November 23, 2016

Is This Cool or What?

What possible connection could there be between holiday shopping and the opening of the Panama Canal’s ‘Third Set of Locks’ last summer? (Seen here near completion, with the original Pacific-side locks in the background.)

© 2016 ACP

Shopping for holiday gifts that will be fully appreciated can be a huge headache — except perhaps when you’re shopping for young kids. If you choose well, they’ll react to your gift with wide-eyed fascination, and might even call you their hero.

This year, the ever-innovative toy masters at Lego have come up with a sure-to-please item that has real-world, nautical significance. We’re talking about the new working model of the recently opened Panama Canal expansion (rated for kids age eight and up). Check out the video below, and you’ll see that it demonstrates how ships actually move up and down the new locks, with water coming in — okay, actually blue Lego bricks — and out.

As you’ll notice, creation of the 1,184-piece set was approved by the Panama Canal Authority. Think of the fun you’ll have helping to build it, not to mention the potential lessons in history, geography, and international commerce that you could convey while you’re trying to figure out exactly how to position piece number 952.

Video courtesy Lego Education

Otto Is Late and South but Coming

You don’t see the likes of tropical storm/hurricane Otto very often. First of all, he’s a very late-season storm. Even more unusual, he formed very far to the south in the western Caribbean. So far south that Costa Rica, which ‘never gets hit by a tropical storm’, is expected to get hit by its first one in over 150 years. And Panama, which ‘never ever’ gets hit by a tropical storm, is being skimmed by Otto.

Indeed, a tropical storm watch has been posted almost as far south and east as the Panama Canal. And there is a tropical storm warning for the Panama Canal, where lakes and locks are being drained as a precaution, and the San Blas Islands.

While Otto isn’t expected to make landfall until Thursday morning at the Costa Rica/Panama border, heavy rain associated with the storm has already claimed four lives because of extensive flooding. On land, flooding always kills more people than the wind.

Otto is expected to ‘jump’ Central America and hit the Pacific, although as a tropical storm as opposed to a Category 1 hurricane. Everyone on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica and Nicaragua needs to get prepared immediately.

A Glimpse at November’s Midwinters

The rail on Tony Pohl’s Twisted. The Farr 40 raced in the Golden Gate Yacht Club Midwinters on November 5 and won the PHRF 1 division.

© 2016 Erik Simonson

On November 5 the Golden Gate Yacht Club, defenders of the America’s Cup, defended their position as the organizers of one of the most popular and well-run midwinter series on San Francisco Bay. The 46th annual Manuel Fagundes Seaweed Soup Regatta kicked off with 55 boats racing in four PHRF and three one-design divisions. The defender of the (Seaweed Soup) Cup, the 8-Meter Yucca, was not racing, as skipper Hank Easom instead trotted out his new steed, the 36-ft Sabre Spirit Serenade.

Hank Easom and crew on his new-to-him pretty blue Sabre Serenade, racing in the GGYC Midwinters.

© Erik Simonson

The first of the new season’s Sausalito YC Chili Midwinters followed the next day. The faster boats were given a twice-around windward/leeward course around drop marks; the slower divisions sailed just one lap. Both days of that weekend offered pleasant weather and adequate wind.

The light during the ‘dark’ months is a photographer’s dream. These boats are sailing in the Sausalito YC Chili Midwinter race on November 6.

© 2016 Roxanne Fairbairn

The Berkeley Midwinters were held in similarly pleasant weather the following weekend, after postponements on both days to wait for the wind to settle. BYC offers separate series on Saturday and Sunday; racers can register for both for a discount. The racing venue is the former Olympic Circle, which doesn’t really work anymore since some of the marks are missing and silting has rendered portions of the Circle too shallow for keelboats. Instead BYC has been running windward/leeward courses around inflatable marks.

In addition to several PHRF divisions, BYC Midwinters have attracted a fleet of 20 Express 27s on Saturday and seven on Sunday.

©2016Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Conflicting with the BYC on Saturday, but in the deeper water to the west, is the RegattaPRO Winter One Design series, with two-race days. Registration this year is through the Sausalito YC website. SYC assists in the series with assets and volunteers. J/105, J/120, J/70, J/24, Melges 24 and Moore 24 classes were seen looping the marks.

Waiting for the wind pays off as the fleet breaks for the startline in the November 12 RegattaPRO Winter One Design. Twenty local J/105s are in contention over the next four months.

© 2016 Martha Blanchfield

On the same day, farther south near Treasure Island, Encinal YC held the first two of their Jack Frost Series races. "After racing, join us for complimentary clam chowder while you watch video of the day’s sailing back at the club," promise the organizers. "We award a prize each day to the race winner in each division or class." EYC’s website makes the very good point that midwinter racing is usually very mild (except when a storm front passes through) and gives sailors an incentive to get out on the water during winter, keeping their boats in sailing form and their skills intact.

That Sunday, the 13th, the Alameda-based Island YC hosted their first Island Days race in a series held entirely on the relatively protected waters of the Oakland-Alameda Estuary.

The good luck with dry weather ran out for races held on the third Saturday of the month. Vallejo YC’s first Tiny Robbins Midwinter race of the season attracted only three boats, whose crews braved the rain. South Beach YC’s Island Fever race fared better, with about half the 24 registered boats making the start.

All of the above series except the Jack Frost continue in December, plus Richmond YC’s Small Boat Midwinters will begin on the first weekend of the month. For specific dates of these and many more midwinter series, please see our Calendar.

‘Lectronic Latitude has Friday off, and Latitude 38’s office will be closed tomorrow and Friday. From our crew to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!

Shot during a pre-start practice session, either a very large shark — or perhaps orca — is keeping pace with Alex Thomson’s sleek IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss, or we’re getting a look at the tip of his starboard foil, which is now broken.
We made it! El Gato owners Annie Gardner and Eric Witte, on the right, stand atop the cat’s house after making the 1,500-mile passage from Virginia to the British Virgins.