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December 1, 2014

‘Kite Man of Berkeley’ Believed Lost at Sea

Seven Sisters, flipped and with cracked amas, as found by the Coast Guard. Notice the lines strapped across the bottom of the boat. The hole aft is for the outboard.

U.S. Coast Guard
©2014Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Nearly three weeks overdue on a passage from El Salvador to Acapulco, the unusual 40-ft ‘hybrid wave-piercer’ sloop Seven Sisters was recently found by the Coast Guard, upside-down 400 miles southwest of Acapulco. Thomas Kardos, the boat’s owner/inventor, aka ‘The Kite Man of Berkeley’, was nowhere to be found. There were indications that Kardos, described as being "in his mid-50s," may have tried to strap himself to the main hull of his overturned boat.

Seven Sisters was a very unusual design in that she had a main hull like a monohull, but little if any keel. She also had two wave-piercing amas, thus the ‘hybrid’ name, but wasn’t particularly beamy. She had no boom, and had an electric outboard for auxiliary power.

Seven Sisters as seen leaving El Salvador.

El Salvador Rally
©2014Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Her last reported position was at 14° 11′ N, 095° 33′ W, and Kardos was expected to make Acapulco by November 10. Her position put her about 90 miles from shore in the middle of the Gulf of Tehauntepec, notorious on the Pacific Coast for periods of extremely strong winds and big seas, conditions that often exist hundreds of miles out to sea. It’s also possible that she was affected by the seas of Vance, a late season hurricane in the general area about that time.

Kardos was as unusual as his boat. Flying a hang glider, he stunned the 76,000 spectators — and both teams on the field — during the second quarter of the 1979 Cal-USC football game at Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium by landing on the 10-yard line. He later described the stunt as follows: "I took off from the top of the ridge at Strawberry Canyon about a mile away and 1,000 feet higher than the stadium. I flew directly above the game at an altitude of several hundred feet, then turned south for an approach. I made a 180 turn and flew between two flagpoles at the south rim, then descended over the stands to burn off height. I slowed down just above ground effect along the diagonal — longest dimension — of the field. I’m sorry, but I had to touch down before the end zone to stop safely.”

A video of the unusual stunt can be seen here.

In another video by his daughter Lena, Kardos can be seen kiteboarding San Francisco Bay 36 years ago. As memory serves us, almost nobody was kiteboarding back then.

Before and during his cruise, Kardos posted a number of YouTube videos, the most recent having been off El Salvador on June 10, 2014.

December Issue Out Today

Don’t let the forecast of several more days of rainy weather make you blue. Our reservoirs desperately need the water, and besides, we’ve got an ideal suggestion for passing the time indoors: soaking in all the latest sailing news from the just-released December issue of Latitude 38 magazine.

Brighten up your day by reading the latest issue of Latitude 38.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Inside, you’ll find racing coverage from the Bay Area and beyond, topical cruising reports from all over the globe, profiles of this year’s season champs, a complete recap of last month’s Baja Ha-Ha rally, and more. Pick up your copy today from your favorite Bay Area marine retailer (or in several days from retailers farther north or south). Alternately, the entire issue will be available to download or read online here for free by late afternoon today.) Enjoy!

We want to give a big shout-out to Mike Scheck, of Scanmar in Pt. Richmond, for coming to our rescue with the use of a Scanmar van to make our northern East Bay delivery happen today. Thanks Mike — you saved our stern and made many readers happy!

And Then There Were Six

The most recent photo of the beached Team Vestas Wind Volvo Ocean 65 shows that the boat is still in one piece.

© 2014 NCG Operations Room / MRCC Mauritius

Team Vestas Wind ran aground in the middle of the Indian Ocean while racing from Cape Town, South Africa, to Abu Dhabi in the Volvo Ocean Race on Saturday evening. The boat had hit a reef in Cargados Carajos Shoals, Mauritius. Although the boat was doing 19 knots at the time, none of the nine men aboard were injured in the initial grounding or in the events that followed.

Team Vestas Wind grounded on a reef Saturday night. Amazingly, the boat did not break up and no one was injured.

© 2014 Amory Ross / Team Alvimedica

Both rudders were damaged, and the stern compartment began taking on water. Airtight bulkheads separated the damaged area from the rest of the one-design 65-footer. The remainder of the boat, including the rig, is intact.

Contact was established with a coast guard station on an inhabited islet, Ile du Sud, only 1.5 kilometers (.81 nautical miles) away. Team Alvimedica, led by American Charlie Enright, was the nearest competitor, and they diverted to stand by the stricken yacht. Alvimedica’s Australian navigator Will Oxley talked to his adversaries on the radio.

The rescue was planned for daybreak. Meanwhile, Team Vestas Wind deployed two life rafts, as big waves were pounding the stern of the boat on the rocks, but for several hours all crew remained aboard. Finally, they waded through knee-deep water to a dry part of the reef. At dawn, they were picked up by the coast guard boat and taken to Ile du Sud.

The Alvimedica crew stand by in the dawn hour, with Vestas Wind and the reef on the horizon.

© 2014 Amory Ross / Team Alvimedica

Will Oxley said, "We are all shattered and quite emotional about what happened. We are really pleased we were able to be of assistance and that the crew of Team Vestas Wind are all well, and we look forward to a beer with them as soon as possible."

Team Vestas Wind skipper Chris Nicholson at the wheel as the boat approached a tropical storm on Friday.

© 2014 Brian Carlin / Team Vestas Wind

The Danish Team Vestas Wind is skippered by Aussie Chris Nicholson, 45, who finished second in the two previous editions of the VOR. "We made a mistake," Nicholson stated on Sunday night, "which led to what happened, but I’ve been blown away by the way the guys dealt with the situation, trying to make things as right as possible today. They make me so proud.” Nicholson was amazed that the boat survived the impact without breaking up immediately. He now plans to meet up with shore crew chief Neil Cox and assess the chances of salvaging the boat.


Vestas Wind is one of seven teams competing in the around-the-world race. As of this morning, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing was in the lead northeast of Madagascar. Team Alvimedica will be given redress for the time they lost. See more at

If you give the ‘gift of sailing’ to a friend or loved one, he or she will be happy as a toddler with a shiny new toy. 
Chris White believes in light, performance catamarans. Even so, his 57-footer was a little too heavy to lift.