June 28, 2010

Tahiti Trip Log

We never did catch this young sailor’s name, but after his dance floor experience during the lavish reception at Papeete’s town hall, we’re sure he’d give this year’s Rendezvous a glowing testimonial.

©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

If ever there was a tease for a sailing scribe, it’s flying out to Tahiti to hang with the cruising fleet, then having to jet back to the workaday world after only a few short days, while they all sail on to new adventures over the horizon. 

But we’re not complaining. Really! Spending a few days in Tahiti is certainly far better than none at all — especially this month. We timed our recent trip to coincide with the the fifth annual Tahiti-Moorea Sailing Rendezvous June 18-20, which drew 65 boatloads of cruisers from roughly a dozen countries. As we often explain, this free, three-day event was created with the dual purpose of welcoming cruisers to French Polynesian waters, while also introducing them to highly revered cultural traditions in music, dance, sport and cuisine. 

We’ll try to hold ourselves back from gushing too effusively about the event, but all things considered, it really was the best one yet — despite nearly a full day of rain. One of the ‘firsts’ that made it special was a lavish reception in the town hall of the French Overseas Territory’s capital city, Papeete, hosted by the mayor’s office. The 150 salty cruisers in attendance were treated as VIPs, with drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and a sensual music and dance show that set the tone for the rest of the week. 

Light winds under cloudy skies at the start of the crossing gave way to booming winds in the high 20s a few miles out.

©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC
The largest boat in the fleet was the 114-ft schooner Infinity, with a fun-loving crew whose ages ranged from 18 to well over 70.

©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The weather was unsettled the next day for the rally/race to Moorea, but that proved to be a good thing. During the 18-mile channel crossing, winds built from 12 to 28 knots, which led to at least a half dozen boats beating the committee boat to the finish line! The winner, Jim and Kent Milski’s Schionning 49 Sea Level, hit a  boat-record 19.3 knots during the beam reach blast.

As you’ll read in the July edition of Latitude 38, music, dancing, two optional meals, and a variety of traditional Polynesian games followed, including a series of six-person outrigger canoe races where cruisers traded strokes with local paddlers — big fun!

Heavily laden cruisers battle at the finish line — the entrance to Moorea’s majestic Opunohu Bay.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

We apologize for not bringing you news of the Rendezvous sooner, but the territory’s notoriously low Internet bandwidth made photo transfers a torturous ordeal. Ironically, however, the day before we headed home, the Tahitian government signed a deal which will fast-track the hookup of their new fiber-optic network. So, with any luck next year’s cruisers will be able to enjoy all the wonders of this mid-Pacific paradise, with high-speed Internet access to boot. This issue has long been a sore point among cruisers — as has the high price of rum, of course.

One of the highlights of every Rendezvous is the series of six-person canoe races, where cruisers join forces with local ringers.

©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Another bit of splendid news from our ‘reporter’s notebook’ is that the general manager of Papeete’s port, Patrick Bordet, has promised more gated docks along the downtown quay by the time next year’s Rendezvous occurs — tentatively scheduled for June 24 – 26 — and perhaps even a sailors-only bathhouse with laundry facilities. We’ve long advocated to any Tahitian official who would listen that cruisers are a small but important niche in the territory’s overall tourism picuture. And Bordet clearly agrees.

Along with Tahiti Tourism and the Papeete Port Authority, we here at Latitude are extremely proud to be partners in hosting the annual Sailing Rendezvous, which seems to be a win-win for all who support and attend it. Is there a Rendezvous in your future? Close your eyes and you can almost feel the trade winds beckoning.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

As the whole world must know, there was a recent failed attempt at an age record circumnavigation by a girl from Southern California. Despite all the media stories, the onboard cameras, and the undisclosed negotiations for a family "reality" show, anybody who would listen was told the attempt was a personal quest only, and had absolutely nothing to do with the pursuit of fame and fortune. Since that was supposedly the case, it’s surprising that weeks later, the biggest news outlets in the Southland — meaning the L.A. Times and KNX 1070 news radio — were continuing to put out "news" on the girl — "news" that seems to have been generated on the computers of the girl’s PR folks. For example:

On Saturday, the big news outlets reported that the girl and family members, including her brother — who nobody was to forget had completed his sailing adventure less than a year ago — were reunited on Reunion Island!! But the really big new was that the girl would hold a really big news conference — accredited press only — in Los Angeles on Tuesday!!

On Sunday, it was reported that the girl and her brother had arrived safely in France!! And that they would be flying back to the United States for the girl’s big press conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday!!!

This morning, it was reported that the girl would hold that press conference on Tuesday! It was also reported that it was possible that before then, her mother would give birth to the family’s eighth child. There is not word yet on whether the birth will be televised.

If the baby is indeed born before the press conference, grouchy skeptics such as ourselves wouldn’t be at all surprised if photos of the newborn, outfitted in a PFD, weren’t circulated at the older sister’s Tuesday press conference, complete with an outline of the newborn’s ‘lifetime’ dreams of various circumnavigations — hopefully to be completed at a younger age than anything that might be accomplished by Laura Dekker, the upstart 14-year-old child circumnavigation aspirant from The Netherlands. Not that anyone was seeking any fame or fortune out of all this, mind you. . . .

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Dorland’s Broken Leg

If you’re eating, please save this item for later. If you’re squeamish, you may want to pass on it for good.

Having heard about the compound fracture Greg Dorland of Lake Tahoe suffered after a heavily loaded genoa sheet on his Catana 52 Escapade wrapped around his leg upon approach to Annapolis, several readers, having finished checking out their News of the World gruesome photos, have asked to see what the damaged leg looks like. Happy viewing.

In the case of a heavily loaded catamaran genoa sheet versus a lower leg, the loaded sheet wins every time.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC
Having had to drop sail in a blow, tend to a badly injured Greg, then bring Escapade into Annapolis and on the hook on her own, Debbie Macrorie then got to play nurse. Thanks to metal rods and staples, Greg’s leg was heavier than normal.

©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

As we’ve written before, Dorland is the second very experienced multihull sailor we know who has suffered this kind of injury. The other was Bob Smith of the custom 45-ft cat Pantera, who got an ankle caught while trying to anchor in La Paz Bay. So please, be careful out there. And remember to never straddle a loaded block or use a traveller track or loaded block for handholds.

The good news is that Smith has been very actively sailing ever since he recovered, and Greg and Debbie hope to be back aboard Escapade full-time by September.



More Light Air for Solo TransPac’ers

Adrian Johnson of the Olson 30 Idefix and Ronnie Simpson on the Jutson 30 Warriors Wish are duking it out for monohull line honors.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

For a few days there, it seemed as if most of the 14 remaining members of the Solo TransPac fleet had reached the Trades and were finally on their way to Hanalei. But just as they were settling in for the fun half of the race course, the winds lightened up again, causing more frustration.

"Sigh. I have sailed a lot of miles in this ocean looking for reliable wind, and I thought now that I am in the trade wind zone I would have it to the finish, but no!" Jeff Lebesch on the Hammerhead 54 trimaran Hecla wrote yesterday. "Today is a drifter, squeezing what I can out of a five-knot, barely perceptible breeze."

Most of the fleet is halfway between San Francisco and Kauai — smack in the middle of a no-wind zone. By Wednesday, winds should pick up all the way to Hawaii.

© 2010 Passage Weather

But Passage Weather is predicting better winds coming in the next 24-48 hours, so it’s just a waiting game . . . which is decidedly more pleasant for some than for others.

Race co-chair and one-time race vet Rob Tryon (left) and three-time racer and unoffical ‘Hanalei Harbormaster’ Jim Kellam are patiently waiting at Race HQ on Kauai for the fleet to arrive. It looks as if they’ll have to ‘suffer’ through another four or five days before their work begins.

©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Racing Editor Rob Grant will give a rundown of the mainland’s inshore racing in Wednesday’s ‘Lectronic Latitude.

Thirteen El Toro sailors descended on Clear Lake last weekend to race for the class’s North American Championship.
Exactly one week after 16-year-old Thousand Oaks teen Abby Sunderland activated two EPIRBs after being dismasted, a Dutch court extended a ban preventing 14-year-old Laura Dekker from setting off on her own quest to become the youngest person to solo circumnavigate.
For the last 10 days or so, we’ve been taking a walk every morning to the Police Dock in San Diego, where at this time of year you find all kinds of sailing stories.