"Ia Orana, to everyone!" write John and Deb Rogers of the San Diego-based Deerfoot 62 Moonshadow.
"The two of us have completed the 2,837-mile passage from Puerto Vallarta to the Marquesas in 16 days, 8 hours, an average of 7.2 knots. And we’re still happily married.
"Our passage was delightful, with many days of excellent sailing. The dreaded doldrums, which seemed to stretch on forever on the GRIB files, were not what we expected. We were able to sail through half of the area of light wind with a spinnaker up. And upon exiting the doldrum area we had our best day’s run — 230 miles in 24 hours with the chute up on a beam reach.
"We arrived too late on a dark evening to attempt to anchor in the crowded harbor at Atuana on Hiva Oa, so we carried on to the little cove of Hanamoenoa on the nearby island of Tahuata. The anchorage is just 10 miles from Atuana, where we must return to in order to check-in, and it provided an easy place to arrive at night. Little did we know what a gem this place was until the next morning! We woke up to a pristine white sand beach backed with glistening palms at the doorstep to a lush valley. We also awoke to the fragrances from land, including earth, jasmine, gardenia maybe some vanilla. The water is 40 feet deep, and we can see our anchor in white sand on the bottom. Luckily for us, we cannot check in ’til Monday, so this is home for the weekend.
"As the photo indicates, the drone survived the trip across the Pacific."
We’ll have a more detailed report on John and Debbie’s crossing in the June, not May, issue of Latitude 38.
As all sailors know, sometimes the weather just doesn’t cooperate for thrilling sailing. That was the case in last week’s seventh annual Voiles de St. Barth, where the normally ultra-reliable spring easterly trades just didn’t cooperate for the fleet of 65, which included some of the top monohulls and multihulls in the world.
There was a pleasant 14 knots of wind in the first of four races, but the second didn’t see much over 6 knots and the third race had to be canceled. It was a nail-biter waiting to see if the final race was going to get off, but it did, in the minimum amount of wind.
Watching yachts race in light air has often been compared to watching paint dry. But that wasn’t the case in the last race of the Voiles. We know because we followed the fleet all the way around the island. While they never saw more than 6 knots, it was a great tactical duel among world-class navigators and sailors in the most scenic surroundings.
(We asked Ken Keefe to give us a rough idea of the percentage of the world’s top pro sailors who were at the event. He guessed 25%.)
The monohull line-honors battle was always between Jim Clark and Kristy Hinze Clark’s 100-ft all-out racing machine Comanche, and Michael Hall’s Wally/Cento 100 Galateia, which sports a lot of cruising amenities. As Comanche’s skipper Ken Read had said before, the “big bottom girl” Comanche is vulnerable in less than 7 knots of wind, and it proved to be the case, as the well-sailed Galateia took line honors. It was only the second time Comanche had ever not taken line honors, the first being in the 2014 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race.
Clark was gracious in defeat, inviting the entire Galateia crew over to his 292-ft Athena for drinks and sliding down the yacht’s huge slide into the sea — the same slide on which Comanche’s Kimo Worthington had broken his leg going down the year before.
The even closer duel in Maxi 1 in the last race was for elapsed-time honors between Proteus and Momo, a couple of really cool-looking Judel/Vrolijk Maxi 72s that went into the last race tied. Sailing brilliantly, Momo held a good lead until about 100 yards from the finish, when the wind shut down completely. Proteus, which is skippered by Reggie Cole, who ran a lot of race boats on the West Coast years ago, went to school on Momo and nipped them for class honors.
Putting in the best performance of the day, however, was Jim Swartz’s Utah-based TP52 Vesper, which was up against three other newer 52s and a couple of nice Ker designs. Vesper was driven for all but a few minutes by the 74-year-old owner, and not only killed the rest of the class — two bullets in the other two races — but had an even faster elapsed time than Comanche. Navigation by Gavin Brady didn’t hurt.
Vesper is managed by Ken Keefe of KKMI in Sausalito, who earlier in the week told us that Vesper was such an old TP52 that she was built of wood. A trusted source, he could have told us she had a full keel and skeg-hung rudder, too, and we might have believed him. Particularly since a friend in St. Thomas had told us he’d seen her there in a termite tent the month before. In reality, Vesper, like all the other 52s, is carbon fiber.
"Rich White Man Wins Yacht Race." How often have you read that headline? One of the cool things about the Voiles is that there was a diverse group of winning owners. For in addition to the bigger boats with all-pro crews, some of the 12 divisions were won by darker-skinned amateur crews from places not noted for high-end racing.
For example, the brilliantly named Humildad Zero (No Humility), a Sota 53 out of Argentina owned by Daniel Figueirido and Hernan Munoz Ruiz, took honors in CSA 2. Puerto Rican Sergio Sagramoso and his all-local crew of old friends won their division again this year with his very well-sailed Melges 32 Lazy Dog. Also back for another class victory was Claude Granel and his all-West Indian crew — except for Marc Emig of Marseille — on Credit Mutuel – Maximarine, a Jeanneau 3200 out of Martinique.
The ‘biggest win for the least money’ belonged to Richard Wooldridge and Steve Davis’s ancient — 1970s — Kelsall 40 trimaran Triple Jack from the Virgin Islands, which they jokingly valued at about $3,000. On corrected time at least, she bested Lloyd Thornburg’s all-conquering MOD70 Phaedo3, Tony Teale’s brand-new China-built Gunboat 60 Flow, and Greg Slyngstad’s new Bieker 53 cat Fujin. To be honest, the three newer boats were all dying for wind — a lot more wind.
Seattle’s Slyngstad, who has enjoyed great Voiles sailing conditions in previous years with his J/125 Hamachi, managed to see the bright side of light weather. “We definitely learned a lot about sailing Fujin in light air, and were pleased with our Saturday performance — although it is a lot more fun in more breeze. We’ll be back next year for Voiles as well as the Caribbean 600. We’re still trying to decide what to do after that. Either the 2017 Transpac or the Med.”
Unless you like to race ‘sausages’, the Voiles, when it has its normal wind, might be the most fun regatta in the world. The sailing conditions are normally fantastic, the competition is great, the scenery is incredible, the logistical support gets raves from the owners — and the social life and entertainment are decidedly French. For example, before the band came on one night at the quai, a woman dressed in high boots, a red corset and devil’s horns poking out of her head walked through the crowd, got up on the stage, and did a wild dance that featured big flares. You don’t see that in the Ensenada Race. The 10-year-old boys sitting cross-legged in the front row as if they were waiting to make s’mores at a campfire didn’t know what to make of this aspect of French culture.
No matter if you’re the owner of a world-class 50- to 100-footer, one of a group of people wanting to race a chartered production boat, or someone looking to race in a world-class fun and competitive event, we recommend the Voiles.
Each month from November through June, the Singlehanded Sailing Society is holding seminars for those who intend to cross the Pacific alone in this July’s Singlehanded TransPac. April is the exception; instead of a seminar, the singlehanders gathered for a cruise-in at Oakland YC on April 16-17. Ten entries were represented, and eight skippers brought their boats so that the competition could check them out.
It’s safe to say that none of these boats is stock, out-of-the-box, factory-direct (pick your favorite cliché). Rather, they’re all modified to some extent and carry equipment not found on typical Bay Area race boats (some are not even ‘race’ boats). For instance, Dirk Husselman bought the Beneteau First 30 demo boat, but then traded out the rig for an offshore mast and got a new suit of sails from Sylvain Barrielle at UK.
The two remaining Wednesday night SHTP seminars are scheduled for May 11 (Provisioning and Medical Considerations) and June 8 (Weather and Race Strategy). Everyone is invited to the free seminars, which are held in OYC’s Regatta Room at 7:30 p.m. See www.sfbaysss.org/shtp2016 for much more info.