November 13, 2015

The Mexico Report

For cruising sailors the annual Sailors’ Spash and Banderas Bay Blast are great fun without the pressure of serious racing. Organizers are hoping for a record turnout this month. 

©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

It’s mid-November and the cruising season is in full swing south of the border. After a day of post-Ha-Ha rest, Profligate continued 300 miles southeast to Banderas Bay, which includes Puerto Vallarta and Profligate’s winter home of La Cruz. It was a very warm — even in the middle of the night — and smooth crossing. The best part was on the last day when our crew of three enjoyed gennaker reaching at 8 to 11 knots in 10 to 13 knots of breeze. If we’d thought that the wind and flat seas would hold for another two weeks, we would have jibed and set sail for Moorea.

John and Debbie Rogers on the San Diego-based Deerfoot 62 Moonshadow had a similar crossing to Banderas Bay, as did other Ha-Ha vets such as Glenn Twitchell and Debbie Jahn on the Newport Beach-based Lagoon 380 Beach Access. The latter stopped just short of Banderas Bay, at the cruiser favorite of Chacala.

It wasn’t that easy for every Ha-Ha boat headed up to La Paz, as Northers sometime make the 135-mile passage difficult — and sometimes a nightmare. Our understanding is that thanks to the refuges at Los Frailes and Muertos, everybody made it north without too much trouble.

Northers coming down the Sea of Cortez are the main winter weather difference between La Paz and Banderas Bay. They just don’t make it the 400 additional miles south to Banderas Bay. As for air temperatures, La Paz has been in the low 80s during the day and the low 60s at night, with one or two big drops when Northers came through. Very pleasant. Banderas Bay has been in the high 80s during the day and the low 70s at night. It’s warm, but not too warm. As for the ocean, it’s still very warm on Banderas Bay, and there’s been a great surfing swell coming out of the Southern Hemisphere for about a week. Cowabunga!

The big event coming up in the La Paz area is the La Paz Beach Party at La Costa Restaurant on November 19, 4-7 p.m. This much-anticipated annual event will feature Mexican folk dancing, live music, food and drinks, door prizes, and more. It is open to all, but the first 50 Baja Ha-Ha participants will attend for free.

One of the big cruiser question marks for Banderas Bay has been the future of Philo’s Music Studio and Bar in La Cruz. As many Latitude readers know, the Ha-Ha vet with the Mendocino-based Cal 36 Cherokee, who built an amazing community center, passed away unexpectedly during a heart procedure a few months ago. We were at Philo’s last night and are glad to report that the place was in early-season form, with the Coyotes, a terrific band, a packed dance floor, and plenty of cruisers. Maria, Philo’s longtime partner, is keeping the bar and music venue together. Philo’s adopted son Diego was, in the best Philo tradition, selling raffle tickets for a fundraiser, and everyone was having a great time.

After Philo Hayward purchased this property in La Cruz years ago, he quickly transformed it into not only a popular bar, restaurant and live music venue, but also a focal point for community fundraisers of all sorts. That tradition will continue.

©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The big cruiser events on the horizon for Banderas Bay are the Sailors’ Splash and the Banderas Bay Blast. The Splash is Tourism’s welcome to all Ha-Ha boats and other cruisers, and is on December 11 from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Marina Riviera Nayarit. There will be free T-shirts, munchies, drinks, music and much more. Two days later is the Banderas Bay Blast, which is three days of Ha-Ha-style ‘nothing serious’ racing on the north shore of Banderas Bay. Following the second race is the annual opening of the Punta Mita Yacht & Surf Club at Punta Mita. The final race is the near-legendary Pirates for Pupils Spinnaker Run for Charity from Mita to Paradise Marina. Don’t miss out on the fun!

Before that, on November 21 from 3 to 6 p.m., Mike Danielson is throwing an open house for the entire sailing community at the North Sail loft adjacent to the La Cruz Shipyard. Let the fun begin!

Merlin Memories

Merlin finishing the 1977 Transpac, captured by an unknown photographer.

© Wizard Yachts, Ltd.

We got a number of responses to Monday’s call-out for Memories of Merlin. This is one of the best.

"Back in ’78 I thought I would see why my dad and grandfather were so crazy about sailing, as at my age at that time powerboats and water skiing were on my mind," writes Frank Dietsch. "I went down to the docks one Wednesday late afternoon in the Santa Cruz Harbor, stood on the fuel dock, and stuck my thumb out. A huge boat that was headed out — and moving fast — under sail — radically changed course, swung its bow to the dock, turned just in time to avoid collision and the guy at the wheel yelled ‘JUMP!’ I jumped, landing in the cockpit. The driver, who turned out to be Bill Lee, asked me what I knew about sailing. I said, ‘Nothing.’ He said ‘Do you see that rope? That’s a jib sheet. The thing it’s wrapped around is a winch. It controls the sail up front. Do what I tell you to do when I tell you to do it.’ I stood there and did what he said to do. He never stopped talking to me. He told me about the function of various parts of the boat. Why the sails were let in and out. How to read the sail for optimum performance. What a spinnaker was and why have one. He told me why he steered this way and that and what the effects were on the boat and boat speed. He told me about how the wind would change as the sun went down. He told me more and even more about sailing. He told me more than what I thought my brain could absorb. But somehow it did. I have been sailing ever since.

"Thank you Bill Lee. You made a huge difference for me and my family."

Triumph in the Transat Jacques Vabre

The first week of the 12th Transat Jacques Vabre was full of doom and gloom; two autumn gales led the way to a flipped maxi-tri, several broken boats, a half-sunk Hugo Boss, and several sailors enduring dramatic helicopter rescues at sea. As the fleet slid south into warmer, more tropical climes however, the headlines have begun to reflect the more hospitable conditions of the south with heartwarming reports of triumphant finishers claiming victory in Brazil and the Hugo Boss saga doing an about-face to include an unlikely happy ending with the boat and both skippers safe on land.

François Gabart and Pascal Bidégorry celebrate a MACIF victory.

© Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI

Wünderkind François Gabart continues to cement himself as the preeminent sailor of his generation by skippering the line-honors-winning MACIF maxi-trimaran to TJV victory alongside co-skipper Pascal Bidégorry. Completing the 5,400-mile course in just 12 days 17 hrs 29 min, the duo sailed an actual distance of some 6,340 miles at an average speed of nearly 21 knots. Locked into a close battle with Thomas Coville and Jean-Luc Nélias on Sodebo Ultim (the highly modified ex-Geronimo), MACIF trailed in the early stages but began to gradually find pace as the race progressed. Sailing a brand-new boat with just one foil in place — set for port tack — MACIF showed a clear advantage when reaching across the southeast trades. With a slow doldrums passage killing any chance of a course record, MACIF saw a nearly 300-mile lead shrink off Cabo Frio, but held on to claim a 100-mile lead over her rival at the finish. Gabart can now add the title of Transat Jacques Vabre champion to his list of triumphs that include the Vendée Globe and Route du Rhum.

Vincent Riou and Sébastien Col do the happy dance on PRB while wasting a couple of magnums of perfectly good champagne.

© 2015 Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI

Coming into this edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre, undoubtedly the biggest story line was that of the new generation of IMOCA 60s. Five ‘foiling’ boats would make their debut against the cream of the crop from the last two generations, with a few older boats thrown in to play spoiler. The story of the new boats breaking one by one is ancient history by now, but that of Vincent Riou and co-skipper Sebastien Col defending PRB’s title in the TJV is an exciting new development. The lightest IMOCA 60 ever built, PRB has shown that she is still a threat to win any race she enters. With a victory in the last TJV by default (MACIF dismasted), a win in the light-air Rolex Fastnet this year, and now another TJV triumph, Riou continues to quietly lurk on the sidelines as the IMOCA class’s dark horse. The only ‘foiler’ to finish, Armel le Cléac’h’s Banque Populaire VIII placed second — showing flashes of brilliance where the new boat was 2-4 knots faster on a reach than her competition — while the inspirational and unflappable Yann Elies skippered Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir to a solid podium finish.

Banque Populaire VIII glides in to finish the Transat Jacques Vabre.

© 2015 Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI

Erwan La Roux and mini-ace Giancarlo Pedote skippered FenêtréA Prysmian to a commanding victory in the four-boat Multi 50 trimaran division. The Class 40s still have a lot of race track to go with leaders Yannick Bestaven and Pierre Brasseur on Le Conservateur watching a big lead shrink near the doldrums and allowing second-placed V and B (wine and beer), with designer Sam Manuard onboard, to close the gap considerably to just under 20 miles as of this writing.

Elsewhere in the Atlantic, Frenchman Frédéric Denis has arrived in Guadeloupe to claim victory in the 20th Mini Transat, skippering his prototype 21-ft Mini Transat Nautipark more than 3,000 miles across the Atlantic at an average speed of more than 10.5 knots!

Frédéric Denis of Nautipark celebrated being first to Pointe-à-Pitre in the Mini Transat.

© 2015 Jacques Vapillon / Mini Transat Îles de Guadeloupe
Profligate, fleeing the temperate zone for the tropics, despite the danger of sailing off the curve of the earth. 
This boat is surrounded by either a flood or a drought. Since it’s in California… latitude/JR
©2015Latitude 38 Media, LLC In addition to the much more dire consequences of the California drought, lake sailing has suffered.
Peter Boland and Erik Pavelka’s J/80 Acqua Veloce raced in SYC’s chilly, foggy, drizzly first Midwinter race on the first day of November.