2016 VENDEE GLOBE: Southern Ocean Match Race

What a nail-biter! Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss and Armel Le Cleac’h on Banque Populaire have been swapping places at the front of the Vendée Globe fleet for some time now and are deep in the Southern Ocean, not too far west of the longitude of Cape Leeuwin at the southwestern tip of Australia. Le Cleac’h is the French heir apparent favored to win the race at the outset; Thomson is the Great Anglophone Hope, the only non-French competitor to have any chance of winning the race since Ellen MacArthur came a close second to Michel Desjoyeaux way back in 2001.

The ugly twist: Thomson has broken off his starboard J-foil (just as Ellen MacArthur lost one daggerboard after rounding Cape Horn in the 2000-01 race) and is essentially fighting with one hand tied behind his back. As the image up top suggests, when sailing on port tack Hugo Boss is a bit tender.

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SOUTHBOUND LUNACY: Delivery to Annapolis Completed

Departing Manhattan

Not surprisingly, the very best weather window for getting Lunacy from Huntington to Annapolis came over the Wednesday and Thursday of the Thanksgiving holiday, when abandoning hearth and family for the vicissitudes of offshore sailing would have cost many spousal brownie points. It’s hard not to feel a little anxious about these things this time of year. Every day lost means the day of departure, when finally it comes, will likely be colder, with a smaller weather window and a greater chance of stepping in something.

Not to worry. After the trauma of grinding my fingers through the anchor windlass I was due for a run of good luck. Stroke one: my old partner-in-crime Hank Schmitt (see image up top), a professional delivery skipper no less, was willing and able to ride shotgun on this next leg. Stroke two: it looked like our weather window was stretching out for a bit.

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ATLANTIC 57 CAPSIZE: More Details on the Fate of Leopard

Leopard upright

Inspired in part by disparaging critiques made on the relevant forum thread at Sailing Anarchy, Leopard’s skipper Charles Nethersole got back to me earlier than I expected to discuss details of the catamaran’s capsize last week. We had a long conversation this morning, and I also had a long conversation yesterday afternoon with Leopard’s designer Chris White.

The main critique on the SA thread has been that the crew was negligent, given the unsettled weather conditions, in not having someone constantly stationed in the outside cockpit ready to cast off sheets in the event of a sudden squall or something similar. After debriefing Nethersole, as well as studying written statements prepared by him and his two crew, Carolyn Bailey and Bert Jno Lewis, it seems pretty clear to me however that the event was so instantaneous, with so little warning, there was nothing anyone on deck could have done to prevent the capsize. Indeed, it seems the crew was in fact lucky to have all been inside at the time, as I should think anyone outside might easily have been lost.

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ATLANTIC 57 CAPSIZE: Crew of Leopard Saved 400 Miles North of the Dominican Republic

After some initial confusion over the vessel’s identity, it has been confirmed that a Chris White-designed Atlantic 57 catamaran named Leopard (as opposed to a production Leopard catamaran built by Robertson & Caine) was capsized last week well north of the DR while on a delivery from Virginia to St. Martin. All three crew onboard, led by skipper Charles Nethersole, were rescued from the overturned hull by MV Aloe, as documented in the video above, taken from a Coast Guard C-130 search plane that monitored the evacuation.

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SOUTHBOUND LUNACY: Delivery to Annapolis Interrupted

Synoptic chart

As I expected Lunacy’s putative buyers formally renounced our still-born deal as soon as I returned from the wilds of France. The late season and a lingering illness were the cited causes, but I had sensed other obstacles on their side. A less enthusiastic female partner and a need to borrow much of a boat’s purchase price are always problematic. So I quickly pointed Lunacy south toward Annapolis, where I figure she is much likelier to sell in the off-season. I made it as far as Huntington, New York, before I pressed the pause button to wait for this gale now raging off the Jersey shore (see image up top) and the advent of Thanksgiving.

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2016 VENDEE GLOBE: And Away They Go!

Race start

I’m back in the States now, having endured the indignity of the presidential election results while in France, and finally have a moment to drop a word or two about the actual start of the Vendée Globe. This was almost a week ago now, and I’m still sort of buzzing from the experience. There really is nothing that compares to this in the sport of sailing.

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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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LUNACY STILL AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE: Price Reduced (Dog Not Included)

Lunacy under sail

Given the bad luck I had when we sea-trialed Lunacy during her purchase survey (dead autopilot and massive shaft-seal leak) it’s not too surprising her putative buyers have not purchased her. The story of how the deal has gone since then has been nearly as big a psycho-drama as this year’s presidential election. I will spare you the tedious details. Suffice it to say the sales contract expired a month ago. The boat’s problems have been resolved (indeed she has been upgraded in some particulars) and she is still a simple, strong bluewater cruiser of a type that rarely comes on the market here in the United States. Even better, she did pass her audio-gauge hull survey with flying colors. For more particulars on Lunacy you can check my original “for sale” post. Her asking price is now reduced from my Optimistic Summer Season number to a More Realistic Fall Season number: $118,500. Negotiable, of course.

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