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February 22, 2021

Harbormaster Havel’s Homebuilt Boat Heaven

We’ve been in touch with Richardson Bay harbormaster Curtis Havel over the past couple of weeks as storms have taken their toll on boats anchored out on the Bay. Aside from those stories, Curtis sent a photo to our Sailagram email, photos@latitude38.com, to show us another side of his sailing life. Pictured below are Curtis and his son Declan sailing their homebuilt Passagemaker Dinghy from Chesapeake Light Craft Company.

Curtis Havel Chesapeake Light Craft
Curtis Havel and his son Declan, plus the sea dogs Calixo and Rocky, sail across Tomales Bay aboard their homebuilt Chesapeake Light Craft sailing dinghy.
© 2021 Havel Family

We asked Curtis to give us a bit more background on the boat, and he responded that after he and his wife sold their Ericson 38 he said he needed another project boat. Curtis decided to order the stitch-and-glue kit from Chesapeake Light Craft (CLC), but also mentioned that if someone has the tools and know-how, they can buy just the plans from CLC and build their vessel from scratch.

Chesapeake Light Craft
From an empty garage floor a thing of beauty takes shape.
© 2021 Curtis Havel

Curtis said his CLC boat is a gunter-rigged sloop, with a mainsail and floating jib (although he rigs a forestay for a little more stability). She has a length of 11 feet, 7 inches and a beam of 4 feet, 8 inches. With the daggerboard down the draft is 30 inches. She also has oarlocks for when the wind dies.

Chesapeake Light Craft Passagemaker
The Passagemaker takes a break from the passage on Tomales Bay. (If you read the Bay Area island-hopping story by Tony Johnson in our February issue, you’ll know the name of those two islands in the background.)
© 2021 Curtis Havel

Although the build kept Curtis busy from April through August, he said it was super-fun, and he managed to get the whole family helping out at various points. He’s taken the Passagemaker out a few times now and days like the one above have been great days of fun, adventure and exploration. Declan really loves the responsiveness of dinghy sailing (and Curtis does too). It’s been a neat and fulfilling experience to build a boat and then take it sailing!

Have you got a homebuilt project in the works or already afloat? Let us know here.

By the way, if you like the idea of building your own stitch-and-glue boat but don’t have the space or tools to do it at home, keep an eye out for Spaulding Marine Center‘s spring boatbuilding classes. You’ll be able to build your own dinghy, peapod or kayak — depending on the class — from start to finish, on-site.

Exploring One of the Pacific’s More Unusual Places

We all know that, for now, many of the Pacific’s usual cruising destinations have closed their borders — a situation that has no doubt left many sailors lamenting the lack of places to go. However, a recent email from Jamis MacNiven (of Buck’s of Woodside) reminded us that there are many locations we may not even realize exist and that (just maybe) are worth adding to your cruising list — if you dare. Beyond being a restaurateur, MacNiven is a Bay Area boater and global adventurer who has seen and written about many strange and interesting locations in various parts of the world on his blog Pacific Voyages. His latest post talks about Niue, an island country in the South Pacific Ocean, which lies about 1,500 miles northeast of New Zealand. We found his description of the island quite interesting, and rather funny.

That tiny dot represents Niue’s location. Blink and you might miss the 101-square-mile island.
© 2021 TUBS

MacNiven points out that almost no one travels to Niue, and asks, “Why don’t people go to Niue?”

He continues, “Well, one reason might be that the language is challenging. They all speak English, sure, but the word for thank you is fakaaue. So if you’re in a hotel and you compliment them they will say … well — just sound it out. Another reason that this place went unnoticed for so long after the rest of the Pacific was sliced and diced by European and American interests is that when Captain Cook stopped by in 1774, he was met on the beach by warriors with blood smeared all over their lips and teeth, throwing rocks and spears. Cook named Tonga the ‘Friendly Islands’ and Tahiti the ‘Society Islands’ but he called this place The Savage Islands and as a result ships steered clear. In fact, the locals were really a bit miffed that Cook didn’t realize the Niueans were just playing hard to get, because in 1900 the islanders petitioned England to include them in the British Empire. Queen Victoria initially said yes, but when the British realized that they really wanted to just go on the dole the Queen suggested New Zealand might take them, and they did.”

According to Wikipedia, Niue is one of the world’s largest coral islands. It’s surrounded by a coral reef, and the only major break in the reef is near the capital, Alofi.
© 2021 Google Earth

We recommend you read the rest of the story yourself. After all, as MacNiven says, “Travel to places you will never go.” And we all could do with a good old-fashioned adventure right about now.

Max Ebb Zooms in on a Weather Routing Software Tutorial

“Please wait,” my computer told me, “the meeting host will let you in soon.” OK, I was 15 minutes early, but I needed to make sure I had time to dig up the correct link to the online seminar. Online seminars are a far cry from the real thing. Back in the old days, pre-COVID, half the value of an in-person event was the pre- and post-event schmooze with all the other participants. This loss seemed especially poignant for this pre-race seminar: no chance to work the room for crew prospects, gear exchange, or back-channel gossip with the other skippers and navigators.

The invitation to join the meeting appeared soon enough, and I clicked in to discover a surprise substitution: Lee Helm, naval architecture graduate student and accomplished offshore navigator, was the meeting host and principal lecturer. “Welcome aboard, Max!” she greeted me. “You’re the first one in.”

“I grew up in New York,” I explained. “and ‘New York Time’ means ‘show up for everything 10 minutes early.'”

“Max, un-mute your mic! Lower left, on the microphone icon!”

“Right, sorry,” I mumbled as I clicked the little microphone icon with the red slash through it to turn on my sound. “Lee, are you one of the speakers today? What happened to the famous meteorologist listed on the seminar invitation?”

“He had to cancel,” Lee explained. “Had to fly off to advise on some big race in Europe.”

“I’m not surprised you’re in the seminar organizer’s Rolodex,” I said.

“Whatever a ‘Rolodex’ is,” she answered. “Anyway, this gives me a chance to, like, tear up the syllabus on weather tactics they gave me. The best weather briefing for racing to Hawaii is already online, by Stan Honey. Don’t mind the poor production values — I mean, it looks like it was shot with a handheld camera by one of the attendees — but the content is the best you’ll find anywhere on the subject. I’m sending people there for weather strategy. That’s like, the cool thing about online classes. You can watch a lecture given by the best in the biz, and the local teacher’s role changes to providing individual help with the homework. It’s the Khan Academy concept of ‘flipping the classroom.'”

“Then what’s your plan for today?” I asked.

Routing software tutorial,” Lee answered. “By the end of the session, you will have downloaded and installed your very own weather routing optimization program, loaded a GRIB file, and calculated the fastest route to Hawaii, based on the latest wind forecast, for a boat similar to yours.”

Weather routing software
Class participants were offered bonus points for knowing what the letters qtVlm stand for.
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Max Ebb

“I tried to use one of those routing programs once,” I confessed. “It’s either a very steep learning curve, or I’m pretty dense. The user manual was almost no help — I could never get the thing to define the ‘active route.'”

Continue reading in February’s Latitude 38 magazine.

Bravo! Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Prevails

Fantastico Italiano!

team spraying champagne
Bellissimo, fantastico! The Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli team celebrates their Mumm’s champagne moment with the Prada Cup after moving past INEOS Team UK 7-1 to capture the beautiful new trophy.
© 2021 CoR / Studio Borlenghi

As I recall, I warned readers a few weeks back to “expect the unexpected.” In fact, other than a few dramatic moments at the start of each race, there wasn’t much action other than classic match-racing covering tactics and staying between the gate and the opponent. Which the Italians did in textbook style, as Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli defeated INEOS Team UK 7-1 to advance to the 36th America’s Cup Match against Emirates Team New Zealand beginning on March 6 in Auckland.

start action
Dramatic action at the start of Race 5 as Britannia barges past Luna Rossa. Both boats crossed over early. The Brits were assessed a second penalty, giving the Italians a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
© 2021 CoR / Studio Borlenghi

Luna Rossa co-helmsman Jimmy Spithill will get his revenge match against ETNZ helmsman Peter Burling, whose team handily beat Spithill and Oracle Team USA in Bermuda in 2017 to win the Auld Mug and bring it to the Kiwi kingdom.

In beating INEOS, Luna Rossa showed they benefited more from the short time off than the British did. The UK boat showed little or no improvement in speed compared to the Italians in light to moderate wind conditions. The “unexpected” in the results was that many of us thought the Brits’ dominant, undefeated performance in the round robins would lead them straight into the America’s Cup match. Boy, were we fooled! Though Sir Ben Ainslie did win one race for the Queen.

Luna Rossa ahead of Brittania
Luna Rossa controlled every race, except one that the British captured for the Queen, to save face in a series that seemed hopeless from the beginning.
© 2021 Gilles Martin-Raget

The Italians stayed quietly focused on the task at hand. Co-helmsman Francesco Bruni had ‘banned’ high fives. They showed little or no exuberance after each win as they steamrolled over the hapless Brits. “It feels great,” said a jubilant Bruni yesterday. “It’s a great day for us. It’s a great day for Luna Rossa. It’s a great day for Italy. It was a tough final, and we are in for a good fight for the America’s Cup now.”

“It’s been a tough campaign the whole way through for a number of reasons,” said Sir Ben Ainslie, CEO and skipper of INEOS Team UK. “It has been a bit of a rollercoaster. Everyone knows Britain has never won the America’s Cup. We started off around the Isle of Wight (in 1851), and this is one event we have never won. That’s a huge motivator for the team, myself included. We will keep going until we get there.”

“I’m really happy for the guys, for all our sponsors, for all the people who worked for us in this project,” said Max Sirena, Luna Rossa skipper and team director. “It was not so obvious and trivial to win, because even if we were few teams, we were three super-competitive teams. I am happy for the team because it has not been an easy campaign so far. It is fair that today they can enjoy the day. From tomorrow we will think about Team New Zealand.”

Prada Cup celebration
The winning moment with Luna Rossa’s CEO Max Sirena and his family.
© 2021 COR36 / Studio Borlenghi

“We have a lot of new things to try,” added Sirena. “We will train and not let our guard down. What matters is to keep the pace up, and then we’ll see. We will go there with our heads down, and we will play it until the end.”

“We are up against a very quick boat, especially in the moderate to light breeze,” said INEOS tactician Gilles Scott. “It wasn’t meant to be this time. We have to doff our caps. Say congratulations and move forward.”

“This class of boat has been a huge success,” said Ainslie, about the foiling AC75 monohull. “The best boat I have ever sailed. It’s perfect for the America’s Cup. It’s at the forefront of technology for the sport, and there is the wow factor, with foiling monohulls, so it’s pretty cool. We know they have got the legs on us in this breeze. We have been trying everything we can to get on top of it, but clearly we can’t. It’s tough. So, well done to Luna Rossa and well done to Italy. It’s a big deal in Italy to get into the America’s Cup again.”

Ben Ainslie with mic and Giles Scott
The looks on Sir Ben Ainslie and Giles Scott’s faces say it all. The British afterguard had no answers for the faster Italian boat.
© 2021 Gilles Martin-Raget

Traditionally, the essence of the Louis Vuitton Cup, now Prada Cup, is for the challenging teams to create a format to be in the best position, with the best competitor in place to win the America’s Cup. This has been done with the consultation and cooperation with the Challenger of Record (CoR), in this case, Luna Rossa.

But, after a week of dust-ups, with the British, in conjunction with the America’s Cup Event (ACE), failing to get a critical postponement by taking advantage of a COVID-19 uptick led to a chilly mood between them and Luna Rossa, to say the least. When asked whether there was going to be a cooperative spirit between the teams, their answers were quite definitive.

“We’re not going to make too many plans, other than to try to find a weak point on Team New Zealand and fight them in that respect,” said Sirena. “The America’s Cup is a team game. Historically I’ve never seen a team helping another team to win the Cup, because you want to win it by yourself. So, if Ben is keen to help us to win, I would be happy to have him race with us while we are waiting to race ETNZ.”

“I think both teams, ETNZ and Luna Rossa, are on their own from here on in,” said Ainslie. “We’ve done our bit, I think. We wanted to be in the Cup Final, and we’re not. So, may the best team win. It’s sport — anything can happen.”

“We knew in the round robins we had a lot of work to do,” said Spithill. “We worked really hard with our coaching staff, and we just got stronger and stronger as each day went forward. I am very proud of the team, but we have a long way to go. The main event is just starting.

“It’s been a long time since Bermuda,” said Spithill. “A lot of sleepless nights since then. I am very grateful to Patrizio Bertelli and to Max for giving me a shot to work within the team, and to the entire Luna Rossa team for accepting me into a real amazing, strong, passionate team. But now the work begins. This is what we live for. The America’s Cup really is about a team pulling through. I can’t wait. Bring it on! That is the great thing about sport — if it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing.”

So now the fun begins! We have two weeks until the start of the 36th America’s Cup. For me, all bets are off. I honestly have no idea who’s going to be drinking champagne after this one.

Shorthanded Races on the Horizon
"If there is one thing this pandemic has taught us, it's got to be how to be nimble and adapt to the constant need to change the best laid plans," writes the YRA.
Far from the Madding Crowd
Following all the hullaballoo on Wednesday, a canceled race day, the Prada Cup resumes today. Racing is planned for every day until one competitor gets to 7 points, or until the end of the schedule on February 24.