Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race is drawing to a close with the fleet of seven one-design Volvo 65s fully ‘sending it’ on approach to the finish in Hong Kong. Since beginning in Melbourne, Australia, on January 2, the fleet has had to deal with a wide variety of conditions as they’ve crossed a handful of climate zones, including crossing the doldrums and the equator. With the fleet in moderate downwind conditions to the finish, now less than 1,000 miles away, a handful of teams still have a shot at reaching the top step of the podium, but it’s the Hong Kong-based Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag team leading the charge in their breakthrough performance of this VOR.
One of the biggest headlines of this leg was that of the man overboard and subsequent recovery of Australian crewmember Alex Gough, 24, on Scallywag. “He went out on the outrigger; I was driving, and we went off a big sea and it picked him up and threw him off, like a horse,” skipper David Witt said. As anyone who’s ever had the humbling and sobering experience of practicing a real-life crew overboard scenario will attest, it’s not easy. Witt added, “The main thing is, we got him back on board. He’s safe. But I think it’s shown everyone how hard it is to see the guy in the water. Even on a sunny day, 18 knots of wind… You wouldn’t want to be doing this in 20 knots in the dark.”
David Witt, who famously said, "There’s no room for women on my boat," before the VOR started, must be eating crow as his hotshot new female navigator Libby Greenhalgh positioned the team to reach the new breeze first (after the doldrums) and assume their first lead of this VOR. Behind them, Vestas/11th Hour Racing and Dongfeng have been battling hard for second place, though Dongfeng is currently in stealth mode and therefore can’t be seen on the tracker. Vestas (and likely Dongfeng) has made massive gains on Scallywag overnight and has again made this a three-horse race for victory. While Hong Kong may be Scallywag’s homecoming stopover, it is for Dongfeng as well, meaning the French/Chinese team is also extra motivated to impress their home-country supporters and sponsors.
One of the biggest impacts of this leg — if the standings stay as they currently are — is a major shuffling and compressing of the scoreboard as current race leader Mapfre currently sits in fifth place on this leg. Mapfre should still remain in the overall lead but with a smaller advantage over Vestas/11th Hour and Dongfeng, with another highly tactical leg coming up and the gear-busting leg around Cape Horn after that.
The race village in Hong Kong is open, and the teams should be there soon. Follow along at www.volvooceanrace.com for more updates.
For many, the 25th Baja Ha-Ha will start at 48 degrees north. Lani Schroeder, who says he’s been reading Latitude 38 since 1984, wrote in from Shilshole Bay Marina in Seattle to say now it’s his turn to enjoy the Baja Ha-Ha aboard his Endeavour 43 CC ketch Balance. After years of sailing the Salish Sea and enjoying summers and sunsets from Shilshole, next fall will be time to head south.
This previous photo, taken in September, shows the sun setting toward the south end of the mountain range as the days got shorter, until it was just past the southern end of that range. After the winter solstice, the sunset inches northward until it’s at the extreme northern end of the range (well beyond the view in the photo). Quite dramatic, if in a subtle way, because of the location at 48 degrees north.
For Lani and other sailors in Washington State who are thinking about the Baja Ha-Ha and Pacific Puddle Jump, both the Grand Poobah and Banjo Andy will be at the Seattle Boat Show giving two ‘double header’ seminars on both events. If you’d like to check it out you can see them here:
Banjo Andy / Andy Turpin Cruising Tahiti and the Pacific Puddle Jump:
Saturday, January 27, 3 p.m., Stage #6 Club Level
Sunday, January 28, 3 p.m., Stage #6 Club Level
Grand Poobah/Richard Spindler with 25 years of the Baja Ha-Ha:
Saturday, January 27, 4 p.m., Stage #6 Club Level
Sunday, January 28, 4 p.m., Stage #6 Club Level
Sunsets and cruising grounds like those to be had at Shilshole can be hard to leave, but the beckoning of the warm water and breezes of Mexico and the South Pacific can be hard to resist. Stop by and say hello to the Grand Poobah and Banjo Andy at the Seattle Boat Show, happening from January 26 to February 3.
Not every round-the-world record attempt goes as planned. Earlier in the season we saw François Gabart achieve what many thought to be nearly impossible when he sailed his maxi-trimaran Macif around the world in just 42 days, with an absolute minimum of drama, to record the fastest solo circumnavigation on record and secure — incredibly — the second-fastest lap of the globe ever recorded — solo or fully crewed. Seemingly everything that ‘Golden Boy’ Gabart touches turns to gold, so this week’s dramatic failure for maxi-trimaran Spindrift 2 was a stark reminder of just how quickly a record attempt can founder.
The Spindrift Racing team had attempted to start their Jules Verne Trophy attempt a week prior, but turned around and headed back to port to wait for a better weather window. The window didn’t fully materialize, but with the brevity of Southern Ocean record-setting season becoming a reality, the team jumped on the next mediocre window that opened. Their record attempt was doomed before it began.
While sailing to the starting line off the Creac’h Lighthouse on the island of Ouessant in northwestern France, the fastest boat ever built promptly dismasted while effectively in the starting blocks for a long-anticipated attempt at the Trophée Jules Verne, the name given to the award presented for the fastest outright circumnavigation of the globe. No one was hurt, and the boat safely returned to harbor in Brest.
With some very big checks written only to result in one high-profile failure after another, one wonders how much more patience Dona Bertarelli and the rest of the Spindrift syndicate will have with the boat. As these record-setting maxi-trimarans have evolved over the years, they have become significantly lighter and less powerful than when Spindrift 2 was built, as evidenced by the constant diet that the boat (and the mast) has been on. One can only hope Dona Bertarelli and her partner/skipper Yann Guichard’s passion for record setting remains strong, and that the syndicate commissions a brand-new build.
We’re happy to hear that no one was hurt, and we express our sincere condolences to the team for what must be an absolutely devastating gut check. We wish them fair winds and following seas as they quite literally pick up the pieces and figure out what comes next.
It was a packed house at Spaulding Marine Center last Friday, as droves of movie fans piled under the heat lamps to watch a screening of Captains Courageous, one of our readers’ favorite sailing films. It was a reminder that movies are best seen with an audience and as part of a collective.
The setting for an old-timey movie was perfect: Smack dab in the middle of woodworking facilities and surrounded by frames of boats hanging from the rafters and on the periphery. Spaulding provided an assortment of beverages and popcorn before the silver screen flickered to life.
We reviewed Captains Courageous in October as part of the Latitude Movie Club, and noted the odd, incongruous setup, or first act of the movie. We’re immersed in the life of Harvey Cheyne Jr. — played by Freddie Bartholomew — a New York tycoon’s son, and a bitter, jealous and pathologically lying brat who "demands validation from those around him, coveting loyalty from people he cares nothing about," we wrote.
Act one of Captains Courageous doesn’t feel like a sailing movie at all. There are perhaps hints of what’s to come, such as a few paintings of ships hanging on the walls of the Cheynes’ opulent Manhattan apartment. But otherwise, we’re given no indication that this will be a story about building character through the rigors of being at sea, surrounded by one’s shipmates.
In movies, the end of an act is marked by a plot point, a "significant event within a plot that spins the action around in another direction," according to screenwriting guru Syd Field. As Cheyne Jr. slips off the deck of a ship and plunges into the ocean, the course of the movie is spun dramatically. Cheyne is plucked from the water by Manuel Fidello (played by Spencer Tracy) — a character we instantly love — and rowed to the fishing schooner We’re Here, silhouetted in the moonlight.
It was at this moment at Spaulding that the audience seemed to breathe a collective sigh, almost of relief, and applauded. These are the moments in movies that can only be had in the ‘theater’, even one as impromptu as an old wooden warehouse in Sausalito. It was a sublime, unexpected moment we were delighted to share. Act two had begun, Captains Courageous was now a sailing movie, and the life of its vile main character, Cheyne Jr., could finally take a new tack.