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September 24, 2012

Happy Birthday Yucca!

Renowned as one of San Francisco Bay’s best helmsmen, Hank Easom loves nothing more than blasting across the Bay aboard Yucca.

© 2012 Leslie Richter

At the 75th birthday party of his long-adored 8-meter Yucca Saturday, Sausalito’s Hank Easom explained that he really wasn’t in the market for such a boat when she was offered to him by SoCal broker Chuck Ullman back in the ’60s. But apparently it was love at first sight.

She’s been his mistress ever since, and has been a familiar contestant in a wide variety of Bay races for decades — often taking home a pickle dish or two.

With his kids, Kent and Jan, Hank tests the rowboat for fit and comfort.

© 2012 Leslie Richter

At the grand soiree, several generations of past and present race crews were in attendance, in addition to shoreside admirers, and a who’s-who of waterfront characters.

A long list of fine sailors have had the pleasure of crewing aboard Yucca, including the late Rob Moore (second from right), a former Latitude racing editor.

© 2012 Leslie Richter

Look for more on Yucca‘s long stint as a NorCal racing icon in the upcoming edition of Latitude 38.

Circumnavigate in a Moore 24?

For most people, the idea of attempting a circumnavigation aboard a Moore 24 — a 2,000-lb, flush deck, ultralight surfing machine designed by George Olson and built in Santa Cruz — would be preposterous. But then Webb Chiles isn’t most people, and for him the idea doesn’t even seem unusual. After all, in his 71 years Chiles has sailed boats as small as his 18-ft Chidiock Tichborne around the world five times. Plus, there might be a certain symmetry, for if he completes a sixth circumnavigation, he will have gone around as many times as he’s been married — although one short of the number of books he has published.

Still active and in great shape, Webb Chiles is preparing his Moore 24 Gannet for his sixth solo circumnavigation.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

What do we think of his chances? We think they’re excellent. After all, if planned properly, almost all of the circumnavigation can be off the wind, conditions in which the Moores excel, as proven by the many times they’ve been raced to Hawaii. And for short periods of time, they can be effectively sailed upwind in rough conditions, as proven by the many times they’ve done — and won — shorthanded races around the Farallones. We’d just hate to be Webb’s butt, as the Moores are a little short of not just creature comforts, but places to comfortably rest one’s ass.

"Live passionately, even if it kills you, because something is going to kill you anyway," advises Webb. We think there’s a hole in the logic there big enough to sail an AC72 through — just because you’re going to die of something sometime doesn’t mean the sooner you die the better. But hey, it’s a philosophy that has worked for Webb. Besides, by his account, he’s an artist — "a sailor is an artist whose medium is the wind" — and we’re willing to cut true artists a lot of slack.

Chiles will be available to answer questions about his upcoming trip at a yacht club presentation this coming Friday night at 7 p.m. Unfortunately, the presentation is going to be at the Columbia YC, and that’s in Chicago.

The Rocketeer Saves Three Sailors

Billy Campbell at the helm of his new Lunenburg Schooner, Martha Seabury, which he named after his grandmother.

Martha Seabury
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Film and television actor Billy Campbell, perhaps best known for playing the title role in the ’91 film The Rocketeer, is officially a hero for helping to save the lives of three sailors earlier this month. On September 10, Campbell and his crew were on the maiden voyage of his new 50-ft David Westergard-designed wooden schooner Martha Seabury, which had been launched in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, in August. They were bound for the Newport Boat Show and were about four miles off Cuttyhunk Island in Massachusetts when, around 7:30 p.m., a crewmember spotted three men clinging to an overturned 15-ft sailing dinghy. Skipper Michael Moreland doused sail, started the engine and went to their aid. 

"The three victims were in their 20s," he said in a report. "Two were in PFDs but one was not. It was quickly apparent that all three were hypothermic and low on strength and energy." After the crew pulled the three men, who were apparently out for a daysail, from the water, they wrapped them in wool and sleeping bags. They were later transferred to a Coast Guard cutter and are reportedly no worse for wear.

The traditional 50-ft schooner is a beauty.

Martha Seabury
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

As for the schooner, she was conceived as a collaboration between Lunenburg master shipwrights. According to their site, the New Lunenburg Schooners — Martha and her ‘twin sister’ — were "built in the tried and true, time-tested way with stout wooden planks on heavy double-sawn frames, the same techniques that created the famous ‘Fast and Able’ North Atlantic fishing schooners Bluenose and Bluenose II of Lunenburg and the great schooners of Gloucester, but using only the very best materials and finest durable timbers sourced from around the world." 

For his part, Campbell says he’s thrilled with Martha‘s performance. "She’s a dream . . . better than I ever imagined or hoped for."

Open 5.70 North Americans

It’s probably safe to say that every sailor who sailed in last weekend’s Open 5.70 North American Championships has competed in dozens of regattas. But this one will most likely stand out in their memories for years to come: The 20-boat fleet was not only treated to two fly-bys of the retiring space shuttle on Friday, but it also shared the Central Bay with AC45s in practice mode during the weekend.

Adding to the thrill of competition, fleet members got to play chicken with several AC45s.

© Ellen Hoke

"What an amazing and humbling feeling to see these boats flying next to the Open 5.70s," wrote Northern California Fleet Captain Marc Finot. "There were some very close calls on some crossings, but it was clear that the AC45s were in full control of their speed when crossing our fleet on port tack."

The space shuttle flying overhead was a welcomed distraction.

© 2012 Marc Finot

At the end of three spirited days of racing, Tom Baffico’s The Maker took top honors, with the help of long-time crew Synthia Petroka and Nik Burke — just one point ahead of Southern California-based Mor Shenanigans, sailed by Tracey Kenney, Barret Sprout and Terence Gallangher. Finot’s Frolic placed third, with crew Stephen Woodward and Emma Yates. The three-day championship was generously hosted by Golden Gate YC, with assistance from St. Francis YC.

2012 Champion, Tom Baffico on The Maker (foreground) is neck and neck with Tracey Kenney on Mor Shenanigans.

© Ellen Hoke

Conditions were challenging and changeable, especially for visiting competitors unfamiliar with the Bay’s peculiarities, but a pre-regatta seminar on Cityfront currents by super-sailor Scott Easom helped level the playing field. "Slack for low tide started at around noon on the first day and shifted by one hour every day afterward," said Finot. "With building wind as the day progressed, big wind holes and big shifts, this created very different conditions for every race and made it a great tactical challenge for the teams." Click here fore complete results.

NorCal fleet captain Marc Finot’s Frolic blasts to windward, with crew Stephen Woodward and Emma Yates holding down the rail.

© Ellen Hoke
Seen here high and dry – well, almost – on Akutan Island, Cesura apparently suffered little damage when she was grounded.
If you’re a diesel engine expert, we’d like your opinion as to whether or not an "average do-it yourselfer who is handy with tools" is likely to be capable of rebuilding a diesel engine.