February 8, 2010

Puddle Jumpers Converge on Vallarta YC

Like others in this year’s ever-enlarging fleet, Elisabeth and Rod Lambert of the Alameda-based Swan 41 Proximity can hardly wait to feel the gentle push of the South Pacific tradewinds.

©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

A sure sign that the annual sailor’s migration to French Polynesia is about to begin is when dozens of wide-eyed sailors gather for Latitude 38‘s Pacific Puddle Jump Kick-off Party at the Vallarta YC on the grounds of Nuevo Vallarta’s Paradise Village Resort.

Fit and feisty retirees, middle-age couples on self-imposed sabbaticals, and parents with young kids mingled and compared cruise plans during our send-off party Saturday, while enjoying free drinks and hors d’oeuvres provided by Latitude and the club. Two enlightening digital slideshows gave these soon-to-be South Pacific travelers an overview of French Polynesia’s five principal archipelagos, and introduced them to the fun-filled activities of the three-day Tahiti-Moorea Sailing Rendezvous, slated for June 18-20. Co-sponsored by Latitude and several Tahitian partners, this ambitious event brings cruisers together from North and South America, Europe, New Zealand and Australia with the dual purpose of celebrating their successful crossings, and introducing them to traditional Polynesian arts and culture.

The idea of making landfall in the fabled isles of French Polynesia made the Puerto Vallarta contingent of Puddle Jumpers shout with joy. Roughly 100 more boatloads of passage-makers will set sail from other West Coast ports.

©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

As you might imagine, fleet members come from a wide range of backgrounds — and many of them are very colorful characters. Take, for example, the crew of the Beneteau 52 Solar Planet. Several years ago Swen Michel and Katrin Stuetzer set out to explore the world on their Harley-Davidson. But after criss-crossing the whole of the U.S. and much of Mexico, it dawned on them that traveling the world under sail would be an equally rewarding experience — and a whole lot more comfortable!

Read more about them, and the rest of this year’s enormous fleet, in the March edition of Latitude 38 (available at marine suppliers all along the West Coast, and downloadable for free from the website).

America’s Cup a Non-starter

Alinghi 5 and USA displace very little of the “painted sea” off Valencia.

© Gilles Martin-Raget

Last night we resolved to get to bed early and watch the first race of the 33rd America’s Cup this morning on delay. But as bed time drew near and the anticipation built, it got harder and harder to stick to that plan. So 1 a.m. found us tuning into www.americascup.com, to see . . . the AP flag! We waited two hours before finally bagging it, which turned out to be just as well, as that’s exactly what the R/C did with the opening race when a consistent breeze failed to materialize. The boats’ outing did however give the world a chance to compare the challenger and defender side-by-side. Although it appeared to be plenty powered-up, the largely Kiwi-staffed Alinghi 5 looks a lot smaller than USA, by virtue of the beam she gives up — 10 feet, if we understand correctly. The name of BMW Oracle Racing’s USA is a bit of a misnomer when it comes to crew selection; only one member of the 10-person crew for today’s non-event is actually American — Bay Area product John Kostecki. The Bay’s Ron Young reported on BMW Oracle Racing for us in the January issue and will be providing us with reports Valencia as well as tweets at www.twitter.com/Lat38AC33.

Outsider working upwind at what was probably the best midwinter day of the season so far. The Golden Gate YC’s Manuel Fagundes Seaweed Soup Series got phenomenal conditions on Saturday.

© 2010 Sergei Zavarin

Closer to home, the challenging Golden Gate YC‘s Manny Fagundes Seaweed Soup Series #4 was absolutely fantastic on Saturday. What was shaping up to be a wet day turned out sunny and breezy, with a 20-knot westerly that made the Blackaller-Blossom-Blackaller-Ft. Mason-finish course a true windward-leeward! It felt just like summer sailing, but warmer!

The Catalina 34s enjoy some close racing on Saturday at the Manny Fagundes #4.

© Sergei Zavarin

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Abby Sunderland Leaves Cabo

Just five days after sailing into Cabo San Lucas to effect repairs to the charging system of her Open 40 Wild Eyes, Marina del Rey’s Abby Sunderland, 16, set off again on Saturday in her bid to become the world’s youngest non-stop solo circumnavigator. Abby wrote in her blog that she is "looking on the past as a sea trial. I found a few problems, and now they’re fixed. This time, I’m ready for the world!" Since the unexpected stopover is north of the equator — she has to cross the imaginary line twice to be eligible for the record — she is perfectly free to simply begin again. Despite what some readers might think, we sincerely hope that she is ready for the world.

In last Monday’s ‘Lectronic Latitude, we reported on Abby’s decision to stop, and have since received a few complaints that the piece was overly harsh on the young sailor. "While it cannot be denied there seem to be some difficulties there, your writer needs to keep in mind she is talking about a 16-year-old girl," wrote Kate Bird in response to Monday’s report. "The article dripped with unnecessary sarcasm, even though she certainly has a valid point regarding planning and preparation. There’s just no need to be mean about it."

Overall, we believe our coverage of both Abby Sunderland and her ‘rival’, Jessica Watson, has been relatively even-handed, if colored by our concern about the younger and younger ages of wannabe record-breakers, as well as the haste in which some of their preparations were made. But what do you think? Have we been too hard on Abby or Jessica? Too easy? (NOTE: Thanks for all the responses! We’ve received more than we can possibly publish so are closing the request for comments.)

Getting the Lead Out…Accidentally

"I’ve been invited to give a talk about my experience during last year’s Double-Handed Farallones Race," says Dave Wilhite, who, with Dave Servais, clung to the overturned hull of the J/80 Heat Wave after the boat’s keel fell off on the way back to the Bay. "The event, the weekly Yachting Luncheon at the St. Francis YC, is this Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. and is open to members of all yacht clubs — the buffet lunch costs $13.50 and opens at 11:45 a.m. I will talk for about 20 minutes and then open the floor up to questions until they kick me out, which shouldn’t take long." If you wondered what went through Wilhite’s head when he dove under the capsized boat to retrieve a handheld VHF to summon help, this is your chance.

The 48-ft Ocean Alexander Rubicon — which was tied up perpendicular to the slips on C dock — caught fire last night around 5:30.
Check out this photo of a woman, on the left, who looks a lot like Liz Clark, singing backup for Jimmy Buffett at Bora Bora.
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Please join us for the inaugural Ullman Sails Offshore Championship Series.  Three great races, three spectacular parties: March 12-13, 2010: The Islands Race
Newport Harbor YC to San Diego YC May 29-30, 2010: Around Catalina
Cabrillo Beach YC to Dana Point YC July 30-31, 2010: Santa Barbara to King Harbor
SBYC to KHYC What do these events have in common:  a) An overnight racing experience; b) a finish destination other than where you started; c) islands as marks; d) SPECTACULAR parties at the finish.
As the reports trickle in, it appears that the weather bomb that exploded over Central Mexico on Tuesday night wasn’t limited to Banderas Bay.