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December 19, 2018

Wreckage of Missing Cat Found

The wreckage of a catamaran owned by a missing sailor was found in the Sea of Cortez this week, while a body — which has yet to be identified — was discovered several miles from the wreck.

We’re not sure who snapped this photo, but it leaves little doubt that the wreckage is Bob Smith’s Pantera. (Thank you to Patsy Verhoeven for passing this photo along to us).

Pantera, a 44-ft homebuilt catamaran owned by Canadian Bob Smith, was found near Punta Chivato, just south of the town of Santa Rosalia on the eastern, inland side of the Baja peninsula in the Sea of Cortez; the body found nearby was wearing a wetsuit. Smith and Pantera were officially reported missing on Monday, but no one had heard from Bob, who is in his late 70s, for nearly three months. Cruising sailors are often off or under the radar, but Smith’s daughter Natalie had become concerned after her father’s prolonged silence.

It’s not clear how long the wreckage of Pantera, or the body, had been ashore before it was discovered. Some sources told us it may have been as long as a month.

We’ve gathered information from the tight-knit group of cruisers in the Sea of Cortez who know Bob Smith, and from a call with the Port Captain in Santa Rosalia. Smith was singlehanding, and was said to be having problems with his boat — he was apparently steering via lines attached to his rudders. Reader Wayne Gorrie said that he and his wife visited Smith last year in La Paz. “He was in fine form, but it was clear to me that the boat was not,” Gorrie commented on our website.

The wreckage of Pantera was found off Punta Chivato in the Sea of Cortez.
© 2018 Google Earth

We also spoke with cruiser Robert Settle yesterday in La Paz, who told us that Smith had last been seen by another cruising boat near Bahía de los Ángeles, about 200 miles to the north of Santa Rosalia, around November 9 or 10.

“Bob contacted them on VHF, and they told him they were about to get slammed by weather. They saw him launch a spinnaker [and sail away].” Smith was apparently headed south, away from an oncoming northerly. Settle described Smith’s catamaran Pantera as very high-tech, super lightweight and “touchy” in big wind.

Bob Smith at the Baja Ha-Ha Beach Party in Cabo San Lucas in 2006.
© 2018 Baja Ha-Ha

DNA testing will be done on the body, with results expected in a few weeks. Natalie Smith told us that she’s hoping people can help determine if her father is still alive, and if he needs help.

Ailyn van Os contributed reporting to this story.

Polish Tall Ship Graces the Bay

“I was thumbing through AIS, and found the Dar Młodzieży is coming to town,” reader John Dukat wrote. It’s true — the 357-ft Polish sail training ship is currently at the Embarcadero in San Francisco next to the Exploratorium at Pier 15.

The Dar Młodzieży will be in the Bay though Saturday, and we’re told that tours are available.

Tall ships are always an impressive sight. (We wish we could have caught the Dar Mlodziezy coming in through the Gate, but we are chained to our desks for deadline.)
© 2018 Dorota Nelke/'Dar Mlodziezy'

Dar Młodzieży” translates to “the gift of youth.” The ship replaced the frigate Dar Pormoza, which had trained officers of merchant and fishing fleets for over 50 years. “[Dar Młodzieży] proved to be a highly successful sail training ship and four other sisters were built in the following years [after she was built in 1982],” said Sail Training International. “She has graced the Tall Ships’ races with her presence on a regular basis for around 25 years.”

There will be an official welcoming ceremony today. Dar Młodzieży is scheduled to set sail on Saturday for L.A., and is making her way to Panama for World Youth Day in January.

If you happen to be on the Embarcadero — or even better, if you take a tour — please send us some photos.

The Week in Swell

After a massive purple blob enveloped the West Coast this weekend, things are finally calming down. But there were some fireworks, first.

Reader Vikas Kapur sent us a few photos from Mavericks yesterday, as the swell ticked down a notch. This is still a frightening wave for most mere mortals. As always, we’re glad to see that no sailboats strayed into the lineup.
© 2018 Vikas Kapur

Things were especially intense over the weekend.

This photo from Dave Rogers of the Coast Guard sending it at Ocean Beach was part of a post from NorCal Wild that went totally viral on social media.
© 2018 Dave Roger/NorCal Wild

Ocean Beach was mental, which the Coast Guard saw as a perfect opportunity to do some training in the surf. “[The Coast Guard] were practicing shallow surf rescue maneuvers,” a post from NorCal Wild said.

After maxing out on Monday with dozens of all-star surfers in the lineup, Mavericks in Half Moon Bay saw cleaner, calmer and “smaller” conditions yesterday — though small is certainly in the eye of the beholder.

Someone had a go on what looks like a longboard at Mavericks yesterday.
© 2018 Vikas Kapur

“It was pretty phenomenal,” Vikas Kapur said of yesterday’s session at Mavs. “These conditions come together infrequently. About 20-plus surfers were in the water.”

Welcome to winter on the West Coast.

Rolex Sydney Hobart Preview

Close to 90 yachts will take on the 74th edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart in just six days’ time. Beginning from Sydney, Australia, on December 26, the 628-mile ‘Boxing Day classic’ to Hobart, Tasmania, has become one of the most famous sailing races on Earth. Crowds of hundreds of thousands will line Sydney Harbour to see the start. Countless others will tune in live, as the Rolex Sydney Hobart has become a unique spectacle in the world of yacht racing. The 2018 race is just 20 years removed from the tragic 1998 race in which six lives were lost in a massive storm; the Bay Area’s Larry Ellison and his maxi-yacht Sayonara won that race.

Maxi yacht start
The maxi-yacht start of the 2017 Rolex Sydney Hobart in Sydney Harbour.
© 2018 Kurt Arrigo / Rolex

Five 100-ft super-maxis will again compete for line honors and the lion’s share of media attention, while behind them an incredibly deep and competitive fleet will vie for overall honors. Despite the passing of wine magnate Robert Oatley, his family trust and longtime friend and skipper Mark Richards haven’t lost a step. The team recently won the Comanche-less SOLAS Big Boat Challenge, the annual pre-Hobart practice race for the super-maxis in Sydney Harbour. To have any shot at winning a record-setting ninth line-honors victory, Wild Oats XI will again have her work cut out for her against Jim Cooney’s VPLP 100 Comanche. Comanche has been Oats’ premier rival since her introduction to the race in 2014. Christian Beck’s Juan-K designed 100-footer InfoTrack will look to play the role of spoiler.

Wild Oats XI bow
Wild Oats XI’s bow, as the speed demon exits Sydney Harbour in 2017.
© 2018 Rolex Sydney Hobart

Just a bit off the pace of the 100-footers, a stacked fleet of sub-70-ft yachts are in it to win it on handicap. As in many offshore races run on handicap, the TP52 class could well provide the overall winner — it often does. Constantly refined and optimized, TP52s have taken this race a number of times, and, in 2018, no fewer than 10 are on the line. A few very similar designs are also mixing it up. A bit quicker than the 52s is an equally stacked fleet of 60-somethings, mini-maxis and Volvo 70s.

Ron O’Hanley’s Cookson 50 Privateer could represent one of the more competitive U.S. entries in recent memory, with an accomplished crew that includes American Volvo Ocean Race superstar Charlie Enright.
© 2018 Caribbean 600 / RORC

Led by skipper Stacey Jackson, the Oatley family’s R/P 66 Wild Oats X will be a danger on handicap in the capable hands of an all-women’s professional crew. Sistership Alive, hailing from Tasmania, is also back and should be a contender. Fresh off her Pacific Cup overall win, the Shelter Island Transatlantic Partners’ Mills 68 Prospector could again have the right horse for the course, though if she gets her conditions, a lot of other good boats will also be in contention.

Another great all-around platform, the Shaun Carkeek-designed 60-footer Winning Appliances (normally known as Ichi Ban) has been loaned out to John Winning Jr. and his father. Both sailors have won a Sydney Hobart, but never together. Sailing in memory of the sailors who were lost in the 1998 race, this thrown-together crew is stacked deep with talent including the Bay Area’s own Jonny Goldsberry trimming sails.

Winning Appliances
Matt Allen has loaned his Carkeek 60 Ichi Ban to John Winning Sr. and Jr. To be sailed as Winning Appliances, this solid all-around performer with a top-notch crew could be a threat to win overall.
© 2018 Carkeek Design

The weather is still a bit early to call with any certainty. Make sure to check out the race website at for all the details on how to follow the race. Live coverage will begin on December 26 at 12:30 p.m. AEDT (that’s December 25 at 5:30 p.m. PST). We’re planning to post an update in ‘Lectronic Latitude on December 28.

Mark Twain
Michael Spies’ classic 39-ft S&S one-tonner Mark Twain is entered for the first time since 2002. She’s the first boat to ever sail in 25 Sydney Hobarts, and the crew has more than 130 Hobarts among them.
© 2018 Mark Twain
Missing in Mexico
Cruiser Bob Smith, of the home-built 44-ft catamaran Pantera, hasn't been heard from in three months. His daughter has become concerned.
An educational nonprofit in Redwood City is the latest organization to be locked in an inexplicable struggle with the Bay Conservation and Development Commission’s permitting process.
Back in the Day . . .
Long before Merlin and Imp, Blondie and Condor — and Charley, The Wizard, Morning Cloud, Santa Cruz 27s/50s/70s, Regardless, Fast Is Fun, Mirabella V, the Chicken Coop, half the Swan lineup in the ’80s and ’90s and, well, everything else — Ron Holland and Bill Lee were just two young guys having fun and hoping to make a career in the marine industry.
around the world race
The old Volvo has been tossed out and is on its way to the wreckers. That is, the old format for the Volvo Ocean Race is history, along with its title sponsor and the Volvo Ocean boats.