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, 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 €


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



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.


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.