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June 26, 2013

Yann Elies Wins the Figaro

Yann Elies sailed his Beneteau Figaro II Groupe Queguiner to his second consecutive victory in the Solitaire du Figaro.

© 2013 Maxime Flipo

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.

In heavy downwind and reaching conditions of more than 30 knots of breeze, Elies charged through the fleet while then-leader Morgan Lagraviere slipped after staying inshore both before and after The Lizard, and sailing in lighter winds. With the nuking breeze, some sailors chose to set spinnakers while many did not, creating a huge 50-mile spread amongst the fleet. 
In addition to Yann’s inspiring triumph, some serious credit has to be given to the strong English contingent that also wrote their names into Figaro history this year. Sam Goodchild, a 23-year-old English solo sailing phenom, became the highest placing British sailor in 38 years, claiming a solid 11th place finish, while fellow Englishman Jack Bouttell, 22, became the first English sailor to ever claim the Bizuth prize for top rookie finisher, coming in 21st.
Elies’ accomplishment comes just four years after shattering his femur in the Southern Ocean during the 2008-09 Vendée Globe and becoming the subject of an international headline-grabbing rescue by the Australian Navy just five days before Christmas. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find a sponsor to come back for the 2012 Vendée. Let’s hope this back-to-back Figaro triumph helps him secure a sponsor for 2016!

Summer Sailstice Memories

Last weekend offered sailors a chance to warm up at Summer Sailstice before the rain started.

latitude/John A.
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

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.

A future America’s Cup sailor in the making.

latitude/John A.
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

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. 

We can’t imagine what the judges were thinking. Looks like a perfect combination of form and function to this writer’s eye!

latitude/John A.
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

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!

Cayard Defends New AC Regs

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:

One of the most accomplished sailors ever produced by the Bay Area, Cayard spoke candidly about his frustrations with the AC72s.

© Sander van der Borch

"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.

The MOD70 Spindrift capsized in the La Route du Princes. © 2013 Chris Schmid / Spindrift Racing In the upcoming July issue of Latitude 38, we give two reasons for preferring MOD70 trimarans over AC72s for the America’s Cup.
Sadly, in the modern era of America’s Cup racing, contentiousness between competitors off the water has sometimes been more explosive than on the race course.
A tragedy unfolded Friday afternoon when a woman’s minivan careened across Marina Green and into the frigid waters of San Francisco Bay.