Thursday, February 28, 2008

A New Cape Horn Record

Gitana 13 day on San Francisco Bay:

Lionel Lemenchois and crew had a slow trip of it in their passage from the ocean to a finish line off the Hyde Street Pier. A finish line, that is, of their record-breaking passage from New York to San Francisco, via Cape Horn, along the route established by the clipper ships in the days of yore.

Here is the big cat entering the Golden Gate Strait . . .

The arrival marks the end of a 43-day, 14,000-mile journey that knocks big time off the old, 57-day record. Lemonchois, skipper this time around, crewed on the last two boats that lowered the NY-SF record, but this was the first attempt in 10 years. Considering that the crew hunkered down for weather short of the Horn -- and waited days for a weather window, and still lowered the mark by a chunk -- you know that 10 years of development in boats and weather routing have had an impact. And you know that there is room for another effort to shave time off of this mark.

Gitana 13 fought down-bay in light winds in wide, reaching legs as far as the historic ships of the Hyde Street Pier. She finished, looking leisurely, during San Francisco's morning rush hour . . .

By report, the boat is taking a mooring on the north shore of San Francisco Bay, at Corinthian Yacht Club in Belvedere. Myself, I'm packing to leave for Banderas Bay Race Week/MEXORC, so this is it for me. I'll be checking in on the boats now finishing the Vallarta Race from San Diego. Folks like the fellow in this shot, which somehow seems to want the caption . . .

Hmm. My dominatrix said to put it on this way. Or was it--

But before I go, let's recap the New York-San Francisco record. We'll start with the official capsule of the journey of Gitana 13: "Gitana 13 crossed the finish line of La Route de l’Or, situated just off the infamous island of Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay, at 1707 (UT). After over 43 days 38 minutes at sea, including a forced five and a half day stand-by at Cape Horn, Lionel Lemonchois and his nine crew improved on the reference time held since 1998 by Yves Parlier and his men by 14 days 2 hours and 43 minutes. The maxi-catamaran in the colours of the LCF Rothschild Group covered the 14,000 miles, which separate New York from San Francisco at an average speed of 15.88 knots and thus set their first record time in their 2008 record campaign."

Those of you who read my January blogs on the history of the Cape Horn record -- and paid attention, and have a memory (both of you) -- should already be up to speed. Others might enjoy this look back:

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. The weather was even a bit similar to that welcoming Gitana 13, come to think of it.

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.

It was in 1998, crewing on PRB for Yves Parlier, that Lemonchois set the 57-day record he just overturned.

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


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Stories Sailors Tell

So here we are on the Mysterious East coast, and Harken has just opened a new shop in Newport, so Peter, Olaf, and a passel of the usual suspects from Pewaukee are basking in the (relative) warmth of Rhode Island, where the snow is only about 10 inches deep and a day old. Wisconsin, eat your heart out. Naturally there's a launch party. I'm on the scene, coaxing Around Alone vet Tim Kent to recount tales from the fluky weather of his qualifying sail with Everest Horizontal.

Not to fall asleep with the spinnaker up, that was Tim's goal. Because the breeze was light, except for the occasional slammer squall. And I'm not someone who can come away from a night like that with every detail in place, but the story went something like this—

Naturally, Tim did fall asleep. And naturally he awoke to discover that The Squall With His Name On It had arrived.

Boat on its ear. Spreaders in the water. Spinnaker way out yonder in the south forty with the fishies. Whitecaps hissing. Lightning flashing. I said LIGHTNING FLASHING. Fast-forward then through a few I'll-never-do-that-agains and we find our man Tim scrambling into position to do the right thing. As he tells the story:

"I had a moment when I said to myself, 'Tim, stop, look at this. Just look. Hardly anybody in the world will ever see such a sight.' "

And Now

Now we're in a four-wheel drive car and snow is falling and Ted Hood is driving us from Portsmouth to Bristol via the Mount Hope Bridge . . .

And the subject comes up, stories sailors tell, and I decide to tell a story about telling a story. Tighten your seat belt, because we're going all the way back to America's Cup, 1987, and in the media center (centre? it was Aussieland, after all) I fell into a conversation with Walter Cronkhite. It was a big deal for me to be talking with "the most trusted man in America," and he told a tale about searching for a bell buoy in the Maine fog and—

He got that far before a phalanx of phalanxers surrounded him and the head phalanxist announced, "Mr. Cronkhite, they're ready for you now." With an apology, he excused himself and was gone.

Oh, well.

A day later, maybe two, I was walking down a street in Fremantle. Walter was walking the opposite direction on the opposite side of the street. Then he crossed the streeet, came up, looked me in the eye and said, "So we could hear the bell through the fog . . . "

Back to driving to Bristol.

Ted is indulging me because I have never been to the Herreshoff Marine Museum, and it wasn't hard to talk our way in, even though the museum is technically closed for the winter. They close because boats that live outside or in the water in-season are brought indoors for shelter. No problem for us if things are tight-packed. In fact, for me, it's not the exquisite old boats but the model room that has the most impact. All those half models on the wall, and right there the cabinetry from the Herreshoff house and the lathe and tools used for making models . . .

For that matter, there's a half model that Halsey Herreshoff has in-build for someone right now . . .

A patient person, we hope, because Halsey is off on a long cruise.
Sorry, Halsey, you're busted.

I'm taken with the discovery that Jack Sutphen's Mushrooms have one of the larger exhibits. The Mushrooms, a few of you will need to know, were the speed-test team on Dennis Conner's other boat in his America's Cup campaigns. They became the Mushrooms when one of the crew remarked how they were kept in the dark and fed S#&@, "like a bunch of mushrooms."

That objet d'art above the sign is a set of wings briefly and forlornly attached to the 12-Meter Liberty in 1983 to see if the boat would suddenly take wing against the dreaded Aussie II. In the department of interesting to me: I've heard lots of analyses of why the Australians passed the US defender on the final downwind leg of the seventh race, but Hood was the first to ever say to me, "The Australians had a much better spinnaker—I didn't build it, Schnack built it—so I can say that."

Hood couldn't have built the Australian sail because that would have been illegal for an American sailmaker. Such was the case beginning 1962. As we stroll a little farther through the America's Cup Hall of Fame building at the Herreshoff Museum, we come to a print on the wall of a famous black and white photo you've probably seen--Gretel surfing past Weatherly. Ted points to it and remarks, "I built that spinnaker for the Aussies. After that, the committee decided that sails had to be built in the boat's country of origin. It was the Ted Hood rule."

I felt a bit evil doing this, but I made Ted pose for a tourist-style snapshot, close to his own picture on the wall . . .

Sailmaker, designer, builder, skipper of 1974 America's Cup defender Courageous. That's Ted Hood. In 1994 he bought back his 1959 ocean racer, Robin ("Sue, my wife, wouldn't let me name any of the kids Robin, so it had to be the boats") for $4,000. If anybody needs a reality check re. the cost of old, wood boats, consider that this one has been restored, still wins races, and has soaked up about $200,000 so far. Ted describes this first of many Robins as, "a heavy-weather hull with a light-air rig." The boat is dry for the winter, but not warm . . .

With that image of Robin we're out of the Herreshoff Museum, out of Bristol, and back in Melville, RI, which is, municipally, some sort of slice of Portsmouth, RI (I don't understand and I don't have to and I'm definitely not doing the research) and we're still in the car but now we're in this huge marina complex that Hood developed from nothing and then sold (mostly) to Hinckley. However, he still owns the signature office building at the front of the complex, which, if you squint through the snow and read the names over the door, you will recognize as quite a hub. Newport R&D, btw, is Garry Hoyt . . .

But I'm still in a car with Hood and we're down the way and looking up through the windshield at 12 Meter US19, Nefertiti, on a cradle on the hard. The snow is still coming down and Ted points to the underbody—the long keel of the day, attached rudder—and he says, "We went to the tank testing and the tank kept saying to make the keel longer, make the keel longer. So we made the keel longer. But the tank had the wrong numbers for wetted surface. When we raced-off against Weatherly [for the right to defend the America's Cup in 1962; Ted was, uniquely, designer, skipper, and sailmaker], we were faster in a breeze; they were faster in the light stuff. It came down to that. The last races of the trials were light air, so Weatherly defended."

His story.

Mine: Even the guy who landed the big one (12 years later) laments the big one that got away. Ted Hood is known as a man of few words, but that's a load of BS. Ask him, Ted, how do you feel? You'll get nothing. But he'll talk engineering till the cows come home. Watching him respond to generations-old but intelligent hardware at Herreshoff's was a revelation, and he's not exactly shy about the virtues and comforts of his new Expedition 55 Motorsailer.

I found the boat rather comfortable myself. Little though I wanted to, eventually I had to leave.

What Set Me Off

Was the San Diego Yacht Club's call, in connection with its Vallarta Race -- the fleet is off the coast of Baja right now -- for Mexico race stories to be published on the
web site.

I had a few chats with various parties associated with the race—I'll be at the other end for Banderas Bay Race Week/MEXORC—and I have to admit the process brought back a few memories of my own. Reading about their pre-start party plans sounded fantastic—except for all this talk of a genuine, Mexicano sendoff and my wonderment: Would they do that margarita fountain again?

I remember one San Diego Yacht Club margarita fountain (rather dimly) as the night before the morning that I remember (all-too clearly) as the only time I've ever had the dry heaves on a start line.

Shifting, gratefully, to 2008:

Dennis—that Dennis—offered thoughts on racing to Mexico, and so have others. Here's mine:

I was in grad school in 1974, but the situation was imperfect. For example, I was the only person in graduate school with a tan. I had a meeting with the dean and we agreed, more or less: If they would give me a masters degree, I would leave; and if I would leave, they would give me a masters degree. About 72 hours later I was on my way to Mexico on the last of the Acapulco Races.

SDYC had begun racing to Acapulco in 1953. Acapulco was the place to go at the time, but times change. Other good options appeared as Mexico grew and emerged, and eventually racers from the USA preferred to avoid the obstacle of the last few hundred miles down the mainland. Think light air.

We proved the problem.

In my 1974 race to Acapulco, we woke up on the morning of day nine (I believe it was day nine) looking at Acapulco off the bow. When the sun went down, we were still looking at Acapulco off the bow.

But that's not my story.

We had one guy on the crew who had promised us, long-distance rookies all, that he would take care of us once we got to that place where, apparently, most of the people spoke Spanish. That faraway place called Mexico.

So when a light breeze finally carried us into Acapulco Bay and across the finish line in the deep darkness when we felt like we should have been there hours before, we motored over to the only light we could see on the water. It was a small fishing boat with two guys dangling poles over the side. Our man said, "Dandee istee clubee yachtee."

They didn't even look up.

But that's not my story.

I sailed the race on Ed Perry's Ambush, a One Tonner (hot at the time) as the bow boy for both watches (think, less sleep, more fun).

This could lose me some friends, but I'll tell you a secret. I don't drink on boats. Not beer, not etc.

I was also the only member of the regular Ambush crew that was free to race to Acapulco, so Ed brought in a bunch of his fellow airline pilots. Sailing freaks all, including a couple with somewhat more of a yen for beer than I've expressed, if you get my drift.

Being heavy, the six-packs were loaded into the bilge along with (being heavy) the non-feathering propeller for the trip back up the coast.

Now, define "battery."

Salt water in the bilge plus aluminum plus a second metal agent, for example.

Halfway down Baja, the beers started coming out of the bilge suspiciously light. It was almost a moral issue.

Can you spell c-r-i-s-i-s?

Me? I just popped the new guy into the pole, every time we gybed. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it—Kimball


Sunday, February 24. As reported by the Australian 18 Footers League:

The young Gotta Love It 7 crew of Seve Jarvin, Sam Newton and Robert Bell officially became the new world champions when they won the SLAM-Winning Appliances Giltinan International Championship, which concluded on Sydney Harbour today.

Photo by Christophe Favreau

Defending champions Michael Coxon, Aaron Links and Nathan Ellis brought Fiat home a narrow winner today to finish second overall behind Gotta Love It 7, while Hugh Stodart's Asko Appliances was third, just ahead of Omega Smeg (Trevor Barnabas).

Coxon and his team led all the way in today's race and looked likely to score an easy win but had to survive a brilliant finish by Kinder Caring Home Nursing (Brett Van Munster).

Fiat crossed the finish line just one second ahead of Kinder Caring while yesterday's Race 6 winner Rag & Famish Hotel (John Harris) finished another 1min 55secs back in third place.

Coxon and Van Munster elected to take their skiffs to the right hand side of the course on the first windward leg while Gotta Love It 7 and Club Marine (Adam Beashel) went to the left.

At the windward mark, Fiat led from Kinder Caring with Ssangyong Yandoo (John Winning) in third place.

Fiat was 15secs ahead at the wing mark and gradually increased the lead throughout the race.

At the second windward mark the lead was out to 1 minute from Kinder Caring while Ssangyong Yandoo and Gotta Love It 7 were battling hard for third place.

The Gotta Love It 7 crew worked their way into second place at the final windward mark with just the spinnaker run between Rose Bay and Clarke Island to the finish.

Fiat and Gotta Love It 7 were above the finish line and had to gybe twice near the mouth of Double Bay.

Kinder Caring had carried their spinnaker much lower than the others and were on a direct line to the finish.
Fiat completed her gybes but Gotta Love It 7 capsized as Kinder Caring came 'steaming' home.

The experienced Fiat crew were under terrific pressure but retained their composure to beat Kinder Caring home by a mere second in a wonderful finish.

By Australian 18 Footers League.

A final note: The skiffs are coming back to the USA this summer, to San Francisco Bay, and they're upping the number of boats. I like that.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Racer's Legacy

A side benefit of Jack Sutphen's book-signing party—Messing About in Boats for 80 Years—was the inspiration to visit Myron Spaulding's boat yard for the first time since it became the Spaulding Wooden Boat Center.

"Myron" was a one-name institution around San Francisco Bay, and he was sailing master of the Dorade (yes, that Dorade) when it won the 1936 Transpac and became the first boat ever to sweep first-to-finish and handicap honors in that race. Thus continued the hit parade that began with winning the Trans-Atlantic and then the Fastnet before Dorade came west.

Most of Myron's 95-year life and influence came after that Transpac, and in the Spaulding Wooden Boat Center, on the lively waterfront of Sausalito, lies an opportunity to preserve a time capsule that could never be recreated and, for many people, could not even be imagined without seeing to believe. This was, in its heyday, an epicenter of sailboat racing on the West Coast.

As sailor, designer, builder, fixer-upper and measurer, Myron cast a long shadow. I figure that Warwick "Commodore" Tompkins—now in New Zealand with his very racy cruiser, Flashgirl, was a prototypal professional sailor. Commodore calls Myron, "a second father," which is pretty much the tone of things with the raceboat designers and boatyard owners you find today on the shores of San Francisco Bay. One after another, Myron shaped'em up and sent'em out, not always with single-note emotions. Quoting Commodore again, Myron was, "a complicated man; a seat-of-the-pants scientist; a synthesizer of ideas, possessed of an exhaustive memory and a remarkable charm, which he chose to use occasionally."

Myron designed the 20-foot Clipper class (72 boats built) and the Spaulding 33 (10 built) and ocean racers including his 1949 masterpiece, Buoyant Girl, which won the Pacific Coast Championship with Myron on the helm. How it is that I tried repeatedly to interview Myron but never succeeded is a story that tells OK, but I don't think I could ever write it.

So there we were, and it was Jack Sutphen's day . . .

Jack told a number of the stories from the book, published through the Classic Yacht Foundation, including this one that explains why, in matters of the America's Cup, I never believe anything I see until race day. We enter the story as Jack recalls the time when Dennis Conner was cranking up the campaign that would lead to his walkover comeback win in Australia. First there was this exhibition race:

"The campaign started in San Diego with the delivery of Stars & Stripes 85 . . . The race was to be in the harbor off the Star of India and the Berkeley, San Diego Maritime Museum boats, and a big crowd. In five to six knots of breeze it quickly became apparent that Liberty was faster than the new boat. Malin [Burnham] and I were on Liberty and Malin at the helm cranked in some extra turns on the trim tab and we slowed Liberty down so Dennis could just nose us out to win the race. The good news was, as soon as we got to Hawaii with Stars & Stripes 85 and Liberty, in anything over ten knots, 85 was faster."

And, there was time to poke around the yard. The project of the moment is to restore little Freda, built in 1885 and the oldest surviving yacht on San Francisco Bay. I've known the Freda though successive restorations, but this was a shock, to see an all-new bottom in the works . . .

As explained: When a boat was built more than a hundred years ago with square, iron nails, you have to figure such a time will come . . .

So let's just nose around . . .

And that is my report of what's being done in this little corner of the world to preserve our wedge of sailing history. We are lucky to be starting with a site that is, itself, a living museum piece.

To copy a bit of the official language: The Center was built on the Sausalito waterfront in 1951 by Myron Spaulding, concert violinist, legendary sailor, and yacht designer and builder. In 2002, the Spauldings' generous gift turned this functional and historic boat yard into a non-profit charitable organization and living museum. SWBC plans to offer a range of public programs that allow public access to the historic boatyard and the waterfront, including classes, workshops, events and forums on subjects ranging from traditional boatbuilding skills to the preservation of the historic Sausalito waterfront.

Every vital sailing center has something of the sort going on, and I have an impulse to name a few, but then I'm slighting others, so zip my lips. My plan this week is to flip coasts, bundle up, and visit the Herreshoff Museum in Bistol, Rhode Island (closed for the winter, but there's a back door)and I'll name that one here because the Herreshoff Museum is truly iconic and also anchored in a name. When the name comes natural-like, that's a good thing.

Herreshoff is a much bigger name than Spaulding, to be sure. But I'm going to quote myself on the subject, because this I believe:

Myron? Well, he was Myron. Frisco Bay to the core. Aced the woodshop class at Polytechnic High ("By the time I had finished my bookends, that guy had built a boat." Prescott Sullivan). Damn fine first-fiddle with the symphony until he quit that for a 95-year-lucid life of designing, building, measuring, fixing, and sailing sailing sailing boats. Did he own one pair of wrinkled khakis or twenty pair identical? Kind of like a character in Faulkner: so individual that he carried all of the life of the galaxy inside him—Kimball

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Vibratory Phenomena (CRACK!)

This post is hardly dry, noting "vibratory phenomena" that cautioned the crew of Groupama 3 to moderate their pace, and now comes word that the leeward float broke and the crew have been airlifted off the capsized trimaran. The words below are actually more relevant now . . .

Into the Pacific now and bound for Cape Horn, Groupama 3 doglegged north over the weekend to dodge the worst of a 50-knot blow, sacrificing distance in favor of safety and still leading in its double race against time. There's (1) the fifty-day circumnavigation record that (nope, we know better now) Franck Cammas and crew can probably beat and (2) the likelihood that this is the last crack at a round-the-world record this boat will ever have (got that much right).

A bigger hammer is on the way.

(See below, but that's not the story of the moment.)

Reading between the lines, there is (was) nothing routine aboard Groupama 3, even though the communications express(ed) confidence of rounding the Horn in a week or so and covering the remaining 10,000 miles to Ushant at a pace that will (would have) advance(d) the record. There are suspicions in some quarters that the crew turned north, not because of the weather, but because they feared a breakup and wanted to be closer to land. They were only 80 miles off New Zealand when the leeward hull cracked. While cross-tracking north in twentyish-foot seas, crewman Franck Proffit wrote, "It's the first time we've encountered this type of wave. The boat handles well. She doesn't bury, though there are vibratory phenomena in the floats and beams requiring us to be careful."


And there was the broken number one batten, up at the headboard, that would have required dropping the main at the next opportunity (flatter seas), and aboard these monster trimarans, dropping and rehoisting the mainsail is a major, all-hands trial. But when you have a job in the record-breaking industry, these are the tests that come your way (including broken boats). Only hours before the breakup -- day 24 and about halfway around -- this was the upbeat take from the Groupama 3 web site: "We can expect some astounding average speeds at the start of the week. Although Orange II was pretty quick in the Pacific, it is now established that Groupama 3 can step up the pace and make up further ground as soon as the big westerly swell gets behind it."

Never happened. This shot was taken during the rescue and lift-off . . .

Crew were airlifted safely to Dunedin, on New Zealand's South Island.

This read differently before the breakup, but let's pick up the story anyway:


That would be Banque Populaire V, coming, "dès l'hiver 2008-2009 pour la conquête des records océaniques les plus mythiques autour de la planète, coming in the winter of 2008-2009 to conquer the most mythical oceanic records on the planet."

Mythical? Whatever.

Banque Populaire V is to be no less than 131 feet long. When the main hull left the builder's yard in Cherbourg last October, it was quite a sight, as snapped by Ivan Zedda . . .

Banque Populaire V is scheduled to launch this spring and then get serious about its work next winter, after the requisite teething. The parts are coming together now in Lorient, up a protected bight from the Bay of Biscay. Not too long ago, the parts looked like this . . .

This puppy is going to come out 29 feet longer than Groupama 3, with a lot more sail power. Scary? Bigger weapons usually are.


The Gitana 13 team on its way to a probable new record on the clipper ship/Cape Horn route continues to make time up the western coast of South America, though the crew sounds a bit frustrated that their distance through the water and distance made good don't match. As of Monday Gitana was crossing the line of 4 degrees south latitude.

The crews aboard these boats have their own way of measuring things. Thus we find Nicolas Reynaud writing from west of Ecuador, "Same wind direction, same changes in trajectory to stay in the good wind, same speed, and San Francisco is now only a Route du Rhum away."

As I write, the Gitana catamaran is 33 days into an attempt to beat Yves Parlier's 57-day record from the Big Apple to the Golden Gate. That mark has gone unchallenged through ten years of developing bigger hammers, and it sits there as a big, fat target for skipper Lionel Lemonchois, who crewed in each of the last two successful record shots.


Al Jazeera has denounced as a "risk to freedom" a code of journalism favored by 20 of 22 members of the Arab League, excepting Lebanon and (Al Jazeera's state sponsor) Qatar.

Quoting: Arab information ministers meeting in Cairo endorsed the charter, which allows host countries to annul or suspend the licence of any broadcaster found in violation of the rules it sets. The Cairo document stipulates that satellite channels "should not damage social harmony, national unity, public order or traditional values". It says that programming should also "conform with the religious and ethical values of Arab society and take account of its family structure".

I know, I know, that's not yachtie news, but I keep up with Al Jazeera. You might recall, Al Jazeera ran America's Cup reports in 2007, while did not.

And yes, the Volvo Race dropped its Mideast stop with quite a lack of fanfare, didn't it?


Not everybody in California went skiing last weekend. This was the pre-race scene at Corinthian Yacht Club's two-day Midwinter series. No, you didn't want to be part of the gangrounding of
R-12, but we'll save that nightmare for a different telling, and later this week we'll (re)visit the Spaulding Wooden Boat Center with Jack Sutphen—Kimball

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

History Meets History

Jack Sutphen rode in the tickertape parade on New York's Fifth Avenue when Team Dennis Conner brought the Cup home from Australia. Dare I risk suggesting there's a new generation of sailors out there who cannot imagine that such a thing as a ticker tape parade for sailors could have happened in the USA? Or that a winning America's Cup team was invited to the White House?

I haven't had a chance to ask Jack Sutphen if he knew "Myron," who was a one-name institution around San Francisco Bay almost in the way Jack's friend "Dennis" is a one-name institution worldwide. Maybe I can find out, come Saturday, when Jack drops into the Spaulding Wooden Boat Center in Sausalito: History meeting history.

Jack Sutphen started out as an East Coast guy (it doesn't get much more East Coast than Larchmont Yacht Club's junior program), but I think of him as San Diego because that's where I first found him, driving 12-Meters as a sparring partner for Conner. His first of nine America's Cup campaigns was 1958—that was the revival year after WWII—and now Jack is an author, coming 'round for a book signing.

Myron? Well, he was Myron. Frisco Bay to the core. Aced the woodshop class at Polytechnic High ("By the time I had finished my bookends, that guy had built a boat." Prescott Sullivan). Damn fine first-fiddle with the symphony until he quit that for a 95-year-lucid life of designing, building, measuring, fixing, and sailing sailing sailing boats. Did he own one pair of wrinkled khakis or twenty pair identical? Kind of like a character in Faulkner: so individual that he carried all of the life of the galaxy inside him. That, and the fact that Myron's yard remains as a time capsule that could never be replaced, tells us why the Spaulding Wooden Boat Center has to succeed in its mission of preserving the art and craft of traditional boats.

Yes, children, there was a time when you could walk into a builder's yard, and it smelled good, like wood and warm sawdust and—oops, let's not step over yonder where they're slapping on the lead-based paint or it will spoil our pretty picture—but the picture is pretty, isn't it . . .

Photo by Rod Bauer

Jack Sutphen's Messing About in Boats for 80 Years is a series of reminiscences. It's not a writerly attempt to blow your socks off. But it's a read, and there are some of us (you know who you are) who just have to have these works because nothing else speaks to this point or that. Here's Jack . . .

He was working as a sailmaker for Ratsey & Lapthorn when the 1958 season revived Cup competition for the first time since World War II, and he worked for the Weatherly campaign that year. In 1974, the Courageous campaign brought him together with Dennis Conner, and thus began a collaboration that continued through the grandest and hardest of times. A perennial champion in the PCCs—the Pacific Coast Class—Jack is 90 now and entitled to lay back and quit. So, instead, he wrote a book.

Yep, that's Jack.


The record price for a single bluefin tuna, sold in Japan, in dollars: $55,706

Paid by a Hong Kong sushi restaurant owner. Think, declining supplies (a 90% reduction?) and tighter controls (tighter controls soon enough, or not?).

Dang, I like tuna.


"Russians, Chinese, communists, capitalists, blacks or whites are all the same to me. I'm a soccer coach and I don't understand, nor want to understand, anything else. I'm going there to try to qualify Iran for the 2010 World Cup and I couldn't give a hoot about anything else."

Spain's celebrated soccer coach Javier Clemente explains exporting his labor. As translated and presented by Aljazeera

"I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time writing about such a terrible score, but I thought it pertinent to a decent account of the Laser Worlds. As if you needed more perspective: two North American guys, the most recent US College Sailor of the Year and the current Collegiate Singlehanded Champion, are both in Bronze fleet slogging it out in some decidely difficult racing for 100th place in the regatta."

That's US Olympic rep Andrew Campbell contemplating life from the mid-20's in the gold fleet of the 2008 worlds Down Under; words from his blog:


A cut and paste from the regatta site:

Defending world champion Tom Slingsby was declared the 2008 World Laser Champion after nasty southerly winds and whipped up seas forced Race Organisers to abandon all attempts at racing off Terrigal this afternoon.

Principal Race Officer Tony Denham and his crew made their way out to the race track this morning and waited for any sign that either of the two remaining races in the Finals could be sailed. At one stage around 1.30pm NSW time, the AP flag was dropped, but winds increased again and racing was abandoned.

Slingsby, who finished on 27 points, has won the Championship from Argentina’s Julio Alsogaray by two points, the Argentinean not having the opportunity to turn the tables. Javier Hernandez from Spain finished third with 39 points.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Slingsby in the boat park, where sailors were readying to make their way out to the race area. “It’s a weird feeling when they (race committee) pull up the AP flag – it’s a strange way to win a Championship, but I’m over the moon, especially to win on my local waters.”

And let's see:

American Brad Funk had a pretty good regatta at ninth, but lots of points out of first (27 vs. 79). Campbell finished at 29th with 125 points, pretty much where he had been when he wrote our quote.

Nothing's easy when it's not supposed to be easy. And I ask yet again, in part because it appeared so mysteriously at Myron's yard, can anybody tell us how this mystery Barient got there, looking as if she came from a certain of the great Twelves—Kimball

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Which Are You Going to Remember ?

So here we are at the Transpac YC dinner, and the buzz is the revival of the Tahiti Race and the banter is all about how people are going to come unglued in three weeks at sea—and the highlight of the ceremonies is to honor Cathie Nash for being the glue that kept the Transpacific Yacht Club together for a quarter of its century of existence—and let's stop right here. Do people really get the point of a 3,571-mile race, one wonders? There hasn't been a Tahiti Race in 14 tears and I tagged Ragtime owner Chris Welsh with the notion that, once people were reminded what's it's really like working through the doldrums to get to south latitudes, there might not be another Tahiti Race for a long, long while. And he said, "That's why I'm doing this one."

And now we're on our way to Catalina Island—all of this happened last weekend in Southern California—and it's the first round-island race of 2008, and here is Jim Morgan skippering his Santa Cruz 50, Fortaleza, and Jim is the guy who likes to explain his Tahiti entry by asking, "Twenty years from now, which are you going to remember? Going to Tahiti, or going to work?"

Nothing international-exotic last weekend, mind you. Just an opener for the local (pretty sophisticated) fleet. Race One of the Whitney/Times/Bogart Series (call it the Whitney). It was 82 degrees in downtown LA on Saturday but let's be honest that even under clear skies in mild winds it took considerable layering to tolerate an overnighter on the Inner Coastal Waters. Fortaleza started at 1205 on Saturday and finished Sunday by the dawn's early light. I guess I forgot to check my watch, but I find sunrise listed as 0643. We parked a little longer than some people at the West End of the island, so let's just say we had fun.

Back to the "exotic." French Polynesia and the island group loosely called Tahiti certainly qualifies as that.

When TPYC ran the first LA-Tahiti Race in 1925, the destination was hopelessly far away and romantic. Precious few westerners had ever been there to see the outriggers of Papeete or the cloud-capped, eroded crater of Bora Bora. These days, when you arrive after 3,571 miles under sail, you won't escape encountering those who arrived by 747. That sailing distance, of course, is nothing to the pros sailing their "laps," but it's still a big deal to most amateurs and working stiffs, who have to account for themselves in their outside-sailing lives. In distance, it's roughly a Transatlantic plus a Bermuda, but at the end of the Tahiti Race you're either nowhere or somewhere, depending. If you're into some cruising after, you have to realize as an American that you skipped Mexico and Central America, the Marquesas, and all the sightems along the "Milk Run" that far. If you're into more racing after, your boat is now a long way from home. In case you were wondering why it's been 14 years.

That's why I appreciated the clarity of Chris Herter. His Ragtime is one of the most famous boats in the Pacific. Under a succession of owners, Ragtime has done it all, including a record 14 crossings in the Los Angeles-Honolulu race. Her Spencer-designed wood hull was built in New Zealand, and Chris has it in mind that she needs to revisit the Southern Hemisphere. This I know. Whenever Ragtime calls on my home port, I just have to wander down to the dock to commune, close up. Here's a shot from the TPYC web site . . .

And another. Dig the hard chines . . .

The 2008 Tahiti Race (13th edition) starts June 22. Only six entries solid so far, and they're working on more but it's soon time to commit or forget. Quoting from the web site: "Other early entries are Doug Baker's Andrews 80, Magnitude 80, from Long Beach and Allen Hughes' Open 60, Dogbark, Seattle. Another high-end Long Beach boat, Bob Lane's Andrews 63, Medicine Man, is verbally committed."

I'll leave you with an image again of Jim Morgan—he's commodore of Los Angeles Yacht Club—before the start of the round-Catalina race. He's calling across the water to a friend, and he shouts, "Come race with us to Tahiti!" And the response, "Explain 'why' to my boss."

It occurs to me that, if I could explain 'why' to his boss, and a few more, I could charge enough to make a handsome living—Kimball

Oops. Additional business for the record:

Gitana 13 en route again chasing the New York to SF record, quoting from the web site in their Friday update, which will surely surely be re-updated by the time you click in: "The maxi-catamaran equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild had to wait five days at the doorstep of Cape Horn due to bad weather. Following one last night in the shelter of Tierra del Fuego, Gitana 13 should be back on its way to San Francisco this morning. Lionel Lemonchois and his crew of nine are back to the business at hand: trying to beat the Route de l’Or record."

Groupama again on pace to set a new circumnavigation record, quoting from the web site: "On this seventeenth day at sea, Groupama 3 has already covered a third of the course around the globe and is managing to hold onto a small lead over the reference time. These two pieces of good news are added to the fact that a SW'ly wind rotation should kick in over the coming hours, a shift which will be favourable for a long descent towards the furious fifties. After having absorbed the impact of some rather big seas on the hip, as well as suffering from a very bumpy ride due to the combination of a very strong S'ly swell and a very variable high pressure breeze, things have now stabilised since the start of the weekend: the breeze is slowly shifting to the right and Groupama 3 can finally slip along quicker, further and lower towards the Kerguelen Islands. Indeed a low will bring along its share of rain, clouds and low temperature, as well as wind, most importantly. This breeze will initially pass to the SW at 20-25 knots, then to the W at 25-30 knots on Sunday morning, before returning to the SW at 35-40 knots at the end of the weekend... Do up your foulies nice and tight, its going to get wet and seriously blustery as the wind swings round!

The course over 40° South that Groupama 3 has been forced to endure since passing the Cape of Good Hope, will therefore curve slowly inwards towards 50° South so as to shorten the distance to sail around the Antarctic. Already though, Franck Cammas and his men have covered the first third of the race against the clock with over 8,000 miles on the speedo, whilst the weather conditions have not been particularly favourable. But how much does three times seventeen days come to?"

• The Barcelona World Race poised for a first finisher. Again, quoting from the web site: "After 92 days at sea, the end is near for Paprec-Virbac 2 who are less than 250 miles from the finishing line off Barcelona. The leaders are averaging about 10 knots, giving them 25 hours or so until their ETA of 20:00 GMT tomorrow evening. If they realise that ETA and finish tomorrow, they'll have been at sea exactly three months since the race start on November 11th."

• I hear that BMW Oracle Racing now has an Extreme 40 catamaran in Valencia and another on the way, to match the training platforms of Team Alinghi, down the way.

But there is a lot of time yet to fuss over catamarans and who will be King of the America's Cup Hill. Golly, I'm tired. It seemed a long night for little old us, merely rounding Catalina, but what a lovely wilderness sight in winter green. Thank you, Catalina Conservancy and all who had the vision, for saving the place.

And thank you, TPYC Administrator Cathie Nash, for keeping the Transpacific Yacht Club glued together all this time. It was only one night, the club's biennial dinner, but we think of you more often than that. This is a "yacht club" that exists only on paper and in our hearts and minds, and it has one purpose and one purpose only: To put on the Honolulu Race very two years (and to put on the Tahiti Race when the fever strikes). And, I guess, to link race veterans together, because the race and TPYC have developed a life of their own. OK, that's three. Yacht racing isn't supposed to make sense. Leave me alone.

No wait! I'm going to keep asking. It probably once helped control the sails of a famous 12 Meter. Do you know how this Barient got to the Sausalito boatyard of the late Myron Spaulding?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Mystery Barient

Do you know this winch?

It's a vintage Barient pedestal, no mystery about that. But where did it come from?

There is good reason to suspect that it once trimmed sails aboard a rather significant racing machine of the haunts-Newport variety. A name you would recognize.

But to know that, rather than to speculate, we need to know how it found its way to Myron Spaulding's boat yard in Sausalito, California, where it just, sort of, surfaced after Myron passed on. Someone out there has information. You know who you are.

The rest of us can just be glad we're not trimming big, heavy sails with the likes of this in 2008, though in its day it was a mechanical marvel.

From the department of Did You Know --

Barients were the first two-speed winches geared in both directions. They were developed more than half a century ago through the initiative of a guy who saw a problem and wanted to solve it. That would be one Tim Moseley of San Francisco Bay (Jonny Mosely's granddaddy, yup yup yup). In low gear, Moseley's first-generation winches would pull an unprecedented 5,000 pounds. Then Tim bought a boat, a big sloop named Orient, sailed the 1955 Transpac, and came home with motive for a new round of development.

Add to the picture an engineer by the name of Derek Baylis (father of Trevor, Will, and Liz, three names you might know, drop drop drop), and you quickly get to a much-improved second generation of winches that did the job for Orient. Those winches also impressed Mosely friend Jim Michael, one-time president of the North American Yacht Racing Union and later a member of New York Yacht Club's defender-selection committee for the America's Cup. Michael at the time owned the famous yawl, Baruna, and wanted winches for his boat. A business partnership was formed -- not so much for profit as to supply themselves and their friends -- and a contraction of Baruna and Orient became Barient.

Barient winches were the model for everything that followed. Spare a thought for what it would be like aboard a boat today if no company had ever got around to standardizing a single winch handle that fit all its winches, or to simplify the rigging game by giving each winch a number which, multiplied by a hundred, yields a conservative figure for design load. We don't have to deal with the alternative, friends, because Barient got there ahead of us.

As I understand it, Lewmar eventually bought both Barlow and Barient and then folded them. People come, people go, so do companies. But this winch came back. So does anyone know this winch?

For the record, Myron's yard is now the Spaulding Wooden Boat Center, and someday soon I want to take you there—Kimball

Friday, February 1, 2008

Uncertainty? I'm over it

Enough already with wringing our hands over the uncertainty of a "normal" match for the America's Cup.

Alinghi is clear, without being formal, they're talking 2011.

BMW Oracle is clear and formal: 2011.

A catamaran match (or not) is irrelevant to that outcome.

Both sides propose to set races in Valencia in 2011 with multiple challengers in 90-foot monohulls. If there is a catamaran match first, the 2011 match will be AC 34. If not, 2011 becomes AC 33.

One side or the other will be holding the America's Cup come 2011. They're far apart in how they propose to organize the racing, but that will sort as events unfold. Damaged or perhaps not, the game will go on. Remember how the end of the world was declared when the breeze failed to show up for Round Robin One in spring, 2007? And a few months later we were talking about the best racing ever? There are a lot of people who have switched off the ongoing static, but you can't kill this thing. Show those folks a race and they'll come back. It's time now to be locking in sponsors (Louis Vuitton, we know why you left, but we miss you). And maybe, just maybe, both sides could find it in themselves to declare their intentions in a fashion that would dramatically help the process. Loudly declare, to wipe the fuzz off the edges, something that reads real solid-like in a sponsorship proposal.

2011 is three years off, but it avoids competing with the apparently sacrosanct World Cup of football, and with a new class to put on the water, 2011 is not so far away. It's time to get cracking.

Go ahead, pray aloud for common sense to erupt and spare us the quagmires of the interim, but don't waste your time expecting it.

"Gentlemen may cry Peace! Peace! but there is no peace."

BMW Oracle is pushing for a catamaran match in October, 2008 or a compromise that Alinghi has repeatedly rejected.

Alinghi is pushing to get the BMW Oracle challenge ruled invalid by the court.

The order of the day is, Gather ye court briefs while ye may.

I'm so glad, that ain't me. I'm going sailing—Kimball


2011: Will my old my apartment be available? It was a good look.