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February 18, 2013

Maserati Betters Record by 10 Days

After a week of slow progress toward the finish, Maserati’s international crew was thrilled to finally enter San Francisco Bay.

© 2013 Bjoern Kils

After sailing more than 14,000 miles in 47 days, the nine-man crew of the VOR 70 Maserati were elated to pass beneath the Golden Gate bridge late Saturday morning, thus chopping 10 days off the previous monohull record, set by Frenchman Yves Parlier in 1999 aboard Aquitaine Innovations

Having set out from New York in heavy weather on New Year’s Eve day, Maserati (a modified ex-Volvo Ocean Racer) covered the first 1,200 miles of her course — south to Cape Horn, then north to San Francisco — in only three days, clocking speeds up to 34 knots. She rounded the notorious Cape on day 21, and had the team’s luck held out weatherwise, they might have also bettered the multihull record, set in 2008 by Lionel Lemonchois aboard 110-ft catamaran Gitana 13 (43d, 3m). But for Maserati, wind conditions in both the South and North Pacific were less than ideal, and during her final week at sea, Italian skipper Giovanni Soldini and his crew suffered frustratingly light and flukey winds.

Apparently fresh food was on the minds of the crew during their slow approach to the Golden Gate. On the radio someone requested that snacks be brought to them as soon as they passed beneath the Gate.

© Bjoern Kils

Nevertheless, they were all smiles when they entered the Bay, undoubtedly eager for a few cold beers, a long, hot shower, and a blissful night of sleep in a real bed rather than a pipe berth. As the team’s cook, Michele Sighel, explained they still had plenty of food aboard upon arrival, but all the comfort foods — snacks, chocolate, coffee and sugar — had run out several days before. Sighel also served as the ship’s photographer, uploading both video and still images almost daily, which helped to keep offshore racing aficionados around the world engaged and enthused.

At the press conference later Soldini explained that he’s been fascinated by the NY-to-SF record since he read about Flying Cloud as a kid, and later followed the campaign of Thursday’s Child, which broke the great clipper’s 135-year-old record in 1989. In fact, Soldini admitted to falling in love with Flying Cloud‘s female navigator, Eleanor Creesy: "She chose a nearly perfect route, with no information, no satellites, no anything. She really was a fantastic navigator. Much better than I. She was a beautiful girl!"

An impressive cup for a remarkable accomplishment. Soldini eyes the inscriptions of previous record-holders during a ceremony yesterday at the Italian Consulate.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

To be clear, the team actually broke two records: The World Sailing Speed Record Council’s record, from New York’s Ambrose Light — which, ironically, no longer exists as a fixed navigational light, having been run over by a freighter in 2008 — to the Golden Gate Bridge. That benchmark is now: 47d, 0h, 42m. The second record is for the more traditional anchorage-to-anchorage distance (in the tradition of Flying Cloud and her contemporaries) from a starting line between the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan’s North Cove Marina and a finish line between Alcatraz and Pier 39. That effort is called the Clipper Challenge Cup and is administered by the Manhattan Sailing Club. The new time: 47d, 2h, 33m. "The world needs visionary people who push the boundaries and break records," said MSC’s Commodore Michael Fortenbaugh before awarding the cup to Soldini and his crew. "Their accomplishments inspire all the rest of us."

What’s next for Soldini and Maserati? The boat will stay in the Bay for a few months, initially hauled out at Pt. Richmond’s KKMI, where she’ll be spruced up and measured for — wait for it — a possible run at the TransPac record this summer. Look for our recap report on Maserati‘s record-setting run in the March edition of Latitude 38.

Rec Boat vs. Commercial Vessel

This weekend’s collision between a ferry and a 22-ft powerboat in Raccoon Strait is a grim reminder for all mariners to keep a sharp lookout for commercial traffic. The accident occurred around 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoon when a 21-ft powerboat, traveling at high speed and carrying four people, ran into the ferry San Francisco near Tiburon. Two of the powerboat passengers were evacuated by helicopter to Marin General Hospital, where one — 68-year-old Harry Holzhauer from Tigard, Oregon — was pronounced dead a short time later. The other unidentified victim is still hospitalized with serious injuries. None of the 500 ferry passengers were injured, although the crew is on administrative leave pending the outcome of the Coast Guard investigation. 

Don’t think that unusual collisions are the sole domain of powerboaters. Just three weeks ago a sailboat apparently sailed between a tug and its tow just outside the Golden Gate Bridge, sinking the boat. Miraculously, her two crewmembers were unharmed in the incident.

It’s a miracle the two crewmembers aboard the ill-fated sailboat survived unscathed.

© Frank Gundry

Photographer Frank Gundry witnessed that collision on January 26. Gundry had driven up to the Marin Headlands that gorgeous Saturday afternoon — the same day as the Three Bridge Fiasco, though the sailboat in question was not part of the race — and was trying to find a place to park when the accident happened. He says he spent a few minutes finding a spot to pull off the road, then snapped these photos, which clearly show what appears to be a Ranger 26 being dragged by the bow of the barge. "The boat was sailing south, parallel to the Bridge, when it looked like it stalled and just drifted into the barge," he recalls. "The barge just ate it up."

The distance between a tug and its tow is great enough that a sailor who doesn’t double check behind his sails might not realize he’s about to get creamed.

© 2013 Frank Gundry

It is, unfortunately, all too common for boaters not to notice the sunken tow cable between a tug and a barge. Once they see the tug has passed safely, they continue on their merry way, not realizing they’re sailing directly into the path of what is essentially a runaway train. Even if the tug sees what’s happening, there is no way for her operators to stop the barge in time to prevent a collision.

We’d like to encourage our readers — stinkpotters and ragbaggers alike — to always be vigilant on the water. Keep a sharp lookout for other vessels and the odd piece of flotsam, never operate a boat when you’ve been drinking, and always, always, always check behind a tug to be sure it’s not actively towing a runaway train.

Spring Crew List Party

Sailing’s more fun with friends!
Come to Latitude 38’s Spring Crew List Party
Wednesday, March 6, 6-9 pm
Golden Gate Yacht Club in San Francisco.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Free Munchies  •  No-Host Bar  •  Door Prizes
Demonstrations • Slide Show • Guest Experts
No reservations • Come as you are!
$5 for under 25 with ID! $7 for everyone else
Go here to learn about Latitude 38’s free online Crew List.
Info here:
Directions here:

Preceded at 3:30 p.m. by Sal’s Inflatable Services
In-the-Water Liferaft Demo at GGYC Docks
Separate fee $39 • Info/RSVP: (510) 522-1824

A Sweet Cruise-Out to Martinez

Vallejo YC’s Sweetheart’s Cruise to Martinez had the biggest turn out in years: 20 boats!

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

As we reported on January 16, part of the Martinez Marina was dredged in December during a short window of opportunity between fish runs. "We were hoping to get more done but we ran out of time," reports Harbormaster Craig Paulsen. As it is, there was more than enough room for the 20 or so boats that turned out for Vallejo YC’s annual Sweetheart’s Cruise this weekend.

As seems to our habit, this writer and her husband left later than the rest of the fleet on Friday afternoon, coming into Martinez just before dark. Last year when we did this, we ran aground right at the entrance, then grounded ourselves beautifully trying to inch into what turned out to be a silted-in slip on A dock (which has since been dredged). This year we were at the entrance just at slack current and saw nothing less than six feet under our keel all the way to the guest dock. 

The inside corner of the guest dock is still a bit shallow, so either come in at high tide, or make sure you have a retractable keel.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

That said, fair warning should be given that the inside spot along the guest dock was not dredged, as one VYCer found out unexpectedly. "The dredging company used a suction dredge and he couldn’t get around the corner there," explained Paulsen. So if you expect to be the first boat to arrive in your yacht club’s next cruise-out to Martinez, plan your arrival and departure at high tide.

If your club has yet to book a trip there, push your cruise director to schedule it. Not only are the marina staff beyond wonderful, but the wetlands surrounding it are excellent walking/birding grounds, and the downtown area is absolutely adorable (bring your credit cards, ladies!). And don’t neglect coordinating with the Martinez YC, as they put on one helluva party!

Sailing home on Sunday is one of the best parts of the cruise. Mellow winter winds and a strong ebb make for a fast trip back.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC
This file shot approximate the conditions we imagine Maserati is currently experiencing on her route to the Golden Gate — annoyingly slow.
It’s a ditchbag! It’s a liferaft! It’s a scale model of the Pacific Garbage Patch!