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