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September 18, 2017

Rolex Big Boat Series Wraps Up

There’s no point in mourning the "good old days" of the St. Francis Yacht Club Big Boat Series — you know, when the boats were really big, with lots of 70-footers and such. The 21st-century version of Rolex Big Boat Series is big in other ways.

Two 70-footers did sail this year in the regatta held on September 14-17. Orion, Tom Siebel’s MOD70 trimaran, ended up in a division alone when the only other multihull, Peter Stoneberg’s Extreme 40 Shadow X, dismasted in the second race (see Friday’s ‘Lectronic).

On Friday, the MOD70 Orion sailed alone. She did not return on the weekend.


The 70-ft monohull Kernan 70 Peligroso had a better time of it, with plenty of competition, albeit from smaller boats, in ORR A. Peligroso kept the pressure on the local Schumacher 54 Swiftsure II, but Swiftsure corrected out on top in the end.

Peligroso was the first boat to finish by a long shot on Sunday. The Kernan 70 is sailed by multiple families.

©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Despite coming from Mexico, Peligroso doesn’t win the distance award. That honor goes to Hong Kong’s Karl Kwok, Kiwi tactician Gavin Brady, and their team’s Pac52 Beau Geste. The team came to San Francisco from Australian and New Zealand winter regattas. If RBBS had a prize for glamor, the Pac52 class would win it.

Every time we spotted her, Beau Geste was out in front of her sister Pac52s. They won all seven races.

© 2017

In sheer numbers, the well-established ’90s-era J/105 fleet is, as usual, the biggest at Big Boat Series. Their 24-boat class was one of the most competitive, with the lead changing with every standings update. Good Timin’ made a comeback after a six-year absence and won the regatta.

With 24 boats, the J/105 class had the biggest division in the regatta.


The J/70 class had a remarkable showdown for first place. After six races and going into the seventh and final race, Cool Story Bro. and 1FA were tied on points, setting up a match race between the two. 1FA emerged the victor.

The 11 J/70s were the small boats at Big Boat Series.


We’ll have much more in the October issue of Latitude 38. In the meantime, see Also check out bonus photos on our Facebook and Instragram pages.

What’s Good about the Sea of Cortez

Acknowledging the adage that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’, we’ll let the accompanying photo by Glenn Twitchell give the definitive answer to what’s so good about the Sea of Cortez.

For the record, the photo is of Caleta Partida, the old volcano crater separating — by a very narrow waterway — Isla Partida and Isla Espiritu Santo. It’s about 24 miles north of La Paz.

Caleta Partida is beautiful and it’s uninhabited — except sometimes by some fishermen. It’s also just one of many fine anchorages on the two islands, and offers the best protection in a Norther.

Actually, back in the early 1980s, it was crowded during Sea of Cortez Sailing Week(s), started — but certainly not organized — by the Wanderer. We had as many as 200 boats stop by for at least part of the ‘event’ there. The Mexico Navy provided a ship for the starting line, the Mexican Air Force had a one-plane flyover, unlimited amounts of beer were for sale on the beach, and West Marine even donated a pig that we cooked in a hole in the ground. Those were the days!

But it was a different era, too, as we actually had Wet T-Shirt contests featuring the women, and Icy Bun contests starring the men. Shameful! Odd as it might sound, these less-than-raunchy events had the effect of bringing everyone closer together. In addition, there were three short sailboat races.

The Wanderer has been to Caleta Partida with, in order of size, a Cal 24; an Olson 30 (two different ones), a Freya 39; Profligate, the Surfin’ 63 catamaran; and Big O, the Ocean 71. It never mattered which size boat we were on; we always had a great time. Well, except for the time we had a disk rupture and had to be flown home to the States on a stretcher.

There was no Internet the last time we were at Caleta Partida, and we doubt there is any now. But if you took your device about a half mile out the entrance, you could get some really slow Internet. It might be better now.

If you have a pet, be aware that animals are strictly prohibited from any of the islands in the Sea of Cortez. There is not a lot of life on the islands, and apparently pets can really upset what little life there is. Sorry.

The best weather times of year for Caleta Partida are October, November and early December — although you always have to keep a weather eye out for hurricanes in October. The other good time is from late March until the middle of July, by which time all of the Sea is bordering on way too hot. Unfortunately, it’s too cold to swim at Caleta Partida in the middle of winter, which is why you should be over on mainland Mexico at that time.

Please, always do your part to keep Caleta Partida, and all of the Sea of Cortez, free of trash.

Harvey, Irma, Irma, Maria and Lee

Hurricane season is not ‘officially’ over until November 30, something we’re reminded of following the devastation of Harvey, Irma and tropical storms/hurricanes Jose, Katia, Lee and Maria.  

Just 12 days after Irma ravaged the northern islands of the Lesser Antilles, Hurricane Maria is gaining strength as it approaches Dominica and Guadeloupe in the Eastern Caribbean. Maria’s path is farther south than Irma’s, but may still strike already wounded islands. Following Irma, many recreational boaters in Puerto Rico have loaded up to help bring supplies to support the Virgin Islanders, but now Maria is aiming at Puerto Rico.

Maria is crossing the islands to the south of Irma’s path. Though a relatively smaller storm, it could cause plenty of damage to people, islands and boats in its path.

© 2017 NOAA

The French island of Guadeloupe is yet another major charter boat center in the path of a hurricane, as well as a staging area for recovery efforts for the Irma-battered islands of St. Martin and St. Barth. Many residents of St. Martin were taken to Guadeloupe to escape the near-total devastation there.

The only good news about Maria thus far is that it appears she’ll go south of the most heavily Irma-ravaged islands of Barbuda (which is now completely abandoned), St. Barth, St. Martin and Anguilla. Unfortunately for the devastated British and US Virgins, there is about a 50% chance they’ll get hit by 50-knot winds — and perhaps worse, torrential rain.

The strength and destruction of Irma and the frequency of this season’s hurricanes might prompt outside observers to ask, ‘Why is this happening?’ The short answer is: because it’s hurricane season. According to storm data from the last 150 years, there have always been especially active periods which have included back-to-back hurricanes. Consider 2005, when 28 tropical stroms turned into a record 15 hurricanes — including Katrina, a devastating Category 5 — according to the National Hurricane Center’s North Atlantic hurricane database. A typical hurricane season has approximately 10 named storms, of which about six become hurricanes and approximately two become major hurricanes, or a Category 3 or higher.

In a sense, the Lesser Antilles, like the United States, have been ‘overdue’ for major hurricanes.

But there’s an elephant in the room: Did climate change cause or intensify Irma, Harvey, and other storms of the recent past? A few days ago, CNN quoted Sean Sublette, a meteorologist with Climate Central, a nonprofit science and news organization: "Climate change makes very bad storms worse," Sublette was quoted as saying. "And in the case of a really bad storm, climate change can make it totally disastrous or catastrophic."

On their website, Climate Central went on to say that "looking forward, hurricanes are projected to produce more rain, and the strongest storms are also expected to become more common. However, the overall frequency of hurricanes is projected to be nearly the same, or perhaps even decrease."

While we are watching these developing storms, we know many sailors have already leapt into action to help the people of the islands recover. How can you help?

Recovering from a devastating storm has three steps: In the short term, people simply need food, shelter and security, for which numerous groups are mobilizing aid. Secondly, the tourism-based economies will need visitors to help restart their battered lives — your next island vacation will help.

Third is the bigger-picture plan: reducing climate change. While it’s important to remember that hurricanes — even back-to-back ones like we’re seeing this year — are natural phenomena, we’ll heed the advice of climate-change scientists who say that even small changes in Earth’s temperature have exponential effects on the strength of storms. 

And the majority of scientists are unanimous in the opinion that that we should all be reducing our carbon footprint. If you live on land like you live on a sailboat, you’re already helping. More walking, less driving (less fuel), less meat in your diet, more renewable energy and more time with the sails up and engine off.

Fingers crossed that Maria is gentler than Irma. Katia has dissipated over Mexico, Lee looks like it’s falling apart, and Jose is now a slow-moving tropical storm ready to provide some rain on the northeast.

Over in the Pacific, Norma has been harassing the tip of Cabo but appears to be weakening and moving offshore — and farther out in the Pacific, Hurricane Otis is weakening. There are still ten weeks left until the ‘end’ of hurricane season, but everyone hopes we’ve seen the last of them for this year.

California’s largest annual volunteer event, California Coastal Cleanup, takes place on the third Saturday of each September, along more than 2,000 miles of coastal and inland waterfront.