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May 14, 2012

AC45s Bring Modernity to Old Venice

Old meets new, as the AC45s take center stage in the ornate canals of Venice.

© Ellen Hoke

"First seeing the mouth of the Grand Canal adjacent to St. Mark’s Square cleared of boats was amazing," reports the Bay Area’s Ellen Hoke, who is in Venice this week to catch the AC45 World Series competition. "Fans were lined up along the edge of the square as far as I could see. Then in the distance you could first just see those wing extensions heading toward the canal. The boats came into view and what a sight to behold. To see these AC45s sailing toward the finish line at St. Mark’s Square was simply incredible. Then to see the massive number of fans who rushed to the waters as soon as they finished was also awe-inspiring."

Vacationers looking for a gondola ride might have been disappointed that the canals were cleared of normal traffic, but hundreds of sailing fans were thrilled when the fleet paraded through Venice.

© 2012 Ellen Hoke

The actual AC45 races don’t begin until Thursday. In the meantime, the storied city by the sea is abuzz with excitement. Over the weekend AC teams downshifted substantially to compete in the Classic Yacht Regatta in a wide variety of traditionally rigged sailing craft. It all sure looks like fun to us — and makes us more excited than ever to view AC action here on the Bay in August and October.

The Classic Yacht Race was all just for fun. Even when Luna Rosa and Team USA got too close for comfort everyone went home smiling.

© Ellen Hoke

Teams competing this week are Artemis Racing, China Team, Energy Team, Emirates Team New Zealand, Luna Rossa (Piranha), Luna Rossa (Swordfish), Oracle Team USA (Spithill), Oracle Team USA (Bundock), and Team Korea. See the website for more. With any luck Ellen will bring us a firsthand report for Friday’s ‘Lectronic, so stay tuned.

A Trip to the Farallones

As 32 boats were making their way around a challenging in-the-Bay course that took the place of the Singlehanded Sailing Society’s canceled Singlehanded Farallones Race (you’ll find the report on the Stand Down Race in Wednesday’s ‘Lectronic), a handful of sailors made the trek out to the Farallon Islands, possibly in protest of the temporary suspension of ocean races, to honor those who had perished in them, or to just enjoy a day of mild ocean sailing. Two such couples were Gary and Nancy Ryan and Wayne and Karen Edney who sailed aboard the Ryans’ Sausalito-based Hanse 341 ‘iliohale.

The conditions at the Farallon Islands were benign when Karen Edney and friends sailed by on Saturday.

© Wayne Edney

"We left around 8 a.m. on Saturday and, despite the gray skies, the conditions were amazing," writes Gary. "There was a very mild sea state and 6-10 knots of wind out of the southwest. We were able to lay the northern side of the island on a single close reach port tack — never done that before!

"We saw a couple of other boats heading to the Farallones. One was an Open 50 coming back with the spinnaker flying, and a J/130 that tied up to a mooring ball where they were met by the Farallones tender. Another boat was behind us but we never saw her name.

"Nancy and Karen insisted that we keep 90 feet below our keel despite the mild sea state. As we passed the Low Speed Chase crash site, we had a moment of silence to honor the sailors who lost their lives and to send good thoughts to the survivors. We dropped a rose in the water to pay our respects.

Gary Ryan threw a rose into the water as the crew of ‘iliohale passed the site of last month’s tragedy.

© Karen Edney

"We mostly flew our A-sail on the way back, and enjoyed the mild conditions. Winds dropped to three knots near the Lightship and stayed there until we got close to the Bridge, where it picked up to 25-plus out of the west. It’s too bad the singlehanded folks weren’t allowed to do their race — considering the winds we saw when we got back to the Bay, going around the Farallones may have been the safer course."

Baja Ha-Ha Fleet is Growing

The 2012 Baja Ha-Ha fleet is getting bigger by the day. Wanna join the party?

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Every time May 1 rolls around — the date when registration opens for the annual Baja Ha-Ha rally — we’re reminded of the legendary Oklahoma Land Run that began at noon on April 22, 1889. While the two events may appear to have very little in common, we have to believe the level of pre-noon anticipation among participants was similar.

Having observed that entries for our 750-mile, San Diego-to-Cabo San Lucas rally start pouring in within minutes of the noon start of registration on May 1, we always picture dozens of sailors nervously sitting at their computer keyboards ready to pounce the second their clocks strike 12. 

This year John Lightfoot and Sherry Franklin of San Diego pounced quickest, earning them the coveted distinction of being 2012 Baja Ha-Ha signup #1. Although they’ve been sailing for 20 years, Exodus is their first boat, bought a year and a half ago with the idea of early retirement and long-term cruising.

Can’t you just see yourself sailing off into the sunset this October?

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Among the 44 boats registered thus far, Patric Walton’s San Francisco-based Morgan 28 Valkyrie is the smallest (27 feet is the event’s minimum), while Rigo and Deborah Fuzetto’s San Francisco-based Heavy Metal is the largest at 60 feet.

The Ha-Ha website has been fully updated for this year’s event, so check it out to see the full schedule of events, and the ever-enlarging roster of entries. You’ll find an FAQ under "About the Ha-Ha" and if you’re new to Mexico cruising, be sure to download our free First Timer’s Guide to Mexico, which will bring you up to date on everything from immigration requirements to cruiser’s radio nets.

Boatloads of boaters worked on their tans during Opening Day. With any luck, tomorrow will bring similar conditions.
Anyone who says sailing is a young man’s — or young woman’s — game hasn’t met Cornelia Spanier, who turns 97 on July 26.
While some of us were enjoying a slow race to Vallejo last weekend, the 70-ft Volvo Ocean Race boats were mimicking the same conditions only on a much larger scale.