Everyone loves a winner. Especially one who overcomes adversity repeatedly, only to triumph over one of the world’s greatest competition. Repeatedly. That man is Yann Elies.
Firmly cementing his position as one of the biggest bad asses to inhabit Planet Earth, the 39-year-old French sailor became the first sailor in nearly four decades to win the Solitaire du Figaro two years in a row when he crossed the finish line Saturday night at Dieppe, France.
In a script that couldn’t even be imagined by the most creative Hollywood screenplay writer, Elies has gone back to back, despite breaking his headstay (!) during Leg 3. Sailing in a fleet of 40 identical Beneteau Figaro IIs, Elies posted an impressive scorecard of 1-5-21-2 to claim overall victory by 26m, 30s after more than 10 days and 1,938 miles of intense solo ocean racing all over western Europe.
The last three days of rain have really put a damper on the sailing spirit, but for those who participated in last weekend’s Summer Sailstice, their memories kept them warm and dry. The annual celebration of sailing was started 13 years ago by Latitude’s Associate Publisher John Arndt, and was meant to encourage sailors around the world (okay, the northern hemisphere) to get out sailing on the ‘longest’ day of the year — the summer solstice.
Sailors from around the globe participated, even if it was on their winter solstice. "We had groups in Israel, South Africa, Peru, Bikini Atoll and Bora Bora sign up," said Arndt. He reports that thousands of local sailors attended the main celebration at Encinal YC, or smaller events such as the one held at Treasure Island YC, and that dozens of kids and adults were introduced to sailing with free boat rides.
One of the favorite events at Summer Sailstice is the boatbuilding competition organized by Master Mariners member Ariane Paul. This year five teams joined in the fun, and while the studs from the American Youth Sailing Force were the fastest around the course, they lost out in a close vote "based on subjective measures" to perennial winner Berkeley Marine Center.
Thankfully you won’t have to wait until next June 21 — the date for the 14th annual Sailstice — to once again enjoy some warm sunny sailing as this weekend is forecast to be killer: 15 knots and mid-80s. Perfection!
Marin County’s Paul Cayard, CEO of Artemis Racing, shared some interesting opinions on the 34th America’s Cup with Tom FitzGerald in last Friday’s SF Chronicle. In case you missed it, here are some highlights:
"San Francisco is one of the windiest venues in the world. But that’s a good thing if you’ve got the right tool for it. It’s a horrible thing if you’ve got the wrong tool. Right now we’ve got the wrong tool.
"We knew [that the AC72s were dangerous] for a long time, and we probably never really as an event grabbed that reality enough and did something about it.
"The fact that this [the review of safety recommendations] is happening might save five other people’s lives."
[The elements to have the best America’s Cup ever are] "all right around us. We can touch them. If we’d just had the AC45s [the smaller cats used in the AC World Series for two years] we’d be beating the teams off with a stick. We’d have more entries than the place could hold, and we’d have all their markets. . . if China was racing, we’d have Chinese media, Chinese internet. (South) Korea, France would be in it. Great Britain would be in it. Germany. Every country would be racing in it. My guess is they’d have to limit (the field) to 12."
And finally, "It’s just too expensive of a competition."
Mind you, Cayard is not some whimpy guy who has spent all his life daysailing. He won the ’96-’97 Whitbread Around the World Race with EF Language, during which time he earned the unusual reputation as a skipper who didn’t hesitate going to the bow in the worst conditions when the rest of the crew needed help. He later finished second in 2006 Volvo Around the World Race with Pirates of the Caribbean.