Downtown Seattle’s Bell Harbor Marina is preparing to welcome the Clipper Round the World’s 12 70-ft one-design boats for the first time in the 20-year history of the race. The fleet is currently in Qingdao, China, anticipating Sunday’s start of Race 9. Each race within the circumnavigation has a descriptive name, and the 6,000-mile passage to Seattle is called ‘Conquer the Mighty Pacific’. The boats are expected to arrive in Seattle April 15-20, and will depart for the Panama Canal on April 28, with New York their only other US destination. In recent editions, they’ve stopped in Santa Cruz, Oakland, or San Francisco, but Seattle will substitute for a California port this year.
"We’re getting the boat prepped for the race to Seattle," writes Mike Moore, the circumnavigating Bay Area resident we profiled in the October 2015 issue of Latitude 38. "The last leg was a tough one, especially the last bit in the Yellow Sea, as we hit a big storm with headwinds in the 70s and temperatures dropping to near freezing. Lots of excitement in the shallow waters and sharp seas filled with fishing boats, nets and commercial shipping. We have lots to do to repair the damage from the storm." We’ll hear more from Mike, who’s racing aboard Sponsored by Mission Performance, in the next Latitude.
The skippers of each yacht are paid professionals, but the crew are all pay-to-play amateurs, hailing from 44 different countries. They can choose single or multiple legs, or go all the way around the globe. The race, which started from London on August 30, makes 14 stops in nine countries before returning to London after an 11-month odyssey. LMAX Exchange is currently leading the standings. See www.clipperroundtheworld.com.
For sailors who are partial to really, really, really big boat sailing, the little island of St. Barth in the French West Indies is again this week the happiest place in the world. It’s the St. Barth Bucket!
As we write, 39 boats between 90 and 292 feet are slated to be sailing counterclockwise around the island in the first of three races. The conditions couldn’t be more spectacular — 15 knots of breeze, flat water, blue skies with tradewind clouds, and even bluer water.
The boats are so big that they can’t possibly be handled by weekend warriors, so top sailors from around the world are flown in and set up in villas or on catamarans so they can help the core crews race the monsters. Among the Northern California sailors here are Paul Cayard, Ken Keefe and Patrick Adams, all of Marin County.
For many of the world-class sailors, it’s heartfelt reunion time, as many have been involved in death-defying racing stunts around the world since they last saw each other. Some almost didn’t make the reunion, as a 19-seat Winair plane with a bunch of the Perini Navi P2 crew landed hard at the little airport, hard enough to damage the landing gear and strut, and spin the plane around. Fortunately it was nothing more than a close call.
At 196 feet, the new Perini Navi Perseus is about 100 feet shorter than the longest yacht — Jim Clark’s 292-ft Athena — but she has the tallest mast at almost 250 feet. That means she wouldn’t come close to fitting beneath the Bridge of the Americas in Panama or the Golden Gate Bridge. But she’s a big improvement over the old Perseus, one of the crew told us, because giant new winches mean they can get the hoop of the mammoth spinnaker to the masthead in 30 seconds instead of three minutes. Of course, setting the chute takes longer. A lot longer if things go wrong, because you’re talking about a sail that could easily cover a couple of NBA basketball courts.
When money is no object, nothing could ever go wrong with these boats, right? Not quite. For about the last four days one to three crewmembers have been about 175 feet aloft on the mainmast of the 218-ft Hetarios. Although the carbon masts had X-rayed just fine a couple of months ago, delamination was discovered a couple of days ago. It’s hard enough to grind off bad carbon and add new layers in an ideal environment with an oven. It might be impossible to do it while sitting in a bosun’s chair swaying in the trades nearly two hundred feet in the air, but they’re trying, day and night. After all, the owner probably has at least a quarter mil in getting the boat and crew to St. Barth in pursuit of a pickle dish.
Yesterday was one of the wildest days we’ve ever seen in St. Barth. First of all, there was already the addition of about 1,500 testosterone-fueled sailors to the island of about 10,000, filling the quay and downtown street. Then a very large cruise ship started offloading thousands of gay men. Most people coming off cruise ships are older and not very energetic. The gay guys were much younger than average cruise shippers, most of them were in enviably good shape, and they ‘attacked’ the islands with enthusiasm almost as great as their numbers.
Then, suddenly, circumnavigator/artist David Wegman of Afriggin Queen, a few weeks ago almost given up for lost, appeared, looking like nobody else on the island, gay or straight. He’d just arrived after a hard passage from the Virgin Islands. He was blocking traffic in the middle of the main road, getting and giving hugs to every other person who walked by, all of them dear friends. A Bucket just wouldn’t be a Bucket without the presence of Wegman, who is the antithesis of all that is Bucket-ish.
We didn’t even realize that it was St. Patrick’s Day until we were dinghying past Hetairos and a guy with a green hat and a fake beard started yelling at us. It was ’Ticonderoga Tom’ Reardon who ran the great 86-ft Herreshoff ketch Ticonderoga for more than two decades before retiring to live on the beach and surf on the Caribbean coast of Panama. “I’m not leaving Panama,” he laughed, “They can’t drag me away!” Although the great Ticonderoga was moored in the ‘Trailer Park’ just a few feet away, Tom wasn’t tempted.
When you get very rich men, yachts and a beautiful tropical island, you get an unusual number of stunning women, dressed in all sorts of fabulous ways. And sometimes not that dressed at all. The other night we were at Baz Bar with Ken and Kerry Keefe, and this beautiful young West Indian woman started dancing. And she was a really good dancer. Then, not four feet in front of us, she started rubbing and raising her dress above her butt. Always the gentlemen, we and Ken turned our eyes away. But not de Mallorca, who later reported, “There wasn’t even a G-string. Not even a G-string!” The gal’s boyfriend didn’t seem to mind her going commando. That’s St. Barth for you.
It’s going to be a struggle for us make it through the rest of the week, but we have an obligation to you, our readers, so we’ll soldier on the best we can.
Mariners traveling in American territorial waters and beyond take great comfort in knowing that Coast Guard resources are always standing by to assist them if an emergency should occur. But when solo sailor Rimas Meleshyus had to be rescued by Guardsmen Wednesday and towed 30 miles into Monterey Harbor, we had to wonder if there is a limit to how many times an individual sailor can call for help before rescue authorities say, "Enough already." We can’t actually imagine that happening, but it’s worth noting that since Rimas’ first offshore adventure in Alaska four years ago, he has sailed and drifted thousands of miles, yet has never made landfall without assistance.
As reported Wednesday, some of the Russian-born American sailor’s supporters became concerned early last week after he left Sausalito’s Richardson Bay anchorage March 7 in unsettled weather without alerting even his closest acquaintances. But after 10 days at sea he turned up off Monterey (185 miles south of his departure point) with his Rawson 30 Mimsy "completely trashed," according to Jean Mondeau, who gave Rimas the boat last year so he could pursue his dream of sailing alone around the planet. The "brand new" headsail is in now in tatters, the dinghy is gone, there’s no anchor chain aboard, and the engine won’t start, even with a jump.
In Rimas’ latest post on Facebook, he talks of coming dangerously close to cargo ships often during the short trip south, and being washed overboard "many times," each time pulling himself back aboard again. In his broken English he writes, "Many people do not understand me. Maybe I do not have experience sailing, but I know how to survive on the open [ocean]; dangerous place."
Rimas’ options for continuing on now seem severely limited. Not only is his boat in disrepair, but he’s flat broke and harbor authorities are, of course, threatening to seize the boat if he can’t come up with slip fees soon. Even worse, Rimas’ greatest supporter has lost all confidence in his potential to become a competent mariner. "I’m done," says Mondeau. And this time we’re pretty sure he means it.