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


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 . . .


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.


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 . . .



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


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—


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.


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.

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/

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)

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.

- 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

Monday, November 5, 2007

Gasolina al fuego

Gasoline on the fire. Somebody else's words, not mine.

But unless and until otherwise advised, there is no reason to assume that the publication of a box rule for 90-foot America's Cup monohulls moved the legal ball more than about six inches.

Por ejemplo (for example) . . .

Over the weekend at the Barcelona boat show, two of the big players on the Spanish scene gave a press conference. Think Gerardo Pombo, president of la Real Federación Española de Vela, sitting alongside the president of challenger of record CNEV, el Club Náutico Español de Vela (if only they had a web site, I'd give you a hotlink), who is Manuel Chirivella, who is also, cosily, vice president of la Real Federación Española de Vela.

If this keeps on keeping on, I'll have to work up a flow chart.

The reporter on the scene was Jacint Felip of, and I received my relay by reading Spanish sailing blogger Jaume Soler Albertí, who declared that his colleague, Jacint, was "stupefied" as he listened to the proceedings.

What Pombo was quoted as saying that rings loudly in my ears is that, "It is Spanish law that applies, not American law" ( “La que es válida es la ley española, no la americana”).

Does that open the door to complication, or what?

Jaume, meanwhile, seemed most taken aback by a claim by Pombo and Chirivella that it was politicians in Valencia who drove the formation of the Spanish yacht club, CNEV—or maybe it's not a yacht club, that is what a judge in the commercial division of the Supreme Court of New York is still tasked to decide—rather than the officers of the Spanish national sailing authorities or the sailing team, Desafio Español.

Or perhaps it was the statement by Chirivella describing CNEV as a legal agreement (“el CNEV es un ajuste jurídico”) to allow Desafio Español to assume a role of responsibility in the next Cup match.

The Spanish team certainly doesn't seem worried about unloading 2007 souvenir merchandise, not if this is any indication. At I find their 2007 belts marked down from 34 euros to 30.60. Not exactly a fire sale when the new price converts to something like US $44.32. Better move quickly.

Meanwhile - sorry to use something that is filtered through other writers. I'm inevitably affected by their point of view, but there's no way around it this time. And while I believe it's too late for Golden Gate Yacht Club's attorneys—or Alinghi's attorneys, if they wanted it—to "nuance" any of this into court documents already filed, it hints to me that everything you touch is still hot.

For the record, it was Jacint Felip who, describing Chirivella's comments about the possibility of an appeal to a New York court decision, used the words gasolina al fuego—Kimball