Dismasted on Friday, February 10, off the coast of Portugal with more than 700 miles to go to finish the solo nonstop Vendée Globe in Les Sables d’Olonne, France, Kiwi-American Conrad Colman set up a jury rig and vowed to finish the 27,440-mile race around the planet. Once out of the low-pressure system that took down his rig, Colman encountered light airs and was crawling along at just 2 knots with 240 miles to go as we were writing this on Wednesday morning.
Colman, now in day 108 of his circumnavigation, had enough food to last 100 days. So he’s down to emergency rations, gleaned from his liferaft. The wiry 33-year-old, who says he has a high metabolism, is surviving on 700-800 calories a day. "In the European winter out here that is very little, especially when I am working on deck so much trimming the sails."
His boat, Foresight Natural Energy, is also low on energy, as the IMOCA 60 needs sunshine for the solar panels to work optimally. But Colman remains committed to finishing the race with no emissions, using only renewable power generated on board.
Further complicating matters is the ship and fishing traffic in the Bay of Biscay. Colman lost his radar and AIS in the dismasting. So he’s had to hunt for vessel traffic in the fog using binoculars. Despite all the obstacles, he expects to finish the race on Saturday.
American Rich Wilson, at age 66 the oldest skipper in the Vendée Globe, finished his lap around the planet yesterday, placing 13th out of the 29 starters. According to the SitesAlive press release, his time of 107 days, 48 minutes, 18 seconds at sea makes him the fastest North American to complete a solo circumnavigation, topping Bruce Schwab, who completed the 2004-2005 race in 109 days,19 hours and 58 minutes. Schwab, you may recall, was a Bay Area rigger who completed the Singlehanded TransPac from San Francisco to Kauai before turning his attention to the Vendée Globe, which he sailed on the Tom Wylie-designed Open 60 Ocean Planet.
Via SitesAlive, 700,000 school kids around the world interacted with Wilson’s circumnavigation, learning science, math, geography and history along the way. As Wilson, an educator, also spoke of being afraid, the youngsters no doubt learned something about human nature too.
For the third year in a row, Lloyd Thornburg’s St. Barth/Santa Fe/Newport Beach-based MOD70 trimaran Phaedo3 has taken elapsed-time honors in the grueling RORC Caribbean 600 race. And for the second year in a row, he and his crew, led by co-skipper Brian Thompson, held off a strong challenge from another MOD70. This year it was Giovanni Soldini’s Maserati, which, unlike Phaedo3, has a foil on one hull (the other one having broken.)
"It was a very close race," Thornburg told Latitude 38, “as we must have changed leads with Maserati five or six times. But our top speed wasn’t that fast, only about 36 knots."
This was one strange Caribbean 600, as the usually reliable easterlies gave way to winds of various strengths and directions, including moderately strong breeze out of the west. There was pouring rain, too. Twelve hours after the two MOD70s had finished, the rest of the record 77-boat fleet was still on the course, led by George David’s Rambler 88. But the wind had gotten even more funky, so it was a case of the rich getting richer and the smaller boats facing the prospect of not finishing at all.
It’s a case of ‘no rest for the wicked’ for most of the Phaedo3 crew, as early this morning most of them, minus owner Thornburg, will be rocketing off to Panama with Phaedo in hopes of making the March 12 start of the Newport to Cabo Race.
Because the crew had raced without sleep or rest for something like 34 hours — about two hours off Phaedo’s course record — last night they were looking a little dazed at the prospect of starting a 1,200-mile passage with just a few hours’ rest. "All but Brian Thompson," said one of his crew. "He lives for this kind of stuff." The Phaedo crew consisted of co-skippers Thornburg and Thompson, Paul Allen (of Santa Cruz), Peter Cumming, French sailing legend Michel Desjoyeaux, Robert Greenhalgh, Damian Foxall, and navigator Miles Seddon.
Greg Slyngstad’s Seattle-based Bieker 53 catamaran Fujin is currently in third place in the multihull division. Like the two MOD70s, Fujin will be doing July’s Los Angeles to Honolulu Transpac.
When racing everyone likes to be on the right side of a lift, and the US Sailing National Sailing Programs Symposium was on the right side. The NSPS, which concluded Saturday, is where passionate sailing program instructors and leaders go to inform and energize their upcoming season. We’ve attended a couple of times to connect with those who are on the front lines of the effort to give newcomers their first taste of sailing. The ‘lift’ came from an impressive list of dedicated sailing instructors, program managers, boosters and Olympians.
This year’s gathering was held in the sailing ‘mecca’ of Austin, TX, which, despite being landlocked, offers sailing nearby at Austin YC on the Colorado River, while other venues in the state are currently covered in ice.
NSPS drew a talent-rich crowd, including the three women pictured above: Olympian Cory Sertl from Rochester, NY, plus two from California, Olympian JJ Fetter from San Diego, and, in the center, recent Olympian and St. Francis YC member Helena Scutt, who finished 10th in the 49erFX at the Rio Olympics. Scutt is currently working on her master’s in mechanical engineering at Stanford, while aiming for the 2020 Olympics in the Nacra 17 with Olympian Bora Gulari. She received a standing ovation for her keynote talk on Making Change and Paying It Forward. Five-time Rolex Yachtswoman of the year Betsy Alison was there too.
The energy of instructors who care about kids, care about teaching, and care about sailing is always inspiring. But most importantly, the expertise of the sailors on hand in mentoring the next generation of instructors was truly uplifting.