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November 7, 2022

Sail MS Crew Reports From Mid-Baja Ha-Ha

It sounds like a magical year for the Baja Ha-Ha. Sail MS founder Zac Singer reported in from Bahia Santa Maria, “We arrived this afternoon in Bahia Santa María and anchored just aft of the Grand Poobah. Yesterday was the best day of sailing in my life so far. We departed the anchorage early, then motored back to the start line with our mainsail up. Profligate marking the start line, we joined the line midway. Encore lit up immediately on turning downwind. Five minutes later we had our DayGlo spinnaker up, providing us with 10-12-knot boat speed. The next 24 hours were beyond words. Encore stayed neck and neck into the early evening with Resolute, a J/122 [in the] Jalapeño division, and the Poobah himself on Profligate. Resolute decided to douse the spinnaker early before sunset, but we decided to take advantage of every inch, sailing through the night as hard as we could. The crew of Encore stepped up to the plate. By nightfall, we were the only boat side-by-side with the Poobah in his performance cat, not a sail behind us in sight. By sunrise, we had made over two hundred miles. Our overall average for the leg was better than 10 knots. Sitting at anchor, eating ceviche, recounting our personal experiences over the last 24 hours, this is a lifetime experience for all of us.”

Andrews 56 Encore
Encore crewman Cisco Sco sent in this shot of the Sail MS crew leaving Isla de Cedros, heading toward Turtle Bay.
© 2022 Cisco Sco
Andrews 56 Encore
Zac and Jerome with their first ocean-caught fish, a beautiful yellowfin tuna.
© 2022 Encore
Turtle Bay - Bahia Santa Maria
Yesterday’s “screenshot” on PredictWind as the fleet made its way from Turtle Bay to Bahia Santa Maria.
© 2022 Predict Wind

Adding to the magical experience of this year’s Baja Ha-Ha, tonight, while the fleet is in Bahia Santa Maria, they (and we) will experience a total eclipse of the moon. To see it locally you’ll have to stay up late, or get up early, as the maximum eclipse happens at 2:59 a.m. Though with the forecast of rain it’s likely a moot point. Rain will not be a problem in Bahia Santa Maria!

Crewmember Jerome Pinsonnault captured Zac Singer managing fresh fish on the grill aboard Encore.
© 2022 Jerome Pinsonnault
Reflecting on life on the way south, crewmember Cisco Sco thought, “Life is good.”
© 2022 Cisco Sco

Patsy Verhoeven, who’s done the Baja Ha-Ha 14 times aboard her Gulfstar 50 Talion, says, “Beautiful sailing this year. Starlink is the best. I get ‘obstructed view’ occasionally with the big chute up but otherwise 24/7!”

The fleet will relax in Bahia Santa Maria today and head ashore tomorrow for the annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Beach Party, sponsored by the local fisherfolk. Then on Wednesday at 7:00 a.m. the fleet starts the third and shortest leg from Bahia Santa Maria to the finish in Cabo on Thursday.

In the Aftermath of a Winning Shot

A couple of weeks ago we shared the news that West Coast sailor Louis Kruk had entered a photo in the annual Mirabaud Yacht Racing Image contest and exhibition. This is the first time Louis has entered. Now his photo is one of 80 images being considered for a prize. Last week Louis gave us a little background on his (fingers crossed) winning shot, and sent us another photo, which he described as the aftermath.

This is the description Louis created for his entry, which he captured on San Francisco Bay during the SailGP event: “There is some sailing drama in this image. A bit of mystery, excitement, suspense, intrigue, and uncertainty.”

Here is the rest of the story:

“The boat in my entry is up on its foils, ‘flying.’ These boats, as they pick up speed, lift the hulls out of the water by way of the foils, the curious curved appendages seen below the hulls. Lifting the hulls out of the water is what allows these boats to attain their amazing speeds. However, if the boat gets too high on its foils, it suddenly falls off the foils and comes crashing down for a very hard, nosedive landing.

“The boat in my MIRABAUD entry is way, way, way too high on its foils.”

Louis Kruk Mirabaud entry
Louis’s entered photo.
© 2022 Louis Kruk

This is what happened next:

SAilGP boat crashing
As predicted, moments later the 50-ft foiling catamaran came crashing down to a hard landing.
© 2022 Louis Kruk

We can only imagine how it must feel to be a part of such a well-known contest, and we congratulate Louis for having his photo chosen as one of the top 80 images. That in itself is an achievement. So what does one do to pass the time and not become a nervous wreck while awaiting the result?

“I’m sitting on my boat Cirque, in Bocas del Toro, waiting for a weather window to make a passage from Shelter Bay [Panama Canal Zone] to Montego Bay, Jamaica. Not on my boat, but the 63-ft Hatteras motor vessel Soul Mate. We’ll see. Right now, the central Caribbean is threatening… the tropical storm, Lisa, is in our path.” (Lisa hit Belize last Wednesday as a hurricane, causing widespread flooding and power outages.)

The contest winners will be announced at the Yacht Racing Forum in Malta, on November 21-22. In the meantime, the public can vote for their favorite photo until November 15.

Prize winners will be selected across three categories:

Mirabaud Yacht Racing Image (main prize) — awarded by a panel of international specialists from the yacht racing and photographic industries.

Public Prize — selected by the number of popular votes on the internet.

Yacht Racing Forum Award — decided by the delegates of the Yacht Racing Forum.

You can vote for Louis’s photo here: Louis Kruk.


The Far Side of the World: A Voyage to the Antipode

Like many of us, Drew Smith grew up thinking if he dug a hole through the center of the Earth he’d end up in China. This thought was later followed by an internet joke, “You stand somewhere, anywhere really, and your friend stands on the exact other side of the planet. If you both put a piece of bread on the ground at the same time, you’ve made a perfect Earth sandwich.“

This little joke became an idea, sparked while at anchor on a rainy night in Clipper Cove, to find and go to the place on the Earth that was the antipode of his place of birth in eastern Canada. The idea then became an obsession, such that Drew has since sailed thousands of miles trying to get to that place aboard his 1974 Islander 34 X-Wing.

Drew Smith X Wing
Drew Smith has a plan to sail to the Far Other Side of the Earth — from where he was born.
© 2022 X-Wing


Drew Smith X-Wing downwind
X-Wing sails downwind.
© 2022 X-Wing
Pandemic route of X-Wing
The pandemic created an unusual detour in X-Wing‘s plans to get to the Far Other Side of the Earth.
© 2022 X-Wing

Our November issue has an update on this still-incomplete odyssey, which was interrupted by the pandemic. As Drew wrote at the end of the story, “I’m sure after reading this you have two burning questions, the first probably being ‘What will you do when you reach your antipode?’ Honestly, that part remains to be planned — I am in touch with the principal and a couple of teachers at the high school, and I hope to be able to do something with the current students. And maybe throw some bread in the water and make a perfect ‘Earth sandwich?’ We’ll see.”

Drew was born in a farming community on the east coast of Canada. Can you guess where his birth antipode is?

Find Your Antipode
Guess where the antipode of San Francisco is. Guess first and then, looking at the cool map tool on Drew’s Far Other Side website, click on the map (scroll down the page to find the antipode tool) and zoom out to find out.
© 2022 Far Other Side

This is, as far as we know, a unique voyage on a small California-built boat. The 10th Patrick O’Brian book was titled The Far Side of the World. Drew is going to sail there.

To read the complete story, click here.

Route du Rhum Start Postponed Until Wednesday

For the first time in Route du Rhum race history, the organizers have made the difficult decision to delay the start of the 3,543-mile race from Brittany, France, to the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. With a depression working its way toward Europe, the fleet of 138 singlehanded racing yachts was scheduled to depart Saint-Malo on Sunday afternoon and sail dead upwind into monstrous waves of 7-8+ meters and breeze that topped 50 knots. In a decision that has been supported by the vast majority of the fleet, race organizers moved the start to Wednesday afternoon at 2:15 local time. When the fleet does finally get underway, they will still meet with upwind sailing and a strategically difficult departure from Europe, though in conditions that are much more manageable.

Americans Among the Huge Fleet

The 12th edition of this Transatlantic race is a record-breaker in almost every respect. For starters, 138 is a record number of entries. Among those 138 entries is a fleet that includes a who’s who of solo offshore sailing, and many brand-new and cutting-edge boats. The largest fleet in the race is the Class 40 fleet, which has a staggering 53 entries, including the race’s only two Americans. San Francisco Bay Area native and Singlehanded Transpacific Race veteran Alexander Mehran is sailing his Class 40 Polka Dot. Newcomer Greg Leonard from Texas entered his Class 40 Kite.

Alex Mehran
San Francisco Bay Area native Alexander Mehran will compete in the Route du Rhum on the Class 40 #154 Polka Dot.
© 2022 Alex Mehran
Polka Dot Class 40
The Marc Lombard-designed Class 40 Polka Dot, easy to spot in the fleet.
© 2022 Jean-Marie Liot

Maxi Trimarans

The first boats across the finish line will almost surely be the incredible Ultime trimarans. They have seven entries, including a much-awaited first major engagement between the fleet’s newest two boats — François Gabart’s SVR Lazartigue and Armel Le Cléac’h’s Banque Populaire XI — and the current fleet benchmark Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, now skippered by Charles Caudrelier when in solo mode. These 100-ft foiling monsters are simply the fastest and most extreme oceangoing sailboats ever built. This year’s Route du Rhum heralds the beginning of a new era of ocean racing, where this new breed of fully foiling record-breaking boat has come of age.

Gitana 17 trimaran
The trimaran Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, aka Gitana 17, has become the fleet benchmark for the Ultim 32/23 class in the last couple of years. She famously broke off a bow in the 2018 edition of the Route du Rhum and retired. Skippered by Volvo Ocean Race winner Charles Caudrelier, sailing in his first major solo race, she is the odds-on favorite, though Vendée Globe winners François Gabart and Armel Le Cléac’h have new boats this year, which tees up one of the most highly anticipated sailing battles in recent memory.
© 2022 Eloi Stichelbaut / PolaRYSE / Gitana S.A.

IMOCA 60 Division

With 37 entries, the IMOCA 60 fleet is also a record-setter. As each edition of the Vendée Globe continues to get bigger, so do the qualifying races, of which the Route du Rhum is by far the biggest and most prestigious. This year’s race promises to be a spectacle of epic proportions, with a number of new boats. More than three dozen modern 60-ft monohulls, mostly equipped with lifting foils, will square off against one another across the Atlantic. The current fleet benchmarks — Charlie Dalin on Apivia and Thomas Ruyant on LinkedOut — will have their hands full with a number of their top rivals debuting new boats in this race, including Jérémie Beyou on Charal 2, Samantha Davies on her new Initiatives Coeur, and the new Malizia with German Boris Herrmann.

Follow the Route du Rhum on their website, and social media channels. We’ll post updates as the race progresses.

Finding Cities Close to Docks, and Real America, in SoCal

My favorite destinations have always been the places that I had no plans to visit.

After making a predawn escape from San Miguel in late October 2020, the Kelly Peterson 44 Esprit — her windlass near the end of its life and her plans to hop around the Channel Islands thoroughly kiboshed — made way for Santa Barbara. After departing from Berkeley Marina five days earlier, the final destination was Ventura. Santa Barbara had not been on the itinerary, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled to watch the mountains, which began as a blur seen on the horizon from San Miguel, grow and grow as we motored across glassy water on a glorious, sunny morning. The marine layer ebbed and flowed behind us through the day, blotting out the islands, and later, the sun and sky.

I was struck by how close Santa Barbara was to the ocean. Whereas in the Bay a boat must cross an inland ocean on the way to one of the many buried nooks, in SB, the charming white-building, red-roofed downtown was a short walk from the harbor and packed with masked humans keeping their distance on streets that had been closed to traffic and opened for outdoor dining.

Santa Barbara’s boating scene is close, condensed, and a convenient, casual stroll from the heart of downtown and a few beaches. Compared to the geographic maritime maze of the Bay Area, Santa Barbara is a haven for visiting sailors.
© 2022

I would later laugh at the rapaciousness with which I indulged on shore, as if I had been at sea for three and half weeks, as if I had been eating only freeze-dried meals. (Esprit‘s owners Quincey Cummings and Mitch Andrus eat very well.) I had tacos, pizza, and a hamburger, and hopped among the five million breweries in Santa Barbara’s downtown, which were showing football being played in empty stadiums.

October 2020 felt about as normal as life had been since the world had shuttered half a year before, early in March. I was cruising with friends in New Zealand when the pandemic began, and at one point arrived in Whitianga Harbour, where everything was closed, as if a zombie apocalypse had wiped out the population. In early 2020, the conventional wisdom was that the pandemic would maybe last a few months, and certainly not a few years.

It was an unexpected thrill to suddenly be a tourist in SoCal.

Clockwise from top left: A grove of palm trees in the fog in Santa Barbara; The beach in the fog in Ventura; The sun broke out in time to be photographed on November 1, 2020; Fishing boats and mountains in Santa Barbara; As a Northern Californian, I was in love with the abundance of palm trees in Ventura; The harbor entrance in Ventura, as framed by “ice plant,” which also grows abundantly in SoCal.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim Henry

Comparisons between the landscape and culture of New Zealand and Northern California had abounded on my visit to latitude 38 south, where island-hopping was a way of life, especially in the aptly named Bay of Islands on the northern tip of the east coast. With five of the Channel Islands visible from Santa Barbara, and with Ventura Harbor full of commercial boats shuttling tourists from L.A. County to the national park offshore, I was tempted to make comparisons between the antipodal island cultures.

But the similarities are limited.

New Zealand’s islands were far more user-friendly, bucolic and dotted with sheep, and often surrounded by brilliant-blue water. The Channel Islands, by contrast, are rugged and cold, shrouded in fog and windy. Cruising the Bay of Islands (at least during the brief window I was there) felt easy and relaxed; cruising the Channel Islands, by contrast — and given the sudden loss of our windlass — felt like a much heartier endeavor.

Top photo: The famous Arch Rock on Anacapa Island in California. Bottom photo: Piercy Island in New Zealand, also known as “The Hole In The Rock,” or Motu Kōkako in Māori.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Top Photo: Wikipedia / Bottom Photo: Tim Henry
new zealand
A little island-hopping in New Zealand’s Northland in spring (or late summer) 2020.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim Henry

Finding Real America

The people in Santa Barbara are absolutely, almost absurdly, good-looking. Young, fit, tan and stylish females and males were in every coffee shop, bar and restaurant, on the beach, and generally teeming in every pore of the city. I have never seen a more stunning sampling of humanity.

Departing the harbor and bound for Ventura on October 31, 2020, we saw a coven of witches on stand up paddle boards; when seen at a distance silhouetted in the fog, they looked, well, like witches floating on the horizon. Well played.

Where Santa Barbara Harbor was close to the city, Ventura Harbor is about a 10-mile round-trip walk from the boat, along foggy beaches and concrete paths, around the outdoor dining of downtown, and back to the harbor. I’m from San Diego originally, but have lived in the Bay Area for nearly 17 years, and I sometimes have a hard time describing the difference in cultures between Nor- and SoCal. The polarities are both subtle and glaring. There seems to be more concrete in SoCal (right?), but even when shrouded in fog, the beaches are more inviting and idyllic looking.

Those are actually strawberry fields behind Ventura Harbor. Ask me how I know.
© 2022 Ventura County Coast

With the 2020 election just two days away, there was a line of cars driving around Ventura, waving flags and holding signs for one of the candidates on the ballot. Politics has become more (shall we say) enthusiastic since the days of Bush v. Dukakis, Clinton v. Dole, etc. Between the pandemic, civil rights protests and a terrible fire season in the Bay Area, there was palpable tension in the air.

Here’s the most political thing I’ll say: I love that the Channel Islands are a protected national park, but are well used by the people and not walled-off artifacts to be admired from afar. I take comfort in knowing that the islands are part of people’s lives and memories.

I hadn’t realized that the Channel Islands were so well represented on maps of all kinds.
© 2022 Top Photo: YouTube / Bottom Right: MWH / Bottom Left: The Internet

We took the train back to the Bay, crawling through beach towns, farming towns, college towns, military bases, and long, empty stretches of coast. I kept thinking of a quote from the final (2005) season of the TV show The West Wing — the fictional Republican candidate for president (played by Alan Alda) was a senator from CA, and said this about his home state:

“California is the one state that has everything: big cities, small towns, mountains, deserts, farms, factories, fishermen, surfers, all races, all religions, gay, straight, everything this country has. There’s more real America in California than anywhere else.”

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