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June 4, 2010

Around Americas’ International Legacy

During Ocean Watch’s epic cruise there were both miserable days – with 50-knot winds and 50-ft waves – and glorious days like this one, blasting downwind under sunny skies.

© 2010 David Thoreson

Last night, the full-capacity crowd at Tiburon’s Corinthian YC was wowed by David Thoreson’s dramatic photos of surreal Arctic ice formations and riotous offshore swells. Equally spell-binding were images of bright-eyed children from both North and South America who toured the 64-ft cutter Ocean Watch during her 28,000-mile Around the Americas expedition.

According to captain Mark Schrader — a two-time solo circumnavigator — the primary mission of the nearly-completed voyage was to positively influence the thousands who visited Ocean Watch during roughly 50 port calls, to make behavioral changes which will benefit both ocean and shoreside ecosystems. Thousands more followed this unique circuit via the expedition’s excellent website, where the ship’s scribe, acclaimed marine journalist Herb McCormick, chronicled the expedition’s movements, as well as encounters with local scientists, educators, fishermen and others along the route. His accounts will soon be released in one of several books on the trip.

But what will be the legacy of Around the Americas? According to Schrader, if only a small fraction of the students whom he met are inspired to take positive action, or perhaps pursue studies in ocean science, all the effort will be worthwhile. As for the rest of us, the crew emphasizes that many people taking small steps can make a huge difference — such as cutting down on the use of plastics, i.e. with bottled water. Study the website and you’ll learn that the oceans are in a state of crisis, but attempting to reverse the damage is not yet a lost cause. The educational components designed by the Pacific Science Center will continue to spread the word about ocean conservation for years to come.

Ocean Watch will pass under the Golden Gate Saturday morning bound for Portland, OR (June 10-12) and Port Townsend, WA (June 16-17), before completing the circuit at Seattle, July 17.

The America’s Cup Is To Be Held In Italy. Maybe.

We can’t identify who called Latitude yesterday morning with the report, but a normally reliable source extremely close to the ultimate decision-maker for the site of the next America’s Cup says that Larry Ellison of BMW Oracle is about to announce that the next America’s Cup will be held off Italy, not on San Francisco Bay.

The source tells us that a guarantee of half a billion U.S. dollars on the part of somebody or some entity in Italy was one of the deciding factors.

Cap-d’Ail, is certainly presentable enough for an America’s Cup, the Italians are rabid sailors, and Elba is just a short distance away. But we don’t think there is sufficient infrastructure.

Air Italia
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

We’ve always thought that there would be Acts around the world — and maybe there still will be — but that the Finals would be held on San Francisco Bay. But if the Finals turn out to be in Italy, remember you read it here first. If our source is wrong, please forget that you read it here.

Portofino has the requisite beauty and ambiance for an America’s Cup, but it’s not much bigger than Ayala Cove, and the beautiful and windy two-lane road from Santa Margharita would turn into a daily parking lot. Not that it isn’t already during the season.

Webb Logg
©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Where would in Italy would it be held? Cap-d’Ail, Portofino and Capri are all spectacularly beautiful and would draw fans and the ultra-affluent like flies to a fresh cow pie. But they really don’t have the facilities for all the crowds and mega yachts that would want to be part of the action. As such, if it’s going to be in Italy, we think it would be off either La Spezia, which has plenty of space for bases and is next to romantic Portovenere, or Sardinia. If it’s Italy, we’d guess it would be held at Sardinia.

Chic and romantic Portovenere is just around the corner from the industrial and yachting center of La Spezia. If the Cup went to Italy, this wouldn’t be a bad place to hold it.

Webb Logg
©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Is there any reason to doubt such a report. Sure. For one thing, Larry Ellison needs an extra $500 million for the event like an alcoholic needs another case of beer.

Coast Guard Responds to Reader Concerns

We hope we never have to experience a scene like this first-hand. But if a float plan submitted to the Coast Guard means that we get to actually live to tell about it, then we’re all for it.

© Peter Lyons

In May 26’s ‘Lectronic Latitude we ran a number of comments from readers regarding Ocean Race entry deadlines. Later that day, Coast Guard LCDR DesaRae Janszen wrote us to respond to a few points raised in those comments:

"We have a 24-hour Command Center watch who has the float plans on their desktops during the race," she wrote. "Before we had this requirement, we had experienced search and rescue cases where a boat in an offshore race called the Coast Guard with an emergency — such as a sailor badly injured or having a heart attack. When the helicopter arrives on scene, the crew can’t figure out which boat is the one calling for help, because all the boats are bunched together. That is why we came up with the system of having a picture included with the float plan.  The boat in distress calls the Coast Guard Command center, we dispatch the appropriate resource — boat, helo or both — and all the responders print out the picture of the boat and all the characteristics before they go. This not only can mean a faster response to save someone’s life, but it is also a significantly more efficient use of taxpayer resources.

"We are not giving the go/no-go permission to the races. We are simply saying that if you don’t turn in the paperwork, you don’t get our permit. If you want to race without a permit, we are not going to stop you. If you decide to take this route, please remember that Coast Guard Sector San Francisco has the highest amount of search and rescue cases in the entire nation, so without this prior cooperation, you are making our jobs to save one of you in distress, much harder.

"The go/no-go for the race is still with the race deck and the individual, not us. I understand the resistance to the "intrusion" to have float plans and EPIRBS, but if you fall overboard and we search and search and search and can’t find you, it’s my Captain who calls your family to tell them that we did everything we could. This is heart-breaking and hits very close to home, experienced ocean sailor or not.

"The bottom line to why we are asking for the float plans before we give an off-shore ocean race permit is because we have very limited search and rescue resources and a huge amount of search and rescue cases. The Coast Guard budget was cut this year. As a result, we are cutting assets and staffing nationwide. Additionally, a large amount of Coast Guardsmen and Women from the Bay Area have been sent to the Gulf to respond to the oil spill crisis. If filing a float plan and having an EPIRB in advance of an ocean race will increase the efficiency of our search and rescue response, we might save someone’s life who may have otherwise been lost. Just because this requirement is not what some of the sailors want, it may be just what they need if they get in trouble.

"We are open to ideas of how to streamline the process. This may be a burden on the race organizers though, as they are the ones who consolidate and send the info to us. All we want is to have the info in case of an emergency. If people have streamlining ideas, we are all ears."

While the new requirements for ’10 have certainly left quite a few ocean racers feeling as though the community been singled-out unjustifiably, we’d be remiss to not point out that at least as far as we’re concerned, the Coast Guard has been extremely responsive about the issue. The efficacy of an EPIRB in a near-shore rescue is definitely questionable. But as far as this editor is concerned — and I’m not speaking on behalf of anyone else at Latitude 38 — the fact that the Coast Guard wants to have our float plans for ocean races is awesome. We don’t ever want to have to be rescued. However, if we do need a hand at some point, we want those most likely to lend it to us to have as many advantages as possible.

Was It Real or Was it Photoshop?

It’s your last chance to guess. Is this the real thing, or has the pargo been enhanced by Photoshop?

© Thor Temme

We’ve gotten a tremendous amount of mail regarding whether the pargo Ethan ‘Enzo’ Smith of the Ovni 36 Eyoni is holding — that was featured in a recent ‘Lectronic — is the real thing or a cheap fraud perpetrated with the help of software. We’ve had folks who say it was an expert job of manipulation using Photoshop, but we’ve also had experts in Photoshop say, after a very close analysis, that it couldn’t have been done that well.

It turns out that the photo is the real deal. In fact, LaDonna Bubak, Latitude editor and chief fish photo skeptic, has decided to pay off her 30-cent bet to the publisher. This is based on the evidence of other photos found on Eyoni’s website.

Mister Pargo looks every bit as big in this photo as of the one on deck, wouldn’t you agree?

© 2010 Thor Temme
Based on the third photo, are there still any doubters out there?

© 2010 Thor Temme

How do we know it’s the real deal? Take a look at the other photos taken by Thor Temme of the 45-ft tri Meschach, on whose boat the fish was landed. No matter if you are looking at an underwater shot or an on deck shot, it’s consistent with the others.

Bill Vacarro, left, and a buddy hold up the pargo they caught off Banderas Bay, Mexico.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Lastly, Bill Vaccaro of the Chico-based Moody 44 Miela sent us the accompanying photo of some pargo he landed. Fish like that aren’t unusual off the coast of Mexico.

Out in the sunny isles of Tahiti, dancers are rehearsing, musicians are tuning up their ukuleles, and paddlers are polishing up their outrigger canoes in anticipation of the Tahiti-Moorea Sailing Rendezvous, June 18-20.