July 9, 2012

Truth Smashes Solo TransPac Record

Truth at the start of the race just 8.5 days earlier.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

In an age when sailing records are ‘smashed’ by just a few hours — if not minutes — beating a 16-year-old transPacific record by nearly two and a half days is mind-blowing. But that’s exactly what Alex Mehran did early this morning at the finish of the Singlehanded TransPac. Mehran crossed the line aboard the Open 50 Truth shortly after 1 a.m., completing the 2,120-mile course in just 8d, 12h, 21m, 5s. He crushed the race’s elapsed time record set by Ray Thayer on his Open 60 Wild Thing in ’96 when he made it to Hanalei Bay in 10d, 22h, 53m. 

Whether increased boat speed or simple exhaustion played the lead role, Alex says his boat handling skills "really went to crap" over the last couple days. Of course, with a finish time like his, it’s hard for race fans to see that, but he cites a gnarly spinnaker wrap a couple days ago and yesterday’s spinny blowout as examples. We’re betting many sailors would give their eye teeth to sail as ‘badly’ as Alex Mehran!

Alex was greeted by his wife Maggie and 8-month-old son Zander. “Hey, I’m down here, lady,” thought Zander as this photographer snapped the photo.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Meanwhile, the rest of the fleet has continued to hold together amazingly well, with frequent sightings of each other — practically unheard of on such a long stretch of water. The boat currently leading the pack, Brian VanderZanden’s Hobie 33 TurboCamper, is just 450 miles ahead of the last boat, Derk Wolmuth’s Vindo 40 Bela Bartok. But at this point, corrected time is what every racer is worried about and VanderZanden has good reason to worry. "Green Buffalo’s about 30 miles to my northeast nearly matching my speed," he said in an update yesterday. "This is bad because I need to finish around 17 hours in front of him. I’ll be working the boat hard, but I suspect that gaining back a 17-hour buffer on him may be out of reach."

Hurricane Emilia will undoubtedly cause discomfort to the slower boats, but it’s unlikely she’ll be a danger to them.

© 2012 NOAA

Off Mexico, Hurricane Daniel is winding down while Emilia is strengthening. Race Chair Rob Tryon says the racers should see the effects of Daniel over the next couple of days. "They’ll most likely see increased seas and winds, but not to an extreme level," he noted. Emilia, which is now a Category 2 hurricane, could make life uncomfortable for the slower boats by the weekend, but again should not pose a direct threat to the fleet.

Groupama Wins Volvo Ocean Race

Groupama’s French skipper Franck Cammas lifts the Volvo Ocean Race trophy, claiming first place overall, at the final public prize-giving in Galway, Ireland.

© 2012 Ian Roman / Volvo Ocean Race

After placing second in the final leg of the Volvo Ocean Race (from Lorient, France, to Galway, Ireland) Franck Cammas and his French team aboard Groupama, secured top honors in the overall event, which began last October.

If you’re thinking, of course a French boat would win this around-the-world race, think again. It wasn’t that easy; this edition was about big teams and big competition the whole way. "I think the secret was that we were outsiders at the beginning and we were forced to learn all the time," said Cammas. "We had to learn to race against the best crews in the world, and eventually it got easier. We made mistakes at the start, but all the time we tried to get better, right until the finish in Galway."

Groupama was smart in loading the crew with veteran solo Vendée Globe sailors, and tested past Volvo racers. Although most of the crew were French, some, like Australian trimmer Phil Harmer, Irish helmsman Damien Foxall and Swedish boat captain Martin Krite, were Volvo veterans.

The little-known series-within-a-series consisted of in-port races at all the stops. Kenny Read, aboard Puma, the only American entry, won the in-port series and, although you might say that’s like winning best personality at a beauty pageant, Kenny and the boys were happy for the first place. "Winning anything is fun, whether it’s an In-Port Race or a game of checkers," Read said. "And, it’s fun to compete against the best sailors in the world. We’re really pleased, and I’m happy for the whole program – it’s a great way to finish."

The next installment of the race is scheduled for 2014 in already-controversial one design 65-footers from Farr Yacht Design. The hope is to attract more participants by offering cheaper boats. One thing that’s for sure is if the ’14 event draws the same high-quality teams as this go-around, the kind of boat they sail on won’t matter much, and the multi-part contest will still be a thrill for sailors all over the world to follow.

Renderings of the new Volvo Ocean Race boat design that will be used in the next two editions. The new Farr design was unveiled on June 28 by Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad at a presentation in Lorient.

© 2012 Farr Yacht Design

Final Overall Results
1. Groupama 4 (FRA), Franck Cammas (FRA), 253 points
2. Camper (NZL), Chris Nicholson (AUS), 231 points
3. Puma Ocean Racing (USA), Ken Read (USA), 226 points
4. Telefónica (ESP), Iker Martinez (ESP), 213 points
5. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (UAE), Ian Walker (GBR), 131 points
6. Team Sanya (CHN), Mike Sanderson (NZL), 51 points

Final In-Port Series Results
1. Puma (USA), Ken Read (USA), 45 points
2. Camper (NZL), Chris Nicholson (AUS), 44 points
3. Groupama 4 (FRA), Franck Cammas (FRA), 41 points
4. Abu Dhabi (UAE), Ian Walker (GBR), 37 points
5. Telefónica (ESP), Iker Martinez (ESP), 27 points
6. Team Sanya (CHN), Mike Sanderson (NZL), 16 points

See www.volvooceanrace.com.

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Attacks on Cruisers In the Western Caribbean

A newly arrived American couple were brutally attacked aboard their boat in the south anchorage near Isla Colon in Panama’s Bocas del Toro region early on Sunday morning, reports Don Winner in his Panama Guide. The couple wasn’t identified, nor was their boat or hailing port.

The Bocas del Toro region of Panama’s east coast has been popular with sailors, surfers and international backpackers. There were reportedly 20 or so other boats in the anchorage at the time of the attack.

One look at this map and you can tell why the Bocas region is a cruiser haven.

© Wikipedia.com

According to Winner, two skinny black men boarded the boat from their cayuco at about midnight, held the couple at gunpoint, and took everything of value — meaning cash, cameras, electronics, a computer, jewelry and so forth. The attack is reported to have lasted two hours, during which time the couple were "assaulted and brutalized." The victims were finally able to put out a call for help at 3:30 am. The woman was taken to a local hospital.

According to Winner, two men had attempted to board another sailboat a few hours earlier, but were repelled. It’s unclear if the two incidents were related, but you can draw your own conclusions.

Based on the fact that the men spoke with a Jamaican accent, Winner thinks they may be part of the Afro-Antillean community of the Bocas area. These are descendants of workers brought to Panama from the West Indies to build the Canal nearly 100 years ago.

A Bocas del Toro resident responding to the report claims that violent criminal activity in the Bocas area has increased dramatically lately, and if the police aren’t sometimes complicit, they at least aren’t being very effective in stopping it. We don’t have a good sense of the safety situation in the Bocas del Toro, so we’re interested in hearing other first-hand opinions. What we do know is that the Republic of Panama has rolled out the welcome mat to American retirees, and that many have accepted that welcome. Panama is a very interesting place with many natural and other attractions, and has a low cost of living.

In a related topic, Gary (last name and type of boat and hailing port unknown) reported to Noonsite.com that he and his fiancée’s 60-ft monohull was boarded at 1 a.m. on July 2 while anchored at Port Royal, Roatan, Honduras. Two young men, armed with a 12 gauge shotgun and a pistol, came through the main hatch and declared that they were police, a common ruse. After a brief struggle, Gary was pistol whipped, at which time a man in his 30s came on the boat. Gary was held down while his fiancée was brought into the room to open the safe. After ransacking the boat, the couple were gagged and bound. Their buddy boat, 200 feet away, didn’t hear anything.

The police were called and said they were on their way. They never showed. After reporting the incident at the police station the next day, Gary said that he got the impression they didn’t care and weren’t going to do anything.

If we’re not mistaken, this is the second such robbery in the Roatan area in the last few months. Previously, a group on a charter boat were attacked and robbed.

These two incidents got us to thinking, when was the last time armed men boarded an occupied cruising boat in Mexico? We can remember an incident in about ’03 in Bufadero. Does anyone remember anything more recent? If so, write us.

“Don’t give up the ship!” That famous quote from the War of 1812 is the credo Holger and Tracy have lived during more then five years of ‘captivity’.