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Press

Offshore Passage Opportunities has been in business since 1993 and has been featured and mentioned in many sailing trade magazines. Here is a list of some of the articles that you may have read about us.

List of Articles About OPO and the Swan Sailing Program

Cruising World - December 1992, Story Page 15 “New World Navegadores”, By Nim Marsh

Cruising World - July 1996, Page 14 “In Cabot’s Wake”, By Nim Marsh

Blue Water Sailing Magazine - March 1999, Cover Photo

Blue Water Sailing Nov/Dec 2000, Page 52 “Jeanneau 45.2”, Boat Review about Trans-At from France to Tortola, By Hank Schmitt

Blue Water Sailing July 2002 - Page s-26 “Swan Sailing”

Cruising World - Cover April 2003, Story starts page 40 “A Star in the Eye of the Angel Pony”, By Nim Marsh

WindCheck - September 2003, Page 16 “Offshore Passage Opportunities”

Blue Water Sailing - Sept 2003, Page 24 “Rally Opportunities”

Cruising World - October 2003, Page 34 “Good Vibrations from the NARC, By Lee Ann Avery

WindCheck - Cover Photo, Jan/Feb 2005

Ocean Navigator - September 2005, Page 14 “Caribbean Rally offers Support and Racing”

Ocean Navigator - May/June 2006, Page 30 “Wrong Way to the West Indies”, By Charles Doane

Latitudes & Attitudes - July 2006, Story Page 88 26th Annual Heineken Regatta, By Hank Schmitt

Sail Magazine - July 2006, Page 58 “Reality Check”, By David Baldwin

Sailing Magazine - August 2006, Page 53 “Swandezvous Anyone? By Charles Doane

Yachting World (British Magazine) - September 2006, Page 98 “Riding the Serpent”, By Charles Doane

Offshore Magazine - November 2006, Page 68 “Revenge” Bermuda Centenial Race , By Charles Doane

WindCheck - March 2007, Page 74 “Sound People”, About Hank Schmitt

All at Sea (Caribbean Magazine) - Nov 2007 page 46, 7th Annual NARC Rally

Sail - January 2008, “Fast Raft to Brazil”, OPO delivery skipper Hank Schmitt, Story by Charles Doane

Press Release Archives

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August 2006 Issue of Sailing Magazine
SWANDEVOUS ANYONE???
By Charles J. Doane

"Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip the dogs of war"
--William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

Exploring the nature of friendly competition at a Caribbean cruising rally
We were a wolf among the lambs is what we were. Or so we liked to think. Of all the boats appearing at this hybrid event---the 2006 ClubSwan BVI Rendezvous and (Sort of) Regatta---ours was the only one being actively campaigned through all (or most) of the regular Caribbean racing season. Indeed, Avocation, a Swan 48 built in 1997, was on something of a roll. In spite of the fact that she had an inexperienced pay-to-play crew that had sailed together for only one day previous, and that no member of this crew, not even the bowman, was younger than 48, she’d just taken second place in a competitive spinnaker class at the Heineken Regatta in St. Martin. Not suprisingly then, on joining the boat at the Bitter End Resort on North Sound on the island of Virgin Gorda, I found her entire forward end was jammed full of brand-new racing sails. But Hank Schmitt of Offshore Passage Opportunities and his partner Jan Breyer, Esq., of Minneapolis, Minnesota, were definitely downplaying any competitive twists that might be teased out of this ClubSwan gig. “Come on down,” Hank had proclaimed on the phone. “We’re taking a week off between the Heineken and the BVI Spring Regatta. We’re gonna hang out and get treated like Swan owners.” Still, he did seem a little pleased with himself after I arrived at the Bitter End to find he had just that afternoon aced Phase I of the ClubSwan Rendezvous Laser Regatta with three firsts, a second, and a fourth. “I was over early the last time,” he noted with a smile.

I should explain about Hank. He’s one of those laid-back people who nonetheless is always pressing forward, like a human perpetual-motion machine. I first met him in 1992 during an event not unlike this one---a cruising rally called the America 500 that Jimmy Cornell organized to commemorate the quincentennial of Columbus’s first voyage to the New World. A former oil-rig worker/commercial fisherman/yacht-rigger/diver, Hank sold everything he owned and dragged his Tayana 37 Hunk-a-Schmitt through the streets of his hometown, Huntington, New York, on a trailer in the local Columbus Day parade in order to raise the money to get to the start line in Spain. We first got to know each other in the Canary Islands, where I helped him re-rig his boat after he dismasted her pushing her too hard at night under spinnaker en route to Madeira. But the day after the Laser competition, Hank was definitely back in cruising mode. There was a “fun” fleet race scheduled, from North Sound to Jost van Dyke, in which all 16 Swans in the ClubSwan squadron nonchalantly participated. We had a good aggressive start aboard Avocation---there’s something about a start that always brings out the predator in Hank---but then he got indifferent as soon as we were outside North Sound. The big boats around us---a couple of Swan 80s and 56s, plus a 53---started popping chutes straight off. “Forget about that,” said Hank. Whereupon he retired to the lee rail, where there was some shade, and tucked into a trashy spy novel. It did get tight in the end. We had one sistership in the fleet, another Swan 48 named named Quero-Quero, which had come all the way from Portugal. When they swooped in from deep right field as we turned down the channel between Jost and Tortola, things suddenly seemed to matter again. We were sailing wing-and-wing, without a pole, and up to that point had been happy to just let the jib flop around pointlessly when the boat rolled in the mild northeast swell. But soon Quero, which was also sailing wing-and-wing, was close behind us. “They’re putting up a pole,” I announced grimly from behind the binoculars.

Jan at once started making jokes about us putting up our pole, hoping to inspire us, or at least humiliate us. But we (that would be me, Hank, and Jan’s buddy, Bob Whitlock, another attorney from Minneapolis) pretty much ignored him. Sloth and indolence was the order of the day. And it paid off! We were neck and neck with Quero all the way down the coast of Jost. In the end we beat them by just a boat length at the finish line, the exact location of which was revealed by the Race Committee only on a need-to-know basis---that is, once we were within 50 yards of it. The next day, when both Jan and Bob started flipping out over what to enter in the Hors d’Ouevres Contest, I knew all bets were off. I was also getting worried about my nose, as I’d woken up in the middle of the night sneezing blood all over everything and now felt pretty crappy. That afternoon, during a scrumptious barbecue on a burger barge moored in White Bay off Peter Island, I solicited advice from Diana McConnell, of Nautor USA, the acting Fearless Leader of our Swandevous. She pointed me at Ira Zaslow, a veterinarian crewing aboard Midnight Sun, a Swan 46 from San Francisco. Ira, together with Bob Beltrano, an airline pilot and owner of Nai’a, a Swan 53, delivered a diagnosis of sinusitis. “Happens to us all the time,” explained Bob, whose wife Kristen is also an airline pilot. “It’s a hazard of the trade.” The following morning we decided to make a pit stop at Road Town, on Tortola, before rejoining the rest of the Swans at Marina Cay, just across from Beef Island. As soon as we tied up in Road Town, Jan and Bob trotted off in search of ingredients for their Horse Ovaries. Meanwhile, I went on a Plugs ‘n Drugs Run, looking for some antibiotics for my sinus disease, plus a new spark plug for our tender’s outboard motor, which was also on the disabled list.

Unfortunately, I struck out on both counts. But Jan and Bob were in the Zone. They found everything they needed---mangos, bacon, cream cheese, plus several other important condiments. As soon as we got to Marina Cay, they hunkered down in the galley like a couple of kids with a new chemistry set. In short order they emerged again, displaying a bowl of brown goop they called Mango Curry Dip. They wouldn’t let Hank or me actually taste it, but they did let us help garnish it, so it wouldn’t look so brown and goopy. We paddled ashore to dinner that evening in our rubber duck like members of a cargo cult, holding aloft the sacred bowl of dip. There was lots of murmuring going on as the crews of the different boats sampled each other’s offerings and evaluated their prospects. And the last crew to show up, Rui Saomarcos and company from our arch-rival Quero Quero, looked very smug as they plopped their Maderos Dip down on the table. But Jan and Bob weren’t about to be intimidated. “We’re looking good,” announced Jan gravely after he tasted a bit of everything. “We are definitely in the running.”

As for me, I was feeling much better, though I was still dribbling a bit of the red stuff. I decided maybe I didn’t have sinusitis after all; that maybe I had just ruptured a blood vessel up my nose. (Note to self: No more free-diving on anchors while recovering from head colds.) ICAP{T}he morning of the penultimate day of the rendezvous, a Friday, the fleet sailed in company from Marina Cay back to the Bitter End. That afternoon there were three events scheduled: Phase 2 of the Laser competition, a GPS Treasure Hunt, plus a boule competition. Boule, FYI, is French for bocce ball, which is a game where old men in berets stand around tossing large balls at a much smaller ball. To prepare for the Laser racing Hank started fasting and declined to eat lunch. Meanwhile, our new partner-in-crime, Guilia King, from Chicago, the first of the crew coming to race in the Spring Regatta, who had joined the boat the previous afternoon at Marina Cay, convinced Jan that we needed to field a Treasure Hunt team. Jan convinced me I should be part of it. The rules of the treasure hunt were simple. Each team was given a small outboard-powered skiff, a handheld GPS, and a list of five waypoints in the North Sound area with some clues about what to look for at each location. You could run the waypoints in any order, except the last one had to be the fifth one, where a hidden bottle of rum awaited the winner. As soon as Jan, Guilia, and I hopped in our skiff, the blood lust was upon us. You can imagine then how outraged we were when we found, just two waypoints into the hunt, that the batteries in the GPS we’d been given had gone dead. “Protest! We’ve got to protest!” I insisted.

“No, wait!” declared Jan. And miraculously he produced a set of spare batteries from his daypack. We soon reached the fifth waypoint, a small beach on the Bitter End’s waterfront, and spent 20 minutes searching there for that damn bottle of rum. Finally, though, we decided someone must have beaten us to it and so returned disconsolately to home base. “Congratulations!” announced the Hunt Coordinator as soon as he saw us. “You’re the first team back. Did you find the rum?” Whereupon, even as our hopes started soaring again, there was much muttering and scratching of heads. Then we noticed some members of another team strolling down a waterfront trail, heads crooked over a GPS. In one of their hands was a bottle of rum. “Hey! Where’d you get that?” we demanded.

With looks of confusion upon their faces, our opponents admitted that the rum was the very first item they found on their peregrinations about the sound. As it was, Jan had to clap a hand over my mouth and dragged me kicking and screaming from the scene. Under the circumstances, we thought it best not to participate in the boules. ICAP{A}t dinner on Friday night, it was announced that Quero Quero had won the Hors d’Ouevres competition. This was a bitter blow. We looked forward to meeting them again on the water during the last event, a fleet race on Saturday around Virgin Gorda, so we could re-educate them as to our superiority. But they were content, it seemed, to rest on their laurels and did not make the start. Clearly, our own attitude toward this race was ambivalent. At least as far as spinnakers were concerned, we were not about to depart from the regime of Sloth & Indolence that had served us so well in the first race. On the other hand, Hank did not pull out his spy novel and spent much time sitting out on the windward rail, pretending it made a difference. The conditions were glorious, and Jan steered the whole race. From time to time he announced this is exactly what he had been working so hard for all these years.

The final awards dinner that night was like something from out of a fairy tale. Hank, who had finished with three firsts and a second the day before, was proclaimed King of the Lasers. Jan, Guilia, and I were hailed as Masters of the Treasure Hunt. The dessert pastries, appropriately, were crafted to look like miniature swans. The wine flowed freely. And in what seemed like a neverending series of serendipitous and somewhat magical coincidences, I met several folk from my sailing past whom I had not seen in years. I was still glowing from the buzz of it all when I gave Hank a ring a couple of weeks later to see how things had gone in the Spring Regatta. Avocation, it turned out, did quite well in the first two races and finished third both times. But then in the third race, unfortunately, the boat got T-boned in a horrible collision at the start line. The damage was considerable: a bent mast, busted toerail, crumpled stanchions, munged up topsides, and all the rest of it. But Hank, I have to say, didn’t really seem too stressed about it. “We’re getting her fixed up as fast as we can,” he proclaimed. “Then it’s off to Antigua!”

Racing Aboard Avocation
Offshore Passage Opportunities (OPO), besides being the largest bluewater crew-networking service in North America, has been organizing offshore excursions between the U.S. and the Caribbean for pay-to-play crew for many years. Their new OPORT (OPO Racing Team) program gives members a chance to participate as racing crew in major regattas in both the Caribbean and New England. In her inaugural season, Avocation raced in the Rolex Swan American Regatta (summer 2005) and all three major Caribbean regattas (spring 2006) and is expected to follow a similar schedule during the 2006/07 season. For a flat fee crew members are provided with training, accomodations, and local transportation at Caribbean regatta sites. Members can also participate in deliveries to and from races. For pricing and more information call 1-800-472-7724 or check out the OPO website at www.sailopo.com.


July 2006 issue of Latitudes and attitudes Magazine
26th Annual Heineken Regatta
(Where you can still get a Heineken for buck)
By Hank Schmitt


In 2005, after being targeted by the Platinum Girl ensemble as background fluff for their photo shoot, aboard the chartered Swan 51 Sky, members of Offshore Passage Opportunities vowed to return this past year for another shot aboard the newly purchased Swan 48 named “Avocation.”

A more motley crew had not been assembled for a sail since sailors were impressed into service, a couple of centuries ago. Sixteen, mostly strangers, gathered on the island of St. Maarten last March (March 3rd to the 5th) for the 26th annual Heineken Regatta. All but three, paying crew buying a ride aboard “Avocation”, a newly campaigned Swan 48 in the Caribbean for her first full season.

Hailing from such diverse ports as Waterloo, Iowa (John Pedersen), Louisville, Kentucky (Mark Isaacs), Telluride, Colorado (Dave Pedersen), Bristol, Indiana (George Bucklen), and Greentown, Pennsylvania (Erik Sonsteby), for many, this would be their first time racing or sailing on a big boat in a big fleet. Two Canadian lake sailors, Mike Bosela and Bernie Nagle along with German diplomat Martin Fleischer, working at the UN in New York City, made our crew roster, at least on paper, closer resemble the internationality of our semi-pro competitors and spirit of the regatta.

Of the 240 boats, almost half are charter boats from the various charter fleets that migrate from nearby island every year to participate. Oddly enough a majority of the crews come from Europe, where the crews successfully lobby their bosses to pony up sponsorship to subsidize their participation and foster company moral. Perhaps Americans need to strike for similar better working conditions.

Although many people think they need to be young, fit and easily tan-able to race big boats, our venue proves that anyone can sign aboard a boat and have fun and do well. Aboard Avocation, not one crewmember was under 47 years old including bowman (Curtis Sanders) and grinders (Mike and Bernie). The pre-race crew meeting, after only one day of practice on the water, emphasized grade school team spirit, and Olympic zeal for simply participating. The pre-race pep talk given by Mark Washeim of Doyle Sails aimed at mid fleet respectability.

However, a 2nd place finish on the first day in the 33 mile around the Island Race, got everyone excited about a podium finish. Day two saw Captain Hank Schmitt dumping 300 ft of anchor chain at the dock and making sure all the water tanks were empty. Despite the pre race training regimen instilled by Pitman Don Carver “We have undertaken a strict training regime - The only beer we are drinking is Heineken and lifting weights..... The garbage bags with the green bottles are quite heavy.” This crew was getting serious about winning.

Day two, had three races, with two being more challenging and crew dependent windward-leeward courses. Good starts and upwind tactics masked our hourglass spinnaker sets and tangled halyard on the leader board. We finished with a 2-3-2-3 record between another Swan 48 Affinity (1st place) and a Baltic 52 Kin-Ship, with Don Street aboard. The last day of racing saw the first cancelled day of racing in the 26 years of the Regatta due to lack of wind. That the race committee still got 4 races in for the spinnaker divisions (but only two for the charter fleets) was a testament to their foresight and experience.

Although legendary for the parties, this group spent more time at the chiropractic office and sipping wine at crew quarters beachside than getting to know the bartenders and Heineken girls. But as you can tell by the picture everyone showed up for the 2nd Place Podium Finish

For armchair sailors everywhere who think they cannot compete, this quote from mainsail trimmer Mark Isaacs e-mailed after the race says it best. “I have been floating on air since returning from St. Maarten. I am in disbelief that I was part of a team that placed second in our division of 16 boats! The notion that I would be an accomplished athlete written about in our local newspaper is also cause for disbelief, but it ain't braggin' if it's true! As we practiced together for the first time as a team, I got a little misty-eyed and emotional at realizing that I could have gone my whole life without experiencing the joy of racing in a Caribbean regatta like this.”

For more information call 1-800-4PASSAGE (1-800-472-7724)