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November 25, 2020

Jules Verne Impromptu Race Around the World

While many eyes are on the Vendée Globe fleet that is currently conducting light-air battle down the Atlantic, two 105-ft foiling maxi-trimarans have slipped away under the cloak of darkness to join the fun. Departing their docks in France overnight to sail up to the island of Ushant — off Brest — Gitana Team’s Maxi Edmond de Rothschild and Sodebo Ultim 3 are now making simultaneous attempts on the coveted Trophée Jules Verne. Currently set at a very quick 40 days and 23 hours by Francis Joyon and his crew on IDEC Sport in early 2017, the reference time has proven difficult to beat, especially in light of Joyon’s fantastic weather window that propelled him across the Indian Ocean at a frenetic pace.

Sodebo sailing
Sodebo crossed the starting line at 2:55 in the morning to begin her Trophée Jules Verne attempt. On board were skipper Thomas Coville, François Duguet, Sam Goodchild, Corentin Horeau, media man Martin Keruzoré, François Morvan, Thomas Rouxel and Matthieu Vandame.
© 2020 Vincent Curutchet / Sodebo Voile

With the blessings of their two respective weather routers, Marcel van Triest and Jean-Luc Nélias, Gitana Team and Sodebo have opted to jump on a weather window where a well-formed Azores High and a moderate low-pressure over the Iberian Peninsula have created a compression zone with strong northerlies. This brisk wintertime breeze should carry both boats swiftly to the latitude of the Canary Islands, where the two big trimarans can then hook into the northeast trades and hit the equator in less than five days. Initial routing shows a quick crossing of the South Atlantic and at least a path to entering the Southern Ocean on a record pace in about 10 days.

Maxi Edmond de Rothschild
Maxi Edmond de Rothschild departed the pontoon at around 9:30 p.m. local time yesterday.
© 2020 Yvan Zedda / Gitana SA

As of this writing on Wednesday morning, both boats have just thrown in a jibe right off Spain’s Cape Finisterre after a very quick crossing of the Bay of Biscay. Thus far, Maxi Edmond de Rothschild has shown a big speed advantage, starting some 36 minutes behind Sodebo Ultim 3 yet already overhauling Sodebo and jumping out to a bigger lead on Joyon’s reference time: 51 miles as opposed to 37. Skippered by both Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier, the latest boat from the Gitana stable is looking pretty invincible, barring breakages. The first fully-foiling maxi-trimaran ever launched, Maxi Edmond de Rothschild — also known as Gitana 17 — has been thoroughly optimized over the three-plus years that she has been sailing and has become the clear benchmark for the now-flailing 32/23 Ultim Class.

Thomas Coville’s Sodebo Ultim 3, on the other hand, is a newer design, an evolution of Armel Le Céac’h’s now-deceased Banque Populaire IX. Only recently beginning to realize her full speed potential, if Sodebo Ultim 3 picks up pace as the miles wear on we won’t be surprised.

Gitana crew
The Gitana crew is made up of Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier, skippers; David Boileau, trimmer/bowman; Erwan Israël, helm/trimmer; Morgan Lagravière, helm/trimmer; Yann Riou, trimmer/media man.
© 2020 Yvan Zedda / Gitana SA

As they cruise along at 35 knots and 30 knots respectively, watch for Maxi Edmond de Rothschild and Sodebo Ultim 3 to put up some big numbers over the next few days, as they can pretty much run a straight and fast line on just one jibe to their equator-crossing waypoint.

Will You Choose #optsailing for Blue Friday?

The air is cooler, winds are lighter, but the sun is still shining! Welcome to Thanksgiving 2020. Surely after the year we’ve been having we all deserve a relaxing and happy Thanksgiving — and what better way to make sure of this than to turn the commerce-driven Black Friday into a sailing-fueled Blue Friday, by sailing on San Francisco Bay (or wherever you happen to be)?

We realize weather plays a role for many sailors on whether to stay on or get off the dock, so we’ve given our crystal ball a spit and polish to look at the coming weekend’s sailing conditions.

First of all, according to NOAA, with the exception of late morning Thursday when the forecast is for gusts up to 20 mph, we can expect light winds throughout the weekend, averaging around 10 mph or less.

Perfect weather for Blue Friday
Are these forecasters sailors? Who cares? They’re telling us the conditions will be “very good for sailing.” We’re choosing to #optsailing on Blue Friday. Will you?
© 2020 AccuWeather

But that’s not all. We’re also expecting clear skies, with daytime temperatures sitting around 60°F. How good is that?

With a forecast like this, how could you not want to be out on the water?
© 2020 NOAA

Now, of course there’ll be some among us who would like to see more wind, but really, Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to relax with family and friends, masks on, and taking a casual sail on the Bay is a perfect way to achieve this. So after we’ve given thanks and shared our turkey dinners, let’s all leave our credit cards at home, head down to the docks, and untie for a weekend of casual, wind-powered celebrations.

Remember to bring your camera (or phone) and line up some photos. Even better, send them to us and we’ll put together a Thanksgiving  weekend exposé of sailing on the Bay. Include your name, your boat’s name and type, and anything else you’d like to share, and email to [email protected].

By the way, we’re all taking our own advice and will be out on the water for the holiday weekend, so there will be no ‘Lectronic Latitude on Friday. But we will be back on on Monday, ready to share your sailing photos and stories. Happy Thanksgiving!

SailGP to Skip the US in 2021

SailGP had said, “See you in May 2020, San Francisco.” Scratch that — as we all know, COVID-19 had other plans for us in 2020. Then SailGP reshuffled its Season 2 calendar and said, “See you in April 2021, San Francisco.” Apparently that was too optimistic. Like America’s Cup 35, SailGP is moving to Bermuda.

The Schedule

On Monday, SailGP announced an updated schedule for the first half of its second season. The opening events will now happen in Bermuda and the southern Italian city of Taranto. “On April 24-25, 2021, the Bermuda Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess will set the stage for an expanded season that is planned to feature nine events,” reads the press release. “Following the opener, the first-ever Italy Grand Prix will be held June 5-6 in Taranto.”

Japan and Australia in SF
Aussies Nathan Outteridge, skippering for Japan, and Tom Slingsby at the helm for Australia, skirmish on San Francisco Bay in spring 2019. The boats are one-design foiling 50-ft catamarans.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

The plan for 2021 had been to follow up San Francisco with a trip to New York City on June 4-5. However, New York is not on the new schedule. All things in these weird times are subject to change, but the schedule for Season 2 as it stands now reads as follows:

  • April 24-25, 2021: Bermuda
  • June 5-6, 2021: Taranto, Italy
  • July 17-18, 2021: Plymouth, UK
  • August 20-21, 2021: Aarhus, Denmark
  • Later in 2021: France and Spain
  • 2021/2022: Additional countries TBA
  • April 2022: San Francisco, USA

“The league shifted the schedule to ensure greater certainty and reduce travel in the early part of the year. The United States Grand Prix | San Francisco will now serve as the SailGP Season 2 Grand Final, and is planned to take place in April 2022.” So San Francisco will have a two-year wait from the original dates, but will perhaps benefit from increased attention and significance as the grand finale venue.

Diversity and Inclusion

In October, SailGP rolled out a diversity, equity and inclusion initiative. CEO Sir Russell Coutts said, “We acknowledge that there is work to be done to make our organization and this sport more inclusive. Fast, foiling boats — including our F50 catamarans — are now rightfully at the center of high-performance sail racing. However, the majority of that racing has been predominantly male-driven, resulting in an experience gap among genders. All genders can, and should, be equal in this sport, and we must therefore provide the opportunity necessary to close that gap. It is imperative that we break existing boundaries in the sport to create a more inclusive environment overall.”

Marie Riou
France’s flight controller Marie Riou was the only woman on any crew in Season 1. Currently, there are no women among any of the teams’ onboard crews. All sailors are white men with the exception of four Japanese crew aboard the Japan boat.
© 2020 SailGP

They’ve set up a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee and a Women’s Committee. From invitational camps, 16 women will be invited to participate in SailGP’s pre-season training early next year. At least one female athlete will be selected to train and be immersed within each team for Season 2. An attempt to effect racial diversity will begin at the grassroots and junior levels. The league will work in partnership with World Sailing, national sailing federations (such as US Sailing), and sailing clubs and programs at the local level to provide opportunities to young people from a variety of backgrounds. Early coaching and racing is already happening in WASZP foiling dinghies.

Berkeley Yacht Club Midwinters Kick Off

It was almost ‘Goldilocks’ weather for the Berkeley Midwinters on the weekend of November 14-15, 2020 — not too hot, not too cold, but juuust right! The sun was shining, the air was clear and breathable, and there was wind. (OK, it was light wind on Sunday, but there was some wind.)


We were able to start on time and there was enough breeze to send the fleet on an 8-mile double windward/leeward course. Thirty of the 31 starters in six divisions were across the finish line in about two hours. Divisions this year included Doublehanded One Design (Express 27), Doublehanded Crewed, and one Singlehander, along with three fully crewed handicap divisions.

Division A, the faster-rated boats, featured the ‘new kid on the block’, ‘io. Buzz Blackett and his new Antrim 27C snatched first. John Rivlin’s Peaches topped the Express 27 DH fleet. Will Paxton on his Express 27 Motorcycle Irene had opted to go crewed instead of doublehanded, so he sailed in Division B and grabbed the first.

Division C, a crewed division of boats rated over 132, had the most exciting finish. John Gulliford’s J/24 Phantom beat James Fair’s Merit 25 Chesapeake by only 1 second!

Merit 25 and J/24 at XOC buoy
A photo finish between Chesapeake and Phantom.
© 2020 Glen Garfein

The Doublehanded PHRF division was topped by the two Wylie Wabbits — Colin Moore’s Kwazy and Erik Menzel’s Harey Legs. (Note: Erik sailed near the race committee boat before the start, and it is true — I saw the legs, honest!)

Rounding out the Saturday gang was Paul Sutchek, the single singlehander, in his Cal 20, Slainte.


After a 45-minute postponement, but still in very light winds, the 27-boat fleet in six divisions went out on a single windward/leeward course. The average elapsed time was about 1.25 hours. The Sunday gang traditionally features shorthanded boats, and this year was no exception. Repeating their Saturday option, the Express 27 fleet sailed doublehanded on Sunday. Alerion 28s put together enough for a one-design DH division. There was one lone SC27 doublehander and eight in the Singlehanded handicap division. Two crewed handicap divisions rounded out the fleet.

There was a super-close finish also on Sunday. First and second place in the Alerion 28 DH Division were only 1 second apart. Fred Paxton on Zenaida aced out Bill Erkelens on Hana Hou.

Jonathan Gutoff in his PHRF 135 Laser 28 Stink Eye won the Singlehanded Division. Slainte, Paul Suchek’s Cal 20 (rated 273) was second, and third went to Surprise!, Bob Johnston’s PHRF 111-rated Alerion Express 38.

singlehanders start
The cozy start of the Singlehanded Division.
© 2020 Glen Garfein

In the Crewed Division 2, Islanders featured in the top two. Larry Telford in his Islander 30 II Antares finished 7 seconds behind, but that was close enough to edge out Strange Magic, Mark Werder’s Islander Bahama, on handicap.

Spinnaker group
Tight racing in Sunday’s Crewed Division 2.
© 2020 Glen Garfein

We look forward to the second weekend in December 2020 for round two of four in the 2020-21 BYC Midwinters. With optimism, we hope also to be able to party at the club soon! Find full results and a link to all the photos taken by the mark-set boat driver, Glen Garfein, at

Falling in Love with Changed Plans
The Sunday before we were set to fly to Greece, we were banned from entering the EU. By some miracle, we were able to charter a yacht in Turkey.
Changes in Procedure
A lot of sailors are under the impression that checking into Mexico in Cabo San Lucas is impossible or difficult. There are a few changes in the procedure for checking in there.
Solo Nonstop Round-the-World Race
The Vendée Globe has been further shaped by attrition. Englishman Alex Thomson continues to bleed miles and positions while effecting repairs to his stricken IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss.