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July 22, 2013

What a Great TransPac!

The Dorade crew are the big kahunas in this year’s TransPac.

© Trans Pacific YC

While a new elapsed-time record wasn’t set, the 47th TransPac has proven to be one of the more interesting and exciting races to Hawaii in years.

Overall honors went to the classic S&S 52 Dorade, which was built in 1929 and had previously won overall TransPac honors 77 years ago in 1936. Dorade is owned by Matt Brooks and his wife Pam Rorke Levy of Fremont and the St. Francis YC, who consider themselves "caretakers" of this remarkable piece of American sailing history. The couple are in the middle of one of the more unique sailing quests we’ve ever heard of, which is to sail competitively in all the great events that Dorade won in her early days, including the Bermuda Race, the TransAtlantic Race, the England’s Fastnet Race (twice) and the TransPac.

To that end, Matt and Pam had the yawl rebuilt in the Northeast a couple of years ago, with no expense spared. For the TransPac they assembled a fine crew consisting of Brooks, skipper Eric Chowanski, Ben Galloway, John Hayes, Hannah Jenner, Kevin Miller and Matt Wachowicz. According to Brooks, they spent 30 days practicing for the TransPac. Pop wisdom says success is where preparation and luck intersect, and Dorade and the other boats in Division 8 were lucky to have the best get-away conditions of the three starts. Nonetheless, after leading overall early, Dorade fell to as low as 15th in fleet, then came back to take a comfortable lead.

What really made this TransPac thrilling is that Dorade‘s corrected-time lead of as much as nine hours was being rapidly trimmed, after she finished, by several of the big sleds. Could Roy Pat Disney’s Burbank-based Andrews 70 Pyewacket, with her all-star crew, surf from behind to correct out? She made up a lot of time, but fell 2.5 hours short, which left her in second overall. Also hot on Dorade‘s heels was Per Peterson’s San Diego-based Andrews 68 Alchemy, which corrected out 3 hours back to take third in fleet.

Chip ‘Dr. Megadeath’ Megeath and his Criminals pulled a class win from the hands of Bretwalda.

© 2013 Trans Pacific YC

There was also some terrific racing within the divisions. Tom Akin of Sausalito sailed his R/P 52 Meanie to a mere four-minute victory over Isao Mita’s Yokohama-based TP52 Beecom in Division 2. Fellow Northern Californian Chip Megeath of the Tiburon-based R/P 45 Criminal Mischief managed to come from behind to record a similar four-minute victory over Bob Pethick’s Michigan-based Rogers 46 Bretwalda in Division 4. Four minutes is a mightily slim margin after more than 2,200 ocean miles. Frank Slootman’s Pleasanton-based R/P 63 Invisible Hand had a little more cushion, clenching the top spot in Division 1 by just over two hours.

But all those stories are secondary to Matt and Pam’s big victory with Dorade — which, by the way, is correctly pronounced ‘Dor-odd’, as opposed to ‘Dor-aid’. Matt and Pam are class acts, so their victory is not only a credit to them, St. Francis YC, Northern California, but sailing in general. Well done! Really well done!

Coasties Bust False Mayday Caller

A New Zealander who is accused of making false distress calls may have thought he was perpetrating a harmless prank, but we doubt he’ll be laughing if he is convicted. We understand that the maximum penalty for this felony act is six years in prison, a $5,000 civil fine, a $250,000 criminal fine and reimbursement to the Coast Guard for activating their resources.

According to several Bay Area news sources, Coast Guard personnel were on a routine patrol off Sausalito Sunday afternoon when a distress call led them to the moored 45-ft sailboat Fortune, crewed by John McCormick, which has been moored off the Sausalito YC for several days. CG spokesman Mark Leahey explained that the guardsmen recognized McCormick’s voice, as he had made false maydays previously, including at least one earlier in the day.

When approached by the Guard unit, McCormick refused to be boarded, then reportedly cut his mooring lines and began motor-sailing away. The guardsmen waited until they had backup from additional resources before finally stopping McCormick outside the Golden Gate, roughly 2.5 miles off Ocean Beach. With guns drawn, the guardsmen boarded the sailboat, where one of them was assaulted by the lone sailor — potentially adding another charge. The boat was towed to Station San Francisco, while McCormick was booked on multiple charges. 

False distress calls are always annoying to rescue personnel, but more importantly, they can divert rescue resources from legitimate emergency situations — not to mention the thousands of taxpayer dollars that are squandered every time an unnecessary search is activated. The Coast Guard’s mandate is that they must respond to all distress calls, but hundreds annually turn out to be fakes. We are reminded that in late February a mayday call, supposedly put out by a family with two small children who were offshore near Monterey Bay, triggered a massive, multi-day response from both air and sea resources with no results. It was later believed by many to have been a hoax. 

ETNZ Win Puts Them in Louis Vuitton Finals

When ETNZ ditched their headsail, spectators thought Luna Rossa had a lock on the race.

© Gilles Martin-Raget / ACEA

Italy’s Luna Rossa were expected to do much better in their second head-to-head battle with Emirates Team New Zealand on Sunday. They started off looking more competitive, but not only did it not last, it got worse. On the first upwind leg, the halyard clip broke on ETNZ’s jib. First the sail flogged, then flogged more as they tried to get it down. Finally, in the worst Kiwi performance to date, the crew failed in their initial attempt to throw the darn thing overboard. The eventually discarded sail was picked up by a support boat, which reportedly got in the Italian’s way in the process.

With the ETNZ boat minus their headsail, the race announcers — and probably most sailors — assumed that the Italians would be able to walk all over their crippled opponents and even the score. Not so. In fact, ETNZ was still able to increase their lead on every leg but the last. Big cats with wing sails aren’t like normal boats. Soon the announcers were explaining that AC72s are often faster without headsails in straight line sailing. The headsails, they said, are primarily to help in maneuvering.

The wind speed averaged a mere 13.8 knots for the race, with a peak gust of 20.5 knots. The big cats clearly like 20 knots better than 13 knots. The Kiwis’ average boat speed was just over 24 knots, while their top speed was 38.7 knots.

But ETNZ handed another smackdown to the Italians on Sunday, guaranteeing their spot in the Louis Vuitton Finals.

© Gilles Martin-Raget / ACEA

Our takeaway from Sunday’s race is that the only way Luna Rossa could ever possibly beat ETNZ is if the Kiwis break their wing mast or flip. It was clear the Kiwis have much better control of their boat, are better at picking shifts and, unlike the Italians, don’t get penalized for sailing outside the course. As it is, ETNZ has now guaranteed their place in the Louis Vuitton Finals. If the Italians can beat the Swedish Artemis team — assuming that the Swedes can ever get a boat on the course — they will meet the Kiwis again in the Louis Vuitton Finals.

Barring a complete breakdown, the chances of either Luna Rossa or Artemis ever beating ETNZ are probably slightly less than zero.

While the AC72s are a thing of beauty when foiling, we’re going to have to wait until the America’s Cup itself, when ETNZ lines up against Oracle Team USA, to see if there is going to be any competitive AC72 racing. Right now the Kiwis look invincible. But given their lack of competition to date, it seems too early to make a realistic evaluation of their chances against Oracle’s well-financed two-boat team.

While the men on the American Youth Sailing Force, San Francisco’s ‘home team’ for the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup, undoubtedly want to win the event’s trophy so bad they can taste it, the award six of its team members received this week proves more about who they are as people than any sports trophy ever could.