The 26-boat fleet in the 2012-13 World ARC set off from Rodney Bay, St. Lucia on Sunday on a 15-month circumnavigation. Not all of the entries will complete the 26,000-mile circuit, though, as a handful will be joining the fleet at their next stop in Panama’s San Blas Islands before transiting the Canal and heading for Oz — with stops at the Galapagos, Hiva Oa, Tahiti, Bora Bora, Niue, Vava’u, Fiji and Vanuatu along the way.
The flexibility of the event will allow even more boats to join in Darwin, Australia, while others say goodbye with half a circumnavigation under their keels. Wisely, the organizers have designed a course that will avoid pirate-infested portions of the Indian Ocean and should see the fleet arrive unaccosted in South Africa by Christmas. Then it’s off to Brazil for Carnival, returning to St. Lucia by April.
Having 25 years of experience organizing the extremely popular Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, as well as a handful of rally-style circumnavigations in the ’90s, the World Cruising Club successfully guided a similar number of boats in the ’10-11 running of the event. You can follow the fleet’s progress — or join at any point of the rally for somewhere around $20,000 — at www.worldcruising.com/worldarc2012/index.aspx.
Apart from occasional mentions of the America’s Cup superstars and around-the-world record-setters, sailors rarely garner the attention of mainstream media. But the Bay Area’s CBS-TV affiliate and several local radio stations made an exception last month when Captain Richard Gillette received a prestigious Jefferson Award for outstanding community service.
Until very recently, Gillette was the heart and soul of the Berkeley-based nonprofit Pegasus Project, which is focused primarily on educating youth from all social strata about our environment, the Bay and sailing — usually free of charge — aboard the 51-ft Alden ketch Pegasus. He has now formed his own nonprofit, Spirit of the Sea, to expand such efforts, and will be bringing the 64-ft steel sloop Ocean Watch — used in the Around Americas expedition — to the Bay in March as the program’s flagship. (Read more about this in the February edition of Latitude 38.)
The Jefferson Award concept was created in the ’60s by Jackie Kennedy and others with the mission statement: "To recognize, inspire and activate volunteerism and public service in communities, workplaces and schools across America." Regarded as the Nobel Prizes of the public service arena, Jefferson Awards are given on both the national and local level.
"I am very humbled by this award," Gillette wrote to his volunteer crew and supporters. "It really represents the work that we do together as a team/crew."
In Latitude‘s July 2011 tribute to unsung heroes of the Bay Area, volunteer Shana Bagley was quoted as saying, "There is something magical about Richard. He is like an old soul with a connection to the sea and the earth. The world is always brighter after spending time with him."
You can help Gillette jump-start his new nonprofit by helping him win a $10,000 grant from Ikea to take Nancy’s Kids with cancer sailing on the Bay aboard Ocean Watch. Cast your vote from a cell phone only: In the field where you would normally type the recipient’s name, put 62345. In the message field type: LIFE29 (with no spaces). You can vote once each day through January 20, 2012. Let’s do what we can to make January 23rd’s ‘Lectronic headline read "Spirit of the Sea Wins Grant!"
Sixteen-year-old Dutch sailor Laura Dekker is currently sailing from South Africa to St. Martin in the Netherland Antilles in the Caribbean on the last leg of a solo circumnavigation aboard her 38-ft Jeanneau Gin Fizz ketch Guppy. She’s expected to cross her outboard path on about January 24, at which time she’ll become the ‘youngest circumnavigator’, displacing Jessica Watson of Australia. Unlike Watson, Dekker has made many stops along the way, which is why it will have taken her almost 2.5 times as long for her "dream to come true."
One reader recently wrote in criticizing Latitude‘s lack of coverage of Dekker’s attempt. There’s a reason. While we admire Dekker’s resolve, courage and skill, and what Watson accomplished, we don’t believe in youth-based long-distance sailing records. That’s because we don’t think mid-teens know enough about themselves, the risks involved in attempting a circumnavigation, or the value of life to come to an informed decision about making such an attempt. Particularly when visions of fame and money can cloud their thinking. As such, we don’t go out of our way to encourage or glorify such youth records. For what it’s worth, the Guinness Book of Records and the World Speed Sailing Record Council no longer recognize aged-based sailing ‘records’.
A Dutch court only allowed Dekker to begin the voyage after she acquired a larger boat, fitted it with decent electronics, and enrolled in a special correspondence school. But that hasn’t stopped the hubbub back home, and her father was even threatened with arrest by child protective services after there was a report that Dekker wasn’t keeping up with her studies.
All we know is that the perception of the bar for singlehanding around the world will be lowered as soon as Dekker reaches St. Martin because it will be "so easy that even a 16-year-old girl can do it."