in recent memory.