The Sparrow has flown. Whitall Stokes is on his way in an attempt at a solo circumnavigation. He departed from San Francisco Bay yesterday, Sunday, November 8, 2020. Whitall and Sparrow passed under the Golden Gate at 5:45 p.m. on an eastabout journey, taking the Great Capes to port, with an estimated arrival back in San Francisco in April.
Sparrow is an Open 50. She and Whitall both have ocean racing experience. He has a Singlehanded Transpacific Yacht Race under his belt (in 2012, with the Tartan Ten Slacker). By leaving on Sunday evening, he planned to get out just after the weekend’s gales and before a calm sets in. “I’d like to have wind, even if it’s too much, rather the predicted light winds later this week,” he said. “Once into the trades, it looks like an easier run.”
His route will take him around the Big Island of Hawaii to port and then south toward Cape Horn. Once in the Southern Ocean, his plan is to stay in the ice exclusion zone set up by the Vendée Globe race, which also started on Sunday. “It was nice of them to publish the limits online,” he commented with a laugh.
We caught up with Sparrow and Whitall at Marina Bay Yacht Harbor in Richmond on Saturday afternoon. Also visiting was Randall Reeves, who two years ago sailed his boat Moli in a figure-8 circumnavigation around the Americas. Randall gave Whitall advice on how to make it all the way around. Part of it was simple: “Stay warm in the high latitudes, keep up with your sleep, and keep up with boat maintenance.”
Whitall has no heater onboard. Randall, who is planning a return to the Arctic, advised paying attention to keeping hands and feet warm. Whitall has a 12-volt truckers’ electric blanket that he hadn’t tried yet.
At the dock, a few friends and well-wishers from Southern California’s Pacific Singlehanded Sailing Association and Northern California’s Singlehanded Sailing Society discussed shorthanded racing and the current boom in circumnavigations.
Lately, there have been three attempts and one success in singlehanded circumnavigations leaving out the Golden Gate, first with Randall Reeves’ incredible voyage around the Horn and through the Northwest Passage, then Philippe Jamotte’s westabout attempt just last month on his Open 40 Changabang. (He had to turn back due to boat damage, and returned to Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay.) And now Whitall’s attempt.
When asked if he was ready and would be successful, Whitall simply said, “I don’t know. I’ve never done this before, but we’ll see.” Learn more about Whitall’s adventure at https://svsparrow.com/mission and follow the tracker at https://share.garmin.com/Sparrow.
Years ago boat builder Cree Partridge and naval architect Jim Antrim came up with the idea of a San Francisco-to-San Francisco singlehanded race that never materialized. Maybe Whitall’s attempt could be a test for something bigger in the future.
While Sparrow was preparing to slip out of Richmond into the Pacific, 33 solo sailors in the Vendée Globe headed out into the Atlantic for their world-rounding attempt. We’ll have an update on that event on Wednesday.
It’s Caption Contest(!) time! This month we have an interesting, and somewhat scary, photo for you to dwell on.
Your caption here. Thanks to Daisy Lombardi for posting the photo on Facebook.
Don’t forget to check out our November issue for last month’s Caption Contest(!) winner and Top Ten.
Eight months out from the first start of the 51st Transpacific Yacht Race on July 13, 2021, 43 boats have registered. Los Altos-based Dave MacEwen made the milestone 40th entry with the 2006 Rogers 46 Lucky Duck. In three previous editions Dave and crew on his Santa Cruz 52 of the same name earned respectable results. They placed third in the 2019 and 2015 editions in the Fabulous Fifties group of SC50s and SC52s, one of the more competitive classes in the race.
For the 2021 race, MacEwen has chosen a different platform: an all carbon-fiber flat-out racer. CMI in Thailand built the boat to a Simon Rogers design. “We have stepped up to a faster but far less comfortable Rogers 46 for this race, and are excited to get her out in the big wind and waves we routinely see on our way to Hawaii,” he said. Indeed, Bob Pethick’s Rogers 46 Bretwalda 3 was a full 24 hours faster than MacEwen’s SC52 in last year’s 50th-edition Transpac.
“The Transpac race is for us the ultimate test of boat prep, navigation and sailing skills,” said Dave. “We look forward to going up against some of the best talent in the world as we battle our way to the finish line.” MacEwen plans to race with eight on board, the same number as on the 52.
Manouch Moshayedi’s Bakewell-White 100 Rio100 will return as the biggest boat signed up. Four Cal 40s have registered so far. The smallest boats to date are two Express 37s (including Latitude contributor Andy Schwenk’s Richmond-based Spindrift V) and Colin South’s Tartan 3700 Antipodean. See the growing list on Yacht Scoring.
The biennial race was first sailed in 1906. Hawaiian King David Kalakaua inspired the idea a decade earlier. The 2,225-mile course begins off Point Fermin in Los Angeles and finishes off Oahu’s Diamond Head in Hawaii.
Two sailboats have ended up on the rocks this past week in separate incidents in California.
The Monterey Herald reported that two sailors had been rescued on Wednesday night after their 30-foot sailboat ran aground on rocks about 150 meters offshore from Pebble Beach. According to the report, the sailors issued a distress call at around 6:15 p.m.. Cal Fire officials at the scene said the pair was sailing from Southern California to San Francisco. Cal Fire’s Josh Silveira said, “They were unfamiliar with the area and got disoriented in the dark.”
In another incident closer to home, a Morgan Out Island 28 was discovered aground on rocks on Friday morning, near the entrance to Emeryville Marina. According to an anonymous source, the boat was seen in its slip on Thursday night, and was “on the rocks outside the entrance” in the morning. A dinghy was also found on nearby rocks with its outboard and gas cans still on board. Both were later missing. To add to the mystery, a dinghy was heard in passing through the marina late in the evening — an occurrence that was said to be ‘unusual’.
A phone call to the Emeryville Marina revealed no further details other than that the Coast Guard was trying to find the boat’s owner. USCG was unavailable for comment.