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Atlantic Spankings

On Tuesday night, British co-skippers Ned Collier Wakefield and Sam Goodchild’s Class 40 Concise 8 suffered damage to its port rudder so the duo decided to retire from the 20th running of the Transat Jacques Vabre.

Sam Goodchild (left) and co-skipper Ned Collier Wakefield meet the press aboard their Class 40, Concise 8.

Transat Jacques Vabre
©2013 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Heavy seas and winds in the mid-20s may have been a factor, but they’re uncertain what exactly caused the damage. Fortunately, they were only 45 miles northwest of Spain’s Cape Finisterre when the incident occurred between 9 and 10 p.m., and have safely sailed to Muros, Spain.

“The rudder came right off the boat and was only held on by the upline,” says Goodchild. “There was some damage to the fittings which hold it on. We then had to bring it back on the boat and put it down below. Fortunately, we were able to jibe and get to the coast of Spain.”

The two are tremendously frustrated as this is the second time in as many years that they’ve had to abandon the Jacques Vabre. “It’s not a very big surprise to have a problem because we had not tested the boat very much but we are massively disappointed,” says Goodchild.

The race began in Le Havre six days ago and will finish when the boats reach Itajai, Brazil. Along with the Class 40 boats, there are IMOCAs, MOD70s, and Multi 50s participating in this year’s event. You can follow them here, live online.

Meanwhile, cruisers across the Pond got their own taste of the Atlantic’s fury. While the committee for the highly organized Caribbean 1500 moved the rally’s start date a day early to avoid a couple of nasty fronts that were spooling up, the loosely organized Salty Dawg Rally decided to stick with their rough departure date of November 4. Both rallies take cruisers from Hampton Roads, Virginia to the Caribbean, but the latter was started as an alternative to the strict rules and regs of the former. 

The ‘rules’ of the Salty Dawg also note that skippers are responsible for choosing their departure date, so November 4 was a mere suggestion. According to organizers, most of the 116-boat fleet left between November 2 and 8, with everyone being fully aware that the weather was not going to be particularly pleasant. 

Almost immediately, boats started having problems in the rough conditions. In the end, two boats — the Morgan OI 416 Ahimsa 4 and the Catalina 38 Wings — were abandoned, with the crew rescued by the Coasties. "It’s believed Ahimsa has sunk," notes an update on the event’s site, "but Wings is adrift and awaiting salvage by her owners." Four boats had rudder problems — the aforementioned Wings, the Alden 54 yawl Zulu, the Morgan 461 Pixie Dust and the Catalina 42 Jammin — and two were dismasted — the Hans Christian 38 Ñyapa and the Catana 471 Like Dolphins. Incidentally, Jammin did the Baja Ha-Ha in 2007 with Dave and Helen Peoples. There were also several non-life threatening injuries, including a broken arm. 

"Of the 116 boats that started the rally last week, seven had serious gear failures and had to return to the US for repairs or, in two cases, were abandoned," says the update. "These emergencies are a cause of concern for all of the Salty Dawgs and will be addressed by the board of the SDR in the aftermath. More than 95% of the fleet managed the challenging conditions and put it behind them in a very seamanlike fashion."

The Wanderer, who is the Grand Poobah of the Ha-Ha, is traveling in Mexico and was thus unavailable for comment. In the past, however, he has noted that getting from the East Coast of the United States to the Caribbean is generally a much more dangerous and challenging trip than from San Diego to tropical Mexico.

This year’s Baja Ha-Ha was a delightful cruise. No wonder the Grand Poobah wouldn’t want to run an East Coast event.

©2013 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"I personally would not be interested in running an event from the East Coast," he has said in the past. "That route has the danger of both hurricanes and winter storms, there is also the Gulf Stream, and it’s twice as long as the Ha-Ha with basically no places of refuge besides Bermuda. As has been proven many times in the past, it’s not a passage for novice sailors."

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Electrical fires account for more than half of all boat fires. © 2013 Rob Murray It’s that time of year again, folks.