Monday, March 31, 2008

The Way We Were

So per expectation we were back in court on April 2
- April 1 would have been so apropo -
to ask Dad to tell us, when may we go America's Cup yachting?

United Internet Team Germany closed the base and all sailor contracts as of March 31. New Zealand's Grant Dalton says his team could be back up and running almost instantly, given cause. But there isn't any cause. Pierre Orphanidis attended the press conference in Valencia of Desafio Español and reports that the Spanish team has got itself hooked up with a real yacht club for the next go-round and will occupy space over the next couple of seasons by representing its sponsors on the TP52 and GP42 circuits.

BMW Oracle is meanwhile physically on the water for training in Lorient, France with the Formula 60 trimaran, Groupama 2, and Alinghi is set back after flipping Alain Gautier's Formula 60, Foncia, off Lorient last week, and everybody's mad at somebody and eventually the America's Cup itself will again be fine, for a while.

Could take a while. And no, there's not a sked for when Justice Herman Cahn will come back with a go/no go ruling for 2008 versus 2009, the dispute du jour between the only two players on the field.

Remember the long ago, all-smiley days of the "Moet Cup"? The first round of what would become the Acts? People not on the scene were pretty sniffy toward it because it wasn't "the real thing," but in fact it was a form of the real thing and it turned out just dandy. I lifted this pure-nostalgia pic (you'd have to use Photoshop to replicate it) from Richard Spindler over at
Latitude 38 . . .

© Richard Spindler/Latitude 38

Then in an orgy of self-abuse I went back and reread these words, written when I was so much younger, from a posting in which I also noted that Al Jazeera fer crimineez sakes was covering the America's Cup:

Valencia, España
July 1, 2007

I woke up this morning and I felt so alive. I couldn't wait to get down to the port, and when I got here the place was already humming. Even the events that followed—no racing, the breeze never settled in, and we had a long wait—even that couldn't bring me down. No sir. I've seen America's Cup racing revolutionized twice now, and this is the real deal. The pre-events that built up a viable challenger fleet, and then the match itself, with races fought down to the last broken tooth and hangnail. Yes, Alinghi is up 4 races to 2 and needs just one more win to defend the Cup, but I doubt that Mr's Bertaralli, Butterworth, and Baird, sitting at the back of Alinghi, would want to resail those last two races that they won. Win them again they might, or might not. What more can you ask of a sporting contest?

And I reckon somebody out there is gagging right now because I sound like a cheerleader, so here, let me lend you a fork for that. The America's Cup has been debunked generation after generation, but you can't rationalize it away any more than you can rationalize it.

I'm not alone. Mark Chisnell has been doing a bangup job of analyzing the racecourse action in America's Cup 32, and when I sent him a note of appreciation, he answered simply: "It's not often something comes along where you just want to do it justice."

Excuse me. I have to go now. This hammer is wearing out and I need a new one so I can keep hitting myself over the head—Kimball

Suddenly Swimming

I don't know why, but the Doublehanded Farallones Race produces more "adventures" than any other event on the California coast.

Well, a windy ocean, a narrow Golden Gate Strait, some pretty big currents and doing it in the springtime certainly factor in. We saw 30 knots out there over the weekend--Gitana 13 started for Yokohama because that's the breeze they wanted, but then the guys didn't like the sea state at all--and 30 knots is not uncommon in the springtime in the Gulf of the Farallones. And when it blows for a while you get your 10-15 foot seas and an occasional sneaker.

Having been around the Southeast Farallon a few times (or more), and being unable to remember a time when I ever clicked in with a harness, I reckon I won't be preaching to anyone what a good idea it is to do just that. But I suspect that two people by the names of Luc de Faymoreau and Disun Den Daas are recent converts to the concept.

They were pitched out of their boat and . . .

[Luc has checked in with a must-read comment, and he's not so sure about this harness thing. Find Comment at bottom. Thank you, Luc.]

. . . yep, just like that, there they were, swimming in the Pacific Ocean about five miles returned from the island and 20 miles out of the Gate. There had been a moment when something sneaked up on them, and they lost control (Luc: "We were SNAPPED off the boat in a violent motion, what I call a pitchpole/broach")and thus lost contact with one Olson 40 named Pterodactyl.

Fortunately, Clifford Shaw was nearby. He saw Pterodactyl go down and around and turn into the wind, then sail away looking not quite right. He went to investigate, and almost before the fear of death could set in, Faymoreau and Den Daas were aboard Shaw's Crowther 36 catamaran, Rainbow. They set out chasing Pterodactyl and were soon joined by the Coast Guard, which had been alerted when another boat encountered a crew-less Olson 40 and MOB gear in the water. It was too rough to transfer anyone aboard, however, and in the next scene we find our Samaritan Shaw donating his EPIRB to the cause. It was tossed into the cockpit of Pterodactyl.

Darkness fell.

At last report, boat awol out there somewhere. Sailors safe. An aerial search on Monday by a stalwart volunteer turned up nothing. (EPIRB presumably ejected from cockpit, much like sailors.)

Luc, if Pterodactyl beats Gitana to Japan, the beers are on me.

Okay, that's it. Don't overlook Luc's comment below, and if you want a good April Fool's read, I recommend clicking into Scuttlebutt Europe, pour l'exemple:

"Panic In Minden As Sail Membrane Gains Self Awareness."

3N's IQ is now at least 300 and climbing. Terrified scientists disconnected the membrane and all North computers from the internet. Turning off the power to the facility had no effect (other than making the membrane a bit petulant), as 3N has learned to generate electricity from the internal movement of subatomic particles and is now fully self generating.

"We are playing Mozart 24x7 to it and have a team of scientists reading 3N the entire Harvard Classics library and all the world's books on philosophy and religion in hopes that it will decide that kindness and goodwill towards man is the way to go . . . "

April 1. It's a good day for sailing, and that's no foolin'—Kimball

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Suddenly Disappeared from Radar

What happened to hand grenade journalism?

Love him or laugh at him, Magnus Wheatley made quite a show of himself (and made enemies) at the Rule 69 Blog and never met a hyperbole he didn't like and got a few things spectacularly wrong and got other things right in a way calculated to offend. He called his style, hand grenade journalism. Today the only return is:

Rule69Blog has now closed
Contact us
Magnus Wheatley can be contacted at

So I sent an email:

"Did a grenade go off in your hand?"

No response.

But the first version of this post - since edited - drew a response from a reader at who saw a final Rule 69 posting that I did not. It includes statements "to stop the rumor mill in its tracks."

Well, there's a first time for everything.

Find it in the Comment section at bottom. Worth the read on multiple levels.

The Pacific, so Un-Atlantic

Now let me share a conversation I had with Stefan Fodor, just a few hours before he set out crewing aboard the 110-foot catamaran, Gitana 13, for a shot at the San Francisco-Yokohama record. It's a reminder that the Pacific is so very un-Atlantic. The boat cleared the Golden Gate in light air in the afternoon, but with a crisp northerly blowing on the ocean outside—the backside of a minor low pressure system—and officially launched the crossing at 2245. They passed outbound through the returning Doublehanded Farallones Fleet, as captured through the very long lens of Erik Simonson . . .


"We're looking at reaching for six to twelve hours in a 30-knot breeze," Stefan said. "That will get us well off the coast, and then we hook into the bottom of a low pressure system and sweep away on that. But six days on, it's a crap shoot. It's not like the Atlantic, where you can hook into a system and ride your predictions all the way across."

Olivier de Kersauson and the crew of the trimaran, Geronimo, now hold the SF-Yokohama record at 14 days, 22 hours. "They had a good first half," Stefan said, "but as I understand it they hit calms in the last three days, closing on Japan. The crap shoot again. So we have room to improve on their run, and we have [Yokohama native/Around Alone veteran] Kojiro Shiraishi aboard to help us with the approach."

Sounds like a probable record, but yes, a crap shoot. It's been only two years since de Kersauson and company set the SF-Yokohama record. It had been ten years since anyone had a crack at the NY-SF record, which Gitana lowered to 43 days while leaving a lot on the table.

Most sailors in the record-setting business ply their trade in the Atlantic and the Med. Pacific records are the low-hanging fruit.

It is also a fact that de Kersauson and company were forced south early on their crossing and passed through the chain of Hawaiian islands to more-or-less fortuitously claim records California-Hawaii and Hawaii-Japan. They made Diamond Head in 4 days.

Sheesh. My personal best, California-Hawaii, is ten.

Moving on to Greater Piles of Bullship

There's no formula for creating something that works, but wherever you sail—on the coast, on a lake, on a river—you deserve to have not less than one Grand Nonsense Intergalactic Championship on your calendar. On my home waters, we have several such, the runaway leader being a thing called the Three Bridge Fiasco: round three marks, in any order, in any direction, in our season of highest current, in our season of most-erratic wind, and it brings out our biggest fleets (SAIL, January 2008: What a Fiasco!). Another, with a 54-year tradition, is the Bullship, a bay crossing for 8-foot El Toro prams. Since this deal is sailed cross-current and early in the day, generally before a solid breeze can build, the which-way-to-go question looms large. Let the record show that Art Lang went hard right. Buzz Blackett went hard left. And they finished one-two. At the, um, press conference, Mr. Lang (a veteran of three decades of this bullship) offered an insight that may inspire you in your own sporting endeavors: "Even a blind pig in the forest occasionally finds an acorn."

The finish was up-current so the fleet crowded the beach, and how . . .

Photo by John Dukat

And you couldn't call it a Bullship without a Tail End Charlie award, now could we, Chris Straub ? ? ?

Photo by John Dukat

Reason Number 11,334B.2 Why Compromise Is Nice

Photo by TNT Media Services

That's Alain Gautier's Formula 60 trimaran, Foncia, upside down, and not the Alinghi multihull that we assume we'll eventually see racing against a BMW Oracle multihull in the 33rd America's Cup match. It is, however, the Alinghi team standing on the bottom of the boat after stuffing a wave on Saturday off Lorient, France. It must have been a scary flip—no matter where you're standing on one of these things, it's a long way down as it goes over—and I'm glad that no one was seriously hurt despite a couple of hospitalizations. Which only goes to show how hard this is, and how hard it is going to be. Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton was quoted by Paul Lewis in The New Zealand Herald just hours before the accident, but aptly, speaking of the even-larger boats to come:

"The problem is that these yachts will be an enormously stressed engineering piece of kit. It's a bit like launching a lunar satellite into space - it's no mean feat. Under the Deed of Gift, you have to build everything in the country of origin - Switzerland, in Alinghi's case. They just simply do not have the facilities there to do this entire thing.

"I mean, you have the entire military might of the United States to draw on, versus Switzerland? It's a very tight timeframe and I just do not think they have the physical presence to do it in time.

"These are not the sort of boats that you can build and then spend a week sailing around in it before racing. In a perfect world, you'd want the boat built and on the water in January for a July race."

A reminder: Attorneys for the opposing camps are returning to a New York courtroom on Wednesday, and it is reasonable to believe that the timing of the next match will then be resolved beyond any further dithering. That leaves me a few days to play, so my plan is to follow my friend R. Crumb and just keep o-o-o-n

Friday, March 28, 2008

All Boats Great and Small

I love'em.

I could explain myself till I'm blue in the face but no amount of explaining will ever get through to those who don't share the passion, and those who do share it don't need my help.

Here's what set that off.

In my little corner of the cosmos—that would be San Francisco Bay—I find myself pig-in-clover thick with sailing matters great and small, each wonderful in its own way. Maxi-cat Gitana 13 has a plan to set out some time over the weekend to hook into a weather system that promises a few hundred miles of rapid westing before Lionel Lemonchois and crew have to start weather-routing their way across the Pacific. They're out to beat the San Francisco-Yokohama record of 14 days, 22 hours now held by Olivier de Kersauson and the big trimaran, Geronimo. We don't see a lot of 110-foot multihulls in these parts, so it's worth dropping a jaw. Here's a recent bay "cruise" as photographed by Peter Lyons . . .

© Peter Lyons Lyons Imaging

Gitana will probably get out the door on Saturday afternoon—or wait, if the weather lacks jumpstart potential. Fair-weather sailors might ponder this ocean-coastal forecast from the National Weather Service that apparently sounds pretty tasty to the Gitana gang:


Ponder also this Pacific crossing as a puddle jump compared to the boat's recent 43-day record on the Clipper Ship route, New York to San Francisco and wrong-way-Charlie around Cape Horn.

Saturday morning, regardless of weather, is devoted to the Bullship.

Lives like it sounds. An event of intergalactic consequence and, as Janice Joplin might say, great social import. A San Francisco Bay crossing in 8-foot El Toros. The race starts early, before the seabreeze builds enough to swamp half the fleet en route. That means, however, that you're sailing in fluky wind the whole way, thus the rule of thumb: Everybody leads the Bullship Race for five minutes.

El Toros were once the standard junior trainer in these parts, and whacked-out events like the Bullship are important to keeping the flame alive. They're hard to recover if swamped, however—the race brings along a "cowship" fleet of escorts for the bay crossing—and along the cityfront of San Francisco, it used to be impossible to run a junior training program. For kids in El Toros, too much wind; wave. Now we have Optis, and the kids can sail any day, anywhere. The Opti is a better trainer for that, but El Toros have soul.

I know. I've raced the Bullship. For about five minutes, I was winning.

And then, on Tuesday . . .

Nick Moloney and the iShares Extreme 40 catamaran are doing a little event along with Jonny Mosely that promises to be very cool. Nick you should know as a guy who's gone around the world three times and is the only person ever to windsurf from mainland Australia to Tasmania. Jonny you may think of as an Olympic skier, but around here we think of all Moselys as sailors. Amazingly enough, that's only the shortlist—Kimball

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Cordial Exchange of Views

I've believed for a while that the Alinghi camp is the victim of wishful thinking. Nothing in Wednesday's nonmeeting of the minds in Geneva changed that. This happens in Balkans diplomacy all the time, right? What Tom Ehman of BMW Oracle Racing calls "a cordial exchange of views" becomes, in the opposing corner, an engine inspiring Société Nautique de Genève/Alinghi/America's Cup Management counsel Lucien Masmejan to use the words "disappointed" and "frustrated."

The words coming out of the Alinghi corner sound cornered to me. They really had no next move except to go back to court, and that's what happens next, to ask Dad to rule on whether we race in giant multihulls in 2008 or--as Alinghi devoutly wishes--in 2009.

Wishful thinking? No one at Alinghi has moved past calling the first court ruling—the one that disqualified the Spanish team from acting as challenger of record—a "technicality." But to paint Larry Ellison as an opportunistic pirate out to hijack the America's Cup, which is what they attempt to do, ignores the nearly-universal negative reaction to their original protocol, the one with their lapdog "challenger," ignores the compromise proposal put forward by BMW Oracle last November and signed by four other challengers, ignores that they knew all along that nobody's lobbing softballs here and it's bad luck to crowd the plate.

On one of Ernesto Bertarelli's visits to the USA last year, we spent time together over two days, and the experience was genuinely cordial, and he looked me in the eye and said, "The changes we made to the protocol were really very small."

But thinking so doesn't make it so. I mean, the man also let time pass because he was counting on winning in court.

Now, don't imagine me as someone who is going to labor through all the pages of all the court documents to compare the details of the crucial dispute du jour: whether or not there was an agreement to stop the clock—on a ten-month-Deed of Gift challenge cycle—pending resolution by the court. Or, given such an understanding, the dimensions and start-stop dates of same. But I feel pretty sure that the BMW Oracle camp, in demanding to race in October 2008, is coming to this position with zero tolerance for wishful thinking. I'm sure they're sure their ducks are all lined up.

As for who wins the next round, let's quote a great American hero, Art Crumb's cartoon character, Mr. Natural:

Mr. Natural says, "Whatever's happening keeps right on happening."

Oh, one final thought:

"A cordial exchange of views."


Tom, you crack me up—Kimball

For more on this topic see David Schmidt's story at

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Sean "Doogie" Couvreux spent a chunk of '07 on the bow of an AC boat in Valencia, but he spent last weekend in a more elevated position, sailing a foiler Moth a few feet above San Diego Bay. As he explains, "The boat rises and accelerates. Everything goes quiet. You can't believe it till you've tried it. And you wipe out from three feet higher than a 49er."

So with its first-ever Pacific Coast Championship in the bag and Bora Gulari the surefire winner, the Moth has officially arrived in the USA. There are boats scattered around the country, but San Diego has a concentration. Twelve of these 11-foot, hydrofoil-born dinghies raced there over the weekend out of Coronado Yacht Club, including true believers who traveled many a mile for the moment. Gulari has been racing these boats here and abroad, so he has the head start. His take: "By the end of the weekend everyone was up on the foils coming off the starting line, and even the newcomers were hitting some foiling jibes. With such a high calibre of sailors joining the fleet, and the openness and cooperation shown, the learning curve is going to be rapid".

There's tremendous energy in the class right now. The online forum is all cranked up, and Charlie McKee (49er bronze medalist with bro, Jonathan) says, "Moths have been around a long time, but it took about five years for the pioneers to figure out foils. We have our owner-builders in the class, and everybody knows about Rohan Veal's Bladeriders—they can't build boats fast enough to meet demand—but we also have manufacturers like Prowler pumping out a bunch of boats. We have adults and kids racing together, and I think that's very cool; it should be like that. You see all sorts of people getting into the class. You have your tinkering techno-geeks and you have people like me. I wouldn't get in if I couldn't just buy a boat and go sailing. Every development class goes through these phases of change. When you arrive at a point where off-the-shelf boats aren't swallowed up by development, the class is ready to take off."

McKee, originally a Seattle guy, lives in San Diego these days. Couvreux is living in the Columbia River Gorge, where the Moth class plans to hold a national title regatta in August at Cascade Locks—and if things go right, and they can convince the internationals, a world championship in 2009.

Let me advise you, Moth sailors of the world, come to the Gorge. Try it, you'll like it.

Now dig this Oskar Kihlborg shot that I lifted from the US International Moth site. Something important is missing, eh?

Reminds me of talking to Doogie, and encouraging him to bring the fleet to our lumpy, breezy San Francisco cityfront, and Doogie says, "Kimball, I don't think we're ready.

On the other hand, these pics from last weekend's PCCs are looking mighty ready. Here's Charlie Mckee . . .

And 15-year-old Hans Henken pulling it to weather . . .

Charlie McKee offered an account of the weekend, and here is an excerpt:

"For the last race the championship was solidly in Bora Gulari's hands, while the real podium battle was between Hans Henken and Charlie, with the winner determining 2nd for the regatta. The 15-year old and 46-year old have been training partners in Coronado and know each others' game well. Coming off the pin, Charlie and Bora were neck and neck footing for the left corner with less than 2 boatlengths separation the entire way. When they tacked back, though, Hans crossed them both and tacked in front. Around the top mark it was Bora, Hans, then Charlie. Hans held close to Bora down the 1st run, but Bora gradually pulled away on the 2nd beat, and Hans turned his attention to covering Charlie to secure 2nd. Charlie rounded the last mark about 7 seconds behind, and immediately jibed away in a right-y puff. Hans looked behind, coolly jibed to port, Charlie jibed back to starboard and a jibing duel ensued, McKee desperately hoping for a mistake from the young buck. Henken continued to carve perfect foiling jibes between McKee and the finish line, securing 2nd for the race and the regatta."

Now a Word from Mallorca

Ben Ainslie (no surprise) won the Finn class racing at the Trofeo S.A.R. Princesa Sofia that wrapped in Mallorca over the weekend, with Croatia's Ivan Gasper second. US Olympic Finn rep
Zach Railey was pretty happy with his third. Zach checks in:

I have just made my first-ever podium finish at a Major European Event in the Finn Class.

The regatta was a big step forward, and it is nice to rebound from the poor finish at the World Championships. The regatta had a range of conditions from light and shifty to windy with big waves, so we really got to work on a lot of areas. Even though this is a great result there is still a lot of work to do and I am motivated to keep working in the right direction so we can continue to put up top level results over the year.

At the end of the event there was the medal race which was extremely exciting. I had an 8-point lead over the 4th-place boat and was 18 points behind 2nd place. The conservative move was to protect my 3rd. The medal race was a huge battle between myself and Daniel Birgmark (SWE). I was able to gain the upper hand off the start line and push (SWE) out to the right side of the race course where I covered his wind.

My plan was to make sure the other 8 competitors got as far ahead as possible so that he could not gain the necessary points to pass me in the regatta standings. The plan came together well and I was able to push him back to almost a half leg behind the other boats by the 2nd weather mark rounding. We finished the race 8th and 9th as one of the other sailors flipped on the last downwind. This ensured my 3rd place finish in the event, was exactly what the medal race is all about.

Elsewhere in the USA's Olympic contingent, Sally Barkow placed fifth in Ynglings, and Andrew Campbell was ninth in Lasers. Full results here.

Pacific Records

It's been not quite a month since the big cat, Gitana 13, sailed through the Golden Gate with a new, 43-day record for the New York-San Francisco track. Now skipper Lionel Lemonchois and crew are prepping for a shot at the San Francisco-Yokohama record. That would be 14 days, 22 hours set in April, 2006 by Olivier de Kersauson and crew with the 90-foot Geronimo. In June of that same year Geronimo reversed direction and recrossed the Pacific in 13 days, 22 hours to set the west-east record.

As I understand it, Lemonchois and company have been sweating a weather window for their east-west departure, and then they're not coming back to California. Their intent is to instead record-hunt on from Yokohama to Dalian (meaning, I suppose, the Dalian in China).

I don't have these details screwed down tight because I was in Mexico most of the time that Gitana has been on San Francisco Bay, and my payoff for registering as press on the team website is meager—an occasional email suggesting that I go to the website for an update. Alina Zarr, who has actually had contact, emails thus: "New Harken mainsail slides are stuck on a runway in a blizzard in New England. So their whole departure is running into a glitch. Until that plane takes off, with 16 parts which broke during the Route de l'Or, everyone is on standby."

As of Sunday night, the guys were still waiting for their mainsail slides.

A New Age of Commercial Sail?

A while back we told you about Sky Sails, a German company experimenting with kite-assisted commercial shipping to reduce fuel costs. Now, with one kite-equipped voyage completed, the company is reporting success. Here we go:

Hamburg: "We can once again actually ‘sail’ with cargo ships, thus opening a new chapter in the history of commercial shipping," was the verdict from Captain Lutz Heldt following his return from the nearly two-month maiden voyage of the multi-purpose heavy-lift project carrier “Beluga SkySails”, which sailed from Germany to Venezuela, the United States and Norway. In even moderate winds, the first flights of an initial 160-square-meter towing kite propulsion system from the Hamburg-based manufacturer SkySails demonstrated how this innovative auxiliary propulsion system was able to substitute for 20% of the engine’s power.

And this:

“The initial focus during the first half of what is set to be an approximately 12-months pilot testing phase aboard the “Beluga SkySails” is on calibration work and adjustments to stabilize the towing kite propulsion,” reported Stephan Brabeck, technical director of SkySails, adding how “in the second half the flight times will be extended and the performance perfected.” On numerous days during the maiden voyage the system was in action for periods of between a few minutes and up to eight hours. During that time the SkySails-System pulled the ship with up to 5 tons of power at force 5 winds, which when compared to the engine output represents a relief of more than 20%. Projected onto an entire day, this performance by the “Beluga SkySails” represents savings of about 2.5 tons of fuel and more than $1,000 a day.

Qingdao to Santa Cruz

The Clipper Race boats I anticipate seeing on the California coast are now all collected (save one) in Hawaii for a breather before they continue on to Santa Cruz. Those who have followed this story know that race organizer Robin Knox Johnston ordered a halt to the racing on this leg after two masts broke. Finishes were awarded according to a boat's position at that time. The Western Australia boat has had more than its share of trouble, as we read: has left Midway Island for the second time after
making repairs to their damaged gearbox. To get spare parts to the remote island at the north western-most end of the Hawaiian Island chain in order to enable them to make the repairs and get underway again so quickly has been a masterpiece of logistical planning involving dozens of people.

Clipper Race Director, Joff Bailey, says, "To get equipment to Midway Island quickly is almost impossible. was very lucky. Our staff in Hawaii have been working with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to solve this problem and managed to get the components of the broken gearbox onto yesterday's supply plane. The load weight of the relatively small plane is critical. In the end the gearbox had to be broken down into parts so that essential bits could be loaded on.

"The personnel we have been dealing with at the US FWS and on the island of Midway have done everything within their powers to assist us," says Joff. "They could not have done more and we are very grateful of their assistance and thank them for it. The crew of have enormously enjoyed their two short stops on the island." is expected to arrive in Ala Wai harbour in Honolulu within the next seven days which, by coincidence, will also be the same day their new mast arrives in Hawaii.

Here's the crew of Hull & Humber, stage winners, celebrating in a setting that will be familiar to all Transpac veterans, the lawn of Hawaii YC.

Get up to speed at

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Is it just me or do I hear a roaring silence from BMW Oracle re. the timing of a Deed of Gift match?

Oops, cancel the question. The ink was still dripping from the first version of our little blog when the phone rang and it was BMW Oracle Racing's mistress of information, Jane Eagleson, saying, "Far be it from us to leave you listening to a roaring silence."


My intent in posing the question was to point out a gap that you could drive a real big truck through sideways, a gap that appeared in the initial public statements issued by the rival teams:

Alinghi, proud defender of the America's Cup, but twice a loser in court, released a statement asserting July 2009 as a date for a Deed of Gift match.

BMW Oracle Racing, twice a winner in the same court, made no mention of a date. Silence on that.

But there's a reason.

They have long intended, and still intend, to race in 2008.

So get ready for the next round, merde-fight fans. This much happened in the first few minutes after the court ruling went public.

Conventional wisdom (which can be wrong, but I subscribe) has it that Alinghi's actions these recent months have been aimed at delaying the inevitable Deed of Gift match, while they play catch-up on design. Bertarelli was so confident of winning in court the first time around that he did not begin work on a multihull defender until the rug was swept from under his feet. His own people have said that, and who am I to doubt them? The American camp, meanwhile, was cranking great guns.

Today --
The defender issued a statement quoting team boss Ernesto Bertarelli: "Let's settle this on the water." Alinghi lead counsel Lucien Masmejan was quoted as setting July, 2009 for a best-of-three match.

However --
Among other matters, the Cup's Deed of Gift covers situations in which the parties cannot mutually agree to terms, and it addresses the timing of a disputed match.

Thus my email to Jane Eagleson, asking the question that leads this writing. And about two minutes later, in email time, comes:

"you would have to ask Alinghi – where do they get 2009 from?? This is nowhere in the court papers – we want to go as soon as possible"

My point exactly.

Interviewed on Radiosport New Zealand, Alinghi skipper Brad Butterworth had comments that laid out the next arena of conflict:

"It [the ruling] is pretty much what we expected to happen."

"Next year we're happy to meet them in a multihull."

"The strategy of BMW all along has been to race this year."

"There is no way we could do it in that time frame, and even when they went to court last year [if we had started then] it would have been a big push. They could have a regatta in July, but it'll be ridiculous."

"We're thinking the clock stopped when we went to court."

The DoG stipulates 10 months from the date of challenge, and the various back-and-forths since BOR filed its DoG challenge have us racing in 2008. I heard Butterworth talking July, 2008, but I believe he had the month wrong. I heard BMW Oracle talking October.

So can Alinghi persuade (whom?) that the clock stopped? Will we be going back to court to ask Dad to set a date?

I think so.

ee cummings asks for me . . .

how do you like your blueyed boy
Mr. Death

And then (we're still on the phone, remember) Jane hands the phone to Tom Ehman, Director of External Affairs for BMW Oracle, and I express my wonderment. He says, "When the judge ruled in our favor in November, the regatta date was October 2008. There is no basis for a match in July, '09."

And what of a way to reconcile this matter of the dates? Do we go back to court?

"As far as we're concerned, October 2008 is the date."

Yep, I'm working on my Spanish.

"It may not be Valencia, you know. The defender still has some rights in that regard."

Oh. Yeah.

● ● ●

OK, for the masochists among you, the meat and potatoes:

To read the court document, click here

And we have this from Alinghi:

(New York, 18 March 2008) In response to New York Supreme Court Justice Herman Cahn’s order today designating Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) as America’s Cup Challenger of Record replacing Club Náutico Español de Vela (CNEV), lead counsel for the defending yacht club, Société Nautique de Genève (SNG), Lucien Masmejan, issued the following statement:

“Following today’s court order, Larry Ellison has eliminated the competition and gained access to the America’s Cup Match, a feat BMW Oracle Racing has never been able to achieve on the water. While we are disappointed with the outcome of this court order and believe that the matter of GGYC’s certificate of challenge wasn’t properly addressed, we have decided not to appeal the decision and we look forward to getting the fight back on the water and meeting BMW Oracle Racing on the start line of a Deed of Gift Match in July 2009,” Masmejan said.

Should Alinghi win the Deed of Gift Match, the Defender is committed to getting the America’s Cup back on track for a world class multi-challenge event in 2011 in Valencia, Spain. “The challengers can be assured that the 34th America’s Cup will be run with the same vision and commitment for a premiere multi-challenge sailing event that they supported in Valencia in 2007,” Masmejan concluded.

And this from BMW Oracle Racing:

Court Order Confirms GGYC America’s Cup Challenge

Valencia, Spain, March 18, 2008: Justice Herman Cahn of the New York State Supreme Court today issued an order confirming the validity of Golden Gate Yacht Club’s challenge for the 33rd America’s Cup and rejected a late-stage bid by the defender to re-argue the court’s earlier ruling in GGYC’s favor.

“We are very pleased with this decision. The Court has ruled that our challenge complied fully with the Cup’s Deed of Gift, and we are now keen to keep moving forward towards the next regatta,” Tom Ehman, the club’s spokesman said.

In its order today the Court reconfirmed its November 27 decision that GGYC was the valid challenger for the Cup.

The defender, Societe Nautique de Geneve (SNG), had filed a motion to re-argue that decision based on a new claim that the American club’s challenge was invalid under the Deed, but this was rejected by the court.

A Deed of Gift match is being held as the defender made it clear it did not wish to take up GGYC’s offers made before and after the court’s ruling in November of a conventional regatta with rules agreed by mutual consent and involving all teams.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Rad Man Gets Respect

Multihulls are on-topic so it's doubledog right in 2008 to see Dick Newick as the first multihull designer since Nathanael Herreshoff inducted into the North American Boat Designers Hall of Fame.

In one adventure, Cap't Nat designed and built a cat named Amaryllis, sailed it 200 miles from Bristol to New York at an average of 14 knots, and then gave the 1876 Centennial Regatta fleet such a walloping that he was told to come back with a monohull next time or don't come back at all.

Ninety-three years later another phenomenon arrived, and on that I quote myself: "It's a story worth telling around the campfires of each new generation, how an outside-the-box 40-foot proa sailed by Tom Follett electrified the sailing world with an unexpected third-place finish in the 1968 Singlehanded Transatlantic Race, launching the multihull era in the Atlantic and launching the design career of one Dick Newick."

Newick and motoryacht designer Jack Hargrave are the seventh and eighth designers elected to the Hall of Fame, which is housed at Mystic Seaport Museum and sponsored by Mystic, the Westlawn Institute of Marine Technology, The Landing School, and the American Boat & Yacht Council. Newick and Hargrave join L. Francis Herreshoff, John Alden, Nathanael Greene Herreshoff, C. Raymond Hunt, Philip L. Rhodes and Olin Stephens on a short but distinguished roster.

And: while Herreshoff indeed famously designed multihulls, his stature rests elsewhere. The Wizard of Bristol designed every America's Cup defender from 1893 to 1920 and dominated yacht design for 75 years. Newick is the first Hall of Fame designer whose reputation rests upon multihulls. This at a moment when Olympic catamaran sailors are crying "foul" for being dropped from the 2012 Olympic Games, and while the possibility of a catamaran match for the America's Cup looms in our dark, uncertain skies like a visitor from outer space. (Where you perceive the good, or the evil, is a Rorschach test, my friend.)

When I sat down with Newick—after many years in Maine, he and wife Pat now live high on a remote hill north of San Francisco—he declared, "I wouldn't call myself a bonkers advocate for multihulls." Then, as the conversation evolved, everything the man put forward about his standards for happiness under sail whispered to me that it would have to be a multihull to do what he was talking about.

If you want to mark the beginnings of the French fascination with multihulls, the success of Cheers is as good a place as any to start. It was a French couple who recently rescued that deteriorating proa, restored it, put it back under sail, and got it designated as a monument historique of the Republic of France. However, Newick is definitely, absolutely, not a bonkers advocate of proas. His sweet spot is a trimaran with skinny hulls for low resistance and nonessential weight kept to something in the neighborhood of zero. The standard: "If you can't sail faster than the wind, comfortably and safely, you don't have a high performance boat."

Cheers was the first American boat of any kind to complete a solo transatlantic race. And talk about something from outer space. Proas don't tack. They're bidirectional, so they shunt instead, switching boards up/down. On Cheers, twin loose-luffed sails swung easily around the schooner masts, but the jib had to be transferred end to end. And Newick's design moved the rig, rudders, and accommodation from the leeward hull—the ancient Polynesian style—to the windward hull. We've since seen radical boats race across oceans, but nothing that radical for its moment . . .

To compete at all, Tom Follett had to overcome the reluctance of the race committee, following a capsize in early sea trials. There was this—

Race Committee letter, October, 1967:
Royal Western Yacht Club of England
"I notice that you are taking steps to enable the crew to right the vessel when it has capsized, but my committee are more interested in any steps you may take to stop the capsizing in the first place. We are still of the opinion that to race along at 25 knots in between periodically capsizing is not a proper way to cross the Atlantic..."

Follett's 27-day crossing from the Caribbean to the start line convinced the committee to let him race and change the world. In 1980, in the Newick trimaran, Moxie, Phil Weld became the first American winner of an OSTAR. Weld was a writer's writer, and his account is still a great read. Over the years, Newick multihulls placed 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 and 10 in Atlantic solo racing.

As of 2008, asked about matters such as Olympic selection, Newick says, "If people are stupid enough to ignore multihulls, they get what they deserve." And the America's Cup? "It's interesting that every time they get into a squabble, they resolve it by going to a multihull. Rather backward, that's the kindest thing I can say about them, but I guarantee you that if the BMW Oracle multihull is 90 feet long and 90 feet wide, it's a trimaran. They wouldn't built a cat on those dimensions. They're not that stupid."

Now, dear reader, I know that print is, like, so five minutes ago, but print is actually quite dear to me, and it just happens that the April issue of SAIL magazine has a three-page profile of Dick Newick. If any of this stuff tweaks you, that is the place to learn more about a guy who really could have been headed under sail to St. Thomas, "to earn some money, but I caught a barracuda off St. Croix and anchored to cook it, and stayed 17 years."

There's nothing ordinary in this story. Here we see French psychiatrist Vincent Besin, at left, and the designer, at work on the proa. Vincent and wife Nélie (an M.D. and a French national karate champion) originally approached Newick for a cruising trimaran design, but while he was working on it they fell head over heels in love with the Cheers saga and took a hard left turn. The photo was shot a couple of years ago while Cheers was under restoration . . .

Hundreds turned out for the relaunch, which was done, shall we say, by hand . . .

2008 will be the second season in which Cheers is again sailing the Med. You can look her up at Port St. Louis du Rhône, where there is an ongoing revival of classic multihulls. Check out this You Tube video of the Golden Oldies Regatta, 2007. Cheers raced along with four Newick trimarans and two Derek Kelsall tris.

Here's how the proa looked, racing way back in 1968—Kimball

Sunday, March 9, 2008

MEXORC, it's, it's . . .

So tell us, John MacLaurin, is the MEXORC back?

"It's back."

And I believe the man, because I was there.

The 7-day series that wrapped over the weekend in Nuevo Vallarta was a rescue mission for a Mexican racing tradition of thirty-some years, a tradition that was hanging by a thread after a rough-edged series two years ago. As co-chair Mike Danielson put it, "We couldn't just do a facelift. MEXORC had to be new."

Ernesto Amtmann, who "built" the series decades ago, was called upon by the Mexican Sailing Federation (five months ago) to redefine the game for 2008 as regatta chairman. Amtmann said, "John MacLaurin is a bulldog. He's always racing, always in there, and he is an important example because he came here this year to give MEXORC one last chance."

He's not sorry. MacLaurin's red Pendragon (at left) won some races but couldn't break the top three overall in the final tally. The housekeeping: Twenty-one boats raced (I'm expecting more next time, 2010, given the renewed credibility), and top-three placings went, in order, to Bill Turpin's 77-foot Akela (Southern California), Jim Gregory's 50-foot Morpheus (Northern California), and Amtmann's 43-foot IOR classic Bandido (Acapulco).

The first mission for 2008 was to get beyond the handicapping issues that dragged things down in '06. Switching from PH to ORR accomplished that. And, mission number two, Ernesto wanted the parties to be memorable. I guess that's why the awards ceremony included the state orchestra of Nayarit. The trophy staging at your last regatta looked pretty much like this, didn't it?

Danielson, feeling the vibe, declared, "This is our new starting point."

Here's Turpin and the Akela crew accepting their award. Are we excited, Hogan?

A big part of what went wrong with MEXORC in the recent past was ratings. Under Performance Handicap numbers, the race committee felt compelled to adjust ratings to compensate for boats with location-specific ratings. That is, light-air ratings from Acapulco or San Diego do not translate directly to performance in the 14-18 knot winds of Bahia de Banderas. But with committee-determined adjustments you cross into the can't-win netherworld of reassigned ratings and unhappy losers who are sure that's why they lost. I gather that '06 was even more complicated than that, but I wasn't around, so I shouldn't write about that. Blood under the bridge, anyhow.

ORR as I understand it is aimed more at point-to-point races with enough history to enable some second-guessing of the math, but it definitely brought a good chunk of the fleet to the finish line together in the pursuit race. And ORR is a rating rule forever under development (Dan Nowlan was on the scene from US Sailing).

Ah, Bahia de Banderas

This is one sweet place to sail. In season, there's a steady diet of warm wind in the teens and warm waters teeming with dolphin and whales. It's a mecca for cruisers, and of the many cruiser shindigs, the Banderas Bay Regatta also just wrapped up. It was perhaps a bit much to have both events running at the same time (plus a day of match racing in old AC boats), but it sounded like a good idea at the time. Resources, resources. Myself, I was able to hop around and spend some days on MEXORC raceboats and other days on Banderas Bay Regatta cruiser boats out for their low-key racing.

I spent time with Richard Spindler and Doña de Mallorca aboard the catamaran, Profligate, for starters, and ran into old friends Cherie and Greg (met'em on a different foray into Mexico). Cherie wanted to share the sunburn lines, or maybe that's too much information . . .

Feel the love? I also got out on the water aboard a Jenneau 43 Deck Salon (this is a cruisers' regatta, remember) along with Bartz Schneider and crew from the Express 37, Expeditious, that he keeps on San Francisco Bay. Yes, we were laughing . . .

Given one more race day, I could have joined Jim Coggan and crew aboard the solid winner, Auspice, but I guess it's true that you can't do it all. But from the Jenneau, Tomatillo, (skipper Jim calls it, "The only boat in the regatta named after a vegetable") I had this view of the catamaran start . . .


We've moved on from the day when every web site offered a list of "interesting links," but I got a few minutes of amusement out of, if only to note that the opposite side of the globe from my outpost in California is a patch of water southeast of Cape Town that could truly define the word lonely." I have a few friends who have been through there, but I'm not going—Kimball

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Racing in Two Gears

It's one thing to invent a regatta and another thing to reinvent it. Another thing again to re-reinvent it back to original, and that is what they're trying to do right now in Vallarta with the 2008 MEXORC.

"A sporting social event" is one way to describe the idealized Mexican Ocean Racing Circuit.

"Sort of the way yachting was in the 1940's."

There couldn't be a better place for it because Banderas Bay, anchored by the vibrant, modern city of Puerto Vallarta (sorry, Night of the Iguana fans, but that quaintness was so very long ago), is a fantastic place to sail. Think: West-northwesterly seabreeze, clocks during the day, yada yada, backs later, yada yada, and the typical sailing experience is smooth water with wind peaking in the teens.

Our quotes above belong to sailmaker and regatta organizer Mike Danielson, who is keen for the high-end race boats, but he also dropped in to deliver a safety briefing at the skippers' meeting for the Banderas Bay Regatta for cruising boats, kicking off their portion of Festival Nautico on Thursday and overlapping with the second half of MEXORC. MEXORC has the serious raceboats. The Banderas Bay Regatta is the one where, regatta chair John Bollinger says, "If you take the cruiser-rating—if you're racing your house—we expect you to race full-weight, and we expect you to race with your tanks at least half full."

Define "half."


I have more on Mexico, but I'm interrupting the Vallarta blog for a bulletin from Miami. Not a recent bulletin. Many of you will recall the glory days of the Southern Ocean Racing Circuit; others will "get" the fact that the SORC once was more than the sum of the attempted revivals. The Acura Miami Grand Prix starting today (IRC, Farr 40s, and Melges 32s) is far distant from all of that. Here is a relic from the tipping point:

Credit, the New York Times


Published: March 6, 1988

The annual Southern Ocean Racing Conference is having its second lean year in a row. Last year, organizers for the yacht-racing series off the Florida coast blamed the America's Cup in Australia for a poor turnout. This year, they cite the stock market crash last October. D. Blake Flitman, chairman of the 1988 Audi Southern Ocean Racing Conference, said last week that many yacht owners are short on cash this year. Depending on the size of the boat and seriousness of its crew, a single campaign costs up to $40,000 for a medium-sized boat.

Forty-two boats entered the regatta this year; in 1987, 61 boats raced. In its better days, the winter series drew more than 75 boats to the starting line.
For the first time in the series' 43-year history, organizers have allowed boats that sail within the Performance Handicap Racing Fleet to compete.

The racing fleet's measurement system rates cruising boats rather than the high-tech racing machines that sail under the International Offshore Rule. Other boats are competing under the International Measurement System, a handicap rule for racer-cruisers.

The decision to allow performance fleet boats came late in the year when it was clear that the number of competitors would be small. The racing format has been changed, with two of the traditional overnight races turned into four shorter daytime competitions.


The closest MEXORC racing so far would appear to be Class C, with a two-point spread between first and third led by a Beneteau 40.7, Cliff Thompson's Super Gnat, on scores of 1-3-2-1. The big chief of MEXORC 2008, Ernesto Amtmann, was second as of the layday with scores of 3-2-1-2 in Bandido.

The wisdom (or not) of piling multiple events onto Vallarta Yacht Club is one question—MEXORC and the cruiser regatta have been separated in the past and, I bet, will be again—but the theory of a glorious, everything-happening-at-once, über-scene has its attractions. Danielson again: "I got my juniors out on big boats for the Governor's Cup (the opener) and the jazz coming out of them was fantastic."

Personally, I wasn't around for the last MEXORC, two years ago, but it seems fair to say that the event needed (and deserved) a rescue effort in the wake. This much I know, the handicapping for Race 3, a pursuit race, was as near spot-on as it gets. Closing on the finish I clicked this looking left . . .

And this looking right . . .

And we didn't all cross the finish in the same magical instant, but hey, this was pretty good. I rode for the day with Mike Campbell and Dale Williams on Peligroso, their updated answer to the great days of the West Coast fleet of 70-foot sleds . . .

Peligroso won last week's Vallarta Race from San Diego that is the critical life-blood feeder for MEXORC (20 boats racing in Vallarta, and less would be thin blood), and Mexico race veterans won't be surprised to hear Campbell's analysis that, "I think we won it at the corner. We were farthest out."

Translation: At Cabo, you turn left for the reach across the mouth of the Gulf of California to the mainland and Vallarta. There's either wind close-in to the rocks, or there's not. Mike is telling us there was not, and it was good to round wide.

Banderas Bay, with Vallarta as an anchor, is developing into something unprecedented in Mexico. A successful 2007 J/24 world championship proved that such things can happen here, and then came an Opti North Americans ("We launched 183 Optis in 26 minutes." Mike Danielson) that helped cement Vallarta Yacht Club's self confidence. The sailing conditions are ideal (lots of long-stay cruisers and gringos with second homes) and easy access for left-coast residents. VYC is gradually taking over the work of running MEXORC and the Banderas Bay Regattas, which were founded by other associations.

VYC is manned mostly by part-time Vallartans and has a cruiser membership too. If you're not in town, you don't pay dues. It's grown into quite the clearing house. Here's Danielson again: "We do a lot of seminars for cruisers. We cover diesel mechanics, radios, everything you need, and we really work on getting them up to speed. It culminates with the Banderas Bay Regatta—we make sure they can sail upwind, the racing is their shakeout—and then the weather window opens in the Pacific and it's time to go and they're ready."

Aboard Peligroso on the morning of the pursuit race, there was a rare event: A broken belt in a grinder . . .

I wish I could tell you how the repair came out, but it was never stress-tested because the other grinder covered the needs of a day with only a handful of tacks. Nobody carries spare belts, apparently, because they never break . . .

A few of you will be amused to see who wound up on the grinders at the start . . .

Others will be more familiar with Roy Dickson's relentless earnestness . . .

For the record, one of his boys (Scott) is driving John MacLaurin's Pendragon.

Peligroso will soon be on its way back to California, but not for long. There's a Cabo race coming up. As Mike Campbell says, "We have to hurry the boat north, so we can race back south."

I think that's what raceboats are for—Kimball

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Cross Cultural, and Not Just Because it's Mexico

Many tired faces around the center of the West Coast racing world as we go into the new week, and the place would be Puerto Vallarta, and the tired faces would be the late finishers of the race from San Diego who rolled into Banderas Bay on Saturday after a slow go on the ocean. And then they had to quickly re-sort themselves for Governor's Cup racing on Sunday with a few hours sleep and at least a tiny celebration of arrival. Hoo, boy.

Rob Moore—you remember him from his days as the racing reporter for Latitude 38-arrived, looking a pit peaked, in the wee hours Saturday aboard Jim Gregory's Morpheus. They had spent far more time on the course than would have been the case, had there been more wind. And, doggies, this was the year (the first year) that the Governor's Cup race was included as counting for points as a MEXORC opener, so everybody had to race even if they were still drying spinnakers on the way out.

Monday is the kickoff for the Banderas Bay Regatta, a cruisers-for-fun series of races where it's okay to tow the dinghy. So you see, host Vallarta Yacht Club really is the center of the left coast world this week. How should it be? Well, we're still making it up.

Footnote to the San Diego-Vallarta Race: It's interesting to note that the Tim Kernan-designed Peligroso won whether you score it ORR or IRC. Which doesn't mean the results are identical, and doesn't mean that they are not. It just means that Peligroso won.

Peligroso - conceived by co-owners Mike Campbell and Dale Williams as an update of the wildly-successful 70-foot sleds that once ruled the West Coast - arrived with an elapsed time of 101.76 hours.

Under ORR, second place went to the first finisher, Magnitude 80, well ahead with an elapsed time of 87.79 hours. The corrected time difference was .16 hour, or a percentage difference of .002.

(Gosh, I hope I'm getting that right. I promised myself I wasn't doing arithmetic after I left college.)

Under IRC, second place went to Stark Raving Mad, Jim Madden's cant-keel Reichel-Pugh 66 out of San Diego that arrived with an elapsed time of 101.81. This single-number system produced a corrected time difference of 16.06 hours, or a percentage difference of .106.

As in a statistically-insignificant difference in outcomes of .1004 percent.

Note: Magnitude 80 was not included in the IRC calculations. Only a few boats carried IRC certificates, but ratings guru Dan Nowlan from US Sailing was on the scene; maybe he can find something of substance in this. And if not, count it not a moral failing. I'll consult The Dan.

I'll also catch up on Vallarta Race Week developments as the week goes along. For now, let me share the fact that it is good to be in Mexico . . .

This is a place where someone knows how to turn out the TV cameras for a pre-regatta ceremony . . .

It is also a place where families let it flow. This young lady was the firebrand of the dancing, following the awards ceremony for the Vallarta Race. All her prancing pics (that I took) missed the point, but get this closing gesture . . .

And this opener to the next number . . .

So the young man perhaps was a bit shy . . .

A few minutes later he was over it . . .

The Governor's Cup racing that followed on Sunday was a cross-cultural exchange of the sort that doesn't happen at every regatta in every port in the world. Because, you see, you can't kick off Vallarta Race Week without a parade. This is Mexico. So before the race of the day, there was a parade. Here is the parade . . .

No, you didn't miss much if you missed the parade, unless you missed the parade on our boat. Vallarta YC commodore John Moore thought it was quite a hoot that Puerto Vallarta Choppers/Route 200 Bar & Grill wanted to sponsor his boat in the parade. (His boat is a rather nice fish killer named Therapy.) Eduardo Cortes Delgado is the man at PV Choppers, and he brought along decorations (!) and a delegation . . .

Real nice folks, with their own strange sports addiction, kinda like mine but different. Here's Eduardo, design master, constructing a more fashionable top for his lady friend . . .

And celebrating the result . . .

Banderas Bay was as-advertised. Warm and lovely, with dolphins at play and a breeze a'building for the race of the day. The rest is gratuitous . . .

Shantih shantih shantih—Kimball