News & Views

MARION-BERMUDA RACE: Triumphant Family Crew

I should have mentioned this earlier in the year, but now I have this great recently posted YouTube video to share with you, so I can pretend this was my plan all along. My compadre at SAIL Magazine, Andy Howe (regional sales manager for the Northeast, Upper Midwest & Eastern Canada) scored a major coup back in June while serving as navigator in the Marion-Bermuda Race aboard an antique 36-foot Alden Mistral named Ti that belongs to (and was skippered by) his cousin Gregg Marston. Navigating with a sextant, Andy plotted the course that led the crew of Ti to a veritable quinfecta of victories: first in class, first in the celestial division, first overall, plus they won the Family Trophy and Andy won the Navigator’s Trophy.

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OYSTER TELLS ALL: Statement on Polina Star Keel Failure

Grid damage

Yes, that headline is tongue-in-cheek. But just a little. That Oyster has made a public statement at all is to their credit. I cannot remember any other instance where a production builder has made any sort of substantive statement after a keel failure. This one is not as substantive as it could be, but they at least admit there is (or was) a "possible" production defect.

It is worth remembering that Oyster Marine is no longer owned by its founder Richard Matthews, who sold out to a fledgling private equity company for $50M+ British pounds back in 2008. I personally tend to doubt it is merely a coincidence that the company’s first known major production problem, after many decades of building boats, occurred after vampire capitalists took control. I would be very surprised if a boat built by Matthews ever suffered damage like this. I have sail-tested a few Oysters and sailed on one once from Virginia to Bermuda through the edge of a hurricane, and I remember pre-buyout Oysters as being reassuringly overbuilt.

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CALLING ALL VIKINGS: Volunteer Crew Needed for Transatlantic Voyage on a 115-Foot Longship

Harald under sail

Man, if I were younger (and childless) I’d be all over this opportunity like a fly on excrement. Draken Harald Hårfagre (that’s “Dragon Harald Fairhair” in English) is a modern interpretation (rather than an accurate replica) of an old Viking longship that was built in Haugesund, Norway, and launched in 2012. In May next year she will set out on a voyage from Norway to Newfoundland via Iceland and Greenland, and the project organizers have just announced they are accepting applications for volunteer crew. You need at least two months of free time to do it and presumably should have some sort of useful skill to boost your chances of being selected.

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ANOTHER MAJOR KEEL FAILURE: What Really Happened to Polina Star III?

Polina Star III hauled

The genesis of this story was an incident that occurred back in July of this year in which Polina Star III, an Oyster 825, which reportedly had been extended to 90 feet and was just over a year old, was lost off the coast of Spain. The very first report came from Oyster, but contained no details, stating only that the boat “suffered a serious incident which compromised the integrity of the moulded hull.” A follow-up report by Yachting World, published in August, added little more, noting only that Oyster believed the boat may have run aground and there were rumors it had capsized before foundering.

In the last few days the Italian skipper of the boat has been sharing his account of the event, and photos of the wreck, which was recovered and has been closely examined, have also been circulating online. Though the exact causes are unclear, it is perfectly clear that there was no grounding and that the boat suffered from major hull delamination that led to its keel suddenly falling off.

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THRASH TO WINDWARD: Swan 60 Delivery from Florida to Tortola

Foredeck in art mode

This is called going against the flow: sailing from Florida to the W’Indies against the prevailing easterly tradewinds. I did something similar many years ago, moving a Taswell 56 from Great Exuma in the Bahamas to St. Thomas, and remember it as an exercise in gross masochism. Like banging your head against a wall… for days on end. When you do it in little hops, from one Bahamian island to the next, they call it the Thorny Path. When you do it all in one fell swoop they should maybe call it the Quantum Thorny Leap.

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YACHTSMAN OF THE YEAR: Award Nominations Open Until Friday

Hiscocks

My good friend Paul Gelder, formerly editor-in-chief of Yachting Monthly in the U.K., one of my favorite print sailing comics, writes to remind me that interested parties have until the end of this work week to make nominations (these can be made by any member of the public, mind you) for the 2015 Yachtsman of the Year Award, presented by the U.K.-based Yachting Journalists Association. The award was first established in 1955 and the inaugural recipient was a cruiser, Eric Hiscock (see photo up top), in recognition of his three-year circumnavigation with his wife Susan aboard their 30-foot sloop, Wanderer III.

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JOE HARRIS: Warming Up for a Non-Stop Solo Circumnavigation

Joe Harris

I’ve never met Joe Harris, but I met his wife and kids once at the swimming pool at Capt. Oliver’s Marina in St. Martin while loitering there on my own boat. The Harris family was out on a straight bareboat charter, just like anyone else, and it wasn’t until later that I pieced together everything the missus had told me and figured out who exactly they were. From a distance at any rate, Joe has always struck me as that kind of guy: low key and under the radar.

Anyway, I’m now starting to dial into Joe’s latest scheme to fulfill a long-held ambition to race solo non-stop around the world. He’s always wanted to do this in an organized race with other boats, but since there is currently no relevant event he can join in his Akilaria RC2 Class 40 Gryphon Solo 2, he’s setting out on his own. His goal being to break the official WSSRC speed record for a non-stop solo circuit in a 40-foot boat (137 days, 20 hours and change) set by Guo Chuan (also in an Akilaria) in 2013. He expects to depart from Newport next month.

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STRANGE NEW PLANET: Gulf of Naples Hail, Hurricane Joaquin, North Atlantic Cold Spot

This viddy was shot earlier this month during a vicious hailstorm in the Gulf of Naples off Italy. Talk about taking incoming fire. The guys in the skiff are laughing about it, but this storm actually did a whole lot of damage on shore. Hailstorms normally occur well inland, although hail over water is not unknown. I remember once I got caught in a mini hailstorm running up Muscle Ridge Channel off the west coast of Penobscot Bay in my old Golden Hind 31 Sophie. But it didn’t last very long, and the hailstones were nowhere near as big as these.

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