Just as 2019 draws to a close, so too does this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart race. Often referred to as “the great race,” this edition was once again proof of why. With 157 yachts on the starting line to commemorate the 75th anniversary, the smoke and chaos of the ongoing bush fires cleared away, and Mother Nature served up stunning conditions for this year’s race. Departing Sydney on Boxing Day, the massive fleet sailed upwind through Sydney Harbour before exiting the Heads and rocketing south on a fresh northerly that saw the entire fleet put up spinnakers.
The five 100-ft supermaxis at the front put on quite a show, with Christian Beck’s Juan K-designed Infotrack taking an early lead. Almost immediately outside the Heads however, Jim Cooney and Samantha Grant’s VPLP 100 Comanche — the world’s fastest monohull — put in a very impressive display to take the lead after opting for a very conservative starting line approach.
Propelled south in a hurry, the leaders slammed into a big transition zone just off the southeastern corner of Australia, parking up most of the big boats and compressing the fleet, allowing the smaller boats to catch up. In what would prove to be a winning move, Comanche’s Bay Area-based navigator Stan Honey positioned his team the farthest east, offshore, in an effort to stay in pressure and avoid the worst of the light spot, and to minimize her losses to the skinnier R/P 100s Wild Oats XI and Black Jack. The strategy worked and Comanche eventually emerged with a lead and better positioning to come in to Tasmania on a hotter, faster angle than her rivals to claim a line honors victory for the third time.
Infotrack was eventually second, while Wild Oats XI just barely nipped the Hong Kong-based Scallywag at the finish after a tacking duel up the Derwent River.
Behind the big supermaxis that compete for line honors and win the lion’s share of the press coverage, Matt Allen’s Botin-designed TP52 Ichi Ban — a weapon purpose-built for this race — again claimed an overall victory on IRC after sailing a superb race. Smashing into Hobart on a strong sea breeze, the perennial class contender was first over the line and on handicap among 11 TP52s. San Francisco-based up-and-coming pro sailor Leland Hubble sailed on Matt Donald and Chris Townsend’s TP52 Gweilo, which romped home just minutes later to claim second place overall.
As of this morning, 144 boats have reached port in Tasmania just as a big front moves over the area, creating very gusty conditions for the few remaining boats on the course. The only American boat in the race, Lawrence Green’s Robert Perry-designed cruiser Cailin Lomhara, still had 64 miles to go.
Happy almost New Year, Latitude Nation. We got you a little something for the holidays — call it a late Christmas/early New Year’s gift. That’s right, it’s a fresh copy of Latitude 38. And, as a stocking stuffer, we also got you the new YRA Calendar. Both are on newsstands, and on the internet, right now.
Let’s take a look . . .
Season Champs, Part 3
“The Yacht Racing Association’s chairman Don Ahrens addressed a crowd gathered for awards at Berkeley Yacht Club on November 17,” reads the final installment of Season Champs. “‘The participation was up,’ Ahrens said, ‘which was really great to see. I’d like all you guys to go out there, find those skippers that should be racing, and use those cattle prods to get them out there next year, because we need all the participation we can get. If folks have recommendations on how we can get more racers out, feel free to email me because we love getting feedback from our customers.'” If you have an instant answer to that question, you can contact Don at email@example.com.
“Worries about my homeschooling skills or lack thereof were resurfacing and keeping me awake at night,” wrote April Winship about her experience, years ago, teaching her daughters Kendall and Quincy while the family was cruising. “What if [they] were grade levels behind when we returned to the United States? What if they couldn’t make friends and were known as ‘those super-weird boat kids?’ We’d do them a huge disservice if we didn’t give them a proper education. Self-doubt crept into my consciousness and ate away at the dreams I had of being an exemplary teacher with two enthusiastic scholars.”
After meeting other cruising families and having an impromptu ‘PTA meeting’, the Winship family eventually found the schooling rhythm. “We adhered to a few cardinal rules: School was consistent; five days a week. If we were exploring somewhere new, history, science, English, social studies and math lessons were tailored to take into account our new surroundings.If we were passagemaking, we studied sailing, nature, weather and the world around us, not bookwork. The ‘school year’ was finished when the subject lessons were completed. That might take six months, nine months or a year.”
The Sausalito Indian Navy
“On the phone, Tim said there would be 60 Indians to take to Alcatraz that November pre-dawn,” write Brooks Townes in this month’s Sightings. “We counted 93. They were to park quietly in the dark by the Sausalito Yacht Harbor, stay in their cars and vans, lights out, and send someone across the street into the no-name bar near closing time and ask for me.”
“In those days, odd things often happened in that bar. Peter Bowen, the bar’s manager and one of our three skippers that morning — November 20, 1969, now more than 50 years ago — got them all out and headed for the docks. We followed the two other skippers: Mary Crowley, a young but experienced ocean sailor; and Bob Teft, yacht broker and symphony trumpeter. Ferrying these indigenous activists across the Bay would lead to a year-and-a-half occupation of Alcatraz prison to protest the federal government’s treatment of native people.”
Max and Lee Go Back to the Future . . . Again
“In 1990, Max and Lee time traveled 20 years into the future, to a dystopian 2010 in which only sailors with corporate sponsorship could race YRA, and the new and very popular high-speed powerboat racing circuit had right of way over the few remaining amateur sailing events. The government buoys were all gone, thanks to universal and mandatory GPS, but the wind turbine towers all over the Bay made perfectly good racing marks. Unless you rounded one a little too close.”
During their latest time-traveling foray, Max and Lee explore the San Francisco Science Sailing Center, which hopes to open in 2025 with “a permanent museum with 200 to 300 exhibits,” according to the SFSSC’s website. “It’s an ambitious milestone requiring ideation, design, development and testing. Our team is working tirelessly to build the partnerships, secure the resources and take the actions needed to get there. The exhibits all need to be safe, engaging, durable and cost effective.”
Don’t Forget About Letters, Lips and The Year in Preview
In this month’s Letters, we have an incredibly thoughtful discussion about selling your boat. The Year in Preview looks ahead to all of the sailing action for 2020. And in Loose Lips, we crown another winner . . .
Last But Not Least . . .
Usher in the next decade of sailing by planning for its first year. You can pick up the 2020 Northern California Sailing Calendar and YRA Schedule from distributors around the San Francisco Bay Area. (Current and recent members of the Yacht Racing Association have already received theirs by mail.) Will they be the Roaring ’20s? It’s up to you to make it happen.
When we reached out in 2002 for some anecdotes about some of the dumbest things people have done while sailing, somehow we didn’t expect to hear from a Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year. But we did. Stan and Sally Honey’s sailing résumés could fill a Google Cloud data center but, nonetheless, their success, like that of many, was built upon learning from experience.
In July 2002 they each relayed a common story as a mistake and then ‘they lived happily ever after.’
An Overboard Reaction
I’ve done all of the normal dumb things — running aground, dragging anchor, etc. — but the dumbest probably came during a 5O5 regatta off the Cityfront. In about 1980 Sally and I did poorly, and on the way back after the finish, she was giving me a particularly hard time for some no-doubt less-than-spectacular tactical call. I got fed up, picked her up, and dropped her into the water. The rest of the fleet gave us a wide berth as they sailed back to the St. Francis Yacht Club while I circled Sally.
After retrieving her it took a couple of days until she spoke to me again and 20 years until she agreed to get married. As it happens, we get along great on boats now.
— Stan Honey, Illusion, Cal 40
A Watery Critique
There have been lots of dumb moments, such as losing the 5O5 North Americans on the last run of the last race by not noticing a starboard tacker still beating upwind under the skirt of the spinnaker (no 720 rule) or, when I was 10, trying to pull a spinnaker in under the lifelines on my dad’s 45-footer — we lost the spinnaker and I’ll never forget my dad’s words.
But the dumbest was not curbing my own tongue after a 5O5 race on the Cityfront with Stan. We had done something less than perfect (I forget what, of course), and I was letting him know unnecessarily. He suddenly picked me up from the back of the boat and tossed me over the side. There was an unusual lack of banter from the boats that finished behind us as they swerved wide to give us plenty of room.
Once I caught my breath, as I floated astern in my wetsuit and lifejacket, I realized if we were going to continue to sail together I’d better treat him better. I guess I have because we have enjoyed sailing together tremendously in the years since. Not that it has always been perfect, but we both realize that we need to swallow our pride, not look for scapegoats, and understand the other is doing his or her best at all times.
— Sally Lindsay Honey, Illusion, Cal 40
Since then, Stan and Sally went on to plenty of racing and cruising success. We passed along some of their Cal 40 sailing life in a past Changes in Latitudes as they commuter-cruised in Central America.
We’re about to launch into a new year and new decade with lots of sailing ahead. Before we do we wanted to share a look back at the past year. Twelve issues brimful of California and West Coast sailing, with added miles from West Coast sailors who are somewhere on the world’s oceans.
It was another spectacular year of sailing. We always wish we could have done more sailing ourselves and covered more of it in the magazine. Of course, much more was covered every week here in ‘Lectronic Latitude.
The cover of the January 2020 issue features a photo submitted by reader Andy Ix, who said, “I shot this photo on a Bay sail from Pineapple Express, a Catalina 25, on the evening of June 4, 2019. I enjoy your magazine, and this photo is a gift to share with our local sailing community.”
Think you have a photo we should consider for the cover? First, look at the 12 covers above, as they’ll give you a good idea of what we like — action, color, people, and close-in views. Send your submissions here.
Our office in Mill Valley will be closed on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. Happy New Year’s to all our readers!