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February 28, 2011

USA 17 Makes Her Bay Debut

USA 17 pulls into Pier 80 aboard a freighter just before 7 a.m. today, completing a 7,900-mile transport from Valencia.

© Gilles Martin-Raget

One of the first tangible signs of the 34th America’s Cup to grace the San Francsico waterfront sailed under the Gate at O-dark-thirty this morning. Although it wasn’t on her own bottom(s), USA 17, winner of the 33rd Cup, made her way to Pier 80, where she’ll be stationed indefinitely at Oracle Racing’s new base.

The 115-ft-long, 90-ft-wide trimaran and her 223-ft wingmast traveled some 7,900 miles from Valencia, through the Panama Canal and up to the Bay aboard the M.V. Star Isfjord. The unloading of the boat will depend on weather conditions, as she is really light and fragile. We’ve heard a rumor that it might happen at 2 p.m. today, but we couldn’t tell you for sure, and neither could the team for the reason above.

The boat will be in storage for awhile, but the team says they will be putting it on public display in the future. We hope they see fit to put it together and sail it here, but given the enormity of the boat, the expense involved and the fact that they estimated that it took 20 hours of maintenance for every hour sailed, it might end up being the nautical equivalent of the Spruce Goose. We’ve got our fingers crossed that the team does some laps of the Bay with it; what a sight it would be.

Pirates Kidnap Seven Danish Cruisers

On February 24, just two days after Somali pirates murdered Scott and Jean Adam of the Marina del Rey-based Davidson 58 Quest and their Seattle crew Robert Riggle and Phyllis Macay, pirates have reportedly captured the 43-ft Danish-flagged Ing with a family of five — including two boys and a girl aged 12, 14 and 16 — and two crewmembers. The nationality of the pirates and the names of the victims have not been confirmed, but authorities say the yacht, which was apparently captured on her approach to the Gulf of Aden in the southern Arabian Sea, is moving in the direction of Somalia. Unverified accounts by reported friends say the family was halfway into a two-year circumnavigation. Our thoughts are with the seven souls now in the hands of ruthless mercenaries.

Murder in St. Martin

A pall has been cast over this weekend’s Heineken Regatta in St. Martin, one of the great sailing regattas in the world, as the result of the weekend murder of a 37-year-old French causcasian cook from the megayacht Cheetah Moon. The cook was found "seriously injured" on the ground near Mullet Bay, one of the nicer places on the island. In St. Martin, "seriously injured" means he’d been stabbed, had his teeth extracted, his eyes gouged out, his nipples cut off, and been set on fire. He was flown to Martinique for more sophisticated treatment, but died from his horrific injuries.

St. Martin is a huge base to yachts and many megayachts. As a result of the murder of Cheetah Moon‘s cook, the St. Maarten Marine Trades Association expressed outrage at the increase in crimes against members of the marine community. Association Treasurer Lorraine Talmi told the local paper, "This is not the first time nor, do I fear, will it be the last. In fact, this is the second time in a week that a crew member was abducted from the Simpson Bay area. The first one managed to escape, and perhaps that is why, if it is the same gang, the second one wasn’t nearly as lucky."

Readers may remember that solo circumnavigator Mike Harker of the Manhattan Beach-based Hunter 49 Wanderlust 3 was severely beaten on his boat on the hook in St. Martin’s Simpson Bay.

We don’t know if it’s still there, but the Customs and Immigration Office in St. Maarten used to have a poster warning captains and crews of the dangers of gangs of male youths on the island.

We go to St. Martin on a regular basis, and we’ll probably be going there for this weekend’s Heineken Regatta. But when we’re on the island, we remain acutely aware of our surroundings and the circumstances. As a rule, we don’t go anywhere alone after dark. We stick to the more crowded areas, and feel safest on the hook or on the beach.

The shame of it all is that St. Martin, which is half French and half Dutch, is spectacularly beautiful, with great bays, a huge lagoon, lots of beaches, and some wonderful people. In fact, it’s one of the most naturally beautiful islands in all of the Caribbean. But once again, it’s an island where a small minority of residents, invariably young males, are destroying the reputation and economic opportunities for everyone else. Remarkably, the island has withstood the global recession better than most, and building continues relentlessly.

If we were asked to rate the danger to the personal safety of mariners in the Caribbean, with 10 at the high end of the scale, we’d put it at about 7.5. And St. Martin, in particular, even higher. On the other hand, we’d put Mexico at about 1.5. One of the reasons is that mariners are specifically targeted in the Caribbean, whereas they aren’t in Mexico, because narco trafickers are only interested in killing one another, and except for Acapulco, not on the coast.

We don’t want to frighten people away from chartering in or cruising to St. Martin, but if you go there, it’s our opinion that you need to be on guard at all times, and best in a group.

Pirates for Pupils and the BBR

While the Pirates for Pupils Spinnaker Run for Charity course is fairly simple, it’s always good to have navigation help from the likes of Tammy.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

When an event is as fun and beneficial to the local community as is the Pirates for Pupils Spinnaker Run for Charity, it can’t be held just once a year. That’s why it’s held twice a year, in early December and in March. In the case of this spring, it’s March 6.

How can the Pirates for Pupils not be fun? Not only do you get to dress up as pirates and wenches, but the 12-mile downwind course from Punta Mita to Paradise Marina is about as delightful as pleasure sailing gets. We’re talking tropical warmth, flat water, and winds from aft of the beam at between 10 and 18 knots.

Because the Pirates for Pupils course is so mellow, it provides a great opportunity for crew to do things like hang out on the boom and strike up new friendships.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

All participants are encouraged to contribute a minimum of 150 pesos — a little less than $15. The money is collected by Ronnie Tea Lady, who then carefully administers the use of the funds. For those rightfully skeptical of ‘non-profits’ that feature lucrative paydays for organizers, rest assured that the PforP organizers don’t deduct anything for their efforts or expenses, and Ronnie’s nickname is ‘Ms. Probity’.

The Banderas Bay Regatta is a great venue for small monohulls such as this J/World J/80.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

There will be a March 5 feeder sail to get the boats from Puerto Vallarta, Nuevo Vallarta and La Cruz to Punta Mita. Details on the entire event will be available on the Banderas Bay Net each morning.

But Banderas Bay Regatta conditions are equally as good for big multihulls such as Mai Dolce’s Marquesas 56 Dolce Vita.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Please note that the Pirates for Pupils itself is a feeder for the really big cruisers’ sailing event of the year on Banderas Bay, the Vallarta YC’s 19th annual Banderas Bay Regatta. Inexplicably there is no entry fee for this five-days-of-socializing-and-three-days-of-‘nothing-too-serious-racing’ event, as it features some of the best cruiser racing conditions in the world, along with a terrific venue and host club.

Never been to a regatta where the awards ceremony is on the beach and it’s still warm despite onshore winds? You ought to give it a try.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

We’re pleased to note that there are already over 50 entries in the Banderas Bay Regatta, which is way up from previous years, and might even be a record. The entries are as old as Richard Kipp’s 43-year-old Cheoy Lee Offshore 50 Vangabundo, as small as a couple of Catalina 30s, and as large as David Griffin’s 80-ft Kialoa III, one of most legendary yachts in the history of sailing. There’s even an entry named Cupcake!

Be there or be square!

The frigid front sweeping down from the Arctic has caused Bay Area residents to hold their breath in anticipation all week.
"Hearing the news of the death of our friends Scott and Jean Adams of Quest, whom we knew from Tonga and New Zealand, we made the difficult but important decision to turn around and return to Cochin, India," report Chay, Katie and Jamie MacWilliams, veterans of the Ha-Ha aboard their Colorado-based Kelly-Peterson 46 Esprit.
John Kilroy Jr.’s TP 52 Samba Pa Ti frolicking in the Molokai channel on the way to the overall win in the ’09 TransPac.