The first weekend of the Corinthian YC Midwinters didn’t disappoint the nearly 150 starters for weather. Although the breeze never settled in for more than 45 minutes at any point, the temps that reached the 70’s, and non-stop sunshine to go along with them, had sailors practically peeling-off layers at every mark rounding.
The Central Bay courses used on Saturday were fraught with massive holes that left entire divisions parked — at times together. That was the case for the first three or four starts. After PHRF 1 got away on time, only to be stymied by little to no breeze and the building flood tide, a postponement and breeze that built ever so slightly caused the second three divisions to show up at Little Harding at the same time with spinnakers up. In the end, due to overly-optimistic course selection and the massive holes west of Pt. Blunt, four of the 14 divisions didn’t count a finisher between them by the time the 5 p.m. time limit had been reached.
On Sunday, the R/C got the course selection squared away, sending all the divisions east through Raccoon Strait to the North Bay courses. Nearly every division ended the day with elapsed time spreads in the 2- to 3.5-hour range. Despite a nice fat puff at the start, there was a big hole and a restart after the boats exited the Strait.
The next weekend of the Corinthian YC Midwinters is February 21-22, while results for both Saturday and Sunday are already available online at the series’ webpage.
Readers — On December 11, Jeff Hartjoy set off from Callao, Peru, on a singlehanded nonstop trip around Cape Horn aboard his Baba 40 Sailors Run. He rounded Cape Horn on January 9 and is bound for Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Day 37 most likely will be remembered as the worst day of the passage. I was hove-to under double reefed mizzen in sustained 50 knots of wind out of the northwest. The mizzen held the bow of the boat at about 45-50º to the wind and waves, but after about four hours, the waves were running in excess of 20 feet. They’d knock the bow off, allowing several minutes to pass before Sailors Run would round back up. During one of those occasions, we were slammed by a second large breaking wave that broke the windvane support strut. I secured all the loose parts and stowed the servo rudder out of the way. Belowdecks things were chaotic — the waves breaking onto the deck were forcing water through the portlights.
I would have set the sea anchor, even though it was dark, but these winds were associated with a front so I knew they would subside quickly. Eight hours after they’d started, the winds finally abated. I raised the staysail and we were back underway — on course, no less.
Two days later and I know it’s really starting to warm up because all my dirty laundry is starting to reek. The wind’s shifted to on the nose but I know I’m getting close to my destination because I only have four beers left!
You can still play those old LPs if you want, and by all means restore that old Herreshoff schooner. But as of February 1, that ancient 121.5 EPIRB of yours will not only be useless, it will be illegal.
EPIRBs — Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons — are nifty gadgets. Modeled on a similar device carried by small aircraft, when turned on they emit a radio signal that informs anyone listening that you’re in trouble, and where to look for you. EPIRBs have saved the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of lives over the years. But the early ones, which transmitted on the 121.5 MHz band, were glitchy. They produced a lot of false alarms and had a host of other limitations that included poor signal strength, search areas that could be as large as 12 to 15 miles in radius, and unreliability. (Back in the ‘80s, Latitude sponsored an EPIRB reliability test that revealed a significant number of units were emitting a signal so distorted that they might never have been heard in the first place.) This resulted in the Coast Guard spending valuable time trying to make sure the signal and position were real before launching its boats or helicopters. And they still went on lots of wild goose chases.
About 20 years ago, some brilliant fellow invented a new breed of EPIRB that transmitted digitally on the 406 MHz band. Digital signals, and the way satellites process them, are not only highly accurate, but each individual EPIRB could have its own ‘fingerprint’. When preregistered, that meant it could instantly inform searchers with the name of the boat, home port, contact numbers and so on. When one of those goes off, the Coasties make a few quick calls to the numbers on the registration. If the person on the other end says her husband really did leave for Hawaii a few days before, they go. If she says he’s driving up 101 with the EPIRB bouncing around in the back of a pickup truck, they don’t.
The ‘con’ of 406s is that they are expensive. Prices have come down in the last few years, but you’ll still shell out from $300 for small personal EPIRBs to $600 or more for the newest water-activated models that feature built-in GPS. So people have continued using the 121.5 models. But as of February 1, they can’t anymore. On that day, Cospas-Sarsat, the international satellite-based search and rescue (SAR) system, will cease satellite processing of 121.5/243 MHz analog EPIRBs and will begin processing only the 406 MHz digital radio beacon signals. Use of the obsolete 121.5 MHz (or 243MHz for airplanes) beacons will be illegal, as well as pointless, since nobody will be listening anymore.
We hope by next month that all sailors venturing offshore will be carrying 406 EPIRBs. And if you find a bargain on a used one, be sure to re-register it in your name!
For more information on EPIRBs and the Cospas-Sarsat program, visit www.sarsat.noaa.gov.
We’re happy to report that the Zihuatanejo Sailfest committee has come out of hibernation and put together a fun-filled schedule of shoreside and on-the-water activities for the first week of next month (February 3-8). And if past years’ events are any indication, every part of the six-day lineup will be big fun for sailors and ‘lubbers alike.
So if you’re lazing away in some sleepy Mexican anchorage with nothing more pressing on your schedule than heading to town for fresh limes and tortillas, we strongly urge you to haul up the anchor, hoist up the sails and head to Z-town for the big fiesta. Not only do many veteran cruisers consider Zihua to be their favorite town on the Mexican coast, but Sailfest is historically one of the largest gathering of cruisers in the country, other than the Baja Ha-Ha and Banderas Bay Regatta. And, most importantly, every event has a component which supports local schools for disadvantaged kids. So by participating, you’ll be aiding a great cause while having a great time. To our way of thinking that’s a hard combo to beat, which is why we’ll be there ourselves for most of the week. (Note also that Latitude 38‘s Pacific Puddle Jump Party will held February 9, the day after Sailfest ends.)
Below is the basic sched — hope to see you there! Check the website for background on the philanthropic efforts, and further event details.
- Feb 3 — Kickoff Party at El Faro; Live auction, 6 to 8 p.m.; Nashville crooner Josie Kuhn performs at 8:00 p.m.
- Feb 4 — Morning Sailboat Pursuit Race; Benefit Concert and CD Release, 6:30 p.m. at El Pueblito.
- Feb 5 — Parade of Sail, through Zihua Bay and Ixtapa.
- Feb 6 — Chili Cookoff, Street Sale & Silent Auction; Cruising Seminars.
- Feb 7 — Kids’ Beach Day; Watersports Games.
- Feb 8 — Sunset Barbecue and Beach Party Awards Ceremony.