With the record number of entries for the 50th Transpac, one could expect a decent amount of attrition before the race starts in early July. No one, however, would have expected one of the Southern Hemisphere’s best-known and most-traveled yachts to be lost at sea en route to the start, but that’s exactly what happened to Brian Petersen’s Auckland, New Zealand-based Elliott 50 Ran Tan II. Having just sailed from Auckland to Tahiti with a crew of three, the team swapped out a few crew for fresh bodies before embarking on a planned three-week voyage from Tahiti to Los Angeles. On May 27, the venerable 50-ft canting-keeler — a veteran of no fewer than three Melbourne to Osaka races — crossed the equator and entered the Northern Hemisphere.
Three days later, around the position of 8°N 127°W, the crew activated their EPIRB and made a distress call on their HF radio to alert the relevant authorities that the boat was suffering from “keel issues.” Shortly afterward, New Zealand yachting media outlet Live Sail Die began covering the story. Though conditions at the scene were said to be fairly mild, a 29-ft sailing yacht named Irish Eyes also dismasted around 100 miles from Ran Tan II. Ran Tan II’s Facebook page related that the crew was “so impressed and thankful for the work that the Wellington Rescue Centre and the US Coastguard in Honolulu have put in on behalf of our team of three sailors out here… They may be a long way from the nearest land but there are an amazing number of ships, yachts, boats, tugs, etc. out there also. US Coastguard will alert us when they are able to contact a suitable vessel to rendezvous with Ran Tan… The boys have got the fridge ready to go, so at least they’ll have cold beers in the liferaft while they wait.”
The following morning, the team relayed that “At 0530 this morning the keel let go completely and disappeared into the deep blue Paciﬁc Ocean. Ran Tan is still upright and stable in the slight seas. Liferaft and dinghy launched. Boys just had a cold beer, crackers and cheese. Waiting patiently for their next ride, a 1,000-ton Mexican tuna boat out of Ensenada. They are about four hours away. Thank you so much for all the messages of support and encouragement. Unfortunately it looks like a sad end to a very fine yacht.”
Before noon on May 31 (New Zealand time), the team again relayed via Facebook that all three crew were safely aboard the Mexican fishing boat Azteca 5 and were maintaining their good Kiwi spirits, although they were almost surely quite shaken by the experience. The boat was said to have been abandoned, though we cannot at this time conﬁrm if it was scuttled or left to drift, or whether there are any plans to salvage the vessel. Having been on a racing yacht that has sustained a complete keel failure, even reading of this experience rattled this writer. Our most sincere thoughts and condolences go out to our beloved Kiwi yachting brethren. But the crew are safe and sound, and that is truly the most important thing. For more on this developing story, and (in due time) reactions from owner Brian Petersen, follow Live Sail Die’s excellent coverage of this story and all things New Zealand yachting.
For those keeping score, there are now 98 yachts entered in this year’s Transpac. We will miss #99.
The merchant vessel Tomar rescued two sailors from the California-based 29-ft sailing vessel Irish Eyes 1,840 miles southeast of Hilo yesterday. Irish Eyes was en route to Tahiti.
They’re off. And they’re almost there (or already finished, by the time you read this). The three 70-ft trimarans pictured below made a brief appearance on San Francisco Bay as they tuned up and got ready to blast down the coast in the inaugural California 500 race from San Francisco to San Diego. They started at 1 p.m. yesterday and are now just a few light-air miles from the finish.
While these are serious offshore racing machines usually compete at the highest level of the sport, the skippers and crew also remember how they started. When possible, they share the exhilaration of their upper-echelon sailing with aspiring youth. On Memorial Day, Peter Cunningham’s Powerplay crew pulled up to the Cityfront to offer junior sailors participating in St. Francis Yacht Club’s C420 Heavy Weather Clinic a ride on his MOD70. What a ride! The sailors wasted no time unclipping from the 420 trapeze wires to jump at the opportunity to take a few burns across the Bay.
Oh, the places you’ll go. As sailors know, a sailboat can take you across the pond or around the world. Youth sailing does a great job teaching sailing skills but often has a limited ability to include all of the expansive world of sailing. St. Francis youth sailing and many other programs are looking to expand the offering to give juniors a bigger sense of the options available. These kids spent most of the weekend training on 420s. But, on Monday, they found themselves sailing with some of the world’s best sailors aboard the extreme offshore sailing multihull Powerplay.
Among the crew is Matt Noble, a Bay Area sailor who landed in the big leagues and is now on the Powerplay crew. He learned to sail at Richmond YC and has gone on to create an impressive sailing résumé that, he told us, includes, at age 14, helping Commodore Tompkins do a delivery of Latitude 38 founder Richard Spindler’s Surfin’ 63 Profligate. He also raced with Johnny Heineken on 29ers, competed in the Extreme Sailing Series, and sailed in the Oakcliff All American Offshore Team. The list goes on. You’d have to spend the whole weekend reading if we were to include the full résumés of Matt and the rest of the crew. Regardless of their hard-won miles, the collegial Powerplay crew also knows how to share the thrill of high-performance sailing.
As we relayed on Wednesday, Powerplay, along with Argo and Maserati, trained by dodging Bay Area sailors over Memorial Day weekend. They’re now headed to the finish, though these final few miles look painfully slow. You can watch their final approach to San Diego on their trackers here. Once finished, they’ll continue refining their game in preparation for July’s 50th running of the Transpac from L.A. to Hawaii.
Happy June, Latitude Nation. We are celebrating the more-or-less start of summer with nothing less than a brand-new issue of Latitude 38. This is one of our favorite issues ever, and it couldn’t be more timely.
Last night, we saw Webb Chiles speak at Richmond Yacht Club, recounting to about 100 people the ups and downs of his latest — and sixth — circumnavigation, this time aboard the Moore 24 Gannet. Webb Chiles is a one-of-a-kind sailor, the likes of whom we have never seen, and don’t expect to again. Throughout his life, Chiles has pushed himself to be a different kind of sailor. Paraphrasing from last night: “I didn’t want to be like the rock star singing his greatest hits. I wanted to sing a new song, and I think that Gannet and I did.”
In the June issue, writer Lee Johnson brings us part 1 of Webb Chiles’ Life of Circling the Globe. (Needless to say, we’ll bring you part 2 next month.)
In this month’s Sightings, we preview a Marin County team challenging in the Race to Alaska, talk story with the Blackmore and Gidley families, give you a quick circumnavigators’ update with Jeanne Socrates and Randall Reeves, and preview this year’s Summer Sailstice, a global celebration that breathes life into all those marinas where sailboats are underutilized.
There was, apparently, some kind of big sailboat race here on San Francisco Bay in early May. Everyone was talking about it, and fighting for a seat to see things go down. That’s right, the annual two-day Great Vallejo Race saw classic Bay Area conditions. We’ll have a full wrap up of the race in this month’s issue.
Oh yeah, that same weekend in early May also saw SailGP descend on San Francisco Bay. We’ll have a recap of that regatta in the June issue, too.
This month, we also did an investigation of the pressures being felt on the Oakland Estuary, and tried to answer some of your questions about what exactly is happening on one of the Bay Area’s most compact, protected and interesting swaths of water. Also, Max Ebb made a shocking discovery about Sir Isaac Newton, and editor-at-large Andy Turpin made a long-awaited Pacific crossing.
The only thing that you won’t find in this month’s issue is the winner of the Caption Contest(!). We were forced to cut Loose Lips this month, and therefore the World Famous CC(!). But fear not, Nation, because it’s right here:
There was a lot of riffing on the ESP (Extrasensory Perception), or lack thereof, of this crew. There were also quite a few comments about “Mediums at large,” and Ahab’s much-sought-after white whale. Aaaaaannnnnnnd the winner is:
“Two sangrias, please.” — Philipp Berner
“Best fins forever!” — Chris Lundeen
“I think you’re taking this whole “reducing wetted surface thing” a little too far.” — Us
“The other boats are going much faster than us! What are they doing differently?” — Maxwell A Graham
“This new invisible hull leaves something to be desired!” — David Michael Cox
“Put your thumb out; maybe someone will pick us up.” — Michelle Sevilla Kringen
“I thought you had the ditch bag.” — Gary Starkey
“Dude, really, I only asked you what cap size you wear!” — Mark Bettis
“There is nothing in the rulebook on cleaning your hull at the three-minute gun.” — Jake Goza
“Maybe we should have painted the bottom orange.” — Brian Richards
Weather Routing Inc. predicts a “good day” for tomorrow’s Delta Ditch Run from Richmond to Stockton.
“A thermal trough (low pressure) is situated across interior California. The trough will expand westward toward the California coast and adjacent Pacific waters east of 125°N and weaken on the 1st. Farther west, a ridge of high pressure is found just off the California Coast from near Point Conception northward, extending westward across adjacent offshore waters, and will slowly drift westward over the next three days or so, changing little in intensity.”
“While a general southwest to west wind regime will be in place, winds will actually tend nearer to the high ends of the forecast ranges during the afternoon hours, as afternoon land/sea thermal differences increase with daytime heating. Other than this, forecast confidence is above average.”
“Conditions this morning, outside of areas of tightened pressure gradients will remain southwesterly in nature and within reason inside the race area. Throughout the day today and into the early evening hours, expect increasing southwesterly winds due to diurnal surges of southwesterlies with higher gusts channeling into more narrow passages. A similar pattern of lower winds in the morning/overnight and increasing conditions in the later afternoon/early evening will ensue tomorrow, though the diurnal surges appear slightly stronger tomorrow afternoon. Within these areas of higher winds, a slight wind chop is expected with areas of higher southwesterly fetch. Otherwise, expect seas to be quite low.”
View this forecast online at www.wriwx.com/clientproduct.php?id=8875. We’ll see you on the water!