When last we heard from Dick and Sharon Drechsler, they were prepping their Long Beach-based Catalina 470 Last Resort for a trip down the beach from Puget Sound. After a month-long exploration of the coast, including the Columbia River as far up as the Bonneville Locks, the Drechslers pulled into the Bay yesterday afternoon. Their plan is to spend the next few weeks visiting old friends and making new ones before heading to San Diego for the start of the ‘Sweet Sixteen’ Baja Ha-Ha.
Dick will also be giving a series of talks at Bay Area yacht clubs to discuss his recently released book, Manning Up in Alaska, which details his 50 years of sailing, his battle with cancer, and his determination to get back to the lifestyle he loved. Between cruising and writing, Dick serves on the Board of Directors of the Sail Through Cancer Foundation, an organization he founded to help get cancer patients out on the water on volunteer boats as a brief respite from the rigors of their treatment. If you can’t make one of Dick’s talks, he and Sharon will be at Encinal YC on September 9 for our Mexico-Only Crew List Party & Baja Ha-Ha Reunion (6-9 p.m.; $7 admission).
Although details have yet to be finalized, festivities in San Diego surrounding the annual Baja Ha-Ha cruisers’ rally are expected to reach a new level. Tenants of the Port of San Diego, in conjunction with several government agencies, are working with the Rally Committee and Latitude 38, to give the Ha-Ha — which is the largest offshore sailing event on the West Coast — greater exposure to the general public.
On Monday, October 26, while en route to the Leg One starting line outside the bay, members of the fleet will transit the Harbor in a loose procession past the downtown cityfront, Harbor Island and Shelter Island, where a fire boat will be on site to salute them. Entrants will be encouraged to parade in their Halloween costumes to add to the festive mood, and to enhance the photo ops for local TV, radio and print journalists. Public park areas along those islands will give easy viewing options to spectators.
In addition, charter boat operators, yacht club members and local boaters will be encouraged to sail out to the starting line, off Coronado Roads, at 11 a.m. and cheer on the fleet. These plans are in their infancy, so stay tuned for futher details. The bottom line, though, is that the Ha-Ha’s sendoff this year should be more fun — and more dramatic — than ever.
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A 13-year-old Dutch girl attempting to become the youngest-ever circumnavigator has been placed under state supervision in the Netherlands. Laura Dekker planned to leave September 1, aboard her 24-ft sailboat Guppy on a two-year, solo circumnavigation aimed at setting a Guinness world record.
Judges ruled that Dekker would have faced both mental and physical risks if she were to go ahead with the trip. The girl is now under the care of social services in Utrecht for two months, while psychologists and child protection authorities examine how she would cope with such a journey.
Having been born at sea aboard her parents’ boat in New Zealand, Dekker reportedly got her first boat at age six, has sailed with her parents extensively, and recently singlehanded from Holland to England. Dick Dekker, Laura’s father, had previously told a newspaper that he and the girl’s mother "would not let our child do something of which she was not in complete control."
We hope something got lost in that translation because we can’t fathom anyone who’s successfully completed oceanic passages believing they were ever in "complete control."
According to her lawyer — everybody needs a lawyer, don’t they? — Dekker is happy with the court ruling, as she’ll now "be able to prepare for the journey in a mature and responsible way."
How mature can a 13-year-old be? Would one be capable of a singlehanded circumnavigation? Possibly, if she’s mentally tough enough — which is a huge ‘if’ — and if everything went smoothly. Our problem with the proposition is that the odds of everything going smoothly are bad; there is still plenty of risk with such a voyage, and those risks can be fatal.
Which brings us to the case of Abby Sunderland, younger sibling of 17-year-old Zac Sunderland of Marina del Rey, who recently set a record for being the youngest person to singlehand around the world. He did it aboard the Islander 36 Intrepid. Alas, his record was short lived, as just yesterday, Briton Michael Perham beat Sunderland’s record by two months.
Even if the Sunderlands are able to raise the $350,000 they say will be necessary for Abby to acquire and refit an Open 40 for a November 1 start, there’s no way she’ll achieve her goal. First of all, she won’t be ready in two months. Second, even if she were, she wouldn’t be able to make the trip in six months — certainly not via the Southern Ocean.
The biggest mistake any sailor can do is underestimate the ocean, and no ocean is more dangerous to underestimate than the Southern Ocean. Indeed, before this delusion goes any further, we think the entire Sunderland clan should take a drive down to San Diego and visit with Stephen Mann and Kathleen Torres of Tawodi. The couple, you might remember from our August ’09 Changes report, recently completed the same trip that Abby is proposing. To review some of the difficulties, Mann and Torres encountered icebergs, 40-plus days in the Indian Ocean — over half of which was sailed in 50-knot winds — and the ever-present condensation and mold that come with the temperatures that hover just above freezing for days on end.
Do we think Abby Sunderland could singlehanded around the world like her brother did? Maybe, maybe not. Do we think she could do a six-month nonstop circumnavigation via the Southern Ocean — a trip we’d rate as being 10 times more difficult than Zac’s circumnavigation? No way in hell. Even if she were able to make it — which she won’t — what exactly does it prove? Perhaps only that kids and their parents will do almost anything to become celebrities.