Sunday, December 30, 2007

2008 Canadian Youth Sailing Team Representation

From the CYA website - Ralph, Montreal Sailing

"Caroline Morgan (Westmount, QC)
Caroline’s parents were involved in a lot of racing when she was little girl and thus spent a lot of time around boats. She started sailing in her club's junior sailing program when she was the age of 7. Once Caroline finished her White Sail levels, she joined the optimist race team. Once she outgrew optimists, she moved on to Bytes for a total of 3 years. Last year was her first year sailing and racing Radial. Caroline placed 5th overall at the CYA Youth National Championships. When she’s not sailing, she enjoys skiing and snowboarding, cross country skiing, running, reading, and traveling.

"Vanessa Dallaire-Lagace (Quebec, QC)
Vanessa’s parents have always owned a keelboat. When she was 9 years old, they signed her up for an Optimist Sailing day camp at the Baie De Beauport Yacht club. She then participated in the regional racing circuit, progressing to the Laser 2 and the Byte. She began seriously competing and after only one year in the Radial, she made it to the Québec Sailing Team as an “Espoir” athlete. Vanessa placed 6th overall at the CYA Youth National Championships. Vanessa also participates in synchronized figure skating and is a full time student in Visual Arts."

I must also mention the son of dear friends of mine, ex-Montrealers now living in Burlington, Ontario. When one of the successful sailors at a qualifying regatta turned out to be a competitor from Bermuda, Oliver placed high enough to make the team. Oliver has sailed a huge amount of nautical miles and regattas, the only way to do it. According to Oliver, heavy air is a weakness, and a high performance training camp and regatta in the windy city of Kingston helped considerably. Great coaching, and time on the boat with a lot of focus and persistence are what he attributes to his progress this summer. Way to go Oliver Darroch!

Again from the CYA website:

"Oliver Darroch (Burlington, ON)
Oliver has been sailing since the age of 5. He began sailing dinghy’s when he was 9 and has been racing since he was 13. He also enjoys playing paintball in his leisure time. Oliver placed 7th at the CYA Youth National Championships and qualified to the team due to an athlete’s ineligibility."

Congratulations from Montreal Sailing to all the members of the team.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Hatfield's Spirit of Canada crosses the finish line in the BtoB

From the BtoB website - Ralph, Montreal Sailing

Rich Wilson and Derek Hatfield round off the Transat Ecover BtoB

A relieved Rich Wilson crossed the finish line in Port-La-Forêt this Friday at 13:22:34 UTC and an exhausted Derek Hatfield followed suit at 16:20:21 UTC to take a much deserved 11th and 12th place respectively. With Dee Caffari arriving safely in La Coruna at 2037 UTC the same night, thanks to the Spanish tug boat Ibaizabal Uno, this intriguing Transat ECOVER BtoB 2007 thus sadly draws to a close.

It’s over! All the racers still competing in the Transat Ecover BtoB have arrived in Port la Forêt, after this return race between Salvador de Bahia, Brazil and Brittany, NW France: 4,120 miles which have dished out very different conditions for the fifteen solo sailors that set off on 29th November at 1400 UTC off the Yacht Club de Bahia. Close-hauled, eased sheets, a little downwind, a doldrums where each competitor got something different, a long climb up the edge of a zone of high pressure in powerful tradewinds, then a zone of transition which let the leaders through and left the backrunners floundering. In short, a race full of twists between the top trio (Loïck Peyron, Kito de Pavant, Michel Desjoyeaux) with some last minute surprises such as Foncia’s collision with a trawler forty miles from the finish and Dee Caffari’s dismasting just miles from the finish, as well as a whole host of damage on nearly all the remaining monohulls…

Rich Wilson: “It’s really a big relief to have made it into port! I'm not sure if I enjoyed it! It was very hard. A couple of nights ago we had a lot of wind. The motion was very violent and it was very physical. Not surprising I guess when you head into the Bay of Biscay in December. I’ve learned a lot about the boat certainly. I’ve basically spent the past 3 months sailing on it as we started off by delivering the boat across the Atlantic from Massachusetts for the TJV. I’ve done 14,000 miles since October 6th! That’s a lot of sailing and I’m really tired.

The little trio at the back of the fleet really got pounded off Finisterre. As the second low hit it was complete chaos, like bombs going off underneath the boat every 30 secs. These boats have got so much buoyancy that when the waves hit it's the boat that moves into you. The edge of the chart table nearly went into my face on numerous occasions. You can really get hurt out there. My legs are the most tired of all as you have to brace yourself in every possible direction the whole time.

Inevitably there were high points in all this. The stars, the flying fish, the dolphins in the multiple doldrums we had off the Azores with very clear water and no wind. I called Derek (Hatfield) around the equator as I saw a sail on the horizon and I emailed Dee after she dismasted. I just said to her how much I admire her as she started off behind us (after suffering from furler problems at the start) and then just kept coming back on us. I had some extra diesel and wondered if she might need it but she had everything under control. When somebody dismasts near you, you really start to worry about your own rig. I had shroud issues during the TJV so during this race I stressed about the rig the whole way. In the big storms I remember very vividly sitting there with my hands over my face waiting for my mast to fall.

I’m certainly going to work on increasing the comfort onboard as there is simply no place to recover on the boat and after around 58 days on the water that starts to take its toll. The sail handling and being able to take reefs from the cockpit are really good improvements on the boat and certainly made life a lot easier.

It's been a hard slog though and I think those of us that have been out on the water all this time in this race deserve attention too. As Bill Rogers, an infamous marathon runner in the US, said at the end of one particular marathon: "I put 100% into this race for 2 hours 10 minutes, so just think about those who have given 100% for 4, 5 or 6 hours!" The new boats in this fleet are in a class of their own, they're just gone; they just disappear over the horizon. We don't have the sponsors or the shore crews and that's fine but it's a different ball game. I haven't even thought about Christmas because I'm a bit superstitious about that kind of thing when I'm at sea. All I've been able to focus on of late is one single question, not why do these boats fall apart but how do they stay together!?"...

Derek Hatfield (Spirit of Canada): “Well here I am! It’s been a struggle all the way to the end. It just wouldn’t let up. For the past 4 days I’ve have 30 – 40 and then 28-30 knots today. At 40 knots the boat banks really hard and just bangs constantly. I’m bruised and battered because of the movement of the boat. You feel so weak. The boat is very jerky. There's always lots of motion and action. It feels really unstable and you wonder if you're getting weaker or whether the boat is becoming more unstable and your balance goes too. This was tougher than any of the legs in the Around Alone. It's a very physical boat. Part of my problems were down to lack of preparation. I wasn't fully prepared leaving Canada for starters.

The automatic pilot issues were really hard as it would do surprise tacks or gybes at will. I was constantly on tenterhooks and could never relax. I don't know if there was a flaw in the automatic pilot or if it was to do with the sizing. Whatever it is it needs to be resolved because you can't race if you can't relax and shut down at some point.

This is my first race on an Open 60 so the learning curve has been very steep. I’m not in the best shape physically either and I’ve also been concentrating on raising sponsors and finance instead of spending quality time on the water. My sail handling has improved but there are a lot of improvements I want to make. The boat was only at about 70% of its potential if not less and a lot of that is down to me not being ready and lacking experience. I had issues with the headsails too - I was surprised by how easily they get damaged and a lot of the damage occurred when taking them down or furling them. The first sail I lost was the genoa, but that was down to hydraulics problems. Then over the past few days I lost the solent and the staysail in quick succession - the clew blowing out in both of them. I ended up under storm jib over the past few days and was delighted to see Michel Desjoyeaux and his whole team welcome me in this evening and make sure I got in safely with the tide.

I haven't had any weather files (MaxSea issues) other than 3 tiny short range forecasts, which has led to some drastic tactical errors. I have to say though, the level of the leaders is astonishing! It's been a really rude awakening. They're in a different class of boat and have very different amounts of experience. To be honest, it’s unnerving to try to play the same game as them. I shall take all that I've learnt from this though and move forward. I have a lot of financial and physical hurdles ahead and to play a tough game like this you yourself have to be tough. Right now though I'm looking forward to Christmas in France with my family!"

Dee Caffari (Aviva): “Today has been a waiting game as the Spanish tug made her way to my aid. At 15.30 UTC this afternoon the navy bid me farewell and the tug guys took over. They took me under tow in a difficult sea state and began guiding me to Spain. It is slow going but conditions will continue to improve as the wind continues to drop and the sea state settles, so hopefully we can increase our speed and get to La Coruna where the boat team is waiting and more importantly Harry is there to give me a cuddle because I need one. In the mean time I shall continue to try a fight the rudders, as one is twisted since the dismasting and get the boat to follow the tug without me having to hand steer all the time.”

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Hatfield just 47 nm ahead of Wilson with only storm jib and damaged mainsail to use

Click image to enlarge - Ralph, Montreal Sailing

Press release from the Transat BtoB

Dee Caffari and Aviva have been dealt a cruel blow in the final stages of the Transat Ecover B to B race, at around 0600hrs UTC, Aviva lost her mast in over 45 knots of wind. Caffari is safe and
unhurt onboard and has spent the last 2 hours cutting the rig free from the boat to avoid any damage to the hull.The incident happened about 160 miles off Cape Finisterre in Northern Spain. Caffari is now drifting west at about 2 knots and is in regular contact with her shore team who are arranging a tow into Northern Spain this morning.

British sailor Dee Caffari indicated this Wednesday morning to the Race Management of the Transat Ecover-BtoB that she had just dismasted. Fortunately the pieces of mast have not damaged the hull and the sailor is not in danger, 140 miles NW of Cap Finisterre. Rounding the tip of Spain to enter the Bay of Biscay and complete her first single-handed transatlantic race aboard an Imoca monohull, Dee Caffari saw her mast collapse at around 0600 UTC this morning. The SE'ly wind was dishing out 45 knots of breeze at the time in big seas resulting from a depression settling between the Azores and the Iberian peninsula. After two hours, the British sailor managed to clear the deck of pieces of the mast which could have punctured the
hull and then alerted her shore crew. Aviva had been making 9 knots of boat speed on a direct course towards the finish in Port la For&et, just 250 miles away. This Wednesday morning, Dee Caffari didn't have much of an opportunity to make port rapidly as the boat could not be manoeuvred and was drifting at two knots. Difficult to set up an effective jury rig on her own, it has been decided that a tow will be organised to the Spanish port of La Coruna, 160 miles to
the SE of her current position. The problem here lies in the fact that there is still a lot of wind in this part of the Bay of Biscay and it isn't set to abate until Thursday morning...Our thoughts are
with her and the 3 remaining boats still out on the water.

Race update from Shore Crew Dec 20th

Position: 46,45.21N , 8,45.96W at 1700hr GMT

Derek is making slow and steady progress to the finish line, currently with 227nm to go and 35kts of breeze down from 45kts earlier today.

The storm that has held Derek for a few days now is starting to subside down to 28kts in the lulls but still from the east, exactly in the direction of where he needs to put the boat for the finish. As we have seen with other recent finishers it is not going to be easy to take the Open 60 upwind in these conditions. Reporting earlier today by satellite phone Derek explained that even though the wind has come down at a reasonable rate the seas are very confused and very large
making sailing anything but pleasant and sleep very difficult. There is only one useable headsail left in the inventory of jibs; the storm jib, he will try to raise that later tonight as the wind subsides a bit more but it may do little as it is so small. It is dangerous to be on the foredeck at the moment with the boat jerking around so much, he has to remove the other headsail from the forestay and raise the storm jib. The solent has been damaged in another crash jibe, damaging the clew of the sail. The autopilot is not able to hold the boat so Derek is hand-steering for a lot of the day, on deck for most of the time making him quite tired and the passage even more
difficult. It is as if the finish line is moving away from him.

We now expect that Derek will arrive on Friday afternoon as his progress is hampered so much by upwind conditions and lack of proper sail inventory or proper gears of a race car. The mainsail has to be either fully raised or 4th reef as the 3rd and 2nd reef points have chaffed through at the end of the boom, this has been an ongoing problem as a result of underspecified rope size and improper exit points at the end of the boom. Spirit of Canada is only currently
making 6kts to the finish. The wind is up 10kts more than the weather file is showing and its from the east which is definitely not prevailing winds for this area. Either way we now sit and wait for Derek to bring the boat in to shore, nothing we can do but encourage
and hope for a safe ending to the race. All he has to do is finish.

Congratulations to Jean Baptiste Dejeanty for his finish tonight during the prize giving. American Rich Wilson and our Derek Hatfield are the only other remaining competitors to come in with Dee Caffari having dismasted earlier today. Mike Golding had been speaking with Dee earlier today and she is reported to be in good spirits having all possible conditions in this race then of course the disappointment of losing the mast. Dee is expecting a tow shortly to arrive in La Coruna. Both Ecover and Aviva Sailing Teams expect to meet and refit the boats to begin training within the next month or so, Dee with her new boat being delivered next month.

We will send another update from France tomorrow with new position and weather reporting.

Take care,

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Nearing the homestretch in the BtoB

From the BtoB website: For the three Anglo-Saxons bringing up the rear off Spain (Derek Hatfield, Dee Caffari, Rich Wilson), conditions were still pleasant this Tuesday, in a moderate SE'ly breeze, but the weather will rapidly deteriorate on zone tonight: the arrival of a very active depression between the Azores and the Iberian peninsula will generate an E’ly flow of over thirty knots to the North of La Coruña!! Fortunately, this strong, icy breeze will progressively back to the SE, and the three solo sailors should be able to aim for the finish on a single tack on Thursday evening. The trio can be reassured, they will all be home for Christmas!


Hello from Spirit of Canada 16 December 2007

More downwind sailing with full mainsail and Code O. There is between 12 and 15 knots of wind and we are almost making a direct course for the finish line. My prediction is for my finish sometime late Wednesday. I'm a little tired and de-motivated today from all the hand steering effort over the last few days but the hard work has paid off as I have gained some miles on Dee and Rich. Whenever I feel like this I just think of all the support for Spirit of Canada and those 5000 Spirit of Canada Team Members that have supported us and have their names on the side of the hull. Thank you each and every one of you; without your support, Spirit of Canada would not exist. Also, I have received many emails that offer support and they help me through these down times as well. Sorry I cannot answer each one, if I did, I wouldn't get any sailing done. I truly appreciate your support, thoughts and prayers.

Take care,

Hello from Spirit of Canada 17 December 2007

A tough sailing day today with winds shifting in direction and strength, going from 12 knots up to 25 knots. So I have been spending a lot of time on deck putting in reefs and taking them out. Overall, making good progress towards the finish line. The two boats behind have been making good gains on me so that helps with my motivation as well to keep us sailing fast. Tonight is a dark, cold and dreary night with no stars to help out. I am only 100 miles from the Cape
Finisterre shipping control lanes so Im keeping an eye on deck for ships.

Take care,

Monday, December 17, 2007

Hatfield making strides now.

The Spirit of Canada has put quite a lot of miles between itself and the last of the competitors. Hatfield is expected to arrive at the finish line late Wednesday, or Thursday.

Hello from Spirit of Canada 15 December 15, 2007

The wind is back! Finally we have some decent wind, albeit from the south it is a welcome change from that heinous area behind us that held us for so many hours. Im sailing a direct course to the finish line at speed so it feels great. Congratulations to all of those skippers that are in port, what a fantastic job they did. The situation on board is very static at the moment and as I mentioned before, I am anxious to be finished and move on to the next stage. The family is on their way to France and will be flying overhead in about 6 hours from now. Ill keep an eye for the light in the window. The radio interviews from the media center are always a highlight of
the day. Its great to talk with the folks and let them know what is happening on board. I wish I could speak French better. Thats one of those projects that never seem to be finished.

Take care,

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Stars Do One Design Racing

Thank goodness for PHRF. Otherwise racing would not be possible a lot of the time.

We would benefit though, from throwing our lot in with the one design classes in Montreal. One of the important one design fleets that make up what I call Montreal Sailing is the Star Class. They are mostly out of Club Nautique des Deux-Montagnes (CNDM), though some sail out of RStLYC too. Pictured are a couple of Canada's best, Brian Cramer and Tyler Bjorn shot by Fried Elliott. I have also seen a boat at BYC, and another at HYC.

Finding the boat that is right for any given sailor can be a very individualized passion. I would say it is important to find the right fitting boat, but that should ideally also mean finding a fleet to sail with. Racing is so much more interesting, fair, fun, and competitive in a one design class. Of course, there is also more support from fellow sailors when a collective knowledge of a given class develops. There are quite a variety of boats in Montreal that can be sailed on a one design basis, so finding the right fit isn't impossible within the more popular racing classes. For sure, it usually involves some compromise from the standard of one's dream boat. However, the satisfaction of racing in an fleet of equally competitive boats outweigh the desire for a fast plane downwind, or a bigger cabin. One design fleets exist for bigger cruisers and little-bitty boats. We probably could use more support for certain dinghy and keelboat classes. Those that would satisfy single-handed sailors come to mind.

Laser sailing is still possible though limited to two clubs. Those that would be interested should check out the fine people sailing out of Venture Sailing Club and Hudson Yacht Club. Or hey, help start a new fleet at your club!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

How to define adorable...

Ahh, forget about the ocean racing we've been covering for a moment. Even for the Spirit of Canada moving north, passing by the Azores, it is starting to get chilly. Here in Montreal, the boats are all on the hard, the snow is accumalating, and the river is beginning to freeze beyond the bays. I have to go out and shovel some snow around the boat trailer. Aaack!

No, instead think back to the heat of the summer. Even on those windless days, hot and humid, not a race to be found on the calendar, the best boating of summer can still be had. Think of having the kids on board, messing about, quality time. Okay maybe they were whining to start the motor while you were thinking some wispy wind was meandering over from afar. Still, they are the moments to treasure, that are gone too quickly. I have a few of those moments (see older post with pic of my grandaughter) and intend to have more (with more extended family than I can count at the moment). That is a warming thought. Pierre immediately knew what kind of treasure we were talking about!

Pierre sent in this absolutely super photo a while back, and I finally found it again. With the mercury dropping, it is a good time to post it. Thanks so much. Here are Pierre's adjoining notes:

Hi Ralph

Love your new thread about kids. Good idea!

Here is my contribution. This is a photo of my daugther France. My Tanzer 22 was named "Coquine" (that's French for "naughty girl") in her honour. In fact, the first time she stepped on the boat, she decided that it was "her" boat since she was the only one who could fit standing up inside the cabin! She also chose the T22 new color; fluorescent lime green (it was either that or "Barbie" pink"!!!)


It will be getting chilly!

From the BtoB website and Derek Hatfield's emails here is the latest for the Spirit of Canada. Clicking on the map enlargens. - Ralph at Montreal Sailing.

For the three Anglo-Saxons, Derek Hatfield (Spirit of Canada), Dee Caffari (Aviva) and Rich Wilson (Great American III), the end of this Transat Ecover-BtoB will be far from easy!

Still stuck in light, variable winds to the South of the Azores, the trio will have to wait till Sunday morning for a S'ly wind to kick in, enabling them to lengthen their stride at the end of the weekend, but forcing them to close on the Spanish coast. The reason for this is the arrival of an Atlantic depression causing a beefy E’ly air flow in the Bay of Biscay and a bumpy ride home. The latter group should easily make the deadline for the closure of the line however, which is scheduled for nine days after the arrival of the winner, that is Sunday 23rd December at 00h 13' 25'' French time...

Hello from Spirit of Canada - 13th Dec 2007

The slow sailing persists in this high pressure zone and it looks it will be around for a while. I didn't make much progress overnight last night and this morning the sea was rolling glass. I started to helm and found that I could make the boat respond a little better so I have been hand steering the boat all day to make it go as fast as possible. There is a long night of steering ahead of me tonight. It has paid off I think as I have put in some miles to the north. Otherwise, I think the winner must be almost finished by now and congratulations to him. What an outstanding job.

Take care,


Hello from Spirit of Canada 14 December 2007

Overall it's been a good sailing day but still not a lot of wind. On average about 8 knots of wind from the southeast so we are going off the wind for a change. I have continued to hand steer to get the maximum from the gennaker and boat speed. There was a great sunset tonight and each night has been clear with millions of stars. As the boats start the finishing process, it always gets anxious for those further back to get in and finish. I am starting to feel the anxiety now with over 1000 miles to go, it is not a position I am used to. Here's hoping for a quick finish from here but unfortunately the winds are not playing fair so far.

Take care,


Friday, December 14, 2007

Latest on BtoB at the rear as leaders finish

The latest position reports and mapping show Derek and his two competitors at the tail end of the pack are finally out of the doldrums, and moving at a reasonable non-stressful speed of 7.9 to 8.4 knots. That will change as they hit big winds and very cold temperatures nearer the top portion of the planet. Derek seems to be doing well at the moment by splitting tacks with the other two. I imagine all these competitors will be trying to find ways to learn from this race, as over the winter, they modify their boats (Cafari gets a new one!), or consider their strategies and sailing over the winter months in advance of the big Vendeé Globe race. - Ralph at Montreal Sailing

Hello from Spirit of Canada - 11th December 2007

The wind is back which does wonders for my motivation. No wind is stressful. Im really missing that genoa now though as we are going upwind in 10-12 knots. The boat is not fully powered up but moving along well at between 6 & 10 knots upwind. I have the gennaker and spinnaker at the ready, if ever we get some downwind work. The weather files show at least two more days of this light air and then possible some sailing directly towards Port La Foret and the finish. It will be good to get this race over with and start working on the long list of improvements that we can make for the Vendee Globe. As I mentioned, this race has been a steep learning curve.

I had an email from Jack today (his mom actually); I guess they talk about Spirit of Canada and this race over dinner each night; and Jack had this question: why is he going so slow? I wonder that myself Jack but here is my answer: tell Jack that if I could get it to go any faster be assured I would, I don't want to be out here any longer than I have to. (I miss Sarah too much). Unfortunately the autopilot that steers the boat has some work issues and doesn't do a very good job. The pilot has turned the boat around a number of times when I've been sleeping and the result is broken equipment. Also, I don't have all the sails available now in some wind ranges due to damage to the forestay, so the boat is not performing at its best. AND, I need more practice.

If any other students have questions, please email them to: and I will do my best to respond.

Otherwise, everything is fine on board. I have a leak in the ballast system that requires bailing about five buckets a day from the engine compartment, but otherwise we are ok.

Take Care,


More correspondence:

Derek Hatfield (Spirit of Canada)

"All's well even though we haven’t got much wind: 5-6 knots, but the breeze is gradually shifting to the SE. The calm zones over the past few days have been terrible! Today, the seas are flat and a lovely deep blue; the skies are blue, it’s warm despite a little chill in the air and the nights are fantastic with the shooting stars. I’m on a direct course towards Port la Forêt... Hoping there won’t be too much wind at the end of the course! "

Dee Caffari (Aviva)

Finally after 36 hours of only seeing 1 or 2 knots of wind I can now see 3 knots of wind and occasionally this has been more. I have now suffered my fourth day of going slow or even not at all and it does not get any better. Aviva and I are crawling along at a snail's pace just trying with every puff to get north. We know the breeze is up there as we have watched the others sail for home. Congratulations to those just finished for a great race. Now that the front runners have finished the race the pressure is on for us at the back of the fleet because the finish line only stays open for nine days from the first finishing boat crossing the line.”

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Latest reports from Derek and two counterparts

For those readers of Montreal Sailing avidly following the BtoB and the Spirit of Canada here are latest reports.

Dee Caffari (Aviva): “I’m lost for words, devoid of emotion and hang my head in utter disbelief that this area of the Atlantic can be so calm. The infamous smile was gone and replaced with tears of despair today. The sun shone, the sea was blue and like a mirror. Not even a zephyr to be seen on the surface and Aviva floated going nowhere all day and now, all night. I am without boat speed, without wind, without forward momentum and without steerage. I haven’t got any new ideas on how to make us move and am coming close to being losing my personality. When everyone is in the same conditions you can deal with it better as you know you are not alone, but I cannot believe that the others are suffering like this tonight and I am now dreading the deficit in miles that will be shown in the morning’s polling. Things can only get better for Aviva and me.”

Derek Hatfield (Spirit of Canada): "Hello from Spirit of Canada. Becalmed. Not much else to say, catching up on maintenance, sleep and housekeeping.”

Rich Wilson (Great American III): “Becalmed again. 1.2 knots SOG. Venus beautiful yet again in mirror calm.”

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Derek's position back on track and in wind

Derek's location is once again tracked by satelite, and he is moving at 4.3 knots, once again ahead of Dee Cafari, stuck with little wind and moving at 1.6 knots. - Ralph

Spirit of Canada Shore Crew report:

Hello to everyone,

Derek is well today and in better spirits as he has some more wind and it doesn't seem so much like he is back in the doldrums. This is the hardest part of racing for the skippers, most people that have sailed before can make a boat sail with 10kts of wind but few can make the boat go well with very little wind and that is what Derek has been dealing with for the last couple of days, no wind. For Derek the pressure rises as the wind velocity falls.

Some of those following the race today will notice that Derek has not shown up in the last 2 position reports, all is well aboard the boat but the Satellite C unit used for polling the boat has switched ocean regions without us knowing it so we have adjusted and informed race committee so all should be good again for the next report.

We are sorry to hear about Delta Dore today losing their mast in the Southern Ocean, our best wishes for safe return to land for the crew. Delta Dore is competing in the Barcelona World Race which is double handed around the world non stop. Any of the Open 60 fleet that are vying for a position in the Vendee Globe are either doing the Ecover B2B or the Barcelona World Race as these are the first chances for new boats to qualify for a position in the Vendee Globe.

More to come with an update from Derek later today.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hatfield pursuing puffs

Derek Hatfield is still caught up trying to find his way through the high pressure zone. The BtoB website is not reporting a ranking for him amongst the fleet. Perhaps it is more issues with damaged antennae. The last position info has him moving at only 2.4 knots over ground. Seems like the winds of Montreal in August. Meanwhile Dee Cafari has been cursing up a storm over the lack of moving air, and has now managed to find 8.4 knots over ground. That movement has also put her ahead again, and she now is 11th in the fleet. The leaders, far, far ahead, are blasting along and sustaining all sorts of breakdowns. They have turned towards Brittany and are expected in port in about three days.

Hello from Spirit of Canada,

Its been a long frustrating day for the back end of the fleet I suspect. I know these slow days are the most stressful type of sailing as you cannot leave the deck for fear that you miss an
opportunity to make a small adjustment to the sail trim or the compass in order to gain a fraction of boat speed. So I have been on deck since yesterday literally 98 % of the time. I lay down in the cockpit for small naps but thats it. The miles to the finish line look long indeed at 3.59 knots of boat speed. I had a visit from a very large dolphin today, the first of the trip. I'm hoping he or she will bring me some better luck. The learning curve on the Open 60 is
very steep right now but slowly it is starting to feel more like the first Spirit of Canada.

Take Care


Monday, December 10, 2007

Derek Hatfield has been busy and successful last 48 hours. Now he has another equipment failure!

Oh, what highs and lows in the Transat Ecover Bahia to Bretagne race! Even following online, I have felt the exuberance and dismay. Derek's Open 60, Spirit of Canada suffered numerous, critical equipment failures during numerous knockdowns when the autopilot misbehaved. Doggedly he fought back from the rear, and overtook Rich Wilson on Great American III. Then recently, kilometer by kilometer in a real battle of boatspeed and position he slowly but surely reigned in Dee Cafari on Aviva. Two other boats have dropped out after catastrophic failures but are safe. I watched with each position report as Derek would gain or lose a kilometer on Dee Cafari. Now, clear ahead, Derek has also suffered a failure which will greatly curtail boat speed. Read the entries below - Ralph:

Hello From Spirit of Canada (December 6th)

Today was a long day exiting from the doldrums and into wind, plenty
of wind. Most of the day the boat was upwind at 26kts True. Welcome
to the northern trades and then some. The air is much cooler tonight,
an indication of whats to come by next week. After all, we are only
weeks away from Christmas. What a strange feeling this is.

Position: 12 08 19N
030 52 023W
Speed 11.3 knts
Direction 009 degrees
Take Care

Hello from Spirit of Canada (December 8th)

It's been day three of banging and splashing our way upwind in 28 -
30kts. Who ever came up with the idea of an upwind race in Open 60's
was out to test the determination of the skippers for sure. Anyway I
feel that the trade winds are much stronger right now, probably
because we are going upwind at the moment. Not much opportunity for
passing anyone, AVIVA seems to keep her distance well no matter what
I do, most likely it will be a long procession up to France and the
finish line. The fastest boat in this weather pattern will depend on
how long the skipper can stay on deck while getting a fire hose
shower every 30 seconds, a very cold shower. It is like being back in
Canada in a car travelling through sleet and snow, sticking your head
out the window and getting showered. Inside the boat the movement is
so very much like being inside a washing machine, you must hold on
all the time as the boat lurches around so much, especially when you
are trying to get your gear on to go back out on deck. Sleeping is
almost impossible but it still does happen after getting so tired you
just lay down in the bilge, listening to the water rushing by just an
inch or so on the other side of the hull then every once in a while a
wave will hit the bottom of the boat and actually lift you up, truly

Take Care
Distance to finish: 2300nm

Hello from Spirit of Canada - 8th December 2007

Day four of the heavy upwind work, I must say it's getting tiring
always being over on the side all the time. I keep looking ahead for
Dee's stern light but not yet. She is doing a good job of keeping
ahead of me, it should be a great race to the finish for the two of
us. Sorry to hear about Safran's keel problems, I hope he can keep
the boat going to the finish line.

Take care,

Report from Spirit of Canada Shore Crew

As the racers make steady progress to the finish line in France it is
become evident from reading the reports of the skippers that all the
boats are sustaining equipment failure and that the Ecover BtoB has
become a race of management first and speed second, the goal being to
qualify the boats for the Vendee Globe. Derek has not been without
damage, last night he had to lower the outer forestay as the
hydraulic line that tensions the stay had been chafed through, not
sure what caused the initial fault, but for the rest of this race
Derek will be without his "high gear" so all the time spent getting
in front of Dee Caffari have now been wasted. Derek is not hurt and
he is continuing racing but his mood is down as his chance to move up
on the fleet in the coming days is all but gone.

Fleet Decision Time (report from Ecover BtoB)

At the approach to the Azores, the solo sailors in the Transat Ecover
BtoB have some decisions to make. The first is associated with which
course to adopt in a bid to negotiate the transition zone as best
they can and hook onto the downwind conditions, which are set to
accompany them as far as Port-la-Forêt. The choices will clearly
depend on the damage affecting a fleet still in its preparation
phase: race or fast delivery&

From the retirement of Mike Golding to the worries of Marc Guillemot,
Yann Elies, Jean-Baptiste Maisonneuve, Dee Caffari and even Loïck
Peyron the leader of the fleet, we imagine that there is a strong
temptation to ease off the pace. The finish isnt far away and for a
number of sailors it is out of the question to spoil their chances of
qualification for the Vendee Globe as a trade off for glory in this
race. As they await the SW'ly wind which should propel the fleet to
the finish at high speed, each of the skippers are trying to spare
their steeds, which have really been put through the mill in the
powerful tradewinds which have battered the Atlantic.

One thing is already certain: between the potential speeds displayed
by some, and the small technical issues observed aboard a number of
boats, the winter is going to be busy and a number of shore crews
will be impatient to see their skippers arrive safely in port.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Spirit of Canada maintains position ahead of Rich Wilson, now within range of Dee Cafari, Brit Air dis-masted.

Carried by the wind...

The weather conditions have become more difficult over the past few hours with the arrival of stronger E to NE'ly tradewinds, which sometimes exceed thirty knots. Under reduced sail area, the fourteen solo sailors are lying low whilst Armel Le Cléac'h is motoring towards the Cape Verde archipelago.

It certainly isn’t the sailors' favourite point of sail, especially when the seas are built up and chaotic and that there’s at least two more days of such conditions ahead... Over 25 knots of wind for the tail end of the fleet including Canadian Derek Hatfield (Spirit of Canada): "I have had some problems with the computers at the start and the weather systems haven’t worked through the way I wanted until a couple of days ago. I’ve got some automatic pilot problems too. It’s quite a drastic day today too. The wind is blowing at 26 degrees True and I've got 34/35 knots over the deck. It's very bumpy with messy seas and conditions are difficult because the boat's slamming a lot."

Dee Caffari: “I’m struggling to maintain ‘me’ in these conditions. I know I should eat but I don’t really want to eat anything and I know I should drink but I can’t be bothered to make anything. When you don’t sleep and you’re tired, it all compounds in conditions like these. But it’s all useful practice that I can use next time. It makes me laugh that I spent 178 days at sea on the Aviva Challenge and 70 per cent of it was upwind but it was pure luxury compared to this. The boat is so different and, when she is crashing to windward, it is a really uncomfortable environment to be in. It feels as though it is falling apart, the windows are leaking and it’s miserable. We are taking a lot of water over the top of the boat. Everything feels wet and filthy. Even the flying fish are confused – they don’t know whether to fly or get carried in the waves. Life is pretty uncomfortable. I have discovered that in my reading of the weather I am still lacking in confidence and am easily swayed. I find it hard to stick to what I think and why I think it even though I have done ok so far. I just need to do more of it. I am also finding it difficult to predict where I will be in a few days compared with everyone else in the fleet but hopefully that will also become easier as I get more solo miles under my belt.”

Text and photos from the Transat BtoB webpage reporting. Click on Google Earth shot for larger size. - Ralph

Spirit of Canada and Great American III in BtoB Race

In an overnight message, Rich Wilson, sailing Great American III says how tough it has been to be stuck in the doldrums. In the black of the ocean night, he saw a light in the distance. As the shot from Google Earth shows it had to be Derek Hatfield sailing the Spirit of Canada. The two were in reality very close. Derek is sailing without radar, antennae, or weather reports, after many faulty autopilot-induced broaches, and computer damage.

"Learning to sail in Marblehead, Massachusetts, known for its light air, I became quite adept at being able to make a boat accelerate and increase its own apparent wind in 5 knots, or 7 knots or even 3 knots of wind. It was not a frustration for me, it was an intereting challenge at which I could succeed. But 0 knots of wind, that was different. I couldn't do anything with 0 knots of wind. And that is what we've had this past night. 0 knots on the apparent wind speed, and the true wind speed. And 0.00 knots on the boatspeed. Now THIS is frustrating. Earlier in the afternoon, I had a quite nice soft sail for a bit in a kind northwesterly, yes, northwesterly breeze in the easterly trades. This does not compute. How to get out of here? As with each of my 8 previous times crossing the equator under sail (5 Atlantic, 2 Pacific, 1 South China Sea),
the goal has always been to go due true North or due true South when you got to the doldrums. Like crossing a street, it's shorter if you go perpendicular. But now, in the past early morning hours, an edge of a breeze has sprung up, and I am tacking north, tacking on the shifts, just like a one-design race in Marblehead. You can't just go straight across, even with an easterly wind expectation. It is very bizarre, and the zeros on the instruments were very frustrating. A
short time ago, with a crystal clear patch of stars, I saw a light ahead, not range lights of a ship, but a single light. Think it might be Derek who has admirably hung in there with, I think, pilot and computer problems, and come back strongly after being off the position list for a few sessions. If it's him, Go Derek! Onwards. Northward. For both of us."

click on image for larger view. - Ralph

BtoB race through Google Earth

Here is a super cool shot showing the positions of all the competitors in the transatlantic BtoB race. Derek Hatfield on Spirit of Canada has been struggling through the doldrums as has Rich Wilson on Great American III. Both boats are close together and struggling to exit the basement of positions. I will use Google Earth to show how close they are in another post soon. With Google Earth you can zoom in and out and change the angle of view as well. I can't wait till we are doing this with our own boats in Montreal's races!

Click on pic for larger view. - Ralph

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Spirit of Canada Update

Derek Hatfield (Spirit of Canada): Hello from Spirit of Canada. Here we are in the middle of the doldrums with rain showers and wind holes. We, the boat and I are slowly recovering from a rocky first few days and I look forward to being able to perform better. Autopilot issues still plague the steering but we are slowly starting to figure it out. I'm having dinner early tonight as it will be a long night on deck watching for rain squalls. I lost the radar and other antenna from the mast in one of the many accidental jibes that the pilot took us thru so now I must keep vigilance on deck for the many squalls in this area.

Take Care

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Spirit of Canada "Understandably down"

Transat ECOVER BtoB Update from the Spirit of Canada website:

Hello from Spirit of Canada Team,

Have just spoken to Derek via Sat phone and he is understandably down. He is unable to receive weather information to the boat as his routing software is not opening so he is unable to open the weather files to analyse and use the wind to his advantage.

The reason that there has been no position report from the boat as of last night is because his communication systems have been down. The autopilots on the boat have not been working properly and last night put the boat into an accidently jibe causing alot of damage to the boat and some to Derek as he was tossed about during the manouveur. Derek was able to get things sorted out and the boat back on course only to find that the computer did not respond well to the boat being on its side and the Sat (used for polling) was not reporting to race committee so no position report was available to those following the race on the internet. Derek's current position is 23N by 32W he is moving at 12.7kts at 23T degrees.

Tired and in need of some sleep he is pushing on to Port La Foret as fast as he is able but not getting alot of sleep as the pilots are not trustworthy.

Thanks all to the many emails we have received over the last day as we try to sort out the weather and sat comms situations.

Take care,


North Sails for Tanzer Owners

Montreal Sailing readers who are Tanzer owners can still get in on the great 20% discount for new North Sails being offered, but one would have to act soon. Emails have gone out to all the 2007 and 2008 members of the Tanzer Class Association. However, if you are not yet a member, or your membership lapsed, or your email address was incorrectly listed (many!), then you haven't received a notice of the deal. There is only so much time available, so I can't reach everyone I have lapsed or incorrect info for. If that is you, or someone you know contact me via the contact info linked to this page. We will put this big order to bed by December 11th, so don't delay!