September 13, 2017

Irma Survivor: “It’s Gone, All Gone.”

The Bitter End YC, one of the Virgin Islands’ most famous waterside resorts, was pulverized by Irma. Can it be rebuilt?

© Dive BVI

"Damage? No Dad, you don’t get it: It’s gone, all gone." So said Aaron Turpin, 36, yesterday from San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he and thousands of Hurricane Irma refugees are currently staged, awaiting flights to the mainland. Like Aaron, a member of Latitude‘s extended family who has worked for years in the British Virgin Islands, most islanders now massed at San Juan airport lost everything they owned to Irma’s wrath, leaving them with little more than the shirts on their backs as they process the nightmare they’ve endured, and consider their future options.  

Aaron’s "It’s all gone" comment referred specifically to places well-known to many West Coast sailors including Virgin Gorda’s famous Bitter End Yacht Club, which was absolutely pulverized by wind gusts reportedly as high as 220 mph. That resort’s staff are said to have endured the unprecedented blow in a bunker-like storage facility beneath The Carvery Restaurant, which was a favorite dinner spot for hotel guests and international yacht charterers for decades. 

Saba Rock bar and restaurant, originally built by diving pioneer Bert Kilbride, has been a poplular North Sound Virgin Gorda watering hole for many years. 

© Caribbean Buzz Helicopters

Photos taken in the aftermath of the Category 5 storm leave us wondering how anyone could have survived, but amazingly, there were no known deaths on Virgin Gorda. Several fatalities, however, were reported on the neighboring main island of Tortola, where hundreds of charter boats are now piled up like cordwood in both mangrove lagoons and marinas.

Aaron, his wife Crystal and 11-month-old baby Zoe rode out the storm in their masonry-constructed apartment on the ridge above Leverick Bay — another favorite sailor’s destination. Their initial plan was to follow the conventional wisdom among islanders: to barricade themselves within the relative safety of the bathroom, where several walls built close together would theoretically offer the greatest protection. But as the outside wind pressure built to almost unimaginable proportions, a solid cinderblock-and-concrete bathroom wall began to crumble, and all manner of rubble pierced the safety of this shelter like shrapnel. The young family then took refuge in the corner of a closet where they huddled together for many long hours as Irma slowly passed over them, helpless to find greater safety as the roof above them began to peel away. The eye of Irma passed directly over the top of Virgin Gorda as it roared NW along the Leeward Islands chain. 

We offer the vignette above as a single example of the horror that was endured by thousands of Irma survivors on other British and US Virgin Islands, Dutch/French Sint Maarten/St. Martin, Cuba and elsewhere.

Leverick Bay, where the Turpins survived Irma’s worst.

© 2017 Caribbean Buzz Helicopters

With virtually all communications infrastructure wiped out on many islands, sat phones and text-messaging devices are the only sources of accurate firsthand info, even now. For stateside friends and family of islanders and expats-in-residence, social networking sites have played a key role, although much of the initial info that we’ve seen was only loosely corroborated, or just plain wrong. 

As California is said to be the second-biggest market for yacht chartering and general tourism in the US and British Virgin Islands, we intend to bring you a detailed overview of Irma’s impact in the October issue of Latitude 38. In the meantime, we’re sure many West Coast sailors who have spent glorious days in those sunny latitudes will want to do their own research, and perhaps offer their assistance or expertise to the grim prospect of recovery and rebuilding. As demonstrated in the aftermath of many past Caribbean hurricanes, islanders tend to be particularly resilient. But this time the scope of need for cleanup and rebuilding is absolutely staggering. 

The carnage within BVI charter fleets is truly staggering. 

© Caribbean Buzz Helicopters

Websites of interest:

British Virgin Islands Relief Fund

Facebook group: Stateside St. Johnians Alliance for Hurricane Irma

Facebook group: BVI Abroad – Hurricane Irma

Caribbean Buzz Helicopters

• Dive BVI

Facebook group: Stateside St. Johnians Alliance for Hurricane Irma

Monohulls for Next Cup

Monohulls. Foiling monohulls.

At least that’s the news we heard from Radio New Zealand, who on Tuesday wrote, "The next edition of America’s Cup racing will switch from catamarans to high-performance monohull yachts, defending champions Team New Zealand have confirmed. 

"And while the boats will be monohulls, they will also be foiling boats — lifting off the water like the catamarans did," RNZ reported. 

These boats are sooooo 2017. The 35th America’s Cup was apparently the last hurrah for the cats. It was fun while it lasted! 

© 2017 ACEA/ Gilles Martin- Raget

Both RNZ and Scuttlebutt reported that Patrizio Bertelli — the head of Luna Rossa, the Challenger of Record — said in an interview with an Italian newspaper that his support for Emirates Team New Zealand’s 2017 bid in Bermuda hinged on the Kiwis going back to monohulls, should they win. "It was the condition for us to help them with men and means in the last edition," Bertelli was quoted as saying.

For all the debate and speculation at the immediate conclusion of the Match about what type of boats would race in the next Cup, it appears that monohulls were in the cards long before they were dealt. 

The exact date of the next Match seems to be up in the air, but the Kiwis said they’re "considering the possibility" of holding the 36th Cup in Auckland in summer 2021. What has been clear since ETNZ’s ‘mini announcement’ in July is that there will be a "’constructed in country’ requirement for competing yachts and a nationality requirement for competing crew members."  

RNZ said that more details would be coming later this month, but reported that ETNZ said they have been discussing design protocols with would-be challengers. "There is an overall desire to have a spectacular monohull yacht that will be exciting to match race, but also one that the public and sailors can relate to as a sailboat that really challenges a full crew of professional yachtsmen around the race track," Team New Zealand said in a statement, referring to the machine-like feel of the catamarans, which required pumping hydraulic oil as much as they did sailing. 

After winning in Bermuda this summer, ETNZ CEO Grant Dalton said, "The sport needs stability," and RNZ reported that Dalton said he wants entry to the Cup to "be more affordable, and for rules to be less slanted in favor of the defenders."

While all this early conjecture is interesting, we’re still waiting for a few rounds of lawsuits — and we’ll believe our eyes when we actually see the new America’s Cup Class ripping across the Hauraki Gulf in Auckland. We can only hope that the new Cup format will be good for the sport of sailing.

We’ve sort of beaten this topic to death, but we’re still curious: What do you think?

A Guide to Rolex Big Boat Series

Here it is again — Rolex Big Boat Series — a four-day sweep of either lots of wind or no wind, starting tomorrow at St. Francis Yacht Club. Of ridiculous tank-top heat days and suntanning at the docks, or cold and wet conditions. Of leadership and being miles ahead of the competition, or realizing it’s time to just start enjoying the view because consistent DFL finishes won’t get skipper the watch.

Fox, seen here practicing on Sunday, was among last year’s Rolex watch winners for her owner, Victor Wild. He’ll be competing in a five-boat Pac52 class this time. Bruce Stone and Nicole Breault’s J/105 Arbitrage is also a past winner. The J/105s have the largest fleet, with 24 entries.

©2017Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Camaraderie is high; competition is (mostly) friendly. Most Rolex BBS racers know each other well and know what to expect. Here are a few things we love about the Rolex Big Boat Series.

Sailors and Style
What’s special about September in San Francisco? Great regatta conditions and fall fashions of course. And just like a back-to-school student, many Rolex BBS racers will be getting new outfits, whether it’s head-to-toe matching Musto ensembles or merely a crew cap. Add a 2017 Big Boat long-sleeve wicking pullover, but keep your eyes on your gear; 23%* of all new apparel gets lost at Rolex BBS. Next, let’s talk about the season’s best shoes and boots. This regatta offers a valuable opportunity to swap comparisons with dockmates. Chat about grip, style, price and durability. And of course ask around about top candidates for fall statement bags. We bet duffels from recycled materials will prevail.

Many boats will debut a new spinnaker, main and/or jib. However, despite the global preponderance of sports endorsements and product placement on hulls and sails, the embellishment trend will likely skip over the 415; don’t expect much in the way of splashy wrapper decals and logo spinnakers. San Francisco tacks conservatively (yeah, hard to believe). A guess about a new chute’s appearance is often limited to color. We’ll probably see new jewelry adorning the gals, and many vessels are poised to sail directly from a spa rubdown — fresh and shiny.

James Bradford’s Farr 40 Bright Hour was practicing over the weekend, looking forward to a six-boat one-design class. Tom Siebel’s MOD70 Orion has only one other competitor in the Multihull class, Peter Stoneberg’s Extreme 40 Shadow X.

©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Holding It All Together
Let’s move to the underpinnings of this regatta, starting with the almost-always-happens glimpse of male skivvies; sightings both below and above deck. Guys seem immune to modesty. You’ll catch them dressing and undressing pre- and post-race. Is there a snag on the prop? Need to scrub the boat’s underside at the dock? Ask a guy. He’ll ‘drop trou’ in an instant and dive into cold water. The skin flick often entertains the gals — sailors have some of the best bodies, and it’s not often that Bay Area ladies get a peek at abs.

The milky white abs and untanned bodies of the SF set nicely play up the deep purple, black, red and yellow hues that will appear. Collect lots of bruises and scrapes with the goal of returning to the office on Monday with bragging rights. Some racers hasten the pity by posting photos after each day’s combat. Trying to determine how a bruise came about is part of the game.

Steve Madeira’s J/120 Mr. Magoo (foreground) will race in a five-boat one-design class, while Julian Mann’s C&C 30 Don’t Panic will sail in a PHRF Sportboat division.

©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Ode to the Boat Owner
Boat owners get 96+ hours of finger-on-the-wallet hopes that additional hardware costs will come in under $1,000, injuries will not happen, and every maneuver will look good. Make sure the boat’s staffed and there’s enough water onboard. Tolerate all sorts of feet crossing your boat to reach an adjacent tie-up. Manage old friendships with fellow skippers via intimate conversations at the start line and while scanning race results. Navigate the ‘visual artists’ who track the fleet, the photographers, videographers, drone operators and lookie-loos. They are a nuisance who often come in too close, but they may just nail that killer shot that makes you look good.

Paul Stemler’s J/44 Patriot came to San Francisco Bay from Newport Beach. Tony Pohl’s Bay Area-based Farr 40 Twisted is in the background. Note that all of these photos were taken from shore; spectating at RBBS is an auxiliary activity.

©2017Latitude 38 Media, LLC

An Advance Race Recap
It’s a given that Thursday and Friday will start off great. You’ll be enthusiastic, show up on time and will still have your Rolex hat. You’ll get to the courtyard early for the best selection of hot foods; everyone fills multiple plates. By Saturday you may be sleeping in a bit, and possibly even forego a morning shower; it’s OK to blame  the Friday night food-truck party and Mount Gay Rum’s patronage. Come post-race Saturday aspirin will be chased down with free dockside beer. Saturday’s the crew dinner night — time to clean up and dress up. By 10 a.m. on Sunday the wind is either clanging about the halyards, or it’s dead calm and you are A-OK with sacking out on the pointy end for another hour of sleep (which gives time to prep your Rolex watch acceptance speech).

*Purely a guess. Stats and footnotes lend credibility to copy.

Caption Contest!

Here is your September Caption Contest(!). We’re excited to see what you all come up with for this quirky, head-scratching photo. As always, the winner will be published in Loose Lips of next month’s issue (or October as it’s also known). And as always, the winner will receive a coveted Latitude 38 T-Shirt. Please send your entries here, and good luck!

Ben, having climbed Mt. Coronado in the Sea of Cortez, checks out the beauty of nature.  Sonrisa
©Latitude 38 Media, LLC The obvious answer is that Benjamin Brettingham-Moore of the La Paz- and Tasmania-based Lagoon 440 Sonrisa, having climbed Mt.
Dorade is Down Under, adding to her collection of prizes in events like Audi Hamilton Island Race Week.
Hurricane Irma, which was described by some analyst as the ‘"size of France," has moved into Florida and the US.  © 2017 NASA After devastating the Caribbean, Hurricane Irma marched toward Florida, changing categories from 5, down to 3, and back up to a 4, according to ABC news.