The 150-mile trip from Telaga Harbour, in Langkawi, Malaysia, to Phuket, Thailand, is normally a pretty easy trip. But as Santa Cruz-based cruiser Tom Van Dyke of the Searunner 31 tri En Point reports, "A big blow during the past two weeks has been wreaking havoc . . . as typhoon activity in the Philippines and China has been sucking air up from the Indian Ocean and across the peninsula." Two of Van Dyke’s cruising friends, George Juri and Grit Chiu, aboard the Alberta, Canada-based Hunter 50 Escape, caught the brunt of those conditions while sailing north toward Phuket last week, but the weather wasn’t the only memorable aspect of their trip.
Van Dyke explains that on July 9, Escape was seven days out of Langkawi, "and had made just 100 miles island hopping between almost constant 30-knot winds with gusts into the 50s, when they spotted a man floating in the water between Koh Lanta and Koh Ngai."
George and Grit "instantly used the man-overboard retrieval skills they’d practiced before setting out. George holds an Offshore Yacht Master rating from the Canadian Sail and Power Association, and Grit is a surgical nurse. Everything they’d learned boiled down to Grit’s pointing at the man in the water and not taking her eyes off him, while George piloted the boat back to effect a rescue in what they estimated were 30-knot winds and three-meter seas."
Grit says that the man, 46-year-old Thar Hlaing, was easy to spot "as his hands were bleached like parchment" and George says Hlaing’s color was "corpse-like." Van Dyke tells us that "Trying to maneuver the boat wasn’t easy, and on the first miss the man panicked as if the two were going to leave him, but Grit kept calling out to him until they were able to haul him onto the swim platform, hanging on themselves in the rough weather.
"Once aboard, Grit assessed Hlaing’s physical condition and treated him with antibiotics and hydrogen peroxide for what he said were wounds from fish biting his flesh down to the tendon on his ankles and legs.
"Hlaing later told them he panicked, especially after having seen jet skiers pass him by, even though he was sure they’d seen his pleas for help at the beginning of his ordeal. After sleeping overnight on the boat, which George and Grit managed to anchor safely behind Koh Ngai, Hlaing told them he had been in the water for four days after a cement barge he was working on sank near Phuket. He’d started out huddling with two others of the six-man crew and gathered together the ubiquitous styrofoam and plastic floats fishermen use to mark their nets. The two who started out with Hlaing argued over what to do and eventually swam for shore whereupon Hlaing stayed put and lost sight of them. The Thai Navy reported two men were missing from the barge and Hlaing was one of four recovered."
Van Dyke figures that Hlaing drifted a minimum of 50 miles from Phuket to where the Escape crew picked him up four days later. He reports that his Canadian friends are now anchored back in Langkawi "awaiting the opening of the harbormaster’s office, so they can explain why they checked out 14 days ago but never checked into Phuket." Van Dyke has been out cruising — often singlehanded — since heading south with the Baja Ha-Ha rally in 2012.
Can a sailboat really cross the 2,215 miles from Los Angeles to Honolulu in less than four days? Apparently so! The 105-ft trimaran Lending Club 2 arrived at the Transpac finish line off Diamond Head at 5:44 a.m. local time yesterday recording an elapsed time of 3 days, 18 hours, 0 minutes, and 9 seconds. "Subject to ratification from the World Sailing Speed Record Council, we’ve just knocked a full 24 hours off the previous record!" the team posted on their Facebook page.
"I think it was the right call to leave early," said co-skipper and charterer Renaud Laplanche of San Francisco. "If we had left with everybody else in the Transpac Race we probably wouldn’t have beaten the record. It’s a good example of when you can’t win the game, change the rules."
Covering an average of 590 miles per day, the big tri was sailing at 30+ knots of boatspeed whenever we checked in on the tracker. Their theoretical average speed was just under 25 knots. You can still see the track at https://my.yb.tl/lendingclub2.
Renaud and co-skipper Ryan Breymaier have now successfully completed the trio of record attempts they’d planned when they chartered the boat earlier this year — the other two being a crossing of the English Channel from Cowes to Dinard in March and Newport to Bermuda in April.
A week into this 48th edition of Transpac, the story lines continue to grow weirder and more spectacular. Some of the coolest boat porn to ever assemble on the West Coast is ripping to Hawaii in a split-fleet navigators’ duel, and at the front of the fleet a 37-footer is threatening to claim line honors. VMG-running in the tradewinds, Harry Zanville’s Santa Cruz 37 Celerity is beginning to stake her claim, consistently putting a knot of boat speed or more on her fleet to take the lead boat-for-boat of Monday’s first fleet of starters while moving up the rankings. Just behind her and leading Division 7 and ORR Overall remains Paul Stemler’s J/44 Patriot, which is sailing an incredible race.
Eight hundred miles behind Celerity and Patriot’s thrilling line-honors duel, the 100-ft canting-keel super-maxi Wild Oats XI, which started on Saturday, has passed the fleet that started two days earlier on Thursday and is burning down the race course. Behind the Aussie icon, Ragamuffin 100 and Rio100 are far to the north and may later benefit from their more northerly position by sailing around a hole and encountering light air for a shorter amount of time than Wild Oats. The bulk of Division 2 and 3 are farther south, sailing along the rhumbline in this decidedly atypical year where two dissipating lows have created a smorgasbord of pressure in what is normally the express lane to Hawaii.
After leaving in champagne conditions on Thursday, the 18 boats in Divisions 4, 5 and 6 have ended up as the clear losers in the weather lottery. The fleet was becalmed for much of the weekend and is still sailing slowly in the fluky and highly variable conditions, which are sure to drive any navigator crazy. Greg Slyngstad’s J/125 Hamachi leads Division 4, while Bill Durant and Jeff Shew’s SC52 Relentless leads Division 5.
Much of the fleet should encounter light air at some point over the next two days before trades build over most of the course throughout the week. This is just starting to get good! Follow the tracker here and website here, and stay tuned to ‘Lectronic for more updates.