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August 7, 2015

First Steps Toward Cleaning Up the Gyre

Hats off to the idealism of youth. Dutch entrepreneur Boyan Slat will leave Hawaii this week aboard Swiftsure, participating in the research phase of the wildly ambitious project that he conceived: The Ocean Cleanup.

© 2015 The Ocean Cleanup

As the Transpac fleet returns from Hawaii to the West Coast this week, some boats are carrying atypical cargo, as their crews have taken on the role of citizen scientists. More than 20 sailboats are participating in what’s called The Mega Expedition, an ambitious crowd-funded survey of the North Pacific Gyre, or Garbage Patch, that will facilitate a cleanup effort slated to begin in 2020.

A testament to the idealism of youth, the Expedition’s parent project, The Ocean Cleanup, evolved from the ideas of a then-16-year-old Dutch student named Boyan Slat who learned about the dire state of ocean pollution several years ago and decided to do something about it. Since then, his plan to place collection devices in key offshore locations has gathered an ever-enlarging groundswell of support — including that of at least one Silicon Valley CEO.

During a one-hour trawling session the 171-ft research vessel Ocean Starr collected all this mostly-plastic junk. Acting as the mother ship of The Mega Expedition, she left from San Francisco and is currently zig-zagging her way through the Gyre.

Ocean Star
©2015Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Having participated in training sessions in Hawaii, the returning Transpac-ers will travel east on specific latitude lines, and will attempt to deploy collection trawls up to six times a day during their crossings. Their ‘catch’ will be labeled with lat-long info and stored until arrival, when it will be sent to a lab in Delft, Netherlands for analysis. 

Slat himself will make the crossing aboard the Nelson-Marek 68 Swiftsure, which will depart this week. "To further develop our cleanup technology, it is essential to know how much plastic is out there," he says. "The Mega Expedition should answer that question for us. My sincere thanks goes out to the crews of the participating vessels for making this crazy idea a reality." Last year he was heralded as the 2014 Champion of the Earth, the United Nations’ highest environmental accolade.

Crews have to be dedicated to the project’s goals, as the trawl devices are necessarily large and heavy.

The Ocean Cleanup
©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Meanwhile, three eager and idealistic young Canadians will depart tomorrow from San Francisco to Hawaii, doing trawls along the way. Then they’ll turn around and come right back to the West Coast gathering data a second time. The Rawson 30 Stay Gold is the smallest boat participating in the Mega Expedition, but her crew, Jason Frechette, Nicole Belleau and Wayana Carrier Doneys — all in their mid-20s — may well be the most enthusiastic. "I’m very proud to be involved with this," says Wayana. "It’s very impressive that in the beginning no one believed in him [Boyan], but now there are hundreds of scientists all over the world who are working with him — and he’s now only 20 years old."

The youthful crew of Victoria, BC-based Stay Gold takes a break from their preparations at Sequoia YC to strike a pose. They plan to collect research samples both going to and coming back from Hawaii, before cruising Mexico. 

Stay Gold
©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Look for more on the Stay Gold crew and the Mega Expedition in the September issue of Latitude 38. You can learn more about the project here and follow the fleet via Yellowbrick Tracking here.

StFYC at the RYS Bicentenary

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the Royal Yacht Squadron, which was founded on June 1, 1815, in Cowes on the Isle of Wight in the UK. During a race around the Isle in 1851, New York Yacht Club Commodore John Cox Stevens successfully challenged for the Squadron’s £100 Cup with the yacht America. That Cup became known as the America’s Cup.

The highlight of this summer’s anniversary celebrations was the Bicentenary International Regatta held July 25-31 on the Solent. Twenty-five yacht clubs were invited to take part, including San Francisco’s St. Francis YC.

Seen here competing in the Bicentenary, the J-Class yacht Velsheda was built in 1933 by Camper & Nicholson.

© 2015 Paul Wyeth

More than 200 yachts entered the regatta including the majestic 130-ft J-Class yachts Velsheda, Lionheart and Ranger. StFYC team members participated in four divisions, including team racing in J/70s for six crew under 30 and the Beneteau First 40 one-design class with a crew of 10 including at least one person under 25 and one woman.

For the one-design (aka level racing in the UK) division, the regatta used a fleet of matched Beneteaus from Sunsail.

© 2015 Ellen Hoke Photography

StFYC members also raced in IRC Class 1 on Odin, a Swan 90 with a host of star talent including Peter Isler, navigator; Charlie Ogletree, tactician; and Steve Hayles, strategist/trimmer. Craig Healy trimmed the main, and owner Tom Siebel was on the helm. StFYC members Pam Rorke Levy, Mark Dahm, Brad Whitaker, David Chamberlain and Doug Hope crewed on the 1929 52-ft yawl Dorade helmed by owner Matt Brooks in the classic IRC Class 3.

Five days of racing were scheduled for the IRC classes. Unfortunately, strong weather conditions canceled racing on Monday, July 25. Conditions improved throughout the week, and on Wednesday, the 27th, the IRC fleets, including the J-Class boats, took off on a clockwise race around the Isle of Wight.

Peter Stoneberg, who races the ProSail 40 Shadow on San Francisco Bay, sailed on Odin and collected their Third Place Overall award from Sir Ben Ainslie.

© 2015 Ellen Hoke Photography

StFYC faced some tough competition in the Beneteau one-design fleet. The crew of Chris Raab (helm), Russ Silvestri, Commodore Sean Svendsen, Mario Yovkov, Pascal Hines (under 25), Doug Robbins, Chris Welsh, Kermit Schnickel, Nicole Breault and Rick Brent finished the regatta in sixth place, nine points off the leaders from NYYC.

StFYC’s biggest achievement was in the Team Racing. In three days of racing,126 races fit into almost three complete round robins. In the semi-finals, the StFYC team took on NYYC in the best-of-three series, while Royal Thames YC took on Costa Smeralda YC. StFYC and Royal Thames moved forward.

Conditions were getting lighter and lighter as teams prepared for the finals in a bay nestled under the Osborne House, summer home to Queen Victoria. Only one race determined the finals as the wind died away. With the two StFYC boats finishing one and two, they secured their victory. "We had an awesome time," said tactician Tyler Baeder. "Our team have sailed with and against each other for a while. We made mistakes but not too many; we stuck to the basics.”

The StFYC team racers collect their prizes. Left to right: Kayle McComb, Claire Dennis, Tyler Baeder, Hans Henken, Rob Childs of Hiscox Insurance, Kevin Laube, and team captain Kieran Chung.

© 2015 Ellen Hoke Photography

A week-long social program accompanied the sailing. It was a grand event on every level, and San Francisco was well represented.

During the final awards presentations, guests and participants were treated to a display by the Red Devil Parachute team.

© 2015 Ellen Hoke Photography

Editor’s Note: We had to shorten this story to fit in ‘Lectronic. Read the unabridged version here.

Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream

The title is not only the opening line of a fine Traffic rock ‘n’ roll song from the 1970s, it’s also what happened to us the last two nights.

On the first night, we dreamed that we owned two Ocean 71 ketches — we sold our Ocean 71 Big O 20 years ago — and a smaller Olson 30-ish kind of boat. For one reason or the other, all three took off on an around-the-Farallones race without us on any of them. How we got left behind is unclear, because we were supposed to drive one of them. Anyway, it was a very rough race, and by the next morning 11 of the 70 entries hadn’t finished or even been heard from. That included all three of our boats. Naturally we were very concerned.

The dream seemed to go on forever. It was so powerful that when we woke up, it took a couple of minutes to convince ourselves that we didn’t own any of the boats.

The other dream is one that we’ve had twice recently. Somehow or the other we’d inherited an old house with a garage not far from some body of water. When we finally got around to looking into the garage, we found a rather large marine engine coming halfway up through the floor. When we looked down around the engine, we could see that there was actually the entire hull of an older Navy vessel beneath the garage, and that the floor of the garage was actually one of the decks of the ship. Once again it was a strong and vivid dream, and we had it twice in one week.

Calling Dr. Freud.

Have you ever had any marine-orientated dreams/nightmares? If you want to share one, be brief.  

With the California cruising season in full swing and the Mexico winter season not that far away, lots of sailors are wondering whether it makes sense to carry bikes on boats, and if so, what kind of bikes.