News & Views

2016 VENDEE GLOBE: A Mob Scene and Then Some

Vendee dock

About 16 years ago I wrote a story for SAIL Magazine about sailing in the Sydney-Hobart Race and dropped a line about having died and gone to heaven, as at last I’d found a place where ocean sailing was considered a top-tier sport. Well, this week it’s like I’ve died all over again and heaven is even grander than before. It's also very French. Before I left to travel here to Les Sables d’Olonne I told some non-sailing friends of mine I was going to the start of the world’s most popular sailboat race. “Like the America’s Cup?” they asked. “No, this is much bigger than that,” I answered. And it is, and it’s a shame the French get it mostly to themselves.

I hope I don’t really have to explain this to anyone who reads this blog, but just in case: these guys are racing non-stop around the world all alone. It's a very simple concept, but also a very large one.

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SINGLEHANDER BILL SHAW LOSES HIS BOAT: A Very Different Sort of Ordeal

Galena under sail

The relevant thread at Cruisers Forum is titled Abandoned Westsail 32 Free For Taking, and it’s not just a salvage hyperbole. The gent who abandoned the boat, Galena (seen above), less than 200 miles northwest of Fiji, has declared he will make no claim on it if it is recovered. He just wants someone to get it. Which shouldn’t be too hard, as its position when abandoned is known, wasn't too far from shore, and its AIS transceiver, as of three days ago, was still transmitting.

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NATHAN CARMAN: Suspicious Circumstances Surrounding His Week Adrift in a Liferaft

Carman in raft

Not a sailing story this one, but it does involve boats, and it’s a fascinating breaking news item. The question raised: could a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome possibly have contrived to kill his mother by 1) luring her out on a fishing trip 100 miles offshore in a 32-foot open boat, 2) scuttling the boat, and 3) taking to a liferaft without said mother (or an EPIRB) to await rescue??? Such was the noxious cloud of skepticism that followed Nathan Carman ashore after the aptly named freighter Orient Lucky last week plucked him from the raft (see image up top) in which he’d been floating helplessly for eight days.

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FIGURE-8 VOYAGE: Solo Round Antarctica and the Americas All in One Go

Taonui

Speaking of aluminum boats, some of you may be wondering whatever happened to Taonui, the 41-foot German-built full-keeled expedition vessel that Tony Gooch sailed on a solo non-stop circumnavigation back in 2002-03. It was an impressive voyage, the first-ever non-stop circuit via the great capes sailed from the west coast of North America (Victoria BC in Canada to be precise) and also a very impressive boat (see image up top). I know I admired her intently and in fact it was my respect for Taonui that inspired me in part to acquire Lunacy, my aluminum Tanton 39, going on 10 years ago.

So I was a little jealous when I got a note last month from an online acquaintance, Randall Reeves, tipping me off that he had recently purchased a 41-foot full-keeled aluminum boat built by Dubbel & Jesse in Norderney, Germany, in 1989, now called Gjoa, but formerly named Taonui. The very same vessel. Randall first got in touch last year, seeking advice on tin boats, as he wanted to find one to take on what he calls the Figure-8 Voyage, a solo non-stop circumnavigation of first Antarctica and then the Americas via the Northwest Passage, all in one year. Now he has a perfectly appropriate boat and is training up for a departure from San Francisco next fall.

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RAINMAKER FOR SALE: Used Gunboat 55 On the Block For Just $15K

rain1

No kidding! Though she is in rough condition. This is Gunboat 55 hull number one, which was dismasted and abandoned by its owner and crew 200 miles off Cape Hatteras in January 2015. She was spotted and recovered off Bermuda this past March. Now she’s on the hard and is being auctioned off, with the starting bid pegged at $15K. Bids must be received by September 6. Check this link for details.

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2016 ROUND ISLAND REGATTA: Racing In No Wind At All

Melon seeds

This photo right here tells much of the tale of my bid to ascend the podium at this year’s Round Island Regatta (held last Saturday). Note first that I did not succeed in getting daughter Lucy to crew for me in our Melonseed skiff MiMi2 (seen on the right in this image), as she has come to question my abilities as a sailor after we shipped some water in a near-capsize while sailing MiMi2 in strong conditions a few weeks ago. Instead I lured my wife Clare aboard, whose faith in me remains unshaken. Note next there was another Melonseed for us to compete against, sailed by one Mike Driscoll (on the left), and yes, you can see he was barely ahead of us here. And this shot unfortunately was taken just before we crossed the finish line.

As I’ve always said: I’d much rather sail a close race and lose than sail a boring race and win.

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DRAKEN HARALD HARFAGRE: Viking Raid on Great Lakes Repelled by Ruthless Bureaucrats

Vikings at Detroit

Legend has it the first time Vikings came to North America they were driven away by irate natives, called skrælings by the Norse. Now more than 1,000 years later it’s the U.S. Coast Guard who are handling the job, wielding regulations rather than weapons. This time the Viking raiders, who’ve come from Norway on the 115-foot longship Draken Harald Hårfagre, got as far as the Great Lakes (see image up top, which depicts them cruising past Detroit) before they were stopped in their tracks by bureaucrats demanding they pay up to $400-an-hour in pilot fees.

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2016 ROUND ISLAND REGATTA: Tickets On Sale Now!

Lucy and I

The time has come for Lucy and I to wreak our revenge. We were quite competitive in our Melonseed Skiff in last year’s Round Island Regatta (see image up top), but were denied our rightful second-place finish (not that there was a trophy to win or anything) by the incompetent race committee, who sent us round the course four times and our competitors only three. (In spite of this handicap we still finished fourth!) Yes, I know that anarchic management has historically been a hallmark feature of the RIR, but it seems those days are coming to an end. The regatta, now going into its sixth year, is under new management and is being run by the Gundalow Company--people with genuine organizational experience. So this year (I’m hoping) we cannot be denied.

Mark your calendars! This year’s regatta will be held @ 10 a.m. Saturday July 30 on Portsmouth’s Back Channel, per usual, with prizes and partying afterward at the Wentworth Lear house. As in the past there will be one class racing under sail and various other classes racing in kayaks and rowboats. In spite of the enhanced structure it should be a blast. This event has sold out the last few years, so be sure to register now.

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TANKER MASHES UP SAILBOAT: Fun and Games in the Piscataqua River

Dismasted

Here’s an interesting mishap that took place mere footsteps from my home here in Portsmouth while I was off roaming the Maine coast last week. A 477-foot tanker, Chem Venus, was exiting the Piscataqua River late Wednesday afternoon with two tugs in attendance and missed the turn at Seavey Island, where the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is located. It ran down three sailboats across the river in the Kittery Point Yacht Club mooring field in New Castle and dismasted one of them (see image up top, shot by eyewitness Glenn Kisch). The tanker ran aground on a ledge and was pulled away from the scene by the tugs.

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