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September 20, 2010

Rolex Big Boat Series Recap

The “big” in the ’10 Rolex Big Boat Series, IRC, works to weather. Jim Mitchell’s R/P 52 Vincitore took the title for the third year in a row.

© Erik Simonson

With some of the wackiest weather in anyone’s recent memory, the St. Francis YC’s 46th Rolex Big Boat Series proved to be a worthy test for all 98 of the boats split between four IRC and five one design divisions. Although the pervasive gray skies and fog that dominated the event did finally break in the afternoons on both Saturday and Sunday, odd and variable breeze directions replaced them, and the result was one of the most visitor-friendly Rolex Big Boat Series in a while.

Dan Woolery’s King 40 Soozal on the way to another convincing division win at the RBBS.

© 2010 Rolex Daniel Forster

IRC A came down to a two-boat race in yesterday’s Bay tour between Jim Mitchell’s R/P 52 Vincitore and Jorge Ripstein’s TP 52 Patches. Tied on points going into the race, the pair scrapped in the pre-start with Vincitore getting the upper hand before Patches initiated a tacking duel that saw the two boats rattle off four tacks within a few minutes of the starting line. By the time they’d made their way around their course, Vincitore had managed to put an extra 30 seconds between them and Patches on corrected time for the overall win and the St. Francis Perpetual Trophy.

Luca Lalli’s B-lin sailed a largely consistent series to take the Melges 32 title.

© Erik Simonson

Dan Woolery’s Pt. Richmond-based King 40 Soozal went on a tear, clinching the regatta on Saturday, but sailing on Sunday anyway and winning both its division and the West Coast IRC Championship for the second year in a row. Woolery took home the City of San Francisco Trophy. In IRC C, the new sportboat division that sailed for the Richard Rheem Perpetual, Dale Williams dedicated his Kernan 44 Wasabi‘s impressive, straight-bullets-win to late boat partner Mike Campbell.

Masqueradeing as Arbitrage: not even having to borrow a boat could keep Bruce Stone from winning the J/105 division.

© 2010 Rolex Daniel Forster

IRC D and the Keefe-Kilborn Perpetual went to Tom Brott’s Long Beach-based J/109 Electra, which bested two-time defending winner Gerry Sheridan’s Elan 40 Tupelo Honey. Electra needed to put only one boat between it and Tupelo Honey to win the regatta, but ended up with two.

Dale Williams’ Kernan 44 Wasabi was perfect at the Rolex Big Boat Series.

© 2010 Rolex Daniel Forster

The Melges 32s represented the smallest boats at this year’s Rolex Big Boat Series, but drew the largest fleet, and thus qualifying for the Commodre’s Cup, with 27 boats. Twenty-seven-year-old Italian Luca Lalli’s B-lin won the tight division with no local knowledge aboard after dispatching its closest competition in the final race in a class that was replete with America’s Cup, Volvo Race and Olympic talent.


Sailing over half the regatta in a borrowed boat, Bruce Stone’s San Francisco-based Arbitrage beat 23 other J/105s for the Atlantic Perpetual Trophy in the regatta’s second-biggest division. Kame Richards and Bill Bridge’s Golden Moon repeated as the Express 37 champion on the strength of four bullets, while Don Payan’s Dayenu — always a contender — won the J/120 division. Oakland’s Jonathan Hunt wrapped up the 1D35 title on Saturday aboard Dark and Stormy. As always, this is just a recap, and there were plenty more great stories to come out of the West Coast’s premier big boat regatta. You’ll find those in the October issue of Latitude 38. In the meantime, make sure to check out the Melges 32 Worlds at St. Francis YC from Wednesday through Saturday.

Famed Circumnavigator Passes Away

Dodge Morgan, the first American to complete a non-stop circumnavigation and the fourth person ever to accomplish the feat, passed away on September 14 in Boston of complications from surgery for cancer. He was 78.

Dodge Morgan sailed into the record books on April 11, 1986 when he became the first American to sail nonstop around the world.

© Webb Logg

After selling the marine and car radar company he started in his garage, Morgan found himself in a position to fulfill his dream of sailing non-stop around the world. He commissioned Ted Hood to design his 60-ft American Promise, and set out from Bermuda in November, 1985, determined to break Chay Blyth’s 15-year-old record of 292 days. He did better than that — five months later he sailed back into Bermuda having nearly halved the record!

Following his return, Morgan wrote Voyage of American Promise recounting his adventure, and video taken aboard during the trip was turned into the PBS documentary Around Alone. Sailing continued to be a big part of his life — he maintained six sailboats in his 30-acre compound in Harpswell, Maine — until his death.

He leaves behind a fiancée, two adult children from a previous marriage, and a hoarde of well-deserved admirers.

Pacific Cruisers Converge on Vava’u

As the South Pacific cruising season draws to a close, many voyaging sailors are poised to head south to New Zealand in order to avoid the imminent cyclone season in the tropics. And the ideal place to set out from is Tonga. No doubt that’s why a group of local entrepreneurs will stage the second annual Vava’u Regatta and Festival this week, with a full schedule of activities that are focused on fun.

"We currently have 32 registered yachts," says Regatta Committee member and former cruiser Lisa Newton, "and I’m sure more will register on Wednesday at the Opening Day Festival!" And why wouldn’t they? With a full menu of activities, including two sailboat races, a kids’ parade, a "billionaire’s pub crawl" where everyone dresses in costume, and "the most fabulous full moon party in the Pacific," what fun-loving sailor could resist.

With 176 islands to explore in the archipelago of Tonga, the so-called “friendly kingdom” is a sailor’s dream come true.

© Katherine Phnam-Paul

We’re happy to say, we’ll be there to chronicle the fun, and we’ll bring you a full report in the November edition of Latitude 38. Yeah, we know, ‘tough duty’. But as our longtime motto dictates, "We go where the wind blows."

Health and Dental Care While Cruising

How to pay for health care is a huge concern for everyone, cruisers included. There is some good news, however. Once you leave the United States, health care costs plummet. Secondly, in places like Mexico, there are very low cost health insurance options.

When Terry and Jonesy Morris of the Chula Vista-based Gulfstar Sailmaster 50 Niki Wiki decided to quit their jobs, sell their house, furniture and car, and get rid of everything else in order to start living, they couldn’t afford health care because of a series of pre-existing conditions. Faced with the choice of either going to work for a big company so they could get on a group policy and not being able to cruise, or self-insuring so they could "go out and live," they decided on the latter.

They’ve been having a great time cruising Mexico and Central America in the four years since they did the ’06 Ha-Ha, but then Terry needed to have emergency laparoscopic surgery to remove her gall bladder while they were spending the summer up the Rio Dulce. Here’s her concise report:

"The total cost was $5,000 U.S. That included three nights and four days in the upscale and modern university hospital in Guatemala City. This cost included the surgeon, anesthesiologist, and primary care doctor fees, as well as all tests, medications, and follow-up care. It was one of my best hospital experiences, and I’ve had six other surgeries, all of them in the United States."

Cruisers in Mexico find the quality of medical care south of the border to be just as good, if not better, than in the U.S., and the costs substantially lower.

© Henry Kaiser

In case anybody thinks all health care outside of the United States is substandard, let’s repeat her last sentence: "It was one of my best hospital experiences, and I’ve had six other surgeries, all of them in the United States."

"So far, we have been quite happy with the medical and dental services we’ve received," continues Terry. "Jonesy, my husband, had an urgent and extensive root canal and crown procedure in El Salvador. It was done by an endodontist who was trained in the States. The total cost for the two dentists, plus the crown, was $350. In addition, we have had routine dental cleanings and check-ups for between $25 to $40, and filling repairs for $25 — all by English-speaking dentists. A walk-in, same-day mammogram at a private hospital was $35, with the typed radiologist report and films available for pick-up the next day. Routine blood-work is done inexpensively on demand at laboratories."

To add a little perspective on the situation, a Sausalito sailor we know had the same surgery a couple years ago at Marin General. The total amount billed to the insurance company? $80,000! And that didn’t include any overnight stays — he was forced to check out six hours after the surgery — or follow-up care.

Let’s see, there are no signs that the U.S. job market is going to improve anytime soon, used sailboats are selling for all-time low prices, the cost of pleasure cruising south of the border is well under what’s considered poverty level in the United States, and health insurance and health care south of the U.S. is both good and reasonable. For some people, deciding to opt out of what for too many has become the ‘new normal’ in the United States in search of a better quality of life might not be such a bad idea.

In a scene straight out of the movies, an investment banker made a grisly discovery on September 4 while fishing in the Bahamas.
If the weekend’s forecast of patchy fog, drizzle, and light winds aren’t tempting you out onto the water to watch (if you can see that far through the fog) the Big Boat Series or to join the Singlehanded Sailing Society’s Richmond/South Beach Race, you have options.
Thanks to all the uninformed hysteria about narco violence south of the border — which does exist, just not where most Americans and most cruisers go — some southbound cruisers have lingering concerns about Mexico.