Although the wind was 8 knots short of the Caribbean norm of 20 knots, and there was a little more overcast than usual, the first race of the 7th annual Voiles de St. Barth started in competitive style.
The 60-boat fleet is a terrific mix that includes probably the fastest monohull in the world, the 100-ft VLVP Comanche, and perhaps the fastest non-America’s Cup multihull in the world, the MOD70 Phaedo3. The entries in the two maxi divisions included a new Wally/Centro 100, a couple of big and nasty R/Ps, and a bunch of vets of the Volvo Ocean Race.
But the most competitive division of all was CSA 0, which featured a couple of completely black Ker designs and four TP52s. Thanks to the incredibly close racing, the TP Vesper, which is managed by Ken Keefe of KKMI in Sausalito, was named ‘boat of the day’. After a course of something like 31 miles, Vesper nipped the TP52 Sorcha by less than a minute and the TP52 Spookie by only a few seconds more. Vesper had a little boat-to-boat contact at the leeward mark. “It was nothing serious and scared only the termites,” said Keefe. It’s hard to believe, but the eight-year-old, three-generations-old Vesper is made of wood. She’s so old for a competitive racer that she collects Social Security.
The lower divisions consist more of production boats; some carry spinnakers, some don’t. One surprise was the second-place finish of Sir Bobby Velasquez’s St. Martin-based Beneteau 45F5 L’Esperance. The boat almost always wins her non-spinnaker class. The boat actually consists of half hulls from two boats that were destroyed in a hurricane years ago and put together at Velasquez’s marina to make a new boat.
Only four boats raced in the multihull class, but it was an interesting division. Lloyd Thornburg’s Phaedo3, as expected, scorched the course and the class on elapsed time. However, corrected-time honors went to the ancient — 1970s — 35-ft trimaran Triple Jack, which beat the new Gunboat 60 Flow on elapsed time too.
But the most interesting multihull was Greg Slyngstad’s Bieker 53 cat Fujin. Sailing the day before in 22 knots of breeze, the ‘fast cruiser’ set a new speed record of 33 knots. Alas, the wind in the first race was a little too light to suit her.
The wind could be a serious problem for the last three races. There is some breeze this morning, but the forecast for Friday and Saturday’s race is for — this is unheard of in the Caribbean — 1-2 knots. Tonight is the wild crew party on Shell Beach, during which we expect there will be lots of ‘wind dances’ to conjure up the normal 20 knots.
Looking back at last week’s Strictly Sail Pacific boat show, which was staged for the first time at Richmond’s historic Craneway Pavilion, we thought we’d share a few thoughts.
First, from what we could tell, the event’s organizer, Sail America, did a fine job of adapting the show to this new location, having been forced to move it from its longtime former venue at Oakland’s Jack London Square due to ongoing development there. The vintage glass-walled Craneway building — originally part of a Ford assembly plant — has a nice, bright feel to it, especially since it’s perched right along the entry channel to Marina Bay Yacht Harbor, where the in-the-water portion of the show took place.
Although there weren’t as many vendors as in years past — some apparently taking a wait-and-see attitude — most exhibitors seemed genuinely engaged with customers as we perused the show. We don’t know if any new boats were sold, but we saw plenty of sailors heading home with armloads of purchases. As always, vendors were offering deep discounts on deals closed at the show, making this an ideal time to bite the bullet and make major purchases.
We gave several seminars, and thought the seminar spaces were adequate, but not great, as only a curtain separated our audience from the neighboring presenter. But that is often the case at such events. One thing we really appreciated, though, was that a bona fide techie was on-site before each seminar to insure that our computer’s media output synced up with the HD TV screen provided — that service was a first, which all presenters undoubtedly appreciated. Each seminar space had a mic and PA system, which was also a big plus.
Overall, we’d give the newly configured show a big thumbs-up. We heard few complaints, and showgoers seemed pleased with the freeway-close location of the show and the ease of parking. But we’d like to hear your impressions: How did you like the new location? And did the lineup of vendors meet your needs? Drop us a note here with your thoughts.
As we were writing this, Clipper Race entry Derry~Londonderry~Doire reached the finish line of the Pacific Ocean leg, at the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The crew, consisting of a paid professional skipper, Scotsman Daniel Smith, and an international, pay-to-play crew of amateurs, did a horizon job — actually a couple of horizons — over their nearest competitor, Unicef, 127 miles back.
The crossing from Qingdao, China, has been marred by tragedy — the death of a crew overboard, Sarah Young, on April 1 — and significant damage caused by what event founder Sir Robin Knox-Johnston called "very bad weather." He added: "The waves are so big and powerful that the boat is like a plaything." These are 70-ft boats we’re talking about.
Garmin’s British skipper Ash Skett reported "some of the worst seas that I have ever experienced. A particularly enormous wave picked us up and spun us downwind into a crash gybe. Everyone is fine on board and no injuries were sustained. The preventers failed immediately and the boom crashed over into the runner. Damage was sustained to a stanchion on the port side near the helm and the pushpit, which is bent. Shortly after this, a huge breaking wave hit us and the boat slewed to windward. The wave submerged the aft deck and smashed into the framework on the port side, ripping the forward frame from the deck. All the welds on the forward framework failed and the entire thing is separated from the boat." Another huge wave caused the starboard-side steering to fail.
The same storm knocked down Da Nang – Viet Nam yesterday. Having sustained damage that included the loss of the port helm station — and minor injuries — Australian skipper Wendy Tuck and crew dropped out of the race and began motoring toward the coast in order to make port as quickly as possible.
Seattle is making its debut as a host city of the around-the-world race, replacing the Bay Area in this edition. The race village at Bell Harbor in downtown Seattle will open on April 20.
Boats will be available for free tours from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on April 22-26. Onboard sailing experiences will be offered on April 24. Recruitment presentations are scheduled for April 22 at Corinthian Yacht Club, April 24 at the Seattle Marriott Waterfront Hotel, and April 26 at Seattle YC. Also on April 26, Visit Seattle’s British skipper Huw Fernie will throw out the opening pitch at Safeco Field for a game between the Mariners and the Houston Astros. The 12-boat fleet will parade out of Seattle on Thursday the 28th, and the dash to the Panama Canal will start from Port Townsend on April 29. Click here for the all the details of the Seattle itinerary.