Saturday, June 28, 2008

Cal 40s?
In the Big Boat Series?

Could happen. Should happen.

The thought comes up for me, right in the middle of trying to draw a comparison between the Newport Bermuda Race now wrapped up and the Tahiti Race still shaping up. Can't get there. Los Angeles-Tahiti is an act of whimsy as much as it's a race, and have fun transiting the doldrums, boys and girls. But this Bermuda thing, well, I got a chuckle out of talking to grand prix navigator Stan Honey about the Cal 40 that won its class for the fourth straight time.

"Sally and I went to see Peter Rebovich before the race," says Stan. "His boat is maybe a little rough around the edges, but in every aspect of preparedness and seamanship it is spot on, and the crew is good. It was also cleverly set up for the Bermuda Race. Peter makes the bet that he won't be doing much, if any, deep reaching—you might expect a lot of close reaching on that course—so he gets Sinn Fein rated for asymmetric spinnakers tacked to the stem.

"Of course, if he ever had the wind over the transom, he'd be hosed."

Hmm. I sailed the Centennial Bermuda Race in '06 and wrote about it from the point of view of an Open 50, then received a letter from a reader saying, in essence: Dude you missed the story; the story was the Cal 40. Okay, he had a point.

Here's Rebovich (in shades) with the crew . . .

Photo by Barry Pickthall/PPL

Stan was home in California (briefly) after navigating Speedboat to first-to-finish in the Bermuda Race, but he red-eyed back across the continent over the weekend to prep for a shot at the west-east transatlantic monohull record, Sunday night being Speedboat's target takeoff time, and Speedboat being a cant-keel maxi, the latest thing from the design board of Juan K.

If Stan, far left, (photo by Lynn Fitzpatrick/PPL) looks like this after 635 miles, Newport to Bermuda, we know it won't be pretty after an Atlantic record shot, however normal one more crossing may be to him. The boat is black down below because it's built of carbon to be light, and paint would only add weight.

For the record, Stan's "Sally" is Sally Lindsay Honey, past US woman sailor of the year and co-owner of the family Cal 40, Illusion. In that boat they once won the Pacific Cup doublehanded (overall, with the best corrected time ever recorded in that race) and Stan once won the Singlehanded Transpac (with the fastest-ever Cal 40 passage, California to Hawaii, with crew or without, and that's 100+ passages since 1965).

Stan sails cutting-edge boats all over the world, but he and Sally are royalty in the Cult of the Cal 40, and I think I caught a quickening of the pulse when I mentioned a movement on behalf of a Cal 40 class for the Big Boat Series. Get some boats up from Southern California to race on San Francisco Bay. Heck, bring enough for a north-south team component. Maybe down from Seattle? Then line'em up at Tinsley Island. Make it an Event.

Bill LeRoy, who is a relatively new Cal 40 owner, threw the idea at me, but he was talking September 2008. When I pinged my friends in Los Angeles, I didn't get any traction for 2008 but nobody said, Heck no, on 2009.

St. Francis is cool with this, but the club wants a minimum of six boats for a class start. Even if we got that out of the local fleet, it wouldn't be the same as a gathering of the tribe.

Hey, Peter Rebovich, when was the last time Sinn Fein went for a truck ride?

Moving on. Here's a Jas Hawkins pic of Illusion rumbling down the Molokai Channel at the finish of the Centennial Transpac, one of 14 Cal 40s in that race, with Sally Honey and an all-woman crew. I was, ah, some place behind them, and my crewmate Ric Sanders sez, "My wife has no idea I've spent all this time chasing girls."

A Thousand Miles and Gone

Having sailed a tiny bit with Captain Morgan (who is very much that) on his Santa Cruz 50, Fortaleza, I'm naturally following along with Jim and the crew at their blog for the Tahiti Race,

They crossed the thousand-mile mark late last week and spent the weekend digging into the doldrums, the grand tactical challenge of a race that crosses the equator.

Only four boats (the "whimsy" in a race of 3,571 miles), and there's Magnitude 80 at 80 feet, compared to Jim's Santa Cruz 50, and a few weeks ago on a crossing home from Catalina Island Jim quipped, "I just hope we get across the equator before Magnitude 80 passes us on the way back."

But the fleet's not spread that wide, as we see in this doldrums chart that I grabbed from the Transpacific Yacht Club web site.

With the equator at bottom, we see Magnitude 80 farthest down the track, west of the rhumb line, with Medicine Man to the northwest of them. Good old Ragtime, everybody's sentimental favorite, is east of rhumb ahead of Fortaleza.

From his writing, I can tell that Jim is having an experience not unlike mine in the 2006 Newport Bermuda Race, when all the fine-tuned tech data in the world read like fiction: "Today has been a bit of a challenge as a navigator. We have all kinds of technology now, so we can get the latest forecasts, as well as the satellite that actually measures the speed of the wind over the ocean. This is supposed to make it possible to find a path through the Doldrums (officially the Intertropical Convergence Zone/ITCZ).

"Unfortunately, the model predictions do not match each other, even for present conditions. They also don't match what the QuikSCAT satellite has been showing for wind. To top it off, the QuikSCAT doesn't seem to match what we are seeing on the water.

"So, what to do? If you are following us, you can see I'm doing some ‘naviguessing.’ If it were the old days and we had no idea of the future wind, one would just try to make best miles to the finish. We aren't currently doing this. We are instead hoping the gap in the ITCZ seen on QuikSCAT will be there when we get to it, and/or we will get some extra pressure from the tropical low pressure system to the east. At the very least we'll get some significant squall activity soon."

They left on June 22.

They'll make the halfway mark some time this week—Kimball

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Download World

Wondering how much air time NBC plans for sailing coverage during the Olympics in China? Wonder no more.

Sailing is one of 22 events going large—webcast online at—and shrinking at NBC broadcast television.

I dialed Annapolis to talk to Mr. TV Facetime, Gary Jobson, who will be commentating. "It's a tradeoff," he pre-comments. "There will be no sailing coverage on television except for special moments [a gold medal? a pantsing?] but sailing is one of 22 sports for which the entire daily feed will be available online as a download. That could be 90 minutes worth of sailing. Just go to It's an experiment, but I'm liking it."

It's a download world. The 21st century is due to begin soon.

Among the US Olympic sailors already, temporarily, on site in Qingdao, aka 青島, is the Yngling threesome of Sally Barkow, Debbie Capozzi, and Carrie Howe. They've done a month per summer in Qingdao, each of the last two years, and before her long plane ride across the Pacific for the current month-long stint, I talked to forward hand Carrie about stuff that sailors talk about and what she calls the "battle of conditions" on the shores of the Yellow Sea. To the Chinese, that's the Eastern Sea. Carrie reports:

"We live in the Sea View Garden Hotel [standard room US $148/night] where the staff has made us feel at home in the middle of an unknown world. At first they did not speak a word of English, but we are all working together and now we know how to communicate. They give us new stuffed animals every day!

"The hotel has several buildings where other teams set up as well. Brits, Spanish, not sure who else, but they have several restaurants where they try to understand our customs. We are a bit more messy and unorganized compared to their ways, if you know what I mean."

The race course off the former fishing village of 青島, now a city of three million, has hazards that have been and will be much discussed. There is also the matter of getting to and fro, in this period of training. On that subject, Carrie says, "We take a scary taxi ride or a shuttle to sailing each day. We have to be careful.

"It's chaos, all traffic and smog and unorganized with horns sounding 50 percent of the time in the car and people cutting each other off as if that's normal, and I guess it is. It seems to work for them. When we get back to the hotel, the staff makes us feel welcome with a smile and fruit trays. They know our names and our rooms and they know that we have been out sailing. The air conditioning is pumping to help us recover. Outside, the humidity is 99 percent."

And Then

Barkow, Capozzi and Howe are training in this environment until July 10. Then they're home for a bit and returning to China on July 27 for the Games. When next they arrive in Qingdao, they'll move into the Athletes' Village, which cuts the stress of the daily commute.

Coach Betsy Allison has already experienced the Olympic Village—our Paralympic team stayed there for a pre-event—and she is giving it high marks. "We were their first guests," Betsy says. "The staff took over three days before we arrived, but they were phenomenal, all 500 of them, and there will be 1,000 of them for the Games.

"They've built four housing towers, the tallest at about 17 or 18 stories, and the rooms are modern and comfortable and accessible for paraplegics. The Chinese paid careful attention to international standards."

The Athletes' Village is enclosed within a security perimeter, with race administration close to the housing and the boats about a hundred meters away. "It's easy to access notices. "You don't have to search for anything, and that makes a big difference. Once you're inside you feel very secure."

Rather Less Secure

Just the name, Extreme 40, tells you that this class of catamaran is not for the weak of heart. Tour sponsor iShares took me for a ride on their own boat when it passed through San Francisco Bay on a promo tour that just might lead to a US installment of the 2009 tour. I hope so. Meanwhile, ISAF World Sailor of the Year Ed Baird (he's paying his dues all over again) has skippered Alinghi to a win at the second 2008 stop, Hyères. There's a news report at, and now we'll wrap this with a few shots showing why these boats are crowd pleasers. The crews are pro. They don't mind sailing oddball courses close to shore.

Congratulations are in order, Ed—Kimball

© Jean Francois Dedieu

© Tornado Sport: Tommy Hilfiger

© Pierrick Contin DPPI.OC Events

Thursday, June 5, 2008


Outraged by seemingly endless accounts of Open 60s colliding with whales in the Artemis Transat and other boats likewise elsewhere and fed up with tales of basking sharks sliced in two by speeding sailboats—and get this, ICAP Leopard had to park, drop sails, and back down to remove a sunfish that got wrapped around the rudder on the boat's screaming transatlantic record crossing and people talk about sailboats setting records and how cool that is which is fine, just fine, but who's talking about that poor sunfish's family and oh the nerve of these PEOPLE—the creatures of the sea are mobilizing to fight back.

Their message:


Inspired by Japan's Kamikazi, the "Divine Wind," these selfless patriots of the sea are the "Divine Wave."

Dang. It's hard times all across our great republic, and this comes as one more blow. I just checked my homeowner's policy, and I'm pretty sure I'm not covered.

On the other hand, I am assured that the humans are "winning."

In a presentation by The International Seakeepers Society—and I should say that these people are the antithesis of wildeyed reef huggers (check out their web site)—board president Jim Gilbert offered it as a conservative projection that, on present trendlines, with industrial fishing expanding and fish stocks declining, all the fisheries will collapse by mid-century.

Just like the many fisheries that have already collapsed.

I feel so much better now.

For the Record:
The America's Cup and all its little friends return(ed) to court Thursday in New York to renew their frolic regarding the latest appeal. You will not read about it here, not soon anyway. Think of me as somewhere's west of LA but completely surrounded by LAYC. Have fun in New York, everybody—Kimball

P.S. J World San Francisco has an opening through cancellation for a spot on its J/120 in the Pacific Cup, San Francisco to Hawaii, next month. At $10,000 to sign on with two offshore coaches (I'll vouch for them) and six paying participants, that comes to roughly $4.50 per mile to be taught how to get to Hawaii doing the fast thing. Win or lose you'll come back different. Want to skipper, next time, with confidence? More info at J World San Francisco/Puerto Vallarta. You never really know what you will get, California-Hawaii, but it is a benign passage by the standards of ocean passages and halfway across you are farther from land than at any other point on the globe. At the end there's Hawaii. Suck it up and cope.

Monday, June 2, 2008

I Think You Ought to Know

It's only fair to let you know, the foiling Moth crowd has a name for the rest of us.


I picked that up from the freewheeling online forum of International Moth USA, where one Richard Draeke of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts announced his intent to build a Moth and perhaps add foils later, "after I learn to lowride."

I just thought you ought to know.

What we have above is a Sally Collison pic of highrider Rohan Veal on one of his production Bladeriders. Richard Draeke is planning to build a Moth of plywood, and part of the fun of the Moth class in 2008 is that everything is happening at once.

Now, let's see, in my world it's morning again? ALREADY?

I've had work of late that distracts me from the blog, which I miss. Trying to get my writer's head back on, but meanwhile I can share this:

Success Story

Escaping the growing chill of New Zealand, Katie McWilliam checks in from Fiji:

"One thing we keep hearing about cruising Fiji is that there are
three kinds of cruisers—those that have hit a reef, those that will hit a reef, and those that are lying about it. Keep reading to find out . . . "

I guess we know where that's going, don't we.

Coulda been worse. Katie describes the experience as "a gentle, sudden stop." Scratched up the freshly-painted keel, cracked the bottom of the rudder, and left our heroes with another of life's lessons: Pack carefully. "Chay was able to repair the rudder," Katie relates, "but only after 2 days of hunting for the underwater epoxy and fiberglass repair kit. Good thing we weren't sinking!"

I met Katie, Chay, and young Jamie in '03 in the Baja Ha Ha rally, San Diego to Cabo. They knocked around Mexico in their Peterson 44, Esprit, then took off for South America, the Galapagos, and the Pacific, mixing cruising with trips home to Boulder City, Nevada. I think you could call the experiment a success. Jamie's 11 now, the home schooling is going fine, most of a circumnavigation still lies before them and their web site sums up:

"We are no longer the McWilliam family. We are Esprit."

Thanks for the smile, Esprit—Kimball