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November 17, 2010

Route du Rhum Almost Over

Lionel Lemonchois’ Prince de Bretagne blazes into Guadeloupe for the Multi50 win.

© Marcel Mochet

With less than 100 miles to go, Thomas Ruyant looks poised to win the 44-boat Class 40 division in the ’10 Route du Rhum-La Banque Postale. Ruyant’s Destination Dunkerque has a lead of about 60 miles over his next closest competitor, Nicolas Troussel’s Crédit Mutuel de Bretagne. Troussel, in turn, has about that distance between him and a pack of five boats that will most likely be in a dog fight all the way to the finish to round out the podium. None of this is set in stone, of course, as the buttonhook rounding of the northern and western shore of Guadeloupe into Pointe-à-Pitre could see the frontrunners hit a parking lot as they get in the lee of the island.

Etienne Giroire, the race’s only American entry, is unhurt and on his way to Guadeloupe after a capsize 1,500 miles from the island.

© 2010 AFP

Italian Andrea Mura aboard his Open 50 Vento Di Sardegna has a 173-mile lead in the 11-boat Rhum Categorie and looks like a lock to win that division with less than 400 miles left to go. The only American in the race, Florida’s Etienne Giroire, was 1500 miles from Guadeloupe when his 42-ft Walter Greene-designed trimaran flipped in a squall. After taking to his liferaft, but staying alongside his boat, the unhurt Giroire was picked up by a cargo ship headed for the island.

All the other division titles have been accounted for, as we alluded to on Monday. Roland Jourdain repeated as the IMOCA 60 winner with Veolia Environment, and race-record holder Lionel Lemonchois took the Multi50 division with Prince de Bretagne after nearly having to retire with rig damage not long after the start.

Caribbean 1500 Tragedy

Laura Zekoll was an avid sailor and adventurer, even after losing the use of her right arm from a motorcycle accident at 16.

Toni Ralston
©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Laura Zekoll, 46, of Atlanta, Georgia, who had been a member of the Caribbean 1500 fleet aboard Rule 62, a Jeanneau 46DS, is presumed to have been lost at sea on November 13 or 14 after the liferaft she and the rest of the crew were in flipped, dumping them all into the water near Marsh Harbor in the Bahamas. Earlier that evening, the boat’s owners, Richard and Debra Ross, also from Atlanta, had advised the Caribbean 1500 that they were not going to complete the course from Hampton, Virginia, to the British Virgins, but rather were going to divert to Marsh Harbor because Debra and Laura were seasick, according to CRA spokesperson Julie Palm. Eleven of the 80 boats in the Caribbean 1500 had already opted to be in the Bahamas Class and sail to Marsh Harbor instead of the British Virgins. Because they had started earlier than the rest of the fleet, most of them had already arrived in the Bahamas.

At about 9 p.m. local time on Sunday, Rule 62 hit a reef “attempting to enter the Bahamas,” and Richard and Laura were washed overboard. However both were recovered. With Rule 62 helpless on the reef, Richard, Debbie, Laura, and fourth crewmember David Shepard of Ellsorth, Maine, put on PFDs, got into the liferaft, and attempted to row to shore in the dark. After becoming separated from Laura, Richard, Debra and David made it to the shore. An extensive search for Laura Zekoll was undertaken by the U.S. Coast Guard and numerous resources from the Bahamas, but she couldn’t be found. Our condolences to her family and friends. The others were air-lifted to safety in reasonably good health.

Rule 62’s track (purple) shows that the boat took a sharp detour halfway through the course.

© Caribbean 1500

This year’s Caribbean 1500 — the 21st and final one for founder Steve Black — was a bit star-crossed. Because the course to the BVIs was threatened by Tropical Storm Tomas, the 70 or so boats intending to sail to the British Virgins had their starting date postponed seven days, from November 1 until November 8 — although two boats left early. The Bahamas Class, which was to stop further down the East Coast, as opposed to sailing offshore all the way, was also delayed, but not as long. It fragmented a bit, too. The group sailing to the BVIs was hit by gusts to over 50 knots, with seas reported as big as 15 to 20 feet. Before it was all over, boats had dropped out in a number of places from the East Coast of the U.S. to Puerto Rico.

As we’ve noted many times, the Caribbean 1500 course is almost always a much more difficult one than the Baja Ha-Ha, as it’s twice as long, there are few places of refuge, and the weather is usually considerably more challenging. Sunsets, Howard Weiss and Kelly Reed’s MacGregor 65, hailing port not listed, took line honors in the BVI fleet.

Aquila Lost Near New Caledonia

We sorry to report that another singlehanded cruiser has lost his boat. This one, in the South Pacific. Although full details are yet unknown, we received word this morning that retired school teacher Michael Rafferty recently lost his San Diego-based Islander Freeport 36 Aquila roughly 80 miles west of the New Caledonia island group.

The singlehander in happier times — at the Vallarta YC during last winter’s Puddle Jump Kickoff Party.

©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

In an email sent to a cruising friend this morning, Rafferty explained, "She sank in about one hour. I lost everything but the clothes I now wear, my passport, Merchant Marine ID card, a flashlight, and my hearing aids." Although the solo sailor did not explain the cause of the sinking, he did clarify that he was uninjured: "I am perfectly fine." Rafferty was rescued by a French Canadian boat named Azzar, and rode aboard her to Australia. "In a very few days," he says, "I will fly to Thailand to start over. So, as Robert Hunter wrote, ‘There’s nothing left to do but smile.’"

Rafferty is a U.S. Coast Guard-licensed captain, who had sailed south with the ’09 Baja Ha-Ha fleet — his was one of two Islander Freeport 36s last year. He then singlehanded to the South Pacific with the Pacific Puddle Jump migration last spring.

Latitude Delivery Men

One of our favorite things about living in the Bay Area is the opportunity to meet so many interesting southbound cruisers. Of course most folks heading south have already passed through the Bay by November, so we were happily surprised to receive a call from Capt. Jim McCarthy last Thursday asking if we needed a couple bundles of Latitude 38 delivered to Mexico. "I did the same thing a number of years ago when I was heading south, so I thought I’d make it a tradition," said Jim, who had tied his Irwin 37 U Got A B Kiddin to Sausalito YC’s guest dock.

Frank and Jim are happily delivering two bundles of Latitude’s to cruisers down south.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Jim and crew Frank McIntyre had literally arrived only minutes before his call to Latitude‘s World Headquarters, but the boat was quite tidy by the time we arrived, and was well-outfitted for an unusual extended cruise. "We plan to be in the Black Sea by next summer," Jim reported. A very experienced delivery skipper, and holder of a 100 Ton Master license, Jim said a number of Ukrainian friends kept telling him how beautiful the area was, so he started investigating. "Not many people cruise that area, and that’s appealing."

For now, Jim and Frank are on their way to Cabo, but they promise to share stories of their voyage to Europe along the way. Keep an eye out in future Changes in Latitudes for their updates.

Sailors took advantage of this weekend’s sublime weather to shake out the sails and dry out the boat.