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January 19, 2018

Tragedy on ‘YachtCruz’

We’re saddened to report that YachtCruz has likely met a tragic end. The Coast Guard confirmed in a phone call with Latitude yesterday that they’ve identified the remains of Patrick Wolfgang, who was found just offshore and about 10 miles south of Ensenada. The Coast Guard said that the Mexican authorities located the remains of a female onshore, but have yet to confirm the identity of the woman. Wolfgang was the partner of Sandi Foree. The couple had been cruising on the Irwin 52 ketch YachtCruz and were recently in Central America.

This photo was posted on Facebook by a friend of Patrick Wolfgang and Sandi Foree. "To our dismay they have been recovered from the unforgiving sea," wrote 
Annette Dee Walker.

© 2018 Go ‘YachtCruz’

According to Ensenada.Net, YachtCruz, which was apparently headed north to Chula Vista in San Diego Countyran into trouble late at night on January 7 (there were reports of strong winds around this time). A distress call was received by the Mexican Navy, which "conducted a search in the subsequent days without success," Ensenada.Net reported. The USCG said that the Mexican Navy eventually asked for assistance, and two Coast Guard aircraft began to search a 3,200-nautical-mile area over three days, when they spotted the remains of Patrick Wolfgang and directed Mexican authorities to the location.  

The Coast Guard said they also found an EPIRB and life jackets, both presumably from YachtCruz — it’s not clear if the EPIRB was manually activated, or was triggered automatically. Any wreckage of YachtCruz itself has not been found. The Coast Guard said their role was strictly to assist in the search and rescue. The cause of the accident is apparently being investigated by Mexican authorities. 

The Coast Guard said they wanted to express their condolences to the families of YachtCruz, and we here at Latitude would also like to send our best wishes to the families of those involved in this tragedy. We will be putting a story together about the life and times of YachtCruz for the February issue.

Lia Ditton Is Set to Persevere

Last week, sailor and ocean rower Lia Ditton posted the following on her website, announcing her intent to continue training to become the first female to row solo across the North Pacific (we featured Ditton in the September issue of Latitude). If you’re interested in helping Lia accomplish this feat, please go to the links at the end of this post.  

Dear World. 

This isn’t an easy blog for me to write. I am sorry to say that the YO! Row came to an end on December 31, 2017.

What hasn’t ended is my intent to row the North Pacific. I own the boat. The training will continue. When I was in the boatyard taking off the YO! stickers last month, passers-by would say ‘Oh no! Did you lose your sponsor?’ I felt embarrassed and ashamed and it is those feelings that have delayed me from writing this blog.

We interviewed Lia Ditton back in June while she was training out of Tiburon.

©2018Latitude 38 Media, LLC

I took a risk having the boat wrapped 100% in stripes with YO! We wanted to give the impression that the expedition was 100% going ahead. It also gave the impression that the project was fully sponsored, when it was not.

Ultimately that didn’t matter. What defeated me — and this was unforeseeable — was that the companies that entertained the idea of co-sponsoring, didn’t want to partner with a company based in another country. When I finally realized this, I had another problem . . . 

After the Discovery Channel filmed me in May, the producer shared a clip from the show Survive This about Charlie Martell, who attempted to row the Pacific in 2012. Charlie and his boat were capsized in Typhoon Mawar. The cabin face of Charlie’s boat was punched in when his boat was picked up by a wave and dropped upside down.

My boat is her sistership.

Both Gerard d’Aboville and Emmanuel Coindre, who successfully crossed in 1991 and 2005 respectively, rowed carbon boats. Gerard capsized, not once but more than 30 times; Emmanuel more than 16 times.

Weight is another issue. The boat Gerard d’Aboville rowed in 1992, weighed 440 lbs unloaded. My current boat weighs in at 800 lbs — almost double. A heavier boat requires more physical effort to propel and the more time spent at sea, the higher the risk.

I specifically said at the beginning of this project that I didn’t want to design and build a new boat. I made a mistake.

For the first year I trained in silence. I was afraid I wasn’t enough — strong enough, tough enough or accepting that I wasn’t these things then, that I couldn’t become them in training. I started blogging after I proved myself to myself, in the squall off Berkeley. After that I rowed 15 hours to Bolinas and back and then later down to Half Moon Bay. These were powerful, confidence building experiences.

Ditton is not ‘just’ an ocean rower. She has a serious sailing resume that includes the 2006 Route du Rhum, where she took second in her class. 

© 2018 Guy Bell

Two people have succeeded in rowing the North Pacific solo. Both were men. This is a journey to prove equality.

The ocean is the final frontier for discovery and my mission is to explore what it is to be human, a woman and a pioneer. In doing so, I want to spark generations of role models. I have experience of the ocean and the courage to row her. The hardest part for me isn’t the row, it’s now. Everything I do now affects my chance of success later. ‘This is the real expedition’, I say. ‘The row is the final exam.’

Rowing from the Farallones is next and then 65 miles to, round and back from the Farallones, which will be entered for consideration as a new World Record. My endeavour cannot end here. I have invested two years of time and money into this. My sights are set on rowing from Japan in April 2019 in a new design of boat. 

For this, I need your help. To bridge the gap while I secure a new sponsor, I need donors. I call them my Believers. We all need Believers. If you would like to join my special Believers Club please get in touch. Be part of making history.

A huge thank you to my Believers: Bob Bransten, Jim Keller, And my Super Believer, Marcy Pattinson. 

To support Lia Ditton’s world record attempt, click here

SSS Three Bridge Fiasco Preview

A snapshot in time of the starting area of the 2017 Three Bridge Fiasco. Last year, 360 boats were entered to race.

©2018Latitude 38 Media, LLC

As of this morning, 237 boats were signed up to race in the Three Bridge Fiasco on January 27. The crazy pursuit race kicks off the Singlehanded Sailing Society’s season. What’s so crazy about it? What makes it a ‘fiasco’? The hundreds of boats start at seemingly random times (predetermined and assigned according to their handicap rating) and can cross the startline off the Golden Gate Yacht Club in either direction. From there, they can sail the course in either direction and round the three marks to port or starboard in any order. The marks are: Blackaller Buoy (near the South Tower of the Golden Gate Bridge), Yerba Buena/Treasure Island (which bisects the Bay Bridge) and Red Rock (just south of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge). Please note that the order we’ve just listed in no way implies an endorsement of that possible course! Once the mark roundings are complete, sailors can cross the finish line back at GGYC from either direction. Making the race even more challenging, all the boats will be sailed single- or doublehanded.

The slow-going ’rounding’ of the Bay Bridge in last year’s Three Bridge.

©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Ever since New Year’s, discussions on the docks and at yacht club bars have begun with the question "Which way are you going to go?" Reliable answers are usually not forthcoming until one actually crosses the line, but the topic makes for some lively conversation. In addition to wind, one of the factors affecting the decision is current. On Saturday the 27th, a big ebb is predicted to dominate the afternoon. More detailed pictures of the day’s currents can be formed by visiting While it might be possible to fairly accurately predict the weather for this weekend’s Corinthian Midwinters (though we won’t presume to do so here), the following weekend is really too far away to say what role the weather will play.

Caught in a raging ribbon of current, the Blackaller Buoy was not only tricky to round but even harder than usual to see in the late afternoon of last year’s race.

©2018Latitude 38 Media, LLC

We highly recommend that skippers and their crews (especially first-timers) attend the skippers’ meeting at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 24, at Oakland Yacht Club in Alameda. Wednesday is also the deadline to sign up. See you out there!

Watch the VOR Finishes Today

The Volvo Ocean Race has armchair sailors on the edge of their, well, armchairs today. More than half of the fleet was in stealth mode yesterday, but all should be arriving in Hong Kong today, completing Leg 4 from Melbourne, Australia. Live coverage is underway at as well as the Volvo Ocean Race social media channels @volvooceanrace. News Flash: As expected, the Hong Kong-flagged team, Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag, has finished first.

Sailing in Leg 4, Trystan Seal was out in the thick of it on Scallywag.

© Konrad Frost / Volvo Ocean Race

We’ll recap the finish in ‘Lectronic Latitude on Monday. Also see our report on Wednesday’s ‘Lectronic.

News Flash #2: Just 30 miles from the finish Vestas/11th Hour Racing has been involved in a collision. Reportedly boat and crew are safe, but, as seen on the tracker, they were still not sailing towards the finish at 1 p.m. PST. More here.

Big speeds and lots of water over the deck on Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag today in the VOR during the Melbourne to Hong Kong leg.
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