Tuesday, May 15, 2012

VOLVO OCEAN RACE - Leg 6 - On A Slow Boat To America

                                                  PAUL TODD - VOR

                French entry GROUPAMA sailed to their first in-port race victory on a stormy Saturday in Itajaí, Brazil, edging out CAMPER and PUMA in a battle that featured a downwind, protest-filled start in which Telefónica held the lead all the way until they rounded the wrong mark near the end, enabling their rivals to gain in the overall standings.
                                                                         IAN ROMAN - VOR
                PUMA led the way on the 4,800-mile Leg from Brazil to Miami before the fleet separated laterally over a north/south distance of about eighty miles. 
                                                        Armory Ross - PUMA Ocean Racing

                A large cold front blocked the path to the trade winds, giving the boats two options: sail a shorter distance by hugging the coast and avoiding the current, or heading straight out to sea on a more direct route to the trades, but where the currents were stronger.
                                                        Armory Ross - Puma Ocean Racing
                CAMPER and Abu Dhabi took the riskier course, sailing close to the coast. Telefónica and GROUPAMA headed directly east toward the trades. And PUMA split the difference in the middle.
                                                        Nick Dana - Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing
              After the crash, boom, bang of the last leg, the fluky light wind reaching conditions were a welcome relief for the battered boats and crews.
                                                        Hamish Cooper - CAMPER ETNZ

As large schools of dolphins surfed off their boat wakes, each crew had their share of strange encounters.
                                                       Hamish Cooper - CAMPER ETNZ

Early on in the leg, GROUPAMA thought they were closing in on PUMA only to find out they were stalking a large oil rig.
One night, just off the Brazilian coast, CAMPER and Abu Dhabi had to chaotically tack in the dark around a seismic vessel trailing 25,000 feet of cable.
And on GROUPAMA, media crew member YANN Riou resorted to eating a flying fish after it landed unexpectedly in the cockpit.
                                                       Yann Riou - GROUPAM Ocean Racing

“I'm not going to pretend that I enjoyed it. Firstly, I don't know how to prepare sashimi, and secondly, flying fish raw without any seasoning isn't really very nice. That said, it's quite pleasant to taste some flesh whose freshness is unquestionable and doesn't need to be rehydrated.”
                Cabo Branco, where Brazil bulges way out to the right toward Africa, just north of the bustling cosmopolitan sea port of Recife, was the race's first waypoint. It was the spot where the boats turned the corner, pointed their bows north, hoisted their massive spinnakers, and then rode the moody southeast trade winds and the Brazil Current toward the southern Caribbean. PUMA came around the bend first with CAMPER and Telefónica less than ten miles in their rear view mirror.
                                                       Hamish Cooper - CAMPER ETNZ
                   Powering up the Brazilian coast in nearly ideal conditions, it was a three boat match race where one little mistake, one wind hole, or one fisherman's net, could quickly translate into the loss of ten miles and a change in position.
                Hamish Hooper on CAMPER described the scene. “We have been stalking PUMA all day and night, gaining a mile here, losing a mile there. We managed to lose sight of Telefónica over the horizon -- the one off the stern for a change... but you know they will just be lurking back there set to come powering back when conditions favour them slightly more. There is definitely a feeling of the hunter being hunted.”
                                                       Armory Ross - PUMA Ocean Racing
                PUMA valiantly held her lead position as the boats said goodbye to South America and rode the Caribbean Current north, nearing their final equatorial crossing of the dreaded dead wind doldrums where storm cells dotted the ocean like booby traps.
                                                        PAUL TODD - PUMA Ocean Racing
 With 2,400 miles to go, PUMA punched through the sweltering doldrums and into the steady trade winds a mere three miles ahead of CAMPER and five miles in front of Telefónica, while Abu Dhabi and GROUPAMA match raced 75 miles behind.
                                                       Armory Ross - PUMA Ocean Racing
               The islands of the Caribbean extend from north to south like a big comma, and the southernmost Windward Isles – Grenada, the Grenadines, St. Vincent, and St. Lucia – were the next destination as the boats broad reached in 20-knot winds, zooming along at almost 30 knots and covering over 500 miles a day.
                                                       Yann Riou - GROUPAMA Ocean Racing
But the free ride ended as the boats were battling it out about 40 miles to the east of Martinique where a pesky North Atlantic low pressure system blocked the trade winds and left the three lead boats scrambling to find the best breeze for mind-numbing days on end.
                                                     Yann Riou - GROUPAMA Ocean Racing
With 1,000 miles to go CAMPER tacked west toward the Virgin Islands hoping to find stronger winds closer to shore while PUMA stayed the farthest out to sea, and Telefónica hedged their bets by sailing down the middle.

                                             Hamish Cooper - CAMPER ETNZ
These Volvo boys are nothing if not a bit crazy as Hamish Cooper aboard CAMPER illustrates.
“Soon after as we passed the Caribbean islands of St Bart’s and St Martin, a small window of opportunity presented itself when the breeze picked up sufficiently … to shoot through a 200 metre gap at 21 knots in six metres of water … right between Anguilla and Scrub Island, saving us around 5 miles going around the typically Caribbean named Dead Man’s Cay at the northern end of the island.”
                                                     Hamish Cooper - CAMPER ETNZ

As they sailed into the Bermuda Triangle, the boats were running out of food and a Super Moon worked its magic on the Frenchmen on GROUPAMA. Trailing by 80 miles, they decided to take a desperate flier by sailing west and cutting the corner inside the Turks and Caicos Islands. And when they popped out on the other side, they had miraculously slid past Telefónica into third.
The last 350 miles were a match race between PUMA and CAMPER , and Ken Read and the pirate lads aboard the black sea monster Mar Mostro rounded the Eleuthera Island lighthouse at the top of the Bahamas, drifted into some steadier wind , and after seventeen days at sea pulled off a wire-to-wire victory, becoming only the second American skipper to win a leg finishing in the U.S.
                                                       IAN ROMAN - VOR

Next Stop: Lisbon, Portugal
                                                     IAN ROMAN - VOR

Telefónica            164

GROUPAMA        153

CAMPER                149

PUMA                    147

Abu Dhabi                68
SANYA                       25

Friday, May 11, 2012

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 37 - Part IV

The Judge picked up a leather briefcase from the copilot’s seat and returned to the rear storage bay. “I am afraid you might find the authentication papers a bit technical, especially in light of the fact that you are not familiar with the actual area in question.”

Barry laughed out loud. “I’ve been fishing the Tropic Reservoir since I was a boy, and I’ve taken many a horse ride from Bryce National Park to Tropic, so I have a pretty darn good idea where we’re talking about, Judge.”

“Yes, I’m sure, but you have never been to my ranch,” replied the Judge. “And without a Geologic Survey map to refer to, the geographical coordinates are meaningless.”

Barry thumbed through several sheets of paper which listed the specifics of where the shipment had been obtained. As the Judge had warned, the location legals meant little without a map. The prehistoric artifacts had been excavated from a pueblo, pithouse, granary, and rock shelter, all of which were located in the Navajo Sandstone formation. Barry knew enough about local geology to know that it was a pretty safe bet that anything of a prehistoric nature in Southern Utah was going to be found in the Navajo Sandstone layer. The formation extended for a hundred square miles, and included the Paria Plateau and the town of Tropic, sixty miles to the north. The dirt from both areas would be the same, so there was no way to definitively trace the original location of this shipment. Navajo Sandstone was Navajo Sandstone, no matter where it was sampled; it had no particular signature or fingerprint that could indicate a specific spot on the map. The Judge’s provenance papers painted a very believable scenario, one with which Barry could not argue.

“I notice that you name is on each report. That means you personally dug up these relics, right,” asked the obviously frustrated Sheriff.

The Judge gave a mock bow. “That is indeed correct. I excavated each of these treasures. They are like my children. And this plane load of Anasazi riches represents several year’s worth of digging on my part.”

“And the gun permit?” asked Barry as he passed the authentication papers back to the Judge.

“Why do I get the distinct impression that you do not trust me, Sheriff?”

“Probably because I don’t,” answered Barry without missing a beat.

The Judge visibly winced as he showed the Sheriff his Federal Firearms Permit. “Ever since my early years on the bench, I have carried a pistol of one kind or the other. We judges get our fair share of death threats, as you might well imagine, and I have always taken my personal protection very seriously. One can never be too careful, especially out here in the wilds of the Southwest.”

The permit was perfectly legitimate; Barry could not poke any holes in the Judge’s story. Unless he found something of an illegal nature pretty soon, he was going to have to let the Judge fly the coop.

Barry began a laborious search of the jet which lasted for almost an hour. But after going through every inch of the plane, he had nothing to show for the effort – no drugs, no weapons, and no undocumented Indian artifacts.

The Judge knew the Sheriff had lost his momentum and confidence. “I trust that you have satisfied your curiosity, Sheriff, now that you have turned the entire contents of my plane upside down? May I say that this has certainly been an eye-opening experience for me – and one which I will undoubtedly share with the Governor of your fair state in the very near future. However, as I stated to you when you first arrived on the scene, I have a pressing business engagement in southern Arizona, and now I really must insist that you allow me to leave.”

Barry looked down at his dusty boots in resignation. He had played all of his cards. As much as he hated to admit it, he was beaten. And the thing that really got to him the most was the fact that he knew the Judge was lying. From the first second he had laid eyes on the man, he was sure he was facing bullshitting evil. And when he discovered the artifacts just like Sheriff Pratt had predicted, he figured he was definitely getting close to busting the pothunting and murder case wide open. He had the big fish nailed dead to rights.

But an hour later, he was standing there with his hands in his pockets, feeling like a fool, knowing the Judge was going to make his life a living hell with the state Attorney General. “We appreciate you cooperation with all of this, Judge. And I am deeply sorry for any inconvenience I might have caused you.”

The Judge smiled condescendingly. “Save it for someone who cares, Sheriff. You have treated me like a common criminal. And you have conducted yourself in a thoroughly unprofessional manner. Now that your suspicions have proved completely unfounded, please do not assume that I will forgive or forget your inexcusable behavior. Rest assured that you have not heard the last of me. Now, if you will remove your fat ass from my airplane, I can get on with my business.”

Barry cringed at the Judge’s harsh words and wished he had never followed Jason Pratt’s orders. Well, like I said, I’m sorry for the trouble. I was just trying to do my job.”

“Just get out of my sight, Sheriff,” growled the Judge.

Barry hopped down from the cargo bay. “You have yourself a good day now. You hear?”

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 37 - Part III

Barry pointed at the Judge. “I still want to have a look at what’s inside those boxes.”

“You will not set foot on this plane without a search warrant. And I am prepared to defend my property.” The Judge stepped back and grabbed his Colt revolver from the inside of a nearby cabinet.

“Well, it just so happens that I do have a warrant to search that plane of yours, Mister.  And you better have a permit to carry that pistol in the state of Utah.”

The Judge was momentarily flustered but regained his composure quickly. “It is a registered antique and I do indeed have a permit to carry it for personal protection. I often transport valuable commodities aboard this aircraft – as I am, in point of fact, doing today.”

Barry walked over to the cabin hatch and looked up into the storage bay packed with large boxes. “Oh yeah? Well, I’m a real connoisseur of old firearms. It’s sort of a hobby of mine.”

The Judge passed the weapon over to Barry. “It is a breech-loading Colt, complete with pearl inlay pistol grip. I purchased it several years ago at an auction in Odessa, Texas. A story also came with the piece. This gun was originally made for General William Tecumseh Sherman, who used it during his march to the sea during the Civil War.”

Barry’s eyebrows raised with genuine admiration. “God-damn, that’s a pretty piece.” He aimed it up at the sky and sighted down the long, black barrel. “Boy, it’s got a nice feel to it, don’t it?” He lowered the antique firearm and laid it inside a nearby shelf. “I’d feel better if we left the gun right here for now – you know, where I can keep an eye on it. Tell me, Judge, do you have any other weapons onboard this plane?”

The Judge eyed the sheriff with contempt. “The Colt is more than enough, thank you.”

“So, watcha got in the boxes, Judge?”

“Cultural antiquities,” replied the Judge matter-of-factly.

Barry smiled and nodded his head as if that was exactly what he had expected to hear.  “You mean old Indian pots and stuff like that?”


“How about opening that real big box sitting right behind you there?”

The Judge towered didn’t budge. “I think you better show me your search warrant first.”

“Glad to,” grinned Barry as he climbed aboard the jet with a grunt and handed the warrant to the Judge. “Now Judge Cram, the local magistrate, he’s one of those judges who likes to work with the police – if you know what I mean.” Barry winked at the Judge and began walking around the cramped storage area. “I think I’ll just have a look around here for myself.  I don’t get the chance to see the inside of a fancy plane all that often, you know.”

The Judge tried to remain calm; he knew he was rapidly losing control of the situation.  He focused on the official document and looked for a potential loophole, but everything appeared to be in order. It authorized the Sheriff to search his airplane for drugs, weapons, or prehistoric artifacts. He considered shooting the chubby policeman, but he would never get away with such a desperate act. If he was going to get out of this bind, he would have to do it with silver-tongued guile.

“The items in these boxes have all been excavated from my ranch in Tropic. My property there contains several outstanding Anasazi ruins which I have been digging for the past three years. As you are no doubt aware, I am free to do as I wish with any cultural resource which I am fortunate enough to find on my private property, and I have never made it a secret that I own one of the finest collections of ancient Indian artifacts ever assembled in the Southwest. This particular shipment is on its way to my home in Scottsdale, where it will be catalogued and prepared for display in my own personal museum.”

Barry carefully removed a pair of yucca leaf sandals from a large box. “You found these up in Tropic?”

“That is correct.”

“Barry frowned. “You have papers to prove that this whole shipment came off your ranch?”

“Of course I do.”

“Let me see ‘em,” said Barry as he held up a brightly-painted ceramic ladle and whistled with appreciation. The craftsmanship was superb.

“You will have to excuse me a minute, Sheriff; the papers you have requested are in my briefcase up front.”

“While you’re at is, why don’t you bring along that gun permit, too, so I can make sure you’re all legal in that department.”