Friday, October 31, 2008

Blind Card Bluff

I’ve been doing some hard traveling (well, nothin’ on Woodie Guthrie), and it’s not over, so nowsabout I stick my head up for a breath of air down by the tracks and low and behold the whistle tells of Alinghi and a passle of the other AC players confabbing in Geneva and petitioning Larry Ellison to join the table.

I turn my back for one minute and this happens.

And before I disappear again . . .

It’s been a fascinating play on the part of Alinghi/Ernesto Bertarelli to leverage off the Down Under plans for a Louis Vuitton Pacific Cup, turn around, and say come one, come all, come race. Let’s get the next America’s Cup in gear regardless of what happens (or not) in court. And oh, by the way, Kiwi dears, if you’ll drop your suit we’ll enter the Louis Vuitton Pacific and face-savingly embrace you warmly etc etc and bless the event with the presence of the Defender of the America’s Cup. And oh, by the way, BMW Oracle Racing, drop that 600-pound gorilla lawsuit against CNEV, join the party (should I say, join the Party), and all is forgiven.

By December 15.

Or all is not forgiven.

And then, baby, if you win in court you get to take your chances on a Deed of Gift match for the Cup. And if you lose that one, you’re not tapped out, you’re o-u-t.

Imagine a poker game where you put your money down—on cards that are face-down, unseen. Those cards would be equivalent to the New York Supreme Court Ruling, still probably months away, as to CNEV’s status or un- as a legitimate Challenger of Record. It’s a blind bet. Card counters, your talents are useless.

The best minds I know say, “no way” should CNEV be declared legit, but the last court ruling declared the equivalent of “sure, whatever” and blessed CNEV’s status to most everyone’s surprise including the few then-still-operating elements of CNEV. Me, I was merely flabbergasted to read what seemed like at best a flabby ruling.

So, how does Larry bet? How would you bet?

PRESENT in Geneva
- Alinghi, Société Nautique de Genève, Switzerland – Defender of the 33rd America’s Cup
- Desafío Español, Club Náutico Español de Vela, Spain – Challenger of Record
- Shosholoza, Royal Cape Yacht Club, South Africa
- TeamOrigin, Royal Thames Yacht Club, United Kingdom
- Emirates Team New Zealand, Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, New Zealand
- United Internet Team Germany, Deutscher Challenger Yacht Club, Germany
- Green Comm, Challenge Circolo di Vela Gargano, Italy
- Ayre, Real Club Náutico de Dénia, Spain
- Victory Challenge, Gamla Stans Yacht Sällskap, Sweden
- Argo Challenge, Club Náutico di Gaeta, Italy
- French Spirit, Yacht Club de St Tropez, France
- Carbon Challenge, Royal Belgian Sailing Club, Belgium

ABSENT in Geneva
-BMW Oracle Racing
-Mascalzone Latino

The response from Tom Ehman, speaking for BMW Oracle and the Golden Gate Yacht Club::

“We have offered repeatedly to drop our lawsuit if Alinghi commits to fair rules, and our offer still stands. We would like nothing better than to have a fully competitive multi-challenger America’s Cup on the water by 2010. We stand ready and willing to meet with Alinghi and all of the other competitors to discuss the future of the Cup, but without unreasonable pre-conditions.”

In case you missed it there’s this: Alinghi's announcement

And this: The release from the meeting

Me, I'm hopping a freight train to wherever. I’ll be quiet for a while, back with you some time before mid-November—Kimball

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Changed My Mind

So I was going to write about the current state or nonstate of the America's Cup—playing chicken, something like that—but I just can't get the words out.

Is it possible that what I hear coming back at me is a collective, "Oh thank gawd!"

Far more rewarding to note that the Challenger of Record du Jour's former team had a breakthrough in the long race of the TP52 Worlds at Lanzarote. That would be Desafío under Paul Cayard winning a 53-mile race in under five hours. Add twelve seconds, and over the line comes Terry Hutchinson and Quantum.

Quantum had been in front until a spinnaker blew.

We'll call that close.

What they talked about all night, however, was this clusterment at the first mark that included a hit (Russian boat's bow into stern of Platoon) with Bribón disqualified for not giving room to Synergy. Worth a click to enlarge.

Nobody has more fun, eh?

Thanks to Nico Martinez for the pics.

That's Desafío above, which gives you some insight into the conditions and helps in turn to explain why . . .

After Platoon completed the course, the boat's ex-Commie helmsman Jochen Schümann (he won a Finn gold medal for East Germany in 1976) made the beach and declared, "My whole body aches."

Me, I can't look at Paul driving with the tiller extension and not think of him as a kid in a Laser, surfing the break at the South Tower of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Pushing the envelope.

And I'm impressed, frankly, that the Mediterranean TP52 fleet, famously built for light going, held together except for some blown sails. With four buoy races to go for the world title, Quantum has the points advantage in a fleet of 14:

1. Quantum (USA), Terry Hutchinson, 2-6-1-4-6-2.50-2.50, 24.00 points
2. Mutua Madrileña (CHI), Vasco Vascotto, 3-1-6-1-1-8.75-10, 32.00 points
3. Artemis (SWE), Torbjorn Tornqvist, 1-2-2-11-13-1.25-10, 40.25 points
4. Desafío (ESP), Paul Cayard, 5-7-11-12-2-5-1.25, 43.25 points
5. Platoon (GER), Jochen Schuemann, 8-9-12-3-3-6.25-3.75, 45.00 points


OK, it's nothing to match the world records set in Namibia this fall, but the Midwest Speed Quest continues to be one of the coolest boutique operations going. I wrote about it on October 18, 2007 (Make Something Happen) and described how Craig Bergh took it on himself to just . . . make . . . this . . . thing . . . happen.

That is, to invite people to come to the center of his world, Worthington, Minnesota, and partake of the big breeze that blows across the plain. And partake of his hospitality. And get out on Lake Okabena and sail fast. As Craig describes the deal, looking back over 2008:

"I really want to thank the Sailors. Our home remains open to all visiting Windsurfers. We invite you all back again in 2009!

"The Midwest Speed Quest was designed to be different. This event is free to all participants, and yet pays the highest Prize Money in North America. The purpose is to promote the new Sport of Speed Sailing and the City of Worthington. Our goal was to bring Sailors of all skill levels together and introduce them to the new Sport of Speed Sailing. The schedule was open 7 days a week for a 6 month period. Any visiting sailor was assured of the chance to participate anytime he/she was in the area. We provide free or discounted motel rooms at the AmericInn, free refreshments on the Beach, and free hot meals at the end of the day.

"And we had the best Speed Sailing gear available for visiting sailors to try out.

"We also provided free on-site Child Care and Pet Care. We even provided Spousal Care (care of the Windsurfing Widow)!

"All the work associated with this event was done on a volunteer basis. Meals and refreshments were served beachside all season long free of charge. A special thanks to my wide Pamela Bergh for the many fine meals cooked and served over the last 6 months to the visiting Sailors.

"We were delighted with the demo gear provided by the Sponsors. Each year we seek out the finest Speed Sailing Gear available anywhere in the world."

Much of that gear is loaned out, and some of it goes as prizes.

You gotta love this guy. The '08 results:

1st Place: David Knight, Fridley MN 31.57 knots (36.31 mph)
2nd Place: Guy Miller, Austin Texas 31.46 knots (36.18 mph)

1st Place Allison Shreeve, Sydney Australia 26.24 knots (31.18 mph)
2nd Place Karen Marriott, Lakewood CO 22.78 knots (26.20 mph)

Dig that? Here's David Knight doing his Lake Okabena thing, as photographed by Todd Spence . . .

Now, in the spirit of the Midwest Speed Quest, go make something happen.

SIGH . . .

And I guess I need to put SAIL on record as acknowledging that Alinghi . . . oops, how could I be so silly as to write that? I mean of course La Société Nautique de Genève, as Defender, has announced an event upcoming in a matter of weeks for a few Cup players—apologies to those of you on some other side of the world—which is apparently intended to comply with the Annual Regatta obligation of the Challenger of Record du Jour, CNEV, an entity-of-sorts that nearly blew away in the dust of all court rulings to date except one. The most-recent one.

And they have announced a resumption-of-sorts of planning for the 33rd America's Cup, with an entry deadline that puts antagonists BMW Oracle Racing and Team New Zealand in a place-your-bets position by demanding entry from all challengers before December 15.

Almost certainly before the pending appeal is decided in the New York courts, re. the status of CNEV as a qualified Challenger of Record.

An interesting play, actually. Much better than some of Alinghi's moves.

And you gotta love this official announcement: "Alinghi, Defender of the 33rd America’s Cup, accepts the Challenger of Record, Club Náutico Español de Vela’s invitation to race in the America’s Cup Class series during their Annual Regatta in Valencia on the 8 and 9 November."

It was so good of CNEV to think of them.

Now, if there's anything bugging you about the America's Cup, do let us know . . .

Friday, October 17, 2008

Let There Be Light

It's release day for Morning Light, time to gather up friends and neighbors and kids—and nonsailors—and take Roy Disney's Transpac movie for a test tide.

I saw the premiere last week, at the El Capitan on Hollywood Boulevard, where Roy and Leslie Disney introduced the film with a waving Mickey Mouse ("the family crest") beside them onstage. People see the start of an ocean race, Roy said, and they see the finish: "We wanted to fill in the gap in between."

Try it. You'll like it. So will your friends who don't sail. It's a well-told tale of young people on a great adventure, racing from Los Angeles to Honolulu, and it is filmed as no sailing movie was filmed before. Will the movie draw a crossover audience? Those who see it will like it, and sailors will be coming back to Morning Light for years to come.

A confident prediction, and it's mine. Even curmudgeonly officers of Transpac Anonymous were caught up.

And what do I mean when I say that it was filmed as no sailing movie was filmed before? Heed this outtake from the October issue of SAIL Magazine:

Naturally the young crew of a 52-foot boat needed training to sail a Transpacific Race as the stars of a Disney movie. Less obvious is the prep needed for the film crew. Midway through listing the methods tested ("fixed cameras, high-wide views, infrared") producer Morgan Sackett interrupts himself to say, "Without 10 weeks of training and 10 months to plan, we'd never have been ready."

Plan A envisioned "a bulletproof system" of remote cameras on the raceboat, but a few [cough] thousand dollars into watersoaked electronics, Sackett saw, "It wasn't going to work. We had to put a cameraman on board."

Good call. Enter the uniquely-qualified Rick Deppe, a Transpac and Volvo veteran who also has filmed for The Deadliest Catch. It's a digital world. Sackett says, "We could never have shot with film cameras." Even so, Morning Light sailed hundreds of pounds heavy, including extra battery power and supporting fuel.

The key to the movie, however, was a cameraboat pacing for 2,500 miles. Forced to replace that chase boat two weeks before race time, executive producer Roy Disney hired Steve Fossett's round-the-world maxi catamaran. Cheyenne's mast was already removed in anticipation of new uses, and a tripod was mounted, but suddenly Cheyenne's crew was racing to go to sea in 2 weeks, not 6.

And there's Mark Monroe, the director, chosen in part because he is not a sailor: "They didn't want an insider point of view." In his race to the race, however, Monroe "was so caught up in devising how to film that I never gave a thought to crossing an ocean for the first time in my life. The day we left, I threw a couple of t-shirts in a bag and the next thing I knew I was getting a safety briefing. I can tell you, it was an adventure, but no pleasure cruise.

"Two days out I realized we could have brought along a supermarket. Instead, we had ourselves a former race boat stocked with oatmeal and freeze-drieds. One of our guys freaked and raided the galley, and he was coming up with all these numbered packets and that's when we realized the packets were numbered for days at sea. Leftovers from the boat's circumnavigation record in 2004."

Welcome to the life, Mark. The director's highlight? "No question," he says: "When Samba Pa Ti popped up, and we filmed a match race in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It galvanized the film crew; it galvanized the sailors."

The European multihull scene has changed. The 60-foot tris that served as sex symbols for so many years are has-beens, and 2010 Route du Rhum organizer Pierre Bojic (his organization, Pen Duick, also handles Transat Jacques Vabre, and Transat AG2R) says it's time to move to bigger boats.

"Over the last two years, nothing has happened within ORMA", Bojic says. "There are no new projects, no architects doing research, and no sailors trying to raise funds."

So bring on the maxis. Orange, Kingfisher, etcetera, and expect a circumnavigation race in 2011.

Volvo: Good, but no longer boxy
I hope you're following leg one of the Volvo Ocean Race, Alicante to Cape Town. The competition is keen, and I'm fully invested as editor to Matt Gregory, who is blogging from the nav station of Delta Lloyd.

Delta Lloyd is an older-generation 70 (modified; the winner of the last race). It came into this race at the last minute, and it was running last getting out of the Med so I suppose it's only natural that the Volvo promotions people sort-of ignored it for a while. That changed when Delta Lloyd started making smart moves and passing boats, working down the Saharan coast of Africa. Now the fleet is setting up for transiting the doldrums, which is the subject of the newest of Matt's missives to land in my email. About 12 hours after the last one. The man's a worker.

Volvo Race rules seal the crews off from the internet, so I have to post for Matt. What he hasn't mentioned yet at Volvo Hotseat is that Saturday the 18th is his 32nd birthday. Sister Caroline writes:

The big question for Matthew Gregory on October 18th is: What flavor birthday cake will you have on board? Can they make that in freeze dried form? If not, will anything else take the place of your favorite Baskin Robbins mint chocolate chip ice cream cake??

Inquiring minds want to know....and wish you a very

Caroline, Mom and Dad


Thursday, October 9, 2008

One Sofa, One TV

A couple of weeks ago I was banging around the yacht club and my homie Matt Gregory grabbed me and I could see he was excited. The conversation went like this:

"Hey Kimball. I just signed on to navigate Delta Lloyd in the Volvo Ocean Race."


"Do you, maybe, have room to store a sofa and a TV?


"Wait, there goes my phone."

(reaching for a pocket)

"Just a sec.

"It's my dad.

"He probably wants to take out more insurance on me . . . "

[Update. I'm leaving what I originally wrote below, claiming that Delta Lloyd navigator Matt Gregory's blog would be launching soon. But you should know that it's already launched and running updates at Volvo Hotseat.]

Thus it begins. Matt is planning a blog that will run on beginning very soon. Soon as in, as soon as we convince the robots at that it's not spam.
Beep. Beep.

In the meantime Matt spills a bit about his unpeace of mind right here in Counting the Hours to the Volvo.

There's one piece of very good news. It's been blowing dogs off chains along the Spanish coast today and raining to wash away the evidence. Better to get that out of the way before eight Volvo 70s leave Alicante on Saturday.

Before the rain hit, Matt (left, bottom row) lined up along with the boys for the lens of David Branigan/Oceansport.


Interesting to see that around the corner from the Med, at Portimão, Portugal, we have Portimão Global Ocean Race organizer Brian Hancock commenting thus on the six entries in his circumnavigating regatta that leaves on Sunday:

"We have an eclectic fleet for the inaugural event, small to be sure, but of the highest quality and with numbers on a par with the Velux and Volvo. We aspire to a fleet the size of the Vendée Globe but it has taken almost three decades for them to get to that level. There is deep interest in our race but with the economy in free fall and the fact that we are a brand new event, there is a certain and understandable reticence among some sailors, the French in particular, to throw their hand in with us. They will be there for race two, I am sure of it."

The PGOR is open to Class 40s and Open 40s, sailed either solo or doublehanded. It is intended as a cost-conscious entry point for the next generation of top dog circumnavigators.

Fast Moving and ROB You Were So Close

Over in Namibia at the Lüderitz Speed Challenge, kite sailor Rob Douglas has achieved 50.54 knots over the 500-meter course to up his record as the fastest American speedsailor and claim the number two spot worldwide behind Alex Caizergues at 50.57.

I believe that's a gap of three one-hundredths of a knot.

Douglas, who held the world record for fourteen days at 49.84 knots, now edges out Sebastien Cattelan for the number two spot, but we should not forget that Sebastien was the first to break 50.

One point worth making is that these kiters are using equipment that is pretty-much stock, perhaps with a bit of jiggering to the control lines. Douglas' kit retails for about $2,500: Amundsen boards with Curtis fins, Cabrinha kites, Dakine equipment.

Thursday was expected to be the last day of the big breeze at Lüderitz, so unless they spring a surprise on me this is it. l'Hydroptere got excited last week, over in the Med, and grabbed a headline by reporting a burst to 52 knots. s'Okay. They're not the first with a burst, and they're not the first at the headline game.

And I Didn't Even Know There Was Gonna Be A Meeting

This from BMW Oracle Racing:

October 8, 2008

GGYC spokesperson Tom Ehman said, "Unfortunately, the meeting between Larry Ellison and Ernesto Bertarelli in Trieste did not take place. We remain eager to resolve this issue and return the 33rd America's Cup to the water as a multi-challenger regatta under fair rules. We hope and expect the meeting will be rescheduled to take place in the near future."
- Ends -

No it doesn't—Kimball

Monday, October 6, 2008

Ordinary Not Applicable

Tom Perkins took me for a ride last weekend, on that boat of his. He stood at the control station, played with his touchscreen options, and sailed us around San Francisco Bay. He said, "You can learn to sail this boat in five minutes." Maybe. It would take little old me longer than that to get over being surprised by it, even though I've known the details for a couple of years . . .

Photo by Dick Enersen, Staff Commodore, SINS

If I understood correctly, Maltese Falcon had a wheel when it was launched, but the wheel proved pointless. Or maybe the wheel was merely part of the original design. Everything is high-tech mechanical and computer-controlled, so why not go the extra step? Now there's only a tiny nob to control the left-right function. Port-starboard as my nautical friends say . . .

Sails are deployed from one touchscreen panel. Stress on the free-standing carbon spars is monitored from another. Etcetera.

What's amazing is to stand on deck as the masts rotate. It's as shocking as watching a redwood forest move around. As always, if you click the pic, you get a much larger, more profound, view . . .

There's been a lot written about the technology of the boat; no point repeating it here. There's a web site at On a beam reach in a modest breeze we looked at 16 knots through the water, not quite that at the moment I squeezed the shutter . . .

I call it a boat, but you could just as well call it a ship. We're talking 289 feet and 1,240 tons, well over the threshold of 300 tons that requires the presence of a Bar Pilot to operate inside San Francisco Bay.

Someone asked me later, does the boat heel? Yep, it's a sailboat. Here's the XOJET crowd hanging out . . .

Perkins likes passagemaking. That's his favorite thing. The boat has covered 50,000 miles in two and a half years, he says, 65 percent of it under sail, "and on our last Atlantic crossing, once we were under way, we didn't motor for one minute."

We were not exactly crowded . . .

Here's a point of order. Click on the image above, to enlarge it, then look at the boats in the background. They're standing almost straight up in almost no wind. Then look at the attitude of the Falcon, generating apparent out the wazoo, and we're trucking.

Below we see San Francisco Yacht Club rear commodore Ray Lynch and commodore John Swain in conference. At this point the XOJET Leukemia Cup Regatta was known to have netted over $600,000. The total would exceed $662,000, 32 percent of that raised by even chair Ian Charles after this cancer thing got personal . . .

Mr. Latitude 38, Richard Spindler, was in fine form . . .

Tom owns classic boats too, but this is a different aesthetic . . .

Sails were furled off Richmond at the end of the day, and we motored upwind through Raccoon Strait, not because the boat couldn't have sailed but because there simply was too much traffic, and many of the boats were on their final leg of the Leukemia Cup. Perkins and all hands were on full alert. Falcon brought up the rear, but cruising boats were drawn like a moth to flame. Everybody wants a close look. Here are Captain Chris Gartner and San Francisco Bar Pilot Peter Fuller at the motoring console, which is forward of the sailing console . . .

And speaking of moths to flame, we're still agog, here in our little patch of water, that a forty footer managed to t-bone the Falcon while it was carrying guests on Saturday. Peter Lyons caught the sequence and generously supplied same, but then I realized I just don't want to see those pictures here. Everyone I've talked to, from passengers aboard to observers nearby, describe a "didn't have to happen" event in which the 40-footer suddenly, inexplicably altered course and nosedived into the side of the big black boat with the helmsman of the "little" boat apparently frozen in place. Too bad for all. Scratches on the side of the big boat, a busted rail, and a torn sail that had the crew sewing on Saturday night. I'm glad my ride was less eventful. I like to remember my time aboard as an arty conversation with Telegraph Hill slipping by in the background . . .

Next, Tom picks up his new "flying sub" and heads south. The sub will nestle forward, between the tenders, and the wings can be removed in case of breaking seas. Tom was proud to note that his tenders are launched in the traditional way, from the yards . . .

Come time for Leukemia Cup 2009, this will be hard to equal. Say, are those topsides shiny or what? I bet the owners of the yawl in the reflection (either a Rhodes Reliant or a Cheoy Lee 40; I couldn't tell) never expected to see it this way, in a picture with Tom Perkins . . .

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


I interviewed Tom Perkins while Maltese Falcon was still in build, and it was like talking to a 13-year-old boy who had just seen
—really seen—a girl for the first time.

We're talking enthusiasm. Perkins had owned big sailing yachts and found them addictive but difficult and here was this concept, the Dynarig, that promised to go them one better. The concept had been around for decades but no one had paid it off. That would require someone who thinks big, lives large, and has a sense of adventure about it.

Later, being an inventor type who developed into a creative capitalist, it was only natural for Perkins to catch the fever when he came across Graham Hawkes and his concept for "flying" submersibles (buoyant, descending on the power of inverted wings). That was a couple of years ago at the Monaco Boat Show. Perkins wrote a check for hull number one, for practical purposes funding the development. Part of the program in having Maltese Falcon on San Francisco Bay right now is to pick up Tom's new sub.

Photo by Erik Simonson

So finally I get to see a 289-foot sailing boat with three free-standing spars bearing 15 "square" sails that function as three unitary airfoils. Which is my pivot point to ask: What would get "the entire yacht club to rally around" a charity regatta?

Let's make a list:
A do-good feel-good cause that will get you all choked up if you think about it.

Since 1993 the Leukemia Cup Regatta has grown from an idea to a nationwide engine that has raised more than $23 million. The soon-to-be XOJET Leukemia Cup Regatta, October 4-5 at The San Francisco Yacht Club, has already topped half a million bucks and the event is yet to come. It's the biggest ever, and yes, what that's all about is:

1. Story: This story is already on the street, how Ian Charles pitched in to help his buddy, Bill Nolan, when Bill's young son was diagnosed. "For the 2007 regatta I committed to raising $25,000. I got a call-back asking if I had put down too many zeroes, but I hit $30,000 and it was the most satisfying thing I have ever done—my first time doing something purely for other people." Charles later agreed to chair the 2008 regatta. He says, "I was honored, but I felt awkward because I had not been touched by cancer; it wasn't in my family." Then came his own diagnosis of myeloma, last spring, at age 39. Six rounds of chemo ago.

Fast-forwarding to Charles' next quote about his fellow yacht club members: "I couldn't believe that many people cared."

2. Glamour: I mean Falcon, of course.

3. A cause: Lots of people are doing cancer this year. If you don't know somebody, just wait.

Tom Perkins doesn't have to wait. He lost his wife, Gerd, to cancer in 1994.

XOJET Leukemia Cup Regatta

What a deal. The San Francisco Yacht Club goes into its third year of running a Leukemia Cup Regatta, and a longtime member lends support, and the timing just happens to work out (well, with a little fiddling) to bring in his superstar boat as a lead attraction. The arrival last Saturday of Maltese Falcon (I missed it; I had cruised up the San Joaquin with a few hundred of my closest friends) was huge. Ian Charles says there were "more boats on the bay than I've ever seen, whether it was Opening Day in the spring or a Blue Angels performance in the fall."

Ian's form of blood cancer affects the plasma cells. He's had the best of treatment ("I was diagnosed on a Friday and started chemo on Tuesday") and has achieved something in the way of 95 percent remission. Next Tuesday, he gets a stem cell transplant, or the beginnings of one, and along the way he's had the pleasure of mystifying his caregivers by showing no side effects to treatment, he says: "No nausea, no fatigue, no skin irritations; I've been able to go on with my life." Which in his case has included three triathlons, a lot of sailing, and a lot of fund raising. He is poised to double his $100,000 goal.

"The stem cell transplant in a case like mine usually results in complete remission," Charles says. "Then the question becomes, how long does remission last?

"They can't keep going after the same cancer with the same treatments. That's why research is important. You're buying time."

Photo by Erik Simonson

More Falcon

She was built on an existing steel hull. It's the rig and the audacity that make Maltese Falcon unique. Having her on the scene, Charles says, "Raises the regatta to a different level. Tom let us auction off lunches and sailing time on the boat, and those tickets went in a hurry. He brought Rupert Murdoch to be the keynote speaker. He's letting the race committee use his motoryacht, Atlantide, on the finish line. Somehow, when the time comes for me to say 'thank you,' it's not going to be enough."

Actually, Ian, I think it just might be. You're talking about a guy whose first boat on San Francisco Bay was Pequod, a sistership to the Teak Lady pictured here. Tom Perkins has moved along from his 17-footer, but he's kept his sailing friends.

Let's close on some good news. Regatta cochair Bill Nolan's ten-year-old son, Campbell, is in remission after two years of treatment for the rare T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia that started the yacht club down this road in the first place.

And the "flying sub" is nothing but cool. Drop into and submerse yourself in the facts—Kimball

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

More Speed

It's quite a show we've seeing over in Namibia where Rob Douglas kite-sailed to his new world speed record of 49.84 knots.

This just in from all-time American windsurfer, Mike "Gebi" Gebhardt, who is also Douglas's coach:

Rob Douglas's world record run was done on Lüderitz's second lagoon, a small bay that is effectively a tidal lagoon. The cool thing about the record was that it was done with an average wind of 30 knots and "only" gusting to 39 knots. The efficiency of the kitesurfing speed package is allowing super-fast runs in less wind than the windsurfers need.

The windurfers look to need at least a steady 45 with gusts over 50 to post world record speeds. Björn Dunkerbeck was at Lüderitz the day Rob broke the American record and it was gusting to 50 that day and he was only able to post a 45-knot run...keep in mind the run was not flat as the chop was big on that day, 6-inch in the rough spots-Gebi

Douglas and Gebhardt have a web site for their North American Speed Sailing Project at Sheesh. Talk about success. They started in April, set the American record in July, and broke the world record in September.

You will find more links and more info in my previous post, Going Like Fifty. Gebhardt's remarks here arrived as a comment to that post. Much appreciated—Kimball

Monday, September 22, 2008

Going Like Fifty

"It may well turn out that the timing of the last failure was perfect." Paul Larsen, pilot, Sailrocket

Wow. Summer is officially gone and nobody has broken 50 knots and the inching closer has been all in the muscle category. Remember when everybody thought big ole l'Hydroptere would have done the deed by now?

Instead Rob Douglas shows up in Namibia with a kite and gets the breeze and ever-so slightly ratchets up the speedsailing record to 49.84 knots. It's the first time since 1987 (Erik Beale, windsurfing, in the Trench) that an American has held the record.

Though I imagine that, while it was happening, it didn't feel anything like ever-so-slightly to Rob. If you fall at that speed it hurts plenty. And 50 knots? Close. Ridiculously close. And what of the glory teams with their complicated machines?

L'Hydroptere? Sitting in the south of France, still in commission. The latest update at reads:

"Thursday 11th September The technical team took advantage of a few days in dry dock to check the sails."

Wotrocket? The last update at reads:

"12 August Spectacular cartwheel ends Wot Rocket’s first official world speed record attempt."

Sailrocket? Hope springs eternal. I quote Paul Larsen:
"It may well turn out that the timing of the last failure was perfect. With a destroyed steering system and without the distraction of going sailing, Malcolm, George and I sat down with a clean sheet of paper to completely redesign Vestas Sailrocket's control systems."

Sailrocket is also in Namibia, the new capital of speedsailing and also the site of the Lüderitz Speed Challenge, which is where those windsurfers and kites are threatening to make hash of the 50-knot "barrier." According to the Lüderitz web site there will be no more sailing until Thursday (waiting for wind), so I guess it's safe to write as long as I'm quick about it. In a different entry, Larsen goes philosophical, "I was braced for the news that they had done 50 knots. In fact I was resigned to it. 50 knots will be just another number that comes and goes. This is one of the reasons we settled on the design of Vestal Sailrocket. It has the potential to go much faster. The MkII will be designed for a whole new era of speedsailing."


Right now it's game-on for the boards and especially for the kites. It didn't take all that long for kites to take over, now, did it?

What a comparison. L'Hydroptere still looks totally convincing. Capable. I almost want to say inevitable . . .

But here is the new man to beat, Rob Douglas . . .

Paul's Sailrocket is really very cool . . .

And so is the fastest woman on water, Sjoukje Bredenkamp. Here she is upping her own women's speedsailing record to 45.20 knots . . .

Sjoukje is probably capable of inspiring a mass migration to her homeland, South Africa . . .

And let's not short-shrift our Australian friends. The man at the center of the Wotrocket effort, Sean Langman, has a wealth of credentials that only begin with his 18-foot skiff titles. He's done it all, or I guess, not quite all . . .

For the record, Rob Douglas took the record from French windsurfer Antoine Albeau, who made 49.09 knots last March in the special-purpose "French Trench" in the south of France. That's been the main playground for speedsailing windsurfers. Douglas made his run in the "real" water of Walvis Bay, and I like that—Kimball

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Not Just for Breakfast

Living in the face of adversity. It's what these people do for breakfast, all these Paralympians who choose to do rather than fade away, but none more so than Nick Scandone and Maureen McKinnon-Tucker.

Scandone is beating the odds just to be alive to sail the Paralympic Games at Qingdao, much less leading the SKUD 18 class after three days of racing. Then again, the Games have been a goal worth fighting for, all the way through the progressively-debilitating stages of ALS. Airplane drivers talk about this sort of cool determination as, "flying it all the way to the scene of the crash."

Maureen? Most sailors already know the story of the February regatta at Miami, where she got the word that her three-year-old, Trent, had brain cancer.

The reaction of horror is easy to imagine.

So let us speak instead of Ms. McKinnon-Tucker's decision that this thing that was tearing her heart apart would not blow her life apart. She would continue to train and sail. She would continue to work full time from her wheelchair. She would make sure that healthy little Dana received parental attention along with critically-ill Trent. She would explain, "Dan & I feel it’s important to show the kids that life goes on in the face of adversity. Giving up the Paralympics would be conceding a battle to cancer that it has no business winning."

Trent now has been through a course of chemo and a course of radiation. So far, so good, though the side effects can be greater on a little kid than on an adult. Maureen already knew plenty about that. Her full-time work is at Piers Park Sailing Center, Boston Harbor, an adaptive-sailing facility. "We started it a year ago," she says. "We've had one thousand percent growth."

Piers Park is for adults and kids, but adaptive sailing is especially valuable for the young, McKinnon-Tucker says, "Kids with disabilities have very few opportunities for recreation and almost no opportunity to compete on a level playing field. These kids get turned away from every other sport, but they don't get turned away from sailing."

Then, with a little grin (she's been in a wheelchair since falling off a seawall in the 1990s) she adds, "Sailing is something most of us do sitting down, right?"

Ah, but that conversation took place a while ago, before she left for China. Now, in a fleet of 11 SKUD 18s [Editor's Note: This is updated on Thursday] Nick and Maureen are in the lead, and 2.4mR sailor John Ruff also leads his class.

SKUD 18s sail a trapezoid course, which was developed for the 1996 Olympic Games at Savannah. Paralympic coach Betsy Alison explains, "Trapezoids are used in China only for the SKUD 18 class. The Sonars and 2.4mRs sail Windward-Leeward courses.

"The Trapezoid is used to separate two fleets in the same race area so that one does not interfere with the other. SKUDs and 2.4mRs race on the same course. SKUDs start first, sail a windward beat followed by a reach, an outer leeward, windward, leeward course, then a short port reach to the finish. While they race the outer loop, the 2.4's sail a W-L course on the inner loop."

Wednesday was a layday. On Thursday the breeze was drifter-light off Qingdao (just say 青島啤酒廠, same as the beer, and did they punt a marketing opportunity or what?) at the same facility that hosted the Olympic Games last month. One race per class was completed. The standings:

SKUD-18: 11 boats
1. Nick Scandone (Newport Beach, Calif., USA) and Maureen McKinnon-Tucker (Marblehead, Mass., USA), 2, 1, 1, 1, (3), 2; 7
2. Daniel Fitzgibbon and Rachael Cox, AUSTRALIA, (4), 2, 2, 2, 2, 4; 12
3. John Scott McRoberts and Stacie Louttit, CANADA, (3), 3, 3, 3, 1, 3; 13

2.4 mR: 16 boats
1. John Ruf (Pewaukee, Wis., USA), 2, 6, 1, (9), 1, 7; 17
2. Paul Tingley, CANADA, 1, 1, 5, 2, (9), 9; 18
3. Thierry Schmiter, NETHERLANDS, 5, 3, 2, (10), 7, 1; 18

Sonar: 14 boats
1. Bruno Jourdren, Herve Larhant and Nicolas Vimont-Vicary, FRANCE, 4, 1, 1, 2, (7), 1; 9
2. Colin Harrison, Russell Boaden and Graeme Martin, AUSTRALIA, (8), 4, 2, 3, 3, 3; 15
3. Jens Kroker, Robert Prem, Siegmund Mainka, GERMANY, 5, (6), 3, 1, 4, (11); 19
8. Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J., USA), Tim Angle (Marblehead, Mass., USA) and Bill Donohue (Brick, N.J., USA), 1, 9, 10, 6, (11), 10; 36

Thursday, September 4, 2008

ड्राइविंग होम इन अ रेंटल

Driving home in a rental is not what I pictured for Skip Allan when he set off on the Singlehanded Transpac, much less when he won the thing going away. And when I first saw a note that Skip had abandoned his beloved Wildflower on the return from Hawaii, I wondered if it was just a sick joke. Unfortunately, no.

(The joke is the headline for this post, which software translates into some mysterious Eastern-looking script no matter what I write. Never happened before; probably will never happen again, and right now I just want to get on with writing. Shrug and go. Skip Allan abandoning his boat pitches me into a jabberwocky world anyhow.)

There's been a lot of talk about the loss of Wildflower, a boat that was closing in on 100,000 miles after two cruising circuits of the Pacific, a cruise of Alaska, seven races to Hawaii for the boat, and 28 for her builder/skipper. A typical comment, from "Don" on Warrior's Wish, " If Skip chose to step off of Wildflower it had to be real bad. She was part of him."

"My consort and magic carpet," he called her. Now, thirty-four years after he built his 27-footer, and thirty years after he first raced it in a solo Transpac, one of the legendary sailors of the California coast is suddenly boatless.

On Thursday morning at SAIL West, the phone rang. It was Skip calling from a rental car on Route 101, "in a state of heartbreak." He was driving north from LA, on his way home to Capitola. The container ship MSC Toronto that had plucked him off Wildflower some 350 miles west of California had been en route to the Port of Los Angeles, and that is where Skip stepped ashore.

We agreed to talk again later, when we had something better than a cell phone connection. "There's going to be a lot to catch up on," he said. "My Skype mic went down with the boat."

In his account, a few observations stand out. Gale conditions lasted for days, through a series of evolutions.

On day three: "At noon, it looked like the gale was lessening. I left the safety of the cabin, and with two safety harnesses affixed to the windward rail, began to hand steer eastward on a reach with the #4. It was mogul sailing at its best."

On night three: "Breaking crests would poop the boat about every five minutes, filling the cockpit and surging against the companionway hatch boards. Even though I had gone to lengths to insure fire-hose integrity of the hatch, I found the slamming power of the breaking crests would cause water to forcefully spray around the edges of the hatchboards, into the cabin."

In the wee hours before dawn: "There was no doubt that if the tiller pilot was lost, we would round up and be at the mercy of these breaking waves, some of which I estimated at 25-35 feet, bigger than anything I had seen since the '79 Fastnet storm on Imp. The anxiety and stress of the night, and the 70-degree knockdowns that would launch me across the cabin, created serious doubts that we could continue this for another night, much less the three or four days the conditions were expected to continue."

Going into day four, with no improvement in the offing, Skip began to lay the groundwork of an escape plan, working with "my longtime sailing friend, ham radio contact, router, navigator and weather man, Joe Buck of Redondo Beach. I explained that I'd had a difficult night and wasn't sure I could safely continue. Joe's info had the highest wind and wave overhead on my current drift southward continuing for at least another three days, with continuing gale force winds and 18- to 22-foot significant wave height. I asked Joe for help in some difficult decision making."

That difficult decision process involved communicating with the Coast Guard and assessing the options while "Joe helped me to understand that if the boat were lost, I would likely be lost also. But if I left Wildflower in advance, only the boat would be lost. I spent the next hour sitting on the cabin sole on my life raft, debating.

"At 1200, like a gopher popping out of its hole, I slid the hatch open to get a clear Satphone signal and called SAR. Lt. Saxon already knew my details and position and only asked, 'What are you requesting?' I replied, 'I am asking for assistance to be removed from my boat.' "


Despite some reports elsewhere, Skip says he never put out a PAN call. He was beyond the range of Coast Guard helicopters, and the MSC Toronto, one of the largest container ships in the world—too big for the Panama Canal—was the closest vessel to him.

Consistent with reports elsewhere, Skip did indeed scuttle his boat: "Lt. Saxon said that if I left my boat, she would be considered derelict and a hazard to navigation. I assured her I would not leave my boat floating or derelict."


The MSC Toronto triggered Wildflower's Automatic Identification System at a range of 30 miles, closing at 23.4 knots.

The ship's radar did not read Wildflower until it had closed to 2.5 miles.

And what to take?

"With no idea how the transfer would be made I decided on my documents, wallet and passport, laptop, camera, cellphone and satphone, logbook, EPIRB and a change of clothes and shoes. And in a moment of whimsy I decided to try and offload the two Singlehanded Transpac trophies, as they had a 30-year historical value to our Race.

(Much of the above comes from a very long SSS Forum posting written by Skip Allan, and there is a special irony for both of us, because my profile of Skip and Wildflower appears in the current issue of SAIL. This development is not a followup I could have imagined. And there is the now-standout quote in the print story about flying a storm trysail only once, "but I didn't really need it." To read the full posting go to SF Bay SSS Forum.
Skip closes his account:)

Treasure each day
Skip 9/3/08

Friday, August 29, 2008

United 889 to Beijing

While America barbecued, America's Paralympic teams flew to China over Labor Day weekend and settled into their quarters on a mission brightly vivid, highly emotional, long-sought.

SKUD 18 crew Maureen McKinnon-Tucker, waiting on Friday morning to board United 889, San Francisco to Beijing, said, "I've been in tears more than once over the last 48 hours, just thinking about the opportunity and the responsibility."

Team USA first gathered in Colorado Springs for "processing," or as one-armed Sonar crew Tim Angle put it, "to receive official team gear, learn how to be a good ambassador of our country, and sign a ton of flags." He couldn't avoid the thought, "Michael Phelps slept here." The team then flew via Denver to San Francisco for an overnight stop and morning boarding to Beijing and a connection to Qingdao. Left to right on wheels, Maureen McKinnon-Tucker, Rick Doerr, Nick Scandone . . .

The signs at Counter 29, Aisle 3 of SFO's international terminal read, Counter Closed. Meaning, in effect, reserved for Team USA. When Sonar crew Tim Angle said hi but quickly excused himself, "It seems I don't have a ticket to Qingdao," this looked to me to be some hassle. But Tim (with the one hand he has left, he could hurt you) later said no to that: "With this many people and 28 bags, United has been doing a great job for us. They're a sponsor, and everything gets worked out in a hurry." That's Tim at left below, then his fellows in the Sonar, Bill Donohue and Rick Doerr . . .

And so things did get worked out, as described. The blonde figure, also at the counter above, is coach Betsy Alison, energetically working things out. Maureen added, "It's good to have a pit bull on your side . . .

"I don't think she'd mind my saying that."

Thanks to a benefactor in Boston, there were upgrades to first class. Tim: "I've never sat upstairs in a 747." Maureen: "If we arrive rested, that's an extra day on the water."

For Maureen and her skipper, Nick Scandone, time on the water holds extra importance. Scandone, a past Rolex US Sailor of the Year, has gold medal written all over him, but he is racing to the races against the progressively debilitating effects of late-stage ALS. The pair skipped all pre-regattas at Qingdao for fear of over-taxing Nick's strength. His handshake was weak, but the eyes were bright. I screwed up the focus on this, but not even my ham-fisted work can screw up the spirit, so here's the shot anyhow . . .

Maureen fretted about learning to read the currents, but Scandone said, "I just wonder if there'll be more than three knots of wind. And if there is, will it blow in the twenties the way it did for some of the Olympic races."

2.4mR rep John Ruf was grinning ear-to-ear and I don't think he ever stopped, there was so much excitement in the air. Back in Wisconsin, he's an attorney, but for a while to come now, he's all-sailor.

Dr. Rick Doerr, Sonar skipper, practices medicine from a wheelchair much as Ruf practices law from a wheelchair. Of the Paralympic Games Doerr says, "It's been a journey. We started with a humble program, and every year it got more intense and more complex, and every time we stepped it up it still made sense." Doerr, Angle, and Donohue just won the Clagett regatta in Newport, and here they are in winning form, as snapped by Amory Ross . . .

Then it was time for Team USA to head for Security, Maureen McKinnon-Tucker leaving behind family in America and a three-year-old son who apparently is winning against brain cancer but who knows, who knows, and not before Southern Californian Nick Scandone and I had our everyday-sailing-in-California bull session and I remarked that I was rushing home to put together this column (blog, if you will) then rushing back to SFO to catch a flight to LAX to catch a cab to San Pedro to meet my friends Ric and Monika to sail out to Catalina, Howland's Landing. And he said, "Wow. My wife is going to Catalina too." Well, of course.

My country. My people.

Good luck and good hunting . . .

The Paralympic Games
Qingdao, China, on the Yellow Sea
Sonar, SKUD 18, 2.4mR
September 6-17

With Love from 1982

Express 27s wrapped their nationals over the weekend on San Francisco Bay, and the beauty of that is having 19 boats on the line in a still-healthy fleet of sweet-to-sail boats.

They were born in the heyday of Santa Cruz ULDBs, these Express 27s. Terry Alsberg—he had built boats at Moore's so he knew how good work is done—commissioned a design from the late Carl Schumacher, and the result to everyone's delight went downwind like a feather in a hurricane (except for being easy to control). To everyone's surprise (excepting Alsberg and Schumacher) it went to weather like a bandit.

A small car could trailer one of these puppies, and two people could step or unstep the mast. With two fingers on the tiller the boat felt like a dinghy, and—

Wanna race to Hawaii? No reason not to.

I'm still trying to decide whether to account for the design as reverse engineering or inverse engineering, per this quote stolen from a mid-Eighties Latitude 38. The voice is Schumacher's: "We started off with the idea of building a boat the same weight as a Moore 24, but two feet longer. We eventually decided on the largest possible boat that could use a (single speed) Barient 10 for the jib winch, which turned out to be 27 feet."

Alsberg had wanted a boat where you did not see a trimmer plus tailer on the winch.

Congratulations to Nick Gibbens, in 2008 a first-time Nationals winner with hull #67, Shenanigans. By 11 points, no less. St. Francis YC laid the courses, and it was very San Francisco Bay . . .

Photo by Peter Lyons, Lyons Imaging

So's I Finally . . .

. . . got around to doing a profile of Skip Allan, which came out in the September issue of SAIL. Skip is one of my sailing heroes, and darned if he didn't go out and win the Singlehanded Transpac, not necessarily to my surprise, in the pending-months between filing and publication.

Can't beat that timing.

And darned if Skip didn't lose Wildflower on the way back to California from Hawaii on the boat's seventh racing-round-trip from the mainland (and Skip's 28th).

This is the MSC Toronto (Liberian flagged) that plucked Skip out of his predicament, details of which are yet to come. From the deck of a 27-footer, in seas evil enough to break an accomplished boat and outwit an extraordinary seaman, this behemoth (photographed in the Oakland Shipping Channel with the Golden Gate off the bow) must have looked even behemoth-er . . .

Photo by Kevin Collins as posted on

This puts my world out of joint. The MSC Toronto was due in Los Angeles Harbor on Tuesday. More to follow—Kimball

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Biggest Maybe Ever?

If you're sharing my part of the planet you know that the America's Cup is in legal limbo, and we may or may not be on our way to a Deed of Gift match between former (very former) friends Ernesto Bertarelli and Larry Ellison, as in Alinghi vs. BMW Oracle Racing. May or may not be, because we have yet another legal appeal under way and as things stand now, the ball is in Alinghi's court. Unless it loses the next round, it can organize the next defense and ignore BMW Oracle's challenge in a 90 foot trimaran. This 90-foot trimaran, unveiled today in Anacortes, Washington.

In a release, team captain Russell Coutts pronounced himself pleased with this product and expects to sail it soon. Probably before a court ruling comes down, in fact. The boat represents a collaboration of Van Peteghem / Lauriot Prévost (VPLP) of France and one of the most successful skippers in multihull racing, Franck Cammas.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

24 Hours

If it's too soon to call this a happy ending, howzabout a happy chapter?

I'm a fan of SAIL contributor Margie Smith, who shed a life in television news to sail and travel and then diverted to deal with a bout of a decent-odds variety of cancer. She's been writing about all the above at Cancer Is Hilarious, wherein we've discovered that some aspects are more hilarious than others.

But, here's an entry that makes my day. Notice date and time . . .

August 15, 12:45 p.m.
Last Day of Radiation

August 16, 12:45 p.m.
Cape Cod
Catboat Regatta Start Line

Margie, I like your priorities.

Meanwhile on the other side of the globe

Olympic sailing is wrapped and done with joy here and disappointments there and plenty to stew about going forward.

Before we leave our China-mind entirely, and at the risk of a touch of bad karma, I have to share some pics that have been going around the Net. They originate at, which collects submissions from wherever . . .

I'm skipping the scatological ones, even though they're funnier.

Go fish—Kimball

Monday, August 18, 2008

On the Foils of Eagles


Before we address our topic of the day, and for all of us who sat up stateside to watch your race in the Laser Radial, Anna Tunnicliffe, congratulations. You showed what it means to occupy First.

Occupying first as in, I'm not leaving.

Whilst being a target . . .

It looked pretty squeezy as you jammed yourself into a place next to the committee boat at the start of the Laser Radial medals race (the most-exposed position) with no bail-out room to leeward.

It looked pretty grim as you went back to restart just-in-case. Just in case you were over along with the boat next door that was called OCS (On Course Side) and so you went back to restart, not alone, but functionally last.

It looked slow and consummately hectic, mentally, as you climbed back to place second for the race and Gold for the sailing games of the 29th Olympiad.

Very cool.

And now back to our regularly-schedule programming . . .

This is going to be fun

The Moth Nationals that wrapped last weekend on the Columbia River are proof of concept for the Moth Worlds one year away, and that leaves time to build the fleet in the USA. Sean "Doogie" Couvreux spent 2007 on the bow of an AC boat, but he's spent a lot of 2008 flying through the air with (some) ease.

"We're all still making boathandling mistakes," Doogie admits. But in a few days at Cascade Locks (downstream from the Hood River Gorge), strides were made. Last Friday, the already-accomplished Bora Gulari led at every mark in every race. By the end of the series, Bora was still winning, but, "The top 10 were having close roundings," Doogie says. "The US fleet is building pretty well, considering how expensive the boats are and how hard they are to sail. With the likes of Dalton Bergan, Morgan Larson, Charlie McKee, it's not a ho hum fleet."

Nope, nothing ho hum about a foil-born dinghy. And there's still a long way to go to catch Bora Gulari.

Rohan Veal, Mr. Bladerider brand Moth, showed up to coach on technique, which also sped progress on the learning curve for 16 sailors including two from the Midwest and one from the East. Doogie's prognosis for the Worlds (August 5-14, 2008) allows for 70-80 boats.

For a British point of view we turn to past world champion Simon Payne and a "Letter from America" blog entry: "Cascade Locks is beautiful and errr... small. Think Garda beauty sans the cappucinos and the scale. Chichester Harbour at full tide would dwarf it. This is in contrast to everything else in Amercia which is huge. Tom's Harley Davidson Ford truck is so tall that my ears popped when I climbed in."

Come to think of it, these guys are already having fun. Here's Tom Driscoll's Prowler Moth in a photo posted on Payne's web site . . .

And Charlie McKee checks in with these remarks on Gulari's nine-straight win: "While some competitors could keep up with Bora downwind or upwind in the light, his upwind speed when overpowered was crushing. It was an eye-opening and awe inspiring reminder to the fleet just how far there is to go still.

"Simon sailed well but had a somewhat inconsistent series to finish 2nd. The rapidly expanding Pacific NW fleet was well represented with 7 boats, with Seattle's Dalton Bergan and Gorge local Morgan Larson (showing up for the regatta with only a few days of Moth sailing under his belt) particularly impressive. But the most impressive performance aside from Bora was undoubtedly 16 year old Hans Henken, who finished in 3rd place behind Bora and Simon. Good starts and tactics, solid boathandling, and excellent downwind speed put him on the podium for the 2nd time in a month, following his bronze medal in the World Youth Champs in the 29er Class."

More Future Tense

Also looking forward, the 18-foot skiffs that just passed through San Francisco. The grand old man of that fleet, John Winning, tells us the skiffs believe they can build a world tour with a world championship rotating between Australia, Europe, and San Francisco. No, they wouldn't take their Giltinan trophy on tour. That's against Aussie religion. This would be a new way for them to look at a worlds. True success will depend upon that long-in-its-infancy US fleet.

Holding my Breath

I had medium-level hopes for the broadband webcast of Olympic sailing, and it's had its moments, but there's no overcoming the fact that it's a narrow periscope of a view.

And it is with great regret—because we're all tired of this conversation—that I've allowed Olympic sailing to remind me: We're overdue to revisit Rule 42, kinetics.

It's not just about choosing between the coyote side . . .

Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics (as a different cause puts it)

And those who take offense at the air-rowing that went on
(and on) in the RS:X board fleet.

The problem that won't go away is uneven enforcement. When you travel, you have to learn over and over how much is too much movement, and there have been cases on the road to the Olympics (think certain stops in Europe) where having USA on your sail would single you out for, shall we say, special attention.

Folks, what we have just isn't working—Kimball

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Success Story

Dean Brenner has this line: "There was a time when the only thing I knew about Zach Railey was that he's Paige's brother."

No more.

Zach quietly but relentlessly laid the groundwork for the silver medal that he just captured in Qingdao. He lived years on the wavelength of cautiously telling people he was looking toward 2012. While passionately pursuing, etc.

There's another dimension too. Zach knew then and he knows now: "Past Olympians say, remember to step back and enjoy the moment; it's gone before you know it. This whole year just flew by. I was in the U.S. maybe 30 days."

And there's another figure in this saga: Kenneth Andreasen, Railey's coach for five years in Optis, beginning when Zach was nine and peaking (for example) when Zach at 11 was the youngest sailor to qualify for and compete in the 1995 Opti Worlds. High-level coaching is a prominent theme for each member of the US Sailing Team.

After finishing fourth at the pre-trials in 2006, Zach says, "I re-evaluated. The one thing missing was the right coach. There has to be a high level of mutual comfort and trust, no second-guessing, and when you find that one person, you know it. When Kenneth says 'jump' I say, how high."

Now the press is discovering and Americans will soon know what a smart, well-spoken, focused, driven competitor Zach Railey is. It was a big win for him to kick off Olympic competition ahead of Ben Ainslie, then close it with Ainslie covering his every move. This 24-year-old from Florida has made something of himself in the last two years, and Ainslie has to consider that he could be crowded at the front of the Finn ranks, come 2012.

The Playbill:

Ben Ainslie being The Man in this class, now with a third gold medal on top of the silver that he took in Lasers in his first Olympiad. With the 2012 Games coming to Britain, his home country, Ainslie will be very tempted to go hunting for a fourth successive gold medal to tie the so-far-unmatched record of Paul Elvstrøm. And that will be a show to watch, beginning, oh, about the day after tomorrow.

Dean Brenner being the chair of US Olympic sailing.

Paige Railey being the past world female sailor of the year that Anna Tunnicliffe had to get through to win the U.S. Trials.

Zach being the brother who has a piece of Paige inside his head, and vice versa.

The devil in the details (for Ainslie) being a competing America's Cup match in 2012 or not. It's an unlikelihood that no one can do much to help or prevent. But Ainslie has America's Cup ambitions. He was part of Team New Zealand in 2007, and he chose to skipper the B boat rather than be a part of the afterguard on the A boat. All part of his own longterm thinking. Big Ben, as some of the British writers like to call him, doesn't see himself as anything less than in charge. Neither did Sir Keith Mills when he hired Ainslie to helm for the British challenger, Team Origin, in the alleged next America's Cup. Whenever and whatever that may be. But let's not sink into that quagmire, not now.

The Olympics are on and the US Olympic team is putting up a great show in Qingdao. That includes the up and comers who won't make their medals races but have proved they can win a race or two at the Olympics. And this is a young team as Brenner will not have us forget.

For Sally, Debbie, and Carrie I'm still feeling the ouch—Kimball

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Olympic racing at Qingdao has lived up (or down) to expectations that it would be light, streaky, and puffy with a dice roll here and a dice roll there. A few people seem to be making their own luck. Zach Railey has been terrific, keeping it conservative but loose at the edges—to seize opportunities when they arise—and that has kept him solidly in second in the Finns. Andrew Campbell blamed his poor early showing on being too conservative up the middle but loosened up to win a race on Tuesday and yes, that's a good thing.

Anna Tunnicliffe—I want to say she's a rock, because she's been so solid, but that would have be a fast rock and the metaphor starts to fall apart, so let's just listen to a few of the voices from Qingdao:

"It is certainly nice to have those first race jitters out of my system. There are few experiences like sailing your first Olympic race, and I had some butterflies that I thought I’d put behind me in my youth sailing days.
Andrew Campbell (Laser)

“If you look at the scores it’s anybody’s game.”
Sally Barkow (Yngling)

"You know when you’re behind some boats and your hands start shaking and you wonder, ‘Am I going to pass them?’ I really had to breathe and calm myself down.” Anna Tunnicliffe" (Laser Radial)

And a voice from the corps, thinking ahead to Weymouth 2012:

"So how would the Olympic Regatta have been if it had been taking place this week, in the middle of the English summer? We would have had just one day's racing so far, because it's been blowing over 30 knots every day, not to mention the fact that it's been pissing with rain."
Andy Rice at He's a Brit, so he can speak.

And let's close this lightweight survey with the one and only Austin Sperry, who takes to the water for the first race of the Star class on Thursday. He's looking back to the opening ceremony in Beijing:

"The USOC sent a car to pick me up and take me to the Olympic Village. WOW! I have done many things in my life that warrant say, Cool, I am living the dream. But this was far and away the coolest thing I have EVER done in my life.

"I hooked up with my US Sailing Teammates and started walking around the Village taking it all in. People watching. Star gazing. The first place I went was the dining hall. This place was HUGE! I think you could fit four football fields under this one roof. It had every kind of food you could imagine. It even had a McDonalds. I never ate there, but LeBron James & Carmelo Anthony were eating a Big Mac after opening ceremonies!"

US Sailing has been doing a nice job of keeping the standings posted, with news updates from Team USA in Qingdao. I'm glad to hear that Gary Jobson's commentary kicks in for the next races; it's been a bit wearing, watching through a camera lens via a laptop screen and trying to read the course. That would be starting at 1000 PDT. Sorry, East Coast amigos.

The 18-foot Skiffs had a great day of racing today on San Francisco Bay, and btw, they're talking about bringing their Worlds here in a couple of years. Am I ready for that? I am so ready. Eric Simonson shot this beauty of some Sydney lads doing their thing, and yes, there's an Olympic tie-in. They'd have their coach here, the man who once dominated skiff sailing, except that Iain Murray is racing a Star for Australia in the Olympics, his first Olympics at what must be about age 50, and as I write, starting signals are just hours away in Qingdao.

See below for the American view of Olympic standings at the end of Wednesday's racing—Kimball

Laser Radial: 28 boats
1. Anna Tunnicliffe (Plantation, Fla.), 4, 5, 6; 15
2. Petronijevic (CRO), 8, 9, 5; 22
3. Volungeviciute (LTU), 3, 13, 8; 24

Finn: 26 boats
1. Ainslie (GBR), (10), 1, 4, 1, 1, 10, 2; 19
2. Zach Railey (Clearwater, Fla.), 2, 5, 2, 2, 7, (8), 7; 25
3. Florent (FRA), 5, 8, (20), 3, 4, 6, 4; 30

Yngling: 15 boats
1. Ayton, Webb and Wilson (GBR), 2, 3, 4, (7), 4, 2; 15
2. Mulder, Bes, Witteveen (NED), 9, 1, 2, (13), 1, 5; 18
3. Sally Barkow (Nashotah, Wis.), Carrie Howe (Grosse Pointe, Mich.) and Debbie Capozzi (Bayport, N.Y.), (14), 2, 8, 5, 6, 11, 1; 33

49er: 19 boats
1. Outteridge and Austin (AUS), (20 DSQ), 1, 7, 3, 1, 1, 6, 4, 6; 29
2. Warrer and Ibsen (DEN), 2, 4, (10), 4, 2, 3, 4, 2, 9; 30
3. Sibello and Sibello (ITA), 3, (9), 1, 1, 6, 9, 3, 8, (12); 40
5. Tim Wadlow (Beverly, Mass.) and Chris Rast (San Diego, Calif.), 5, 14, 15, (16), 5, 10, 1, 1, 1; 52

Laser: 43 boats
1. Romero (ITA), 6, 3, 5; 14
2. Lima (POR), 5, 8, 3; 16
3. Alsogaray (ARG), 1, 12, 10; 23
8. Andrew Campbell (San Diego, Calif.), 14, 18, 1; 33

Men’s 470: 29 boats
1. Wilmot and Page (AUS), 4, (7), 3, 3, 3, 4; 17
2. Charbonnier and Bausset (FRA), 6, 3, 8, 1, 6, (18); 24
3. Rogers and Glanfield (GBR), (19), 5, 1, 4, 9, 6; 25
17. Stu McNay (Lincoln, Mass.) and Graham Biehl (San Diego, Calif.), 26, 12, (OCS), 17, 15, 1; 85

Women’s 470: 19 boats
1. De Koning and Berkhout (NED), 3, 1, (9), 5, 2, 2; 13
2. Rechichi and Parkinson (AUS), 2, 2, 4,1, (9), 4; 13
3. Dufresne and Tutso (ESP), 4, 5, 2, 6, (13), 10; 27
14. Amanda Clark (Shelter Island, N.Y.) and Sarah Mergenthaler (New York, N.Y.), 14, 12, 10, 15, 4, (17); 52

Men’s RS:X: 35 boards
1. Zubari (ISR), 1, 3, 1, 3; 8
2. Chan (HKG), 5, 4, 2, 5; 16
3. Ashley (NZL), 4, 7, 7, 1; 19
22. Ben Barger (St. Petersburg, Fla.), 21, 22, 24, 26; 43

Women’s RS:X: 27 boards
1. Yin (CHN), 1, 1, 1, 1; 6
2. Albau (ESP), 3, 5, 5, 2; 15
3. Crisp (ASU), 2, 4, 3, 8; 17
26. Nancy Rios (Miami, Fla.), 25, 26, 22, 26; 97

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Taking it Personally

Who would have thought that what everybody thought would happen, would happen?

Light air for the opening of Olympic sailing. Puffy zones of pressure. Confounding currents.

My little self in viewerland at home was not at all prepared for the thrill of the live broadband feed from Qingdao—there they are, those are my people—and then the disappointment that what we get is so limited.

Meanwhile I'm becoming more adept at following two screens at once, TV and the laptop. Most of the time it's no problem, operating on California time.

But that first night. Sheesh.

It was such an unfair roll of the dice to have Team USA walking into the National Stadium in that thrilling opening ceremony in a televised rerun at the same moment that the Finns were rounding their first mark live in Qingdao on my computer.

It was such an unfair roll of the dice to have the televised rerun of the lighting of the flame at the same moment that the Finns were finishing race one, live. There was three-time Olympic sailing veteran and IOC president Jacque Rogge stepping up to the microphone to open the Games in Beijing and at the same time finish-line horns were sounding from Peter Reggio's RC boat in Qingdao (faintly) through the speakers in the laptop—and I could see that Zach Railey was looking good. But for lack of commentary it was hard to figure how good. And all the way through these races it seemed that the producer and/or cameraman were often misjudging when they focused on a "leader." And other races were going on that I wasn't seeing at all, or perhaps through Finns I could see Ynglings in the background, or when we shifted to Ynglings I could see Finns in the background but don't even dream of reading that action, babe. When they added 49ers, same frustration, and it won't be cured on Monday when we add 470s and boards.

You can see more shots like this at Ingrid Abery's This would be the US 49er team of Tim Wadlow/Chris Rast bearing down on Canadians Gordon Cook/Ben Remocker (rounding). And the host team looks rather part of the action, no? That would be Fei Li and Xianqiang Hu. Unfortunately, none of these three boats have finished above tenth, and the Chinese are having a so-you-want-to-race-49ers experience at the back of the pack. Italians Pietro and Gianfranco Sibello are the early series leaders.

Okay, back to the Finns. The world finally has an opportunity to discover what an articulate, driven young man Zach Railey is. He went into this show with many goals, among them to not make his own bad luck. Leading off ahead of the one and only Ben Ainslie is a great statement, even if Mr. Ainslie has allowed no one to forget that he is Ben Ainslie. Yep, he just keeps winning races.

There's a lot of sailing yet to come and it's a fiendish racetrack. I was puckered up in pain watching early developments on the Yngling course and later opened up my email to read this description from Carrie Howe, crewing on the U.S. boat, " We were pretty happy about the right-hand side of the course for the second beat but that was a bad call because, after rounding, we found ourselves on the outside of a large left-hand shift. The fleet inverted quickly and we went from challenging the lead boat for first place, to rounding the last weather mark in tenth."

Not even the hardest of hard-luck stories in these races, and there is plenty of time for the regatta to live up to the expectation that everyone will have at least one bad race.

Fortune improved later for Team 7 Sailing, aka the U.S. Yngling team of Sally Barkow/Debbie Capozzi/Carrie Howe on day two as they climbed to fourth overall amidst difficult circumstances. This added missive from Carrie relates: "The conditions made it extremely difficult to make good tactical calls using the observed weather. The key was simply to stay in the hunt and keep plugging away. In a high-caliber fleet like this one, it's easy to drop a few places. Just one bad lane or a bad move and you can be in trouble."

Eventually we get to the Medals Race in each class, double-points for the top ten only, and won't that be a day.

But Carrie's eblasts always give me a smile. Dig her pic of the RC boat, noting that the Yngling class flag is flying upside down . . .

And her comment: "Guess the Olympics are stressful for all of us."

The central source for Olympic sailing news can be found at

For a quickie results fix go to the results center.

WAIT! The Snipe Nationals—

Augie Diaz is a name we know. The businessman from Miami was the 2003 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year, honored for a season that included racing Lasers and Stars and becoming the first American in (then) 22 years to win the Snipe Worlds. More recently he partnered with crew Kathleen Tocke to win the Snipe Nationals on San Francisco Bay. That series wrapped over the weekend with, Diaz said, "More breeze than the sailors needed, but from the point of view of downwind sailing, it was pretty spectacular. The courses were long, and with two races per day they were hard to sail, but they were very fair."

Tocke, Diaz said, put in a dedicated workout program this year, to be ready to crew in lots of wind, and the work paid off.

Asked how many times he's won the Snipe Nationals, Diaz could only say, "Hmm. I'm not sure." Then it was time to load nine Snipes onto a trailer for the haul back to the East Coast.

But Diaz had one more thing on his mind: "Make sure you give a lot of credit to the race committee and to Richmond Yacht Club. They did a great job."

They usually do—Kimball