The Maritime Report: We're back!

The Maritime Report: We're back!

Dave Bloch

Artemis Racing's crew near the stern of their AC72, Big Blue, during an August 6, 2013 Louis Vuitton race. Photo by Dave Bloch.

It has been a long hiatus for your Maritime Report here on The Alamedan. Although people do keep on sailing year round here in the Bay Area, events and happenings of interest to non-sailors slow way down in the winter. Unlike the summertime when a boat owner can be 97 percent certain (according to the U.S. Coast Guard) that afternoon winds will blow in from the Golden Gate every afternoon, our winter weather is far less predictable. Even though we've had one of the warmest and driest winters on record, there was not enough assurance of a nice bay breeze for infrequent sailors to take the chance of coming to town to take their boat out.

Things are perking up as you read this "Spring Equinox" edition! Yacht clubs have finished their "midwinters" series of races on our estuary and are starting the spring evening competitions. Opening Day on the Bay is not until April 27, but plans for that huge annual event are well underway.

AMERICA'S CUP 2017?

Things have been very quiet around the 35th America's Cup event. Oracle Team USA, which as AC34 winner has the right to choose the location, format, and most other things about the next event, has let San Francisco and the world know it is considering other locations. San Francisco has made its interest in hosting AC35 very clear; it is also clear that the city will not be putting public money at stake anywhere near the level done for the last event.

A recent article on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle's sports section has Larry Ellison discussing an international series using the 45-foot catamarans which would determine the teams entering the Louis Vuitton Cup (a.k.a. the America's Cup Challenger Series). These are the same boats that were used in the World Series races in 2011, 2012 and 2013, as well as for the very exciting Red Bull Youth America's Cup held here last summer. Although the boats are the same, actually using these races as a filter to select the challengers would be very different. Ellison also spoke of the challenger and final America's Cup events being done with the to-be-designed AC60, a smaller and safer version of last year's AC72.

That same article also points to Hawaii as the most likely choice for 2017, but most of the opinions I've read (and, although learned, opinions are all they are) see that as posturing to pressure San Francisco to up the ante.

The Alameda America's Cup Ad Hoc Committee (on which I serve) will meet on the evening of April 3 to discuss the situation so far. Alameda has informed all the known possible teams of our interest in providing them services should the next event come back to the bay.

And here's some good news: Artemis Racing, still very much at home in their hangar at Alameda Point, has had their two AC45s out on the water lately! It will be very exciting to see those boats out and flying around once again.

AN INSPIRATIONAL SAILOR

Among the biggest races of the year is the semi-annual Pacific Cup from San Francisco to Hawaii this July. The Pac Cup always has a large contingent of boats from Alameda, and entrants from up and down the coast often dock here for the preparatory weeks before the big race.

This week I was forwarded an e-mail from Hiro Iwamoto, a Japanese sailor hoping to get a crew spot for the Pac Cup. Hiro is one of the best racing sailors I've met in Alameda; he also happens to be blind. Hiro sails in sight-impaired regattas around the world, and I met him at the 2010 and 2012 California Invitational Blind Sailing Regattas held at Island Yacht Club.

Hiro has a long-time dream of sailing across the Pacific. He and a friend attempted that last year, but were struck by a whale! I'm going to let him tell the story:

After the collision with a whale, I was so calm and directed Shinbo, my sailing partner to put liferaft on while I was in the cabin. (S)eawater was almost my knee level, going to bow put hand into the water, took the floor board off to take 2 gallon of drinking water and took an emergency bag contained a handy gps, satellite phone, vhf, list of phone numbers, and put them into the cockpit, and climbed up to cockpit without steps took off to turn on the bilge pump. I sat down back of the boat, put my feet on lifecraft, checking the best timing to transfer myself into the raft since waves were 12 to 15 feet. Emotionally up and down while I was in the raft for ten hours.

Hiro has been dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder since the accident, but he still wants to get back on the ocean. His crew request is being forward to the racing mailing lists of several area clubs; I personally hope he finds a slot.