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May 22, 2013

Animal Crew Rescue Bridge Jumper

Just minutes after taking this photo, Hilary Walecka saw something fall from the Bridge, and a boring delivery trip turned exciting pretty fast. “It was totally lucky we were right there,” she says.

© 2013 Hilary Walecka

Bumper sticker philosophers often quip, "If you believe in coincidence, you’re not paying attention." Well, nothing will get your attention faster than being in exactly the right place at exactly the right time to save someone’s life.

Scott Walecka, his daughter Hilary and friend John Mizzell found themselves in that position Monday afternoon when they pulled a jumper out of San Francisco Bay. The trio had left Santa Cruz at 2 a.m. to deliver Scott’s Sydney 38 Animal to the Bay for the start of Friday’s Spinnaker Cup. "It was a totally mellow trip," recalled Hilary, who will be crewing for her dad in the race. "We started out in 10 knots, but the wind dropped off so we motored the whole way."

Dad Scott Walecka and crewmember John Mizzell quickly pulled the badly injured jumper from the frigid waters.

© 2013 Hilary Walecka

Hilary reports that the trip was taking longer than they’d expected, so they were anxious to get tied up at St. Francis YC. Around 2 p.m., Animal was about a half-mile from the Golden Gate Bridge when Hilary — who has very sharp, 23-year-old eyes — spotted something drop from the Bridge near the South Tower and make a big splash. "At first I thought it was a pelican but the splash was too big," she said. "I sat there wondering if I should say something, but then asked if anyone else had seen it."

They hadn’t, but a Coast Guard pan pan and a hovering helo confirmed Hilary’s suspicions. Scott immediately headed toward the flare that had been thrown in by bridge police behind the jumper, and the crew quickly spotted him. They threw the boat’s LifeSling to him and he actively pulled himself in toward the boat.

Animal’s GPS track shows where the crew turned around to find the jumper. It took a matter of minutes to locate him and drag him aboard before hightailing it to Station Golden Gate in Horseshoe Cove.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Despite obviously broken legs, the crew were able to drag the man aboard. "He was in and out of consciousness, but he was able to say his name was Brian, that he was from Alabama and that he’d jumped with his dog," Hilary said. "We never saw the dog."

After the crew pulled him aboard, Animal beat feet for Station Golden Gate in Horseshoe Cove. Along the way, a Coast Guardsman came aboard Animal to help with the transfer of the man. "He warned me that it was quite possible he had internal injuries," Hilary noted. There have been no updates on the man’s condition.

Animal will be sailing back to Monterey Bay in Friday’s Spinnaker Cup.

latitude/Rob G.
©2013 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Though the Bridge’s cheerleaders understandably don’t want to publicize it, the iconic structure is one of the world’s most popular suicide destinations, and about one person a month decides to take his/her life by jumping from it. It’s such an issue that it’s not only the bridge police who monitor ‘suspicious’ pedestrians. Latitude‘s Publisher and this writer have both been cautiously approached by individuals worried about our mental health when we were simply waiting for boats to sail under the ‘Latitude helicopter’. This is a heartwarming testament to the caring nature of the human species.


Big, huge kudos to the Animal crew for their heroic actions. Whether their being in the exact right place after a tiring 12-hour motor was coincidence or providence, we think it deserves serious attention. So if you bump into them at the yacht club bar after (or even before!) this weekend’s race, give them a slap on the back and buy ’em a beverage of their choice as thanks!

Caption Contest Winner

In Monday’s ‘Lectronic Latitude, we ran a caption contest for the photo below. We got tons of funny suggestions, with many referring to Indiana Jones — references which were sadly lost on the Publisher as he’s never seen those movies (what?!). In the end though, one caption stood out from the rest as absolutely hilarious. Congratulations to Beau Vrolyk of the Santa Cruz-based Spirit 46 S’agapo for his winning entry, for which he won a black Latitude 38 hat: "Hipsters don’t float."

“Hipsters don’t float.”

©2013 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

In second place was Chris Owen’s "Six foot guy in seven feet of water," followed closely by Jim Hill’s "He was a nice fellow and will be sorely missed." For their efforts they will receive our eternal respect.

Thanks to everyone who played!

Racing Wrap-Up in Pictures

Fifteen Vanguard 15s start a race in Clipper Cove on Thursday night.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

We got a jump on the weekend with a visit to the Thursday night races for Vanguard 15s and Lasers at Treasure Island Sailing Center. See the June issue of Latitude 38 for our story and more photos.

How many (wet) friends can you fit on a J/24?

© 2013 Sharon Hind-Smith

"Berkeley YC welcomes all Bay Area boats to our Friday night series and BBQ," says fleet captain Patrick Hind-Smith. "Call ahead and most likely we can fit you on our guest dock overnight."

Sy Kleinman’s Schumacher 54 Swiftsure II returns from Point Bonita on Friday.

© Chris Ray

The weekend started on Friday for St. Francis YC. "On a clear, sunny day, the breeze filled in early, and we got some strong ebb and pretty gnarly tide lines, for the ocean race portion of the Aldo Alessio Regatta." said photographer Chris Ray. "After starting off of Treasure Island, the IRC fleet headed out to Point Bonita, and then did a Bay tour."

A spinnaker hoist in the 18-boat J/105 fleet on Saturday.

© Chris Ray

J/105s and J/120s joined the Aldo Alessio buoy racing action on Saturday and Sunday.

Steve Waterloo’s Cal 40 Shaman chases Dan Benjamin’s Wyliecat 30 Whirlwind to the Golden Gate Bridge in Saturday’s Singlehanded Farallones.


Humdinger, Lawrence Olsen’s yellow Walter Greene 35 trimaran, finished Saturday’s reachy Singlehanded Farallones just after 5:00 p.m., thus winning the Multihull Division. Monohulls are now separate from multihulls for overall honors in SSS races. Dan Benjamin’s Wyliecat 30 Whirlwind, which had an eight-hour day, took the top monohull spot. We’ll have more in the June issue; see in the meantime.

Richard and Mark Pearce sailed their IOD Fjaer in the Elite Keel Regatta over the weekend.

©2013 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The IOD and Knarr classes were absent from WBRA on the Knox course races run by the Corinthian YC on Saturday. They competed instead in San Francisco YC’s two-day Elite Keel with seven other one design divisions on the Berkeley Circle.

Moontide Mondays

It’s another Moontide Monday potluck, this time with Gary the Weather Guru (far right) in attendance as an honored guest.

© 2013 Judy Lang

"No matter where we are, we — Bill Lilly and I — host a ‘Moontide Monday’ potluck aboard our Newport Beach-based Lagoon 470 Moontide," reports Judy Lang.

"This Monday we had 16 people for the potluck at Playa el Burro in the Sea of Cortez. The featured guests were Gary the weatherman and his girlfriend Sonya. Gary has lived in Playa el Burro for 17 years. He gets up at 4 a.m. each morning to start working on the weather forecast that he broadcasts each morning on the Sonrisa Net at 7:45 am. Since Bill and I — after all these years — finally got an SSB and can now hear the broadcasts, it was fun for us to be able to put a face to the voice.

"Boats represented at this potluck include Talion, Coral Rose, Hotel California, Miss Teak II, Milagro, and Poco Los Dos.

"We are having a ball in the Sea!

"But we’re going to have to head north to California sooner or later because we are #1 on the list for Baja Ha-Ha 20."

This is a photo in desperate need of a caption. The best one (chosen by Latitude 38 editors) will win a Latitude hat in honor of the photo!
In a press conference in Alameda Friday, Patrizio Bertelli, president of the Luna Rossa Challenge America’s Cup syndicate, made it abundantly clear that he has serious concerns about the safety of AC72 racing in this summer’s America’s Cup and Louis Vuitton challenger series.