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November 22, 2017

Pacific Puddle Jump Sign-ups Begin

It may only be autumn in the Northern Hemisphere, but all along the West Coast of the Americas dozens of sailors are thinking ahead to early spring. Why? Because that’s when the annual cruiser migration begins from the West Coast to French Polynesia — the passage we call the Pacific Puddle Jump. 

Puddle Jumpers not only hail from all over the world, they come in all sizes, too.
©2017Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Although boats leave from various ports any time between early March and early June, the PPJ is a rally of sorts. And given that each boat heading west must cross at least 3,000 miles of open water with no opportunity for a pit stop, it’s a pretty big accomplishment for most sailors who attempt it — what we like to call ‘varsity-level’ cruising. 

Free Pacific Puddle Jump signups begin today at 3 p.m. at the Puddle Jump website. Also on the site, you’ll find photos and recap articles from past years, as well as other valuable resources.

At our Shelter Bay, Panama, send-off party last year, South Africans off the big cat Shang-Du struck a pose with the official Polynesian flag. Sailors from all over the globe made the crossing during the same three-month period. 

©2017Latitude 38 Media, LLC

As in years past, we’ll be hosting festive PPJ Sendoff Parties at Puerto Vallarta and Panama (dates TBA), with mini-profiles of the crews we meet appearing in Latitude 38.  

Being much, much less crowded than the Caribbean or the Med, the South Pacific offers seemingly endless opportunities for idyllic, inter-island cruising — truly a sailor’s paradise. So what do you think? Will this be your year to Jump the Puddle?

Lighting Up for the Holidays

One thing you might guess about a person who owns a Melges 32 is that they like to be fast and first. We suspect that’s why Daniel Thielman, owner of the Melges 32 Kuai, who won his class in the 2017 Rolex Big Boat Series, was also first with the holiday spirit at Corinthian Yacht Club in downtown Tiburon. Kuai has nothing on her race schedule until the Corinthian Midwinters on January 20-21, so he gathered the crew for some post-race festivities without actually racing.

Christmas music on the speakers, holiday drinks in hand, holiday decorations going up — the season started before Thanksgiving for Kuai. 

©2017Latitude 38 Media, LLC
Like when they’re racing, the Kuai crew were focused on results, showing they’re definitely in contention for another trophy.

©2017Latitude 38 Media, LLC

It’s not all chill time this winter. While Kuai is waiting for the 2018 racing season to begin Daniel will fit in some Melges 20 racing back East.

A First(ish) Glimpse at the AC Monohulls

This week, Emirates Team New Zealand revealed their long-awaited concept for the 36th America’s Cup design. Not to fear monohull purists, sailing has been saved. No more foiling cats!

Well, sort of.

You’ve probably already seen this picture a thousand times. The new AC75, looking a lot like a "single-hulled foiling catamaran."

© Virtual Eye Emirates Team New Zealand

At first glance, the new AC 75 looks like an almost-standard grand-prix monohull, but it has no keel. Rather, two swiveling appendages jut from either side of the boat with wings, or foils, at their ends. The boats are expected to sail at speeds close to 50 miles per hour. But because of those speeds — and like the foiling cats — the new monohulls will not have spinnakers, but will have ‘human power’ to operate the foils via a bevy of grinders spinning some sort of apparatus to charge the boat’s ‘accumulators’, or stored-power cells (wait, are we still talking about sailing?). 

The new design has been met with a fair degree of skepticism, as well as some (but notably less) enthusiasm, according to our extremely unscientific poll from a few Internet sites. ETNZ called the new design — which has been forged in consultation with Challenger of Record Luna Rossa — a "bold and modern vision," "an exciting new era in America’s Cup racing," and a concept that "could become the future of racing and even cruising monohulls beyond the America’s Cup."

Regardless of your feelings about the AC75 design, there is no question that the America’s Cup continues to pursue the cutting edge of technology. Whether that pursuit takes us farther away from our concept of what sailing ‘should’ be is another question. Should sailing’s biggest event go where the wind blows, and evolve into whatever it may? Has the America’s Cup become more about foiling than about sailing, and should we even bother make a distinction between the two? We will tackle some of these questions in a feature in the January issue of Latitude.

For now, we’ll review a few technical aspects, tell you what a few commenters are saying, and solicit your thoughts. 

"The AC75 combines extremely high-performance sailing and great match racing with the safety of a boat that can right itself in the event of a capsize," an ETNZ press release said. "The ground-breaking concept is achieved through the use of twin canting T-foils, ballasted to provide righting-moment when sailing, and roll stability at low speed. The normal sailing mode sees the leeward foil lowered to provide lift and enable foiling, with the windward foil raised out of the water to maximise the lever-arm of the ballast and reduce drag."

Stability mode sees both foils in the down position. "In pre-starts and through manoeuvres, both foils can be lowered to provide extra lift and roll control, also useful in rougher sea conditions and providing a wider window for racing," an ETNZ press release said. 

© 2017 Virtual Eye Emirates Team New Zealand

New Zealand’s wrote a fairly gushing review: "The AC75 monohull unveiled on Tuesday certainly projects everything that is sexy and exciting about the America’s Cup . . . Yes, there will be doubters as the concept is digested around the world and potential syndicates get a second opportunity to ponder a challenge following the release of the friendly protocol released in September.

"But who would dare doubt the geniuses in the Team New Zealand design room who have dominated the last two cycles of the cup and constantly pushed the boundaries since Kiwis first got involved in yachting’s biggest spectacle way back in 1987?"

We have heard that the ‘cyclers’ will be banned, but we’ll wait to see how that develops. ETNZ CEO Grant Dalton spoke about the ‘stored-energy’ aspect of the AC75s in an interview on "There’ll still be an element, probably, of stored energy within the boat — the foils are quite big, and will need some mechanism of moving them, which will probably be human. But we will never introduce a combustion engine into this world, that’s not an option." Was anyone really talking about putting an engine on a race boat?

With the windward foil up, the AC75s seem to have a gnarly and sinister-looking Mad Max- (or Ben Hur-) like appendage that, if we were in an opposing boat, we’d keep a cautious eye on.

© 2017 Virtual Eye Emirates Team New Zealand

We’ve already had a few comments on our Facebook page from people who aren’t exactly stoked about the new design: "This is even more stupid than the cats," wrote Adam Borcherding. "Ladies and Gentlemen, prepare to ignore yet another America’s Cup," said Ben Ford. "Outlaw hydraulic controls and stop this silly shit," commented Brian Mertz. "Racing twitchy semi-trucks with no seat belts or crash compartments. People gonna die . . ." said Phil Rink. 

But there was a fan out there: "Awesome! Let the haters hate," said Matthew Peterson.

As we said at the conclusion of the 35th Match, we don’t necessarily care what type of boats race for the Cup. Rather, we hope the event takes advantage of its spotlight, and showcases the sport of sailing as a whole, especially the Olympic dinghy-sailing roots from which nearly every AC sailor hails.

What do you think?


With credit to REI for creating  a ‘new Black Friday tradition’ by closing the doors on all their stores on Black Friday to encourage everyone to #optoutdoors, we are getting onboard with #optsailing for Black Friday. California’s State Parks are suggesting it’s a great day to visit them, and an ideal state park for #optsailing is Angel Island. Send us your photos of your Black Friday sail.

When you sail to Ayala Cove you have access to an incredible state park, great Bay views and an idyllic Black Friday experience.  

©2017Latitude 38 Media, LLC

For a better Black Friday, #optsailing. The Latitude crew will be out there, not in here — we’re taking the rest of the week off. Happy Thanksgiving to all our readers!

What happens in Vegas might stay in Vegas. But not at Latitude. Longtime readers will know we’ve been pretty forthcoming about mistakes, screw-ups and bloopers (which can be one and the same, but not always).