March 30, 2015

Dongfeng’s Mast Snaps

Dongfeng Race Team’s mast broke above the third spreader — the top section of the mast — during the night.

© 2015 Yann Riou / Dongfeng Race Team

Dongfeng Race Team’s crew was not injured when, in the middle of the night, the top section of the mast broke on their Volvo Ocean 65. At the time, they were 240 miles west of Cape Horn, sailing on the twelfth day of Leg 5 from Auckland, New Zealand, to Itajaí, Brazil, in the Volvo Ocean Race.

Reached via Inmarsat, French skipper Charles Caudrelier said they had been intentionally backing off a bit, "not attacking in any way. The mast broke without warning, in about 30 knots of wind. We are unable to sail safely on starboard tack, but we are able to make reasonable speed on port tack. We will head towards Ushuaia and assess our options for getting to Itajaí." The Maritime Rescue Coordination Center is on standby to help if necessary.

The crew is now making headway to the entrance of the Beagle Channel, a strait on the extreme southern tip of South America. They’re expected reach the entrance of the Channel during the night.

"All good. Everyone is still healthy. Few broken bits and pieces," reports Irish crewmember Damian Foxall. "We’re sure we’ll be able to recover the rig with what we have. We have just got to cut the Frac 0 [Fractional Code Zero headsail] off the back. "We still have quite a few hours before we get to the coast. We’re slowly working through it, but we have got to be careful. Everything you do has a chain reaction. So we’re just taking our time and we’re making sure that we don’t make things more complicated than they already are. Last night was complicated enough.

"We really cannot do much more to stabilize the situation right now," said Foxall. "At some stage I think we are going to have to go up there and cut some stuff off."

Dongfeng has not yet officially retired from Leg 5, as they are still considering the possibility of continuing on from Ushuaia under sail once the rig has been fully stabilized and the boat checked, to sail back west and around Cape Horn, and on to the finish in Itajaí. Finishing the leg in last place will score six points, whereas a DNF (Did Not Finish) following an official retirement would score eight points. "This is not over," said Caudrelier.

Updates on their situation will be added to this page:

Team Alvimedica’s Italian crewmember Alberto Bolzan drives at breakneck speed through the rough conditions in the Southern Ocean yesterday.

© Amory Ross / Team Alvimedica

Over the weekend, conditions in the Southern Ocean tested the fleet with winds of 40 knots and waves approaching 30 feet. "It was completely insane," Team Alvimedica’s American skipper Charlie Enright said of the racing on Saturday. The U.S./Turkish entry is now in the lead, but the top four teams are rounding the Cape within about 26 miles of each other.

New Boat Inspections In Mexico?

Hundreds of sailors are now making preparations for sailing south to Mexico this fall. Undoubtedly, some are nervous about properly complying with government regulations, but Mexican Tourism officials are working hard to minimize confusion about immigration and boat import regulations. 

©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"We were just informed that Customs is going to start a new round of inspections of boats, BINs (Boat Identification Numbers), and Temporary Import Permits (TIPs) of foreign-owned boats," writes Carol Dean. "The folks at Marina Coral here in Ensenada have gone around and photographed all the boats and, if they could find them, their BIN numbers. Here we go again!"

There have been several false alarms of this nature before, but even if this is the real deal, there is no reason for there to be a repeat of the fiasco of 2013-2014, in which 338 foreign-owned boats in eight marinas were impounded by SAT (the Mexican IRS) for a number of months. (Very few of them are still impounded.)

Why shouldn’t there be a repeat of the disaster of 2013-2014? First, because it’s been made clear to all Mexican marinas, and all foreign boat owners who have been paying attention, what the Mexican government wants/needs to see in order to keep track of vessels in their country. Second, because the last time around the AGACE/SAT agents were so ignorant of boats that they had to carry little diagrams showing them which was the bow and which was the stern. Thanks to millions of dollars in terrible publicity, the agents have reportedly received much better training now.

As far as Latitude is concerned, Mexico has as much right to keep track of boats in their country as the U.S. does in the States. Our only objection was with how heavy-handedly and incompetently compliance was checked the last time around.

As long as boat owners have complied with Mexico’s requirements, there shouldn’t be any problem. Indeed, when there were problems last time around, the marinas got in as much trouble as the boat owners. As a result, they should now be making making sure that all of their tenants are in compliance with Mexican law.

The other great thing is that this process allows you to take care of almost all your paperwork in advance of sailing to Mexico, and even allows you to make stops prior to calling at your first Port of Entry.

This new guide, produced by Mexico Tourism, is an attempt to make legal issues easy and streamlined for visiting boaters. Read or download it here. 

Mexico Tourism
©2015Latitude 38 Media, LLC

We’re not sure if it’s a coincidence, but just three days ago Malcolm ‘Neil’ Shroyer of Marina de La Paz sent us the latest version of ‘Visiting Mexico by Private Boat’, a quick guide to entry requirements for private vessels, and their owners and crew, plus a directory of Mexican marinas. As the guide explains, there are four steps you need to take before taking your boat to Mexico.

One of the first things you’ll notice is that the document has been produced by SECTUR, which is the Department of Tourism, and the document states, “This brochure is not an official government document but a brief guide to help you understand and ease the process of entering Mexico by sea and complete the immigration process (Maritime Mexico FMM Process)." Why it can’t be an ‘official document’ is beyond us, because that’s what visiting boat owners really need.

That said, there are several major improvements in this latest ‘Visiting Mexico by Private Boat’ guide. The first is that we can’t find any obvious errors such as appeared in the first version of the guide, which was passed out to foreign boat owners last October. For example, the first version said that only people who were going to fish needed fishing licenses, when in fact everybody needs a license if there is any fishing gear aboard a boat. Also, the new guide includes links to pages that give clear examples of how you are supposed to complete the four necessary steps and fill out the forms. Before, instructions were often opaque if not counterintuitive.

Another ‘lousy day in paradise’ in a well-protected Mexican anchorage.

©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Maybe we’re being naive or overoptimistic, but it looks to us that procedures for sailing to Mexico with all one’s ducks in order have greatly improved in the last 18 months. If anyone finds this not to be true, we’d like to hear about it

AC 35 Proposes Downsizing Catamarans

In an official statement last week from America’s Cup 35 organizers, it was announced that the 2017 competition will likely be sailed in much smaller boats than previously anticipated, in order to "dramatically reduce team operational costs, primarily by racing in a smaller boat."

Oracle Team USA training on its new foiling AC45S in San Francisco on February 18, 2015.

© Balazs Gardi / Oracle Team USA

AC 35 Commercial Commissioner Harvey Schiller was quoted as saying, "After reviewing prototypes of the new AC45 sports boats being tested on the water over the past several months, it is clear that if we raced smaller boats in 2017, we could dramatically reduce costs without sacrificing any of the spectacle or the design, engineering and athletic challenge fundamental to the America’s Cup.

"We have a responsibility to think of what is best for the long term health of the America’s Cup as well as improving the value equation for team principals and partners. Racing a smaller boat in 2017 and beyond is a big step in the right direction."

According to the official AC site this morning, a vote between principals will take place this week seeking majority approval of the cost-reduction measures. Today’s statement further clarifies that AC 35 will likely be sailed in wingsail foiling cats between 45 and 50 feet in length. (As far as we know, the first AC World Series event will still take place as scheduled, June 6-7 at Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy, in foiling AC45s.)

Tom Siebel’s MOD70 Orion looked pretty exciting racing on San Francisco Bay last year.

©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Latitude‘s position on the proposed changes is that the America’s Cup is — or at least should be — an event far too big and prestigious for mere 45-footers. If drastically reducing the budgets to attract/maintain participants is the general idea, we believe they would be better off going to MOD70 trimarans or something similar. No, they don’t plane, but, as Tom Siebel’s MOD70 Orion has proven on the Bay and Lloyd Thornburg’s MOD70 has proven in the Caribbean, big multihulls don’t have to plane to sail at over 40 knots.

Posters such as this have been put up all around the island. A large and festive crowd is expected.  latitude/Richard
©Latitude 38 Media, LLC We’ve never watched or participated in the group re-launching of a vessel from the beach.