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
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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