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July 23, 2010

Testosterone Returns to World Record Sailing

With the flurry of attention over teenage girl circumnavigators having at least temporarily subsided, we’re thrilled to note the successful completion of a very ‘manly’ round-about. Yesterday, 39-year-old French/Italian geologist Alessandro di Benedetto sailed Findomestic back into Les Sables D’Olonne Harbor after a nonstop circumnavigation that took 268 days, 19 hours and 36 minutes. What makes this voyage notable — and a ‘first’ — is not the route or the time. The former is the same racetrack used by Vendée Globe soloists, and the top guys usually complete it in about three months. Di Benedetto’s claim to fame is that he did it on a Mini TransAt boat which, at 21 feet, makes it the smallest boat ever to complete a nonstop circumnavigation.

Alessandro had his share of adventures, including a dismasting near the Horn, which he repaired and kept going. You can read about the voyage — or try — at his website Be warned that the English “translation” is a tad wanting. For example, when we were trying to figure out what the guy ate, we came across: “This outstanding sailor knows how to handle both the harpoon on the sea beams — to improve his ordinary meals, as well as the vocalizations of the Italian ways, when the wind sulks him." We think that just means he fished a lot. And we sure hope ‘harpoon’ really means ‘speargun,’ or armchair experts are going to have something new to rant and rave about.

Kidding aside, the completion of any nonstop circumnavigation is a feat of skill, strength, courage and determination unimaginable to most casual sailors. To pull it off in a boat about the same length as a Santana 22 really boggles the mind. (To be fair, Findomestic was heavily modified and strengthened.) With the Vendée Globe regularly touted as the ‘Everest of Sailing’, di Benedetto’s feat might compare to the venerated Seven Summits — climbing the tallest mountains on each of the continents, including Everest.

For comparison’s sake, Robin Knox-Johnston took 313 days to sail his 32-ft ketch Suhaili nonstop around the world in the 1968-1969 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race. In the 2008-2009 edition of the Vendée Globe, Michel Desjoyeaux completed the round-about in 84 days and change on the 60-ft Foncia.

Tonga Regatta Builds Momentum

Most cruisers will tell you that they relish quiet moments in secluded anchorages and savor the solitude of being alone on a vast ocean. But most also love to socialize with like-minded sailors once in a while. For those heading west across the South Pacific this season, the second annual Regatta Vava’u & Festival offers a perfect opportunity to do just that.

You can see by this dreamy shot why the islands of Tonga are considered one of the most idyllic cruising grounds in the South Pacific.

© Regatta Vava’u

Organized by a group of local residents — many of whom are sailors — the six-day sailfest, slated for September 22-28, will include two yacht races, a "fancy dress pub crawl," a kid’s day, a full moon party, and something called a "cornhole tournament" — the schedule seems to include something for everyone.

The Friendly Island Yacht Race, to be run September 24, is a tradition that predates the Regatta by a decade. "The layout of our cyclone hole and the reliability of our trade winds afford a consistent, under-1½ -hour race track around the harbor that creates photo finishes time and time again," says organizer Lisa Newton.

The longer Vava’u Cup Race will follow the next day. "The best thing about this race," explains Lisa, "is that it ends in a beautiful and expansive anchorage that boasts one the world’s best natural amphitheater locations in which to throw a party." With that in mind, a Full Moon Party will follow that night.

Both local and off-island sponsors are offering prizes for races as well as non-race events, some of which are said to be "lucrative." Check the website for signup and itinerary info. About a dozen boats have signed up so far, and more are trickling in daily. We hope to bring you a full report on this fun-filled event in a fall edition of Latitude 38.

Whale Breaching Under Investigation

A Southern Right Whale administers a smack down on the steel-hulled, 32-ft Barens Seatrader Intrepid off Cape Town.

© 2010 James K. Dagmore

Photos of the 32-ft Barens Seatrader Intrepid being on the receiving end of a Southern Right Whale’s best impression of a pile driver have gone viral over the last couple days; but curious sailors and a massive non-sailing audience aren’t the only people paying attention. According to the Cape Times, South African authorities have launched an investigation into whether the whale was harassed into breaching onto the Cape Town-based, steel-hulled boat operated by Ralph Mothes and Paloma Werner as part of their sailing school. According to the report, an eyewitness alleged that a RIB and "a yacht" had chased the whale — which left blubber and skin on the boat — until it began breaching.

The aftermath . . . neither of the two crew aboard were hurt.

© 2010 James K. Dagmore

Mothes and Werner weren’t specifically alleged to have been the antagonists in the story, but there are a couple things about this incident that make it ring more like a provoked encounter than a freak accident. First, it’s kind of funny that the two would be sailing without a mainsail on what looks like a really light-air day. Second, why was the commonly attributed lensman, James K. Dagmore, there shooting video at precisely that moment? Third, Mothes and Werner seemed all too ready to capitalize on the incident according to their website — which we’ve intentionally omitted in the event the investigation points toward some kind of sick, publicity stunt. Only time and the investigation will tell where the truth lies on this one.

Viral Videos

Debunking all the Photoshop theories floating around about the whale-sailboat collision in the above story, CBS has acquired actual video of the incident.

That amazing video reminded us that we’ve watched a number of very cool videos recently, so we thought we’d show you a handful. The next one is from the Plastiki crew, documenting the worst weather they saw throughout their entire 8,100-mile voyage from San Francisco to Australia. (They’re currently back underway and just days from finishing their voyage in Sydney.) This storm caught them by surprise in the Tasman Sea earlier this month but Plastiki appears to have performed flawlessly.

Then there’s the fast-paced video put together by Singlehanded TransPac’er Ronnie Simpson, shot aboard his borrowed Jutson 30 Warrior’s Wish on his way to Hanalei Bay last month.

But none of them compared to the raw footage shot by the crew of the USCG helo that saved the lives of Kristy Lugert, Steve McCarthy and Greg McCune from their upturned PDQ 32 catamaran Catalyst on July 3. 

If this video doesn’t give you chills — and newfound respect for what the Coasties do — you’d better check your pulse. You can find the full story of Catalyst exclusively in the August issue of Latitude 38.

Last Chance to Do the Deux

The 2nd Annual Delta Doo Dah is fast approaching — the event runs July 31-August 6, with the Kickoff Party the evening of July 30 at Tradewinds Sailing in Marina Bay Yacht Harbor — and considering the overcast and chilly temps we’ve been seeing on the Bay over the last few days, a week of sun and fun in the Delta looks mighty appealing right about now. Apparently it sounded fun to a bunch of other sailors way back on March 15, when registration for the event began, as we filled all 50 available spots in just 12 hours! But a lot can happen in four months, and a number of entrants have had to reluctantly drop out of the rally. Of course, we’ve contacted everyone on our extensive waiting list — some have happily signed on, the rest have since made other plans — but we still have three open spots on this year’s Doo Dah roster, which means you have one more chance at joining the party!

Greig & Leslie Olson’s Searunner 40 tri Doggone was signed up for the Delta Doo Dah Deux but had to cancel earlier this week. Whoever takes their place has big deck shoes to fill!

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

But before signing up, please check with your boss/spouse/boat partner/orthodondist or whomever you need to get permission from BEFORE emailing. Time is short, so this really is a last call — if you sign up, then find out your daughter’s soccer team’s coach wants you to assist her during the Doo Dah, forcing you to cancel, you’re essentially preventing someone else from joining.

The deadline for this last call is Monday at 5 p.m. but this story will disappear as soon as the remaining three spots have been filled. If you’d like to dry out and warm up with this crazy bunch of sailors, email Doodette Christine Weaver with the following info:

  • Your name
  • Your boat’s name
  • Your boat’s make
  • Its length, beam and draft
  • Your homeport
  • Your phone number

So what if you don’t have a boat but would still like to ‘Do the Deux’? Brian Forster on the Sausalito-based Newport 30MkII No Agenda — Entry #22 — would love company for the trip up and back as his fiancée is not a fan of heatstroke. Check out his crew request on the Doo Dah’s forum. And if that doesn’t pan out, feel free to post your own request — you’ll have to email Christine your preferred username and password first — or just ask questions about cruising the Delta.

Who’s your buddy? Richard Schaper of the Catalina 30 Ebenezer II — Entry #47 — dropped off a delicious Delta Doo Dah IPA homebrew when he brought in his entry forms. Now he’s a guy to get acquainted with!

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC
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