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May 14, 2010

Adventuress Sails to Victory

We’d like to think our piece in last Friday’s ‘Lectronic contributed in some small way to the 133-ft schooner Adventuress‘s narrow win of the popular vote — and a $125,000 grant — in the Puget Sound Partners in Preservation initiative, a grant ‘competition’ sponsored by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. But the second place contender ended up a winner as well. "In an impressive challenge never seen in the history of the Partners in Preservation program," noted a press release sent out by the sponsors, "Town Hall Seattle also staged a comeback resulting in several swings of the tally on the final day of voting. In recognition of the extreme closeness of the competition and the extraordinary efforts of both organizations to rally support, Town Hall Seattle will also receive its full grant request of $125,000."

Congratulations to Sound Experience, who plan to rebuild Adventuress‘s transom with their winnings, and Town Hall Seattle on staging a thrilling race!

Russell Perdock Gets Fired

Elizabeth Larson of Lake County News reported yesterday that Lake County Sheriff Rod Mitchell confirmed that Russell Perdock — Mitchell’s once-upon-a-time right-hand man — was fired from the Sheriff’s Office late last month. No reason for the termination was given, and it appears Perdock has appealed the decision.

Readers will recall that Perdock was the man behind the wheel of a speeding powerboat that, on the night of April 29, 2006, slammed into the nearly motionless sailboat Beats Workin’ II on Clear Lake. Willows resident Lynn Thornton, 51, was mortally wounded in the accident, and died three days later.

Instead of placing Perdock on administrative leave immediately following the accident, Mitchell waited for three years to take the action — coincidentally coinciding with a backlash of public opinion during last August’s trial of Bismarck Dinius, the hapless sailor who happened to have his hand on the tiller of the sailboat at the time of the accident. Dinius — who had the total support of Thornton’s family and friends — was ultimately acquitted of all charges, but the cost of defending himself was astronomical. When we last spoke with him, he was in the process of filing a lawsuit against Lake County.

Meanwhile, both Mitchell and District Attorney Jon Hopkins, the man who insisted on trying Dinius instead of Perdock, are up for re-election on June 8. Perdock’s dismissal, while not unwelcome by many people — including a number of commenters on our Facebook page — came at a very critical time during the campaign. Another coincidence?

Aussie Singlehander Set to Finish

Considering that she slammed her boat into the side of a freighter during her shakedown cruise, Australian singlehander Jessica Watson, 16, has turned out to be one smart and tenacious sailor. As we write this, she is poised to complete her nonstop, unassisted solo circumnavigation tomorrow morning at Sydney — which is actually less than six hours from now — thus becoming the youngest person ever to succeed at that feat.

During her epic rounding, young Jessica has proved her mettle time and again.

© Jessica Watson

During the seven months since her departure last October 18 aboard her S&S 34 Ella’s Pink Lady, she has overcome many challenges, particularly with nasty weather. Her little sloop was knocked down six times and faced waves as high as 40 feet tall. And it appears that the weather gods are about to take one last whack at her, as the coastal forecast for this evening is for winds up to 45 knots and seas to 23 feet. Nevertheless, our bet is that she’ll pass through Sydney Heads, at the mouth of Sydney Harbor, at around 11:20 a.m. Aussie time, as planned. The crowds of dignitaries, well-wishers and press on site to greet her is expected to be as large as seen during the start of the Sydney-Hobart Race.

Having sailed roughly 23,000 miles east-about via the Great Capes of the Southern Ocean — plus a dog leg into the northern hemisphere for good measure — she will take the youngest-around-nonstop-unassisted crown from fellow Aussie Jesse Martin, who also sailed aboard an S&S 34, Lionheart.

Last, but Still Loved

It was a wild time down at the docks in old St. Barth in the French West Indies this morning, as and Groupe Bel, the last two of the 25 doublehanded entries in the TransAt AG2R La Mondiale, crossed the finish line at the entrance of the port of Gustavia just seconds apart. The French love their yacht racing, so this event was the subject of constant coverage in the major media outlets back in Paris. Can you imagine major live media coverage in the United States of the last two boats finishing the TransPac or Pacific Cup? We can’t either.

No matter where a boat finished in the standings or what time of day or night, spectators were always there to cheer them on.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

This was the 10th running of the AG2R, which this year featured a 3,710-mile course from Carcaneau, France, to St. Barth, non-stop via the Canary Islands. The people and businesses of the tiny island of St. Barth go ape for the event, with a week of constant carnival-like festivities that started well before any of the finishers arrived. It’s a major attraction for the young, the old, and everyone in between.

The French develop an appreciation for yacht racing at a very young age.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The winners of this years event were Armel Le Cleac’h and Fabrien Delahaye of Brit Air. They arrived shortly after midnight on May 5, having been pressing for 22 days, 16 hours. Their three closest rivals were less than three hours behind. All of these boats were escorted for the last five miles or so by scores of vessels with cheering fans. The harbor and anchorage reverberated with the sound of horns, and there was wild partying in the race village at the Charles de Gaulle Quai until dawn.

After 3,709 miles, the competitors have to go to white sails for the last mile or so to the finish, splitting the anchored fleet outside of Gustavia and dodging the spectator boats and turtles. But what a great place to finish.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The finish of the last two boats this morning was a real crowd pleaser. Kito de Pavant, who won the race in ’06, and his crew Sébastian Audigane, had broken one of their rudders on Groupe Bel after hitting a whale near the Canary Islands. Having to stop for 22 hours put them out of the running. As for, crew Richard Lédée and Christophe Lebas had sailed too far north and put themselves out of the running. Out of contention, Richard and Christophe decided it would be sporting to slow down to cross the finish line in company with Groupe Bel. Indeed, they anchored their boat off Fort Oscar and spent the night sleeping to wait for their fellow competitors. The two boats played with each other for the last few miles, and crossed the line just seconds apart, to the delight of all the cheering spectators in boats and along the shore.

Group Bel and seemed to take turns urging the other to sail the last few feet across the finish line.

©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

All in all it’s been a great time, and the big party isn’t even until tonight. When it comes to yacht racing and supporting their sailors, you have to say, Vive la France!

Richard and Christophe were the last to tie up to the quai, but none of their fans seemed to mind. There was yelling, clapping and cheering, champagne squirting, and jumping into the water, all backed by the beat of one of the carnival bands. Yeah, it was great.

©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

SPECIAL UPDATE: Missing Sailor Alert

The Coast Guard has been scouring the waters about 70 miles northwest of Pt. Conception since Wednesday night, searching for the skipper of an unmanned 22-ft sailboat. Felix Knauth, the registered owner of the unnamed vessel, reportedly left Monterey on Monday.

The Coast Guard reports that a mayday was heard Wednesday evening around 7 p.m. but they were unable to hail the caller. A C-130 searched the vicinity of the call through the night but found nothing. They resumed the search at first light, but again found no trace of a vessel in distress. Around 10:30 yesterday morning, a passing cruiseship spotted the drifting sailboat with tattered sails, and notified the Coast Guard of its coordinates. A C-130, two MH-65 helos and the cutter Bertholf have been searching for Knauth ever since.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Alan Haraf says there are no plans at this point to terminate the search, but that a "judgement call will probably be made this afternoon." If you have any information on the case, contact the Alameda rescue coordination center at (510) 437-3701.

We neglected to take any photos of John or Lynn or of the Moorings/Sunsail base on Tortola, so all photos that accompany this piece are of The Baths on Virgin Gorda.
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