Jordan Nelson, the fleet captain at Oceanside Yacht Club, sent in this photo of local youth sailor Alex Fisher, saying, “She is one of our best juniors. She is at every race with her trusty Laser (ILCA) Radial. At 13 years old she has probably put in more time on the water than most 40-year-olds. Her dad just went through some serious medical treatment this year and she never missed a race. She is a real trooper!! It would be super-cool to see her picture in the magazine or on the Insta (Sailagram).”
Thanks to Jordan for sending. Alex is looking super-cool aboard her Radial.
Speaking of the ILCA class, this weekend is the West Marine US Sailing Open Series being raced on San Francisco Bay, out of the St. Francis Yacht Club. Youth dinghy sailors will be sailing aboard the Formula Kite, iQFOiL, ILCA 7, ILCA 6, ILCA 4, and 470 classes. Daniela Moroz, five-time Formula Kite World Champion, will compete in the Formula Kite class after a long stint training in Europe. You can see the entry list here and follow the event here.
The District 24 (NorCal/NV) ILCA/Laser Class remains active with many Masters, Grand Masters and Legends participating in fleet events. As written in our July issue, Chris (Boomer) Boome recently won the Legends division at the Vallarta Yacht Club in Mexico. Meanwhile Bay Area youth such as Tor Svendsen, Nick Sessions, Caleb Yoslov and others are getting more competitive every day in this challenging Olympic class.
Alex Fisher is looking good for a future in the ILCA sailing.
The 2022 Pacific Cup return has been an unusually difficult one, with several boats turning back for mechanical or medical reasons and others slogging about in a quest for favorable winds. Tropical storm influences in the south are sending waves and weather to challenge our crews.
Aboard Andy Schwenk’s Spindrift V, all was not well. Andy, a seasoned mariner with over 300,000 logged miles, got a couple of sores on his ankle from scratches or abrasions. As the trip progressed, so did some sort of infection. Though Spindrift carried an extensive medical kit, it was short on prescription meds such as antibiotics.
To add to the challenge, the rough weather had split their delivery main and done some other damage, so the otherwise-speedy Express 37 was reduced to a more modest pace.
Andy consulted with the experts at George Washington University, who had supported the Pac Cup fleet during the race. He contacted race HQ to see if someone nearby could spare antibiotics. Several boats raised their hands, and Pac Cup asked Surprise, skippered by Robin Jeffers for the return, to divert and hand over a couple of their medications.
The custom Schumacher easily caught the Express 37, reaching down to cross their path (and giving up a fair bit of hard-won northward progress). The transfer was accomplished in big swells on a very dark night, trailing the package on a line for Spindrift to snag. “A pro job,” texted Andy.
Unfortunately, the antibiotics could not halt the progress of the infection, which spread upward and was causing a good deal of pain and the beginning of a fever. GW physicians reached out to the Alameda command center of the USCG. After a full briefing, RCC Alameda authorized a medevac.
The decision to get to this point was complicated by several factors:
- Communications from Spindrift were difficult. Their voice connectivity was dodgy, and their VHF and AIS appeared inoperable for several days due (it appears) to a failed mast antenna setup.
- Spindrift was on the line between USCG District 14 (Hawaii) and District 11 (San Francisco). This made ownership of the issue a little unclear. More importantly, it reflected the fact that they were 1,000 miles from anyone’s home base, making rescue a risky and expensive business — not to be undertaken unless clearly needed.
- A heavy wave washed over Spindrift’s laptop and nav station as we were attempting to relay information, so much of the activity ended up coordinated through text messages on the principal race officer’s iPhone. Mail through their Iridium GO! was complicated by the lack of the mail app, it seems, as was an attempt to send a photo of the wound to the doctors at George Washington.
Ultimately, medevac was authorized. RCC Alameda advised the creatively-named FPMC35, a Taiwanese tanker, to divert to pick Andy up. This was accomplished at about 2 a.m. PDT Friday, August 5. “It’s my pleasure can help Mr. Schwenk, since saving lives at sea is the responsibility of every sailor. Also thanks the full support from shipowner FPMC company’s office, which also take cooperation with this search and rescue arrangement leading by USCG,” said the vessel’s master, Captain Sun Gang.
Andy’s sister Linda passed on his description of the transfer: “… as Spindrift neared the freighter, it was dark, and nobody spoke Chinese on the sailboat so, though the freighter crew was yelling instructions, it was impossible to understand what to do… then they hurled a rope ladder over the side with wooden steps and waited. Andy looked at the ladder and thought, ‘Well, I do have one good leg and two arms…’ Mind you the freighter is rolling in waves and it’s really dark out there, guys. [This was about 1:30 a.m.] Then there were more shouted instructions in Chinese and a line came flying over the side, dangling and waiting. Andy said he figured he had one shot so he wrapped the line around himself twice and leapt into the darkness. I’m not sure how many crewmen it took to haul him up the side of the freighter…”
An Air Force C-130 flew over the FPMC35. Two medics with medical gear parachuted out and boarded the tanker, tending to Andy and stabilizing his condition. The tanker continued to head toward San Francisco at a good clip (12 knots). Rather than come into port, however, the plan was for a helicopter to take the unplanned passengers off about 400 miles out.
Ultimately, the medics and Andy were evacuated by quite an air wing: At 9 a.m. on August 7, USCG Search and Rescue Command and Air National Guard sent:
- 2 Blackhawk helis
- 2 refuelers
- 2 C-130s
Andy was taken to Moffett Field and from there to the hospital. Without getting too far into medical records — and the photo of the foot is rather alarming — Andy’s gotten a couple of surgeries and expects to spend two weeks as an inpatient, followed by follow-up wound care.
Andy’s spirits have been uniformly upbeat for this entire experience. Spindrift V, with the remaining crew, is due under the Golden Gate Bridge some time Friday or so. As Spindrift’s AIS seems wonky again, I have asked YB to turn up their tracking to every five minutes.
Richmond Yacht Club members are projecting an arrival time at the Golden Gate Bridge of late tonight. — ed.
We imagine that Andy is spending his idle time planning his next Pacific crossing.
- Jul 25 – Spindrift V departs Oahu.
- Jul 29 – “Rogue” wave hits Spindrift. Splits main. Other damage.
- Jul 30 – Spindrift AIS ceases transmitting.
- Aug 2 – Pac Cup informed that Andy has infection. No details other than antibiotics wanted.
- Aug 2 – Contact made with Spindrift.
- Aug 3 – Communications with Spindrift. No improvement. Pan Pan Medico issued to nearby boats. All agree to help.
- Aug 3, a.m. – Surprise asked to divert to share medications. They respond immediately. Coast Guard 14th District notified of possible situation. Consultations with GW. Spindrift attaches emergency VHF antenna.
- Aug 3, p.m. – CG 14th transfers matter to RCC Alameda.
- Aug 4, 1 a.m. – Surprise meets Spindrift V and transfers medications
- Aug 4, a.m. – Pain and swelling spread. Nature of infection changes appearance. Fever.
- Aug 4 – Spindrift laptop fails.
- Aug 4 – USCG RCC Alameda authorizes medevac. FPMC35 diverts to rendezvous with Spindrift.
- Aug 5, 2 a.m. – Evacuation to FPMC35 completed.
- Aug 5 – USAF C-130 drops two parachute jumpers/medics and supplies. Picked up by tanker’s rescue boat. Andy declared “stable.”
- Aug 7 – Andy and medics airlifted from tanker to Moffett Field and then to hospital.
All reports, including my own interactions, show Andy in uniformly good spirits.
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At the last Fall Crew List Party before COVID struck, we met David Delaney, who had made a promising connection with Chad and Carolyn Carvey at a Crew List Party the previous year, and used the Crew List to reconnect.
“Anchored off San Juan Island’s Friday Harbor, Chad pointed out that we had met at the Crew Party in 2018,” recalled David. “The party was a whirlwind affair. I had forgotten our encounter. Shortly after the party, they had had to postpone their 10-year circumnavigation when Carolyn damaged her ankle. Now a year later I had caught up to them through a Latitude 38 listing.”
On September 1, 2019, David found himself in the San Juan Islands. “It is funny how things go. They emailed me to say they had found someone to fill the position. I was packing to go camping in Yosemite. When I thought to call and wish them a safe journey, the crew they found had canceled. I joined them the next day in Brookings, Oregon, on August 28, and now we were enjoying the sunshine in the Pacific Northwest.”
“On board their 45-ft steel cruiser were their two terriers, their cat, and Mark from Portland. It proved to be a serendipitous reunion. We enjoyed gorgeous scenery, excellent company and fine dining thanks to Carolyn and Chad. Funny how things turn out better than you could have imagined.”
“Chad is a professional auctioneer, and I am an artist, so I was curious, and he invited me to attend a gala for the Bolinas Art Museum. My assignment was to ‘extend his energy to the perimeter of the crowd’ where I was stationed. I made myself useful filling the empty wine glasses of a bored couple in the back. The next thing I know they were buying the trip to Gubbio, Italy, for $4,000. Fun.
“I am grateful to Latitude 38 for connecting me with the Carveys.” The Carveys’ boat is called Wild Blue (ex-Walk On).
Next chance to make connections in person: Latitude 38’s Fall Crew List Party at Spaulding Marine Center in Sausalito on Thursday, September 1. An anytime avenue for virtual connections: the online Crew Lists, still free as the wind!
As you have probably read by now in the August issue of Latitude 38‘s Sightings, the 52nd running of the Newport to Bermuda Race saw more than 200 boats competing in mid-June, and featured a storybook ending for Stan and Sally Honey.
On the other end of the speed and technology spectrum, 11th Hour Racing’s foiling IMOCA 60 Malama was, by far, the fastest monohull to sail the 635-mile Newport-to-Bermuda course (in about 41 hours). Malama had its “normal squad” onboard — skipper Charlie Enright, co-skipper Justine Mettraux, and media crew Amory Ross — as well as two relatively new sailors: Lake Tahoe native and big-mountain snowboarder Elena Hight, and Maui native and big-wave surfer Ian Walsh.
We now bring you an extended interview with Walsh from our August-issue Sightings.
Walsh had sailed with Ross before, and knows many of the 11th Hour Racing Team, but most importantly, there was an underlying alignment of values. “The pivotal thing for me is what 11th Hour Racing represents in their messaging to inspire proactive change surrounding the oceans — that’s something I hold very dear as a surfer,” Walsh told us.
The 11th Hour Racing Team is intent on winning The Ocean Race with Malama in 2023, while raising awareness around ocean health globally and demonstrating best practices when it comes to sailing. “Sustainability is at the core of all team operations,” a spokesperson told us.
Ian Walsh won the prestigious big-wave surf contest in 2017 at “Jaws” in Pe’ahi, Maui, where he caught a wave that was later given the “Ride and Barrel of the Year” award. Some surfers, without hyperbole, have called Walsh’s wave one of the best rides in surfing history.
Walsh told us that getting into sailing “is almost like learning to surf again.” Being onboard Malama, he brought a curiosity about the behind-the-scenes, day-in-the-life details, offering a glimpse of what it’s like to race onboard such a spectacular, convention-defying sailboat.
There is no “cockpit” on Malama — the boat is almost entirely sailed from inside a closed structure, with screens mounted throughout the interior. All lines lead inside the “cabin,” where winches and a grinder are situated. Walsh calls the boat a “carbon missile.” Watching videos, Malama appears blind and tubelike in a way reminiscent of a submarine.
Similes abound: “That thing was like a spaceship,” Walsh said. “I was like, ‘We’re going to check the sail trim on iPads?'”
Walsh called himself a “bottom-of-the-barrel, amateur sailor,” though he has lots of bluewater miles under his belt. He has a Hobie 16 on Maui, which he’s taken out, sans rig and sails, with big-wave surfer and watersports multidisciplinarian Kai Lenny. “He would fly his big kites and I would helm the boat. And we got that thing smoking.” Walsh has also taken up wing foiling, and said he was looking forward to poking around on sailboats, and maybe getting to do some dinghy sailing on a trip to Europe this summer.
In 2018, Walsh sailed aboard the Gunboat 48 Falcor from Tahiti to Hawaii, via the Line Island chain, while taking water samples to test for microplastics in the Central Pacific — that expedition worked with the nonprofit Adventure Scientists, who coordinate citizen scientist volunteers. (Of the 22 water samples taken from Falcor in the remote Pacific, 73% were found to contain microplastics.) 11th Hour Racing’s Amory Ross was also on the trip to document the journey, and there’s a YouTube video of the journey called Lines to Hawaii.
(Falcor was owned at the time by professional snowboarder Travis Rice, and is now owned by pro surfer John Florence as Vela, which is currently sailing from Hawaii to Fiji. A few years ago, Florence sailed Vela to Palmyra Atoll.)
Would Walsh’s 2,500-mile trip across the Pacific help prepare him for the foiling fury of a bluewater race? Watching his videos on his Instagram, even the heartiest sailors might feel a little queasy inside the tight, sloshing-wet confines of Malama‘s cabin. “I was like, there’s zero chance I’m not going to throw up all over this cockpit,” Walsh said.
But speed was a savior. “It’s so fast, rather than that slow, lethargic waddle from side to side; the speed was really unique and helped me on a personal level.” Malama was bashing into the waves for much of the race, Walsh said. “But that was our primary angle on our route to Bermuda. When we did have wind shifts that put us at, like, 85 degrees, you could feel how it smooths out the ride, and how fast that thing goes.”
As someone new to offshore racing, Walsh said he was curious about the lives of professional sailors. “To them, it’s just a normal day: The way they go about their life, the way they eat, the way they sleep — the crazy savagery of how little they sleep. I’m naturally inquisitive, probably to a fault, about those kinds of details. But it’s something that I enjoy sharing, whether it’s surfing or snowboarding or mountaineering.”
Walsh did some reporting on his Instagram: “You might ask, ‘How the hell do you sleep?’ I ask the same thing. You kind of snuggle up in this carbon missile and hang on, and you basically fall asleep out of sheer exhaustion and get a little cat nap.” Walsh shot a video from his bunk, as Malama hummed and jolted and creaked and whooshed and breakneck-sped toward Bermuda — it looked like trying to catch a nap on a bucking bronco. “Some of the waves we hit while horizontal in the bunk can have you levitating and landing so hard it feels like your teeth might crack. A mouth guard might not be a bad idea in bed.”
How about food? “I only attempted to boil water once to make ramen. It almost cost me my left forearm because it was so rough; the gimbal had that kettle flying side to side.” Personal business? “Trying to take a piss is a full-contact sport and requires three points of contact, minimum. (You do the math.)”
So how does sailing translate back into surfing?
“Sailing really helped me open up my peripheral vision in the ocean. I got the chance to relay a lot of information that I’ve learned through a lifetime in the ocean surfing, and put it into something that was very new to me.
“When you’re surfing, you are looking at what’s changing. You’re looking at the wind: Is the wind picking up, is the wind changing angles? Is the tide coming in, is the tide going out? Is the swell angle better? Is this set lined up with what has predominantly been coming in all day? But a lot of times, you’re just focused on the wave that’s coming at you.
“Sailing is just a much bigger perspective, and a deeper connection to the ocean and the conditions that surround it. It’s all of these little details.” Walsh told us that he enjoyed the tactical side of the Newport to Bermuda Race. “From a navigation perspective, and forecasting and understanding your route, and making adjustments on the fly to conditions and different current angles and sea states — that’s pretty cool.
“And the bottom line: It’s fucking fun harnessing wind and going that fast. Even though flying in a sailboat that’s going 35 knots in a carbon missile is a little bit different than surfing, I think we connected on something that’s very important, which is how much we appreciate the ocean.”
For almost 20 years, Ian Walsh has shared his appreciation for the ocean through his annual “Menehune Mayhem,” a kids’ event promoting surfing, sportsmanship, creativity and scholarship for the youth of Maui. “But the backbone of the event is environmental awareness, and trying to lead by example, rather than just explaining it to kids. We’re doing it in a fun and interactive way.” Walsh has called Menehune Mayhem his “biggest accomplishment.”
“We’re trying to show kids how important it is to take care of the oceans and the beaches where they live.”
Both Ian Walsh and Elena Hight are featured in the new HBO series Edge of the Earth, streaming now.
On Wednesday we told readers about Owl Harbor’s annual Nautical Swapmeet being held this weekend from 8 a.m. to midday. Unfortunately we wrote the wrong date in our summary. The poster clearly says Saturday, August 13, and beneath that we wrote Saturday August 14. As reader Kevin McElroy pointed out, August 14 is a Sunday — completely the wrong day to attend the swapmeet, and if you did you’d find everyone had packed up and gone home. So thank you, Kevin, for alerting Owl Harbor to the error, and to Owl Harbor, our apologies
Meanwhile, reader John Fredericks let us know about a swapmeet taking place this weekend at the 5th Avenue Marina, Oakland. The swapmeet is held several times throughout the year as a fundraiser for the marina’s residents and will feature live and original maritime-style music, local artworks, nautical treasures, oddities and curiosities, and everything in between.
We hope you can make it to one or both of these fun events.
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