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February 10, 2017

Good Wood for Sailors and Police

Wood from the Guayacan tree is perfect for both sailors and cops.

Jack van Ommen
©2017Latitude 38 Media, LLC

It looks as though Latitude’s great friend Jack van Ommen of the Gig Harbor, Washington-based Naja 30 Fleetwood will not make it “around the world in 80 years” as he had hoped. For in order to do that, he’d have to make it from the Caribbean side of the Panama Canal to an imaginary line between Trinidad and Cuba in about 10 days. Given how tough it is to sail upwind east from Panama during February — it’s blowing 22-27 knots in much of the area today — it wouldn’t be easy.

Nobody should hold it against Jack if he takes a couple of days beyond his 80th birthday to complete his circumnavigation. This photo of Jack was taken aboard Fleetwood in San Diego just before the start of last year’s Baja Ha-Ha.

©2017Latitude 38 Media, LLC

But with van Ommen having already cruised to nearly 60 countries on a 30-ft boat on a modest Social Security budget, who cares if he is a week or two late finishing his goal?

Having once thrived — and then floundered — in the timber business, van Ommen knows all about trees. While passing through Lake Gatun in the Canal, he spotted a familiar Guayacan tree.

“They bloom in January/February,” says van Ommen, “and produce the lignum vitae that has a natural lubricant. My grandfather, like a lot of other sailors, used it for the sheaves in wooden rigging blocks. And when I worked for a hardwood importer in California, we sold it to White Brothers in San Francisco, and they used it to make billy clubs for the San Francisco Police Department."

Phaedo3’s Race to a Race

When you have a trimaran such as Phaedo3 that can hit 40 knots, you can quickly cover a lot of ground between race venues. But from Antigua to Newport Beach in less than three weeks? 

©2017Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Ever since her first race, the February 2015 Caribbean 600, with new owner Lloyd Thornburg and new skipper Brian Thompson, the MOD70 trimaran Phaedo3 has been kicking ass. Like a bull in a china shop, she’s smashed one course record after another, in the Caribbean, back and forth across the Atlantic, in England, and in Europe.

If any boat/owner/skipper has set more significant course and race records in such a short time, or even in a career, we have no idea who that would be. While it’s true Phaedo3 often didn’t have significant competition, sometimes she did and she still did well. For example, she led start to finish to take a close victory in last year’s Caribbean 600 against a sistership. And in last year’s Transatlantic Race, she bested sailing legend Giovanni Soldini’s Maserati, a sistership with foils.

Given Thornburg’s passion for setting records, one of Phaedo3’s biggest challenges this spring will be just getting to the multihull start of the Newport to Cabo Race on March 12. The deal is that the Caribbean 600 doesn’t start until February 20. After way more than 600 hard-ass tradewind racing miles, Phaedo3 will have to be rushed 1,200 miles down to the Panama Canal, through the Canal, and about 2,600 miles north — including a Baja Bash — to Newport. She’s surely going to have to cover more than 4,000 miles in something like 17 days to get to the starting line.

After the Cabo race, Thornburg and Thompson will be doing the Transpac and going after the course record. In that event she’ll have to beat Soldini and his MOD70 with foils. It’s going to be great racing.

Naturally Thornburg, who has a villa in St. Barth, won’t be missing Les Voiles de St. Barth in April. He’s entered a Carkeek 40.

We’ve known Thornburg, who is still in his 30s, since before he got serious about racing. We’re pleased to note that he’s still the same friendly, unpretentious guy. It doesn’t hurt that he’s paired with Brian Thompson, one of the nicest and most relaxed racers we’ve ever met. Paul Allen of Santa Cruz is a regular crewmember.

In the world of yacht racing, it’s hard to find a cooler and more relaxed combination of skipper/owner than Brian Thompson, left, and Lloyd Thornburg. Thompson used to live in the Bay Area when he co-skippered Steve Fossett’s Lakota. Thornburg still keeps the original Phaedo, a Gunboat 66, in Newport Beach. 

©2017Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Even if Phaedo3 doesn’t make it to the starting line, the Newport Harbor YC’s 800-mile race is shaping up as an excellent one. This year monohulls will start on March 10 and 11, while the multihulls will start on March 12.

Of the 22 boats entered, seven are 70-ft sleds designed by either Bill Lee or Alan Andrews. But the first monohull to finish will almost certainly be Manouch Moshayedi’s Bakewell-White Rio100. She had the fastest time in the last Cabo race, crossing the finish after 2 days, 14 hours, an average of 12.9 knots. Both the monohull and multihull records are in jeopardy this year.

Pac Cup Registration Open

The Pacific Cup Yacht Club has posted the official Notice of Race and registration is open for the 2018 Pacific Cup. Next year marks the 20th running of the race from San Francisco to Kaneohe, Hawaii.

Leis, mai tais, family and friends — and a huge sense of accomplishment — await Pac Cup racers in Kaneohe.

© Lori Tewksbury

The Pacific Cup is a biennial invitational 2,070-mile race from the starkly beautiful coastline of San Francisco to the lush, tropical paradise of Kaneohe. The course will start near the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco Bay and finish outside Kaneohe Bay in Oahu. The Fastest Passage time record for the race was set in 2016 by Rio100 (5:02:41:13). The 2016 Overall Winner was the doublehanded Moore 24 ¡Mas! which completed the race in 10:14:30:22.

Ian Rogers and Mark English, the doublehanded crew of ¡Mas!, were honored at their home club, Richmond YC, last fall.

©2017Latitude 38 Media, LLC

PCYC Commodore Buzz Blackett, a veteran of many Pacific Cups, says “We are pleased to open the 2018 Pacific Cup to entries almost 18 months before the event. We hope this early announcement will help skippers and crews to begin planning their preparation and to submit their entries in plenty of time to assure them a place on the starting line. We encourage all interested sailors to visit and look for the upcoming announcement of our first Pacific Offshore Academy seminar this spring.”

Pat Lowther, PCYC’s Safety at Sea committee chair says, “We offer the best training around with our seminars and Pacific Offshore Academy. We actually teach folks how to cross an ocean. There is great support from veteran racers for the first timers.”

Starting guns will sound the week of July 9-13, 2018. The Pacific Cup is limited to 70 boats, so signing up early is the key to knowing you are racing and can begin preparations.

Calendar Erratum

Our February Calendar listed an incorrect date for Corinthian YC’s Speaker Series event featuring Dirk Rosen of MARE. We said Rosen’s presentation would be on February 12 when it was actually on February 2. Our apologies to anyone who missed out!

The next CYC Speaker Series event will be on March 2, featuring Korean War vet Jim Staley, author of Come In, Swanee Leader. The Speaker Series is free and open to the public, but do RSVP to (415) 435-4771 or go to

Ex-president Barack Obama was all smiles after successfully learning to kiteboard in the BVI’s Gorda Sound — for which he scores big points in our book.