Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Four Letter Word (keel)

This courtroom stuff doesn't lack drama.

Alinghi's latest ploy yields at least a chance of wriggling out of the BMW Oracle trap, and who can fail to be awestruck that the BMW Oracle challenge for AC 33 was copied almost word for word from the Kiwi Big Boat challenge of 1988 and now may be its own worst enemy.

No points to any of us who failed to pick up sooner on the full deal. No points to the supposed pundits. No points to Alinghi's former "best lawyers." No points to anyone at BMW Oracle who allowed the word "keel" to appear in what was clearly meant to be a catamaran challenge.

Last summer, when Alinghi opened its doors to a media fest the day after its victory in America's Cup 32, more than one principal—Grant Simmer comes to mind—had edgy words for their experience with the man who had run negotiations for the challenger of record, BMW Oracle's Tom Ehman. They thought they had been worked pretty hard. Tom's been working the case this time, too. Should Alinghi's new game of expert testimony succeed in negating BMW Oracle as the court-designated challenger of record for AC 33, you'll be able to hear their gotcha in every noogie of the sailing world.

Or not. Ehman helped orchestrate San Diego Yacht Club's 1988 catamaran response that rolled up the Kiwi Big Boat challenge in a tight, wet knot and sent it home with its tail between its legs. If I'm not mistaken, he hand-delivered the Oracle challenge to Geneva. If I'm not mistaken, he knows how to spell gotcha.

We've got a live ball. (define "ball")

And I'm guessing the American camp can play a good game of Expert Testimony themselves, when called upon. Methinks they need but one fast cat, of any generation, with keels on display.

Hang onto your seats. (you might be in them a long time)

Pity so many angels impaled on a pin

Should it come to this, I fail to see what prevents Oracle from putting a plausible keel(s) on a cat that still has plenty of performance. What I fear most is further splitting of hairs in further court iterations over what is a "keel" until I'm unable to write that opening line over again. I lived through '88, and it was the pits.

Now it's clear what the TeamOrigin "third way" challenge is all about. If all the other challengers are knocked out because they challenged behind the invalidated Spanish would-be challenger of record, CNEV, and if BMW Oracle is knocked out for having (as alleged) a self-contradictory challenge, then Origin with its January 22 challenge becomes the fresh face that pivots attention toward a mutual consent match, with multiple challengers in 90-foot boats, in 2011 in Valencia. That's a long time away, but at least it's doable. No reason to doubt that Keith and Ernesto had a chat.

I'm not a betting man, much less a predicting man. We may be headed toward a shootout in catamarans, though not without being dragged longer through the courts. It seems clear that Mr. Bertarelli has no intention of compromising on anything with anybody named Ellison.

Even Scuttlebutt's formerly-confident Cory Friedman has started hedging about what happens next in court.

Here are just a few observations on one of many what-ifs and some of the devils in the details:

Origin head Sir Keith Mills signed the team's challenge document, which says, "We envisage discussing with you and hopefully agreeing alternative arrangements by mutual consent as contemplated in the Deed of Gift. Our intention would be to agree a Protocol and associated documents along similar lines to the ones negotiated with Challengers between July and November, 2007.”

Well, Virginia, negotiations between July and November 2007 covered a lot of ground. From the overly-grasping original protocol announced July 5 (the last formal amendment was released September 20) to the reasonable-enough wording of the final (most recent?) compromise offer made by BMW Oracle on November 16, including endorsements from Team Origin (note that), Team New Zealand and Shosholoza. Which was also, to date, the last compromise offer to be rejected by Alinghi.

If a 2011 protocol should emerge on the November 16 model, BMW Oracle can take credit for heading off the debacle of the original protocol, at an expense of blood. If a 2011 protocol should emerge on the July 5 model, Origin becomes the new wimp on the block.

Actually, wimp isn't as strong as the word that comes to mind . . .

And wimp is not a natural role for Origin's designated helmsman, Ben Ainslie. You should know by now that the former sparring helmsman for New Zealand has won his fifth Finn Gold Cup in races just completed at Melbourne, Australia. Here's a bit of what benainslie.com has to say about it:

Ainslie finished just a wave behind British team mate Ed Wright in the medal race, which is restricted to the top ten sailors after eight races in the 82-boat fleet, but well ahead of New Zealander Dan Slater, who had been only a point behind him going into the medal race. A fresh 15-knot sou-‘wester, with only minor variation in direction, made the race probably the regatta’s fairest. The outcome was decided at the start with Ainslie getting away well towards the middle of the line while Slater was buried and had to tack off on port early but in disturbed air under the Canadian Chris Cook.

Three men have won the Finn worlds three times. The man himself, Paul Elvstrom--the man who invented the sailor as athlete--won it twice. Ben Ainslie stands alone in that category and also has a crack at a third Olympic gold medal at Qingdao.

(The man himself, Paul Elvstrom, won four Olympic gold medals, and in that he will still stand alone, for at least four more years, no matter what happens at Qingdao.)

I'm not excited, but for what it's worth

Here's a cut and paste from antarcticacup.com


One of the 9lb muzzle loader guns landed in 1893 to shore up Albany's defences against a perceived Russian invasion, finally had a Russian in its sights today when Fedor Konyukhov set out from this historic West Australian port to set a solo sailing record around Antarctica.

The 56 year old adventurer who sailed his Open 85ft monohull 'Trading Network Alye Parusa' half way round the world from Falmouth UK to take on yachting's last great frontier, crossed the line at 10hrs 21 minutes 40secs W.Australia Summer Time, to the signal from the gun and a cacophony of car horns and cheers from crowds lining the foreshore.

Conditions could not have been better with bright, warm sunshine and flat seas -- a far cry from what Konyukhov can expect once he is down within the 'Roaring Forty', 'Furious Fifty' and 'Screaming Sixty' latitudes that mark the the Antarctica Cup Racetrack.

Among the well wishers here to see Fedor off was Jon Sanders, the only other solo sailor to have ever circumnavigated around Antarctica before in southern latitudes. He completed the 14,000 mile circuit aboard the S&S 34, monohull 'Perie Banou' on the first stage of a remarkable double global circumnavigation back in 1981/2. His first circuit around the icy southern continent during which he suffered two horrific knockdowns, took Sanders almost three times Fedor's expected time of 60-65 days.

The Russian will be hampered for the next three days by very light southerly winds -- exactly the direction he needs to enter the Antarctica Cup Racetrack.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Proper Fiasco

It stormed for days—flood watch, high wind warnings—and then, for the sailing of the Three Bridge Fiasco, the winds on San Francisco Bay went quiet and the skies went dry without losing their gray. That was the weekend in Northern California, and calm spots here and there combined with a change of tide during race time to divide opinions, big time.

In this race you can round your three marks in any order and in any direction, and darned if we didn't have boats finishing clockwise and counterclockwise at the same time. Once again the wackiest race of the year is the biggest race of the year (sorry, don't know the official number of starters/finishers just yet).

Here's the San Francisco cityfront showing the finish line at Golden Gate Yacht Club, and yes, the port-tack upwind boats are finishing; so are the starboard-tack boats coming downwind under spinnaker. It's a good look, for a Fiasco.

Numbers were still being crunched on Sunday afternoon, but the organizers, the Singlehanded Sailing Society of San Francisco Bay, had highlights, and darned if Melinda and Bill Erkelens haven't won overall for the second year in a row and their third time, in three different boats:

1st overall, 1st Sportboat: Bill & Melinda Erkelens, The Word, Mumm 30, finished at 14:39:58.
2nd overall, 1st Express 27, Will Paxton & Bryan Moore, Motorcycle Irene, 14:45:21.
3rd overall, 1st Moore 24, Andy Schwenk & Charlie Guildnek, Lowly Worm, 14:46:26 - down from Seattle area.

1st singlehanded, 23rd overall, Jonathan Livingston, Punk Dolphin, Wylie 39, 15:44:30.

All the top finishers went counterclockwise.

Ray Wells sailed the F-27 trimaran Wingit with wife Francie (regular skipper Amy Wells was sidelined for the day) and his experience speaks for a multitude. Ray sent his race story out to the Bay Area Multihull Association mailing list. He decided to go clockwise, the minority view, but he had his reasons. Picking up his account part-way in, after rounding Blackaller Buoy at the Golden Gate Bridge and Red Rock at the Richmond Bridge:

Now the long slow slog to Treasure Island began, up-current and into a dying southerly. Spent the next year short-tacking along the edge of the current (and wind), judging progress from boats way outside and way inside. It was bad. I remembered a similar trial off Chicago on Lake Michigan after a storm came through... there were flies to battle in that instance. (It could always be worse.) We approached TI and the lead boats in our direction got through the bridge, but the ebb had kicked in and the boats began to stack.

Deja-vu. We did this last year. This time it took longer,
but we finally inched forward and through. The rest never made it.

The fickle wind, having been from the south, east, west and north, was now somewhere over near Alcatraz. We headed towards Pier 39 using the ebb to generate a drifting reach. Lots of boats had finished - but we were not giving up. Slowly we slatted past Aquatic Park and bravely tacked in the slop to make it look like we were trying as we drifted across the line somewhere after 5pm. I still can't believe it didn't rain.

You can read a full account of the 2007 race (think of it as an attempt to explain this fiasco phenomenon right here). One thing I know. It's Sunday as I write, the race was yesterday, and the cats and dogs are hitting the roof again.

Sail-Assisted Commerce

I wrote recently about the cargo ship MS Beluga SkySails, 132 meters long and equipped with a kite to reduce fuel consumption at some wind angles. I did not have as much information as I would have liked, but the company confirms that the ship left Bremerhaven on schedule, last Tuesday, for Venezuela. More as it becomes available; you can find the original post under About Time (and money).

French Take the Weekend Off

Not from sailing, from reporting.

Last week we left the giant French trimaran, Gitana 13, in the South Atlantic, bound for Cape Horn and then the Pacific in the first attempt in ten years on the New York-San Francisco record. They sailed 5,000 miles on port tack but were expecting rough weather ahead and enough changes to put an end to their port-tack slide. And that is where we must leave them again. As in, no update since Friday.

Other French Keep Working

From another giant tri, Groupama 3, the updates kept coming as they worked through a zone of frustrating changes and hoped for steadier going ahead.

This is from their web site:

"Ca s'en va et ça revient..." (It comes and goes), a song by French singing legend Claude François, perfectly reflects the end of this weekend off the Canaries! One moment they have air, the next calms, all of which is enveloped in an atmosphere laden with clouds, as skipper Franck Cammas explains: "The squalls enabled us to make headway quickly last night but they were fickle, with the wind jumping from thirty to three knots with a 60° shift... We're longing for established tradewinds. Here, the skies are cloudy, as we are in the axis of a ridge of high pressure close to a depression. We're trying to slalom between the squalls."

22,000 miles to go. The goal: beat the 50-day existing circumnavigation record for a fully-crewed boat. I remind you, Francis Joyon is still barely home and recouping after setting a new solo record of 57 days. Amazingly close to the fully-crewed record. These efforts just keep getting faster—Kimball

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Flying and Crashing Around Cape Horn

So Gitana 13 today is well into the South Atlantic on her New York-San Francisco record attempt, with Cape Horn ahead and then (if that much goes right) thousands of hard miles to come as ten crewmen work their way up the Pacific Coast of the Americas.

Here I am on the shores of San Francisco Bay, brimming with nostalgia for a time when a passel of big guns were shooting for this unique, all-American record. Clipper ships around Cape Horn, bound for the gold fields—those guys set the standard. It took more than a century for technology to meet the pace.

The USA doesn't see much big-time record-chasing these days, except as a starting point or ending point. But I recall a few vivid years when the Clipper Ship record was the big one that lured adventurous sailors to one spectacular failure after another. In 1988 alone, no fewer than five attempts were planned in the wake of (did I mention) one spectacular failure after another.

Mind you, we are talking Cape Horn, the wrong way, at a pull-the-string-tight distance of 14,000 miles.

I seem to also recall some bickering over which clipper ship record really mattered, but the 89-day passage of the famed Flying Cloud was the benchmark. How hard can it be?

Flying Cloud went 89 days in 1854.

Two years later Flying Cloud made the same passage—reputedly including a 402 mile day—in 185 days. Do the comparison.

Today we have weather routing, but no guarantees. I like to picture Flying Cloud this way . . .

In the 1980s, as a sailing writer for The San Francisco Chronicle (yes, there used to be such a thing), I exchanged no telling how many letters with Frenchman Guy Bernardin, who tried for the Cape Horn record and cracked up more times than I can remember and never made it to San Francisco, and I never met the fellow but I feel as if I know him. He broke boats. He broke masts. He was alone on each attempt, but not alone in his misfortunes. Others tried once, failed, and limped away. Guy Bernardin kept at it.

Did I mention that we are talking Cape Horn, the wrong way?

In 1988/89 came the breakthrough. A year before, maybe two, I had engaged in a frank exchange of views with the sports editor of the paper. I was arguing for more space for one of my stories about a Cape Horn attempt. I expressed the opinion that, yes, these things keep on coming—and going—but sooner or later one will break through and as the boat closes on San Francisco the paper will dispatch a reporter and a photographer in a plane and it will be the biggest story of the season. The sports editor expressed the opinion that I was full of (substance found in a barnyard) and this business of hiring a plane for a photogger, for a sailing story of all things, would never happen.

A New Record at Last

The boat that finally cleared the Horn—after a five day Falklands stopover for repairs—was an early generation Open 60. As Thursday's Child closed on San Francisco in February, 1989, the cityside section of the paper dispatched a reporter (not me) and a photographer in a plane to hunt the boat down. I was meanwhile called in and encouraged to, ahem, proceed with vigor, lest the dratted cityside section steal our (the sports section's) story.

Cityside cared about a splashy passage into the bay. I cared about that too, but I knew too much. I knew that on that very day, Philippe Monnet was in far southern climes, trying to make port after ramming ice. Anne Liardet was closing on the Horn, but running behind the pace of Thursday's Child. And Guy Bernardin (a year earlier he had been in a 60-footer that fell off a wave, broke its mast, and eventually sank) was under tow in his latest broken boat; he would be taken ashore at Cape Desolation under the care of the Chilean Navy.

Honest, it was quite a time.

Thursday's Child was skippered by Warren Luhrs, a honcho at Hunter Marine. His bottom line re. 14,000 miles: "Wouldn't do anything different; wouldn't do it again.'' Luhrs had in company Courtney Hazelton and Lars Bergstrom, whose name lives on the backstay-free Bergstrom rig. Having finally found the right mix of technology, skill, and luck, they sailed through the Golden Gate, to great acclaim, under a bright winter sun on their 80th day out of New York.

Lacking a plan, their team asked their only San Francisco contact (me) where they should time a finish.

And I, lacking the slightest clue as to how the Flying Cloud might have done the job 134 years earlier, suggested two possibilities: Off the San Francisco Marina breakwater (it's just inside the Gate) or off the maritime museum at Hyde Street Pier. Because that's down toward the harbor where sailing ships used to tie up, and where so many were abandoned by crews who took off for the gold fields. The Thursday's Child people decided to take a time at both landmarks.

Now I wonder about the intentions aboard Gitana 13. The record has turned over a number of times since Thursday's Child, and the exchange has never (yet) come down to hours, much less minutes or seconds, but it could. Not to worry, Gitana 13 skipper Lionel Lemonchois is a two-time veteran of the route. Lemonchois crewed for Isabelle Autissier in a 1994 monohull effort that finished in 62 days and blasted the 76-day record that had been set in 1989 (laurels had not rested long on Thursday's Child) by Canadian Georgs Kolesnikovs and American Steve Pettengill in a 60-foot tri.

Lemonchois repeated the journey in 1998, crewing on PRB for Yves Parlier and setting the 57-day record he now seeks, with a crew of 10, to overturn.

Records are made to fall, and we've had ten years of development to see what's fast and what breaks, or doesn't. Gitana 13 has probably cleared the light air of the equatorial doldrums as this is read, and we know we're not looking at a photo of today's news. Looks good though . . .

© Gitana 13

Dig the 2008 sked for Gitana 13:
• Route de l’Or (New York to San Francisco via Cape Horn)
• The North Pacific (San-Francisco to Yokohama)
• Yokohama – Dalian
• Dalian – Taipei
• Taipei – Hong-Kong
• Route du Thé (Hong-Kong to London)


Guy Bernardin is part-way around the world on a replica of Joshua Slocum's Spray. At the moment he's hunkered down in Talcahuano, a port city in Chile, with a boat that needs repairs and a pocketbook that needs replenishment.

Thursday's Child is alive and cared for on San Francisco Bay and probably can be seen at the Oakland boat show in April.

Flying Cloud is gone with the mists of time, along with so many great ships that plied the Cape Horn route. The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park has a fine collection, but there's nary a clipper ship to be seen.


Because the West wasn't built by cowboys—Kimball


The America's Cup was back in court today, and when all was said and done . . .

There was a lot to be said and done.

This from Golden Gate Yacht Club/BMW Oracle Racing:

New York, NY -- January 23, 2008: Justice Herman Cahn of the New York State Supreme Court today held oral argument on SNG/Alinghi’s plea to rethink his decision of November 27, 2007 in which he declared Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) the valid challenger pursuant to the America’s Cup Deed of Gift. GGYC argued that Justice Cahn’s decision was correct in all respects and there is no basis for the court to reconsider it.
“We remain confident that the court will maintain its earlier decision despite SNG/Alinghi’s apparent procedural attempts to delay,” Tom Ehman, GGYC’s spokesman said. “We expect that Justice Cahn will soon issue an order setting October 2008 as the dates for our match, and we look forward to getting the Cup back on the water.”

And this from Société Nautique de Genève/Alinghi:

(New York, 23 January 2008) New York State Supreme Court Justice Herman Cahn heard arguments today over whether the Golden Gate Yacht Club has put forth a valid Deed of Gift challenge for the 33rd America’s Cup to its current holder, the Société Nautique de Genève and its team Alinghi.

“We were glad to make our points and found the Court receptive to our arguments,” said Lucien Masmejan, lead counsel for the SNG. “We look forward to a court order properly addressing the issue of the validity of the GGYC challenge.”

Justice Cahn allowed the SNG to further examine arguments put by the GGYC and invited SNG to present additional submissions on Monday on these issues, including on the definition of a keelyacht versus a multihull. SNG’s submissions will be supported by the interpretation from the International Sailing Federation which was presented to the court (in attachment).

A result in SNG’s favour would put the 33rd America’s Cup back on track with a multi-challenge event in 2011 in Valencia, Spain. As Defender of the America’s Cup, the Deed of Gift gives Alinghi and SNG, as trustee, the serious responsibility of preserving the integrity of this world class sporting event.

The defender also released the text of a statement from ISAF secretary Jerome Pels regarding the definitions of keelboats versus multihulls. You can link to the pdf right here.

I urge all, all, to go and sin no more.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

About Time (and money)

I'm working from an update-free zone, but a sail-assisted cargo vessel was scheduled to have sailed today from Bremerhaven, Germany to Venezuela as the first practical test of a towing-kite system intended to reduce fuel consumption. Will it tow us into a brave new world?

The MS Beluga SkySails is 132 meters long and carries a 160-meter kite that reportedly developed five tons of pull, in a mild breeze, in recent testing. Wind angle is critical—you won't be going upwind with this rig—but the numbers tossed around by SkySails GmbH & Co. developers start at a 10 percent reduction in fuel consumption under certain circumstances, peaking at a 50 percent reduction under optimal circumstances. The technology is intended for series production. Stephan Brabeck, Technical Manager at SkySails, says, “The daily routine will bear many challenges. It is important to raise the manageability and robustness of the system to the level demanded by our customers."

I patiently sat through the video on the SkySails web site, and what I think I saw was a retrofitted, telescoping mast on the bow of the ship, with the kite stowed in a large metal box below. In the nature of testing, deployment involved quite a bit of manpower, a helicopter as a camera platform, etc, but yes, by and by there was a kite out there, flying in a towing position.

People have been talking about this sort of thing for a long time. Let's hope it works and really does have applications, as the makers hope, to "cargo vessels, superyachts, and fishing trawlers."

Here's the look from aboard . . .

And from ahead . . .

One of the more intriguing, possible uses for a kite would be to increase the options for a dismasted boat, eh? —Kimball

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Chicken and Egg: It's No Yolk

The results of the RS:X worlds capture The Problem quite nicely.

The chicken and egg problem of Olympic boardsailing in the USA.

Our windsurfers don't sail at the bleeding edge of world competition, so US Sailing concentrates its efforts on classes with better prospects, leaving the windsurfers to ask, Don't you think you'd see results if you put more money into time and development? Leaving the powers that be to respond, Yeah, but somebody has to decide what to do, now, with what we have today. Thus—

American women Nancy Rios and Farrah Hall, still engaged in a dispute over who will represent the USA in Qingdao, competed in the second-division Silver Fleet at the just-completed RS:X World Championship in Takapuna, New Zealand, finishing 22nd and 24th, respectively. Overall, in a fleet of 76, they wound up 60th and 62nd.

I see no American entries in the men's division. In-country boy Tom Ashley was the men's winner, while Italian Alessandra Sensini won a squeaker off Kiwi Barbara Kendall for the women's title. Sensini and Kendall now have four world titles apiece, in case you're wondering who's royalty here. Below we see Sensini at work on a light air day.

US Olympic Sailing Committee Chairman Dean Brenner has never shrunk from declaring that his mission is to maximize medal opportunities for the USA. Between Nancy Rios at 60th and Sensini in first, methinks this particular chicken and egg problem leaves a lot of room for incubation. And I don't see much effect on medal prospects whether Farrah Hall does or does not succeed in unseating Rios from the Olympic team.

It looked like this when the breeze filled . . .

Photo by oceanphotography.co.nz

The Littlest Big Club

It's Francis Joyon day on Planet Earth. We're all searching for superlatives to describe Joyon's efforts and his new solo, around-the-world record. Mast problems and all, the giant trimaran IDEC returned to Brest at 00:39 local time Sunday morning, the wee hours at their wee-est, after 57 days at sea.

Think about that. When was the last time you spent 57 days at sea? Alone. Going like a batouttahell.

57 days averaging 19 knots.

What have you been up to since November 23?

This is also the second-fastest circumnavigation ever, beating every fully-crewed time except the 50-day lap made by Bruno Peyron and company aboard the maxi-cat, Orange II, in 2005.

Twenty days out, Joyon set a new 24-hour solo record of 616 miles. He was still at sea when Thomas Coville upped that to 619 miles on his own record attempt, on his own Day 20, only to then crash the crash box on the starboard float of Sodeb'O and turn back.

The hardest part, Joyon said, was climbing the mast last week to prevent the starboard spreader from unscrewing and bringing the whole show to an end. Going up more than once, I should add, no doubt with accompanying thoughts on the order of, "I hope the
%!&*# thing doesn't come down now."

Having no interest in the English-speaking market, Joyon's sponsor, IDEC Groupe, communicated (early on) only in French. The whole world checked in, regardless, and I see that the only other member of Joyon's tiny club showed up in Brest for the finish. That would be Ellen MacArthur.

Only two people have ever sailed speed-record-ratified, solo, nonstop circumnavigations in multihulls. In 2005, MacArthur took away the record that Joyon had set in 2004. Now he has it back. And we can let Ellen supply the superlatives: “It couldn’t have gone to anyone better." she said. "It’s just . . . huge. I had to give everything I had to beat his 2004 record; today he betters my time by 14 days. Amazing seamanship, ideal weather and a faster boat are key, but above all I cannot express how much respect I have for the man.”

Key facts

IDEC (Francis Joyon) 2004
Elapsed time: 72d 22h 54 min 22 sec
Record stood for 370 days

B&Q (Ellen MacArthur) 2005
Elapsed time: 71d 14h 18 min 33 sec
Record stood for 712 days (1 year, 11 months and 13 days)

IDEC (Francis Joyon) 2007
Elapsed time: 57 d, 13 h, 34 min 6 seconds
26,400 miles at an average speed of 19.09 knots
Beating Ellen’s record by 14 days, 44 minutes and 27 seconds

With photo credits to Liot-Vapillon/DPPI/Idec, here is Joyon arriving in the middle of the night . . .

And the welcoming fleet accompanying IDEC to the harbor in the early light . . .

Probably Joyon's favorite part . . .

Followed by the inevitable . . .

And the further inevitable . . .

57 days, 13 hours. It's beatable, but not without the right mix of boat, grit, and lucky stars. Amazing stuff. Also amazing, the surf contest just concluded south of San Francisco at Maverick's. Check it out at The Chronicle's web site. I'll drop in a Brant Ward shot below, for a teaser, but the Chron had all their shooting stars on the case, including Michael Macor and Fred Larson.

Maverick's delivered, yup yup yup—Kimball

Photo by Brant Ward/San Francisco Chronicle

Monday, January 14, 2008

Justice Cahn is Solomon

How else to explain a single ruling that pleases two opponents equally.

Or so they say.

This from Alinghi:

Today Justice Cahn decided against issuing a settlement order until after he has examined the arguments raised by Société Nautique de Genève with regard to the validity of the Golden Gate Yacht Club challenge. He scheduled a further hearing for the 23rd January.

Counsel for Société Nautique de Genève, Lucien Masmejan, commented on the days proceedings: “We are very pleased with the result of today’s court hearing. Justice Cahn has acknowledged that our arguments with regard to the invalidity of the GGYC certificate need to be examined in full and have substance. We believe that the further proceedings contemplated by Justice Cahn will bring clarity to the validity of the GGYC challenge.”

And this from BMW Oracle Racing:

The Golden Gate Yacht Club said today it is pleased the court order giving effect to the November 27 decision in its favor is expected to be made soon.
Justice Herman Cahn of the New York State Supreme Court today heard further arguments on the order and scheduled a hearing for January 23. GGYC expects the Court will sign the order either then or shortly afterwards.

“We were very pleased with today,” Tom Ehman, the club’s spokesman said. “Justice Cahn clearly has a thorough understanding of the issues. We are confident the Court’s decision of November 27 will be enforced in the order, leading to a Deed of Gift regatta in October, 2008.”

And lest we forget—

I'd be curious to know how much Team Origin is enjoying the V5 ACC boat it bought off Alinghi last June.

And I'd be curious to know how excited Team Germany is about completing ACC 101. They started building, remember, while the last round of racing was under way.

It's not as though there weren't a few signs in the tea leaves. I find that I wrote this on July 2, while America's Cup 32 was still in progress:

"There are any number of issues that derive from having a defender-governed challenger selection, so the eventual publication of the protocol for America's Cup 33 will be a matter of great interest.

"As will the independence of jury and race committee.

"The astute reader will note that I have left extra space for reading between the lines."

I didn't know the tenth of it—Kimball

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Thank You, Francis

Francis Joyon is fun to watch.

There are some tremendous characters in the European shorthanded sailing scene, but only a few shine through vividly to me here in my outpost in California. Francis Joyon is one of those. Another is Ellen MacArthur, whose 71-day, solo circumnavigation took away from Joyon the around-the-world record that he appeared poised to recapture until incipient shroud failure threatened his mast.

Joyon may yet get his round-the-world record back, but there's no more breathing easy. The speeds he was making were dramatic enough. Now the drama has a new, darker face.

Ellen MacArthur I've met only once, but I was impressed that, up close, she is the genuine article, not the product of a PR machine. "Ellen," a one-word phenomenon in our world, has an uncanny knack for being the right thing and saying the right thing at the right moment, and I guess I don't have to remind you that the lady is good on a boat.

Francis Joyon I've never met, but even following him from half a world away, who could resist the man's underdog, underfunded performances. Holding the round-the-world solo record that Ellen took away. Setting a transatlantic solo record and then falling asleep, exhausted, and sailing the boat onto the bricks and losing it. Keeping his sponsor and going again in a new boat, this time, a bigger, more powerful IDEC and for the first time (for him) with shoreside weather routing. Not quite so underfunded anymore. And when he set out 52 days ago (where were you on November 23, and what have you been doing since?), Ellen predicted, "If he doesn't break the boat, he'll break the record."

Photo by JM Liot/DPPI/IDEC

Twenty days out, Joyon set a new, solo, 24-hour record of 616 miles that fell a month and change later to Thomas Coville and Sodeb'O at 619 miles, also 20 days out but only a few hours short of hitting something that opened up the crash box on the starboard float of Sodeb'O, forcing Coville out of his own record attempt and back to port.

It can be a challenge following these matters—Joyon's sponsor has no international ambitions, so they don't bother to offer an English language version of the web site—but it's well worthwhile. When Joyon discovered a rigging problem on IDEC, the odds shifted. He's on his way up the Atlantic now, clear of the doldrums on the final leg but with thousands of miles remaining.

Imagine. He can smell the barn, but the distance remaining is more than most sailors will ever cover in a single voyage.

Imagine. His shore team sent out the following statement. "Last night was a quiet one with no major incidents except a violent squall shaking IDEC about in the middle of the night."

Imagine, indeed.

An upper attachment for the starboard shroud was unscrewing itself little by little, until Joyon discovered it, and he does not have the tools for an ideal fix. "Merely" jury-rigging an interim fix left him exhausted from climbing the rig in difficult conditions, taking a body beating, and suffering an injured ankle. Let's let his people pick up the thread:

After spending 48 difficult hours getting out of the Doldrums, then having to deal with the starboard shroud fixation, Francis Joyon finally managed to take it a bit easier and get some rest, which was certainly something he required. With the trade wind strengthening, it is now the sea state, which is more 'aggressive' in the words of Francis Joyon, which will make the trimaran’s headway tougher, with some violent slamming into the swell, which is becoming increasingly high.

Then, there is the additional stress, knowing that his weakened mast is going to be put under more strain. There is no way for the moment he can carry out the 'strapping operation' around the damaged part at the start of this 52nd day at sea. There are now just over 2,500 nautical miles to cover.

'The wind was steadier during the night,' explained Francis, 'I managed to keep her going at an average of 16 or 17 knots, while getting a little rest.'

The shaft holding the starboard shroud in place was blocked with the meager means Francis had at his disposal on board IDEC. Following talks with the boat’s designers, Nigel Irens and Benoit Cabaret, and the sailmakers, Samuel and Dominique Marsaudon, one final attempt to secure the part is still possible. The idea is to wrap a belt around the mast, which would be strapped around the shroud fixation, limiting the strain on the spindle.

It is therefore planned once again to go back up the 32-metre mast. But certainly not in the conditions Francis is experiencing today. He will have to wait for calmer seas.


America's Cup legal teams return to court today in New York to ask again, how many angels can be impaled on the head of a pin. This is the clubhouse of the Supreme Court YC . . .

In merry England, meanwhile, the Collins Stewart London Boat Show proceeds with associated events I'm not accustomed to in staid American climes. A fashion show, for example, that appears out of season for London in January, but merry, so very . . .

And down toward Cape Horn, we have two boats around and in the Atlantic, homeward bound toward the finish of the Barcelona World Race, with three more still in the Southern Ocean and getting kicked around pretty fierce. Paprec-Virbac 2 is the runaway leader. Here are Damian Foxall and Jean-Pierre Dick as they rounded Cape Horn in the night . . .

The doublehanded Barcelona has not produced the excitement we might have hoped for, but don't kid yourself. For the people out there, the experience is about as humdrum as it was for the crew of Apollo 13 (people were taking space missions for granted, remember?) before things went wrong.

I repeat myself. Imagine—Kimball

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Keels'n Cats

I ask:

How many angels can be impaled on the head of a pin?

And if that doesn't strike your fancy, I ask:

Do we really think it’s going to be hard for Oracle Racing’s designers to stick a “keel” on a 90-foot multihull should the judge buy into the sophistry of Alinghi’s new crop of lawyers? They contend that Oracle is challenging in a monohull 90 feet wide because the Notice of Challenge refers to a "keel yacht." They further contend this is contradictory and therefore invalid (my phrasing and interpretation).

The last time I checked in with IMS, or the remnants thereof, IMS boats were sailing with wooden keels for a ratings advantage. Are we going to have to sit through a court determination of the difference between a keel and a daggerboard?

What if Oracle sinks a 6-inch keel below each hull? Or adds a few kilos of lead at the bottom of each "lifting keel?" Or more likely, do we just go away on a shrug of the judge's shoulders and get on with whatever comes next? The next round of arguments is likely to turn on timeliness and the stringent requirements of life in court, not the definitions of the elements of sailing. Oracle contends that its challenge is valid; more than that, it argues that the defender, having requested summary judgment on arguments that included being challenged by a 90-foot multihull, now rejects that summary judgment by alleging that the challenger's vessel cannot logically be a 90-foot multihull.

If it all comes down to legalisms, the case is beyond me. But who can resist the fascination of sin, and it surely is a sin, to impale those poor little angels for the sake of mere sport, ego, or both of the above. And money. Gosh, I almost forgot money.

So, back to the elements of sailing . . .

A keel is a hydrodynamic element, a stability element, or both. All of us associate "keel" with monohull, and if you go searching you won't find much to contradict that. I betcha the Oracle folks wish they had just left out those four silly little letters. I betcha the Alinghi principals regret all the occasions when they referred to the Oracle challenger as obviously a multihull. I betcha, when this all shakes out, it would be a hoot to share a beer with the man on the bench.

I do not comprehend why the word “keel” appears in the notice of challenge handed to the defender on July 11, almost exactly six months ago. But is it un-doing for Oracle Racing? Not hardly. The exact wording, should you need it, shows up later in this post.

On a different note, I also fail to comprehend why anyone would think that either team has a determining advantage at this point, if we’re on our way to a showdown in big cats. Sure, Ernesto Bertarelli has experience in catamarans on Swiss lakes, and Larry Ellison does not have that. But when they meet out back of the corral and go for their guns, somebody else will be squeezing the trigger. Fifty-fifty is all I can make of it, until we spill blood.

Over the weekend, Oracle Racing/Golden Gate YC released the text of their “memorandum of law” in opposition to Alinghi/La Société Nautique de Genève and their new legal team’s attempt to renew and reargue the decision by New York Supreme Court Justice Herman Cahn, assigning the role of challenger of record to Oracle Racing. You can find those 13 pages right here.

Or, you can read the first paragraph and get the gist of it:


A litigant is perfectly free to change counsel after an adverse ruling on summary judgment, as SNG has here. But, a movant cannot change earlier sworn testimony, misrepresent the issues raised on the cross-motions of summary judgment, and change its theories and judgments. That is precisely what SNG has done in its effort to manufacture a factual dispute (even though it moved originally for summary judgment) . . .

And there is this, from the body of the document:

SNG's reliance on International Sailing Federation ("ISAF") rules is entirely misplaced. The use of the term "Keelboat" to describe a class of boats in the ISAF rules does not inform the meaning of the word "keel yacht" as used in GGYC's certificate. GGYC's Certificate refers to a "keel yacht," not a "keelboat" as defined in the ISAF rules . . . Indeed, multihull vessels have keels . . .

But not typically. Sorry, Amigos Americanos.

I can imagine Alinghi using this to fuss to infinity that this or that appendage is not a keel because it does not meet this or that alleged definition. I ask you again, how many angels can be impaled on the head of a pin?

Remember that in the past I’ve offered this little gem as a summation of the state of affairs . . .

Now I want to add this, which I shot in the Carmen district of Valencia, which seems to somehow capture the mood of the moment. If the scribble is too small to read, try clicking the pic . . .

Photo by Kimball Livingston

Now, as promised, here are the words in contention, as taken from the challenge of July 11:

I, Commodore Marcus Young, certify that the details set out below, as to the name, rig, and specified dimension of the keel yacht to represent Golden Gate Yacht Club in a match for the America’s Cup to be sailed in accordance with the Notice of Challenge herewith:

1. Name: USA
2. Owner: Oracle Racing, Inc.
3. Rig: Single-masted, sloop rigged
4. Dimensions:
(a)Length on Load Waterline: 90 feet
(b)Beam at Load Waterline: 90 feet
(c) Extreme Beam: 90 feet
(d) Draught of water (hull draft): 3 feet
(e) Draught of water (boards down): 20 feet

Are we having fun yet?

Ahem, that's my specialty—Kimball