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November 19, 2010

Big Sail a Big Show

Stanford’s varsity has Cal’s varsity hooked in the pre-start on Tuesday.

© Sergei Zavarin

Alumni, students, parents, spectators, and media converged on St. Francis YC Tuesday for the Big Sail — the annual match race between Cal and Stanford which takes place the same week as the storied ‘Big Game’ between the two schools. As in recent iterations, this year’s event set new records for attendance and enthusiasm, helped in no small part by the presence of each school’s marching band and cheerleading squads.

Sailing in J/105s with spinnakers bearing the schools’ logos, the two pairs of alumni teams — one for the over-40-year-olds, and one for the under-40-year olds — squared-off in single races for bragging rights, with Cal taking both matches. Then the varsity sailing teams from each school rotated into the boats and faced off in an umpired, best-of-three match-race series right in front of the club’s dining room, which was filled with spectators. Stanford started with a win in the first race, when they were able to capitalize on a poorly-executed penalty turn by Cal, squeaking across the line ahead by a matter of inches. In race 2, it was Stanford’s turn to make the "big mistake" when they sailed on the shoreside of Anita Rock. Sailors who race the Cityfront know very well that this area is a restricted zone. That immediately disqualified Stanford and gave Cal the win automatically . . . or not. The umpires decided not to issue Stanford the dreaded black flag, opting instead to let the match play out. But in the end, Cal got ahead, extended, and demonstrated superior boat speed to take the race easily.

Stanford’s under-40 alumni team breaks away from Cal.

© Sergei Zavarin

With the score tied at one race apiece, Stanford was able to get a slight lead off the start line that they managed to carry to the first weather mark. At the leeward mark, Stanford rounded and immediately "T’d up” Cal, who was on port with their spinnaker still flying. Holding their course, Stanford made a sharp tack to avoid a collision and flew their Y flag to request an umpires’ call. Cal was given a penalty, sealing the regatta for Stanford.

Dekker and Socrates Keep on Truckin’

Laura Dekker really seems to feel at home on the sea, but a challenging Atlantic crossing is still in front of her.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Dutch teen Laura Dekker, 14, finally left the Canary Islands last Wednesday aboard her 37-ft Jeanneau Gin Fizz Guppy on the next leg of her attempt to become the world’s youngest solo circumnavigator. Dekker had spent nearly three months months exploring the Canaries while waiting for the end of hurricane season before leaving for the Cape Verde Islands off the west coast of Africa. She arrived safely on Tuesday, about a week later.

Her website and blog give only the barest hint of her proposed route and schedule — which is probably wise, considering how quickly plans can change at sea — but it appears she’ll explore the Verdes some before crossing the Atlantic. One disturbing part of her planned route will take her directly through the Gulf of Aden, otherwise known as ‘Pirate Alley’. Given the fact that piracy has grown to epidemic proportions in the area — and that pirates are just as happy targeting small yachts as big commercial vessels — we certainly hope Laura and her team have an appropriate plan in place.

After a very slow start, Jeanne has picked up speed and is chugging right along.

© 2010 Jeanne Socrates

Meanwhile, Jeanne Socrates, 68, is flying right along in her effort to become the oldest woman to solo circumnavigate nonstop, as well as the first woman to do the voyage from the West Coast of North America (she left Victoria, B.C. on October 25). "We’re about 1,500-1,600 due west of the Gulf of Tehuantepec," Socrates noted in her latest report. "Being a La Niña year, the ITCZ, which we’re heading to, isn’t as bad as usual. It’s around 10ºN, so hopefully we should be through by Sunday." Jeanne has seen little ugly weather to date, but she has been battling some autopilot issues, which she hopes to sort out in the next day or so.

Cruising Season Heating up in Mexico

With the Ha-Ha having ended a couple of weeks ago and everyone having had a chance to recuperate, more events for cruisers are coming up in Mexico.

For those in La Paz , the beach party at Papas & Beer Beach Club happened yesterday afternoon, featuring Mexican folk dancing, live rock music, food and drink, door prizes and more. We hope to bring you a full report next week.

As for the new and old boats on the mainland, many skippers are getting ready for the Banderas Bay Blast and the Vallarta YC Chili Cook-Off.

Wayne and Carol will be back for another Blast with Capricorn Cat.

©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The Blast is three days of Ha-Ha style, ‘nothing serious’ cruiser racing on the warm and flat waters of beautiful Banderas Bay, co-sponsored by the Punta Mita Yacht & Surf Club and the Vallarta YC. The Yacht & Surf Club identifies division winners by picking boat names out of a hat, while the Vallarta YC does it by using Banderas Bay Regatta cruising handicaps. About 30 boats, monohulls and multihulls, are expected. And heck no, there is no entry fee. To sign up, you just show up, or let folks know on the Banderas Bay cruisers’ net on 22A.

Unlike the America’s Cup, there are two starting lines for the first race on Wednesday, December 1. You can either start from off Nuevo Vallarta if you like to reach, or off Punta Mita if you’d prefer a spinnaker run. No matter where you start from, the finish line is off the Nayarit Riviera Marina in La Cruz, which, by the way, will be providing free berthing again this year for all participants. Gracias, amigos.

The volleyball in the Vallarta YC pool after the third race is strictly world class.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Following the first race, participants will meet at the marina’s Sky Bar to trade stories and for the world famous water balloon drop and attempted catch. Yes, it’s that kind of event. For dinner, the fleet wanders into lovely La Cruz for street tacos — yum, yum, yum — and dancing at Philo’s.

Nothing serious Race 2 is seven miles out to Punta Mita, after which the Punta Mita Yacht & Surf Club will have its annual re-opening. You won’t want to miss that.

The third and final ‘nothing serious’ race is also the Pirates for Pupils Spinnaker Run for charity from Punta Mita to Nuevo Vallarta. That’s right, we raise money for great causes for kids around Banderas Bay. Before the race there will be a costume luncheon at a restaurant in Puerto Vallarta, and after the race there will be pool volleyball in the yacht club pool.

It’s lucky that the Blast ends in Nuevo Vallarta because, wonder of wonders, the next day is the Vallarta YC’s biggest fundraiser of the year, the Chili Cookoff. About 500 new cruisers, old cruisers, and general riff-raff show up for the annual gas. Don’t miss it. See you there.

It’s true that some of the chili at the Chili Cook-off is hot, but none of it can compare to some of the servers.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC
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.
Laura Zekoll was an avid sailor and adventurer, even after losing the use of her right arm from a motorcycle accident at 16.
One of our favorite things about living in the Bay Area is the opportunity to meet so many interesting southbound cruisers.