Outdoors, action, adventure

Category: Ocean racing

Breaching whale damages sailboat off Oregon

A sailboat participating in the Oregon International Offshore Race was struck by a breaching whale Thursday off the coast of Oregon. Thankfully, nobody aboard was injured.

The 38-foot vessel, ironically named L'Orca, was about a half-hour into the race from Astoria, Ore., to Victoria, Canada, when the whale breached and crushed the rigging and mast of the boat.

The sailing vessel L'Orca rests in the water of Astoria's West Basin pier after having its rigging and mast demolished by a breaching whale. "Our boat was moving at about nine knots over the water, and all of a sudden, about a few inches, maybe a foot off the starboard side, a whale came breaching out of the water," crew member Ryan Barnes of Portland, Ore., told the U.S. Coast Guard in a videotaped interview. "It looked to be a humpback whale, about 30 feet in length roughly; it hit the mast about halfway to three-quarters of the way up, and proceeded to fall forward and on the starboard side of the boat.

"The mast came down as well as the forestay and all the rigging, and our tow rail and all our life lines on the starboard side of the boat were demolished as well."

Barnes said that the vessel did suffer some cosmetic damage in addition to the broken mast and rigging, but the crew, including his father -- boat owner Jerry Barnes -- was in the cockpit at the time and no one was injured. A U.S. Coast Guard rescue vessel responded to the scene and escorted the damaged boat and its occupants back to Astoria.

Unlike a whale vs. sailboat incident off the coast of South Africa last year, no photos have yet surfaced.

And while it's uncertain what injuries the whale sustained, they were likely minor. It did, however, leave behind a small memento of the incident.

"We have some nice pieces of whale blubber as a souvenir and proof of what happened," Barnes said.

-- Kelly Burgess

Video: Ryan Barnes describes the whale breaching and striking his father's 38-foot sailboat, the L'Orca, during the Oregon International Offshore Race. Credit: Petty Officer 1st Class Shawn Eggert / U.S. Coast Guard via YouTube

Photo: The sailing vessel L'Orca at Astoria, Ore.'s West Basin pier after having its rigging and mast demolished by a breaching whale. Credit: Petty Officer 1st Class Shawn Eggert / U.S. Coast Guard

Jessica Watson survives collision, still wants to sail around the world alone

JessAustralian sailor Jessica Watson stated today on her blog: "I think it's fair to say that there aren't many people left that haven't heard about the incident on Tuesday night."

In case you missed it, Watson, aboard a 34-foot yacht on which she hopes to sail around the world, was involved in a collision with a 700-foot cargo freighter during what was supposed to be a 10-day test-run from Mooloolaba, Australia, to Sydney, Australia.

Fortunately, the 16-year-old, who aspires to become the youngest person to sail around the planet alone, was not injured. However, her vessel, Ella's Pink Lady, suffered damage to its rigging and hull and a broken mast. That is likely to delay her planned late-September departure.

Watson seemed unfazed during a press conference this week. In fact, she implied she's more determined and confident than ever because of the way she handled herself in the aftermath of the 2 a.m. collision.

"I won’t play it down, it was a pretty scary incident and it was great to actually know what to do," she said.

Precise details are not clear but the collision, which occurred in reasonably calm seas in a shipping lane as she was below deck with her navigation lights on, is under investigation by Australian authorities.

Meanwhile, the crash has underscored the danger associated with solo-sailing adventures and stirred renewed debate over whether 16 is simply too young to attempt such a daunting excursion.

Wrote Susan Hocking of Australia's Courier-Mail newspaper: "And it's that number that breaks me up. That number 16. Jessica Watson is a child. And right now, she is a child who desperately needs saving from herself and her choices and, let's get it out there, the family and friends -- Team Jessica -- who seem so hellbent on offering their support to a venture that should not be allowed to go ahead."

Thousand Oaks sailor Zac Sunderland and England's Mike Perham both were 16 when they set out -- and both recently completed their around-the-world journeys at 17. It's also worth noting that Sunderland's sister Abby, who turns 16 in October, is planning to leave on a nonstop circumnavigation aboard a 40-foot sailboat in November.

Presumably, she will pay special attention while traversing the shipping lanes.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Jessica Watson

Zac Sunderland sails home today after 13-month around-the-world voyage

Zac Sunderland inspects through long, brown hair the rigging on Intrepid in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Zac Sunderland is about to make history as the youngest person to have sailed around the world alone -- and the first person to accomplish that feat before turning 18.

Sunderland, 17, who departed Marina del Rey on June 14, 2008, is expected back in port, 13 months later, at 10 a.m. Pacific time.

There will be hundreds on hand to cheer and greet a teenager who courageously began this daunting task when he was 16 and celebrated Thanksgiving and, two days later, his 17th birthday while beating into a headwind off Madagascar in the Indian Ocean.

He enjoyed Costco spuds for Thanksgiving and a microwaveable cake for his birthday. And now, almost eight months later, he's about to enjoy a real party: a homecoming with friends and family who are sure to notice subtle changes in his personality and character.

"He left thinking he knew a lot about life. The difference now is, he does," said Laurence Sunderland, Zac's dad.

That may be, but as the mariner sees the U.S. mainland looming larger as he crosses the San Pedro Channel he's sure to experience strange feelings and maybe trepidation about reentering a world in which so many people reside and live such routine lives.

Zac said during a recent interview that one of the hardest things to deal with at sea was having no sense of normalcy and "never being anywhere at a certain time, always being someplace different."

Perhaps now the opposite will be true. How will he deal with the bustle of civilization after more than a year spent largely at sea? How will he handle living in a home full of siblings and parental rules and traffic and long lines in stores?

Continue reading »

Zac Sunderland nears Panama as around-the-world journey winds down

Zac Sunderland with new friends Joseph and Mary in Granada.

My guess is that Zac Sunderland, 17, who is making friends all over the world as he sails around the planet on his 36-foot boat, will receive a haircut at some point before cruising into his home port in Marina del Rey in a few weeks.

That's because the adventurer from Thousand Oaks (pictured, at center) will receive a hearty greeting from fans and media after becoming either the youngest person or the youngest American to sail alone around the world. (England's Mike Perham, who is slightly younger than Zac, is sailing around the world aboard a longer and faster racing yacht, and is presently off New Zealand.)

Zac, who left Marina del Rey last June, recently crossed the Atlantic (4,728 miles) and has departed Grenada in the Caribbean. He's sailing toward Panama and from there will begin an uphill journey to Southern California that will span 2,970 miles. He needs to keep moving and will require the good graces of Mother Nature if he's to succeed because the hurricane season in the Eastern Pacific begins in less than three weeks.

Zac pulling out of St. George's Bay, en route to Panama.

But he's plodding forth aboard the Intrepid with his usual upbeat attitude, relishing stops in exotic ports. Of his latest stop, he wrote in his blog: "The people of Grenada have to be one of the highlights of my stay there for sure. I am always amazed by the kindness and generosity of total strangers where ever I go."

That blog post was titled, "Flying along." Here's hoping for more such titled posts and for a delayed start to the hurricane season.

-- Pete Thomas

Photos: Zac Sunderland, top, with new friends Joseph and Mary in Granada, and Zac pulling out of St. George's Bay, en route to Panama. Courtesy of Zac Sunderland

Mexico's drug war won't stop Newport to Ensenada sailing race

Spectators watch the start of last year's Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race from Inspiration Point in Corona Del Mar.

Sailors in the festive armada that is the annual Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race will not be concerned about themselves, because Mexico's bloody drug war is being waged on land.

But what about family and friends who want to drive to Ensenada and greet the 187 entrants (down considerably from past years)?

They'll have to pass briefly through Tijuana and Rosarito Beach to reach the port city for the conclusion of a race that begins April 24. Tijuana has been a central theater for drug war violence, though violence has not been directed at tourists. Rosarito Beach and Ensenada also have experienced drug-related violence.

Police have promised "beefed-up" security, according to a news release issued by race organizers. "The Mexican authorities completely understand the concerns," said Jerry Montgomery, Newport Ocean Sailing Assn. commodore. "To them, it's a larger issue than just our race because of the affect on tourism year-round. But because of the race's high profile they are doing everything within their power to ensure the experience will be a safe one."

Ensenada city officials say they'll significantly add to the police presence during race weekend. Those worried about driving down can spend $60 for a round-trip journey aboard a Bajarama luxury bus. The buses depart Newport Beach and San Diego April 24 and return April 26. Interested tourists can book by calling (714) 557-5100, ext. 16, or via email at colby@rodheim-marketing.com.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Spectators watch the start of last year's Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race from Inspiration Point in Corona Del Mar. Credit: Glenn Koenig/Los Angeles Times

Zac Sunderland, sailing alone around the world, suddenly pressed for time

Zac Sunderland in Cape Town, South Africa.

Where in the world is Zac Sunderland?

Unfortunately, the 17-year-old from Thousand Oaks has been stuck in St. Helena, an island in the South Atlantic, for more than two weeks, trying to complete repairs and get on with an endeavor that now appears in jeopardy.

Sunderland set out from Marina del Rey last June intent on becoming the youngest sailor to circumnavigate the globe. During his voyage, a slightly younger sailor from England embarked upon a similar quest in a larger, faster boat, and threatens to upstage his Yankee counterpart.

More frustrating for Zac, as he strives to fix a mysterious engine problem and repair his self-steering unit, is that time suddenly is of the essence. His journey was so carefree not long ago, featuring lengthy stops in exotic ports.

Now Zac must find a sturdy wind and stick to the task at hand. He'll sail more than 4,000 miles across the Atlantic and into the Caribbean. Ultimately, he'll pass through through the Panama canal and embark upon a 2,970-mile uphill journey to Southern California.

He must accomplish this by June, in his 36-foot Islander named Intrepid, because that marks the beginning of hurricane season in the eastern Pacific.

Continue reading »

Zac Sunderland or Mike Perham: Which teen sailor will be first around world?

Zac Sunderland and Mike Perham (right) meet in Cape Town aboard Mike's 50-foot racing yacht.

A lot has been written here about Zac Sunderland, 17, who is currently sailing across the Atlantic in pursuit of a quest to become the youngest person to solo-circumnavigate the planet.

It also has been reported that England's Mike Perham, 16 and five months younger than Zac, is aspiring to beat Zac around the world in a much larger, faster boat.

Zac, who lives in Thousand Oaks, will soon leave Cape Town, headed west in his 36-foot Islander. Mike is also in Cape Town, soon to be sailing east aboard his 50-foot racing yacht. At the outset, many predicted Mike would easily beat Zac around the world. That's no longer a certainty and, in fact, is far from one.

In a Yachting World blog, Elaine Bunting writes of Perham, "As we reported in our January issue, he had very limited previous experience sailing this super-powerful but rather tired boat, which was a very ambitious choice for someone with comparatively little ocean experience."

Zac has piloted his boat, Intrepid, through long stretches of rough seas and his most difficult legs, presumably, are behind him.

Continue reading »

Zac Sunderland, who is sailing around the world, prepares to cross Atlantic

Zac Sunderland snaps a self-portrait.

Where in the world is Zac Sunderland?

The Thousand Oaks adventure sailor is still in Cape Town, South Africa, where he has been living it up since safely rounding the Cape of Good Hope two weeks ago.

But the parties, concerts and many friends the 17-year-old has made must be left behind, as it's time to resume his unlikely quest to become the youngest person to solo-circumnavigate the planet.

(Zac, it should be pointed out, has also been working extremely hard getting his boat in shape and outfitted for the remainder for his voyage.)

Unlikely, because England's Mike Perham, who is slightly younger than Zac, is attempting the same feat aboard a much larger, faster boat.

Interestingly, both are in Cape Town, though Zac is headed west and Perham east. They met for lunch at the local yacht club, and that has been the extent of their relationship.

"He's a nice guy, but he's more like a sailor you see in the yacht clubs, doing everything by the book," Zac said in an interview this morning. "And I'm more like a thrill seeker who just goes out and does it."

Said Perham in his blog:

"Once berthed in the Royal Cape Yacht Club (with its fantastic facilities) it was time to meet Zac Sunderland and his Dad.

Continue reading »

Sailor Zac Sunderland gives thanks, turns 17 alone in Indian Ocean

Zac Sunderland relaxes in Mauritius before embarking for Durban, South Africa.

Did you enjoy a warm and cozy Thanksgiving with family, gorging yourself?

Zac Sunderland did not. The 16-year-old from Thousand Oaks was aboard Intrepid, his 36-foot sailboat, eating Costco spuds while sailing into a headwind off Madagascar, pointed toward Durban, South Africa.

If that isn't a sad story, two days later he turned 17, alone, not terribly far south of a red-hot pirate zone, celebrating by snacking on a just-add-water microwavable cake and opening presents stuffed in a box and stowed on his vessel long beforehand by family and friends.

"Zac is well and entering the danger zone as far as weather off of Africa," Marianne Sunderland, his mother, says. "So far he has had pretty light winds and so though he's not making great progress, he is happy to not be getting his butt kicked."

That is the best birthday gift of all, as the danger zone Marianne speaks of is notorious for cyclones beginning about this time of year.

Continue reading »

Zac Sunderland clear of pirate zone but faces daunting sail to Africa

Zac Sunderland atop his mast while in port at Mauritius.

Zac Sunderland is suffering from the flu in Mauritius while working feverishly to repair his  36-foot sailboat so he can begin his 1,500-mile sail to Durban, South Africa.

Not too far to the north, also in the Indian Ocean off Somalia, pirates are out of control. Earlier this week, an Indian warship blew up a suspected pirate vessel off the Horn of Africa.

Sunderland, 16, before embarking on his solo-circumnavigation attempt from Marina del Rey last June, had originally considered sailing through the Suez Canal, which would have required passing directly through the most dangerous pirate-infested waters.

Still, the Thousand Oaks teen had better stow his Jack Sparrow costume because authorities are not joking around when it comes to piracy.

And nor will the seas be placid between Mauritius and Durban.

Marianne Sunderland, also suffering from the flu, has been helping maintain her son's blog and reports:

"There is, reportedly, a storm that lives off of the southern tip of Madagascar. Zac's job will be to stay far enough south of Madagascar to avoid this storm without going too far and getting blown south of Durban and needing to beat to get into port."

Continue reading »

Solo-sailor Zac Sunderland look out: The British are coming!

Zac Sunderland, aboard his 36-foot sailboat in Mauritius, has not yet commented about a fellow 16-year-old trying to get around the world before he does.

Zac Sunderland, who is trying to become the youngest person to solo-sail around the world, can forget about pirates.

The most tangible threat to his endeavor is another 16-year-old, who has a larger, faster boat and is intent, as a BBC news story reported, to "steal the record from the American's grasp."

England's Michael Perham, who at 14 sailed alone across the Atlantic, left Saturday aboard a sleek 50-foot racing yacht and plans on completing his journey sometime next May, without stopping.

Speaking from aboard his vessel, Perham told the BBC: "I really want to get round the world. At the same time I have the aim to get the record."

Sunderland, a Thousand Oaks teenager who is taking his time aboard an older, slower 36-foot boat, is currently halfway around the world in Mauritius.

Sunderland, whose operation is not as well financed, is making stops in exotic locales and enjoying that part of his adventure as much as the sailing. He is not scheduled to complete his journey till around June 2009.

Sunderland will soon set out to round South Africa's Cape of Good Hope. He has not yet commented on the emergence of a rival, though he has promised to do so this week on his blog.

Both young men are to be commended on their bravery, potential records notwithstanding.

--Pete Thomas

Photo: Zac Sunderland, aboard his 36-foot sailboat in Mauritius, has not yet commented about a fellow 16-year-old trying to get around the world before he does. Credit: Jen Edney

Ericsson 4 wins first leg of Volvo Ocean Race


Skipper Torben Grael and Ericsson Racing Team, aboard Ericsson 4, pulled into Cape Town, South Africa, this morning as winners of the first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race around the world.

The vessel covered the 6,500-mile leg, from Alicante, Spain, in 21 days, 17 hours and 54 minutes. "We feel very good about it," said Grael, a Brazilian who heads an international crew. "But there's a lot of race to go. This is just the beginning."

High points included leading the fleet through the Straits of Gibraltar alongside Ericsson 3, placing second at the scoring gate at Fernando de Noronha but setting a world 24-hour speed record of 602.66 nautical miles (pending ratification) to claim the lead.

Low points were having to leave crewman Tony Mutter at the Cape Verde Islands because of an infected knee, and a shorthanded sail through the Doldrums, which forced the crew to play catch-up.

"The hardest moment was entering the Doldrums and deciding to take a hit on mileage to set up for a westerly pass," said Jules Salter, the navigator. "Obviously, there's always something going on in the race."

At one point, the vessel was so close to the U.S. entry Puma that they were able to do live, two-boat testing, changing sail configurations or trimming angles to gauge speed differences.

The Nordic crew on Ericsson 3 also is gunning for a podium finish. At last position report, Capt. Anders Lewander's crew was 347 miles from the finish and 28 miles ahead of Green Dragon.

The second leg of the eight-team race is from Cape Town to Cochin, India.

Photo: Ericsson 4 and its international crew receive a sunrise escort into Cape Town, South Africa, as winners of the first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race around the world.
Credit: Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race


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Outposts' primary contributor is Kelly Burgess.