Despite only having a six-boat fleet, the Volvo Ocean Race isn’t lacking for excitement. The latest blips on the "whoa!" radar came last week and over the weekend. After their disasterous first leg, when the skipper and navigator tried the coastal route down the North Atlantic and ended up hundreds of miles behind the leaders, one would have thought that Franck Cammas’ Groupama 4 would play this one a little more conservatively. But, no. Some five days into Leg Two, Cammas and navigator Jean-Luc Nelias bailed south to try to get around a trough that had been plaguing the fleet for a couple of days. Instead of sailing the leg like a buoy race — at the time all six boats were practically within spitting distance — the French team elected to take their flier, which ultimately saw them get farther away from the waypoint than they were at the start! This bold stroke hasn’t proven to be the fool’s mission that Leg One’s turned out to be, nor has it proven to be a big gain. But that may change if the French team is able to capitalize on a better angle as they bash northward toward the mystery port where the entire fleet will be loaded onto a ship for an escorted transport through "pirate alley," and a restart before the finish in Abu Dhabi.
The other surprise came when Mike Sanderson’s Team Sanya backtracked in order to get a favorable angle from a tropical depression that formed off the southern tip of Madagascar. The move looked to be paying big dividends for the only boat that sailed the last edition and has so far proven to be off the pace. But it required sailing into breeze that reached the 50s at times — this in a boat that suffered Leg One-ending hull damage in similar conditions! But perhaps most surprising was that Sanya uses the same mast and standing rigging as Ian Walker’s Abu Dhabi Racing, and the latter lost hers in the same conditions on Leg One. So it wasn’t exactly surprising to find that Sanya suffered rig damage — a broken D2 intermediate shroud — during their foray to the north. Although the crew has saved the rig and is headed into Madagascar to effect a replacement, their leg is done.
Congratulations to Nicole Ryan for submitting the winning photo in the inaugural Latitude 38 Lighted Boat Parade Photo Contest! Her spectacular shot of this weekend’s San Rafael Canal parade really showed what such parades are about — lots of light, color, good times with friends, and holiday cheer. For her trouble, Nicole will receive a Latitude T-shirt in the color of her choice, just in time for Christmas!
But she wasn’t without stiff competition. Below are the runners-up in our little contest, all of whom were serious contenders. We hope you were able to attend a parade or two this season, and that they put you in the holiday spirit.
‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the yard
The boats were resting up on the hard.
The cranes were all quiet, the tools put away
Then a boat was spotted that looked like a big sleigh.
Could it be St. Nick, is it he who had caught their eye,
Pulling up to the marina at KKMI?
“Come on you guys,” shouted the jolly old man
“I need your help, I’ve got a really cool plan.
To make the sailor happy with marine gifts this year,
I’m getting stuff for the boat to bring them much cheer.
A bow thruster for Jimmy and stabilizers for Jack.
How about a new engine for Betty and Mac?
Topside paint for Harry and a new bottom for Lee.
The windlass for Sally will be something to see!
Self-furling systems and hardware galore.
My bag’s topped off with goodies from the marine store!”
Then we heard a whisper as he sailed out of sight
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.
How much/little do you need to spend to get a good 38-ft cruising boat?
In the case of Ben and Molly Doolittle of Sacramento, seen here with their sons Mickey and JP at the Red Chair street taco stand in La Cruz, it was just $25,000. That’s what they spent to purchase the S&S designed Catalina 38 Jace, which they sailed in the most recent Ha-Ha. And the boat was loaded.
"She came with decent-to-good sails, and a diesel and transmission with just 500 hours," says Ben. "In addition, she had great electronics, a refrigerator/freezer, an electric windlass, solar panels, a watermaker, a radar, nearly new canvas — and the interior was in beautiful shape with brand new cushions. All that for less than the price of most moderately priced cars. She was so complete that all we had to buy was an EPIRB and PFDs."
"What’s more," adds Molly, "the old owners really wanted us to buy her because she’d finally be going on the trip they’d prepared her for. We’ve been in touch ever since."
The Ha-Ha was Ben’s second, as he did the second one in ’95 with his dad aboard his Ericson 29 Pipe Dream. But he has more ambitious cruising plans for his family. After a couple of more months in Mexico, they’ll do the Cruisers’ Rally to El Salvador, then up to Key West and the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. A year from now they plan to be cruising the Eastern Caribbean on their fully loaded $25,000 boat.
If someone just wanted to cruise Mexico, Ben figures they could do it for less. Much less. "If somebody had a budget of $10,000, they’d have enough money to buy a very decent 30-ft boat and cruise Mexico for six months. And have a very decent boat left when they were done."