You couldn’t have asked for a more scenic day to wrap up the 2018 Rolex Big Boat Series on Sunday, with bright blue sky, flat water and colorful hulls and spinnakers. The flood current that dominated this regatta made for drawn-out beats and ultra-fast thrill-ride runs. Some reaching legs and jibe marks mixed things up from the routine windward/leewards, and the Point Diablo mark gave the racers a jaunt under the Golden Gate Bridge.
Friday was the one day with overcast; interesting cloud formations dotted the sky above San Francisco Bay, and the morning fog returned as the last boats were finishing Race 4. It was during Race 4 that John Clauser’s 1D48 Bodacious+ dismasted at the hounds (we hope to find out what happened in time for our report in the October issue of Latitude 38). Ironically this misfortune occurred on the least windy day.
Saturday’s racing saw the biggest breeze, with 20-25 knots and gusts tickling the 30-knot mark, and a wicked 3- to 4-ft chop challenged the racers. “I’d say these conditions are typical of San Francisco Bay, but the courses are so much longer that it’s testing people’s endurance,” said Jenn Lancaster, race director at host club St. Francis YC.
At the owners’ dinner on Thursday night, MC Kimball Livingston prevailed upon the ORR-A fleet members to bring along a junior sailor on Saturday and Sunday. "The juniors are used to sailing in heavy air, so the conditions weren’t eye-opening," said Dave MacEwen, skipper of the Santa Cruz 52 Lucky Duck, "but doing 17-18 knots downwind must have been different.” MacEwen said that the ORR-A owners were repaying childhood debts. “We need to encourage the kids to get into big boat sailing,” says MacEwen. “They’re the next generation.”
Going into Sunday’s seventh and final race, the traditional extra-long Bay Tour, some divisions were too close to call, others were all but decided, and some were a fait accompli. Family and friends cheered on the finishers from StFYC’s sunny rooftop deck. An awards ceremony in a tent on the East Lawn followed, with historically significant perpetual trophies, numerous take-home awards and five Rolex watches bestowed upon top finishers. See www.rolexbigboatseries.com for much more.
By now you’ve doubtless seen the stats on Florence. Since coming ashore in the Carolinas early Friday as a Category 1 hurricane, the storm has left 17 dead, almost a million evacuees still unable to return home, extensive flooding, major highways shut down, 700,000 homes and businesses without power — and it hasn’t stopped yet. North and South Carolina continue to get significant rain and flooding, prompting emergency services to warn some communities that “the worst is yet to come.” The remains of Florence recurved to the northeast and are currently dumping more rain and wind over Ohio. The system will reach the New York area in a day or two and then exit back into the Atlantic where it will finally expire.
This footage, taken of a marina near New Bern, North Carolina, shows significant damage to boats and docks. In the few other videos we’ve seen so far, boats in other marinas (some of which have incorporated ‘hurricane-proofing’ improvements in their design), seem to have fared much better.
For some kind of perspective on the size of this storm, the eye of Florence — just the eye — was as big around as the peninsula from San Francisco to San Jose. As it made landfall, the storm’s diameter was a bit over 350 miles — the distance from L.A. to the Bay Area. Rainfall in the first three days was 20-40 inches, making it the wettest single system ever recorded in any East Coast state except Florida. That’s also more — in three days — than the Bay Area gets in a normal rain year. The approximately 14 trillion gallons of rain dropped on the Carolinas and surrounding states is more water than flows under the Golden Gate in a week.
As staggering as those numbers are, an even bigger storm is plowing into China as we ‘come on the air’ this Monday morning. Meteorologists are calling Super Typhoon Mangkhut “the most powerful storm of 2018.” At its strongest, Mangkhut exceeded category 5 with sustained winds over 200 mph. (‘Super’ typhoons earn the name for sustained winds exceeding 150 mph.) When it steamrolled over the Philippines (as Typhoon Ompong) on Friday — with sustained winds of ‘only’ 120 mph — it was an almost unbelievable 550 miles in diameter.
Although the mountainous terrain ‘protects’ much of the Philippine Islands from flooding and high winds, damage was significant. There are 69 confirmed deaths as of this writing. While tragic, it’s worth noting that’s only a fraction of the 7,000 people who perished in the onslaught of Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. The hard lessons learned from that storm have resulted in many new emergency procedures that, so far, seem to have been effective. The governor of one province even ordered a temporary ban on alcohol consumption as the storm approached, since a drunk man perished in one past storm.
Exiting the Philippines, Mangkhut started gaining strength again over the South China Sea. It slammed into Hong Kong and mainland China yesterday. News of destruction continues as this ‘Lectronic goes to press.
Whenever we report on significant storms, we try to include whatever information we can about their effects on recreational boating. At this time, that information seems premature and trivial. When lives are on the line, the only boats worth mentioning are the hundreds of small craft in the Carolinas and Far East that are being used by rescue crews to save many of those lives.
It’s been a long time coming but now the time is near. John and Diane Dinwiddie have been dreaming of the day when they would head out the Gate and turn south. The only thing stopping them was all the normal stuff — careers, getting the boat ready, and finding the time to make it all happen.
A couple of weeks ago friends and family gathered for the send-off party at Richmond Yacht Club, where John has been harbormaster for the last several years. The boat, the very buff-looking Hans Christian 38 Tabu Soro, was looking stupendous dockside and was open for tours.
Tabu Soro, which means ‘never give up’ in Fijian, was the victim of a fire in the cabin that severely damaged the hull and navigation area of the boat. Often a fire on a fiberglass boat gets out of control, but such was not the case with Tabu Soro. Though the boat was badly damaged, John saw the opportunity for a resurrection. For the past 18 years John has been patiently refitting the boat, adding equipment, and bringing her back to her former glory.
Beyond the structural repairs there’s a new SSB, halyards, rigging, brightwork, scuba tanks and myriad other refinements and upgrades. Having finished up with careers at the end of August, John and Diane have a seven-day-a-week job getting the last boat chores done. They’re now sailing to double-check all the systems and make sure that they and Tabu Soro are ready to head down the coast.
Sometime in mid-October they should be joining the rest of the West Coast cruisers as they head toward Mexico, and, beyond that, it’s just cruising time. It took a few years, but John, Diane and the boat are now ready and looking forward to the miles and sunshine ahead.
Readers, we thought we’d take a quick look back at some West Coast scenery.