Part of the fun of traveling in foreign waters is getting to know the locals. That’s exactly what the Baja Ha-Ha rally fleet has been doing for the past few days, since the fleet extended its stay in Bahia Tortugas due to concerns over Hurricane Vance (now centered roughly 300 miles SSW of Cabo).
With its dusty streets and simple homes, there’s nothing fancy or sophisticated about this long-established fishing village, but its people are always warm, friendly and helpful to visiting mariners – especially the Ha-Ha fleet, which gives a huge financial boost to the local economy.
When the potential path of Hurricane Vance became a concern prior to the scheduled Saturday-morning start of Leg 2, the rally’s Grand Poobah decided to err on the side of caution and hold the fleet in Turtle Bay for at least one more day. The cruisers spent this lay day hiking the hills and getting to know the townspeople, and some participated in a paddle board race around the committee boat, Profligate.
Sunday morning, some crews were anxious to get moving, and elected to temporarily ‘drop out’ of the rally and sail toward Bahia Santa Maria, 240 miles to the south, while the majority of the fleet stayed in Bahia Tortugas. One unanticipated effect of this change of plans was that the town came close to running out of beer!
With Vance now beginning its anticipated northwesterly turn toward the mainland, the whole fleet is expected to push on toward BSM today. Sailing conditions offshore should be ideal, with 15-25 knots of wind from the northwest. With any luck, the entire fleet will arrive at the Cape on Friday, just a day behind the original schedule.
Two lost keels, broken amas, downed masts and a collision with a container ship – yes, the Route du Rhum has started. With conditions very rough from the get-go, the attrition has started too. In 35 knots and big seas, Thomas Coville’s trimaran Sodebo Ultim’ ran into a container ship while sailing under triple-reefed main and staysail. The starboard ama was damaged, and he is heading back to shore.
The starboard float of the Multi 50 Maître Jacques also broke, apparently all by itself. Skipper Loîc Féquet was sailing close to the coast preparing to pass the tip of Brittany in the middle of the night. "There were 25-28 knots and big seas, but I was not attacking. In fact, I was under double-reefed main and staysail. I did not hit anything." Féquet secured his boat and waited for a tow from a tug.
Two Class 40s lost their keels on the bumpy ride out. François Angoulevant had to be airlifted from Team Sabrosa, and Marc Lepesqueux on Sensation is limping back to port under power after filling the ballast tanks. Jean Galfione on the Class 40 Serenis Consulting hit a buoy and is heading back with hull damage.
The latest news of damage this morning was the dismasting of Alain Delhumeau’s Multi 50 Royan west of Ushant. Delhumeau is reported to be in good shape and is making progress southeast toward port. His track is being carefully monitored in case he requires further assistance. As we write this, he is four miles southeast of Ushant.
Even with all the grim news of broken boats, the race continues, and it looks like a good one with Loïck Peyron on Banque Populaire VII leading the entire fleet by 25 miles. He has weathered the worst of the conditions and escaped with the remaining Ultime Class.
Back in the Class 40s, Miranda Merron is in ninth place after a long first night. "It was a foul night with zero visibility once the driving rain started. But luckily it was dark, as the waves that revealed themselves at dawn around Ushant were huge." But she seems to be in good spirits. "Anyway, it’s sunny today, although rather wet on deck. Can’t have it all!"
Robin Knox-Johnston in his Open 60 Grey Power is hanging on in 13th place in Class Rhum. "I soon found myself surrounded by Class 40s most of yesterday evening, pushing hard. Those boats are quick, but when the forecast squalls of 40 knots arrived, I would not have wanted to be in one." The older and wiser Sir Robin summed up the first day: "I could do more if I put up more sail, but we’ll stay like this for the time being, as the wind is still 20+ knots and gusting higher – I just had one of 29 knots – and the sea very lumpy. It’s a long race, and no point in breaking things at the beginning, so I made a very cautious start." Smart man.
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Right next to AT&T Park, between the Giants’ fabulous victory on Wednesday and Friday’s parade, SailSFBay managed to slip in a Thursday-night meeting at South Beach Yacht Club to discuss growing sailing participation in the Bay Area and to hear Brad Webb describe his rewarding path up the ladder of sailing.
Brad Webb, bowman for the twice-victorious America’s Cup Oracle team, has led a stellar sailing career competing all over the world, including in six America’s Cups. But, like so many sailors, his path into sailing started in a small, local club in New Zealand aboard small (7-ft 7-in LOA) P-Class boats. From there, a lot of sailing, persistence and hard work, and a bit of luck, moved him into the big leagues.
During a welcome talk for a 25th memorial for Tom Blackaller aboard his ACSailingSF.com IACC yacht, USA-76, Brad described his desire to share the AC experience and sailing with more people. He expanded on those thoughts at SBYC to help the audience understand the pathway and role models that inspired him. He noted a number of strengths in sailing – teamwork, social interaction, and, among so many sailors that helped him, a willingness to give back. He suggested that youth sailing programs focus on ‘progression rather than promotion’ – helping youth progress into more areas within sailing such as aboard keelboats.
To continue its mission of growing participation in sailing next year, SailSFBay will start 2015 with a booth at the San Francisco Boat Show in January and at April’s Strictly Sail Pacific. It will also promote the 30+ events in Northern California that invite people to come out and try sailing on Summer Sailstice. Learn more about SailSFBay at www.sailsfbay.org.