Saturday, January 18, 2020

96 YEARS LATER: A NEW FASTNET RACE

18 January 2020: Wow! January's 3/4 done and we are still trying to catch up! So, with the northern part of the United States enjoying cold and snow and all the nasty stuff that accompanies January weather, we thought a look to the future i.e. this coming summer might be in order.

action and rescue 1979 Fastnet Race

The 1979 Fastnet Race went into the history books as one of the deadliest offshore races ever when the unforecast storm whipped through the fleet, bringing huge seas, 75kts winds and disaster to many.

Since then, while there have been many  exciting Fastnet Races, none have rivaled the '79 horror. Last year, the race committee announced that the race (run in odd years) would finish in Cherbourg France instead of the traditional (since 1925) port of Plymouth, England. In response to this apparently unpopular modification, a new race has been announced. From British sailing magazine, Yachting World:

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The Lonely Rock, a race mirroring the classic Fastnet Race route starting from the Isle of Wight and finishing in Plymouth, has been launched by the Royal Western Yacht Club
A new race to the Fastnet Rock and back has been launched by the Royal Western Yacht Club of England in Plymouth to bring a classic format offshore race back to its home city.

The event was created in reaction to the controversial announcement by the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) last year that the two next Rolex Fastnet Races in 2021 and 2023 will finish in Cherbourg, a course it says was chosen to allow the event to accommodate larger numbers of competitors.

The Lonely Rock Race will start from Ryde on the Isle of Wight and go out to the Fastnet lighthouse off the south-west corner of Ireland before returning to a finish in Plymouth. It mirrors the traditional 600-mile course of the 95-year-old Fastnet Race and will also run every two years, but take place in the years between the RORC’s biennial Rolex Fastnet Race.



The first Lonely Rock Race will start this year on 16 August.
The RORC’s decision to move the finish port to France was highly controversial. Many previous competitors feel that it changes the DNA of this classic British offshore race, and the decision was met with dismay in Plymouth, where the race has traditionally finished on every edition since its founding in 1925.
The Royal Western YC’s event seeks to redress this by creating an alternative format that brings it back to the club’s home city.



Plymouth has long been associated with major offshore and short-handed races. Beginning in 1960, the Royal Western ran the OSTAR solo transatlantic race and, from 1966, the once star-studded Two-Handed Round Britain & Ireland Races. It still runs the OSTAR for yachts up to 60ft, but sold the rights to the event for larger yachts such as IMOCA 60s and big multihulls. What became known as The Transat has since also been moved from Plymouth to France, and will begin from Brest in May.

Plymouth also lost out to a French bidder for the 2018 Golden Globe Race, after organisers said they did not have sufficient support from local council and businesses.

The club will have been eyeing the numbers attracted to the Rolex Fastnet Race which, in the last few editions, has sold out online in minutes. Organisers say they believe the Lonely Rock Race will be a sell-out too.  It is open to monohulls and multihulls between 30ft and 60ft. A Notice of Race is to be published shortly and more information is available from the RWYC.
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So, now you offshore guys can race every year in a "Fastnet Race" - or every other year, and select whether you want to sail to France or stay in England. Being a traditionalist, we would prefer the new Lonely Rock Race, keeping the Fastnet experience a completely British undertaking.

See, we don't only write about shipwrecks and underwater adventures!

Until next time,
                                         Fair Winds, 
                                            Old Salt







 

Friday, January 10, 2020

A ROWBOAT IN THE DRAKE PASSAGE

10 January 2020: One has to ask "why?" Why would perfectly sane (presumably) men row a boat across one of the most dangerous strips of water on the planet? The Drake Passage has been the stuff of legends and horror stories ever since men went to sea in ships. If one looks at a map of that part of the world, one would see there is NO land all the way around the globe between the southern tip of South America and Antarctica. (And no, not Australia; that body of land is north of where we're talking here.) Yes, other people have actually rowed across the Atlantic Ocean; no mean feat, but when it comes to really dangerous water, the Southern Ocean wins hands down. From the Associated Press:
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — As freezing water thrashed their rowboat in some of the most treacherous waters in the world, six men fought for 13 days to make history, becoming the first people to traverse the infamous Drake Passage with nothing other than sheer manpower.

 They dodged icebergs, held their breaths as giant whales breached near their small boat and rode building-sized waves while rowing 24 hours a day toward Antarctica.
The team of men from four countries finished crossing the Drake Passage on Wednesday in just under two weeks after pushing off from the southern tip of South America.
“This is a really big deal in Antarctic history to hear about this,” said Wayne Ranney, a Flagstaff, Arizona-based geologist who has led expeditions to Antarctica and crossed the Drake Passage in motorized vessels more than 50 times. “One hundred percent of their progress was done with those 12 arms for 600 (nautical) miles. That’s just phenomenal. I can’t even imagine.”
Besides the threat to their lives, the men labored under grueling conditions. Their 29-foot (9-meter) rowboat, named the Ohana, had to be in constant motion to avoid capsizing. That meant three men would row for 90 minutes while the other three rested, still cold and wet.

“You’re rowing inside an open hold, 40-foot sea waves are splashing in your face, near-freezing water is splashing over the bow,” said 34-year-old Colin O’Brady of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, one of the six men on the boat.
“It was quite harrowing,” O’Brady told The Associated Press on Thursday in his first interview after the journey. “By the end, we all lost a good amount of weight and were delirious from the sleep deprivation.”
The men had to use a bucket to go to the bathroom. To rest, two men needed to lie shoulder to shoulder in a tiny space while a third would lay in a fetal position in an even smaller area.
“You’re curled up and jammed into a small space, trying to get a few winks of sleep before the alarm would go off and boom, you’re back at it again,” O’Brady said.
The toughest part for O’Brady’s fellow rower, Jamie Douglas-Hamilton of Edinburgh, Scotland, was the constant bombardment from the elements.
“We were hit by winds from every single direction ... and the seas down here are very violent — it’s the roughest ocean in the world,” the 38-year-old said. “We almost capsized many times, and the problem with that is the water is so cold that if you go in, you’ve probably got two to five minutes.”


Physically, Douglas-Hamilton said he fought crippling seasickness and numb hands and feet. At one point, a strap he had to wear around his ankles while rowing wore through his boots and cut into his skin all the way to the bone.
“It was absolute agony,” Douglas-Hamilton said.
The other men on the expedition were: Fiann Paul of Reykjavik, Iceland; Cameron Bellamy of Cape Town, South Africa; Andrew Towne of Grand Forks, North Dakota; and John Petersen of Oakland, California.
Paul, Douglas-Hamilton and Bellamy are record-breaking ocean rowers, Towne is a championship rower and has climbed the tallest mountain on every continent, and Petersen was a championship college rower.
In addition to storms and waves, the men dodged icebergs and whales that could easily have destroyed their small vessel. And then there were the mental challenges, especially during the night shift.
“At night we can’t see the waves as they roll and crash into us and we can’t see the horizon so there is no sense of progress,” O’Brady wrote on Instagram as he documented the journey. “It feels like being inside of a washing machine, blindfolded where time is standing still.”


Discovery documented the journey while following the men in a larger, motorized boat.
O’Brady’s wife, Jenna Besaw, was on the Discovery boat running logistics and watching her husband’s death-defying adventure.
“There have been some frightening, intense moments when our boat — a 120-foot-long boat — was lurching forward and up and over these massive waves, to see the rowboat hidden for minutes at a time was rather unnerving,” Besaw said.
The row across the Drake Passage is just the latest adventure for O’Brady, who became the first person to traverse Antarctica alone without help last year.
A book about that journey is coming out on Jan. 14, 12 years to the day since O’Brady was severely burned in a fire in Thailand. After the fire, he said he was told he would never walk again.
He said that prognosis has helped fuel each new adventure.
“I am dreaming of what’s next,” O’Brady said. “To be determined, but I don’t think my expedition life is over.”
For Douglas-Hamilton, the journey across the Drake Passage might be his last time setting a record, and he’s content with that.
“I would rank this as the toughest challenge any of us has ever done,” he said. “This was such a good one, I’d be happy leaving it at this. The memories from this one will last forever.” 
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So, I guess the adventure is the root reason for this - like climbing Mt. Everest (though of late, that has become a pretty crowded venue!); why? because it's there!  We here at Maritime Maunder are quite happy just to read about it.

Until next time,
                                 Fair Winds, 
                                        Old Salt
 

Friday, January 3, 2020

ARCHAEOLOGISTS MAY HAVE FOUND CORTES' ANCHOR

3 January 2020: Well, here we are again, and a most happy New Year to all of you out there who have been loyal readers over the years. We hope your year will be healthy, prosperous, and enjoyable. Maritime Maunder is now happily ensconced in winter quarters where it's at least warmer than up north. So all good on that front!

We are starting off the new year with a notice from Travel and Leisure Magazine which could be the start of further investigation into a 500 year old event. 

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Archaeologists May Have Found a Major Piece of Hernan Cortes' Ship Off the Gulf of Mexico
Anchors that may have belonged to the ships of Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés were found in the Mexican Gulf Coast, Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) announced on Monday.



The anchors, which archaeologists believe date back 500 years, were found off the coast of Villa Rica, just north of the port city of Veracruz. The timeline would fit perfectly with that of Cortés as records show he landed in Veracruz in April 1519.

The anchors were buried beneath at least 30 feet of sediment — and archaeologists believe there may be more artifacts nearby, although it is not guaranteed that the anchors belonged to Cortes’s fleet as another explorer showed up in the same area just after.


But it’s widely believed that Cortés sank his ships in that spot to stop dissident members of his army from defecting to Cuba.
“The Conquest of Mexico was a seminal event in human history, and these shipwrecks, if we can find them, will be symbols of the cultural collision that led to what is now the West, geopolitical and socially speaking,” marine archaeologist Frederick Hanselmann said in a statement.

Another anchor was found last year less than 1,000 feet away from the new discoveries. That anchor was determined to have been created between 1450 and 1530 from the wood of an oak tree that grows in northern Spain. Although neither of the most-recently found anchors contain wood, they’re made of a similar design. [after 500 years, it is unlikely that any wood could remain on the anchors -ed]
 
footprint of Cortes' fort in Villa Rico
 The anchors will be reburied in the sediment where they were found to preserve them. [would have been interesting to bring them up and preserve them for the public - ed]

This year (2019) marked the 500-year anniversary of Cortés’s invasion.
Point of Villa Rico where the fort was located
In honor of the milestone, Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador asked Spain to apologize to indigenous Mexicans for abuses committed during the conquest.










                                                  

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Should any more news of this discovery show up, we will try to bring it to you. 
So, until next time, once again, happy new year and we wish you 
                                
                                     Fair Winds,
                                             Old Salt