On Sunday, the day before the Race to Alaska started, R2AK Race HQ extended the time window by a full 24 hours for racers to complete Stage One and get to Victoria. Why? The triple threat of wind, tide and the knee-knocker that is the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Monday, Day 1
Forty-ish rough-water miles separate the Port Townsend starting line from the welcome embrace of Victoria’s inner harbor. On a good day the Strait of Juan de Fuca crossing is unnerving at best for any vessel designated smaller than “ship.” On Monday, the Strait lived up to at least 100% of its reputation. It was brutal.
A strong tidal flow crashing into 30+ knots of wind raging in from the west created a sea state that surprised novice and veteran racers alike. “We’re out here all the time, and this was the worst we have ever seen,” said the Coast Guard captain on station. With standing-wave heights roughly equal to the length of the smallest race boats, things went beyond sporty to scary.
Stage One is the Proving Grounds: a way to test the judgment, vessels and skill of teams before they leave the warm embrace of civilization and life-saving resources, and venture into the remote coast of British Columbia. The Straits can be scary and big; the rest of the coast to Ketchikan is at least that, with the added layer that it is so remote that even with radio and satellites, no one will hear you scream. Stage One is designed to battle-harden your team to make sure you are ready.
The Fast, the Smart and the Broken
Monday’s Stage One did its job. Day 1 split the fleet into three parts. 1) The fast and robust made it across before the weather got the better of them. 2) Teams hugged US beaches to stay out of the worst of it. 3) Teams who ventured too far for the conditions. The fast, the smart and the broken.
Three capsizes and one snapped mast resulted in four rescues, two by the USCG and two by R2AK race support vessels, with at least one assist by a fast ferry. More equipment failures sent teams back to the beach or all the way back to Port Townsend. But everyone is OK.
Twenty or so teams waited for mellower weather to make the jump to the Canadian promised land. Team Pure and Wild got damned close to the Stage One record sailing their Seattle-based Riptide 44.
The Monday arrivals got a stern talking-to from the Canadian Coast Guard, to the effect of:
- Don’t be idiots.
- It’s a big coast and there aren’t that many of us. There’s more Coast Guard in the 40 miles of Stage One than the 700 of Stage Two. Make better choices.
- Wear a drysuit. Hypothermia is real, and we don’t search for bodies.
Tuesday, Day 2
About 10 teams split the difference between the safety of Port Townsend and the punishing passage to Victoria. They made a pit stop at Dungeness Spit, a five-mile-long, windswept refuge with a lighthouse, a house for the lighthouse keeper, and, on Tuesday, a small and active colony of temporary citizens in the Republic of Dungeness. Members of the Dungeness Lighthouse Society drove down to the beach at low tide to deliver muffins and pizza. In return, racers pitched in to rebuild a couple of walking trails.
Tuesday night offered the bouncy, sleep-killing remnants of the weather system. Day 3 saw a Strait of Juan de Fuca that was unrecognizable from the violence it had wrought on Day 1. Wind went from 30 to nearly negative, and seas were nonexistent — Godzilla downgraded to the Geico gecko.
Wednesday, Day 3
All 19 teams who set out Wednesday morning made it before the 5 p.m. cutoff. None got a louder cheer than Team Fire Escape. They brought up the rear in their Cal 20, with only minutes to spare.
R2AK Stage Two
Stage Two, the long haul to Ketchikan, started yesterday at high noon. Three teams have chosen to brave the Pacific Ocean (the west side of Vancouver Island), allowed for the first time this year, rather than the Inside Passage. Among them is Team Pure and Wild. Do you think they’re trying to win the prize for first to finish — $10,000 — as they did in 2017? Follow along on the tracker here.
There’s not another Saturday in 2022 with more daylight hours to sail than tomorrow, Saturday, June 18. It’s the official start of the summer sailing season and time for the 22nd annual Summer Sailstice celebration of sailing. If you haven’t posted your weekend sailing plans yet you can post them now. There’s still room to add your plans and pin to the 2022 map.
Summer Sailstice is a great weekend to sail, and there are many ways to do it. You could join any of the great Friday evening beer can racing series or take advantage of the long evening light and just go for a sail. What? Just go for a sail? Yes, some people do it. Saturday is an opportunity to spectate the 10 yacht clubs battling for bragging rights and the opportunity to bring the PICYA Lipton Cup home to their club. BAMA’s Doublehanded Farallones racers will be starting their day early tomorrow with a 0800 start in a fading ebb to make their way around the Farallones and back to the finish before the midnight time limit. Modern Sailing Academy in Sausalito is doing a Summer Sailstice Member Appreciation Day, while Club Nautique in Alameda is getting a complete fleet sail-out on the water. Up the Delta, the Owl Harbor Marina cruise-out will be underway as Delta Doo Dah sailors begin their summer cruising season.
One thing Summer Sailstice was created to do is to help overcome “idle sailboat syndrome.” There will be thousands of sailboats tugging at their dock lines this weekend waiting to sail. There are thousands of friends who’d love to be invited to sail. It’s a ripe combination to shake the wrinkles out of sun-baked sails, get your boat back on the water, and remind some friends about one of the great reasons they live in the Bay Area. With high fuel prices, no one has to drive far to reach a boat, and you can go boating all day long while burning just a cup or two of fossil fuel — or perhaps none at all.
Of course, you can go sailing any weekend, but that’s just the problem. Any weekend is often no weekend. Pick the first summer weekend and you’re committing to connect with thousands of other sailors who are making sailing this weekend’s priority. Need a destination? Check out our Boat-In-Dining page for a weekend stopover. Need a boat or need crew? You can find friendly sailors and boat owners on our Crew List page. It’s probably not too late to jump onto one of the Bay Area’s many charter boats. You can also jump over to Alameda Community Sailing Center’s Open Sail Day. Sunday is also Father’s Day — what dad doesn’t enjoy a weekend sail with the family?
There are so many ways to sail, but only so many weekends and only one Summer Sailstice a year. We’ll be out there just to catch the breeze and cross tacks with everyone who’s out to celebrate sailing on the first, sunny Saturday of the summer. Ready to add your pin and plans to the map? Do it here.
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NEWPORT, RI (June 9, 2022) — Speaking with Sally and Stan Honey in the cabin of their Cal 40 Illusion, the conversation is as easy and breezy as the gorgeous day topsides in Portsmouth, RI. The ocean-racing couple, who’ve racked up many victories racing from California to Hawaii, are preparing for the 52nd Newport Bermuda Race, some eight days away (starts today, 10 a.m. PDT — 6/17/22).
The Honeys, from Palo Alto, CA, are well advanced in their preps. The crew is set: 1984 Olympic gold medalist Carl Buchan (Seattle, WA), fellow Cal 40 owner Don Jesberg (Belvedere, CA) and the redoubtable Jonathan Livingston (Richmond, CA) are all experienced and legendary West Coast sailors in their own right.
The boat has been stripped of its cruising amenities and returned to its ORR race-measured configuration — the dining table and floorboards have been removed, the heavy anchor and chain are gone, and the heater has been disconnected and removed. The safety inspection has occurred.
And then Sally, the two-time Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year, drops the mic. “Basically, we’re looking forward to our last-hurrah racing,” says she, who has co-owned the record-setting Cal 40 with Stan for 34 years. “We’re buying a powerboat … transitioning to the dark side.”
What?! The Honeys, one of sailing’s most beloved and revered couples, with whom anyone would jump at the chance to race, who came together racing 5O5s first against and then with each other, who have pushed and prodded each other across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii many, many times, are retiring to powerboating? Say it ain’t so!
“We’ve sold the boat to my nephew, John Vrolyk,” says Stan, the global record-setting navigator who needs no introduction.
Imagining Illusion without Sally or Stan aboard is a bit like imagining vanilla ice cream without chocolate sauce. Or a Dark ‘n’ Stormy with ginger ale. Or an efficient government. They’re illusory.
The Honeys aren’t the first owners of Illusion. That honor belongs to America’s Cup-winning skipper Bus Mosbacher and legendary Long Island Sound racer Vincent Monte-Sano. Mosbacher and Monte-Sano raced Illusion in its first Bermuda Race in 1966, placing second in class and overall to another Cal 40, Thunderbird.
The Honeys bought Illusion in 1988 after some 20 years of winning championships in the high-performance 5O5 dinghy. They progressed to Illusion because the “five-oh” was becoming a bit more physical than was needed. “We bought Illusion as a cruising boat because we’d been racing 5O5s for 20 years. But somehow, we couldn’t stop racing,” says Sally.
They both recounted, laughing, the preparation for their first doublehanded race, the 1990 West Marine Pacific Cup from San Francisco to Kaneohe, Hawaii. It was just the fourth time they sailed the boat together, and the inspection officer wasn’t convinced they were ready.
“So, the safety inspector comes down to [the] boat,” recalls Stan. “We’d raced a lot and had everything ready for inspection, but we were rewiring the boat and the electrical system wasn’t finished. There were a bunch of wires sticking out. You could twist them together and turn on running lights or anything you needed, but it wasn’t finished yet. So, at the end of the inspection, the guy says, ‘Well, I need some advice. You people have been around a lot. You’ve passed the inspection; you got a check in every box. But, you’re not ready!”‘
Despite the inspector’s trepidation, Stan and Sally assured him they were ready and then went out and placed second in class in their first doublehanded offshore race.
“That first race was really eye-opening. It was the first time I’d ever been alone on watch in the middle of the night with an autopilot steering,” says Sally, a former sailmaker. “I spent the week before the race building four new spinnakers for the boat.
“The ’96 doublehanded race also was very memorable. We sailed really hard in that race; I think we jibed 15 times one night. We pushed really hard and won overall. That was fun from the opposite side of 1990, when we were barely ready.”
Stan recalls crushing the fleet in the 1994 Singlehanded TransPacific Race (San Francisco to Kauai), where he set a course record of 11 days and 10 hours, an elapsed time that is also faster than all Cal 40 efforts in the crewed Transpac Race (a longer course). He also enjoyed pulling a similar horizon job in the 2003 crewed Transpac with Sally.
“The 2003 Transpac with Skip Allan and John Andron was just a hoot,” says Stan. “The boat was perfectly prepared and it was a great year for the race. The crew was unimaginably good. We beat the next Cal 40 by something like half a day. That and the singlehanded race would be my highlights.”
While the memories of past achievements were flowing freely, the Honeys are also squarely focused on the next race, their last race on Illusion — the Newport Bermuda Race. For Sally, it’ll be her third race to Bermuda, following 1970 and 2010; for Stan, his seventh race. In 2016 he navigated the 100-footer Comanche to a course record of 34 hours and 42 minutes. It was the second time he navigated a record-breaking entrant, having done the same for Pyewacket (53h:29m) in 2002.
“I suggested to Sally we do one more major race on the boat, the Newport Bermuda Race,” says Stan. “Sally said, ‘It’s fully crewed; who would we get to crew for us?’ I said, ‘Imagine the best crew you could imagine. Would you go if we could get them?’ She said, ‘Sure, but we’re never going to get them.’
“Sally decided the best crew in the world would be Carl, Don and Jonathan. So I sent out an email to all three and within 10 minutes each one said, ‘I’m in.’”
The march of time leaves no one behind, however, and just as Sally and Stan progressed from the 5O5 to Illusion, it’s now time for these two Cruising Club of America members to make another shift. Although they’re selling Illusion, they won’t be far away from the creator of the breakthrough Cal 40, George Griffith, who also was a good friend. They’ve purchased Griffith’s old powerboat, the 48-ft Sarissa.
“We’d been thinking about transitioning to the dark side for a while, but we never saw anything we liked,” Sally says. “Sarissa is a sailor’s powerboat. She’s 48-ft long, 11-ft wide, weighs 12,000 pounds and goes 20 knots. George died in 2012, but his daughter, Mary, is a good friend of ours. We spent a weekend on the boat with her last summer and we thought, if we go to a powerboat, this would do it.”
“It’s not bittersweet. I’m looking forward to it,” Sally says of the end that is nigh. “You can always do more, but we feel like we’ve checked most of the boxes on this boat. This will be the last big race. I’m really happy that it went to Stan’s nephew because one of the conditions of his buying the boat was that whenever we’re in the Chesapeake Bay area we have to go sailing with them. So, it’s not like the boat’s going to disappear from our lives.”
And that’s no illusion.
You can follow the Honeys and two other Cal 40s racing in the St. David’s Light Division of the Bermuda Race here.
After the Golden State Warriors defeated the Boston Celtics in Game 4 of the NBA Finals one week ago, the Dubs’ all-star shooting guard Klay Thompson took a splash in San Francisco Bay, somewhere in Marin, and posted this photo on his Instagram:
After the Warriors’ Game 5 win over the Celtics on Monday, a reporter asked Thompson about his social-media post. Klay seemed delighted with the query.
“Man, that’s a great question. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is — I make it a point to jump in the ocean. I just think the ocean has healing properties that a pool might not have, or a cool tub. To be immersed in nature like that, it really makes me happy. Your whole body feels great. You just feel a little closer to God when you look up at the beautiful skies. I’m an Aquarius, so I’ve loved the water my whole life.”
Last night, the Golden State Warriors beat the Celtics to become NBA champs again — it’s their fourth trip to the mountaintop in the last eight years.
After missing more than two years with a torn ACL, which was followed by a torn Achilles tendon, Klay Thompson made his triumphant return to the Warriors’ lineup on January 9 — known as ‘Klay Day’. I can think of few times in sports when there’s been such excitement and celebration simply over a player’s return to regular-season play.
During his long, arduous rehab, Thompson bought a motorboat — the Axopar 37, which may or may not be named Splash Express or Nordic Knife — and could be seen zooming around the Bay, and generally spending time in and around the water. Thompson said his boat was a key part of managing his mental state through long, monotonous days of grueling rehabilitation. This time last year, Thompson said that he could barely jog. After making five straight Finals, the Warriors were the worst team in basketball two years ago. Last year, they just missed the playoffs. The entire team has been on the mend, and returned to form.
“Perhaps no Golden State Warrior has ever appreciated living in the Bay Area quite as much as Klay Thompson,” wrote SFGATE, which also coined the moniker “Namaste Klay” a few years ago. Apparently, Thompson listens to nature sounds and classical music as part of his pregame meditation.
Before last night’s game in Boston, another reporter followed up on the dip-in-the-drink thread: “You went into the ocean before Game 5. Not sure if you have done the same, here, for Game 6?”
Thompson answered, “I have not, but I know there’s a lot of beautiful waters around these parts, so I’m not ruling it out.” (After being the punch line in a presidential debate in the late 1980s, the water quality at beaches around Boston Harbor has improved.)
I was at Point Isabel, my favorite spot to windsurf in the Bay, early this week, chatting with one of the regular sailors (windsurfer/wingfoiler) about the Warriors. These conversations among fans and non-fans alike are common when the local team is making a run. The sailor asked me if I’d seen Klay’s post about swimming in the Bay. I had. The sailor said something like: “He gets it — he gets what we do and why we’re always in the water.”
Serious, random question (please comment below): Are there similarities between basketball and sailing? Is it ridiculous to try to draw comparisons? I’m not a racer, so I can’t speak to the thrill of competition and victory, the excitement of beating someone, and the agony of losing.
Because I’ve been enjoying the Warriors so much this season, I bought a basketball. I’ve been playing, solo — very poorly at first, and now slightly less badly — at courts nestled around the San Rafael Canal and Bay. I was so bad that I watched a few YouTube videos on the super-fundamentals, like how to hold the ball, how to dribble, and how to shoot a free throw, and then spent a few hours on beautiful days practicing. It hasn’t been very windsurfing-windy this year, so it’s nice to have a backup activity not dependent on the weather that I can do alone.
When there was finally some wind this week, I was trying to pay more attention to the fundamentals, a return to form. Well, that what I wanted it to feel like, anyway. It felt good to get reps in, to practice, instead of just going sailing.
But I was just going sailing, too.
Good friends of Latitude Mitch Perkins and Jim Tull were out on the Bay a few weeks ago, before the NBA Finals began, when they stopped somewhere in Marin. At the dock was Klay Thompson.
“Hey Klay, thanks for the win,” Mitch said, referring to the Warriors’ Western Conference Finals victory against the Dallas Mavericks in late May.
“Thanks,” Thompson responded. “Four more and we’ll have a parade.”
Who’s up for having a parade on the water?
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