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January 22, 2021

Close to Finish, Vendée Globe Still Wide Open

Vendée Globe Too Close to Call

With less than the distance of a Transpac to go in the ninth edition of the solo Vendée Globe, it’s still a dead heat at the head of the pack, with yet another skipper attempting to stake his claim to victory. Taking a more westerly option in relation to the rest of the leaders, Louis Burton has put Bureau Vallée 2 into a strong position and a virtual dead heat with leader Charlie Dalin on Apivia. 

Bureau Vallée sailing
Louis Burton, sailing in his third Vendée Globe (he finished seventh in 2016-17), is now threatening to win this one. Sailing the same boat that won the last edition as Banque Populaire, Burton completed some heroic repairs aloft in the Southern Ocean. He has relied on smart and steady sailing — and fortunate weather — to work up to the lead. Compressing with the leaders at the equator, he pulled a westerly option days ago that’s beginning to pay dividends.
© 2021 Bureau Vallée

At the end of a relatively slow lap around the globe, the tightly bunched lead group of nine skippers are now primed for a fast run to the finish just a handful of days away. Making the race even closer is that the third-, sixth- and eighth-place boats are all owed time for helping with the rescue of Kevin Escoffier (PRB) earlier in the race. As close as it’s been, this thrilling edition of the Vendée Globe is now in its final stages and is completely wide open with no clear winner.

Sailing north of the trade-wind belt that has brought the fleet steady progress up from the equator, the leaders are now sailing around the Azores High before hooking into a low-pressure system that should give them a fast, if bumpy, ride home to Les Sables-d’Olonne. Louis Burton — sailing his first-generation foiler that won the last Vendée Globe in the hands of Armel Le Cléac’h — hedged his bets days ago. He’s now beginning to lock in some profits as he consolidates with leader Charlie Dalin onboard the new-generation Apivia, one of the pre-race favorites. After nearly 23,000 miles of racing, Dalin and Burton are separated by just 8 miles as of this writing — impossibly close racing.

The Redress Factor

Boris Hermann on Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco is just four or five hours off the pace in third place, yet is owed six hours of redress at the end. Sixth-place Yannick Bestaven on Maître CoQ IV is owed 10 hours and 15 minutes, and eighth-place Jean Le Cam on Yes We Cam! is owed 16 hours, 15 minutes. Just four days out from the finish of this Vendée Globe, there are still about four to six skippers who could win the race, by our math. Incroyable!

Seaexplorer foiling
Boris Hermann’s entry is now sailing in third place, though may technically be in first place as of this writing. He is currently 66 miles off the lead, but doing 16 knots. With the six hours of redress he’s owed due to helping search for Kevin Escoffier, Hermann could end up winning. Sailing a boat originally known as Gitana for Seb Josse, it seems like so long ago that Hermann took the young Greta Thunberg to a UN Climate Conference in New York and made the boat truly famous.
© 2021 IMOCA

No matter who wins this Vendée Globe, he will have an incredible story to tell. When Louis Burton’s team released a press release on December 17 that he was planning to stop at the remote Macquarie Island to climb his mast and repair his mast track, most yachting pundits justifiably wrote Burton off. Just days later, however, Burton had climbed his mast at sea, made the repairs, and was back up to full speed and closing on the leaders with a favorable weather window. Whether making repairs at sea, rescuing other skippers, or dealing with the challenges consistent with racing around the world alone nonstop, each skipper at the head of the fleet remains in contention due to an improbable series of events.

Gitana Quits Jules Verne Trophy Attempt

Elsewhere on the oceans, the crew of Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, also known as Gitana 17, has abandoned their attempt at the Trophée Jules Verne due to a starboard float rudder problem. The team’s website and social media feeds do not mention hitting marine debris or mammals, so this may merely be a failure related to the rudder stock.

Gitana 17 flying a hull
The Gitana team was flying high on Maxi Edmond de Rothschild until the trimaran suffered a starboard rudder failure in the Southern Ocean. Sailing well ahead of record pace, the team has proven that the boat has plenty of speed to set a new round-the-world record. To set a record however, they have to increase the reliability of the boat and actually finish a lap of the globe.
© 2021 Eloi Stichelbaut / polaRYSE / Gitana S.A.

While Gitana suffered damage twice in two tries during this season of record-breaking attempts, she proved that she very clearly has the pace to break Francis Joyon and IDEC Sport’s four-year-old record of 40 days, 23 hours around the globe. Sailing close to 1,000 miles ahead of Joyon’s pace, Gitana had been putting in consistent 700-800+ days averaging more than 30 knots and establishing two new reference times to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Agulhas: 11 days, 9 hours, and 11 days, 14 hours, respectively.

Benjamin de Rothschild
It’s been a sad week for Gitana Team. Their co-founder, Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, passed away on January 15 following a heart attack. He was 57. He co-founded the Swiss team with his wife Ariane in 2000.
© 2021 Yvan Zedda / Gitana S.A.

Tradition and Sailing in Redwood Creek and Westpoint Harbor

The Port of Redwood City has been a busy place since 1851, when the first redwood trees started tumbling into the creek on their way to building the growing city of San Francisco and other Peninsula communities. The first locally built sailing ship, the Redwood, was also built in 1851, in one of 12 shipyards on Redwood Creek. Much has changed since Larry Sturhan wrote about Pete’s Harbor and Al’s Marine in our August 1985 issue, but thankfully there are folks like Mark Sanders and neighboring organizations working to keep the culture and tradition of sailing, and access to the South Bay, alive.

Redwood City August 1985 Latitude 38
Our August 1985 issue featured a story on a Bay cruise to Redwood City.
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC /

We stopped in to see Mark Sanders, owner of Westpoint Harbor, during one of the recent bright, sunny January days to see a harbor full of masts — a joyous sight for 170 years since Redwood’s masts were first raised, though most are aluminum these days.

One pair of wooden masts stood out. They belong to the beautiful Hurrica V, which is a triple-headed gaff auxiliary ketch, designed by Charles E. Nicholson of Camper and Nicholsons fame, and built in Sydney, Australia, by the W M Ford boatyard in 1924. This is just about the time the deepwater port of Redwood City was getting organized as a business entity. Sanders bought Hurrica V a couple of years ago and now has her docked at the harbor. This classic beauty is 60-ft on deck and 72-ft overall, and was completely refitted in Australia in 2001.

Hurrica V Westpoint Harbor
Hurrica V is a stunning addition to Westpoint Harbor and the Bay Area’s classic boat fleet.
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

The harbor is continuing to grow and is adding both services and facilities to access the Bay. Peninsula Youth Sailing is on the premises, along with the recently added Westpoint Watersports with rowing shells, SUPs and kayaks. A new yacht club is coming soon, The Club at Westpoint, and additional restaurant space, will be added to the property. Of course, just down the creek is the very active Sequoia Yacht Club, founded back in 1939.

Westpoint Harbor
170 years ago the masts and ships were all wood. Hurrica V is one of the few in the harbor that maintains that tradition.
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Mark Sanders Westpoint Marina
Mark Sanders and Debbie Goodland always have the current issue of Latitude 38 on hand for tenants and visitors.
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

Driving down 101 through the thicket of now thinly staffed glass and steel high-tech Silicon Valley office buildings, it would be easy to forget there’s a Bay next door. The tall ships and lumber mills are long gone, but as you drive to the east of 101, you pass Sequoia Yacht Club and then come to Westpoint Harbor, with salt flats on one side and Google offices on the other. In between is a boating oasis with continually improving access to the water. As we wrote in 1985, Redwood Creek is a good place to keep a boat close to home, a good stop for Bay cruisers, and now also a destination for the July 17 Westpoint Regatta.

2020 Season Champions Part 2: One Designs Plus the SSS

The 2020 racing season was certainly different from what everyone had anticipated, but it still took place, and for those who participated it still held an abundance of excitement and camaraderie. So here is Part 2 of Latitude 38‘s annual Season Champions spread.

Our Season Champions series of features is a bit shorter than in most years — but then so were the championship series themselves. We give huge kudos to the fleets that expended the extra effort it took to put together a racing season in 2020. The SSS in particular missed only one race — the Singlehanded Transpacific Race to Hawaii. We check in on them in this story, but first we visit a trio of one-design classes.

Doublehanded Express 27 — Peaches, John and Michael Rivlin, StFYC

“It was pretty sad to watch each race in our season get canceled after the March Shelter in Place order,” reports Express 27 fleet captain Lori Tewksbury of Hang 20. “We had no racing for a few months. But then Richmond Yacht Club started their beer cans, the YRA was able to schedule shorthanded (single/doublehanded) races, and SSS races were rescheduled. I was able to substitute those races for our canceled ones and have a modified, shorthanded Express 27 season.
“Prior to the Shelter in Place order in March, the fleet had done the Three Bridge Fiasco and the SSS Corinthian — both doublehanded already and races usually in our schedule. We also did RYC’s Big Daddy, our only crewed racing for the season. So we made Big Daddy a stand-alone with its own prizes (given out during Big Daddy) and modified the rest of our season (including Nationals) into a doublehanded season.”

Season Champions
Father and son team John (black polo) and Michael Rivlin did all the races together.
© 2021 John Rivlin

“Nationals, on September 26-27, was changed because of requirements from RYC for it to not be called ‘Nationals’ AND to be doublehanded only, and boats were not allowed to launch from or stay at RYC unless the owners were RYC members. We were able to secure space close by using Scott Easom’s docks at Brickyard Cove and guest docks at Berkeley YC.

“The fleet adapted well — everyone was happy to just be out and racing. Many in the fleet were worried about having fully crewed racing (to the point that the fleet voted to do the Berkeley Midwinter races doublehanded), so this worked out nicely. We usually have several doublehanded races in our normal fleet schedule anyway, so we are used to shorthanding.”

Rick Waltonsmith (left) and Carlos Runng on Round Midnight, sailing at 17 knots. “Right after that photo was taken, another blast of spray came over the windward side,” said Rick.
© 2021 'Round Midnight

Please go to Latitude 38 to read about more champions including, International 110 — Lady Bug, Brendan Meyer, InvYC; J/24 Fleet #17; SSS Singlehanded Monohull — Osprey, Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 349, Todd Arnold, SSS; SSS Singlehanded Multihull — Raven, F-27 Trimaran, Truls Myklebust, BAMA; SSS Doublehanded Monohull — Arcadia, Mod. Santana 27, Gordie Nash & Ruth Suzuki, RYC; SSS Doublehanded Multihull — ‘Round Midnight, Explorer 44 Trimaran, Richard Waltonsmith, BAMA.

Telling Stories About Sailors and Sailing

One of the best aspects of telling stories about sailing is that aside from writing about the sport we love most, we also get to write about the people we love most — other sailors! Over the past few months alone we’ve shared dozens of stories from sailors who have been sailing, are about to go sailing, have bought or lost a boat, sailors sailing in groups, and sailors sailing solo, and we’ve even shared stories from sailors about the weather or some other element of nautical-nature that has captured their attention. At the risk of sounding greedy, we want more. We want to hear about what you’ve been doing lately in your sailing life.

Did you buy a boat from a garage or estate sale, and are you seeking information about its history?

Ben sidewalk sailing the Sabot
“Request from a New Sabot Owner”
© 2021 Ben McGinty

Have you been getting together (COVID-style, of course) with other same-design boat owners?

In the wheel house
“Potter Yachters ‘Clear out the Haze’”
© 2021 Goose Gossman

Maybe engaging in some spirited racing?

Lasers coming in the Gate.
“Big Wind, Big Waves, Max Ebb and Small Boats”
© 2021 Ernesto Perez

Perhaps you’ve been at the water’s edge watching other sailboats or UFVs (unidentified floating vessels) slide by on the current, and have a few good photos to share.

“Are Elon Musk’s Space Launches Attracting UFOs?”
© 2021 Chris Boome

Sometimes you might be walking the beach and spot something for the ‘Lost and Found.’ Ed Hearst, who was a mainsheet trimmer for Ed Durbin’s Mistral in a winning Rolex Big Boat Series and now sails out of Club Nautique, sent the shot below after Tuesday’s windstorm. Anyone missing a buoy?

No Entry Allowed on San Francisco Bay
Is this a new BCDC buoy to prevent access to the Bay? Or maybe they don’t want to allow sailors ashore?
© 2021 Ed Hearst

Maybe you’ve taken part in a boat’s last voyage, or even salvaged a boat that was on its way to a watery grave.

Happy being filled with water then sinking
“No More Happy Days”
© 2021 Volker Corell

Some of you have left the Bay Area and caught up on sunny adventures down south.

Mexico, view from the beach
“Bay Area Sailors Return to Mexico”
© 2021 Rich Brazil

Or perhaps you’ve sailed closer to home and in doing so have seen something really cool.

Fogbow landing on shore
“Rare Fogbow Lands on Marin”
© 2021 Al Fricke

We know there have been fewer than the usual number of official races, but we’re pretty sure there have been enough to ensure someone has some good photos.

Roller Coaster sailing
“Santa Cruz Yacht Club Mixed Gender Doublehanded Regatta”
© 2021 Sydnie Moore

Maybe you’ve even captured a perfect Latitude 38 cover shot.

Alex Benedict
“On the Alert for Sonic Death Monkey”
© 2021 Will Benedict

Whatever you’ve been up to, if it’s about sailing we want to know. Send your photos and information to [email protected]. We’d love the full story, but if you just have photos for our new Sail-A-Gram — Coming Soon — send them to [email protected]. Maybe you’ll find fame and even more friends!

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Wandering through the Archives
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