Friday, May 23, 2008

Bombs, Rockets, and Bears, Oh My

In the wake of last week's bombing of the Real Club Marítimo del Abra in Bilbao—the new flag behind Desafio, the Spanish America's Cup team—Cheryl Lincoln checks in from London with the thought of the hour . . .

"So they were better off with a virtual club."

On the coast of France, meanwhile, in La Seyne sur Mer, French record hopefuls have launched the re-jiggered l'Hydroptere, with a plan to tow asap to Marseille for a go at 50 knots. It's hard to believe the so-called 50-knot "barrier" won't be broken soon, by this rocketship or some other . . .

It's nice to see the French having fun, ne c'est pas?

Shifting hemispheres: One of the most interesting people in the sailing game is Sean Langman, an Aussie who's lived the life at the high end of canting keels and high performance, with a third-place finish once on the 18-foot skiff championships, and he has a thingamajig he calls Wotrocket that he hopes to step up to 50, then 60 knots.

But first let's appreciate the individual drummer. It was in 2005
(I think) that Langman finished his 17th Rolex Sydney Hobart, this time at the helm of cant-keeled AAPT, and told a reporter, "My feeling when I stepped off was, this isn't what the race or sailing is about for me."

In 2006 Langman was back with the restored gaff rigger, Maluka, built in 1932, for a top-ten finish. It was the smallest and oldest boat in the race . . .

Photo by Daniel Forster/Rolex

Now he's wet Wotrocket on a theory that "supercavitation" will allow the machine to operate at the interface of water and air with impunity. Eventually. He also told his sponsor, "You need to be prepared for us taking a few trips up the beach to pick up bits of broken carbon." Truth in promotion, eh? The machine is modular, as a hedge.

Wotrocket does not have a dedicated web site. I know that Langman has had his problems since launching a few weeks ago, but nothing to match the inoculation he gave his sponsor. What I do know about this deal comes from deep Down Under web sites including Rob Kothe takes a whack at explaining supercavitation in his christening story HERE. Thanks to Crosbie Lorimer for the pic at right.

Sailors have already passed 50 knots—fast enough to hurt yourself—but the official record demands a sustained average over 500 meters. The record belongs to windsurfer Antoine Albeau, who came so close in March at 49.09 knots in the specially-dug "French trench." (Thanks to windsurfer Steve Bodner for reminding me to update from Finian Maynard to Albeau; sheesh; just because I wrote about it when it happened I'm supposed to remember and all that stuff?). Like the waters off Marseille, the trench gets the wind that comes roaring out of the Rhone Valley. When the breeze is up, it's serious stuff.

High speed windsurfing is all muscle and nerve. Wotrocket and l'Hydroptere are technology shots, and a bit of nerve.

There are others, but the one that I know of that's actually in the field right now is Paul Larsen with SailRocket, working it hard at Walvis Bay, Namibia and aiming (for now) to achieve consistent control at speeds in the 40's.

It's hard work on a hard problem. Paul's latest posting, as I write this, goes:

"No joy. We were a little late onto the water due to being a man down. We should be back up to strength as of Saturday when we will gain another local team member.

Overall the boat and team gets stronger by the day as the detail work gets attended to daily. The spray deflector did work... but it wasn't perfect. We still have it with us... but I will try some side skirts on the forward planing surface next... and a new forward planing surface after that.

Let's see what tomorrow brings. Cheers, Paul Larsen"


The Saturday of Memorial Day brings out our biggest race of classics on San Francisco Bay, the annual Master Mariners Regatta. I'm glad to see three Bears in the list, Bears being an indigenous local class built to handle the bearish conditions under the wind slot of the Golden Gate. The first of these 23-footers was launched in 1931, and they've had a presence since. But that presence was slipping away.

It seems that, as with another local class, the Bird, the breed had to fall to near-extinction before people panicked and rushed to the rescue. I say, better late than never. Here's a look at the Bear, Camembert . . .

As for matters of greater moment . . .

Thanks Dad.

And thanks to all you other Veterans out there.

And thanks to our boots in the field right this minute—Kimball