While the Vendée Globe has been stealing all of the headlines — in the sailing world at least — Thomas Coville departed from Brest, France, on Sunday afternoon at 2:49 and is quietly romping his way down the Atlantic ahead of Francis Joyon’s reference time for fastest solo circumnavigation. Like having a birthday on Christmas, Coville’s record attempt is flying below the radar despite the fact that he and his 102-ft maxi-trimaran Sodebo Ultim’ are currently sailing at about 25 knots of boatspeed some 227 miles ahead of Joyon’s reference time. To set a new record, Coville will have to beat Joyon’s historic 2008 solo circumnavigation time of 57 days, 13 hours and 34 minutes set on IDEC 2. Follow the tracker here.
As we write this, Coville is currently some 400 miles north of the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa and has emerged into steady northeast pressure, which is shifting to the east and lining him up for what looks like a quick crossing of the doldrums and a mad dash to the Southern Ocean. After a series of unplanned jibes near Madeira, Coville is showing impressive speed and looks likely to cross the equator nearly a day ahead of Joyon’s time of 6 days, 17 hours. In the South Atlantic Ocean, the Saint Helena High remains quite far south, making the route to the Southern Ocean longer but with plenty of breeze to keep Coville moving at warp speed and ahead of the reference time.
Speaking of Joyon, he and his crew ended up bailing on their simultaneous Trophée Jules Verne departure in light of the Saint Helena High’s aforementioned southerly position. With legendary weather router Marcel van Triest calling the shots, the team stood down to ‘Code Red’ just as Coville was making his Sunday departure, claiming that they may leave within three to four days once they have a quick window to both the equator and the Southern Ocean. The team has announced that they are once again ‘Code Orange’ to leave this weekend on the 104-ft trimaran IDEC Sport with a tentative departure date of Saturday, November 12. See www.idecsport-sailing.com.
Meanwhile, the Vendée Globe has seen an incredible zero retirements, though Spaniard Didac Costa is still in Les Sables d’Olonne effecting repairs to his yacht, One Planet One Ocean. As long as he restarts within 10 days of Sunday’s start date, he’ll be eligible to sail in the race. Frenchman Armel Le Cléac’h, one of the race’s favorites to win, leads the fleet onboard his new foiling IMOCA 60 Banque Populaire VIII, though the fleet is still very tightly grouped.
Last fall Tropical Cyclone Winston nailed Fiji, and one of the unfortunate results was something like 21 holes being put in the hull of the Voyager 43 cat Quixote. When the boat came up for sale on salvage, Lewis Allen and Alyssa Alexopolous of the Redwood City-based Tartan 37 Eleutheria took a deep breath and made the plunge into the project.
After four months of incredibly hard work on their part and that of their team, and about 30% more money than they’d figured, they’ve got the boat back in the water and sailing. It took so much time they haven’t even had a chance to update their website to reflect the fact they have a new boat. You can read about the details of their restoration and launch in the October issue of Latitude.
The accompanying photos were taken during their first sail, a 40-mile passage along the windward coast of Taveuni. The young couple are absolutely loving their new cat. As with all new cat owners, they are thrilled with all the space they now have, and with being able to sail flat.
Based on the photos, it would seem that catamarans have two other advantages. First, it would appear that the number of fish you catch depends on how many hulls you have. Lewis and Alyssa now have two hulls, so they got two huge mahi, not just one. Second, most cats, Quixote included, have back steps, which make an ideal place to clean fish. Too bad cats cost so much.
Have you caught a mahi or other fish as big as these from your boat? If so, we’d like to see photographic evidence and a very brief description of who, when and where. And, with the Mexico cruising season in full swing, does anybody have any tips for first-time cruiser/fisherpeople?
On Monday, the Associated Press reported that a German sailor who was kidnapped by Somali pirates eight years ago has apparently been captured again — this time by Islamic militants in the southern Philippines. Members of that country’s military found the man’s yacht with a woman’s body aboard.
Major Filemon Tan of the Philippine military reports that Abu Sayyaf militants have announced that they kidnapped Jurgen Gustav Kantner and killed his female companion while the couple was cruising off neighboring Malaysia’s Sabah coast. Villagers from Laparan Island, in the Sulu province of the southwestern Philippines, found Kantner’s German-flagged yacht, Rockall, with a woman’s body aboard, lying beside a shotgun.
In 2008 Kantner, 70, who is diabetic, and his wife, Sabine Merz, were kidnapped off Somalia — apparently from the same boat — and were later freed. Judging from the passports found onboard, the deceased woman is believed to be Merz. "The body found was naked and had several contusions to the face and was possibly raped," the military said.
Despite a sizable joint offensive by the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia to ensure safety on their seas, the Abu Sayyaf have recently committed many acts of piracy, kidnapping Indonesians and Malaysians from tugboats and fishing boats.
Anticipating that the terrorist group, which supports itself through ransom payoffs, may soon demand ransom for Kantner, Major Tan explained the Philippine government’s no-ransom policy: "If we give in to ransom, a greater damage will be done. They can use the money to buy arms and to feed their bandits, and that will fuel again the tendency for them to kidnap," he said. "It becomes a lucrative business."