A Break From Rain Coming to San Francisco Bay
It’s been quite a winter for the state of California: wind, rain, and floods, putting boats and sailors at risk. As the forecast improves for the week ahead, this photo reminds us the rain brings clear air, relief from drought, and better sailing days ahead. Hope to see you on the water soon.
Getting in Touch With My Inner Bogey on a Rainy Saturday
While many of us were lounging at home with coffee and the paper, some intrepid sailors were fulfilling their mission to work on expanding their club’s programs. Their reward for getting out of bed on a rainy Saturday was an impromptu sail in the break between downpours. Stephen W. Dale of the Hunter 320 Playpen II sent us the story.
I am writing this on a rainy weekend after weeks of constant rain bringing us much-needed precipitation. This would have been a good Saturday morning to stay in bed, cuddle with the wife, put a Bogart movie on, and keep an eye on the Strait through my window, warm, safe and dry. The stuff that dreams are made of.
Instead, my day started off with a meeting called the Nautica Group at the Benicia Yacht Club, set up by my crew member, BenYC director and friend Randy Norman. The purpose of the group is to focus on ways that BenYC can expand its water activities. We had a great turnout with some terrific input from the attendees. I especially liked discussions about expanding programs for youth and families. The meeting was held at 9:30 a.m. so that it would not interfere with the Frostbite race scheduled at noon.
You might think that the Strait does not talk, but that couldn’t be further from the truth if you listen. In fact, there are times when I wish she would keep her opinions to herself. Truth be told, I had no intention to participate in the race because of the weather, but as the meeting was ending a weather window opened; she was basically telling me and the crew to come out and play: “What are you afraid of, a little weather?” What could we do? So the crew and I decided to brave the conditions and accept the challenge.
We only had three boats, including Warwhoop with Chuck Hooper and E-Ticket with Noble Griswold. Our crew [Playpen II] was D.J. Wood, Gary Johnson, and Randy Norman. The winds were from the southwest with a building ebb. At the skippers’ meeting that we held at the docks, we decided to go to the Joe Mara mark by Glen Cove and back, about six miles.
We had the normal reverse start, and Playpen started first, followed by Warwhoop and ending with E-Ticket. Playpen II was able to make the mark on a single tack. After we passed the mark on the return, I turned the wheel over to Randy to take us home.
Even though this was not a romp in the sun, we had a great sail. The good news: Despite all the debris in the water from the storms, Randy only hit one tree — woo hoo! On top of that, the Nautica Group, with Randy at the helm, indicates we may be adding more dimensions to the Benicia Yacht Club, so that we can share this wonderful resource of the Strait with more activities, and ideally attract families and youth to the wonders of boating.
So it looks as if fair winds and following seas are in our future for 2023. All you need to do is get out of bed and let the Strait be your guide,
Here’s looking at you, kid.
The race results were 1st — Warwhoop, 2nd — E-Ticket, 3rd — Playpen II.
Discover Elemental Luxury on the Cape Less Traveled
Forty-five minutes from the Los Cabos airport, Costa Palmas is a 1500-acre master-planned resort community on Baja’s East Cape. Here, on two miles of swimmable beachfront on the Sea of Cortez, owners connect to clubhouses, a Robert Trent Jones II course, Baja’s first luxury marina and village.
Eight Bells — Remembering Jim DeWitt
On November 19, 2022, Bay Area sailmaker, sailboat designer and artist extraordinaire Jim DeWitt passed away at home in Point Richmond under the care of hospice. He was 92 years old and had suffered a stroke a couple of weeks before.
James Harden DeWitt was born in Oakland on February 13, 1930. Jim became fascinated by sailboats and art at an early age. When he was 7, he drew pictures of sailboats while watching his dad build a 19-ft sloop in their backyard. He built his own first boat, El Toro #216, when he was 19. Jim graduated from Oakland High School, but he didn’t enjoy school — turns out he was dyslexic at a time when no one understood what that was. But he did well in his art class, and his mom got him into art school. He attended the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, then the Los Angeles Art Center in Pasadena.
To save money while going to school, he started making his own dinghy racing sails, building the first, for his El Toro, in 1959. “I was my first customer,” he said.
Jim married his first wife, Dorothy May Swinson, in 1950. (They married and divorced twice!) In 1960, Jim returned to the Bay Area with his young family and opened DeWitt Sails in a Quonset hut in Richmond.
In 1980, he moved the business into a new building in Brickyard Cove, which included his art studio. In 1983, Jim sold the sail loft to Sobstad in order to focus on his art career. (Sobstad later sold to Quantum, which is still there in the same building.) Parallel to his professional careers was his yacht racing career. In 1961, he won the Bullship Race, in which El Toros sail across the Golden Gate from Sausalito to San Francisco. In 1963, he won the North American Men’s Championship in Annapolis, with the daringly mixed-gender crew of Jocelyn Nash and Jake van Heeckeren. Jim thus became the first West Coast skipper to bring home the Mallory Cup. From 1969 to 1977, Jim had a series of successes in the Lipton Cup. He won the 1992 International Masters Regatta, sailed in J/24s in San Francisco.
In the 1990s, Jim designed the roto-molded plastic DeWitt Dinghy. Fleets of the little yellow boats were ubiquitous at yacht clubs with junior programs. Some later models were made from fiberglass. “I never made any money off those,” he told us.
But Jim is best known in today’s sailing community for his paintings. His exuberant colors and bold shapes burst off the canvas. His subjects range from people to pets to flowers, but especially sailboats and yacht racing. His canvases adorn the walls of many a yacht club and other maritime enterprises. You can even spot his murals if you stroll around Point Richmond.
Continue reading in the January issue of Latitude 38.
‘Maserati’ Takes Line Honors and Record In RORC Transatlantic Race
The first major ocean race to take place in 2023 lived up to the pre-race hype and more, with Giovanni Soldini’s turbo MOD 70 Maserati claiming line honors in the RORC Transatlantic Race and setting an incredible new course record along the way. With a weather forecast that allowed fast sailing from start to finish, all three participating MOD 70s finished well inside the existing course record. Maserati posted a new mark of 5 days 5 hours 46 minutes and 26 seconds for the 2,995-nautical-mile course from the island of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands to Grenada in the Caribbean. In fact, Maserati’s new course record is an incredible 17 hours under the previous mark, further illustrating just how fast the sailing conditions were in this year’s race. This was Maserati’s fourth participation in the annual transatlantic race.
The second boat to cross the finish line was Bay Area sailor Frank Slootman’s newly acquired, and equally highly modified, MOD 70 Snowflake, with renowned sailors such as Gavin Brady and Brian Thompson onboard. Sporting a taller mast, longer bowsprit and T-foil rudders onboard the boat formerly known as Beau Geste and Phaedo 3, the record-setting trimaran is certainly a performance upgrade for Slootman, who has owned everything from J Boats to the Reichel Pugh 63 Invisible Hand before acquiring his new trimaran. Rounding out the podium was Frenchman Erik Maris and his relatively newly acquired MOD 70 Zoulou with a host of legends onboard, including Loïck Peyron.
Behind the three trimarans that smashed the course record and crossed the Atlantic in well under a week, there is an equally interesting fleet of 16 monohulls and one more multihull that are vying for divisional and overall honors. The quickest monohull on the water is the Volvo 70 I Love Poland, skippered by Grzegorz Baranowski and including an all-Polish crew. I Love Poland was just under 300 miles from the finish as of this writing. The second-closest monohull to the finish line in Grenada is the IMOCA 60 Canada Ocean Racing, co-skippered by rookie offshore sailor Scott Shawyer and Briton Alan Roberts. Just a few miles behind Canada Ocean Racing is Stefan Jentzsch’s Botin 56 Black Pearl. Somewhat unsurprisingly, Eric De Turckheim’s NMYD 54 Teasing Machine is romping their way to a convincing overall victory on IRC. A stalwart in many of the bigger European-based offshore classics, Teasing Machine is a threat to win any race that she enters, as evidenced by her overall victory in last year’s Rolex Middle Sea Race.
One of the more interesting boats in the fleet is Marie Tabarly’s beautifully restored 73-ft aluminum ketch Pen Duick VI, made famous by her father, the legendary Éric Tabarly and originally built to compete in the inaugural Whitbread Round the World Race. Sailing with a full crew, Tabarly is preparing for the inaugural Ocean Globe Race, a throwback to the original Whitbread Race that took place 50 years ago. Make sure to check in with the official event website http://rorctransatlantic.rorc.org for more updates and information, as boats will soon be finishing around the clock.
11th Hour Racing Leading at the Start of The Ocean Race
The first edition of The Ocean Race to be conducted under a new format, and with the notable absence of a title sponsor (formerly the Volvo Ocean Race), got underway yesterday in Alicante, Spain. Beginning under brilliant sunny skies and puffy breeze, the 11 boats spread across two divisions are now beating into stiff headwinds as they approach the Strait of Gibraltar. From here they lead into the Atlantic Ocean and toward a Leg 1 finish in the Cape Verde Islands.
As of this writing, the American IMOCA 60 team 11th Hour Racing — certainly a pre-race favorite — has come back from a somewhat underwhelming start to take a small lead in the premier IMOCA division. At the head of the Volvo 65 division, the Lithuanian team Ambersail 2 has taken a tactical flyer, choosing to sail in stronger winds in the middle of the Alboran Sea instead of hugging the coastline like the rest of the fleet. The Mexican Volvo 65 entry Viva Mexico is the only casualty thus far, as they have ripped their mainsail and suspended racing to head to port in Almeria, Spain. Conditions were said to be gusting over 30 knots at the time of the incident.
The 14th edition of the round-the-world classic that began 50 years ago hasn’t run in nearly five years due to delays related to the COVID pandemic, and will be barely recognizable to most viewers when compared with previous editions. With a new two-division format including the debut of the IMOCA 60s in fully-crewed round-the-world racing, one can only hope that the competition will be as good as ever and set the stage for a revival in this race that is said to be on life support.
With six Volvo 65s and five IMOCA 60s competing in the first leg and in the last two legs, the full course will be sailed by only the five IMOCAs. The six Volvo 65s will be racing for a new ‘Sprint Cup’ that will see them sailing only in the shorter European-based legs at the start and finish of the round-the-world marathon race. Again due to complications related to the pandemic and some questionable governmental decisions, the third leg of the race in particular will be a monster: The five IMOCA teams will sail nonstop from Cape Town, South Africa, all the way through the Southern Ocean and around Cape Horn before stopping in Brazil.
While the size of the fleet that will sail all the way around the world may be small, it makes up for this with an interesting mix of boats and sailors that should create close and exciting racing. Four of the five IMOCAs are brand-new builds. The American entry 11th Hour Racing, skippered by Newport, Rhode Island’s Charlie Enright, is managed by the Bay Area’s Bill Erkelens and also includes Hawaiian sailor Mark Towill. Enright and media man Amory Ross are the only Americans onboard for the first leg. Their new boat, named Malama, is the only IMOCA 60 to have been built specifically for fully crewed racing in The Ocean Race and is so far showing promising speed.
As of this writing, 11th Hour Racing is proving to be a good upwind boat as she beats along the Spanish coastline, with Kevin Escoffier’s Holcim PRB seemingly the only boat that can challenge 11th Hour’s pace. Once the two fleets exit the Strait of Gibraltar and enter the Atlantic, they should make quick work of the westerly wind, which will shift northwest and then turn into a more traditional downwind run toward the Cape Verde Islands. Stay tuned to https://www.theoceanrace.com to follow this round-the-world racing adventure, and don’t blink, because the first leg won’t take long to complete!
Don’t Miss the Corinthian Yacht Club Midwinters
Festivities and Buffet Dinner open to Racers and Non-racers alike!
Saturday, January 21, 2023
- 3:00pm | For participating racers, free beer and bites on the lower deck.
- 3:30pm | TinMan – Classic Rock Done Right! keeps the party going in the ballroom.
- 4:30pm | Visit the ballroom bar for drink specials until 6:30pm!
- 5:00pm | Buffet dinner begins in the ballroom, open to racers and non-racers. No pre-registration necessary; $25 + tax per person.
Hosted by Corinthian Yacht Club. To sign up visit: https://race.cyc.org/form/1669318021