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First Night Sail – La Grande Motte, France from David Kenefick on Vimeo.

David Kenefick, on board training for the La Solitaire Du Figaro 2013.

November 20th, 2012

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Cat freak John Casey tells us how JC and skipper Sarah Newberry won the F-16 Nationals.

After some productive Miami training sessions we packed up the Falcon F16 and headed 8 hours north to St. Andrews Bay in Panama City, FL for the Formula 16 National Championship. With the America’s Cup looking for junior talent and the Olympics going mixed multihull, there was an infusion of youngsters and mixed teams making this the biggest turnout for an F16 Nationals yet.

Another exciting revelation that’s happened is yacht club involvement in beachcat sailing. St. Andrews Bay Yacht Club opened its doors and lawn up to our 29 boat fleet and we were treated to some of the good life with a place to have a tasty lunch by our boats and a close bar to belly up to for seasoned sailors. It was a classy event that the small cats don’t get treated to so often, and it turned out we’re not such a rowdy bunch that tore up the place every night, even though I was in bed pretty early and can’t vouch for the guys that floated the kegs.

Now for what we were all there for, the racing. Since St. Andrews is an inside bay of the panhandle of Florida, it was pretty much lake conditions, well, sometimes sunny thermal mixed lake conditions. Every day was pretty cranked on the outside but we enjoyed a little less inside. It made for really technical sailing of shifts and fleet management. Quite a few teams were in the 260 lb. combined range and were fast in the first two days of lighter conditions, but we were able to hang on and be consistent playing shifts and staying in pressure. Since it was marginal hull fly downwind conditions, technique played a big role as well. Enrique Figueroa and his wife, Carla, (Puerto Rico Olympic Team) played a really nice deep downwind pro game against our high and fly technique and we pretty much broke even. A host of other teams were showing speed as well, keeping it close through the event.

In the beginnings of Sunday there was a three-way tie at the top. Our consistency played a key role when we had a race outside of the top four for a throw. When we were regrouping after that race, the southeast breeze freshened and we knew we had our conditions. We were finally able to use our horsepower for a finishing 1-2 which earned us and the Falcon our first F16 National Championship, even though we miscounted our laps on the last race. Isn’t that the crew’s job? Oh, I am the crew. I need to get used to that. Results are here.

There were some grumblings (from people that were not actually racing) that the last race wasn’t started on time (2:01 PM), but just to set the record completely straight, check out theSailing Instructions…..let it go, geez. We were there to race, right?

Now we’ve split up….just for the week. Sarah’s at the U.S. Multihull Championship to continue her Falcon run with Kenny ‘Monster’ Pierce, and I’m in St. Barth on the Cirrus F18 for the amazing CataCup. Life is good…..

Killer photo credit David Hein at Boatyard Photography.

November 20th, 2012

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SpeedDream’s Brian Hancock shares his perspective on the Vestas Sailrocket….

On a chilly, blustery day in Fall 2002 I made my way to Weymouth on the south coast of England. It was a pilgrimage of sorts. I have always been a huge fan of fast boats and back then Weymouth Speed Week was a Mecca for speed enthusiasts from around the world who came to do a timed run over a 500 meter course. Before I started sailing professionally boat names like Crossbow and Slingshot were burned indelibly into my mind. They were the revolutionary speedsters of the day, radical boats capable of unheard of speeds (which back then was around 30 knots.)

By the time I got to Weymouth kite boarders and wind surfers had taken over as the fastest sailing vessels and they were ripping it up close inshore where the wind was steady and the water flat. The main reason for my trip was to write an article about a brand new boat that a good mate, Paul Larsen, had built. He called his project Sailrocket and along with his partner Helena Darvelid they had come up with the first generation of what Paul called the 60-knot sailboat. It certainly was unlike any other boat I had ever seen. The origins of the design were in a book by the renown rocket scientist Bernard Smith entitled The 40 Knot Sailboat. Without complicating this story by trying to describe Smith’s concept, suffice is to say that it was a radically new way of thinking and the boat that Paul and Helena had built was futuristic in the extreme.

I chased Paul down the short course in a fast RIB but despite the conditions being almost perfect Sailrocket was barely able to hit 30 knots top speed. I know Paul was a bit disappointed; they were aiming for 50 but were also realistic in their expectations as those were early days. “There is a ton of room for development,” Paul told me. “For starters we have a soft sail. At some point we will build a fixed wing and that will greatly improve things.” Paul is nothing if not an eternal optimistic and his engaging enthusiasm leaves no one in doubt that he is on a mission to succeed. I left Weymouth that day optimistic, but secretly feeling that kite boarding was the future and an actual sailboat was never again going to hold the record. Read on.

November 20th, 2012

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Gotta love this shot, from the Gaes Junior Trophy last month, organized by the Yacht Combarro and Sandra Azon Sailing School, which brought together a total of 63 sailors in Galicia Optimist class (kids between 7 and 14 years).

November 19th, 2012

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This Vendee Globe report is brought to you by Bruce Schwab Energy Systems!

In just the past 100 plus hours, this seventh edition of the Vendée Globe has heated from a simmer to a full boil. At the front of the fleet, Armel Le Cléac’h and “Banque Populaire” have wrestled the lead away from young prodigy Francois Gabart onboard VPLP sistership “MACIF”. The duo is leading a six-boat pack on their approach towards the doldrums and the equator at a record-threatening pace. In the middle of the fleet, 3 veterans with multiple Vendée Globes under their belt are drag-racing south at warp speed to try to stay in touch with the lead group. Two more IMOCA 60’s have retired from the race, including crowd favorite Samantha Davies following a horrific dismasting in upwards of 35 knots of breeze, while the defending Vendée winning yacht (Matire Coq, ex-Foncia) of Jeremie Beyou has suffered hydraulic keel jack problems and has now announced his retirement from the race.

At the back of the pack, Polish skipper Zbigniew “Gutek” Gutkowski is hove-to to ascend the 90+ foot tall mast of “Energa” to cut away a gennaker sail which is badly wrapped around the forestay, and Javier “Bubi” Sanso has re-joined the race after ascending his own mast for repairs. The next several days promise to be full of action as the fleet’s leaders carefully choose the best longitudinal position to cross the dreaded doldrums, or ITCZ, offering lots of opportunity to make big gains, or unfortunate losses, on their competitors.

The dismasting of Samantha Davies onboard Savéol Undoubtedly the biggest headline of the race thus far is the dismasting of the incredibly popular and charming Briton Samantha Davies, winner of 4th place in the previous edition of the Vendée Globe. Beam-reaching in a 40-knot squall, Davies, the only female skipper in the fleet, went down below to prepare to tuck in the third-reef on her mainsail when her veteran yacht (ex-Veolia Entertainment, Neutrogena) launched off of a wave and slammed down, with the rig immediately crashing down upon impact.

“It was quite difficult conditions because I had just gone through the cold front and I had a really cross sea,” Davies said. “I was getting ready to my foul weather gear on and that’s when the squall was just finishing and the wind was dropping and the boat jumped off the top of the top of a wave and that’s when I had the impact….I could hear the mast rubbing against the hull and down the whole side of the hull and under the boat, so I knew that it could damage the hull if I was unlucky, so the main thing was to close all the watertight bulkheads in case it did get pierced.”

A few hours after the rig came down, conditions mellowed to 20 knots of breeze and Sam was able to cut the rig away and secure the vessel to motor to port. Davies motored Savéol to Funchal, Madeira and arrived on Saturday morning.

Burton retires The other retirement in the fleet is that of young Louis Burton on “Bureau Vallee”, (ex Delta Dore), who was forced to retire with a damaged cap shroud after hitting a fishing trawler at 18 knots of boat speed. With the damaged shroud, Burton attempted to sail back to Les Sables d’Olonne to effect repairs and restart within the 10-day window permitted by the race, but “the weather window to cross the Bay of Biscay…. closed suddenly…. making it very dangerous to return to Les Sables d’Olonne and requiring us to sail on port tack”, said Burton, the fleet’s youngest skipper at 27 years old. The Parisian has sailed into La Coruna, Spain, mast still intact. “We will be back in four years”, he added. This is like a bad case of deja vu for Burton, who just two years ago, collided with a fishing trawler in the 2010 Route du Rhum, yet managed a 20th place finish in the 44-boat strong Class 40 division.

A thrilling race at the front of the pack At the pointy end of the now 16-boat fleet, a lead pack of six yachts spanning 110 nautical miles has emerged. Of these six boats, only British skipper Alex Thomson is on a previous-generation IMOCA 60, bringing up the rear of this speedy pack. The top five boats are all new builds including 4 new VPLP/ Verdier designs and the fleet’s lone Juan K design in Bernard Stamm’s “Cheminees Poujoulat”.

Sisterships “Banque Populaire” and “MACIF”, skippered by the two immensely talented  skippers Armel Le Cléac’h and Francois Gabart respectively, have swapped the lead with the older, more experienced Le Cléac’h on “Banque Pop” routing himself brilliantly to make a move West, outside of Gabart and slip into the lead. Following in Cléac’h’s wake is the 2-time Barcelona World Race champion Jean-Pierre Dick on “Virbac-Paprec 3” who has managed to also take advantage of the stronger breeze to the west and re-engage with the lead pack, bringing Vincent Riou on “PRB” with him. After suffering a “minor scare” from hitting a “big floating tree trunk” at 18 knots of boat speed, the ’04 winner claims no damage to “PRB”.

Holding onto 2nd place for much of the first week, despite the lead changes, Bernard Stamm on the Juan K-designed “Cheminees Poujoulat” has slipped into 4th place after sailing much of day 7 at upwards of 3 knots slower than the lighter VPLP designs. The Swiss skipper and his ultra-powerful reaching machine from the famous Volvo 70 designer clearly did not like running south in the 15-knot Northeasterly tradewinds, as Stamm lost more than 40 miles in 12 hours. Interesting to note, as the breeze went 40 degrees forward to ENE, Stamm sped back up to a competitive pace and actually had the highest posted speed in the top 4 during the last position report. Stamm’s Juan K design clearly excels in upwind to beam-reaching conditions. Anything aft of that and the VPLP’s have shown a clear superiority.

The pragmatic Vincent Riou, only former Vendee winner in this fleet, has seemed content during the first week to merely stalk the front runners, stay in touch, and wait until the right time to make his move. Showing a discipline and maturity perhaps lacking in the two young hard-chargers swapping the lead, Riou has been making long-term investments since Day 1, owning the West, seemingly since rounding Finisterre more than 5 days ago. Showing the same tactical genius that allowed him to win the ’04-’05 Vendee by just 7 hours, Riou looks poised to cross the ITCZ slightly further West than the leader Armel, which should pay. Riou is currently 100 miles behind the leader with Alex Thomson on “Hugo Boss” sailing closely in his wake, despite having to undergo major repairs yesterday to a rudder tie bar.

HUGO BOSS major drama and repairs onboard Thomson explains “I was low on battery juice so I popped the hydro down and went below to see how many amps were going in.  At the time I was averaging about 18 knots and I heard a strange noise so went to the door and I could see the hydro vibrating very severely and getting worse. I realised it was going to break and rushed to pull it up but before I got there it ripped off the back of the boat and did a cartwheel and smashed the starboard tie bar. I was on port tack so the starboard rudder was not connected to anything and I knew instantly that the boat would wipe out.  It did but I managed to get the boat flat and got downwind to roll up the A3 spinnaker keeping the port rudder in the water doing all the steering.”

With no spare rudder tie bar onboard, it was critical for Alex to fix the broken steering piece. After consulting with his shore-side technical crew, Thomson was able to use a grinder onboard and cut strips of carbon with which to splint the  3-meter (10 feet) long broken rudder tie bar back together, in what was a 7-hour long repair that left the cockpit coated in carbon dust. With the starboard hydro generator still damaged, it’s critical that Alex again can effect emergency repairs. Explains Thomson, “I need the hydro back in action as I will not have enough diesel to make it round the world without it”

Despite all of the drama onboard “Hugo Boss”, Alex Thomson still managed to record the best 24-hour run in the entire fleet yesterday, with “HB” making an astounding 430.8 nautical miles at an average of nearly 18 knots. The only sailor in the fleet using Doyle Sails, he credits them in his consistently high average speeds “I’m just playing my own game and really I shouldn’t be as fast as them but somehow I seem to be, things are going right. I’ve got some great sails and I seem to be going in the right direction”.

Beyou’s keel problems Battling with AT on “Hugo Boss” all the way down the Atlantic thus far, Jeremie Beyou on “Maitre CoQ” (ex-Foncia) pulled up lame yesterday with keel problems. The hydraulic jack that allows the keel to cant, and to remain centered, has malfunctioned forcing him to sail 70 miles east to the Cape Verde Islands to further investigate the problem and try to make repairs. Sailing a boat with a Vendee win in ’08-’09, and a 2nd place in the last Barcelona World Race, this is a major blow to the 2-time Figaro winner.

3 veteran skippers battling mid-fleet In the middle of the fleet, Jean Le Cam on “Synerciel”, Mike Golding on “Gamesa” and Dominique Wavre on “Mirabaud” are engaged in a 3-way match-race for 7th place, and are virtually tied, some 340 miles behind the leader Armel Le Cleac’h. Winner of 2nd place two Vendee’s ago, Jean Le Cam speaks of the intense competition, “I haven’t slept much last night, I spent a lot of time at the helm with my spinnaker up and I’m sure Mike (Golding) did the same. It’s war time!!! I’ve just finished a sails change, I haven’t had a minute of break. I’ve taken my t-shirt off, I’m so sweaty….. We’re higher than Dominique, that should give us a better angle to sail down faster.” The three elder statesman of this fleet, all sailing last generation boats are consistently averaging 1-3 knots slower than the lead pack, which is beginning to threaten Le Cam’s own Vendee record for fastest boat to reach the equator: 10 days, 11 hours, 28 minutes.

Elsewhere in the fleet Anarchist Javier “Bubi” Sanso on Acciona was forced to sail behind the Canary Islands to ascend his mast and retrieve his main halyard while also making a repair to the main sail track and the main sail slide at the top batten. Describing his trip up the mast, “Each time I went up a metre I was like a sack of potatoes swaying from  side to side…. When I got to the top, 30 metres above the boat, I have to admit that there was a really beautiful view and I found a way of not being shoved all over the place….. I managed to fix the line to the track that was there happily waiting for me at the top of the mast. I rested a few minutes and disconnected the system I use to haul myself up, before starting to go down…. After getting down I started working on changing one track for another and also a slide from the last main sail batten which had broken….. At 20.00 the boat was tip-top to get back into the race again 100%. The problem was that my sheltered spot in Tenerife had me trapped until 04.00 in the morning when I was finally able to move out towards the south and then gybe west.

After sailing with no main sail for more than 30 hours, Bubi lost more than two days with his mainsail issues, but is now sailing at full speed. Shortly after re-joining the race, he managed to re-pass Tanguy de Lamotte on “Initiatives-couer” and is sailing in a 3-boat formation with both Lamotte and Bertrand de Broc on “Votre nom autour du Monde” (Your name around the World), who is slowly working his way back through the fleet after turning back to port before the race’s start due to puncturing his bow on a team RIB. Bertrand is showing great speed in the ex-Brit Air (2nd place in the last Vendee under Armel Le Cleac’h). Special mention must also go to Lamotte who is sailing a 1998 model Lombard designed Open 60. Despite the vintage of his boat, he has constantly battled and often passed newer-generation boats in the early stages of this race.

Gutek’s issues continue Polish skipper Zbigniew “Gutek” Gutkowski’s issues continue into the second week of his first Vendee. A last-minute boat change just two months before the start is beginning to haunt the skipper of “Energa” (ex- Hugo Boss). Gutek’s autopilot malfunctioned while preparing to douse his gennaker and the boat suffered an accidental gybe, badly wrapping the gennaker around the forestay. Waiting for calmer weather, so that he can climb his mast, Gutek explains, “The only option is to climb up the mast and cut everything off. But it is also risky. Every free piece of rigging flying round can cause the mast damage….. But, you know, when I was steering by hand, it was really great. ENERGA was going so fast, so easy, ticking 17, 20, 22 knots, it was wonderful, the boat is fast and beautiful and I love it.”

It’s that love of the game and enthusiasm that drew both Alan and I to Gutek when in Les Sables. I very sincerely hope that Gutek can solve some of his issues onboard “Energa” before entering the Southern Ocean. Stay tuned for our Vendée Globe update coming in the next 3-4 days!

-Ronnie Simpson

November 19th, 2012

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Think there’s a little tension at team Artemis? Hell, any time Juan K is involved, people are nervous!

November 19th, 2012

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From the Norwalk Citizen… A wannabe sailor who took a Greyhound bus from Texas to Connecticut to buy a sailboat he saw advertised online got more than he bargained for Sunday when the craft took on water three miles off Norwalk Harbor and he had to be rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Michael Williams first glimpsed the glossy color photo of “My Children’s Toy” on eBay days ago, and decided he had to have the 27-foot sailboat, enticed by the catchy description and rock-bottom $157.50 price tag. “There were so many people who wanted her,” Williams said in a telephone interview Sunday night. “But I got her.”

The retired trucker then had to get to “My Children’s Toy” where it was for sale in Norwalk. So, he plunked down $262 for a bus ticket and arrived in Connecticut to claim her Saturday afternoon.
When the trailer unloaded “My Children’s Toy” at a Norwalk marina, it was clear the craft wasn’t anywhere near as shipshape as depicted in its photograph. The mast and rigging were worn. There were mechanical problems seen and unseen. The dream boat, alas, was a mess.
But Williams, 55, wasn’t discouraged.

“I decided to overlook all that,” Williams said. “I knew the seller wasn’t guaranteeing anything about it. They even say so in their ads. I had to wait until the hurricane was over to come to Connecticut to get her, and I was anxious to get her out.”

The eager Williams jumped aboard early Saturday afternoon with his gear, a marine radio, his belongings and enough bologna and cheese to make sandwiches for days.
“I just sailed out of the marina on a shakedown, and if it had gone all right I planned to go (straight) to Florida with her,” Williams said. “Right away, though, there was trouble. The pin that holds the boom to the mast for the mainsail came out. And it was too dark to repair it, so I had to let the sail down.”

He dropped anchor three miles out of the harbor, where the Coast Guard says the water is 120 feet deep. The winds started kicking up. And by sunrise Sunday the waves were 4-feet high. It was hard to remain upright.

“She started taking on water,” Williams said. “There might have been a slow leak someplace, I don’t know. And the sea was real high. It was making me real sick.”
Williams donned his life jacket, and called the U.S. Coast Guard for help from his marine radio about 8:40 a.m. Sunday. Read on.

November 19th, 2012

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Dr. Sam Bradfield has passed away. He was an inspiration to me and helped me learn a lot about hydrofoil sailing design. He had a way of explaining hydrofoils in a simple straightforward way. Sam designed an improved version of the wand surface sensors that regulate hydrofoil altitude. His basic system was copied and improved by John Illett and other Moth designers.   After one summer where he used a trimaran platform of mine to test concepts for the 40′ Skat, I designed a 56″ radio controlled foiler, the F3,  and a 16′ monofoiler based on what I learned from Dr. Sam. He was an innovator, teacher and a great man. – Anarchist Doug. Thread here.

November 19th, 2012

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The Vestas Sailrocket 2 went out on Friday for its 13th run of the month in Namibia, and little did pilot Paul Larsen know that he was about to crush the OUTRIGHT SAILING SPEED RECORD by the biggest margin in the record’s history.  Kiteboards, windsurfers, the Hydroptere; they all just went to the back of the line with the Rocket’s average 59.23-knot run, which included a peak of over 63 knots.  That’s iceboat territory, and Walvis Bay is, for a while at least, the holy water of speed sailing.

We’ll have more from Paul once the hangover has worn off.  He’s posting in the thread from Africa if you want to follow the story from the beginning.

November 18th, 2012

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c’ètait le samedi 27 octobre durant le trophée Semac organisé par l’UNM; la rade de Marseille est en avis de fort coup de vent. Zulù , le JPK 1010 navigue sous spi lourd dans la première manche…. grosse ambiance c’est le jour ou le Napoleon Bonaparte sombra dans le port de Marseille!! Thanks to Anarchist Francois.

November 16th, 2012

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I sail, I wear a PFD and a tether at night, why should I take a course?

To save lives, including your own. For some races, it’s required for all or part of the crew to get this certification. But the value of the course is so much greater.

This weekend I went to a Safety at Sea course put together by Ashley Perrin who many here know from her adventures off shore and in Antarctica. Ashley brought in Paul Cunningham, an ISAF approved instructor from England to teach the course, which was hosted at the San Francisco Yacht Club.

Have you ever tried to get into a life raft from the water before? Have you ever tried to cut rigging? Do you know how to service / check your own PFD or other safety equipment? Do you have any idea how incapacitated you will be when your PFD inflates? I’m smiling in this photobut that thing is big and strangulating. I had to learn how to partially deflate it so I could move my head around.

The premise of the course is to comply with Appendix G of the US Sailing Edition for the ISAF Offshore Special Regulations. The US Sailing and ISAF methods of teaching the course are slightly different, but the ultimate goal of either course is for the student to walk away knowing the answers to the majority of the above questions.

I spoke at length with Chuck Hawley, chair of US Sailing Safety at Sea this week, who gave me some of the history of the Safety at Sea courses, which have been around in the US since 1980. Initially the US Sailing Safety at Sea class was a course that attracted cruisers and racers alike, but as it took hold, it became a requirement for a percentage of the competitors in Cat 1 races and later added lead to the pencil by requiring skippers and race captains to be certified in order to go to sea in those races.

In about 2000, ISAF followed suit with a proscription of 14 topics to go Cat 1 racing. All of this said, the courses that evolved from these exercises are as different as they are the same. The US Sailing Course is one day course using a moderator and ten speakers who cover their areas of expertise in depth, with an optional second day of hands on (practical) training. The ISAF course is a smaller individually taught two day course with guest speakers and practicals interspersed throughout the weekend.

There is some debate in the forums about which course is better. Chuck Hawley feels a moderated course is helpful in taking the knowledge the experts bring and making it coherent to the class, Ashley feels the intimate course setting interspersed with speakers and practicals keeps the student engaged and learning. No matter the course method, the goal is for the student to gain an understanding of current best safety practices following Appendix G and a handle on what they don’t know, like in depth understanding of areas like First Aid, Meteorology, or VHF Communication, to name a few.

The course I took was a hybrid of the above, with one instructor, videos, expert guest speakers, and practical sessions. The participants included racers and cruisers in age from mid 20s to late 60s. My conclusion after taking this course and speaking at length with Chuck, was whichever course you take or are required to take, is be sure to do the practical parts.

I don’t want to go into a long syllabus review, but here’s our hands on work, in brief:

Flares: We fired SOLAS (safety of live at sea) flares and US approved flares. We learned how to set off parachute flares and hand held flares. They are hot and bright and each one is different. What I learned: Understand how each one in your kit works, and replace expired flares. Assume at least one in your kit will be a dud. Get SOLAS flares – they are significantly brighter.

Cutting away rigging: We brought the knives we sail with to test them on tether webbing and rigging. What we learned: A lot of our knives don’t work. Be sure you have one that does and that you can open with one hand. Look into a ceramic knife as, interestingly, it cuts a lot of things quite easily and doesn’t rust or need to be sharpened. Saws can get rusty, so can bolt cutters. Know your equipment and how you may need to use it and if it will work.

Putting out fires: The Tiburon fire department came and set a fire in a large pan for us. We used fire extinguishers to put it out. What I learned: Guess what – know how to use your equipment, and make sure it’s not expired. It’s pretty easy and kind of fun to use an extinguisher in that situation, but the thought of putting out a fire on your own boat may make it harder to remember how to use one. Fire blankets are pretty handy too.

PFDs: There are loads of different kinds of PFDs. Find the one that works best for the type of sailing you are doing. If you are offshore, note that a lot of life jackets we use in -shore won’t help you that much, if at all, off shore. Learn the difference between hydrostatic and canister auto inflation. Ashley recommends Spinlock vests and a lot of the off shore types in our group already had them. Take care of your PFD the same way you do your foulies. Learn how to check for corrosion, whether you want your vest set on manual or auto inflate and seriously consider thigh straps. A lot of this is individual, but there are compliance rules when going off shore.

Getting into a life raft: Let’s hope you never have to do it. But the exercise of getting from the water with a huge pillow of air around your neck and into a life raft is un-nerving. Doing it in cold water, even more challenging. The adage step up into a life raft makes a lot of sense, especially if you can actually step into it without meeting the water. Again, I hope you never have to do it.

A friend of mine raced from Miami to Nassau with only a harness and tether on at night. Another friend of mine drowned this year because he didn’t have on a proper PFD. I’ve been a MOB with crew who didn’t know how to pick me up out of the water. Many of us have read the panel results from the Aegean and Low Speed Chase tragedies and just last week we watched another unfold in front of our eyes in the wake of hurricane Sandy. Whether you are an active racer, race committee, or a cruiser, this course, with the hands on work, will have value.   – Paige Brooks

November 16th, 2012

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The once-rosy Vendee Globe is already beginning to unravel; Smashed and crashed are Kito and Louis Burton.  De-titanized is Marc Guillemot.  Untracked is Bubi Senso, and now one of the best things about this race – the perpetually smiling and effervescent Sam Davies, has lost a mast that just went around the world two years ago and was in great shape; she’s done smiling for the first time in ages.

That’s a quarter of the fleet in less than a week, and those of us who were hoping to see the Open 60s have a more durable showing than recent events would suggest are back to wondering whether even a third of the fleet will finish the 2012 VG. While Bubi and Burton should be able to get back into it after some repairs, IMOCA’s one-design proponents and the sponsors that support them get more ammunition with every breakage.  There’s a lot to talk about on this subject, but we’ll see how the fleet survives the next few weeks before getting too deep into it.

But now we’ve got some breaking news that will throw plenty more fuel on the fire:  Today the VG Race Director, Denis Horeau confirmed a report that as many as 8 boat were protested by the Race Committee for violating the Traffic Separation Scheme off Cape Finisterre.  While a solo racer’s adherence to COLREGS is something of a joke (sleeping is a tough way to properly ‘maintain a watch’), the Sailing Instructions for the race require all skippers to follow the international laws, including those that require certain courses and changes to course in the presence of Traffic Separation Zones.  A quick look at the race trackers shows who did and who didn’t, and in light of the ‘trawler collisions’ by Groupe Bel and Bureau Valle, it looks like the Jury may have a chance to really send a message to this fleet that it’s not OK to crash into fishing boats.

We expect a hearing and decision fairly soon, though it’s impossible to read the tea leaves, especially with the muddying of the water done by Horeau in his comments about AIS and blame for the race-ending Groupe Bel smash-up.  In our view, there’s really no excuse for either Burton or De Pavant; they are faster and more maneuverable than any fishing boat, and both admitted to ‘sleeping’ or ‘napping’ when it happened.  With fishing boats from 30 to 600 feet congesting the area, these skippers simply MUST pay attention or they are putting their boats, the fishermens’ boats, and lives on both at risk.  No AIS or Radar warning is going to detect a Bacalao fisherman in a low-profile forty footer built in 1947, and without a change forced down their throats, one of these skippers, sooner or later, will sink that fisherman.

You can watch Kito De Pavant and Marc Guillemot today at 12:30 CET, live on the daily video talk show update at the Vendee Globe TV channel.

November 16th, 2012

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Waiting for that 8 Ball to party with in Oz? Bummer!

From Mantagi Tonga Online: More than 200 kilograms of cocaine worth an estimated street value of AUD $116 million dollars in Australia, was seized by Tongan authorities on the wreck of the ‘JeReVe’ yacht that ran aground on a reef off Luatafito Atoll in Vava’u. Police believe it to be one of the largest seizure of narcotics in the South Pacific region.

In a joint press conference by the Deputy Prime Minister Hon Samiu Vaipulu, the Tonga Commissioner of Police Grant O’Fee and Superintendent Murray Taylor of the Australian Federal Police this afternoon, it was revealed that the drugs were concealed within the hull of the 13-metre yacht.

They said that AFP received information from the US Drug Enforcement Agency during August 2012 that a small yacht carrying cocaine enroute from Equador to Australia, and an investigation started. Read on.

November 16th, 2012

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Gotta a GoPro sailing vid that needs a little excitement? Punch it up by grabbing some sound track from another race that has more action, hyperventilating announcers, lottsa names and boats and presto – one hell of a good race!

November 16th, 2012

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Big red seems to be looking pretty good these days. Photos thanks to Sander van der Borch / Artemis Racing.

November 15th, 2012

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At 1945hrs (French time), on Thursday, November 15th, Samantha Davies contacted the race office of the Vendée Globe to report that her boat had dismasted. Davies is not injured. She is safe inside the boat with all the watertight doors closed. She is monitoring the situation and does not require assistance. She is wearing her survival suit and has safety equipment at hand.More here.

November 15th, 2012

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Whilst preparing to go sailing, something went wrong raising the Prada foil with the crane.
Ouch!

November 15th, 2012

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Cool shots from the S33 OD Argentinean Championship in 28 knots of wind. Nice! Photos byMatias Capizzano.

November 14th, 2012

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This report is brought to you by Bruce Schwab Energy Systems.

Less than four days old, this seventh edition of the Vendée Globe has lived up to all of the hype and anticipation delivering close racing, a split fleet, multiple collisions and already two boats retired. After a dramatic send-off, the fleet started off Les Sables d’Olonne in cloudy, rainy and variable conditions. Eager to begin this epic round-the-world race, fully one-quarter of the fleet was over early and had to re-start. Sailing into a building breeze, the fleet of 19 IMOCA 60’s (Bertrand de Broc turned back to port before the race started) endured their first speed test across the Bay of Biscay to Cape Finistierre before turning left and running down the west coast of the Iberian Peninsula before the Portoguese Trades. MACIF, skippered by young French prodigy Francois Gabart has led since the first day, but now finds his lead in jeopardy as sistership Banque Populaire, skippered by the equally talented Armel Le Cleac’h and the Juan K dark horse Cheminees Poujoulat sailed by Swiss skipper Bernard Stamm are now applying pressure from behind, sailing just 40 miles astern.

Here’s how it’s gone down so far:

On Saturday morning, Clean and I walked from our rented “Chateaux de Anarchy” to the Vendée Race Village to attend the start. Despite the fact that it was cold, pissing rain, and not yet 6 AM, the streets of Les Sables d’Olonne were jam packed with rabid sailing fans, eager to send off twenty courageous skippers for their non-stop race around the globe. As the sun rose, the breeze built to a stiff 20 knots out of the West, looking as if the predicted near-gale may materialize just in time for the start. It didn’t. With intermittent and sometimes intense rain showers, the breeze remained variable throughout the morning, as boats began leaving the dock, one by one, for the traditional Skipper’s Parade down the canal and into the Atlantic Ocean.

I rode in the Acciona team RIB, in which not a single eye was dry (as much from emotion as the pelting rain….), to join Spanish skipper Javier “Bubi” Sanso on his way to the start. Leaving the pontoon, shouts of “Bubi” permeated the cold, damp air of the race village, with the distinctive sound of bag pipes being played in the background. Thousands of fans surrounded the village from all directions; along the channel, at the edge of the dock and from nearly every boat in the harbor, to watch each of the twenty boats leave. Once past the harbor and into the main channel, the scene and the sounds were indescribable; just the memory gives me goose bumps and makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

With the fleet out of the channel and approaching the starting area, shore crews and loved ones disembarked the massive Open 60’s, one by one. Still approaching the starting area, Bertrand de Broc’s Finot/ Conq-designed yacht “Votre nom Autour du Monde” (ex-Brit Air and 2nd place finisher in the last Vendee) was about to become the first boat to be damaged in this edition of the race. With a team RIB helping the wide, flat-bottomed IMOCA 60 to turn, still under engine power as the race was still an hour away, the bow of Bertrand’s yacht crested a wave and slammed down onto the RIB, punching a hole in the port side of the bow. It was back to shore for Bertrand and the crew to repair the damage and get Bertrand back on the course at approximately 3 AM Sunday morning, just 14 hours after the official start. (Race rules allow yachts to return to port for repairs and re-start within 10 days of the start…)

Calling the start live on the English language feed, an international crew of SA’s own Alan Block (aka Mr. Clean), race veteran Dee Caffari and two others commented on a thrilling start as Polish skipper Zbigniew “Gutek” Gutkowski badly misjudged the line and crossed way early, with four hard-charging VPLP/ Verdier designed boats surprisingly sticking to his transom: Kito de Pavant’s Groupe Bel, Francois Gabart’s MACIF, Vincent Riou’s PRB and Armel le Cleac’h’s Banque Populaire. This only goes to reiterate how hard these guys sail: a quarter of the fleet over early in a round-the-world race!

With many of the top competitors over early, Marc Guillermot’s VPLP/ Verdier designed Safran maneuvered to a perfect start, claiming the early lead, with 27 year old Louis Burton on Bureau Vallee, Tanguy de Lamotte on Initiatives-Couer and Acciona’s Javier Sanso all giving close pursuit. Showing massive speed upwind in 12-14 knots of Westerly breeze, the new Juan K designed Cheminees Poujoulat of Bernard Stamm trucked through the fleet to pull alongside Safran just an hour into the race.

With the fleet settling into position for their 300 mile long drag race to Cape Finisterre, early leader Marc Guillermot on Safran heard “two loud bangs within the space of a second. The first noise was quite violent.” Just after the series of loud bangs, “the boat began to heel sharply… She went from 100% to 22%.”, said Guillermot. Safran’s unique and exotic titanium keel fin had failed, after some 25,000 miles of testing and training.

From Guillermot at his press conference: “I still don’t know at this time if I hit something or not. If it was not a collision it might be a case of metal fatigue, a design thing or calculation thing it is hard to know. But it is certain that being 50 miles from Les Sables d’Olonne it was relatively safe as the fleet was still quite tightly bunched. It is better than being in 35kts of wind in the south at the Kerguelens for example…. But I am disappointed for our sponsor and for the team also. At the moment I am in the phase of trying to find out and understand what happened. Nothing will be hidden. Even if it hurts us. And we will communicate what has happened.”

Safran, one of the pre-race favorites, (and podium finisher in the last Vendee…) was to become the first boat to officially retire just hours into this Vendée Globe. As Safran was returning to port, 29 year old prodigy Francois Gabart aboard MACIF was charging to the front of the fleet to inherit the lead going into the first night, followed closely by PRB with sistership Banque Populaire sailing in third position. With variable winds that remained mostly Northwesterly, the fleet was forced to “constantly trim the sails and adjust the boat. It is very cold, but the maneuvers keep us warm a bit”, said Kito de Pavant on Groupe Bel. In addition, the fleet had to deal with intense and frequent squalls, some up to 45 knots as reported by Sam Davies on Savéol.

After a safe (except for Safran…) and rapid passage across the Bay of Biscay, the fleet’s leaders rounded Finisterre on day 2 and began running downwind before the Portoguese Tradewinds making 16-20 knots of boat speed in up to 35 knots of Northwesterly breeze. The lead trio of boats began extending their lead over fourth placed Bernard Stamm and the rest of the fleet, while high pressure and light winds moved in from the north, enveloping the back of the fleet and relegating them to speeds of just 2-3 knots, including Gutek on Energa, Alessandro on Team Plastique and Tanguy de Lamotte on Initiatives-Couer.

Just two days into the race, disaster struck again when Kito de Pavant onboard Groupe Bel collided with a fishing boat off the coast of Portugal; a notoriously high-traffic area full of fisherman and cargo ships. With the fishing trawler reportedly not being equipped with AIS and traveling at 2-3 knots of speed, the sleeping French skipper collided with the fishing vessel at about 15 knots of speed in 17-18 knots of breeze. Fortunate to not lose the rig, Groupe Bel was left with a massive, gaping hole on the port side of the boat, just aft of the rig. The veteran skipper, who retires from the Vendee Globe after 2 days for the second consecutive race, has safely made port in Cascais, Portugal. A visually distraught Kito de Pavant muttered the words “This is….. not even possible…..” after his retirement. I think I speak for the entire ocean racing community when describing how absolutely gutted and shocked I am at Kito’s misfortune. What terrible luck for the veteran skipper who has completed more than 100,000 miles onboard Groupe Bel in the four years in between his 2 early Vendee retirements.

With a small depression forming west of the fleet, the bulk of the fleet was stuck in light air for the better part of day 3, with just 3-7 knots of breeze. With varying tactics, gybe points and boat speeds, the tactical dilemma was to either invest miles and time to the West, or to be patient and continue sliding South. With the fleet heading West of Madeira, Francois Gabart on MACIF maintained his lead, while sistership Banque Populaire re-gained second place from Bernard Stamm, some 41 miles back of the young prodigy Gabart who is setting a nearly impossible pace at the front of the pack.

As this small depression moved on top of the fleet, Vincent Riou on PRB was first to reach the stronger winds and has moved from 10th place back into 6th place and is battling with Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac-Paprec 3 at the front of what is now a 5-boat pack some 100 miles behind the leading trio of MACIF, Banque Populaire and Cheminees Poujoulat. Francois Gabart’s performance thus far onboard MACIF has been nothing short of absolutely extraordinary, with the young skipper continuing to post up consistently high boat speeds and making himself seemingly impossible to pass.

At 3:10 AM, on Wednesday, day 4 of the Vendee Globe, the race director received a call from 27-year old Louis Burton on Bureau Vallee reporting that he had hit a fishing trawler. Escaping major damage like Groupe Bel, the Farr designed IMOCA (former Delta Dore) is said to have damaged a cap shroud, some 5 feet (1.8 meters) off of the deck. Burton reports that he was sailing at 18 knots of speed in 32 knots of breeze when the incident occurred, and it was at night, which made visibility a challenge. The extent of the damage is still unknown and Burton does not know at this point if he’ll be able to continue in the race. This is again hugely upsetting as the young, energetic skipper had worked so hard to make it to the start of this, his first Vendee Globe.

Stay tuned, this is turning into a hell of a race!

-Ronnie Simpson

November 14th, 2012

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Open Bic Worlds at the Miami Yacht ClubIsn’t this what junior sailing should be all about?

November 14th, 2012

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