It’s like a seven-game series in the NBA finals.
After 40,000 miles of racing, the last 900-mile leg of the Volvo Ocean Race will determine the winner between three boats that are (amazingly) tied for first. If you’re one of those people who only tunes in to game seven . . . it’s time to tune in! As of this morning and with about 600 miles to go, Dongfeng is in first, just .4 miles ahead of rival MAPFRE; Team Brunel, in fourth place, is struggling to stay in touch 23 miles back.
Like all races, it ain’t over ’til it’s over. It’s come down to a nail-biting finish after nine months, 40,000 miles, 10 legs of racing, tragedy, glory and grit. Now it’s game seven, the series is tied, and all that counts is the last leg.
Finally. A fresh, new copy of the First Timer’s Guide to Mexico has been written, and the first 112 welcome packages have been put in the mail to those already signed up for the 25th annual Baja Ha-Ha.
If you’re contemplating cruising, there’s nothing like having a firm departure date and a host of future friends ready to welcome and support you. Sign up now and you’ll have both.
"Wow, it looks like a spaceship!"
So said the tiny voice from the tiny boat as the FX skiff blew past on day three of Olympic Development camp, which also was day two of this week’s Treasure Island Sailing Center summer camp for pee-wees. And what’s the value of a place where pee-wee sailors mix with the big kids, and big kids mix with the legends? Inspiration is only the beginning, but maybe, just maybe, inspiration is enough.
At Treasure Island Sailing Center, new partner FAST USA, the Facility for Advanced Sailing and Technology, is already an energy center. Infrastructure is yet to come, but we’re talking boats on the water now, and people on the water including gold medalist Anna Tunnicliffe crewing an FX with Paris Henken. OK, OK, Anna announced her retirement from Olympic competition in 2014, but please, people, let’s not be picky. They were looking fast at FAST.
Also in the mix were local skippers Lucy Wilmot (2014 U.S. Junior Women’s Doublehanded Champion with sister Sally, and now on the Harvard sailing team) and Neil Marcellini. Neil is spending most days this summer coaching basic 420 sailing at his homeport, Richmond Yacht Club.
The Olympic Development Program — call it ODP — was jumpstarted in 2015 by the AmericaOne Foundation, and it’s making a difference. Coach Willie McBride said, “Nationwide, the ODP has developed a higher level of coaching, with cross-pollination and sharing from region to region that was lacking before. There was a time when we didn’t have a bench of coaches who knew how to teach in high-performance classes. Now the techniques are working their way through to local levels, one-on-one with the kids.”
As we say around here, it’s about puddles to podiums.
The 25 teams that remain in the fourth annual Race to Alaska are finally getting some wind. For the first three days after last Saturday’s high-noon start, the fleet sweltered under a blob of high pressure that, if nothing else, gave the human-only powered craft their, ahem, day in the sun — and left everyone else wishing they’d brought more sunblock.
Since then, the race has gone to the swift, the crewed, the sail-powered, and the single-hulled. And for the moment, it’s a guys-versus-gals bout. The lead boat at this writing is Team Wild Card, a Seattle based Santa Cruz 27 (recently bought off Craigslist), with four guys aboard. Duking it out for second and third are the Melges 32 First Federal’s Team Sail Like A Girl, an eight-girl crew out of Bainbridge Island, and Team Lagupus, a Canada-based Olson 30, with four male crew. Close on their heels is Team Ptarmigan, a Colorado-based F-28 trimaran with two guys and two gals crewing. As of this morning, the leaders had covered about ¾ of the racetrack and could start finishing by this weekend if they get breeze.
Interestingly, in its four previous runnings, no monohull has ever won the r2ak. So it should be interesting.
Timing is everything on the r2ak — well, okay, not everything, but it’s especially important about a third of the way into the race when the fleet has to negotiate Seymour Narrows, a 3.1-mile-long, roughly half-mile wide bottleneck between Vancouver and Quadra Island, where the current runs faster than the hull speed of just about any production boat ever made. Here’s how it’s described on the race website:
"Seymour Narrows is a fabled tidal river that flows with 14 knots of authority. When the tide goes out, it’s the escalator to Johnstone Strait and the next level wilderness beyond. On the flood, Seymour is the bouncer that sends you to the back of the line, makes you hang out in Comox while everyone in front of you gets six hours farther ahead, everyone behind you gets six hours to catch up, and you get a chance to think about your choices. No fighting it; even the 20,000-horsepower engines that cruise ships wrap themselves around take a number and wait."
As in all three previous runnings of the r2ak, getting through the Narrows shuffled the fleet quite a bit. (The early leader, Russell Brown’s Gougeon 32 cat Team PT Watercraft, is currently running mid-pack, although he is still the front-running singlehander.) As of this writing, all but five teams have made it through the Narrows.
Bringing up last place is Team Dock Rat. Jim Edmark of Friday Harbor is solo-sailing his Canadian-built Haida 26. By all accounts, the Haida is a great little boat. But for reasons unclear, he did not equip the boat with rowing stations like every other sailboat in the race. When he runs out of wind, Jim puts his dinghy in the water and tows the boat.
We don’t normally favor one competitor over another in our race reports, but just this once, we’re going to wish an extra special "Fair Winds!" to Jim.
Correction: We originally said that Team Sail Like A Girl has six crew (they have eight). We also said that the Seymour Narrows are 3.1-miles wide — that’s the length of the Narrows; they’re about a half-mile wide. Thanks to reader Dana Dupar for pointing these errors out: "In my opinion, the r2ak race is awesome and I’m glad to see three mono’s in the lead ahead of the multies, although I was rooting for PT Watercraft as he is singlehanded," Dana wrote. "Some day a paddler will win, if the wind doesn’t blow. Latitude 38 rocks."