January 23, 2009

‘Soozal’ Tearing It Up at Race Week

Dan Woolery’s King 40 Soozal is doing a number on IRC 2 at Acura Key West Race Week.

© Sharon Green

With two races left to go today, Dan Woolery’s brand-spankin’ new Pt. Richmond-based Soozal is kicking butt and taking documentation numbers at Acura Key West Race Week. The Mark Mills-designed King 40 is proving to be a potent threat right out of the box. After eight races in which they counted only one finish outside the top three — a ‘lowly’ fifth — in the 13-boat, IRC 2 division, the Soozal crew doesn’t seem too hampered by the fact that this is the boat’s first regatta. The team has already notched three bullets, one of which came on Wednesday and helped earn Woolery’s team ‘Boat of the Day’ honors.

"This is an extremely competitive fleet and we sailed our butts off today," he was quoted as saying Wednesday evening in the regatta’s daily publication, Key West News. "I think the key for us was that we made very few mistakes, and we covered up those mistakes by catching the shifts."

It doesn’t hurt to have Robbie Haines picking those shifts for you. Nor does it hurt to have sailors like Project Manager Scott Easom and Matt Siddens trimming headsails, North Sails’ Pete McCormick on the main, Greg Sultan on the bow, Chris Lewis navigating, Gary Sadamori in the pit and Portland’s Deb Hong in the sewer.

"To win Boat of the Day is quite an honor for the entire crew," Woolery added. Soozal carries a three-point lead going into today’s final two races. "We’re taking nothing for granted . . . we have to keep the pedal down and keep pushing forward."

Elsewhere in IRC 2, the only other Bay Area boat at the event, Steve Stroub’s brand-new Santa Cruz 37 Tiburon, is suffering for having the fourth fastest rating in the division while giving up a minimum of three feet of waterline to every other boat save a near-sistership which rates slower than she does. Not designed to race in IRC from the get-go, the boat doesn’t get any favors from the rule. That, coupled with the fact the crew had never seen this particular boat until two days before the regatta started, gives a better picture of why this solid program isn’t looking so good in the results department.

By the time you read this, the regatta will be over; you can look here to see if Woolery and company were able to seal the deal.

A Call to Arms

If you think belt-tightening in the national economy is going to be painful, wait until you see what the state of California is going to have to do to balance their deficit. In an outline released by the Governor’s Office earlier this week, Schwarzenegger details an 18-step roadmap for a more efficient state government.

The issue that will have the most impact on boaters is the Governor’s proposal to eliminate the Department of Boating and Waterways. DBW would instead become a branch of the Department of Parks and Recreation. According to the outline, this move would save the state $600,000 per fiscal year and, in the words of the proposal, “allow for better coordination and management of project and grants relating to boating access and safety programs.” Oh really?

“Hasta la vista, DBW!”

©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Every governor since about Pat Brown (Jerry’s father) has tried to rob from Peter to pay Paul — in this case, use money from the efficiently-run DBW to pay off losses from the less-well-managed Parks and Rec. According to RBOC (Recreational Boaters of California), the absorption of DBW into Parks and Rec would not save the state $600,000. The fact is, DBW is so efficient that it receives no General Fund dollars. It is funded entirely by boater fuel tax dollars, registration fees and infrastructure loans.

The bottom line for boaters is that DBW is a valuable entity. It issues grants for harbor and marina improvements, promotes safety, battles to keep state waterways free of invasive species, and on and on and on.

If DBW is absorbed into Parks and Rec, it’s our feeling that many if not most of the good things it does will be lost or so diluted as to be ineffectual. We hope you will join us in telling the Governor and your local state Senator or Assemblyperson that DBW should remain autonomous. For bullet points to hit in your emails and letters, check out RBOC’s Call to Arms.

Get Better at Taking Your Turn

If it’s been awhile since you’ve taken your turn at the helm of the race deck for your club’s regatta, maybe 2009 could be a chance to change that. If it’s been so long that you’re afraid you might mess the whole thing up — or you just feel like you need a brush-up on the finer points of race management — there are a couple of great opportunities coming to town that’ll have you making better mark sets and general recalls in no time.

Not sailing the Three Bridge Fiasco? Then think about heading over to the San Francisco YC for a Basic Race Management seminar a week from tomorrow. If you can’t swing that, then consider taking the advanced course — taught by Tom Farquhar and Bill Gage at St. Francis YC February 28-March 1. Both are open to everyone, and you can sign up online.

"Most clubs rely 100% on volunteers to run their regattas," says St Francis YC Executive Race Publicity Chair Susan Ruhne. "Even the clubs with a professional race manager still rely on volunteers to actually be able to run the events. Racers  running races understand what the competitors want!"

The Answer To Wednesday’s Cruiser Quiz

Fred Tassigny, sitting at Le Select Bar in St. Barth, struggles to come to grips with his cat being hit by both a whale and a ship.

©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

In Wednesday’s ‘Lectronic, we ran a video showing the 600-ft cargo carrier Gulser Ana T-boning and dismasting the uninsured Venezia 42 catamaran Courtship about 350 miles WSW of Bermuda on November 18. We explained that it had been done on purpose, and asked readers to guess why.

We got a number of responses, including one from Seth and Elizabeth Hynes of the San Francisco-based Lagoon 380 Honeymoon, who are now in Antigua, and who know the previous owner of Courtship. Most of the responses to the quiz were generally correct, although the cat wasn’t being hit to be scuttled. But nobody mentioned the whale, which was the cause of the whole mess. As such, here’s the abridged version, as given to us by owner Fred Tassigny of St. Barth, who lived through it. The complete version will appear in the February issue of Latitude

Having spent many years cruising the South Pacific with his wife Sophy aboard their Moody 39 Suzu, the 63-year-old Fred and his wife decided to sell their boat and take advantage of the strong Euro to buy a catamaran in the States. He’d then sail the cat to their former and future home of St. Barth in the French West Indies. Fred bought a Venezia 42 in Annapolis for $200,000. Because it was already November, he couldn’t get insurance until he got further south. That was bad luck. The good luck was that, despite being an EPIRB skeptic, a friend giving up offshore sailing offered him one at such a low price he couldn’t afford to say no.

In early November, Fred and crew Jacques Lescureux took off. All was fine until the morning of November 18, when a whale, apparently surfacing from the deep, slammed into the bottom of the aft part of the port hull with what Fred describes as a "soft but powerful" impact. Powerful enough to bend the rudder shaft 90 degress and drive the rudder through the hull like a knife. Powerful enough to shove the saildrive right up through the bottom of the boat. And even powerful enough to cause a bloody one-foot by three-foot wound in the whale, which surely died shortly thereafter. "It was as though his insides exploded, like an overcooked sausage bursting out of its casing," remembers Fred.

Before long, the aft port engine compartment was flooded, and because a steering tube connects it to the starboard engine compartment, the starboard engine compartment flooded, too. Unable to steer the boat or keep water out of the back of both hulls, Fred reluctantly switched on the EPIRB. In surprisingly rapid fashion, a Coast Guard plane was overhead, and not long after that, the 600-ft Turkish ship Gulser Ana was on the scene to rescue them.

Alas, the weather conditions were bad enough that the ship couldn’t get close enough to rescue the two men during the first three passes. With darkness falling, the captain decided he had one last chance, or Fred and Jacques would be in mortal danger. So without them fully understanding what he was going to do, the captain slowly and carefully T-boned the small cat with his big ship. It enabled the two men to get off the cat safely. Fred escaped with nothing more than his papers, his Mac computer, and a ukelele from the South Pacific that holds tremendous sentimental value for him.

After looking at today’s video, we know some armchair sailors are going to scoff that it wasn’t rough at all, that it wasn’t really getting dark, and that the boat shouldn’t have been abandoned. First of all, videos and photographs of the ocean always make it look calmer than it really is. Second, today’s video equipment does so well in low light conditions that they make it seem brighter out than it actually is. Lastly, a very experienced cruiser, civil engineer and contractor, Fred didn’t make the decision to abandon his uninsured boat lightly. "I cried like a baby when I had to leave her," he admits.

After Fred and Jacques were dropped off at Cueta, Spain, which is surrounded by Morocco, Fred returned to St. Barth. Thanks to many friends and a long relationship with a local bank, he and Sophy managed to acquire the Oceanis 40 Tres Palmeras, which they are now living aboard in the Gustavia anchorage. We’re glad to report it appears they are coming into a good job, which means their dream of getting a catamaran is still alive. "When you give up your dreams and no longer see them through, you are finished," says Fred, miming shooting himself in the head with a pistol.

As for Courtship, despite two flooded engine rooms, she appeared to still be very bouyant in the video, even after being T-boned. As such, if the bulkheads to the rest of the boat aren’t somehow breeched over time, we wouldn’t be surprised if she didn’t ride the Gulfstream all the way across the Atlantic to Ireland.

Cap’n Rich strikes a pose aboard his 1933 50-ft cutter Java Head before heading out to the Obama Ball.
Just this morning we heard from a reliable source that a sailboat named Carpe Diem had been abandoned off Mexico within the last couple of days.
The accompanying video shows the 600-ft cargo carrier Gulser Ana T-boning and dismasting the uninsured Venezia 42 catamaran Courtship about 350 miles west of Bermuda on November 18.