Sunday, December 30, 2007

Reap the Whirlwind





What a whirlwind as we close out 2007.

An Olympics controversy.

An America's Cup controversy.

Boats breaking on the ocean.

In the Barcelona World Race, it seems that keeping a mast vertical might be nothing more than a long-term prescription for hitting something at speed. Paprec-Virbac 2 pulled out to a 923-mile lead over Hugo Boss in this seriously-depleted fleet—five boats remaining—and Boss is now back at sea after a pit stop for repairs to its rudder cassettes, but Paprec-Virbac 2 then hit something and developed rudder problems of its own. Temenos II is meanwhile headed to New Zealand for a pit stop and hoping the keel stays on that long and—

Remember the sad state of the solo Velux 5 Oceans, where Bernard Stamm was so far ahead that nobody could beat him but himself? The notion to create this inaugural doublehanded circumnavigation out of Barcelona had buzz, and has merit, but I'm thinking that round-the-world racing has some sorting out ahead, and the new-generation Open 60s needed more sorting ahead of this race. Here we see Damian Foxall taking the long walk to work on Paprec-Virbac 2.

AND momentum continues to build for an ISAF re-vote of the categories of boats to be sailed in the 2012 Olympics, with UK and Australian national authorities already committed to push for reconsideration, New Zealand apparently on the verge of committing, and the multihull slice of US Sailing at odds with its own national authority. ISAF of course is unenthusiastic about a re-vote, at least at the top. Andy Rice on Sailjuice has posted a letter from outgoing ISAF president Arve Sundheim to members of the ISAF Council, which is all about defending decisions as made last fall.

The pity is, many good people on the "establishment" side can see the beauty of a more enlightened approach—for the good of the sport, as opposed to maximizing a team's medal opportunities—but there's no way for them to swim across that river. And I predict, if you throw the bums out, the new bums won't fare much better.

Alinghi's new lawyers (they used to have "the best lawyers" but they fired them) are presently attempting to convince the Supreme Court of the State of New York that BMW Oracle Racing has challenged in a monohull 90 feet wide—that's not the way they phrase it; that's the way it logically parses—and Larry Ellison's team has meanwhile had Russell Coutts issue a statement that says, Huh? Like yeah, and they are going forward with steps toward racing a Deed of Gift match in big multihulls next October.

You can read Alinghi's arguments at americascup.com, and you can read the words of Russell Coutts at the web site of the Golden Gate Yacht Club.

No reason to quit my Spanish lessons, eh?

And I'd be remiss to not offer congratulations to Roger Sturgeon and the crew of the first-ever STP 65, Rosebud, for winning IRC at the Rolex Sydney-Hobart. Rosebud had a good strong Transpac in 2007, a first at the Big Boat Series, and now this big international win. The STP 65 thing could go big . . .


Photo by Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex

And howzabout that line-honors threepeat for Bob Oatley's maxi, the cant-keeled Wild Oats? Remember that the boat was dismasted in the Med not so many months ago, and the crew raced a race to get to the race . . .


Photo by Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex

The Organ Pipes, as they are known, yield iconic images as surely and as routinely as Fastnet Rock, Castle Hill, or the Golden Gate. Which rhymes with '08. See ya there—Kimball

Friday, December 21, 2007

Innovators, Sailors, and Good Reads



Thanks to offerings from friends and long flights to Thailand and back for King's Cup racing, I've had a few good reads of late, and they're worth sharing.

The Six Metre – 100 Years of Racing

I love strong statements, and Pekka Barck kicks off these 304 pages by declaring:

"The International Rule is the most important development class rule in yachting history. It has been the backbone of yacht racing for 100 years."



What's more, that is a defensible statement, as I glean from the book's introduction, written by Olin Stephens. The International Rule gave us many classes, most notably the Twelve Metres that raced in America's Cup matches from 1958 to 1987, and the Six Metres, which were the focus of development for decades. It was in Sixes that the first overlapping jib was proved—on a racecourse in Genoa, giving us genoa jibs—and the first-ever headsail arsenal (5 sails) was seen aboard Nancy in the 1932 British-American team races. Before that time, the "parachute spinnaker" had already debuted on a Six, and later, Briggs Cunningham would introduce the first "cunningham" on the mainsail of a Six. You get the point.

These are classic beauties. Lisbeth V, SWE 136, and Nada, K12, were photographed at the 2007 World Cup in Cowes . . .



A note for trivia fans: The first Six Metre racing in the USA (I'm going to use the European spelling, following on from the book title) was part of the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition on San Francisco Bay, celebrating the opening of the Panama Canal. A prominent local, Lionel Barneson, commissioned a new but traditionally gaff-rigged boat named Lady Betty. She proved no match for her only rival--World War I was already under way, and only King Christian X of Denmark sent a boat and crew. That boat was Nordug IV. Press accounts of the day noted the "leg of mutton rig" on the Danish boat, and the astute reader will recognize that as a precursor to the standard Marconi rig of the modern sloop. I have no ID on the Marconi-rigged sloop pictured below, but yes, it was a grand fair, and none of those buildings were built to last. This is more or less the site of St. Francis Yacht Club today.



In the USA, the Sixes had flowerings on Lake Ontario, San Francisco Bay, and Puget Sound, where the Seattle fleet is the last holdout of activity on these shores. So while the book is a bit Euro-centric, it's for good reason, and that will be no problem for its intended (fanatical) audience. The Six Metre – 100 Years of Racing is authoritative, satisfying to hold, lush and lovely to see. Some of you will just have to have it (you know who you are), and I am influenced only mildly in my recommendation by the authors' decision to include a reprint of my account of the 1985 World Cup (June, 1985, SAIL Magazine). There. Full disclosure.

The Six Metre – 100 Years of Racing

Pekka Barck & Tim Street

ISBN: 978-952-5045-31-4

Roughly 65.00 €

Litorale


Mine's Bigger: Tom Perkins and the Making of the Greatest Sailing Machine Ever Built

David Kaplan, who got his foot in the door by writing about the Silicon Valley tech/venture capital scene, here offers a tour of the 289-foot "modern clipper," Maltese Falcon, from concept to early voyaging. The book is also a bio of sorts of venture capital pioneer Tom Perkins.



To appreciate Perkins you have to understand him as a hands-on engineer as well as a businessman. Far from being a mere manipulator of money, Perkins is an inventor who made his first fortune by rethinking optical lasers. I already knew that, but until I read Mine's Bigger, I had no idea that Perkins had done that development work in a lab in Berkeley in the same building where a certain Augustus Owsley Stanley III was developing his own contributions to the 1960s—the wall of sound amplification system that became the signature of the Grateful Dead (he was their soundman), and those famous little sugar cubes.

As a pure read, I didn't fall in love with this book, but it kept me going with useless but tasty bon bons such as that. Not to get hung up on rock & roll, but get this passage re. Perkins' purchase of an estate in Sussex, England. The manor had once belonged to Henry VIII, but more recently Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page had owned the property, which had seen the death of a 19-year-old "friend of the band" who failed to make it out of the pool at the end of a party:

"The local vicar suggested an exorcism. Perkins laughed and told Gerd [his late wife] this was really about the local church needing a new roof. But a few weeks later, Perkins flew over from the United States to observe the rite. Saturday arrived, though the vicar did not. Instead, the archbishop arrived in his VW. 'Son,' the archbiship told Perkins, you must be wondering why I am here instead of Father Lawton. It's because the forces of evil may be so powerful that when they're suddenly released, should there be an emergency, I should be present' . . . Under other circumstances, the archbishop and Perkins might have had a lot to talk about: the archbishop had a PhD in physics from Oxford."

The church got a new roof and a new foundation.

For the nautically-minded, the book is worth the read if only to learn that yacht builder Fabio Perini had first made his mark by reinventing his family's paper-making business, automatizing the task of feeding huge spindles of paper into machines that produced individual rolls of toilet paper. The trick was a tensioning device--his father then set him up in a machine-making business--and soon the family dominated the market. It was part of a process that led Perini to eventually design the captive winches that make big-yacht, small-crew sailing possible. Once again a tensioning device, to keep a line from jamming, was critical, and not until Perini brought the same sort of thinking to the problem of furling and unfurling sails on Maltese Falcon did the Dynarig begin to fulfill its promise.

Here's a view looking down on the yards, each with a 12 percent chord, but each a different length and therefore not cut from a single mold . . .



Perkins is a self-made man who might dine with the crew in the absence of guests, but he makes no apology for living in utmost luxury . . .



Here is Perkins in the atrium of Maltese Falcon with an Emmanuel Chapalain aluminum sculpture of a you know what.



Having been interested in Maltese Falcon from the beginning—it's the only innovative work that's been done lately in big sailing-yacht development—I'm a sucker for anything that tells me more. I interviewed Perkins in his downtown San Francisco office while the rig was still in development at the Perini Navi yard in Turkey. Tom just couldn't wait to talk about the concept—he could have been a 13-year-old who had just discovered girls—and his enthusiasm was infectious. From small sailing models to fractional-size sailing models to a full-scale test of mast, spars, and sails on the hard, the Dynarig concept was vetted at every stage. But until the boat sailed, it was still a risk, and it could only have been born under the guidance of a man who has lived a lifetime sailing hard in everything from IOD's up, and taking calculated risks.

Well worth the time, and thank you, Frank Kawalkowski, for just sending the book on over as a US Postal surprise.

Mine's Bigger: Tom Perkins and the Making of the Greatest Sailing Machine Ever Built

ISBN 9780061227943
William Morrow & Co
MSRP: $ 25.95


She's charterable, but if you have to ask . . .



Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy

It's a pleasure seeing a first-time author hit a home run, and Six Frigates is certainly that. Don't mistake my brevity here for a lack of enthusiasm. It was Karl Limbach who put this book into the hands of someone who had no background whatever in the origins of the U.S. Navy, much less the finer points of the social/political dramas that complicated the emergence of a Navy in a country more focused on pushing into the West. I was reading the epilogue as my China Air flight hit short-final into SFO, and I was wishing we could stay in the air just a few pages longer.



From the embarrassments of the alleged Continental Navy to the vicissitudes faced on the first forays of the Marines into Tripoli to hand-to-cannon triumphs over the might and main of Her Majesty's fleet in 1812 to insights into the sheer humanity of it all, Ian Toll has done his homework. His web site tells us: Ian W. Toll has been a Wall Street analyst, a Federal Reserve financial analyst, and a political aide and speechwriter. Six Frigates is his first book.

Except for the true Six Metre fanatic, Six Frigates is the pick of this litter at a mere 592 pages.

SIX FRIGATES: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy

Ian W. Toll

Norton

$27.95.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

High Noon



Maybe a multihull match in '08 is the best next thing.

We're all tired of being mired. The pros who thought that America's Cup 32 was the launching pad to a secure footing know already how wrong they were, and compared to the abyss of legal appeals, six-guns at the back of the corral would do fine. It wouldn't be like '88, you know. People are confused about that.

In '88, Conner's cat just waltzed away from the Kiwi Big Boat, which was never really a good boat (in the San Diego slop, you could feel two waves at a time working the hull). The Big Boat was a very beatable boat, and if the defenders had matched it with their own big boat, that would have been one of the most celebrated America's Cup events ever. The world was keen. Sports Illustrated was ready to go large, and so were all the major news outlets. Until the catamaran defense turned it into a bilious mismatch—yes, I'm oversimplifying, and perhaps if I had been in the meeting, I'd have voted for the catamaran too—and until the endless court battles turned everyone nauseous, then off.

From the earliest decisions made by San Diego Yacht Club after winning in Australia to Michael Fay's decision to enter a sideways challenge, the 1988 affair was an avalanche of actions with unintended consequences. Would I be wrong to say that 2007, so far, fits the theme?

But with both camps armed with big multihulls, the match is not, in concept, a mismatch. Those who advocate racing the Cup in the fastest boats possible could see just what that means, and those of us who think it's a bad idea could be proven right or wrong and maybe, just maybe, we'd all come out smarter and feeling better, the way you do when you've just had a good vomit.

Meanwhile

The latest word, as taken from the Golden Gate Yacht Club web site:

Valencia, Spain, 14 December 2007: The New York State Supreme Court is expected to issue a Court Order on its November 27 decision early in 2008, the Golden Gate Yacht Club confirmed today

The Court will hear further submissions from both parties on January 14 and make an order some time after that.

- Ends –

Meanwhile again

I have received a gift from Alinghi, a lovely coffee table book chronicling the events of the team in America's Cup 32 from the Moet Cup match on San Francisco Bay in 2003 to the victory celebration of 2007 in Valencia. It's a great production. I wish I felt great while I look at it—Kimball

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Arounder and Arounder She Goes




It is no accident that the America's Cup is in crisis at more or less this moment.

If it hadn't been Ernesto Bertarelli's eensie-weensie, oh-so-minorly-adjusted, you are all my prisoners and trust me because I'm doing this for your own good, protocol of 2007, it would have been something else.

It's about the development of a viable professional racing scene, not under the table any more, with a broader market lying ready, especially in Europe. We've come a long way from the days of Newport, when the America's Cup was an industry that supported 400 people. And no, for those of us who are just sailors, this is not our problem. But it's a reality. Remember that Larry Ellison too has a different "vision" of what an America's Cup event can be, though it does not appear to involve the depth of change that Bertarelli proposes. And any change risks losing the dimension of grand nonsense that has kept the America's Cup above all else.

At the moment, the best reading on that subject comes from the man who wrote the recent book, An Absorbing Interest, a definitive history of the Cup. That would be one Bob Fisher. Click on the name for recommended reading, an eloquent defense of the way things are but may not remain.

As for what next, ask the people who, I am told, begin meeting in New York as of Monday. That includes the BMW Oracle reps who will go in wondering if visiting the New York YC to propose fundamental change was, somehow, another tactic laid down months ago by Bertarelli, just in case the whole world was right and he was going to lose in court. At the moment, the closest thing to solid dope is this . . .

Release from the New York Yacht Club:


Charles H. Townsend, commodore of the New York Yacht Club, said, "We were approached earlier in the year by Mr. Ernesto Bertarelli of Societe Nautique de Geneve (SNG), the current holder of the Cup. We concluded that given our club's founding association with the competition we can work impartially to assist in the development of initiatives to preserve and build competition for the oldest international trophy in sport, and ensure that it will endure as a premiere global sporting event for generations to come."

Commodore Townsend also announced that the Club would be represented in discussions with the Cup community by Trustee and Chairman of the Club's America's Cup Committee, George W. Carmany III. "In addition to Ernesto Bertarelli, we have received an expression of support for this initiative from Larry Ellison, owner of Golden Gate Yacht Club's (GGYC) America's Cup team," said Mr. Carmany. "We hope that our discussions will lead to agreements that will benefit all members of the broader America's Cup community."

“We do not want this initiative to interfere in any way with Golden Gate Yacht Club’s current America’s Cu.p challenge. While we do not wish to foreclose other options which either SNG or GGYC may wish to pursue regarding the conduct of the next America’s Cup match, we are available to participate in discussions that consider changes to the governing documents to facilitate the future conduct of regular and independently managed competitions at locations throughout the world,” concluded Mr. Carmany.

"While we understand that we are not contemplating a simple task, we are made confident in undertaking the effort by the support and encouragement of Larry Ellison and Ernesto Bertarelli," said Commodore Townsend. "We compliment both gentlemen on their foresight and willingness to participate in the discussions. We are hopeful that this initiative can be beneficial to all those who compete for the America’s Cup, and to the fans who enjoy it so much."


With Bertarelli now disavowing any preference for Amageddon in Catamarans, while suggesting that we alter the field of play, the next few weeks should prove "interesting." Ellison is focused on AC 33. I'd reckon that, as in poker, the card showing is not always what counts —Kimball

Friday, December 7, 2007

Thank Gawd, Apparently (Compromise?)

Who knows, yet, what it means. I can imagine yet a few minefields to cross before the horizon. But this sounds better than any other recent release from America's Cup contention. The meat is at bottom. Signed by:

Ernesto Bertarelli
President of Alinghi
Defender of the 33rd America’s Cup




Since Alinghi’s successful defence of the America’s Cup in July, much has been said by many and I wish to explain my personal passion for bringing my vision of the America’s Cup to life.

When I founded Alinghi it was all about creating a team to share the passion of sailing through every channel available to as wide an audience as possible. We tried to adopt a fresh and open way of doing things and making part of our base accessible to the public was only one example of the many innovations Alinghi brought to the America’s Cup. I believe this approach was a contributing factor to our success in 2003.

With the Defence of the Cup, we got the opportunity to share this spirit with the whole event. When we began, we set out a clear and innovative strategy focusing on the choice of venue, the set up of a purpose built port, the America’s Cup Park and the Acts as part of our vision of opening the event to as large an audience as possible.

Over six million people attended the event, which for the first time saw the participation of syndicates from five continents. The television coverage extended the reach to over four billion viewers.

The critics who opposed the Acts, the choice of venue, the television production, etc. were numerous and vociferous but the facts proved that the 32nd America’s Cup was a positive turning point for this historical event.

At the same time as realising some of the fascinating aspects of the America’s Cup I also became aware of its weaknesses. The uncertain format of the event meant that teams – and the entire America’s Cup Community – had no future beyond the next Cup. This leads to teams only surviving one cycle and the whole event needing to recreate itself every three to five years. This results in a substantial increase in costs and difficulty in securing long term sponsors.

For the 33rd edition, the concept was to empower the organisers to implement further innovations without unnecessary disruptions. The proposal to create the new AC90 class with the one boat sailing rule in a two year cycle is a major measure towards managing the costs while creating further excitement and by using the existing facilities of Valencia we had the ideal platform to maintain momentum. This would have enabled the event to prosper and generate greater revenue for the organisers to share with the teams.

The recent events in the New York courts, with the Judge ruling the CNEV invalid because it had not held its regatta at the right time, show the Achilles’ heel of the event and the possibility of its destabilisation through individual actions. Again, as in 2003, our vision has received criticism from those reluctant to change. I stand by one of the principles of the Cup: the Trustee, with the Defender, has the responsibility for the governance of the event and to implement changes which will allow it to prosper.

With a view towards the future and having studied the rules of the Cup I observed that the Deed does not actively promote parity for the teams and a long term future of the event.

In October of this year I went to New York to start a dialogue with the New York Yacht Club to examine what enthusiasm there was to make the event more relevant to today’s sporting landscape. The Deed of Gift was, after all, written over 150 years ago at the NYYC and could not anticipate the changes that the world has undergone. I was not expecting the discussions to be completed swiftly but I was thrilled when Charles Townsend, Commodore of the NYYC and George W. Carmany III, Chairman of NYYC America’s Cup Committee, expressed the same feelings.

It is fair to say that the 33rd America’s Cup has been ill-fated and I have a desire to make it right. The fastest way to achieve this objective would be for the Golden Gate Yacht Club and the Société Nautique de Genève to work with the New York Yacht Club on revising the Deed of Gift to make it appropriate for today without losing what makes the America’s Cup special. As part of this process I am happy to compromise on some of the Defender’s rights to achieve what is best for the event.

In effect, I raise the following questions:
· Should the Defender automatically be qualified for the final AC Match or should all teams start on equal footings?
· Should the schedule of venues and content of regulations be announced several cycles in advance allowing planning and funding?
· Should the governance of the Cup become permanent and be managed by entities representing past and current trustees as well as competing teams?

Over the weekend I spoke at length with Larry Ellison explaining our proposal and I was pleased that he was very supportive of the principles in the proposed changes.

Based on these principles it is my intention to work towards a renovated America’s Cup to take place in Valencia and to be raced with the certainty that the event cannot be disrupted to meet individual requirements to the detriment of those willing and able to compete.

If this revision of the governing documents of the America’s Cup cannot be achieved, we will have to accept the GGYC challenge under the Deed of Gift.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Morning Commute

There are no docks in Phuket, so each morning the crews racing in the King's Cup ride from a white sand beach to the mooring field in a longtail—remarkable little boats, indigenous to Thailand, and you probably don't have one in your yacht club.

Great events often have something special about them that are accidental, just part of the makeup, and for me, the longtails make the King's Cup. Along with tropical water and warm winds and all that yachting stuff, of course.

Arrive early—with starting lines set miles off the beach and kickoff at 0900 you'd better be early—and you find the longtails as they were "put to bed" the night before. The motors are covered, and the driveshafts/propellers are swung inboard and secured.



It's a tourist beach, no fooling . . .



Picture a motor mounted high, free to swivel and tilt, with a long drive shaft and a propeller on the end. If you want to go, you put the prop in the water and twist a throttle on the control arm. To turn, you push or pull. I'm assuming I don't have to explain why it's called a longtail . . .



This crew has loaded up in a boat that's ready to go . . .



For the crew of Peter Dyer's Madame Butterfly, the regular ride is with Captain Pe Pe (it probably sounds better in Thai), but occasionally someone else beats the good captain to our case. Whoever it may be, this thing we'd call body-English in the States translates to some pretty intense body-Thai. Let's let it play . . .













Every longtail has a bowman. They're a colorful cast of characters . . .



Day three of the King's Cup was the King's birthday. The fleet sailed past a Royal Thai Navy ship in salute . . .


Photo by Alberto Cassio

Madame Butterfly flew her white SEA spinnaker for the occasion, as you see below. With two days of racing still to come, King's Cup racing has gone so well for us so far that I'm not going to jinx it by talking about it—Kimball


Photo by Guy Nowell

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

More is More



They start early in Thailand. I was mystified why King's Cup races would start at 0900 until I received the plausible answer that, typically, the breeze dies by 1300. So it's real when they tell you to report to the beach, for a ride to the boat, at 0700. This year, of course, the breeze has not been dying at 1300, but what do I know? This is the 21st King's Cup regatta -- sailed on the Andaman Sea out of the island of Phuket -- and it's the first one I have not missed.

Think seven races over five days. They still do a genuine race week here, and the King's Cup is just one event on a long Asian circuit that can soak up months of your life, if you're that lucky.

Warm water, a warm breeze, and not many scars showing from the tsunami, at least not at Kata Beach. That's my report (preliminary).

Full Metal Jacket is up from New Zealand . . .


Photo by Guy Nowell

There were 103 entries for race one, but a fender bender today has reduced that number. And then there were the two boats that went awol the night before racing opened, blown off their moorings by a breeze that always seems stronger at night. The breeze has been coming off the land, and both boats were rescued 5-7 miles off the beach. There are way too many divisions to talk about, but if you want to know more you can visit the King's Cup, where you might note that my ride, Madame Butterfly, is off to a decent start.

Clicks at Last

Well short of that magic 50 knots, but I understand why he's celebrating: Paul Larsen's SailRocket thingamajig hit 42.4 at Walvis Bay, Namibia and reinvigorated what has been a long and difficult effort to prove the concept of this particular speed-record hopeful. It looked like this . . .



Larsen's thoughts, after yet another crash a few days earlier and with time running out: "Our backs were hard against the wall. That day marked our last chance to prove that our faith in the project was not misguided."

It also reinspired confidence: "Whilst not an officially timed run it marks a milestone. SAILROCKET was sailing in a very coarse and safe mode with twice the necessary rigging in the air and the big low-speed rudder still down. The rudder alone is good for another 5 knots once raised. The concept is just entering its element. We are not restrained by a power limit like all of our competitors. Our problems to date have been centred on controllability and this last run proved that we can post these runs without drama or issue. We have a lot of easy speed still to come through quick and basic refinement."

Meanwhile, as I recall, L'Hydroptere is in the shed for retooling, amidst expressions of confidence that, for the big French hydrofoiler, 2008 will be the year. We have a race.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

sailing IS better than sex

Take the America's Cup and . . .


With even the deepest insiders at this point not knowing where negotiations are headed, or not, whether we're going to arrive at compromise and a normal-enough event in 2009 or '10 or '11 or a no-compromises duke-out in big multihulls starting next July, I say the heck with it for now.

I'm off to Thailand—Phuket, to be precise—for the King's Cup, which is billed as the biggest regatta in Asia. You'll be hearing from me on the other end of a very long plane ride. Meanwhile, I'll leave you with some thoughts that I owe to my friends on the sailing team at the University of South Alabama. Their home waters are Mobile Bay, and a while back, for fundraising, they sold t-shirts that listed all the ways that sailing is better than sex. My picks:

If you are having trouble with your sailing, it is perfectly acceptable to pay a professional to show you how to improve your technique.

You can sail with a bunch of strangers and go home and tell your mother.

When dealing with a sailing pro, you never have to wonder if you're actually negotiating with an undercover cop.

Nobody expects you to sail with just one partner for the rest of your life,

Nobody expects you to give up sailing if your partner loses interest.

Your sailing partner will never say, "What? We just sailed last week. Is that all you ever think about?"

Nobody will tell you that you can go blind if you sail by yourself.


My eyesight's fine. Thanks for asking—Kimball

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Biggest America's Cup Ever (?)


It could be that.

If we don't get negotiation and compromise, if we actually have a three-race grudge match in giant multihulls—a Deed of Gift match, as BMW Oracle is calling it—this will go beyond sport. You'll see it in the likes of Fortune and Forbes. You'll see it on the nightly news.

It could be the biggest breakthrough in sport since Billy Jean King and Bobby Riggs launched women's tennis in that silly Battle of the Sexes. It could be the launching point that pro sailors are dreaming of.

Or not.



Be careful what you wish for.

The downside is that poor old AC then keeps banging around like a kid from juvy who just can't get a grip. If there's no reconciliation there can be no planning for the future until we have a winner, and so much for the teams on the sidelines. And there's all that wasted breath explaining to the new eyeballs that, "It's not really like this." And there's all that, well, waste.

But if we have a compromise—remember, on October 17, three "accepted"challengers joined BMW Oracle in offering compromise terms to Alinghi—this could come out OK. Unless, for lack of sponsors, the event is already hosed. I recall a few months ago running across Bruno Troublé at Harbour Court and he said, "You do understand why Louis Vuitton got out, don't you?"

And I had to allow as how I did.


So here we are. November 27, 2007. Justice Herman Cahn of the Supreme Court of the State of New York rules that Club Náutico Español de Vela is, say hey, not a valid challenger of record, and this less than 48 hours after they completed their first Annual Regatta. Intending to do it is not the same as having done it. Nice try, guys. Define "is."

BMW Oracle Racing/GGYC become for a second time the challenger of record (Alinghi negotiators' worst nightmare, the ehmanizer, warms up in the wings), and they say their first choice now is to go back to that October 17 compromise offer and build an inclusive regatta in 90-foot monohulls. In speaking of that offer, TeamOrigin's Sir Keith Mills minced no words in his opinion that this is the way forward.

In a Down Under case of frankness-breaks-out, Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton said to The New Zealand Herald, regarding the court ruling, "That's what we've always been working to, in the hope that common sense would prevail . . . From our point of view, we're just rolling and assuming a 2009 environment and always have." Dalton was also quoted as saying that the Kiwi team has a good relationship with Larry Ellison's Oracle, but "not so much with Alinghi."

Now with Alinghi going off to pursue, as the statement says, "an analysis of the various options offered by the Deed of Gift," I have to hope that we can roll the calendar back to October 17. To force this thing to a Deed of Gift grudge match wouldn't be like peeing in the pool. More like doing #2 from the high board. And then you wouldn't want to fall.

What's that old Stones song, something about your 19th nervous breakdown?

Here it comes, here it comes—KL

Monday, November 26, 2007

Questions Three



#1

Per Jaume Soler Albertí regarding the annual regatta (inaugural ) just completed in Valencia by El Club Náutico Español de Vela to comply with the "annual regatta on an arm of the sea" stipulation in the AC Deed of Gift:

Who's paying for it?

(¿Quién habrá pagado esta regata?) The trophies, the fuel . . .


#2

Can Francis Joyon hold that lead ?

Joyon's trimaran, IDEC, at three days into a record circumnavigation attempt was 107 miles ahead of where ghost rival Ellen MacArthur stood at the same click of the stopwatch on her 71-day record sail. Records are made to be broken, but it's so early and this one won't come cheap.

#3

Can you remember a time when the Atlantic was more astir? Joyon is outbound, the Transat Jacques Vabre fleet is still finishing its transatlantic crossing, the Barcelona World Race fleet is outbound and trudging into the doldrums, ARC cruisers left the Canaries yesterday, and the Transatlantic Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup leaves Santa Cruz de Tenerife today. And, Thomas Coville with his big tri, Sodebo will soon be chasing Joyon on his own quest to beat MacArthur's time.

Bonus Question:
Remember when Louis Vuitton was part of the America's Cup, and are you better off now than you were then?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Talkin' Olympic Blues




In the wake of the Olympics flap, shouldn't we at least talk to US Sailing and ask, "What gives?"

Yeah, I think so.

When our international sailing authorities met and dropped multihulls as a category for the 2012 Games, a lot of multihull sailors took it as a personal insult. Catamaran and trimaran sailors tend to feel marginalized anyway, and many of them think their boats don't get the respect they deserve. Thus an avalanche of words like "disenfranchised" rained down after the ISAF Annual Meeting, and the US Sailing delegation was widely given the, um, credit.

So here we are talking to Dean Brenner on his cell phone, and Brenner is telling us, "There have been suspicions of secret deals. I'll look anybody in the eye and say, no. But we never shied away from saying that men's keelboat was a priority for us, and that's because we believe it affords the US team our best medal chances. You could take a different approach. Some people say you should make decisions, not on medal prospects, but on what's best for the sport, and that sounds good, but if your team doesn't win medals your fund raising is going to dry up and you're not going to be successful in the long run, are you? In the end, we made a sensible, tactical choice on how to vote, and the only legitimate gripe is if you think the US would have a better medal chance in catamarans."

Brenner, you should know, is a Connecticut-based volunteer who took over the job of chairing U.S. Olympic sailing a few years ago, declaring a mission to focus high energy on frontline do-ables.

And now we're talking to another volunteer on his cell phone, and that would be US Sailing President Jim Capron, who says, "My email box has been filled . . . "

Okay, let's break for a little housekeeping: ISAF selects Olympic events, or categories, five years ahead of each Olympiad, then meets again a year later and selects specific classes. The IOC required ISAF to reduce its list from 11 events to 10 events for the 2012 Games in the UK. The national authorities have competing interests in such a case.

And there we were.

Ahead of time, Capron said, "US Sailing voted at the board level not to support open events (men and women together), because historically they turn into men's events. Last spring we sent ISAF a submission proposing gender equity, five events for men and five for women."

As yours truly understands it, US Sailing's submissions last spring included a top-four list to ISAF that did not include multihulls or windsurfers and, if I get Capron correctly, he's saying: "That incurred the wrath of multihull sailors and board sailors because they perceived that we were voting 'no' to them. Wrong, but they were not in our top four. Later, we changed the submission to a full slate of ten, but it wasn't so much a change in position as a change in the public submission."

Now we're in Estoril, Portugal at the ISAF Annual Meeting and, "The Events Committee put up a slate, but the Council typically does not vote the slate," Capron says. "That was true again in 2007. Once that happens, each event is back on the table. Our proposal for 5-5 gender equity was voted down, and soon it was apparent that five of seven events were a shoe-in, no matter how US Sailing voted. The windsurfer was in, because the rest of the world wants it. That left keelboats and multihulls in question. If we had voted exactly in line with our submission—no to the windsurfer, yes to the rest—it would have been a non-vote because the windsurfer was going to be in. So we had a choice, and the only way we could express that choice was to vote for one and not the other, the keelboat and not the multihull."

Now we're switching back to our conversation with Dean Brenner . . .

"We believed that if we voted for both the keelboat and the multihull," Brenner says, "we were wasting our vote and leaving the final decision to somebody else. It was a close vote. It could have come to a tie, and that means you've taken a chance. My dream scenario would have multihulls racing and not boards, but somebody was going to be left out, and the boards were definitely in.

"Back in the day when ISAF dropped the Soling in favor of the Star as the Olympic keelboat," Brenner says, "I was sitting on $150,000 worth of world class Soling equipment that suddenly went to being worth about $20,000. Was I pissed off? You bet. But I never thought of it as a guage of ISAF's feelings about spinnakers on keelboats."

And that means

There's no other sport where being part of the Olympic Games has so much power to skew the deal. I mean, there's no reason for Lightnings to be part of the Olympics, but if they were, it would radically redefine what it means to race Lightnings. And there was a point ahead of the ISAF meeting where keelboats were apparently being squeezed out, and keelboat sailors were complaining in the forums that they were being, that word again, disenfranchised. And a while back in this space we considered the pressures that Olympic participation has placed on the Star class, and the stress on local fleets. And here, listening to these men talk, comes the sense that ISAF -- no matter how informed and motivated the individuals -- is incapable of making any inspired, creative leaps. And unless my ears deceive me, I hear you, my friends, replying, well . . .

Duh


TAKE 2009 AND SHOVE IT

You can read the text of the Thanksgiving Day ACM announcement, cancelling plans for a 2009 America's Cup match, either in my earlier post or here.

It promises (threatens?) that Alinghi will not appeal, should the Supreme Court of New York rule that CNEV is not a valid challenger of record. In that case, Alinghi will instead meet BMW Oracle per the terms of the Deed of Gift defining how to handle a match between challenger and defender sans accord.

So. Depending upon the ruling of the court, there is a chance that we could see a best-of-three grudge match in 2008, probably in 90-foot cats. The upside, even if only two teams sail, is that it's an avenue to resolution and a next step. The downside lies with the teams not included (see below). Considering the highs achieved in AC 32 and the lows achieved en route to AC 33, I can only repeat,

Aww, the poor pooch.

I figure the TEAMORIGIN release, in response to the Alinghi release, will receive wide distribution because it is one lively read. Here is an outtake: "We can only hope that common sense will prevail and that over the following days the parties will come to their senses and realise that the offer on the table is a good one for all concerned. Then we could all get on with making our respective arrangements for an event in Valencia in either 2010 or 2011. If that doesn’t happen, we can only surmise that the greed of one side is matched by the belligerence of the other.”

If you haven't tripped across the item already, this is one time you really should follow the CLICK.

Have a happy Thanksgiving weekend no matter—Kimball

ERNESTO PULLS THE PLUG


Those of you who follow these things closely will note that a consortium of challengers joined BMW Oracle last week in offering a compromise to enable racing in 2009. Alinghi rejected that offer. As expected, America's Cup Management is now announcing that Cup competition will be delayed beyond 2009. The press release, issued on Thanksgiving morning, USA time, is copied here. Also as expected, ACM is pointing the finger at the BMW Oracle court challenge as the culprit in causing the delay. However, I haven't seen much if any public support for that notion. Considering the highs achieved in AC 32, and the lows achieved en route to AC 33, I can only think . . .

Aww, the poor pooch

But at least Alinghi promises not to appeal, should they lose in court. Read on—




AMERICA'S CUP DELAYED



The current uncertainty around the future of the event triggers decision to postpone plans to hold the America's Cup in 2009


Valencia 22 November 2007 - During the past months, AC Management (ACM), the Société Nautique de Genève (SNG) and the Club Náutico Español de Vela (CNEV), in conjunction with the competing Challengers, have worked hand in hand to develop the rules and regulations for an event in 2009. These rules and regulations were agreed by all competitors and supported by the most recent entrants bringing the number of registered syndicates to eight, with an additional two currently filing entry documents.

The ongoing uncertainty around the conclusion of the New York court case brought by BMW Oracle Racing (BOR) leaves the organisers no choice but to delay the event, as many indicators demonstrate a lack of viability to stage the event in 2009 to the same standards as the 32nd America's Cup.

The competitors' entry deadline of 15 December remains valid and for now, ACM, SNG and CNEV await the outcome of the legal process. If the New York Supreme Court rules that CNEV is valid and BOR chooses not to appeal the decision, ACM will endeavour to work with the competitors to adapt the existing rules and regulations and put in place a new framework for an event to take place at a later stage in Valencia.

Should the US Courts rule against CNEV, SNG will accept the Golden Gate Yacht Club Deed of Gift Challenge and meet them in a vessel, possibly a multihull, in accordance with the terms of the Deed of Gift.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

New Horse, Mystery Horse, Winged Horse


Too cool to not share.

In a year when we've seen one-design keelboats hit new levels in the USA—47 entries at the Beneteau 36.7 North Americans, 69 entries at the J/105 North Americans—it looks as though the Europeans are showing us the way to long-distance one design racing.

We're talking yet another entry in the overcrowded field of long distance, shorthanded, professional events, but the one design aspect is a unique wrinkle, and dig the 52-foot prototype digging the English Channel off Normandy . . .

Photo by Jean-Marie Liot


Twin rudders, daggerboards, oh my. Also wide and flat; I believe that's an escape hatch in the transom.

Photo by Jean-Marie Liot



The SolOceans notion is to have a fleet of these things leaving France on October 25 for a stop in New Zealand, followed by a race back in 2008.

Having been up-close and personal with a Laser Generation that used to go to the factory to hand-pick a hull, I have to wonder a bit at the proposition of, "16m high-tech Oceanic One Designs® all completely identical to each other with regards to hull, equipment and sails," but no doubt they'll be close enough that skill and the fortunes of war will count far more than any differences in the boats.

We expect glowing reports in circumstances like this, but let's quote Yvan Griboval anyway. Returning from tests led by Erwan Tabarly, Griboval writes, "At the helm, it's a real treat." And I find that quite plausible.

Meanwhile, also in Europe

From the department of not-just-waiting-for-the-judge comes an announcement by America's Cup Management that two more yacht clubs have entered challenges with the defender, Société Nautique de Genève.

ACM does not name Mascalzone Latino, but the Italians have named themselves. From the team's web site comes this rare marvel of economy:

"On Saturday 17th November 2007, Mascalzone Latino launched with Reale Yacht Club Canottieri Savoia its challenge to the 33rd America's Cup."

Which, frankly, is everything there is to say, but I'm accustomed to finding it said in two pages or more.

You will recall that Vincenzo Onorato's team had a fast horse this year but not enough development time to pay it off. They did, however, kick off challenger racing with a bangup, upset win over Team New Zealand.

Turning to the ACM announcement: One new entry is a mystery team that may or may not be the Italian Rascals ("has requested confidentiality pending its own announcement") and the other is Ayre, a new team but representing (thank you, heavens above) the known entity of Real Club Náutico de Denia. Is this team a well-funded, honest-injun deal or just smoke at an opportune time? Dunno, but at least the YC is real as well as Real. Located in Denia on the Costa Blanca, about halfway between Valencia and Alicante, the Real Club Náutico de Denia has been around for 40 years. Team chairman Pedro Perelló had some comments regarding an association of Spanish clubs still forming, to spread the influence, or something, but I'm afraid I lost that in translation. America's Cup challenges often wrap themselves in high-minded ideals, and they're hard enough to follow (swallow?) in English, which returns my thoughts to Onorato's economy.

This brings to seven the number of "accepted challengers." ACM's statement further says, "the number of entered Challengers for the 33rd America's Cup could increase over the coming days, as there are two more teams who have started filing the necessary registering documents with the event organiser . . . Other positive news for the organisation and the teams of the 33rd America's Cup came from the Spanish Ministry of Economy, confirming that the Spanish Senate has approved a number of financial measures that were committed in the Host City Venue Agreement, such as tax benefits and social security exemptions."

The unentered challenger, of course, is BMW Oracle Racing, and if you don't already know we have a court case brewing, this is not the place for you to start your catch-up reading.


Because it is . . .

. . . a cool pic, even though it's no longer fresh news that Sally Barkow won the Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championship last weekend, this is worth sharing. What we have here is the elite of women's sailing in the USA, with Barkow on the left and Olympic Laser Rep Anna Tunnicliffe reaching down toward us on the right. Girls rock—Kimball

Photo by Dan Nerney/Rolex

Monday, November 19, 2007

sound of silence



last new posting at the golden gate yacht club web site,
november 16

last new posting at ACM,
november 15

silence. public silence. everything seething under the covers and all eyes on the courts of new york pending a ruling due in five minutes or five days or five months and the greatest fear of all, that one party or the other - somebody's going to lose -
might appeal and the question then, per ee cummings . . .

how do you like your blueyed boy
Mr. Death


. . . because that really would be the kiss of.

now with cummings duly honored I'll resume capitalization and observe that silence is a vacuum that will be filled. Thus the avalanche of speculation from certain quarters that Bertarelli has already decided to blow off 2009, or that Ellison will appeal if the court ruling goes against him, or the anticipation (unfulfilled) of seeing an eviction served upon Ellison's BMW Oracle team in their base in Valencia.

The closest thing to news comes in the form of sound bites from Alinghi skipper Brad Butterworth, who talked to Radio New Zealand's Peter Montgomery on a visit Down Under and flatly commented, re. the court case, "Ernesto's going to wait for the outcome."

And to the question of whether Alinghi will appeal, if the court rules that they have an invalid challenger of record, thus moving BMW Oracle Racing into the role: "I don't think so; Ernesto just wants to get on with it. I guess we'd be sailing in catamarans in 2009, but I don't know how you would build one in that time."

Well, at least we'd avoid the expense of all that two-boat testing.

ALSO AT SEA

But literally at sea, we find the doublehanded Barcelona World Race being led through its second scoring gate, in the Canary Islands, by Paprec-Virbac 2 while the rest of the fleet shares a variety of fortunes. Since leaving the Med for the Atlantic, many of the racers have hit patches of light air, including American Jonathan McKee, seen here trimming on Estrella Damm . . .




And here we have Andrew Cape changing headsails aboard Hugo Boss
with a spot of breeze - but "Capey" and Alex Thomson went the long way 'round and added miles to get it—Kimball

Friday, November 16, 2007

Love Me, Love My Dog



(updated Sunday, November 18, on account'a how because)

I miss Tom Blackaller. Tom had a markedly-different but favorite, mother's-no-no version of the phrase, "love me, love my dog," that perfectly fits this America's Cup moment.

Having tripped across speculation of direct confrontation brewing between the few remaining inhabitants of the BMW Oracle Racing base camp - in Port America's Cup, Valencia - and Spanish authorities allegedly tasked with evicting them, I put the question to my usual well-placed sources on the inside. What came back was this:

"A few rumors to that effect reported in Spanish press but we are confident all will be appropriately resolved. We are in discussion with the local authorities. The team has complied with all requirements necessary to continue staying at the base."

My, my.

Most of the company I keep, including those not professionally joined at the hip to developments in Cup sailing, are convinced that much of what Alinghi, the defender, has recently said and done represents an attempt to maneuver public opinion toward blaming BMW Oracle Racing for the next (as planned by the defender?) delay in an event that should happen in 2009 but probably will not. Reluctant though I am to impute motive, I note that the defender's behavior is consistent with such an interpretation.

That would make sense, given that BMW Oracle's lawsuit still pending in the New York courts has in fact contributed to the "uncertainty" that Alinghi's counsel likes to cite as the source of the problem. But is a legal challenge responsible for the situation we face now? I'd point to the defender's overly-ambitious original protocol and overly-ambitous overhaul of the format. The recently-published AC90 Rule and Event Regulations for AC 33 make a pretty read. But the racing schedule as published is based on an assumed field of 10 challengers. At present there are 5 accepted challengers, plus BMW Oracle, which (depending on how you count it) makes 3 out of 5 or 4 out of 6 endorsing the just-rejected proposal. In neither case do you have the 10-challenger field that would readily have appeared had America's Cup racing simply rolled forward on the momentum of AC 32.

Friday, November 16 was an arbitrary deadline set by Alinghi for BMW Oracle to drop its suit and challenge under the protocol or else.


Thus we light the stage for an announcement (will it happen?) by the defender that racing will not happen in 2009.

We cannot, however, sell the spin that everything would be just GREAT if not for Larry Ellison's pesky lawyers.

And we are one impasse closer to hearing what the court has to say.

While this blog headlines, Love Me, Love My Dog, my Spanish colleague, Jaume Soler Albertí, asks: ¿Realmente quiere Alinghi la Copa en 2009? Does Alinghi really want a Cup in 2009?

As of Sunday in California, all the public releases have come from the BMW Oracle Racing camp.

To read a pdf of the six-page settlement offer, click right here.

To read a statement released by BMW Oracle Racing's Golden Gate Yacht Club, click here.

And to read GGYC's reaction to the rejection, click here.

I'm on standby for direct word from Alinghi that we're not headed this way . . .



As photographed by me. Longtime readers will recall that, unlike some of my colleagues, I was happy in Valencia and loving the experience and I look forward to returning. But it's going to feel a lot better if we don't flush this thing down the drain first.

By the way (note to CNEV). Last night I went to a meeting of tenants at the San Francisco Yacht Harbor. It was held at the Golden Gate Yacht Club, which had (as ever) a roof, an open door, service staff, and all the accoutrement of a functioning yacht club. Their 2007 Midwinters began two weeks ago(before this ugly oil spill), and that series has been around longer than I have. Meaning a while.

ON THE ATLANTIC
Transat Jacque Vabre and Barcelona World Race


The leading Open 60s have about a thousand miles to go to Salvador de Bahia, Brazil to finish the Transat Jacque Vabre crossing from Le Havre, and the two boats in front are putting up quite a show. We have Jean Le Cam and Gildas Morvan on VM Matériaux reporting a three-mile lead over Michel Desjoyeaux and Emmanuel Le Borgne on Foncia, which I would count as a dead heat. The only North Americans in the race, Rich Wilson and Mike Birch aboard Great American III, are not having a great race; they're showing up 16th, 865 miles behind the leaders.

The Barcelona World Race fleet, meanwhile, was clearing the Straits of Gibraltar as daylight passed across the USA, with the doublehanded teams aboard making their initial bets on Atlantic weather routing. Here is an outtake from the event managers:

The question facing the skippers is how far west to go as they set up for the next scoring gate at the Canary Islands. The rhumb line is not necessarily the fastest route. The current forecasts seem to be enticing the bulk of the fleet further west. Paprec-Virbac 2, the lead boat, is positioned furthest west and that seems to have paid as it leads PRB by 11 miles on the 16:00 GMT position report.

"Studying the weather reports is pretty intense," reports Paprec-Virbac 2 skipper Jean-Pierre Dick. "I think aloud, challenge, argue and discuss the finer details before coming to a common decision with Damian, and that is the nice thing about being double-handed in this race - it makes it interesting to think things over together. Our choice to go west yesterday morning, and the slightly stronger wind offshore, really helped!"


American Jonathan McKee reports from Estrella Damm that the boat is "reaching at about six knots; it's pretty tame." Studying the ocean and the weather systems in play for the next few days, McKee says, "It's not going to be tradewinds, that's for sure. It's a function of where you are and what you can do with the wind that you have."

So they're out of the Med and on their way. Here's how Veolia Environnement looked in passing Gibraltar—Kimball


©Kirsten Scully/www.kospictures.com

Sunday, November 11, 2007

My Dysfunctional Family


I love my dysfunctional family—the family of sailors—but in times like these I'm glad to be out of the newspaper business where I once had a job explaining "family matters" to the great unwashed. It's hard enough just wrapping my little mind around flipflopping events at the politics-as-usual ISAF Annual Meeting in Portugal, which left Olympic futures miasmic as ever, and the newly-released, fairer-I-think, but way-doggies complex format for America's Cup 33, which could yet be wiped away by a court judgment rendering the whole scheme moot, which is a story in itself and . . .

And meanwhile, if I walk down to the water, San Francisco Bay smells like oil. Boats held in harbor. All three weekend regattas cancelled.

So where to begin.

Olympic selection? Before you weigh in, be clear. Are we talking about an obligation to represent the diversity of the sport, or about cranking up the action as a marketing tool? Change the question and you change the answer. Sailing is very much about "what" we sail. There is no other sport where being part of the Olympics has so much power to influence—or even distort—the game. And no other sport is so dependent upon outside, fickle forces (weather, my friend) for how it feels to play, who is favored on the day, and how exciting it looks (or doesn't). Most of the television-viewing public still doesn't know that sailing is part of the Olympics, and the 2008 Games won't change that one bit, nor will any action presently on the table for 2012.

America's Cup? The 19th century Deed of Gift, specifying a defender-challenger format, defies every attempt to streamline a rational, 21st century professional sports event. We've come a ways toward balance and fairness from Alinghi's "you are all my prisoners" protocol released last July, and what is now proposed ought to produce an exciting 33rd match (subject to events still pending in court). I'm just glad it's not my job to explain to nonsailors why sailing's high-profile event is put together this way. The last time the question arose, at a friend's cocktail party, I excused myself "just for a moment," ducked into a different room, and didn't go back.


OK, Olympics

I see that the UK delegation (RYA) has published its Olympic categories vote and its rationale. As I write, that is not the case with US Sailing.

Last week, when the Events Committee proposed dropping the category of Men's Keelboat (in effect, the Star) from the 2012 lineup, there was a chorus of protest that the largest segment of sailing—keelboat sailors—had been "disenfranchised." When the larger ISAF Council met and disregarded the advice of its advisory committee, and dropped the Multihull category instead (in effect, the Tornado catamaran), that gored a different ox. Now we have the multihull world distributing links to online petitions to reverse the decision, coupled to statements such as this one, copied from the UK Catamaran Racing Association, declaring that ISAF:

"Voted against the fastest boat at the Games, the only Event Open to both Men and Women, a permanent [sic] fixture for three decades, the recommendation of its own Events Committee, the strong endorsement of the host nation, and a sport invented in Britain.

"The international catamaran community is shocked at the ISAF decision. 'The bottom line right now is that Multihull sailing has no seat at the ISAF table. And, ISAF has voted that it is a monohull organization,' according to Mike Grandfield (US), Chairman of the International Tornado Association, the Olympic Multihull."

Perhaps there is a touch of hysteria in the phrasing, but these are articulate arguments based upon assumptions that Olympic sailing should represent the diversity of the sport of racing under sail. Perfectly valid arguments, on their own terms, aimed to counter other arguments/other choices that are, in turn, aimed at satisfying those involved in the selected categories while accepting that others will be conspicuously dissatisfied.

Australian David Brookes, ISAF representative for Hobie Cats, was quoted thus: “It is disappointing as we did have the votes until the US Delegation did a 'deal' with the 470 Class at the expense of the multihulls.”

Check out the distribution of votes.

Men – top six events selected

One person dinghy – Men (36 votes)
Windsurfer – Men (35 votes)
Two person dinghy – Men (34 votes)
Two person dinghy high performance – Men (34 votes)
One person dinghy heavy – Men (33 votes)
Keelboat – Men (23 votes)
out Multihull – Men or Open (21 votes)

Women – top four events selected

One person dinghy – Women (35 votes)
Windsurfer – Women (34 votes)
Two person dinghy – Women (31 votes)
Keelboat match racing – Women (21 votes)
out Two person dinghy high performance – Women (20 votes)
out Multihull – Women (3 votes)

Women's match racing? Hmm. Didn't we try match racing in Solings? Once?

But what was driving ISAF's decision to cut Olympic events from 11 to 10? Pressure from the IOC, which comes hand-in-hand with pressure to give good TV. And the assumption stands that sailing as a sport has been failing to give good TV, so have we moved the ball? Would any of the other proffered outcomes have made a dramatic difference to the big picture of Olympic sailing? Of course not. I don't compare this to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. It's more like rearranging deck chairs on a ship that goes endlessly back and forth across a stream of frittering chatter, on a course to noplace visionary, with a helm that has more play than solid feel.


OK, the America's Cup

Notwithstanding the ISAF Annual Meeting in Portugal, the center of the nautical world this past week was Barcelona, Spain. The Barcelona World Race got under way on Sunday--PRB grabbed an early lead in a tight pack—from the site of the huge annual boat show, Salon Nautico, at the foot of the famed strolling boulevard, Las Ramblas, and right in the shadow of the city's grand monument to Columbus.



Salon Nautico was the venue for several Cup-related press conferences, including a Friday session that laid out a new set of plans, dates, and formatting for an America's Cup 33 match beginning July 18, 2009. Maybe.

Had the plans released on Friday been the starting point, there might not have been sufficient consternation to inspire the court case that is still outstanding re. the validity of Club Náutico Español de Vela to serve as challenger of record. That validity remains in question, however, and if there is any movement toward an out-of-court compromise between Alinghi and BMW Oracle, I've missed the signs. It seems that we may yet get to hear Justice Cahn deliver his ruling in the commercial division of the New York Supreme Court.

Returning to my earlier theme, that I dread explaining America's Cup matters to nonsailors, or even to sailors who don't obsessively follow every turn of events, the format promulgated in Barcelona does not paint a picture of a sudden change for the easier.

The desire to reinvent Cup racing to function as a Formula 1 of sail, combined with the requirement to end up with a defender-challenger finale, necessarily produces a mutant. But trust me, as Plan B, this represents progress over Plan A. Should the judge rule in favor of BMW Oracle, and should further negotiations then fail between BMW Oracle and Alinghi, we could see a match in 10 months between 90-foot catamarans. Otherwise, AC 33 could look a lot like what's below. (Noting that this assumes a field of 10 teams)

ACM aims to limit costs for competitors through outlawing two-boat testing (the only permitted opportunity for one AC90 yacht to sail alongside another is when racing in ACM organised Practice Race or the Event), introducing “no-sail periods” and limiting the total number of sails produced. All this has been decided through consultation and in agreement with all five entered Challengers and the Defender.

A further major difference to previous America’s Cup events is the competition format. The 33rd edition will be divided into four phases: Acts, Trials, Challenger Selection Series and the America’s Cup Match, with the Defender being able to compete in the Acts, the Trials and the Match, but not in the Challenger Selection Series.

The cost-curbing two-boat testing ban in this edition has as a consequence that the Defender participates in the Trials phase leading up to the Challenger Selection Series. It is recognised as vital however that Alinghi does not impact the selection of the final Challenger and the format of the Trials is designed to achieve this.

Practice Racing has been introduced as a replacement for two-boat testing. Any team can request a practice race and the regatta director will arrange an official practice series. This will be a carefully organised schedule publicised well in advance and providing equal opportunity for all Challengers who wish to participate. These are due to start as early as October 2008 and will continue up until April 2009. They will include a mixture of fleet and match racing round robins.


Event format and schedule (based on a 10 team scenario)



Acts
End of June/ July 2008: Act 1, in Valencia (fleet & match race in ACC V5 yachts)
September 2008: Act 2, location in Europe tbc (fleet & match race in ACC V5 yachts)
April 2009: Act 3, in Valencia in AC90 (fleet race) (tbc)

Results from the Acts do not carry forward into the Trials. However, aside from the exposure and prestige gained, there are bonuses with regards to sail allocation for 2009. If teams compete in the 2008 Acts, they gain five sails on top of their 45 sail allocation for 2009. The overall winner of the 2008 Acts gains an additional two sails and the second placed competitor gains one extra sail.

Trials
- Round Robins 1 and 2
Starting on May 2nd 2009, they will result in a ranking that includes all Challengers and Alinghi. The six top ranked teams proceed into the Semi Final. The remaining teams proceed into a parallel fleet racing event called the ‘Challenger Sail Off’, the results of which go towards the final ranking and therefore the net surplus distribution.

- Semi Final
May/June 2009: Three Rounds of the Semi Final (between the top six teams of the Round Robins) will result in a Challenger ranking. Number 1 in the ranking goes straight to the Challenger Selection Final, whilst there will be a Repechage between the 2nd and 3rd placed Challengers. Alinghi moves to the parallel ‘Secondary Series’ at this stage.

Challenger Selection Series
The Challenger Selection Series starts in late June 2009 with the Repechage. The winner of this goes on to meet the top ranked Challenger in a best-of-seven Challenger Selection Final in July. The winner of the Challenger Selection Final becomes the Challenger and goes on to meet Alinghi in the America’s Cup Match on the 18 July 2009.

Concurrent with the Challenger Selection Final, Alinghi and the newly eliminated Challengers race two Round Robins of a parallel event called the ‘Secondary Series’. Results from this determine the final ranking of these Challengers.

The 33rd America’s Cup Match
Starting on 18 July 2009, the best Challenger will face the Defender in a best of nine match race series.


The unsubtle scent of oil on the water

Even my neighborhood beach, on the Golden Gate Strait and oceanside from San Francisco Bay proper, has a scent of oil with gobs of globules of tarballs in the sand where the Park Police tell me I'm no longer allowed to walk. There are worse concentrations at Angel Island and Alcatraz, for example, and the problem extends up the coast at least as far as Bolinas Lagoon. And they told as at first that the container ship that hit the Oakland Bay Bridge last Wednesday (outbound for South Korea) had spilled 140 gallons of bunker fuel. The new estimate is 58,000 gallons, a factor of about 414 to 1 and enough to make this the worst ship spill in a long while.

Because of a decades-ago collision of two tankers that caused a devastating spill in the bay, San Francisco shipping is now guided by a Vessel Traffic Service that monitors the movements of all large or commercial vessels, and every ship inbound or outbound has a San Francisco Bar Pilot on the bridge. According to the latest news reports, VTS notified the pilot of the Cosco Busan that he was on a collision course with the bridge pilings, and he responded that, according to ship's instruments, "I'm heading directly for the center of the span."

Instead he found one edge of the span. I am reminded of an old aviator's maxim: It is important to fly in the center of the air; it is very difficult to fly on the edge of the air.


Source, US Coast Guard

From a report in The San Francisco Chronicle:

The Coast Guard has been under fire since Wednesday, when the container ship Cosco Busan rammed a Bay Bridge tower and spewed 58,000 gallons of heavy, gunky bunker fuel into the bay. The ship hit at 8:30 a.m. and the fuel all spilled forth within 30 minutes - but it wasn't until 4:49 p.m. that Coast Guard investigators realized that 58,000 gallons were in the water.

The agency then waited until 9 p.m. to issue a public advisory about the magnitude of the spill.

By then, the oil had spread to beaches all along the San Francisco waterfront and was surging out the Golden Gate. In the days that followed, the oil fouled a 40-mile stretch of shoreline.


You might have guessed - there are lot of unhappy people around SF Bay right now—Kimball

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Pundificatorially Speaking




I observe that the defender of the America's Cup, Alinghi, has been backpedaling for some time now on the particulars of the protocol written for the 33rd match, which represented, if nothing else, a great moment in the history of overachieving.

I observe that the chatter has shifted to expecting a match in 90-foot monohulls in Valencia as soon as 2009—or 2010—but the threat of a match between big catamarans on terms dictated by the Deed of Gift (for lack of concurrence between challenger and defender) cannot be discounted.

I observe that the challenger of record for the previous match, BMW Oracle Racing, has welcomed each of the defender's proffered compromises while giving up not an inch of its perceived legal advantage in matters pending before the commercial division of the New York Supreme Court (matters that challenge the legitimacy of hastily-organized Club Náutico Español de Vela to serve as challenger of record for AC 33; matters that characterize CNEV as lapdog rather than adversary).

I observe, in my post-regatta notes from last summer, scads of references by Alinghi's Masters of the Universe to their frustrations and difficulties, 2003-2007, in trying to have things their way in negotiating with BMW Oracle. The name Tom Ehman kept popping up, spoken with an edge.

I observe that they didn't know the half of what was coming.





So will CNEV really appeal if they lose in court? Will they really try to press a case that Spanish law and not American law applies? See my November 5 report for the setup. No answers, unfortunately.

(And Tom Ehman, if you don't know, is a longtime power player, working now for Larry Ellison's squad, who has never worked for any America's Cup team that was not - this has become unusual - American.)

Meanwhile, the America's Cup retains its magic. How else to explain Alinghi helmsman Ed Baird as the ISAF Rolex Sailor of the Year? Imagine being in the meeting. Imagine trying to argue that the sport should raise its banner behind anyone who had been less prominent this year in the public eye, no matter what they might have achieved.

For Ed, I do believe, a lot of the experience of America's Cup 32 came down to that final leg of the final race, and the big windshift, and trying to get the people around him to see that train a'coming.


Thierry Martinez/Alinghi

This just in from those who are out

The Transat Jacque Vabre is one of those great, Euro-centric Atlantic crossings, and it is now under way from Le Havre, France to Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. Rich Wilson and Mike Birch on the Open 60, Great American III, represent the North American contingent in an Open 60 fleet that has become the new gold standard for transoceanic competition. The 60-foot ORMA trimarans that looked so dramatic in pictures (especially upside down) are fading fast.

Great American III today is listed 15th in class behind Safran, which shows a 24-mile lead over Foncia. However, it is early in a long race, and getting through the doldrums and positioning for the ride to the finish are worth much more than 24 miles here or there.

Meanwhile, hopeful Artemis is limping toward port without its mast. Here is a report that landed at 0919 Pacific Standard Time today from onboard Artemis (the Open 60, not the TP52 of the same name that won the Breitling Med Cup last summer). Britons Jonny Malbon and Graham Tourell are sailing Artemis.

Jonny Malbon, I feel your pain.

Day 5 after the Start of the Transat Jacques Vabre

Artemis speed = 5.3 knots

Artemis position = 97 miles from Vigo (42.36.73N 011.03.57W)



Malbon writes:
I have never been so disappointed, shocked or upset. For those of you who don’t know, we lost the rig on Artemis yesterday at around 1530 UTC.

We were sailing along at pace in 25 gusting 30 knots of wind with the jib and one reef in the mainsail aboard Artemis, loving life and making great progress towards our next waypoint. We had reduced Artemis’ sail area a few hours before, as things were getting a little hairy and the forecast was due to increase.

The boat felt fine, even slightly underpowered at times. We also had the Solent and small Solent plugged in on the front so that we could easily change down as the breeze picked up.



The sea state was pretty messy, but we could play on the waves and were enjoying surfing down them. Occasionally however there were some pretty steep sets that came in threes, with very short wavelength, very tall waves. I was helming quite happily thinking how great things were, when we sailed over the top of one of these waves and just fell off the other side. The bow went down, and although I tried to come up a little Artemis stuffed herself into the wave in front. There was a lot of water over the boat, never fun, but a common situation. This time things were different, and to my horror the mast just fell over the bow of the Artemis and then over to starboard breaking just above the first set of spreaders. In disbelief I watched as Gringo came through the hatch saying, “is everything ok?” To which I replied, “no!!! the rig has just fallen off”

Gringo was great and snapped into action straight away as I tried to steer the boat downwind so that the mast now in three bits wouldn’t punch through the side of the hull. The toolbag came out and Gringo set about cutting away the standing rigging, the beautiful new main sail and our gorgeous new halyards, to release the broken sections. By now we had quite a trail of rigging and sails that caused the boat to skew round into the wind. This made life a lot more dangerous as the broken sections were really close to smashing the hull. We were going to try and salvage the bottom section of the mast and the boom, as they were still standing, but as the situation became more dangerous we had no choice but to cut it away to prevent holing the side of Artemis and making the situation worse.

With a horrendous noise the last part of the rig went over. Afterwards we just stared with shocked and dazed expressions as our race was officially over.
I felt pretty sick, and was in shock for sure. Gringo and I sat on the cabin top and strangely enough burst out laughing… a sign of a huge amount of adrenalin I guess. We watched as the rig and finally the boom sank and the reality of the situation became clearer. We turned the boat downwind and just sat with the stern to the massive seas (4-5m). We got the liferaft and survival suits ready and notified Artemis shore team, the race committee, our families and Finisterre Traffic.

Pretty limited with choices, we had to sail downwind all night, away from land, as the sea state was too difficult to motor into, and the breeze was gusting 35 knots. There was no way that we could be towed anywhere until the wind and sea calmed down, so we settled into a system of two hours on deck watching for ships and keeping the boat on course followed by two lovely hours in the bunk each!

At daybreak this morning the breeze lightened and we were able to stick the engine on and try and head south to the lighter breeze. We have now come up a little and we are nearly heading straight for Vigo, where Simon Rogers, Nipper (Gareth Rowley – shore crew) and Blandine (team member) will be waiting. We have a tow organized but it is still too rough, so we will plod on at five knots under engine and hope to be in early tomorrow morning. Scotty and Lovely (shore team) are on the ferry and they have already organized for the container to come down which should be in Vigo on Saturday…

Quite a day… it has only just really started to sink in now, and I know it will take some time to get over this. It’s horrible to think of how much time and effort went in to getting the boat ready. The whole team, either on the boat or shore crew, has been working so hard, weekends and late nights, and we left Le Havre in the best possible shape. The rest of the season is also up in the air, but for sure I will not be taking part in the Transat BTB (race back from Brazil). Also I hope we can get the boat up and running ASAP for Artemis.

I cannot really find the right words to express what I am feeling inside at the moment, but as Adrienne Cahalan our weather router said to me this morning, “Hopefully during the next day at sea you can come to grips with it all so when you hit the shore the fury from within has settled a bit so you can handle facing it all.” That was perfect Ado – thanks – I think I am furious more than anything, furious that the one thing we cannot fix has been thrown in to the equation…… furious that our race is over, and furious that the boat that has been a huge part of all our lives for so long is now damaged, crippled.

The one consolation for me, is that Gringo and I are both physically ok…. Such a sad way for our Transat Jacques Vabre to end. I just want to wish all those out on the course the best race possible – good seas and fair winds - Jonny.

The bottom line

Congratulations to Southern Yacht Club, New Orleans, which this week approved plans for a new clubhouse to replace the one that got Katrina'd. More to come on that subject—Kimball