July 13, 2011

Polynesian Vakas Heading for San Francisco

We watched in awe last year as this traditional vaka drove to windward across Neiafu Harbor, Tonga, in a light breeze. This hand-built vessel would later join six others en route to Hawaii, then San Francisco.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Every day of the year a wide variety of vessels enter San Francisco’s Golden Gate, but none are quite like the Polynesian ‘vakas’ which will soon make their debut here. Constructed along the lines of traditional voyaging canoes from centuries past, this fleet of seven similar replicas left Kauai Monday, and is expected to arrive here around August 8.

Each of the double-hulled, two masted sisterships was constructed in a different Polynesian nation and then have only recently come together as a group to complete an ambitious goodwill voyage dubbed Te Mana o Te Moana, meaning The Spirit of the Sea. 

These voyages will celebrate the ancient wisdom of Polynesian navigators who followed their routes using information supplied by stars, ocean swell patterns, ocean-borne vegetation and sealife. In addition, participants hope to heighten public awareness of the current challenges facing the world’s oceans due to pollution, acidification, and warming. 

(The above video is of the Cook Islands’ vessel, one of seven sisterships.)

Although the complete activites schedule of these visiting craft has not yet been published, we understand they will be based at Treasure Island during their one-week stay. We had the pleasure of visiting the Tongan vaka first hand last year, and we can confirm that these finely constructed vessels are both beautiful and well-suited to the rigors of offshore sailing. We encourage you to check them out during their stay. You’ll likely come away with some new insights about the time-honored wisdom of the ancient navigators, plus a renewed concern for the state of our oceans.

Although their timetable is changeable, the tentative schedule has them leaving San Francisco for Monterey on August 14; leaving Monterey for Los Angeles August 19; and leaving L.A. for San Diego August 29. See additional details on upcoming events and the sponsoring Pacific Voyagers organization here.

Pacific Vision Lost in Australia

As long-distance sailors like to point out to nervous landlubbers, it’s not the ocean that’s so dangerous, it’s the hard stuff around the edges. That axiom was proven true on July 3 by an unidentified couple sailing their sailboat, Pacific Vision, from San Diego to Bundaberg, Australia. The pair had made a successful passage but reportedly ran into trouble in the early morning hours when their mainsail tore. Finding themselves being pushed toward Llewellyn Reef about 90 miles off Gladstone on the east coast of the Oz, the 45-year-old Australian man and 30-year-old Canadian woman did what they could to avoid grounding on the reef but failed. They took to a liferaft when the boat started breaking up. Alerted by the boat’s EPIRB, a RACQ Capricorn helo arrived on scene around 7:20 a.m. The couple, who had drifted about a mile from their grounded boat, shot off flares and, in short order, were hoisted aboard the helo in good health. At last word, Pacific Vision was still on the reef.

TransPac-ers Get a Case of the Slows

With much of the fleet at, or past the halfway mark, the 46th TransPac is turning out to be a pretty compelling yacht race. After their remarkably fast leap off the coast, the big boats have consistently seen their breeze drop and become more variable as they compress against Monday’s starters. Nowhere is this better seen than on the race’s tracker, which shows the virtual boats’ long, smooth arcs of the first half of the race yielding to a jumbled mess resembling frenetic spermatazoa. That’s caused some reshuffling in the standings, as the more northerly early leaders have precipitously dropped in the skeds, and the overall corrected-time picture is no longer dominated exclusively by the sleds.

Click on this photo to go to the race’s tracker.

© TransPac

The biggest change has been in Division 2, where Laura Schlessinger’s Kernan 47 Katana has gone from leading the division as of Monday morning’s roll call, to third yesterday and now fifth today. Jorge Ripstein’s Acapulco-based R/P TP 52 Patches, navigated by John Rumsey with the Bay’s Skip McCormack aboard, has held the division lead over Chip Megeath’s Tiburon-based R/P 45 Criminal Mischief since yesterday’s roll call, but overnight the Criminals halved Patches’ lead. Criminal Mischief Watch Captain Campbell Rivers check in with an update on Monday evening that turned out to be prophetic.

"Just cruising here at about 10 to 12 knots of boatspeed in about not much more breeze," Rivers wrote. "Feels like a slow race so far but I think we got super spoiled in last year’s Pac Cup! It seems like the longer boats are doing really well against us in these moderate (waterline) conditions. But we still feel like there will be some point in the race where it will be more extreme conditions one way or the other. At this point there’s still a long way to go and our mood is good. Our little man (Mike) Polish (Radziejowski — sailing his first TransPac) got sick first day but has been doing great and didn’t miss a single sail change. We spent the first night jib reaching with J2 and one reef before progressing to the jib top and genoa staysail, then a full main and then the MHG (masthead genoa), then to the A7 (spinnaker) all in about a 12-hour span. We’ve had running kites up since early Sunday morning. We had a slight issue with the rudder bearings but now that we are running it is way less of a concern. All in all its all good. We’re not trippin’ on the Katana; we feel it’s gonna get lighter up there and the big part of righty will come much later."

Navigator Jeff Thorpe had put the Criminals in a good position and they’ve continued to consolidate their gains. The Bay Area’s Will Paxton is sailing aboard James McDowell’s SC 70 Grand Illusion, which leads overall for yet another day, having added a few hours’ cushion to their lead. Division 1 still belongs to Hap Fauth’s R/P 74 Bella Mente, although by only about 1.5 hours over Lorenzo Berho’s Vallarta-based Kernan 68 Peligroso. We weren’t surprised to see Jack Taylor’s Horizon take the lead in the SC 50 fleet, and Simon Garland’s Hobie 33 Peregrine is still slaying it in Division 6. Tom Holthus’ J/145 Bad Pak is looking to reprise their ’09 division win and has moved up in the standings to the division lead as well as the 10th spot overall. With four divisions now making up the top ten, even the corrected-time honors are more up for grabs now. Bella Mente is projected to finish at 4:30 a.m. local time on Friday morning, but with a lateral split of over 90 miles against Doug Baker’s Andrews 80 Magnitude 80 to the south, the race for elapsed-time honors has opened way up.

Hap Fauth’s R/P 74 Bella Mente is tearing up the racetrack en route to what looks like a new Barn Door record.