Aaaaaannnnnnnnd they’re off. A herd of happy cruisers sailed out of San Diego Bay this morning to the sound of a mariachi band, the blasting of starter-shotguns, and the bursting of fire hoses. The 26th Baja Ha-Ha is officially underway. We will bring you a few updates as the boats make their way south, but for now, we’ll let the pictures do the talking.
News of Pronto II’s imminent demise about a month ago sent ripples through the sailing community, and for a moment, it looked as if a miracle might materialize. Sadly, Pronto II is no more. The boat was crushed up at the Army Corps of Engineers’ ramp in Sausalito sometime last week.
“They needed more room because of all the boats from the big, windy day that blew everything to the Sausalito side,” said Lon Woodrum, referring to the October 26 north-northeasterly gale that dislodged a number of boats and sent them to the Sausalito waterfront. “They had a dozen boats that they had to get rid of.”
Pronto II, which we feature in this month’s Sightings, had been at the Army Corps ramp for several weeks, during which time a few people expressed interest in resurrecting the boat — most people were saying ‘rebuild’ instead of ‘refit’, which is a ferociously expensive undertaking.
In the end, timely support did not materialize enough to save the boat.
We tip our hats to those who put in their time, money and passion for San Francisco’s maritime history to try to save Pronto II. Sadly, it was not meant to be.
More than eight days into this 14th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre, the leaders are now over halfway from Le Havre, France, to Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. At the head of the premier IMOCA division are Jérémie Beyou and Christopher Pratt onboard the mighty Charal, a radical new-generation foiling IMOCA that has proven itself to be among the very quickest boats in the fleet. Since early teething pains after its initial launch, the boat is trying for back-to-back wins after its recent clean sweep of Défi Azimut. To do so, Charal will have to fend off the newly launched Apivia of Charlie Dalin and Yann Eliès and a hard-charging 11th Hour Racing entry skippered by American Charlie Enright and his French co-skipper Pascal Bidégorry. In an impressive effort during just their second race in the IMOCA fleet, the upstart American team has consistently moved up the leaderboard and is oftentimes the fastest boat in the fleet. As of this writing, Apivia and 11th Hour Racing are 70 and 72 miles behind Charal, respectively, and both doing 19 knots compared to Charal’s 20 knots. With some 1,800 miles left to sail until the finish in Brazil, it’s still anyone’s race.
While the racing at the head of the fleet is top-notch, the biggest headlines in the race at this moment are unfolding far astern with the recent loss of a keel by Alex Thomson and Neal McDonald on the new Hugo Boss. After showing blinding pace off the start, the newly launched Boss — sailing in its debut race — took a westerly routing option that turned out to be the wrong call. Hovering around 20th place for much of the race, Boss’s race went from bad to worse when they struck an unidentified object at high speed, which left their canting-keel mechanism severely damaged. The keel only remained attached to the boat by the hydraulic ram that allows it to cant. After a long day of stabilizing the boat followed by some much-needed rest, the British duo has opted to cut the ram and drop the keel down to the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, as leaving it attached was deemed to be a greater risk to the boat. With water-ballast tanks filled and both foils fully deployed, the boat is said to be quite stable and the duo is not in immediate danger. The closest point of land appears to be the Canary Islands. Purely speculative, but we would imagine the team will charter a large powerboat and stage a rescue effort from there.
While the Transat Jacques Vabre continues to rage on, two other major French races are now again underway, or soon will be. The second leg of the Mini Transat race has restarted from the Canary Islands. The 81 solo sailors are racing downwind in perfect trade-wind conditions to Le Marin Bay on the Caribbean island of Martinique. At the head of the fleet, François Jambou onboard 865/Team BFR Marée Haute Jaune — the same boat that Ian Lipinski sailed to victory in the 2017 edition — has a five-mile advantage over Tanguy Bouroullec’s revolutionary foiling boat. Quite impressively, the leading production boat is mixing it up with the lead prototypes as of this writing.
The inaugural Brest Atlantiques race is set to begin tomorrow in Brest, France. The start was delayed to allow the passage of a major storm named Amélie, which brought winds of up to 100 mph and left much of France without power. Four Ultim class trimarans are set to start the inaugural edition of this 14,000-mile race. Each of the maxi-tris, three of which are now fully foiling, will be racing with two sailors onboard plus a media man. We will continue to keep an eye on all of these events.
They raid in France, Sweden and Great Britain, so why not here? A raid is an organized rally in small boats that can paddle, sail or row in shallow water with overnights at towns, beaches or campgrounds. During the Singlehanded Sailing Society’s Vallejo 1-2 race on October 19-20, two beta-testers tried it out with a trip to Vallejo and Napa.
“Alan Hebert launched the idea of a raid a few months back in an SSS Forum,” says Jim Quanci. “Raids are well known in the UK. Small boats — sail and row — without engines go on a lengthy voyage. It’s not a race; it’s a small group cruise in good company. I was rehabbing my ancient Laser (#729, 1972 vintage). As a teenager, I had always wanted to do a long trip on her.”
Ants Uiga (founder of the Three Bridge Fiasco) jumped in right away with his kayak. Although Ants hails from Bodfish in Southern California, he made the drive north. “My first raid was an afternoon and evening sail of maybe 10 miles with a second sailing dinghy for company,” he said. “That downwind sail was in the early ’70s. It was simple and highly enjoyable.”
Ants was doing fine on Saturday until the conditions got too rough and he had to pull out at Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor. But the mobility factor of small boats made it possible to just drive it to Vallejo and be ready for Sunday’s trip to Napa.
Jim rapidly sailed to Vallejo in record time and even beat some of the bigger SSS boats.
“Sailing across San Pablo Bay got increasingly ‘sporty’ as the wind gradually increased to the high teens,” said Jim. “In the low teens, the small ULDBs with chutes — like the Express 27 — were faster, but in the high teens I could keep up, being on a full plane. Waves from passing boats were a bit tricky, with several bow-down submarines that had me thinking, “Uh-oh… pitchpole?”
Jackie Philpott, whose Cal 2-27 Dura Mater served as mothership/sag wagon (with Skip Allan as crew), put together a video. Check it out here.
Raids shouldn’t be too hard. If San Pablo Bay proved a bit more than the boaters expected, they can find nice places for future events. “Locations for future events depend on a consensus of the participants,” says Ants. “The undeveloped estuaries like the Napa River are easy to like. Tomales Bay is pretty and has camping options. And the Delta has lots of choices.”
Jim adds, “What next? Yes there will be more Raids! Though, expecting a wider variety of boats — some with a bit less stability, whether an open sailboat or a canoe — I’m thinking of maybe avoiding the open water of San Pablo and Suisun Bays. Maybe launch at Pittsburg and gunkhole around the Delta over a long weekend? This coming spring? Interested? Join the discussion in the SSS Forum — see the raid thread!”