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February 11, 2009

Vendee Globe – Third Place is a Charm

No one’s quite sure just how much of Safran’s keel is missing but, at the very least, the bulb is gone.

© Jean Marie Liot/ DPPI/ Vendee Globe

Michel Desjoyeaux sailed Foncia into Les Sables D’Olonne last week to win his second Vendée Globe Race. But the latest edition of this nonstop, singlehanded around the world race is hardly over. Second place finisher Armel Le Cléac’h is also in port. But the battle for third is shaping up to be one of the best contests in the six runnings and 20-year history of the race.

On one side is Samantha Davies, the ultimate sweetheart of this rodeo. With her pink-liveried boat Roxy, endless smiles and always optimistic daily updates, Sam seems to have loved virtually every minute of the contest, right from the start last November. For a first-timer she has also sailed an amazing race. Perhaps not Ellen MacArthur caliber — yet — she’s still managed to sail into third place after 26,000 miles of racing. Considering there are only 11 boats still sailing out of 30 that started last November, just the fact that Roxy is still upright and moving is an achievement in itself.

Not so lucky for her main competition, Mark Guillemot’s Safran, which lost its keel on February 8 with about 1,000 miles left to go to the finish. (He felt the failure stemmed from a collision with a whale in mid-December.) Guillemot decided he’d come too far to drop out now and is continuing on under water ballast, triple-reefed main and staysail. Davies caught and passed Guillemot a couple of days ago and is working hard to stretch her lead, but weather patterns seem to indicate light and flukey air for the remainder of the race. At this writing, she was averaging only a knot or two better speed than Guillemot’s 9- to 11-knot average.

The further twist is that both Guillemot and Davies are owed redress for diverting to the aid of Yann Elias in December. You may recall that Elias suffered a broken leg while working the foredeck of his boat and was later medevac’ed to shore. Guillemot gets more time than Davies, so in order to beat him fair and square, she has to finish at least 50 hours ahead of Safran to secure third place. Whether she can pull that off will be a cliffhanger to the end. She hopes to finish, somewhat appropriately, on Valentine’s Day.

Sam Davies has never stopped smiling during this running of the Vendée Globe.

© 2009 Samantha Davies / Roxy Sailing

And if that’s not enough, whoever does end up finishing third will share the podium with Vincent Riou. You may recall that he went to the rescue of Jean Le Cam after his VM Materiaux boat lost its keel bulb and capsized in early January. During the rescue, Riou’s PRB suffered damage to one of his outriggers which led to a dismasting the following day. The unprecedented redress to third place was made, in part, for that placing’s share of the prize money to pay for repairs to the boat.

For more on the most exciting Vendée Globe ever, go to  

Third Hawks Murder Trial Winding Down

The trial of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 43, the third person to face a jury for the 2004 murders of Mexico cruisers Tom and Jackie Hawks, is expected to conclude this week, after three weeks of testimony.

On November 15, 2004, Tom and Jackie Hawks left Newport Beach on a test sail aboard their 55-ft trawler Well Deserved. They were never seen again. It didn’t take long for investigators to follow the sloppy trail left by Skylar and Jennifer Deleon but it wasn’t until Alonso Machain confessed the details of that day that authorities understood the extent of the crime. "I don’t think anybody realized how horrible it was until we talked to Alonso," prosecutor Matt Murphy noted in an interview with ABC’s 20/20 that aired last Friday.

In his confession, Machain laid out the details of Skylar Deleon’s plan: Have the Hawkses take them out on a test sail, overpower them, force them to sign over their finances and throw them overboard. Machain also fingered John Fitzgerald Kennedy as the "muscle" Deleon brought along to subdue fitness buff Tom Hawks. Machain testified for the third time — the first two times during Jennifer and Skylar Deleon’s separate trials, in which they were both found guilty of murder — that Kennedy restrained Tom Hawks and later, after Deleon had tied the couple to an anchor, punched Hawks so hard in the side of the head that he was knocked unconscious, then shoved them overboard. On the way back to Newport, Machain described Kennedy as popping open a beer and throwing out a fishing line.

But defense attorneys have portrayed Kennedy as a reformed member of the Insane Crips gang, working with the youth of his community and active in his church. As for his whereabouts on the day the Hawkses went missing, he simply can’t recall. “No disrespect to no one, but it was no significant date to me,” he said when he took the stand in his own defense. He also professed to have no idea why Machain, as well as his lifelong friend Myron Gardner — who allegedly connected Deleon with Kennedy — would tell such terrible lies about him.

Kennedy’s defense team rested its case yesterday and closing statements are expected to begin as early as today.

Sailing and the Happiness Quotient

The late George Carlin did a great bit about ‘stuff’. The reason people need homes, he said, was “to store all your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.”

But a recent study at San Francisco State reveals that, in the long run, experiences make people happier than stuff. A survey of 154 folks who had made a ‘happiness’ purchase within the past three months — either material or experiential — showed that the happiness quotient of the material item generally faded within six to eight weeks, while the experiences continued to provide happiness through memories long after the event occurred. Especially if the experience involved family or friends.

“Most of our life experiences involve other individuals,” said assistant professor of psychology Ryan Howell, who ran the study. A sense of feeling closer to family and friends was one of the reasons why experiences generate more happiness. Another was that people felt a greater sense of ‘being alive’ during the experience, and when reflecting on it later.

To test the theory, we suggest that you go sailing this Valentine’s/President’s weekend. Take your better half. Take your kids or grandkids. Take friends. Sure, you might get rained on. It’s part of the experience. Then in three months, check back and let us know if the memories made everyone concerned happier than if you’d just given your spouse a card and flowers.

But just to be on the safe side, we’d do that, too.

Learn The New Rules

Dave Perry, who has literally written the book on Understanding the Racing Rules of Sailing, will be visiting Northern California the weekend of March 13-15 for a series of seminars on the changes in the 2009 rules. After attending the seminar presented by Perry’s illustrator, Brad Dellenbaugh, in January at Corinthian YC, we can unequivocally recommend taking advantage of one of these opportunities. There are some very fundamental changes to the latest edition of the rules; for anyone who doesn’t get paid to race for a living, it’s hard to fully grasp their tactical implications.

First up will be a rules-only seminar at St. Francis YC on Friday, March 13, from 6-9 p.m. The cost is $20 per person, and it’s BYOB (bring your own book). The next day, Perry will be back at the club for a full-on seminar integrating the new rules and the tactical implications they bring to the table. Saturday’s seminar will set you back $50 for the six-hour program starting at 9 a.m., and while lunch is included it’s still BYOB. You can sign up for one or both by calling the club’s front desk at (415) 563-6363.

Perry will then head to Coyote Point YC in South Bay at 1 p.m. on Sunday, March 15, where $25 will get you in the door. If you don’t yet have a copy of Understanding the Racing Rules of Sailing, you can pre-arrange to have one waiting for you at the regular cover price. You can take care of all of this, plus take advantage of a $5 discount for early registration — prior to March 1 — by visiting the event’s website.

Don’t miss these opportunities to get savvier about the new rules. They aren’t for the ‘sea lawyers’ out there. They’re for every sailor who feels the game is more enjoyable when everyone else is on the same page and no one is quoting rule numbers to other boats during races.

If this Saturday’s fantastic weather got you thinking about the upcoming sailing season, then it probably got you thinking about potential crew.
Big cruise-ins can be big fun, but expect a big workout when you want to go from one end to the other.
It’s been 14 years since Fred Evans of the Mendocino-based Freedom 44 Coyote did the Ha-Ha II, but he still wears the shirt – and still meets other Ha-Ha vets because of it.