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

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