October 28, 2015

Ha-Ha Fleet Approaches Turtle Bay

Tom Wurfl and Helen Downs’ Lagoon 42 Catatude and scores of other sailboats paraded out of San Diego Bay on their way to the start of the 22nd Baja Ha-Ha on Monday morning.

latitude/John A.
©2015Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The 22nd annual Baja Ha-Ha Rally got off to a very mellow start on Monday, with light winds of 8-10 knots, flat seas and clear blue skies — a perfect introduction to offshore cruising for the many first-timers in the fleet.

As the sun set that evening, a brilliant full moon rose over the Baja coast. Veteran crew aboard the committee boat, Profligate, agreed that Monday night was the warmest and driest first night out ever.

This being a rally rather than a race, many crews kicked on their engines when the breeze dropped below 6 knots late Monday night, but, as always, a number of diehards were determined to sail the entire course, despite having to ghost along at 3 knots or less during the wee hours.

As predicted by the fleet’s weather router, Commodore Weather, the breeze piped up into the 12- to 14-knot range early Tuesday afternoon, providing absolutely awesome sailing conditions: a perfect combination of moderate breeze, gentle swells and clear skies. Abnormally warm water temperatures — roughly 75° — 150 miles south of San Diego helped the fishermen in the fleet find early success.

Most fleet members will arrive in Bahia Tortugas (Turtle Bay) today, the first R&R stop of the trip. The annual Ha-Ha baseball game is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon, followed on Friday by a massive beach party. Leg 2, a 280-mile run to remote Bahia Santa Maria, will begin Saturday morning.

So far, despite light winds at times, at least three boats have sailed the entire course: the Lagoon 42s Catatude and Swell, and the Gulfstar 50 Talion — skippered by Patsy Verhoeven, one of two female skippers in the 110-boat fleet. Stay tuned for additional updates.

Merlin Comes Home

The legendary ocean racer Merlin is coming home to Santa Cruz. Her designer, builder and original owner, Bill Lee, has bought her back. Her canting keel (a modern modification) is history. "She will be in storage in Santa Cruz for a while while we change the keel out," Lee told us. "I will likely enter her in 2017’s Transpac."

Merlin took a break in Wendover, NV.

© Mike Lear

Yesterday afternoon’s much-anticipated arrival was delayed. "There’s been a zebra mussel delay at Donner Summit," wrote Jeremy Leonard yesterday evening. Such is the fate of trailer-sailers — the 68-ft Merlin arrived in California from the fresh water Great Lakes!

Read this story by Shimon van Collie, written for Latitude 38 in 1995, to learn why Merlin is so special.

Sailing Grants Deadline Nears

The Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation may be based in England, but its reach is global. Sailing nonprofits from around the world are encouraged to apply for grants of up to £10,000, which converts to $15,300 in US dollars. But the deadline is approaching — it’s November 2.

"Leapin’ lizards! We get to go sailing!"


So far in 2015, the ASSF has supported 20 different projects with more than £250,000 across six countries, but none so far in North America. Applicants can learn more and download the form at andrewsimpsonfoundation.co.uk/our-grants.

And mark your 2016 calendars now for Bart’s Bash, on September 17-18. The third global sailing event, which raises funds for the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation, will be spread over both days of the weekend for the first time.

In case you’ve been lost on a remote, uncharted island for the past two and a half years, Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson was the British team member of Artemis Racing who perished on May 9, 2013, in a capsize while training in the AC72 for the America’s Cup on San Francisco Bay.

"I’m on a boat!" sang this cadre of rappers, who were soon to abandon their flashy suits for shorts, T-shirts and flipflops. 
The premiere of We Built a Ship (part 1 of 3) will be screened at the Lark Theater in downtown Larkspur this Wednesday evening.