The Vendée Globe, the nonstop solo race around the world, got off to a rough start this weekend. Thousands of spectators crowded the shores of Les Sables d’Olonne, France, on Saturday as 19 IMOCA Open 60s crossed the line. (Bertrand de Broc started 14 hours later due to a last minute repair on Votre Nom Autour du Monde.) The competitive nature of the racers was evident at the start as five boats crossed early, requiring them to restart. Conditions were unusually mild for the Bay of Biscay with unsettled winds, though squalls kept everyone on their toes.
But weather wasn’t a factor in the first two retirements of the race. Sailing his Safran, race favorite Marc Guillemot was just six hours out of the gate when he heard two quick bangs before the boat heeled to an extreme degree. He turned tail and limped back into Les Sables d’Olonne to find that his keel had snapped off, thus ending his second bid to win the race.
During the last edition of the race, Guillemot became the people’s hero after he stood by until a seriously injured Yann Eliès was rescued from his boat. He was also plagued with boat problems that left him in third place (after receiving redress for standing by Eliès). Issues with his mast track forced him to sail much of the course under a double reefed main, and he sailed the final 1,000 miles with no keel.
Guillemot said that he’d had complete confidence in his new boat’s keel as the boat had undergone extensive training with no hint of what was to come. "It is better [that it happened 50 miles from Les Sables d’Olonne] than being in 35 knots of wind in the south at the Kerguelens," he said at a grim press conference.
Then yesterday, off the coast of Portugal, Kito de Pavant was forced to retire when his Groupe Bel was badly damaged during a collision with a fishing trawler. Traffic in the area was thick, but solo sailors have to sleep sometime. He’d just gone below to catch a quick nap and was awakened with a bang. The hull and deck were smashed and he lost his bowsprit.
Although de Pavant was bitterly disappointed at having to retire for the second running of the race in a row — he lost his mast during the first 24 hours of the ’08-09 race — he blamed no one but himself. "I am not angry at the fisherman, but at me because it should not have happened," he told race officials. "It is cruel, but that’s life." Groupe Bel arrived safely in Cascais, Portugal, this morning.
Currently François Gabart on Macif (FRA), Armel Le Cléac’h on Banque Populaire (FRA) and Bernad Stamm on Cheminées Poujoulat (SUI) are leading the fleet, but as has been so quickly and thoroughly demonstrated, the 24,048-mile Vendée Globe is often won through attrition. Keep up with the drama www.vendeeglobe.org/en.
Having completed Baja Ha-Ha XIX on Saturday evening, we’ve just arrived back at Baja Ha-Ha World Headquarters. As we layer up and try to adjust to the 35-degree temperature drop between Cabo San Lucas and the Bay Area, we’ll share a few final notes and photos from the last days of this year’s San Diego-to-Cabo cruisers’ rally.
For many in the Ha-Ha fleet, getting to the sun-baked latitudes of Mexico is a prime motivator for joining the rally. And those sun-seekers got just what they were after as they neared the tip of the southern cape: Weather that was so hot, hot, hot, that swimsuits and tank tops were the appropriate attire, even into the evening hours.
Having arrived at Cabo Thursday, several hundred Ha-Ha sailors took over the famous Squid Roe dance bar that night. Then Friday, the big activity was a five-hour beach party adjacent to the public anchorage. Saturday evening’s Awards Ceremony, generously hosted by IGY Marina Cabo San Lucas, capped off the two weeks of sailing, sun and fun, where many of this year’s participants vowed to return next year for the benchmark 20th Anniversary Ha-Ha, which promises to feature a few new special twists and activities. (Online sign-ups begin May 1.) Look for a complete recap of Baja Ha-Ha XIX in the December edition of Latitude 38.
Every boat ever built has had mysterious and strange modifications made to it by its many owners. One couple we know, who bought their boat from a gentleman named Bob, calls them ‘Bob Jobs’. This writer and her husband have a decidedly less polite term for them. Occasionally, they can be brilliant, but most of the time they’re annoying, and every once in a while just plain dangerous. It’s sometimes difficult to even figure out their original purpose. Ah, the joys of buying a used boat!
Today’s quiz is something that diver Tim Sell found on a boat for her new owners. What is it?
UPDATE: Our quiz was just too easy. We’ve received so many correct answers we’re cutting it short. We’ll have the correct answer on Wednesday. Thanks for playing!
November is a lovely time for a cruise in San Francisco Bay — in fact, check Wednesday’s ‘Lectronic for this writer’s report on this weekend’s mini-cruise to Oakland — but sailors in the Pacific Northwest usually hang up their sea boots in early October. Not Marlene Bellman and Alberto Napuli. This rugged couple get out sailing on their Catalina 42 Mk 1 Desert Sage as often as possible, taking their four-year-old daughter Anna along for the ride.
Late last week, Marlene and Alberto sent in a report as they were sailing south from their homebase in Seattle. "It was a little rough the day we left, with 15-20 knots from behind as we headed to South Puget Sound," reports Marlene. "But today [Friday] is sunny and calm.
"We were in Colvos Passage, between Vashon Island and the mainland, when Anna and I played ‘Riding the Dragon’. This is a game where we sit in the dinghy on the bow, which acts as the saddle. Anna uses the dinghy painter as the reins. The foresail is a wing. I just love a four-year-old’s perspective!"
This is a great reminder that anyone in milder climates can set off on a fun and memorable family adventure no matter the time of year. Keep an eye on the weather for a sizable break and be flexible. Those can often be the most precious times in your life.