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February 19, 2020

Joyon Smashes Tea Route Record

After 31 days, 23 hours, 36 minutes and 46 seconds of sailing, Francis Joyon and his crew of Bertrand Delesne, Christophe Houdet, Antoine Blouet and Corentin Joyon set a new record for the Tea Route between Hong Kong and London this morning. Francis and his men have knocked an impressive 4 days, 2 hours off Giovanni Soldini and Maserati’s two-year-old record. They’re about three times faster than the clipper ships of the late 19th century. Sailing upwind up the River Thames and under the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge in London, the 105-ft VPLP maxi-trimaran added yet another impressive feather to her cap. The boat currently holds the Trophée Jules Verne for the fastest outright circumnavigation, an incredible three straight Route du Rhum victories, and countless other records.

IDEC Sport sails up to the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge.
IDEC Sport crossed the finish line under the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge to break the Clipper Route sailing record between Hong Kong and London. Construction on this modern bridge, aka the Dartford Crossing, began in 1988. It opened to the public on October 30, 1991.
© 2020 Anthony Upton / Alea

Encountering a wide range of conditions along the long and difficult Tea Route from London, the big French trimaran was in ‘survival mode’ just a couple of days before the finish when the team sailed along the bottom of an intense low-pressure system with big breeze and waves up to 6 meters (20-ish feet) tall — the latest in a series of storms to wreak havoc on western Europe.

IDEC Sport at Tower Bridge
Sails down and additional team members aboard, IDEC Sport arrives at Tower Bridge. Tower Bridge, near the Tower of London and not to be confused with the modern and not scenic London Bridge, is a combined bascule and suspension bridge, built between 1886 and 1894.
© 2020 Anthony Upton / Alea

Since departing Hong Kong on January 18, IDEC Sport has sailed at an average speed of 20.7 knots over 15,873 miles. With a fast run down the China Sea and across the Indian Ocean, the team led Maserati by about a day and a half at the Cape of Good Hope, but struggled through a very slow passage of the South Atlantic Ocean and across the doldrums, putting them just behind Maserati’s pace — briefly — in the North Atlantic Ocean. The team then bounced to an incredible 1,100-plus-mile lead over the reference time in the North Atlantic. The boat arrived in London quite literally on fumes, with no diesel fuel in the tank, and sustaining charging issues.

Skipper Francis Joyon and crewmembers Bertrand Delesne, Antoine Blouet, Corentin Joyon and Christophe Houdet celebrate with champagne before Tower Bridge after breaking the Clipper Route sailing record.
© 2020 Anthony Upton / Alea

This record brings IDEC Sport’s 2019-20 Asian Tour to a triumphant close. After leaving Lorient’s Port-Louis in late October, Francis Joyon sailed solo and smashed his own 10-year-old record along the 8,800-mile route to Port Louis in Mauritius, lowering the bar by more than six days to a new reference time of 19 days and 18 hours. Picking up his crew in Mauritius, Joyon then established two new records between Mauritius and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and between Ho Chi Minh City and Shenzhen, China, before delivering the boat to Hong Kong for a holiday break followed by a crack at the Tea Route. They got out of Hong Kong and China just in the nick of time, before the coronavirus ground the region to a halt. The team can now take a much-deserved break.

Asian Tour graphic
Today marked the completion of a successful Asian Tour.
© 2020 IDEC Sport

Bravo to Francis Joyon and the entire IDEC Sport team!

The Worst Time of Year for Northern California’s Best Sailing Destination

It’s no surprise that we so often find sailors in the mountains. We have often said that while seemingly disparate, skiing and sailing go hand in hand. We’ve speculated that maybe it’s a love for the outdoors and the fickle muse that is Mother Nature. When we were talking with windsurfer Carol Valk last year, she said that sailing reminded her of skiing and “the pursuit for the perfect turn.”

Lake Tahoe is simply magnificent from all angles. That’s Heavenly Ski Resort in the distance, as seen from Sugar Pine Point State Park on the West Shore.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim

On Super Bowl Sunday, a few weeks ago, we drove into Tahoe City as a light snow started to fall. We were thinking we’d score fresh tracks the next day, and we did, but the conditions were more ‘dust on crust’  than ‘deep, fluffy powder’. But it was a Monday, and much like sailing — where any bad day on the water is better than a good day in the office — we were just happy to be in the mountains.

Emerald Bay, on Tahoe’s West-ish Shore, as seen on February 5. That’s the M.S. Dixie II making a loop on a lovely winter day.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim

Our love — nay, obsession — for that perfect turn on the snow has led us to many an early-morning trip to Tahoe between December and April. But did you know, Latitude Nation, that Lake Tahoe is open for business in the summer as well? The sailing, they say, is supposed to be fantastic.

Alpine Caribbean blue? Why, yes. Lake Tahoe is a place of  contrasts and raw beauty.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim

Much like their sailing brethren, skiers often enjoy a cold libation after a satisfying day on the (frozen) water. So naturally, we ran into a bunch of sailors while visiting one of our favorite not-so-underground bars.

From left: Tom Brickley was talking about doing his ASA classes when we overheard him and introduced ourselves. (Tom said he was one of the first people to try windsurfing, but has since moved on to kiting and big-boat sailing); brothers Roger (middle) and Ken Howard sail on the gorgeous Alpha out of Sausalito, and are friends of Latitude publisher John Arndt.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, everyone: We want to sail on Tahoe this summer! While skiing at Heavenly or Homewood — two resorts that are right on the water — we find ourselves mind-sailing the many nooks and crannies of the second-largest alpine lake in the world (that’s 36.15 cubic miles). It has often been said that Latitude‘s founder wasn’t crazy about the finiteness of lake sailing. Well, even if you can’t sail to another country from Tahoe, you can sail to another state, and there seems to be plenty of room to get around.

Few spots in Tahoe inspire us to want to cruise as much as Emerald Bay. This kayaker enjoyed a few minutes of shoreside serenity.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim

We’ve asked this question before, and we’ll ask it again: Any Lake Tahoe sailors out there? Or alpine sailors in general? How about sailors who ski or skiers who sail? Anyone want to plan a summer sail? We’d love to hear from you (again). Please, comment below, or drop us a line and some pictures.

(No caption necessary.)
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim

Sailing to the Ends of Sanity and a Flat Earth

We don’t quite get websites that intentionally run bogus stories. Well, okay, some ‘articles’ are amusing and we guess that sells ads. But these days, journalism is having a tough enough time with credibility without throwing gasoline onto the fire. Our two cents:

One of the latest tall tales to make the rounds — again  — involves sailing . . . or actually doesn’t because the story is bunk. But perhaps it might have popped up on your radar (as it did ours) recently, so we thought it deserved a mention. Here’s a quick review.

A 68-year-old California man named Irvin Walters has gone missing in the Southern Ocean after departing Sydney, Australia, back in November. The retired trucker believes the Earth is flat and intended to sail his boat to the ‘edge of the disc’ where he would take pictures to prove it to all the doubters. (In the interest of full disclosure, that includes us.)

Supposedly, in addition to all the Australian Navy and Coast Guard assets looking for him, the US, New Zealand and the Philippines have also contributed to the search for Walters — who, if any of this was real, would presumably be somewhere in the Southern Ocean.

Which must be costing them a fortune, since this story first appeared on another bogus website in 2018. So what is that, 16 months and counting?

Conceived back in the ’70s, “I Told You So” remains one of the most popular posters out there. Flat Earthers tend to believe there is an ice wall at the edge, rather than a waterfall.
© 2020 Ed Miracle

One of the sites shows an old bearded guy on a boat that doesn’t look as if it could make it across a lake, much less an ocean. We have no idea who the guy in the photo really is. There are certainly numerous American men named Irvin Walters. Whether he is actually one of them is unclear.

We’re not going to tell you the websites where this nuttiness appeared for the simple reason that we don’t want to give them any more attention. We’re telling you on the outside chance you might see it and believe it for more than two seconds. (If you really want to see it, Google.) For the record, we don’t think there’s anything funny about it at all.

As if things couldn’t get any weirder, and once again proving that truth is far stranger than fiction, several ‘legitimate’ websites ran stories last year reporting that the Flat Earth International Conference had announced their “biggest, boldest, best adventure yet: a Flat Earth cruise scheduled for 2020.”

Yes, a cruise – on a cruise ship – to the literal end of the earth, where some believe that a giant ice wall ‘holds the oceans in.’ A spokesperson for the FEIC (which is real) has debunked this story as rumor that — like so much other junk on the internet — has taken on a life of its own. There may be a conference aboard a cruise ship at some point this year, he said, but the ship is not headed to the edge.

Bottom line: don’t believe everything you read . . . well, except that the world is round. You can believe that.

Waterfront Politics
This week in the evolving Bay Area waterfront: Travis Marina. The funky, random and idyllically perched piece of shoreline is, like much of the Bay’s waterfront property, vulnerable to development incommensurate with its current character.
The World Famous L38
Here’s your February Caption Contest(!). Don’t forget to check next month’s issue of Latitude 38 for the winner.