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July 7, 2010

The Bulk of the Solo Fleet Arrives

Adrian Johnson looked fresh as a plumeria when he crossed the line aboard his Olson 30 Idefix on Saturday.

©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

It was a busy holiday weekend for the Singlehanded TransPac Race Committee. Not only did they enjoy fireworks on the beach of Hanalei Bay, but they also finished nine of the fourteen boats entered in the race, which started off Corinthian YC on June 19. Starting with Jeff Lebesch’s Hecla around 1 p.m. (local time) on Friday, the racers considerately finished every 24 hours or so until yesterday when four roared across the line in a 12-hour period. Here’s the order in which boats anchored in idyllic Hanalei Bay:

  • Jeff Lebesch’s Hammerhead 54 Hecla on Friday
  • Adrian Johnson’s Olson 30 Idefix on Saturday
  • Ronnie Simpson’s Jutson 30 Warrior’s Wish on Sunday
  • Max Crittenden’s Martin 32 Solar Wind on Monday
  • Ken Roper’s Finn Flyer 31 Harrier, Paul Nielsen’s Olson 34 Culebra, Dave King’s Westsail 32 Saraband and George Lythcott’s Express 27 TAZ!! yesterday
  • John Hayward’s Valiant 40 Dream Chaser this morning at dawn.
The General sailed over the line and under a rainbow yesterday morning.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Of those nine, only one so far has come in at night — George Lythcott on TAZ!!. Having had much of his frozen food stores go bad after about a week, Lythcott rationed his remaining food for the rest of his trip. "No more nuts and dried fruit!" he shouted when the committee boarded his boat last night. "I’m going to have a big, big, BIG lobster dinner!" But he had to settle for a hot dog on the beach — provided by his extended family, all of whom flew in as a surprise for George.

George Lythcott was the center of attention by his entire family, who flew out to surprise him at the finish.

©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

That leaves five boats on the course: Gary Gould’s Islander 36 Pakele and Al Germain’s Bandicoot will finish within the next 24 hours, leaving Adam Correa on the International Folkboat Blue Moon, AJ Goldman on the Cascade 36 Second Verse and Sam Burns on the Catalina 309 Southernaire bringing up the rear. It appears the final three won’t make the Awards Party on Friday night but they all hope to finish by the race’s deadline Saturday at noon.

Dave King sailed a hell of a race aboard his Portland-based Westsail 32, even after breaking his boom.

©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

While the final results won’t be officially announced until the race’s deadline, calculators across the globe have no doubt been crunching the numbers to figure out who won. You can find out if you were right on Saturday on the race’s website.

Pac Cup First Wave Finds Going Slow

Robb Walker and Rowena Carlson’s Nozomi and Paul Disario and Tony Porche’s Plus Sixteen rumble off the Cityfront on Monday.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Although the beat out the Gate showed promise with its 15-knots of breeze and ebb, the navigators on the 15 boats who started the ’10 Pac Cup Monday knew they were faced with the prospect of a slow stretch once they got out the Gate.

Jim Quanci’s Green Buffalo punches through a wave off Mile Rock.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Split between Doublehanded 1 and Division A, the first group only covered 70 miles over the first 24 hours. Twenty four hours later, yesterday’s starters, Doublehanded 2 and Division B, had all but caught up with the Monday starters.

The tracker shows a significant North-South spread among the boats in the four divisions who’ve already started.

© 2010

Although the daily sked wasn’t available as of this writing, a look at the race’s tracker shows that there is a huge spread form north to south in the fleet, and no one seems to be going anywhere at any notable speed. At the southern end of the spectrum, Dylan Benjamin and Rufus Sjoberg on Benjamin’s Dogpatch 26 Moonshine are as far south as 37° 14′, while Jim Quanci’s Cal 40 Green Buffalo is just north of the 38th parallel. Emma Creighton and Andy Hamilton aboard Creighton’s Mini Transat Pocket Rocket, are the farthest north at this point, and we can’t wait to see which strategy pays off.

Doublehanded 2 gets off the line yesterday in a good breeze that evaporated as they parked it up with Monday’s starters.

© 2010 Erik Simonson

Back down in the south, Pat Broderick’s Wyliecat 30 Nancy is keeping up with Moonshine and just slightly farther north. And given that there is plenty of Hawaii race experience among all these boats — not to mention analytical ability — it’s interesting to see such a disparate response to the light, lumpy conditions the fleet is experiencing out there.

Emma Creighton’s Mini Transat Pocket Rocket rolls off the starting line yesterday; Creighton and co-skipper Andy Hamilton have chosen the northernmost route compared to the entire fleet.

© Erik Simonson

Division C started today at 12:45 p.m., and Division B starts tomorrow at 1:15 p.m. If you don’t feel like going out on the water, there is plenty of good viewing at the starting area right off the Marina Green and the Marin headlands.

Catamaran Flips off Ft. Bragg, Crew Rescued

Bay Area sailor Kristy Lugert and her two male crewmen were rescued by US Coast Guard resources Saturday, after their 32-ft catamaran Catalyst capsized in extreme conditions, roughly 20 miles west of Fort Bragg.

According to the Coast Guard and other sources, the three sailors were in the process delivering the newly-purchased boat from Crescent City to Alameda when conditions built to what they deemed to be life-threatening proportions — 20-ft seas and 40- to 50-knot winds. The small measure of good luck in this story is that the crew activated their EPIRB shortly before the cat flipped and temporarily pinned them beneath its hulls.

Coast Guard rescue swimmer David Foreman descends to pick up the three hypothermic crew from their overturned cat.

© US Coast Guard

All three crew were able to scramble up onto the overturned hulls, however, where they somehow held on for more than an hour before being rescued, with frigid waves washing over them. According to a Coast Guard report, they were wearing neither survival suits nor lifejackets. A 47-ft motor lifeboat out of Station Noyo River (near Fort Bragg) and an MH-65C Dolphin helicopter out of Air Station Humbolt Bay arrived on the scene within minutes of each other. Thanks to the expertise of rescue swimmer Petty Officer 2nd Class David Foreman and his helo team, all three sailors were hoisted into the Dolphin without further incident, then flown to Ukiah, where they received hospital treatment for hypothermia. (See this link for rescue footage.)

Why the crew set sail from Crescent City Marina with gale warnings posted is a question that puzzled marina staffers at the time, as much larger boats were making unplanned stopovers at the facility to avoid the turmoil offshore. However, Catalyst‘s crew was complimented by the rescue helo’s copilot, Lt.j.g. Bernie Garrigan, for having the presence of mind to stay with the vessel even after she flipped. "It is much easier to find a boat, even an overturned boat, in the ocean than an individual person,” said Garrigan. The fact that Lugert had left a float plan with her family also aided in the efficiency of this rescue. “If you ever wanted to hear a story about how important it is to have a registered EPIRB on your vessel and a float plan ashore, look no further than this case," said Coast Guard spokesperson Lt. Todd Vorenkamp. "Without that piece of electronic gear aboard the Catalyst, this would be the story of a maritime disaster, not a story with a happy ending.”

At the risk of restating the obvious, we — and the Coast Guard — remind mariners that offshore conditions at this time of year can be extremely treacherous. As we’ve seen time and again, although waiting for calm conditions can be maddening, doing so can sometimes mean the difference between having a safe passage and a disasterous one.

Harker Beaten At St. Martin, Not Martinique

In yesterday’s special ‘Lectronic, we reported that solo circumnavigator Mike Harker of the Manhatten Beach-based Hunter 49 Wanderlust 3 had been savagely beaten just before dawn by two thieves while anchored off Martinique. It turns out that the attack actually happened while his boat was at anchor inside Simpson Lagoon on the French side of St. Martin/Sint Maarten.

The dual national island of St. Martin/Sint Maarten has some wonderful places – like Orient Bay, seen here. Unfortunately it also has some rough elements.

© 2010 St Maarten tourism

We apologize for the mistake. In his email to us, Harker made no mention of where the attack had occurred. We initially assumed that it had happened in St. Martin because he’d spent the last hurricane season there and had been there for the last few months. But then he added that some friends had moved his boat to a safer anchorage in Martinique, which is hundreds of miles south of St. Martin. He’d also previously written to tell us that he was headed down to Venezuela. The combination of things made us think the attack had taken place in Martinique. We wouldn’t be surprised to learn that in his dazed state, Harker hadn’t written Martinique when he meant St. Martin. In addition to apologizing to you our readers, we apologize to Martinique.

At last word, Harker was traveling to Guadeloupe for surgery on his face. He promised to update us on his condition as soon as possible, but we’ve yet to hear from him.

For the record, St. Martin/Sint Maarten, which has lots of problems due to poverty, drugs, crime, AIDS and white and blue collar corruption, has a reputation for being a violent place. When we cleared in there two years ago, there was even a poster in the Immigration office of a gang of thugs and the admonition to visitors to be wary. In addition, friends who live there and who have worked the charter season there say that almost everybody they know who has been there more than a year or two has had been robbed or had their home invaded.

Being anchored out is usually a great prophylactic to crime, and we’ve never had any problems when anchored in Pelican Bay, off Phillipsburg, off Grand Case, off Isle Pinel, in Orient Bay, in Oyster Pond, or off Marigot. Boats anchored in Simpson Lagoon have less of a buffer because the distance between boats and shore is never very great. We’ve never had a problem when we went ashore either, but we’ve always been very aware of where we were, who was around us, and how late it was. We treat it like it’s a tropical Oakland.
Like Oakland, St. Martin/Sint Maarten actually has a lot going for it. It has tremendous natural beauty, a very well protected lagoon that is home to hundreds of boats, great sailing conditions, every boat service one can imagine, nice anchorages, the terrifically welcoming St. Martin YC, great Indian food, good provisioning and duty free shopping, great air connections to the States — and some really wonderful people. Unfortunately, it’s also home to too large a percentage of violent miscreants, drug addled and otherwise, who screw things up for everybody else who adheres to normal human values.
Would we do a charter out of St. Martin/Sint Maarten and/or the Heineken Regatta? Absolutely. But as mentioned above, we’d also be very aware, be ultra careful not to show any signs of affluence, and anchor further offshore than most other boats.

Nearby cruisers responded immediately to Harker’s signals for help. Wanderlust 3
©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC Mike Harker, who started sailing with the 2000 Ha-Ha, and later did mostly singlehanded passages from Florida to Europe, Europe to the South Pacific, the South Pacific to California, followed by an 11-month singlehanded circumnavigation, reports he was brutally beaten aboard his Hunter 49 Wanderlust 3 while anchored at St.