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September 9, 2022

Andy Schwenk Shares His Medevac Story

August was a trying month for Point Richmond sailor Andy Schwenk. Andy was returning to California aboard his Express 37 Spindrift V after completing the 2022 Pacific Cup, finishing first in his class. Little did he know that a small ankle-scrape sustained at the end of the race would turn into a life-threatening infection. Andy is now out of the hospital and continuing his recuperation at home. But we chatted with him during his stay at Stanford Medical Center, and heard about his injury and subsequent medevac firsthand.

“When we raced over, we were pushing pretty hard — especially the last three days — for the lead,” Andy told us. “When a squall would roll through, we’d do spinnaker changes, and you’d bark your shin and foot on the nonskid.” Most sailors, whether racers or cruisers, are used to scrapes and bruises, or “boat bites.” Walking around Hawaii before the return trip to California, Schwenk said he must have contracted necrotizing fasciitis, also known as flesh-eating bacteria.

Though Spindrift carried an extensive medical kit, it was short on prescription meds, such as antibiotics. Adding to the difficulties, the rough weather on the return trip split Spindrift‘s delivery main and did other damage, so the otherwise-speedy Express 37 was reduced to a modest speed.

Via his Iridium GO!, Andy consulted with the experts at George Washington University, who had supported the Pac Cup fleet during the race. When he contacted race HQ to see if someone nearby could spare antibiotics, several boats raised their hands, and the 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.

But the oral antibiotics could not halt the progress of the infection, which had spread upward, and was causing Andy a good deal of pain and the beginning of a fever. The situation was becoming dire for Andy Schwenk.

Andy Schwenk & crew
Andy (far right) and crew partying at the halfway mark during last year’s Transpac.
© 2022 Andrew Redfern

This morning we received the following update from Andy: He’s out of the hospital on bed rest. A skin graft was done a week ago on Monday. He said the graft was performed “like building a boat or surfboard.” They took a layer of skin from his upper thigh by peeling the outer layer of skin and then forming it to the shape of the wound by vacuum-bagging it with foam. He also noted that Spindrift V will be sailing in the Rolex Big Boat Series with Bart Hackworth skippering. Bart is happy because he just sold his Moore 24 Gruntled and is looking forward to sailing the Express 37.

Read the full rescue story (complete with gory photo) in September’s Latitude 38.

Welcome to September’s Caption Contest(!)

What a great shot! We’re told the invisible sailor is Ethan Sargent, racing a Laser Radial in the Area G Smythe Cup qualifiers on the Berkeley Circle.

Thanks to Jack Barton for taking the photo, and to Chris Boome for sending it our way.

Caption Contest(!) Sept. 2022
Your caption here.
© 2022 Jack Barton

Last month’s winner and top ten captions can be found in the September issue’s Loose Lips.

International 14 US Nationals Sail in L.A.’s Hurricane Gulch

A small yet very competitive field of eight International 14 skiffs flocked to Los Angeles Harbor to sail the US Nationals in “Hurricane Gulch” at Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club on August 26-28. Known to locals as the windiest spot in SoCal during the summer, this venue usually delivers the goods. The fleet consisted of at least four former national champions, with teams from San Francisco, Santa Barbara, L.A. and San Diego. In addition, a few newer up-and-comers traveled from as far away as Hawaii and Seattle. The three-day event consisted of nine races: eight inside the Federal Breakwater and one 15-mile Long Distance Race (a Fourteen Nationals tradition) going outside Angel’s Gate and returning.

Angel's Gate Lighthouse
The Angel’s Gate Lighthouse, aka Los Angeles Harbor Lighthouse.
© 2022 Yvonne Galvez

Day 1

Day 1 brought the typical Gulch breeze from the west with mid- to high teens and some stronger puffs for good measure. Two races were scheduled. Race 1 was a short warm-up sprint with Terence Gleeson and JP Barnes taking the win. Race 2 was the Long Distance to Point Fermin and back twice-around in building breeze and a stacking ebb at Angel’s Gate. Gleeson/Barnes, Brad Ruetenik/Dan Kaseler, and Paul Galvez, with Bay Area sailor Dan Roberts, all traded places at the top upwind and down. By Lap 2, it was Galvez/Roberts taking the lead, never looking back, to finish first.

I-14s start
A race start for the I-14 skiffs. Note the Cal 20s in the background — CBYC is the home club of Fleet 4.
© 2022 Volker Corell

Day 2

Day 2 was forecast to be just slightly lighter, with winds out of the south. The fleet waited for it to fill in and stabilize. Race 3 started a bit on the light side but enough to double-trap. Gleeson/Barnes got the win. Galvez/Roberts and Elizabeth Campbell/Michael Leitch followed. By Race 4, the typical breeze was back on, for three laps. Galvez/Roberts took this one. Ruetenik/Kaseler started to get some pace, earning a second with their single-spreader reefed setup. Gleeson/Barnes took third. In Race 5, Gleeson/Barnes won again. Race 6, the windy last race of the day, went to Galvez/Roberts. It was turning into a nice duel, with both teams tied by day’s end.

I-14 with spinnaker
In this photo, both sailors are trapped out.
© 2022 Volker Corell

Day 3

Day 3 brought the lightest winds, some single-wiring, and two postponements in Race 7 due to 35º shifts. We started, and sure enough, the shift swung big again. Those on the wrong side were heavily penalized. Ruetenik/Kaseler get their first win with the reef shaken out. James Clarkson/Joshua Leihe followed, then Gleeson/Barnes. By Race 8, the breeze direction stabilized some but remained light. Gleeson/Barnes took this one, with Ruetenik/Kaseler second and Galvez/Roberts third. Race 9, the final race, remained on the lighter side. Ruetenik/Kaseler won, followed by Campbell/Leitch, then Galvez/Roberts. Great sailing all around.

The hard-fought weekend mixed with some great camaraderie in the evenings on 6th and 7th Streets. Thanks to all the teams who made the trip, and a big congrats to Terry and JP. Good to see the new boat going well.

See the results at

YRA Calendar and Youth Sailing — Planning for 2023

Even when sailing at 5 or 6 knots, the days fly by. We look at our Calendar early each month only to find it’s not even early in the month when we look! It’s at the end of August and early September that we connect with Laura Muñoz at the Yacht Racing Association to plan the Northern California Sailing Calendar and YRA Schedule. Race chairs, event organizers, class associations and numerous other groups and individuals get the wheels turning to coordinate a new year of events.

2022 YRA Calendar
While we’re still competing for the 2022 season, the 2023 schedule is getting underway.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Latitude 38

The 100 yacht clubs in Northern California come up with almost 1,000 races over the course of a 12-month season that mostly occurs on the 52 weekends of the year. Organizers make sure that Blackaller, Yellow Bluff, Blossom, Knox and Southampton Shoal never get lonely. Fleets such as the J/105s, Folkboats, I-110s, Express 27s, Santa Cruz 27s, Moore 24s and many more are trying to craft a season that will bring out more boats. Windward/leeward courses? Long-distance courses? Should we include the Three Bridge Fiasco or an ocean race in the fleet championship?

There are other decisions, such as what rating rule to use. St. Francis Yacht Club made the big switch from ORR to ORC for this year’s Rolex Big Boat Series. Sailing can be a simple exercise but very complicated to organize. Thankfully, there are people willing to step into many of these thankless tasks to debate rating rules, assign ratings, sit on race committees, or choose courses in the midst of fickle winds and currents.

ORC J/109 Reverie
This may not look like much, but it’s a big shift! US Sailing measurer Rebecca Hinden measured John Arens’ J/109 Reverie for the Rolex Big Boat Series. Many hours were spent by many people debating this decision before Rebecca could pull out her tape measure.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

Hey, kids! Beyond racing, the annual calendar includes information on the Bay Area’s youth sailing programs. If you love to race it’s great to teach kids to sail. They may crew for you in the future or grow up and kick your butt! If your yacht club or community sailing program wants your 2023 youth program listed correctly in the calendar and in our online directory, send us your updated 2023 information here by October 28. You have some time, but do remember to look at the online listings and let us know of any changes for the new year.

Where do future racers come from? Start young and your sailing skills only get better.
© 2022 Chris Ray

Have a great rest of this season, but do let us know what you want to do for next season. If you’re a club, fleet, event or race organizer, you should be getting in touch with Laura Muñoz in the next few weeks to submit your schedule for the 2023 season. To update your youth sailing information, send the information here. If your club, class, fleet, event or company wants to support racing on the Bay and grow your event or organization contact Nicki Bennett to submit an ad for the new year.

Deadlines for events and advertising are in the middle of October, but we’re letting you know this now because we know from firsthand experience that, even at 5 or 6 knots, time flies by.

The Rebuilding of ‘Mahina’ Hits Prime Time

In our July edition, Debra Taylor wrote a story about her and partner Jeff Gable’s ambitious restoration of John Neal’s classic Albin Vega 27, Mahina. Debra recently gave us an update on progress and let us know they’re adding primer coats as it’s nearing time to paint.

Somehow, August is behind us and Mahina looks bigger and brighter by the day. It’s a strange phenomenon how a totally empty shell of a boat begins to take on size and girth the more one adds to the interior. With all bulkheads installed, interior structure added and space compartmentalized, the space seems to expand with every addition. Painting the ceiling a bright off-white makes all the difference.

Prime Time on Mahina
The nonskid gets taped off as prime time begins.
© 2022 Debra Taylor
Prime Time on Mahina
Jeff applies primer coats to Mahina‘s deck.
© 2022 Debra Taylor

Many hours have been spent filling gouges, dings, and holes with goop. Then sanding. There are 85 stainless steel bolts (not counting U-bolts) around the perimeter of the boat securing the deck to the hull. These all had tiny round pieces of tape cut to cover each one during the taping process before painting could begin. Today Jeff started taping off the nonskid areas on the deck and priming the house. The warm weather caused the paint to dry so quickly that it had to be done with a brush instead of a roller. We’ve finally decided on exterior paint colors, and the paint has been ordered (by special order) so there will be no more waffling. The hull color will be light blue (with a trim of gold in the cove) and the topsides (including all nonskid areas) will be Hatteras White, which is an eggshell or ivory color. The bottom paint on the hull remains black with a teal boot stripe.

Mahina has come a long way since the start of the project.
© 2022 Debra Taylor

The interior is just about finished, including all built-ins, drawers, cabinets, doors, hatches, covers, handles and hardware. Most electronics are installed and electrical work is complete; all plumbing has been installed and many storage compartments added. There will be two water options for the galley sink, both fresh and saltwater. Some of the cushions and covers for the V-berth are also finished in a navy dotted-Swiss fabric by Sunbrella. Our focus now will be shifting back to the exterior in order to take advantage of the remaining warmer weather, and to paint before we begin on the rigging.

All new cabinetry and a two-burner stove are bringing Mahina back to life.
© 2022 Debra Taylor

We seem to be accumulating interesting Craigslist experiences. A fellow boat nut in Burlington found an old Vega to salvage for parts. We were able to acquire both bow and stern pulpits (Mahina’s had been badly worn and bent) as well as a set of six stanchions with fittings (all original) for only $150. The stanchions alone would sell for around $100 each, without the fittings, which are unobtainable. These parts were all manufactured by the Albin Marine company of Sweden, which is no longer in existence. It was a huge find and a great relief. After Jeff got finished polishing them up, they look like new!

Mahina Parts
New and used parts from multiple sources are making Mahina’s next life possible.
© 2022 Debra Taylor

Our Mahina endeavor began back in June 2021 (as you may remember) while we were looking for a trailer for our 11-foot sailing dinghy. This week we came across (yet another) Craigslist offering that launched us into an adventure to Big Lake, just east of Mount Vernon, where we met Dick and Becky Walsh, fellow PNW adventurers who had some great stories and experiences to share. Dick showed us some of his beautiful watercolor paintings and various projects du jour. After, we were pleased to find that his trailer would indeed work for our sailing pram AND (as seems to be our karma), it came with a dandy little 14-foot sailboat, a C-Lark that would now find a new home (somewhere!) in our growing boat menagerie. We are now full circle with our trailer search, with an extra sailboat or two to boot. Be careful what you wish for…

Mahina trailer
The original mission was just to buy this trailer for a sailing dinghy. The “fine print” said they get the boat with the trailer.
© 2022 Debra Taylor

We heard from John Neal this week. He was asking about Mahina and hopes to be able to visit sometime in late September before beginning Leg 9 of his continuing sailing adventures. We’re all looking forward to the long-overdue reunion and will keep you apprised of the exciting event.

West Coast Weather Watch
Hurricane Kay is on track to rake the west coast of Baja Thursday morning, affecting Turtle Bay as well as Cedros and other offshore islands.