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October 14, 2020

West Coast Sailors Race in Fiji Regatta Week

The 37th annual Fiji Regatta Week at Musket Cove has just drawn to a close in western Fiji, but not before a few boats and sailors from the Bay Area and West Coast seriously left their mark on the regatta. Attracting an impressive fleet of 65 boats with around 210 sailors, the famous South Pacific cruiser regatta’s numbers were down from recent years past, but arguably better than anticipated given the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Anchorage at sunset
The rain cleared to bless the regatta with four days of sunshine. Here, a beautiful sunset on the evening before the start of Fiji Regatta Week.
© 2020 Ronnie Simpson / Mamanuca Board Traders

Fiji has been completely COVID-contained for nearly six months, with no cases in the community since about April 20. As a result, it’s one of the few places on Earth that has managed to open its borders to international cruising yachts and been able to hold a truly international sailing regatta. No masks, no social distancing, no weirdness. Just sailing and fun in the sun. Remarkably, sailors were able to party like it was 2019. Or 1999, for that matter.

Crowd gathered under palm trees
Pre-race meeting before the beginning of Fiji Regatta Week. Check your 2020 at the door and enjoy some fun in Fiji!
© 2020 Ronnie Simpson / Mamanuca Board Traders

During the regatta’s first race — the Sand Bank Race — the breeze went very light and shifted to the southwest right at the start. With the fleet forced to sail upwind toward a narrow reef pass, every boat but one threw in a couple of tacks to clear the reef. Dr. Tom and Lynne Petty’s West Coast-based Wylie 60 Roxanne was the only boat that managed to lay the exit to the reef pass on one tack. As a result, they were launched. With a long, relatively narrow hull and generous sail plan, the custom Tom Wylie-designed 60-footer extended on the fleet to win by a huge margin on a course shortened by light air.

Sand Bank Race fleet
Light winds at the start of the Sand Bank Race.
© 2020 Ronnie Simpson / Mamanuca Board Traders

Third over the line and first cruising catamaran was Seth and Elizabeth Hynes’ San Francisco-based Outremer 51 Archer. The fast, Fiji-based racing-cat-turned-charter-boat Flat Chat narrowly pipped Archer at the line.

Kurt Roll
Kurt Roll of San Diego, now a resident of Fiji on his S&S 37 Ellie, is all smiles at the helm of the San Francisco-based Outremer 51 Archer.
© 2020 Ronnie Simpson / Mamanuca Board Traders

Two days later in the Marsden Cove Marina Around Malolo Classic race, Roxanne again showed off her impressive speed by keeping the fast, local racing multihull honest and dropping the rest of the monohulls in her seemingly undisturbed wake. The Fiji-based 8.5-meter class racing catamaran Miss Minnie took overall honors in the race. This writer was doing media for the regatta; the race’s media boat began overheating about three minutes before the starting gun. I hopped onto the big red catamaran Archer from San Francisco to race around the island with them and do drone camera work for the race.

With Baja Ha-Ha and Transpac vet Kurt Roll of San Diego also onboard, it was a friendly and enjoyable affair for sailors who all had Cali roots. Archer was the third multihull over the finish line, but first cruising multihull over the line — a solid result that left the crew in high spirits. “We got a bad start in light air and were just continually getting gassed by a Whitbread 80 maxi for the entire first leg,” Seth told us just after the race. “Once we got clear of them at Castaway Island, we set our secret weapon, the big red symmetrical spinnaker, and just ran down the course to the back of the island, passing several boats in the process. From there, we were able to hold off the two fast monohulls Pandora and Amici to the finish. All in all, an awesome day of sailing in paradise.”

red catamaran with orange spinnaker
Archer and the Hynes family enjoying the Around the Island race.
© 2020 Ronnie Simpson / Mamanuca Board Traders

Archer crew also went deep in the Port Opua Hobie Cat Challenge, a very popular and well-attended match-racing event using the resort’s fleet of Hobie 16 beach cats. Former San Diegan Kurt Roll managed to go to the three-boat final. A couple of native Kiwis took home the gold.

3 Hobie cats
Kurt Roll of San Diego made it into the hotly contested three-boat Hobie Cat final and finished third.
© 2020 Ronnie Simpson / Mamanuca Board Traders

USCG Tests Unmanned Vessels off Hawaii

The US Coast Guard Research and Development Center (RDC) has announced that it’s testing and evaluating the use of unmanned surface vehicles off the south shore of Oahu, HI. The purpose of the tests is to evaluate each vessel’s ability to provide “persistent maritime domain awareness, especially in remote areas of the oceans.” The USCG press release said that while the unmanned vessels could potentially assist with many Coast Guard missions, they are exploring their ability to help the Coast Guard “better protect critical natural living marine resources from Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and other illicit activities.”

The tests, scheduled to run from October 7 to November 5, focus on autonomous vessel systems from Saildrone and Spatial Integration Systems, in addition to a USCG-owned autonomous research vessel made by Metal Shark.

According to Seapower magazine the Coast Guard awarded two contracts for unmanned vessels in February, the first to Alameda-based company Saildrone. The Saildrone — a wind- and solar-powered autonomous surface vehicle with “patented wing technology” — was designed and manufactured as the result of “10 years of R&D in pursuit of the land speed record.”

Saildrone Headquarters
Throughout the testing program, USCG will study the “operational utility of the USV, including feasibility, costs and benefits.”
© 2020 Saildrone

They awarded the second contract to Spatial Integrated Systems (SIS) of Virginia. SIS partnered with MetalCraft Marine U.S. to marry the SIS Multi-Agent Robotic Teams (SMART™) Autonomy System and the MetalCraft 7m Interceptor Boat to create “an intelligent, goal-oriented autonomous USV.”

The contracts total close to $1.8 million. Both vessels will be owned and operated by the contracted companies throughout the testing.

The third vessel in the test is the Sharktech 29 Defiant, supplied by Boston-based Sea Machines Robotics in partnership with shipbuilder Metal Shark Boats, of Jeanerette, Louisiana.

Unmanned vessels
At left, a concept photo of the unmanned surface vehicle that Spatial Integrated Systems will demonstrate in the maritime domain awareness technology evaluation by the Coast Guard Research and Development Center this summer. At right, the technology evaluation will also include a Saildrone, shown here during a project with the NOAA Ocean Climate Stations.
© 2020 USCG

The Coast Guard said, “Following the completion of the evaluation, the RDC will publish a report with recommendations for potential future actions for the Coast Guard.”

Quick Classifieds Results: Coquelicot Sells in Five Days

Bob Gray and family enjoyed many a sailing mile on his Ranger 33 Coquelicot, but it finally came time to put her up for sale. Early this month he placed his ad on Latitude 38’s Classy Classifieds page, and — presto! Five days later she was sold. It’s always a bittersweet day. Your old ‘friend’ is taking off for new horizons, though happily with a new owner taking her there.

We had a quick search on our website to see what we might find of Coquelicot from the past and came up with the photo below, shot by our race editor Rob Moore in early July 2002. Looks like one of many great days on the Bay.

Bob Gray Coquelicot
Bob Gray at the helm of his Ranger 33 Coquelicot
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Rob

The ad Bob ran read as follows:

33-FT Ranger 33, 1975
Tall rig double spreader, Pacific Cup veteran, 3-cyl diesel, up to 67gals water, interior storage cabinetry, new standing and running rigging, jib roller furling, lazy jacks on main; new nonskid, Lexis below deck autopilot. Location: Embarcadero Cove, Oakland Estuary.

Bob included the photo below in his ad on October 7, and a few days later Bob was showing the boat.

Bob Gray and crew sailing the Bay.
© 2020 Bob Gray

He said, “The buyers went through it, started the engine, listened to it, saw the inventory and the storage lockers, deck and equipment, and then bought the boat. The ad was good. I had three inquiries. One guy came for an inspection before this, but he opted for a boat with self-tending jib. One more guy was calling again (he wanted pictures, which I sent just before I left to show the boat to the buyer), and one other.”

Bob concluded, “I am going to miss my boat.”

We understand. We’re partial to Ranger 33s because we’ve sailed ours on the Bay since about the time the first photo above was taken!

Bob and Betty Gray have been very active members of both Berkeley Yacht Club and Metropolitan Yacht Club. Currently, they are members of Berkeley YC and race committee volunteers for the Berkeley Midwinters. They go back to the old days of MYCO (Metropolitan Yacht Club of Oakland, which is now Metropolitan YC, a paper club headquartered in Novato) and that club’s midwinters. (Read more about that in our feature in the February 2016 issue.) The Grays have also been past volunteers for the Pacific Cup. Betty Gray was commodore of BYC in 2007 and Bob in 2014. Betty was commodore of MYCO in 1994.

If the time is right for selling your boat, consider the Latitude 38 Classifieds or any of the great brokers advertising in our pages. It’s sad when people sell their boats, but we do like seeing happy, new, enthusiastic owners on the Bay.

More Memories of Mexico

A couple of weeks ago we shared a story from the Grand Poobah reminiscing about some of the friends he made while sailing Mexico. Well, here he is again with another story about some of the fun and interesting people one can meet sailing south of the border (well, just about anywhere for that matter).

The Baja Ha-Ha celebrates cruising everywhere in Mexico — as well as Ha-Ha veterans who have cruised Mexico and far beyond. This includes Eric and Pam Sellix of the Clatskanie, Oregon-based Seawind 1160 cat Pied-a-Mer III. The hard-working couple started cruising in 2012 after they were unable to find buyers for their two rural Oregon restaurants.

As we recall, Pam, then 66, had never spent a night on a boat or been out of sight of land before. The couple joined the 2012 and 2014 Ha-Ha’s. And we later saw them at Marina Riviera Nayarit in La Cruz.

We knew they’d gone on to the South Pacific, but we’d pretty much lost track of them — until today. Pam just wrote to say that they are now “76 years young and still going strong.” And in the Red Sea! How cool! We’re so impressed.

Pied-a-Mer III in Mexico
Eric and Pam are proof that you can start sailing at any stage of life — and that you never know where it’s going to take you!
© 2020 Richard Spindler

The Race Goes On

The days are getting shorter, but that isn’t stopping Richmond Yacht Club from running their Wednesday night beer can series for an extra month. The early start time (with the sequence beginning at 5 p.m.) did equal fewer boats at the line, but many still got out to have a good time in this casual race.

Wednesday Night Starting Line
Boats line up for the early start of the Wednesday night beer can series at RYC.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Nicki

The masks read, “Usually our FUN is viral,” and you get that vibe from everyone in the club, even during a pandemic.

Masked up at RYC
The crew of Joy Ride wearing RYC masks that read “Usually our FUN is viral.”
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Nicki

Though the pandemic has changed the regulations of racing, and post-race celebrations, it has also encouraged more people to buy boats and get out on the water. Cindy Evans, who is new to the club, bought her Express 34 Joy Ride in February, just before the lockdowns were put into place.

Deirdre holds the jib
Deirdre Collins acts as a human whisker pole on Joy Ride.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Nicki

She has sailed a lot in the last seven months and credits the purchase of Joy Ride for making 2020 a pretty good year. Cindy bought Joy Ride from longtime RYC members Bruce and Diana Powell, after crewing on the boat a number of times.

Second Wind Spinnaker
Cindy Evans gives the thumbs-up to the crew of Second Wind as they get their spinnaker up.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Nicki

This past Wednesday night, Joy Ride raced alongside Second Wind, the Sabre 426 that Velina and Peter Barnes brought down from Seattle this summer. You may have read about the homecoming of Second Wind in the September Issue of Latitude 38. Cindy sailed a lot with the Barneses prior to buying her own boat. Just another reminder of how small, connected, and supportive the sailing community is.

The last boats
The last boats in the homestretch at dusk.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Nicki

Richmond YC’s Wednesday night beer can series will run through the end of October. Other upcoming races hosted by RYC include the Fall Mercury Regatta on October 17, Great Pumpkin Regatta on October 24, and the female-skippered Amazing Grace Cheney on November 1.

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What the Weather Brings
It was so windy that it redefined my concept of what windy was. There were days that normally docile windsurfing spots in the East Bay were blown white with foam and heaving with huge, breaking wind swell.