News & Views

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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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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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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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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