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July 16, 2014

The Importance of Divisions

From gray skies to blue, cold weather to warm, Pac Cup racers are now homing in on Oahu. Seen here are Tuesday starters heading toward the Golden Gate.

©2014 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

How is it possible for a boat to finish 25th in fleet in the Pacific Cup and have sailed the best race? Easy. There were five different starting days in the Pacific Cup, and whether your division started on a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ day can make all the difference in the world.

For example, if you look at the most recent standings in the Pacific Cup, you’ll notice that the five boats in the Friday-starting Latitude 38 Big Boat Division are running 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 in fleet. And that the nine boats on the Thursday-starting Sonnen BMW Division are running 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14. (Detecting a pattern?) And that the top three boats in the Monday-starting Iwi Division are running 15, 16 and 18, and 19, 20 and 21 overall are Alaska Airlines-division boats that also started on Monday.

Not until 22nd does the overall pattern break, with Melinda and Bill Erkelens’ Tuesday-starting Donovan 30 Wolfpack. Mind you, these are superb sailors who previously won overall Pacific Cup honors with a Dogpatch 26.

The takeaway from this is that overall standings are important, but in many ways not as important as division standings.

That said, the most recent standings, which were from Tuesday and thus somewhat dated, show Patrick Roy Disney’s Andrews 68 Pyewacket ripping off an easy 300-mile day to maintain her hold on first overall and first in the Latitude 38 Division. The all-star crew reports that because the Pacific Cup is the ‘fun race to Hawaii’, they’re enjoying cooked frozen foods for meals instead of the normal weight-saving freeze-dried foods. Yum.

The Aussie R/P 52 Scarlet Runner has made a big move in the Latitude Division, leaping up to second, also with a 300-mile day. Mind you, they ran into a net in the middle of the night and lost more than a hour when a crewman had to jump into the black sea and cut the net away.

The globe-trotting Aussie boat Scarlet Runner has recently been making substantial gains.

© 2014 Ann Clarke /

The Latitude 38 Division is also the home of the fastest boat in the race, Frank Slootman’s R/P 63 Invisible Hand, which is currently cruising at 14.8 knots and in a big battle for first-to-finish honors with Michael Chobotov’s Jeanneau 49 Venture in the Holo Holo Cruising Division. In races to Hawaii, bet on boats that surf. We pick Hand by a mile.

Going through the divisions:

Iwi Doublehanded: A couple of ultralights have taken over the lead from the Cal 40 Green Buffalo. Karl Robrock’s Moore 24 Snafu, now doing 8.9 knots, has taken over the lead in division and in PHRF, displacing Ward Naviaux’s Santa Cruz 27 Blade Runner, which is now second in division and PHRF. Buffalo‘s Jim Quanci has resigned himself to the smaller ultralights’ pulling away from his much-heavier Cal 40. But if you’ve spent a week on a Moore 24 or a Santa Cruz 27, even at the dock, you know that life’s not comfortable on the smaller boats.

Alaska Airlines PHRF A: Rodney Pimentel’s Cal 40 Azure is doing 8.8 knots and continues to hold off Peter Schoenburg’s newer Cal 39 Back Bay, while maintaining 4th overall in PHRF. 

Kolea Doublehanded: The previously mentioned Erkelens on the Donovan 30 Wolfpack are moving at 9.8 knots and are leading their division. Running 7th in PHRF, that’s 13 spots and nearly a day ahead of some boats in their division.

Weems & Plath PHRF B: While the most recent standings show that Eric Hopper’s J/105 Free Bowl of Soup came from the back of the division to overtake longtime leader Sweet Okole, the current Yellowbrick tracker shows Dean Treadway’s Farr 36 is doing 9.8 knots and has regained the division lead while running 17th in PHRF. Separated by only 12 hours at the halfway point, this six-boat division is one of the tightest.

Matson PHRF C: "It’s about time my pick has taken the division lead," says Transpac psychic Lo Von Kailua about Wayne Koide’s Sydney 36 Encore. Alas, Yellowbrick has put John Denny’s Hobie 33 Por Favor back in first.

Wayne Koide’s Sydney 36 Encore heads west.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Sonnen BMW PHRF D: Some of the biggest excitement in the Pacific Cup is taking place in this division, as the top seven boats are hauling butt and within 10 hours of each other on corrected time. Greg Slynstad’s J/125 Hamachi turned in a 270-mile day, and is currently doing 13.8 knots to claim first in division and 9th in fleet. The Swan 45 Swazik, the longtime division leader, holds on to second, but is about to be gobbled up by Thomas Garnier’s J/125 Reinrag, a Transpac overall winner, and Steve Stroub’s Santa Cruz 37 Tiburon. Both Reinrag and Tiburon are coming from far behind in division and PHRF, but are sailing in double digits and climbing up the PHRF board.

As for the two boats in the Hokulea Multihull division, let’s just say it hasn’t been their year, but hopefully they’ll get surfing soon.

Kaufmans Sue Their Iridium Time Provider

Should a company be held responsible for the consequences if they deactivate an Iridium emergency phone, especially if they charged the customer for the time to use that phone?

The Kaufman family  — parents Charlotte and Eric, and their daughters Lyra, 1, and Cora, 3 — were 1,000 miles into the Pacific aboard their San Diego-based Hans Christian 33 Rebel Heart in April when such a deactivation occurred. They contend that sat phone service providers must be held responsible. So on Monday they filed suit against Whenever LLC, the time provider for their Iridium phone.

The Kaufman’s contend that their options became severely limited when they lost the use of their satellite phone.

© US Navy

In the Kaufmans’ view, the consequence of the loss of the use of their Iridium phone was that they were unable to speak with a Coast Guard doctor for medical advice about their youngest daughter, who had been sick for a considerable amount of time. This, they claim, resulted in their having to call for help, which came from many resources at great expense. In addition, they claim the loss of the use of their phone resulted in their having to scuttle Rebel Heart when they were taken off her by rescuers.

Defendant Whenever LLC apparently doesn’t dispute the fact the Kaufmans’ service was deactivated the same day Whenever made charges against their credit card. On Monday night they told a San Diego news service that the problem was the result of a billing issue.
While it doesn’t seem to us that there is a 100% cause and effect between the Kaufmans’ loss of the use of their phone and the scuttling of their boat — Rebel Heart was taking on 60 gallons of water a day at the time and had other problems — we can see how it would have been a factor. It’s going to be interesting to see how this case plays out.
The broader issue, to our mind, is the responsibility of emergency phone-time providers to give customers adequate warning if the customer is about to lose the use of his or her phone. As we understand it, deactivation can be the result of three things:
First, if the customer no longer has any time on the phone: Before each call goes through on Iridium, the caller gets a voice message saying how much time is left. This is good, but perhaps inadequate, because sometimes the time is no longer good because it wasn’t used by a certain cutoff date. That happened to us a year ago while doing the Baja Bash, because we’d forgotten what day our time ran out. Previously our time provider had always called us in advance to warn us we needed to renew our time. But the person responsible for our account had left the provider, and the new employee failed to provide a similar reminder. While we’re willing to accept most responsibility, we think the providers can do a better job.
Second, time providers buy time in bulk from wholesalers, and when they change wholesalers, sometimes the SIM card in the phone has to be replaced. This may sound simple in theory, but it’s caused boats doing the Pacific Puddle Jump to lose the use of their phones while in mid-ocean. What happens is that these on-the-move cruisers no longer get postal mail forwarded regularly from their old stateside addresses, so they don’t know a new SIM card is coming, nor do they get it before setting off across the Pacific. So halfway to the Marquesas their Iridium phone no longer works because their SIM card is no longer good.
Third, apparently sometimes time providers fall behind in payments to time wholesalers, and the wholesalers cut them — and their customers — off. We haven’t been able to confirm this, but it’s a claim that was made by our time provider.
We’re not sure what the solution is, but we do know that in the case of emergency phones, where the lack of service could easily result in the loss of lives, there needs to be adequate warning before service is cut off. We’ve been told that you are supposed to be able to use Iridium phones in emergency situations even if you don’t have any more time or your time period for using your time has run out. For whatever reason — perhaps they needed a new SIM card — the Kaufmans were not able to do this.

Final SSS Finishers and the Sense of Community

With less than 340 miles to go to the finish line of the Singlehanded TransPac, Stuart Paine’s Capri 25 Jack is farthest back of the three boats that have yet to finish. She’s expected to reach Hanalei Bay, Kauai, on July 19, 21 days after starting from San Francisco. Paine has a good excuse for taking so long; he lost a spreader and a stay early in the race. He’s currently moving along at a relatively fast 5.3 knots under jury rig.

“Where’s my martini?” asked Ken ‘The General’ Roper upon finishing at Hanalei. He’s done far more solo TransPacs than anyone else.

©2014 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Ahead of Jack and now homing in on the finish are Brian Cline’s Dana 24 Maris and Barry Bristol’s Catalina Capri 30 Fast Lane.

Tuesday was a big day for arrivals at beautiful Hanalei Bay, as five of the 14 starters sailed into the bay: Nathalie Criou’s Express 27 Elise, Przemyslaw Karwasiecki’s Mini 6.5m Libra, Ken Roper’s Finn Flyer 31 Harrier, Gary Burton’s Westsail 32 Elizabeth Ann, and Steve Saul’s Wauquiez Pretorian 35 Grace.

A big man in a very small boat, Przemyslaw Karwasiecki was all smiles after finishing aboard his Mini 6.5m Libra.

©2014 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Yesterday’s skippers, their families, and friends gathered under ‘The Tree’ on a Hanalei beach — a longtime Singlehanded TransPac tradition. After hearing their stories and insights, there seems to be general agreement that this race is less about finishing in first than it is about a sense of community.

Solo TransPac veteran Mike Jefferson of the Garcia Passoa 47 Mouton Noir put it best: "We singlehanders are very competitive, but it’s not about winning, because the TransPac is sufficiently sketchy and dangerous. It makes you realize that the real winning is not the prize you get from others, but the prize of personal acknowledgment from peers. Most people can’t appreciate how challenging it is to keep a boat going at speed 24 hours a day. So when you are under The Tree, people come up to you and shake your hand, knowing that you know."

Jefferson had to abort his Singlehanded TransPac effort shortly after the start this year, but couldn’t resist the temptation to fly over to Hanalei for the camaraderie. 

Look for our complete Singlehanded TransPac coverage in the August edition of Latitude 38 magazine. 

Twenty-five Rescued off Crissy Field

We were a bit shocked to learn that Coast Guard resources had to come to the rescue of 25 windsurfers and kiteboarders off San Francisco’s Crissy Field Sunday evening, as we know that many boardsailors and kiters pride themselves on being able to ‘self-rescue’.

But as Lt JG Sean Kelly explained, the summer winds, which had been cranking earlier, simply shut down, leaving roughly two dozen sailors dangerously close to the main shipping channel. In addition to the 47-foot Motor Life Boat and 29-foot Response Boat sent out from Station Golden Gate (at Horseshoe Cove), Coast Guard Auxiliary personnel also helped in the effort. 

In a life-and-death situation, it can be a great relief to see a 47-foot Motor Life Boat (MLB) headed your way.

© US Coast Guard

While some might say the boarders and kiters should take responsibility for getting safely ashore before the wind shuts down, the Coasties see it as their mandate to render assistance without question: "It was critical to locate and recover every disabled kiteboarder and windsurfer, said Sector San Francisco commander Capt. Greg Stump, "as San Francisco Bay is the gateway to seven busy commercial ports frequented by large ship traffic."

Needless to say, while the Bay is renowned as one of the greatest sailing venues on earth, its 50-degree water and challenging winds and tides can be extremely dangerous — especially for neophytes. The Coasties urge all watersports enthusiasts to "wear a life jacket and carry a VHF marine radio when taking to the water" and "wear a wetsuit of sufficient thickness to prevent the onset of hypothermia." 

Frank Slootman’s R/P 63 Invisible Hand took an early lead in the Latitude 38 Big Boat Division, but she’s now been overtaken on corrected time by Pyewacket.
"Life Is F–king Great!" Such is the sentiment of Peter Heiberg, who yesterday was first of the 14 competitors across the Singlehanded TransPac finish line at Hanalei Bay, Kauai, with his Palmer/Johnson 49 Scaramouche.
There are currently 87 boats signed up for the 21st Annual Baja Ha-Ha cruisers rally, which departs San Diego on October 27.