Transatlantic Record Run: Feast your eyes on Mari-Cha IV, the fastest monohull sailboat in the world. Just launched in August, she is 140 feet long and in theory capable of speeds in excess of 40 knots. In other words, she is a beast (a multimillion dollar beast). Her sole purpose is to break sailing records and right now she is tearing up the North Atlantic, attempting to break the west-east crossing record from New York to the English Channel. The current reference time is 8 days, 20 hours, 55 minutes and 35 seconds, an average speed of 13.7 knots. Mari-Cha IV is hoping to become the first monohull to do the crossing in under 8 days, and while she is at it become the first monohull to sail more than 500 miles in 24 hours. Just over 24 hours into her run she is averaging 19.32 knots, so is well on pace. The boat has all the muscle it needs to take this title. The only question is: will it hold together? New boats–particularly new boats that push the envelope, like this one–have a tendency to break. I’ll keep you posted or follow the attempt on Mari-Cha’s website.

copyright Thierry Martinez

Let them go II Another shocker. Dolphins penned up in dolphin parks so tourists can swim with them are dying. I’ve been to the pens of the Yucutan. Watching dolphins swim in circles in wire enclosures while waiting to take sunburned gringos for a $100 ride is enough to turn anyone into an eco-terrorist. If you want to encounter wildlife go out into the wild. The magic of seeing dolphins at sea–or animals anywhere in the wild–is that the encounter is almost always unexpected. And to see animals in their natural habitat, rather than in zoos or parks, is to see them as they really are, and to see them without guilt. Most important, getting there is half the fun.

Let them go Here’s a real surprise. Large zoo animals–polar bears, lions, cheetahs, tigers–are so miserable in zoos that researchers from Oxford University conclude that standard zoo conditions need to be dramatically improved or the animals should be left to roam the wild. I’d opt for letting them remain in the wild. Some animals are fine in captivity, but all the ones you really go to zoos to see–the large ones–are heartbreaking in their apparent claustrophobia and boredom. The Oxford report notes that the typical zoo enclosure for a polar bear is one-millionth the size of its home range in the wild…not to mention the high average temperatures of most zoo locations. Writer David Quammen, in his searing new book Monster of God, reports that the big beasts aren’t doing so well in the wild either. But the wild has to be better than bars. Bleak.

Leave your gall bladder behind…. For the third time in four years an emergency medical evacuation from South Pole research stations has been required–and two out of the three evacuees were suffering from gall stones. I’d bet that medical problems at the research stations go back a lot longer than that, but it is only recently that the media has started to fixate on them. In any case, Barry McCue, 51, the most recent beneficiary of a dramatic airlift, says that he’ll be staying closer to home for a while. Story here . Reminds me of the time I got a kidney stone halfway between Puerto Rico and Bermuda while sailing home from the Caribbean. My medical handbook recommended a morphine drip (oops, I only had Advil), and my groan of relief when that little sucker pinged off the porcelain could be heard ten miles away. No airlift available…..