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Delta pilot Mark Wheeler is the luckiest man in the world this week, and thankfully, he’s sharing the info in the hopes that others have an easier time when they go in the water.  The Delta pilot (presumably with far more training in survival than the typical sailor) and crew of Farr 400 Meridian X gave his account of his rescue on Sunday morning after falling overboard during the windy CYC Mackinac Race.  One note: The crew of this boat is exceptionally experienced, and has raced thousands of miles together – many of it in boisterous conditions.  Another reminder that it really can happen to any of us at any time.  The discussion’s already going over here.

The wind forecast was for a cold front to come through in the middle of the first night with a fairly sudden shift from SW to N. We raced under spinnaker on the lifting starboard tack from the start and then gybed to the heading port tack.This brought us to our target position in the middle of Lake Michigan and about 100 nm up from the start. The wind direction was 220 at about 15 kts. There was one thunderstorm to the west that did not seem to be moving. The front was still to the NW and an hour or so away.

At about 23:30, the wind began to build rapidly to 30 knots with no change in direction, and then very soon to 40 knots. I had gone off watch at 23:00. An all hands on deck call was made to get the staysail and A2 down.  I scrambled on deck with my inflatable life jacket and harness on, but not buckled. As I got back behind the wheels, I reached out for the port running back winch.  Just before my hand made contact with the winch the helm was put over hard to starboard to go down with the ever increasing wind. I went over the side head first through the life lines above the winch. I was only able to grab a spinnaker sheet for a couple of seconds as the boat was going approximately 18 knots.

I had my inflatable life vest set up for manual operation because of all the unwanted auto inflates I had seen on deck in wet races. My first order of business was to pull the lanyard to inflate the vest. The water was really rough at this point and breathing was a challenge. The vest inflated properly which was a relief, but since I had not buckled the front fitting I had to hold the lobes together with my arms to stay afloat. I knew it would be a while before my teammates could return to look for me since they were travelling away so fast and would not be able to turn without dropping the chute. In fact, afterwards we estimated the boat ended up more than 1.5 miles from me.

With the wind blowing 40 knots, I was in survival mode and concentrating on remaining calm and trying to breathe without ingesting too much water. I retrieved my brand new safety light from the PFD and held it up. The crew saw it for a while but lost it in the distance. Right from the beginning the light did not want to stay on bright and steady. I kept banging the side of it to get it to come back on. After a while the wind died down to the 12 to 14 knot range, but my light went out and no longer worked. I tried several times to get my harness buckled in front of me but could not do it with my life jacket inflated. At that point I inventoried my gear. Besides my failed light, I had a whistle, my AIS transmitter and my safety knife.  AIS was not mandatory for this race and we did not have it on Meridian X. My transmitter would have to be picked up by another boat or the USCG if someone with AIS was within a couple of miles of me. The thunderstorm to the west gave me a reference so I knew where north and Meridian X was. The next 15 minutes were discouraging to say the least. I was floating in the middle of a pitch black, moonless Lake Michigan with no light at 12:15 AM, and with no boats in sight. After about 30 minutes I could see Meridian’s white mast light off in the distance, but clearly a long way from me.

The weather forecast was for big wind out of the north once the front showed up and I was starting to get extremely cold. I blew my whistle every minute or so during this time. The next time I rotated to the north, instead of a distant light I saw a green glow of the masthead tricolor and it was significantly closer. I started whaling on the whistle. Occasionally water would get into it and the whistle would not work, but when I had clear blasts it was very loud and fortunately carried a long way. Meridian heard the whistle. Later they told me they would motor and then stop to get the boat quiet, listen, and go towards the sound again. We think this process took about 15 minutes but it worked and I was found!

I was suffering from hypothermia when they dragged me aboard.  I had been in the water for 1 hour and 6 minutes. The crew got my wet clothes off, wrapped me in blankets and fleece, gave me some hot water and eventually I stopped shivering. We retired from the race and headed for Muskegon immediately after my retrieval, which was about 4 hours away.  Once I was warm it was clear I did not need medical attention.  I consider myself a very lucky man and I will forever be grateful to the crew and my good friends on Meridian X for being able to recover from the squall and get back to the same general area in which I was lost. It certainly was not an easy task.

July 19th, 2017

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The latest edition to the FAST40+ Class is the Ker designed Signal 8. The boat no stranger to racing in European waters, having competed in the boat at Cowes Week and Cork Week in 2012. Signal 8 was shipped to the UK earlier this year and is undergoing final modifications by John Corby in Cowes, as directed by Ker Yacht Design.

The project to Jason Ker’s designs and McConaghy’s build, changed the keel to a lighter deeper one last summer, and extended the bowsprit to allow bigger kites. They also increased the mainsail girths about as far as they could practically go. That made the boat quite a bit quicker, but never really got enough wind in Hong Kong to really light her up. She was shipped off to Genoa and then on to Southampton after a short spell at Yacht Club Italiano, thanks to Eddie Warden Owen and Chico Isenburg.

They pulled the trigger on the final mods we had already discussed with Jason Ker: a transom scoop and a rocker reduction. Can Ergun and his guys at CSC Composites in Turkey made the main pieces, and John Corby did the building in Cowes in his usual awesome way. Andy Pilcher and Richard Bouzaid at Doyle Sails NZ have made us some big new jibs to go with the other big gear they’d made, so they are basically as powered up as they can get.

 

July 18th, 2017

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The Environment

Not to worry, Putin’s Cockholster will forgive the fucking Russians….

The Permanent Court of Arbitration has ordered the Russian government to pay the Netherlands $6 million in damages for seizing a Dutch-flagged vessel in international waters. The panel had already ruled that Russia had violated UNCLOS when its agents boarded the ship without the permission of the flag state. Russia maintains that as the ship was within its EEZ, it was within its rights to act to defend its economic interests, even though the vessel was outside Russian territorial seas.

The vessel, the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, was involved in a protest in September 2013 in which activists attempted to climb onto Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya platform in the Pechora Sea, about 30 nm off the Arctic coast of Siberia. The confrontation escalated, and Russian federal security officers boarded the Sunrise, seized the vessel and arrested 30 members of her crew. The activists were held until November, and the vessel was detained until the following June. Greenpeace said that she showed signs of damage when she was returned.

The court awarded the Netherlands compensation of $5.5 million for wrongful arrest and material damage, plus an additional $740,000 for costs incurred by the Dutch government. Greenpeace told Reuters that it expects that the Dutch government will pass on any funds paid in connection with the judgement. Read on.

 

July 18th, 2017

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A Great Lakes Videographer joined our crew to capture the essence of amateur racing crew and gave a great look into our team – Knee Deep!

 

July 18th, 2017

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UPDATED at 5 p.m.: A 10-year-old boy was killed after he was struck by a boat propeller during a sailing lesson in the vicinity of Centerport Yacht Club on Tuesday afternoon, police say.

According to authorities, the boy was among three students participating in a sailing lesson when the boat was intentionally capsized as part of the lesson around 2:30 p.m. All boys were wearing life jackets during the exercise.

Two of the students remained on the boat while the 10-year-old boy was in the water during the exercise, police say. The instructor, who was in a Zodiac boat, which is an inflatable boat, pulled the boy from the water into his boat. The boy then fell out of the Zodiac and was struck by the boat’s propeller, police say. – Read on.

Thread here.

 

July 18th, 2017

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Very cool to see the new Black Jack is the old (relatively) 100′ Alfa Romeo. Photo thanks to Andrea Francolini.

 

July 18th, 2017

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High Priority 2 update from the Chicago-Mac race: The crew is currently on the road (with the boat trailer) to Grandhaven Marina where a recovery vessel is waiting. We were removed from the Coast Guard Cutter Biscayne Bay Sunday afternoon via a small boat out of the Frankford CG base. A vehicle was waiting to transport us to the Skippers cottage in Pellston MI. The plan today is to find the boat, flip her back over, get the sails down, pump the water out and tow her back to the ramp. Hopefully she has minimal damage .

What happened

We were aware of the approaching frontal system. The plan was to get north on the lake as fast as we could prior to the forecasted northerly wind shift which would result in upwind sailing. Throughout the day the winds were veering (rotating clockwise) we were plotting and sailing the clockwise rotation. As the evening progressed the wind and waves continued to increase. We were on port tack with main sail, jib and spinnaker, flying along at 14-16 knots. At 11:45 pm I checked our location and the weather radar via gps. The rest of the crew were on the port pontoon (rail) David holding the flashlight on the spinnaker , Jeramy on the tiller (with extension) and Chris for high side weight. We were in good wind right were we wanted to be, the winds throughout the evening had gradually veered at a steady rate, we were approaching the backside of the frontal system, the heavy weather and lightening were still over the land to the west and not a potential threat. I returned to the low side (starboard after beam) my spinnaker trimming station. Due to the increasing wind speed and now 16 knots of boat speed I was on mental alert to ease sails if need be.

At 12pm without warning we were hit with a 40 knot gust from the east. This gust blew the spinnaker, main and jib on to starboard tack. Jeramy reacted quickly and turned up in to the new breeze and I released the spinnaker sheet, jumped in the cockpit released the main and jib sail. Jeramy had so much pressure on the tiller trying to keep the boat under control the wooden portion of the tiller separated from the aluminum connection point to the rudder. We were now abeam the new wind and up right. Everyone calmly made there way to the cockpit were we discussed what actions to take next.

The wind was still a steady 30 knots with higher gusts. The problems for us the spinnaker was blown out and wrapped around the forestay. The tiller was usable via the short aluminum arm that was still attached to the rudder. The plan was for me to go to the low side of the boat retrieve the port side spinnaker sheet. Dave was to release the spinnaker halyard ( the line that hoists the sail) Jeramy was back on the tiller stub and Chris was standing by in the cockpit to assist with the spinnaker sheet as soon as I retrieved it. Chris asked if I wanted a tether ( a 6 foot nylon strap that attaches me to the boat) I did not want to go below to put the tether on or be connected to the boat in the event we capsized so my response was no.

At the time I felt the best action was to first apply a small amount of trim to the main (my thoughts were to get the boat sailing again and under control) retrieve the port side jib sheet as it was violently flying around in a whipping action, so I went out on the port side net retrieved the line and secured it back on the winch with light trim on the jib. Next I released the spintac (line connecting the bottom of the spinnakers leading edge of the sail to the bowsprit. The released tac line under a heavy load , it flew threw the rope clutch and the sail connection at the tac point was now free. Next retrieve the spinnaker sheet (line) hand it to Chris to put on a winch.

Ok done, now Dave released the spinnaker rope clutch Chris and I attempted to bring in the sail. The wind was still howling, waves and spray splashing over the boat. Im out on the net laying on my back pulling on the spinnaker sheet as Chris was pulling the sheet now around the winch. Jeramy was on the tiller stub attempting to keep the boat under control and sailing. The next thing I saw and heard was David saying we’re going over. I tried to get to my feet as we went over and ended up on my back in the water port side stern. Under water bracing for potential impact from above. Ok all good , swim to the surface. Jeramy was on the surface already calling our names. I was the fist to respond followed by Chris but no David.

A few seconds of concern and the reality he may be under the boat sunk in. Another anxious call from Chris and David emerged from under the boat! A little bloody from a small head and hand laceration but alive. We all climb up on nets between hulls. Ok all good we’re all safe! Cris an I climb up and straddle the center hull while David and Jeremy stand on the support beams, one on the port side one on starboard. Prior to casting off from the Chicago docks we had a crew safety briefing .

The flares, and survival tools/kit are accessible via a compartment either inside the hull in the event a person is trapped in the air bubble inside or in our case sitting on the overturned hull. Jeramy being on the port side beam (access port location) unscrews the port hole and retrieves the flares, handheld VHF radio and 2 handheld GPS. He hands me a parachute flare , I pull the firing pin , nothing! Ok let’s re-read the instructions. Jeramy then ignites a successful launch. The flare flies high lighting up the night sky. ( we later learned the Coast Guard saw our flare 25 miles away, but thought it might be the the guy that fell overboard during the same wind shift that overturned us).

We still had not made radio contact with anyone but we’re broadcasting Mayday Mayday. Jeramy hands me another parachute flare, I open and fire the second. Another successful launch. We are waiting for a radio response to out broadcasts , nothing for 30 minutes. David continues to announce our position and situation. “Mayday Mayday S/V High Priority 2, 90 miles north of Chicago, center of the lake, we’ve capsized and are in need of assistance”. Waiting. We decided to light a hand held flare, unscrew the cap pull the igniter string , fire! (Side note after the handheld flare burns out its glowing red hot, it’s warmth when you’re wet and cold). Finally the sailboat Dark Horse responds to our emergency broadcasts. All crew are reported ok and Dark Horse is sailing to our location. DH acting as go between contacts CG cutter Biscayne Bay. (Our handheld VHF does not have the range that a mast head antenna has).

A couple other sailboats arrive at our location. All offering assistance but the sea state was not favorable for crew transfer (4-5 ft waves and high winds). We are now about an hour in since the capsize. Crew moral was as good as can be expected. Everyone was calm, not complaining, we were all focused on our situation. I light another hand held flare to brighten our location and give an overview as to our situation and means of rescue.

We hear a helicopter inbound to our location, coast guard doing a position and observation run. We are informed the Cutter Biscayne Bay is in route to our location and will arrive in approximately 20 minutes . Jeremy and David are still standing of the aft beam when a higher than normal wave tosses the boat around. We all grab for each other and pull them up on the center hull , now all four of us are straddling the center hull. With the add weight we all shimmy towards the bow to help balance the boat. Rescue is on the way we just have to try and stay warm and wait. Right about 2 hours after the capsize we see a small coast guard zodiac in bound to our location. The zodiac skipper makes several attempts approaching the over turned trimaran but do to the sea state are unsuccessful. We are directing him to run the boat up aft between the starboard pontoon and main hull. A couple attempts and we transfer Jeramy, another approach attempt David is on. I’m next then Chris. All good we are know 7 on a small zodiac pounding back to the 104 ft cutter.

Spray and waves are washing over us as we power towards the cutter, but all is good. No injuries, no lost crew, life is good. Next challenge ; transferring from the zodiac to the 104 ft cutter now towering above us. The sea state is anything but cooperative . Zodiac skipper and cutter Captain are in radio contact discussing us coming along side. The cutter drops a connection point and accelerates as we power up along side. Zodiac bow attachment made, rope ladder lowered. Zodiac skipper is calling for overhead light. David is first up the swaying rope ladder, five rungs and he’s on deck . Jeramy next followed by myself then Chris.

All good as we step onboard we’re whisked in to the ships galley were blankets, dry cloths and hot coffee are waiting. Since climbing up on the capsized boat I’d been replaying the incident over and over in my head. I’d been trying to do what I had hoped would save the boat , but it didn’t . I was very disappoint . I kept thinking should I have done this should I have done that. From the time we took the initial gust until we capsized was a couple minutes. I was trying to act quickly and felt under the current conditions the best thing to do was try and get what was left of the spinnaker down. Maybe I should have gone forward and called for the jib to be released and lowered, maybe I should have tried to lower the main and get a reef in. Given the wind speed I’m not sure the main sail would come down. Maybe I should have tried. All things to consider next time.

More of the story later; our recovery efforts from the Michigan side of the lake did not go as planned today as the boat drifted west 20 miles out from Milwaukee WI. apposed to a 60 mile run from the Michigan side. Currently we’re driving 6 hours to Milwaukee for an Italian dinner, hotel and hopefully a successful righting of the boat tomorrow. Thread.

 

July 18th, 2017

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Our friend Zack Downing is getting ready to sail the Moth Worlds in Malcesine, Italy and dent this pic from the venue. Over 240 boats are signed up and it is sure to be wild! Zack will be sending us daily reports. Go the Zack!

 

July 17th, 2017

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Big Pimpin’

As the inventors of the revolutionary Stratis membrane technology, Doyle Sails are at it again with another badass breakthrough in sail technology.  The Doyle team have launched a product known as the Cable-less Code Zero sail in which an uninterrupted lens of uni-directional fibres designed in the luff of the sail takes the load from the tack all the way to the head. This advancement will give the ability to ease the tack up effortlessly and get more luff projection for deeper angles – more range, lighter weight and less total cost.

The secret behind the concept is that the load is taken along the sails natural load path instead of requiring the many tons of cable tension to try and keep the luff tight. In the cable-less code zero the luff is pushed to windward creating a far straighter luff for a fraction of the load, eating up crazy rule required mid-girth and allowing the luff to be eased and flown for deeper angles.  When it comes time to furl the sail away the band of ‘unis’ down the luff allows for a quick and easy ‘bottom up’ furl.  

Perfect application for the racing and cruising market as it alleviates the hassle of torsion cables. The kind of ‘no strings attached’ relationship every sailor wishes they were in…

For more information stay tuned: www.doylesails.co.nz  or contact: [email protected]

 

July 17th, 2017

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Another record has fallen and this one is huge. And not surprisingly, set by a Frenchman. What’s in the water over there that produces these amazing offshore sailors? Last Tuesday Thomas Coville set off from New York in an attempt to break the single-handed Transatlantic record; eastbound. Unlike his fellow countryman Francis Joyon (who set a new Transatlantic record last week) Coville waited for the perfect weather window and when his team deemed it right he took off like a slingshot with the hope of a crossing in under five days.

Joyon’s time was just over five days. After 4 days, 11 hours, 10 minutes and 23 seconds Coville, aboard his massive trimaran Sodebo, passed Lizard Point on the west coast of England to claim the new record. An online video shows him communicating with the person posted to record the moment he crossed the imaginary line. The observer gives him his time and Coville bursts into tears. Can you imagine the emotion and fatigue that he must have experienced at that moment? Coville mentioned later that he had slept a total of four hours since leaving New York. “These boats are very powerful and we are on a razor’s edge the whole way,” Coville said, in somewhat of an understatement. His average speed was 28.35 knots; average. It’s no wonder he didn’t sleep.

I don’t think I need to gush on about what an accomplishment this is. I think you, dear reader, can only agree that it’s quite amazing. Instead want to tell you about Sodebo, the company that has sponsored Coville for the last 18 years. Sodebo is a French company that makes ready-to-eat foods such as frozen pizza, burgers, that sort of thing. It was founded in 1973 by a husband and wife team who, in the 90s when the company was making mostly just frozen pizza, decided that they wanted to grow their business by getting into the sailing space.  Sailing is big in France and the founders wanted to capitalize on that interest.

They put out a notice that they were going to sponsor a sailor and asked for people to send their in resume for consideration. I don’t know how many people applied but they settled on Thomas Coville. He was young, talented, a great communicator and (I am sure that this played a part in his selection) he was extremely good looking. A perfect package to wrap your brand around.

 The first race Coville won for his new sponsor was the Transat Jacques Vabre in 1999. The TJV is a double-handed race that goes from France to variously the Caribbean or points in South America. This was all in preparation for the 2000/01 Vendée Globe in which Coville came 6th.

I won’t list all of his accomplishments other than to say that he was aboard Groupama when they won the Volvo Ocean Race, he was the first sailor to cover more than 700 nautical miles in a 24-hour period, and he currently holds the fastest solo, non-stop circumnavigation. That lap of the planet was in an incredible 49 days, 3 hours, 7 minutes and 38 seconds.

 You have to wonder what’s next and if any of these very impressive records can be beaten. He is 49 years old and as most of us know, the bones start to creak a little once the big 50 is in the rearview mirror.  But then his biggest record setting rival, Francis Joyon, is 61 and still cranking so who knows? And what of that small frozen pizza company, the one whose founders decided to hitch their wagon to sailing? It’s now a massive multi-million dollar company.

Isn’t it about time some American companies saw the value in sailing and the value in the talent of some of our sailors and hitched up their wagon? I think so. Sailing is no longer a sport for the one percenters. It’s a global marketing opportunity that can reach the masses. So what about it, Jimmy Dean?

– Brian Hancock

 

July 17th, 2017

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