January 26, 2009

Photo of the Day: Out of the Mouths of Babes

If you didn’t take your boat out this weekend due to the crappy weather forecast, these kids, sailing on Will Baylis’ Soverel 33 Good ‘n Plenty, are here to tell you that you missed some serious fun. Whether you braved the rain on Saturday for Encinal YC’s Jack Frost midwinters or just donned your foulies for a brisk daysail on Sunday, we applaud your mettle. If you sat in your living room all weekend, gloomily watching the rain come down, isn’t it time to embrace your own inner child?

Carpe Diem Update

We’ve received a bit more information about a rescue at sea off Cabo a week ago. According to several ‘earwitness’ accounts (heard on VHF and/or SSB), Carpe Diem was a Lancer 44 motorsailor heading south off Cabo when there was some kind of trouble. She was being singlehanded by her owner, Don, who according to one email, “seemed competent and the boat seemed well found.”

On Monday, January 19, in 25+ knot winds, one boat overheard a one-sided conversation between the cruise ship Norwegian Star and Carpe Diem. “We could only hear the Norwegian Star,” report Pat and Carol on Espiritu. They were answering a distress call from Carpe Diem. We don’t know the nature of the distress, but it was apparent that a singlehander aboard Carpe Diem was abandoning ship and being taken aboard the Norwegian Star.” The Coast Guard and Mexican Navy were both notified and a securite call later went out noting the sailboat had been abandoned. The ports from which Carpe Diem left and was bound for are not known for sure. The position given in the securite reports placed her 65 miles south of Cabo, although another source estimated it was more like 120 miles. So again, there is still much that is not known. We will keep on this story and hopefully bring you the full report in a future issue of Latitude

Captain of Megayacht Perseus Shot Dead

Drew Gollan, skipper of the 163-ft Perini Navi Perseus, was shot dead last Thursday night in Antigua.

© 2009

There have been a lot of tears and anger in the Caribbean crewed charter yacht community since last Thursday night as a result of the shooting death in Antigua of 38-year-old Aussie Drew Gollan, skipper of the 163-ft Perini Navi ketch Perseus. Gollan, his partner Alena Sitkova, and their 21-month-old daughter Carolina, were walking home from dinner about 10 p.m. near the popular Galley Bar in English Harbor, when a man tried to grab Sitkova’s purse. There was a scuffle, and a bullet from the robber’s gun grazed Sitlova’s foot. "Drew kind of chased the man down a hill," Sitkova told the Australian press, "and the guy shot him twice, and he just fell. He gave his life for me and Carolina. He just wanted to protect us."

English and Falmouth Harbors, separated by just a few hundred yards, are the heart of the crewed charter yacht community in the Caribbean, and the fun-loving Gollan was well known and much loved. Members of the community are furious, saying there has been a long history of violence against them, and an equally long history of the police doing little to stop it. Despite the fact the police station was less than 100 yards from the site of Gollan’s murder, the police are accused of taking 20 minutes to respond to the killing. And they still have no suspect.

There has been talk that a number of megayachts will head elsewhere in protest, but it’s unclear if that’s actually going to happen. All this comes at the height of the Caribbean charter season, a season that has been dismal because of the terrible global economy.

We’ve been going to English and Falmouth Harbors for more than 20 years, and have had some of the best times of our sailing lives there. It’s home to Antigua Sailing Week and the Antigua Classic Regatta. Nonetheless, there has always been a bit of an edgy vibe, particularly for women at night, where getting hassled was not uncommon. Poverty and drugs are two big problems on the island. The murder of Gollan is another blow to the tourist-dependent island, which is already suffering a besmirched reputation as a result of Brit honeymooners Ben and Catherine Mullany being murdered there last summer.

Wrecked Boat Removed

In the January 9 edition of ‘Lectronic Latitude, we reported on the sad plight of Sherry Mae, a Clipper Marine 30 that washed ashore at Ocean Beach around New Year’s. Some of the Coast Guard-provided information in that story was incorrect — namely the size of the boat and the circumstances of its grounding.

It seems that, while the unnamed owner was out of town for the holidays, his son took the boat out for a spin and ran into trouble in the fog. The details of what went down are murky but the Coast Guard confirms they received a report of a person in the water around 5 p.m. on December 29. By the time a lifeboat reached the scene, however, the San Francisco Fire Department reported that all three passengers had been pulled from the water, and that Sherry Mae was in waist deep water about 25 yards off the beach. The Coasties contacted the owner, who assured them he would remove the boat when he came back to town a few days later.

Unfortunately, human vultures picked Sherry Mae clean before that could happen, and as a result, according to a report in The Chronicle, the owner refused to pay to have the boat removed from the beach. On January 21, Sherry Mae was removed by the Golden Gate Recreational Area at a cost of about $4,000, a fee the owner is legally responsible for.

Volvo Fleet Pummeled

The Volvo fleet has been getting a lashing from near-constant breeze on the bow above 30 knots. Here Ericsson 4 keeps punching north toward Qingdao: still 600-plus miles away.

© Guy Salter Ericsson 4/Volvo Ocean Race

Those who felt the Volvo Ocean Race would suffer a lack of drama for skipping the bulk of the Southern Ocean have to be eating their words right about now. After a nail-biter of a finish in Singapore, which saw Bouwe Bekking’s Telefónica Blue successfully navigate the potholes to take the leg win, the fleet sailed the in-port race two weeks ago — won handily by Torben Grael’s Ericsson 4. Then, a week later, the race resumed, destination: Qingdao — 2,500 miles directly upwind. For the ensuing 8.5 days, it’s been a slog — first in hot, humid conditions through poorly-charted waters with precipitous shoals, now with ever-colder temperatures that will soon be plunging into the freezing range. It’s already resulted in one retirement — Fernando Echavarri’s Telefónica Black — and forced three other boats to take shelter to affect repairs in the Philippines as the fleet has been battered by breeze in excess of 50 knots at times during the last four days.

He may be a man of steel, but his fingers are no match for titanium blocks: Shannon Falcone tends to what’s left of PUMA Ocean Racing skipper Ken Read’s finger after it got sucked into an improvised mainsheet system.

© Rick Deppe Puma Ocean Racing/Volco Ocean Race

In the Luzon Strait north of Manila, Ken Read’s Puma, Roberto Bérmudez de Castro’s Delta Lloyd and Ian Walker’s Green Dragon were all forced to take shelter and anchor to repair damage. For the Dragon crew, the damage actually started before the worst of the weather when the boat’s forestay broke unexpectedly. Then a couple days later in the thick of the breeze, one of their forward ring frames broke before detaching itself from the hull. Puma broke their boom, which has now been replaced by three separate purchase systems for adjustment — one of which has claimed 30% of one of Read’s fingers. Delta Lloyd was forced to take a break to repair a blown-out mainsail.

Now the fleet is beating up Taiwan’s east coast, with leg leader Telefónica Blue some 600 miles from Qingdao, sailing with a couple knots of current that’s going in their direction, against 35 knots of breeze. We’re pretty sure there’ll be some more horror stories to come out of this leg and there are plenty we don’t have room for. So check out www.volvooceanrace.org for more.

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.
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.