April 23, 2014

Matt Rutherford’s New Challenge

Matt and Nicole broke away from their last-minute preparations this morning to strike a pose aboard their custom Harbor 29 Sakura. She was just launched April 1.

© 2014 Mike Sheck / Scanmar

Two years ago Annapolis-based sailor Matt Rutherford, then 31, made headlines when he successfully completed the first-ever singlehanded circumnavigation of the Americas. Tomorrow, if a few last-minute technical challenges can be mastered, he and his partner, Nicole Trenholm, will embark from Oakland on a new mission: sailing nonstop to Fukuoka, Japan.

Ironically, in addition to Rutherford’s physical endurance and mental toughness, one of the things that made his around-the-Americas effort possible in a vintage 27-ft Albin Vega fiberglass sloop was the fact that Arctic ice had diminished so radically in the Northwest Passage during the summer of 2011 that virtually every vessel that attempted that fabled transit got through. 

His lap around the Americas made Rutherford acutely aware of the current threats to ocean ecosystems. As he said recently, "The ocean is a vast and wild place, but unfortunately it’s not pristine. Human impacts can be seen even thousands of miles from shore."

During the 7,000-mile passage to Japan Rutherford and Trenholm, who is a NOAA researcher, will drag a high-speed trawl net from their brand-new, customized Schock Harbor 29 sailboat Sakura in order to sample the distribution of plastic in previously unexplored areas of the North Pacific Gyre. Captured debris will be cataloged along the way, and will be analyzed — after their arrival approximately 80 days from now — by both American and Japanese scientists.

We hope to bring you more on this ambitious project here and in the pages of Latitude 38. In the meantime, you can follow his transponder track at the nonprofit Ocean Research Project’s website.

Francis Joyon’s Latest Solo Benchmark

Francis Joyon, the tireless solo record breaker, established a new passage-making benchmark with his arrival at Rio this week.

© 2014 IDEC Group

With all of Francis Joyon’s major records (solo around the world, solo 24-hour, and both solo transatlantics) coming under attack within a period of just six months, the Frenchman did something truly innovative to stay on top: he created a new record route. Setting a reference time of 13d 3h 5m to cover the 4,812 miles from Bordeaux to Rio de Janeiro, Joyon and his 30-meter Nigel Irens-designed trimaran IDEC have established a new route that will provide a link between the two Atlantic-facing nations, and that will have commercial and charitable implications. With the Transat Jacques Vabre, Mini Transat and other races taking place between the two countries, one can only hope that this route gains some traction.

On standby for just four days before departing, Joyon and IDEC sailed away from Bordeaux on April 8 in light air before accelerating through the Bay of Biscay in a rare downwind escape from France. Slowed again in the North Atlantic and then forced to sail much farther west than would be ideal, the first half of the record attempt left much to be desired. IDEC suffered multiple failures of connecting rods linking the central main rudder to the outboard rudders on each ama. Forced to swap out connecting rods each time he gibed the boat, Joyon eventually fixed the problem permanently and then raced to Rio, where he faced an upwind finish.

Aiming toward the world-famous Sugarloaf Mountain, IDEC glides into Rio at the end of her recent sprint from France.

© IDEC Group

With Joyon’s previous records beginning to fall — Armel le Cleac’h and Banque Populaire VII just shattered his Route of Discovery and 24-hour records, and now le Cleac’h has his sights set firmly on besting Joyon’s west-to-east Transatlantic record this summer — Joyon and IDEC will have to find another gear to remain relevant in the world of solo maxi-trimaran racing.

In addition to Banque Pop VII, Francois Gabart and MACIF are building an all-new boat, Thomas Coville and Sodebo are modifying Olivier de Kersauson’s old Geronimo, and Yann Guichard is preparing to race Spindrift 2 (ex- Banque Pop V) in this November’s Route du Rhum, which is already reaching a boiling point in the lead-up to next year’s inauguration of a new ‘league’ for solo maxi-tris called Collectif Ultim

Midweek Racing Update

For everyone who raced the 35th annual Doublehanded Farallones Race this past March 22, be sure not to miss tonight’s trophy presentation at Oakland YC, at 7 p.m.

Excellent racing conditions greeted the Doublehanded Farallones racers this past March 22.

© Larry Baskin

Along with the awards ceremony, guests will hear about the latest developments at the Farallon Patrol, whose aim is to provide research and stewardship for the islands. Results from the radio test performed during the race will also be reviewed.

Tonight is your last chance to get your DHF T-shirts!


Racers should take this final opportunity to pick up their complimentary t-shirts for skipper and crew. They will no longer be available after tonight.

Down south in Newport, the 67th annual Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race sets off this Friday morning at 11 a.m. when starting guns begin firing off the Balboa Pier.

2014 San Diego to Puerto Vallarta race record breaker, Tom Siebel’s Orion will compete in Friday’s Newport to Ensenada race.

© 2014 Jared Wohlgemuth

Last year’s winner, William Gibbs of the 52-foot catamaran Afterburner will surely have his hands full fighting off two first-time multihull competitors: Tom Siebel’s MOD 70 Orion — the 2014 San Diego to Puerto Vallarta record breaker —  and H.E. Erloe’s ORMA 60 Mighty Merloe. One of these three could finish the 125-mile course in record time if the wind gods accommodate them.

Among some other notable entrants in the 166-boat fleet are two well-known Santa Cruz 70’s, Brack Duker’s Holua and Ed McDowell’s Grand Illusion. And not to be missed will be Roy P. Disney’s Andrews 70, Pyewacket

The awards ceremony will be held April 27 at the Hotel Coral and Marina in Ensenada. We’ll have results for you next Monday.

Boarded, Attacked and Beaten

When you are forced to use your hands to defend against a machete attack, you can come away with some nasty souvenirs.

© Kirk McGeorge

"Our voyage from Cape Town to Trinidad covered 5,503 nautical miles in 33 days of sailing, during which time we crossed both the prime meridian and equator. We also enjoyed 11 days at four interesting stops, and caught more fish than we could eat," writes Kirk McGeorge.

"All-in-all, it was a nice and uneventful crossing — until we got to Fortaleza, Brazil. Within minutes of dropping anchor, we were boarded, attacked, beaten, bloodied, bound and robbed. I lost quite a few valuables — and a bit of blood from numerous knife and machete wounds. They even stole my laundry detergent, thinking it was a big bag of cocaine, I suppose. We’re all okay now, and am sporting several new battle scars that are healing pretty well. But the thugs stabbed my poor inflatable dinghy to death.

"I’ve gotta say that it’s good to be back in home waters again, I’m lucky to be alive, and glad to know my skull is harder than a coconut. To Life!"

The background to this story is that about six months ago, McGeorge, who had circumnavigated before, his wife Kath and son Stuart decided they would relocate to the U.S. Virgin Islands, where they lived previously aboard their Hylas 49 Gallivanter. They decided that Kath and Stuart would fly to the U.S. Virgins from their then-home of Brisbane, Australia, while Kirk would make the long trip to the USVI on their boat. He and his crew had to battle nasty conditions in the Indian Ocean, but nothing as dangerous as the sub-humans in Brazil.

“Look ma, surfing at 22 knots without a spinnaker!” latitude/Richard
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC The photo above, of a Santa Cruz 70 surfing a wave in 25 knots of wind, looks like a typical finish of a Transpac — except for a couple of things.
When we meet soon-to-be South Pacific voyagers here on the West Coast, one of their big concerns is always heavy weather.