Despite the best efforts of the Transpacific Yacht Club, only two boats ended up entering this year’s 3,700-mile Tahiti Race: Karl Kwok’s Farr 80 Beau Geste and Steve Rander’s Wylie 70 Rage. While the turnout may have been disappointing to some, Rander put the fleet’s size in perspective before the April 20 start off San Pedro’s Point Fermin: “It’s still a race. We’re racing every boat that ever sailed to Tahiti.”
This ambitious contest was first staged in 1925 (starting from San Francisco), and it’s entry rosters hold the names of many legendary ocean racers. Although the race went into hibernation for many years, it was resurrected in 2008 with a fleet of four boats. Doug Baker’s Magnitude 80 won line honors that year with a record time of 11 days and 10 hours. A look at the YellowBrick race tracker shows that Beau Geste is currently only 88 miles from the finish off Tahiti’s Point Venus. (The tracks of both Magnitude and Ragtime, from the ’08 race, are shown along with this year’s competitors, however, the 2008 boat positions are only updated once a day, while the 2012 positions are updated hourly.)
When ‘Big Mike’ Howard got a last-minute invite from Beau Geste‘s sailing master Gavin Brady to join the crew, he jumped at the chance. And judging by this recent post, he hasn’t regretted it. "I must admit this sprint to Tahiti is like no other sailing. 1,900 miles down wind on port jibe in 20-25 knots of trade winds with the bow pointing toward the Southern Cross standing out brilliantly in the Southern Sky. The temperature outside is a pleasant but warm shirt-sleeve condition. With the exception of the occasional flying fish hitting you at night in the side of the head, nothing could compare."
In addition to the fact that this race is 40% longer than the Transpac or Pacific Cup (both end in Hawaii), it has a ‘wildcard’ factor that all tacticians must deal with: Where to cross the constantly changing ITCZ (Intertropical Convergence Zone). It’s interesting to note that the leader, Beau Geste, sailed much farther west than Rage before diving south, which may or may not have paid off this year. If our memory serves us, a similar move did not work out so well in ’08, as that fleet’s two trailing boats found stronger winds. Although Rage is trailing, race organizer Dave Cort points out, "If she finishes under 68 hours, 9 minutes behind Beau Geste, she will capture the Transpac Fritz Overton trophy. That’s what Ragtime did last time to Magnitude 80." (Corrected VS elapsed time.)
Two years ago, Cheryl Williams, who works with Inter-Ed to place foreign students in California homes, contacted us to see if we could help find a host family for a 16-year-old German student who was passionate about sailing. That initial call led to three additional foreign students/sailing nuts being placed in sail-friendly homes. "The host families changed the lives of these students," says Cheryl, who is once again looking for a family who enjoys sailing to host a student for a five-month program starting in August.
Unfortunately, recent rule changes by the State Department prohibit the sharing of pretty much any information about the current student. We can tell you that this student is from Germany, and s/he shares "similar interests" to the other students we’ve featured. Cheryl says that once a potential host has sent in their application, the student’s full profile will be made available to them. If everyone’s agreeable, the family will go through a pretty common-sense screening process — criminal background check, Megan’s Law check, reference check and an in-home interview. Cheryl says that potential hosts could also talk with past host families to find out what it’s like to be a host family.
"And it doesn’t have to be a family with kids," Cheryl says. "Retirees and couples are welcome to apply as well. They could also apply to be a ‘welcome family’ as opposed to a ‘host family’." As Cheryl describes it, a ‘welcome family’ would greet the student at the airport and get them started in school. If, after a few weeks, everything is going well (as it usually does), the student can stay. If it’s not working out, Cheryl will find an alternate host family. "Don’t worry, they wouldn’t be sent back," laughs Cheryl. "Worst case scenario, they’d come stay with me in Fresno."
Nothing against Fresno, and most definitely nothing against the generous and caring Cheryl, but for a kid who loves to sail, that really could be the worst case (unless they really like fresh produce or raisins)! If you’re interested in helping this student have a memorable time here, email Cheryl or call her at (559) 940-4713.
"I’m headed to Mexico this year," writes a Southbound cruiser who wants to remain anonymous because his employer doesn’t know he’s taking off, "and like all cruisers I’m very interested in the weather. As such, I’m wondering if other cruisers can tell where they are getting their weather forecasts now that Don Anderson has passed on. For the time being, at least, I only need to know about Mexico."
Anybody care to share their Mexico weather info sources?
Please, no more letters about lights on cruise ships, as we’ve been overwhelmed with responses. We’ll have the best of them in the June, not May, issue.