helly 10 9 side banner

velocitek banner 10 14

http://www.quantumsails.com/

sound ad 4 23

http://www.dryuv.com

schwab tall banner ad

BBY_SA

c tech 9 22

hh banner green

fastsailing_sailing_anarchy

pyi banner ad

farr 280 banner 9 4

http://www.mauriprosailing.com/

karver ad 1 14

weta banner 2 9

c c 8 7 ad

torqeedo small ad

seascape banner

tacking battle

ner 2

http://www.shaw650.com/

fireball banner ad

http://www.crowleys.com/

http://www.lymanmorse.com

FSS_SA

ropeye banner 3 25

anchor new ad

rbs banner ad

ewol banner ad

melges banner 10 14

hh banner purple

fisheries banner 9 4

salty tag 2

ullman banner 7 24

sapphire 27

http://www.camet.com/

swing keel ad.jpg_sml

uk ad 4 3

race q banner ad

fisheries watch ad 9 18

Gunboat 60 sailing in Annapolis, MD.

mcconaghy banner 8 11

tan banner 10 14

GUNBOAT 55 Multihull Anarchy Banner

mauri 3 1 SA-Top-Rotate

VX-One-550x150-Bnr_V3

boyd banner ad

southern spar 10 21 banner ad

torqeedo top banner

b&g banner 10 7

nke 10 2 banner

Article Separator

Now that your editor rides motorcycles, he found a way to bring the sports of biking and sailing together.

December 4th, 2012

Article Separator

The Newport to Ensenada Race wants you to come race. Here’s why.

N2E is a great race to many people.  Which leads to the question of why?  Why is it great?  It is the parties?  The course?  The destination?  The trophies?  The excessive eating and drinking at both ends? The cougars?

NOSA commissioned an independent group of leading scientists to answer this question.  After an exhaustive study, an authoritative answer to these questions, that have plagued mankind, has been discovered.  As it turns out, none of the above is a major factor in N2E’s greatness.   It is a great race because of the people who race in it.

Each year hundreds of people prep their boats, assemble their teams and make their way to Newport Beach for this race.  Some are well known, some not so well known.  Some are in fast boats and some in not-so-fast boats.  Some are locals and some travel great distances.  Some have big budgets and some are sailing on a shoestring budget.  All are different and all racing for their own reasons.  The variety is incredible.  Yet after the race they all share that they have done a N2E race together.  They were out on the same water in the same conditions.  They shared the adventure.

Let’s meet a few of these N2E racers, like Michael Nelson from Lake Mead, Las Vegas, Nevada, not next door and not an ocean port.  Mike restored and races a water ballasted MacGregor 26, Chicken-of-the-Sea, in the PHRF G class.  While Gran Prix boats are turning and burning at the finish, Mike is half way down the course toughing it out with a day of sailing to go.  2011 was a high point as they finished the race for the first time.  Say what you will about slow boats, but the people who race them are seriously tough and deserving of respect.  Not everyone is a rock star sailing a rocketship.  It’s no surprise that Mike likes the hot tub and accommodations of the Hotel Coral.  He has done three N2E races and plans to be back for 2013.  Go Mike!

Meet Cindy Arosteguy out of Channel Islands Harbor, sailing for Anacapa YC, CIYC, and Channel Islands Women Sailing Association (got enough clubs, Cindy?).  Cindy has done one N2E on her Ranger 33, Argo.  Channel Islands is not Nevada, but it isn’t especially close either.  She’s only been sailing 2 years.  Her excitement this year was dodging a freighter at 1:00 AM, successfully accomplished by a vigilant watch and proper radio communication.  Cindy would like to do N2E again.  My kind of woman.

Meet  Burkhard Justus.  With a name like Burkhard you might guess he is not from around here, and you’d be right.  Burkhard hails from Hamburg, Germany, and his home club, LSVH (heck of a return transit).  He races Arrow, a Beneteau 10R.  He has done eight N2E races, each with a different crew, five as skipper.  He has finished 7th in his class twice and is proud of it, as he should be. He also says nice things about the improvements to the race in 2012.
Then we have Bob Roitblat of Chicago, who chartered and skippered Aimant de Fille, a Beneteau 36.7.  2012 was his first N2E.  But back on the lakes, he does twenty-five races a year.  His fun was pulling a crew together from Chicago, Miami, SoCal and Hawaii, then getting them all to Newport Beach.

Nigel Barron wanted to do his first N2E.  He skippers a nice boat, an Andrew’s 53, Artemis.  (Coincidentally Alan Andrews was in the 2012 N2E as well).  Nigel’s only problem was the boat was in Seattle.  No worries, he talked the owner into sailing his boat a few thousand miles south, just a walk in the park.  He liked the race a lot, “like the Swiftsure, only with warm water.”
These diverse people overcame significant obstacles to get their varied boats into the 2012 N2E race.  They shared the adventure with hundreds of other people doing the race. They had a great time and in doing so, helped make the 2012 N2E race GREAT!

I’m going out on a limb here and guess that a lot of you could get up and get your boat into the 2013 N2E race with a whole lot less effort than these folk.  I’ll even mention the $50 discount for registering in the month of December.  Come out and participate in a great race in 2013.

December 4th, 2012

Article Separator

The kids of Anasazi Girl on their incredible ocean voyages. How incredible? Here’s what their dad James Burwick tells us about their soon to be born sibling:

Less than three weeks to go for kid number three. “Planning a home birth,10 minutes drive from the boat then back to the boat then off to sea.” Wow.

December 3rd, 2012

Article Separator

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

A few days ago, I wrote that the Vendée Globe was entering “arguably it’s most exciting stage” yet. While the skippers surely didn’t read those words, they have made a very strong argument in support of that claim nonetheless, as the race has been absolutely on fire ever since. For the first time in two weeks, we have seen new race leaders in Jean-Pierre Dick onboard Virbac-Paprec 3, who’s westward roll of the dice has helped propel him from a lowly position of 5th place just 6 days ago to first place by Saturday night and in Francois Gabart onboard MACIF, whose phenomenal boat speed and decisive move to cover Dick have both paid dividends. Along the way, the two have endured a match race with the two new generation VPLP-Verdier designed boats breaking Alex Thomson’s 24-hour singlehanded IMOCA class speed record a number of times, smashing the mark that stood for nearly ten years and then piling on an extra 20 or so miles just for good measure. Having been relegated to second place, former race leader Armel Le Cleac’h once again consolidated with the two record-setters, briefly regaining the race lead as this lead group enters the roaring forties and the deep south. Engaged in a 3-way drag race towards the Aigulles Ice Gate, the first such gate of the race, the trio of VPLP-Verdier’s are descending upon it like a pack of wild hyenas averaging an astounding 20 knots of boat speed, trading the lead at seemingly every check-in.

A thrilling battle at the front 

After Jean-Pierre Dick gybed West and South more than a week ago, Francois Gabart followed to cover the two-time Barcelona World Race champ, setting up the split-fleet scenario that we discussed in the last article. Gaining more than 400 miles in north-south separation, the lead pack has again regrouped, now tighter than ever with the three French skippers exchanging the lead multiple times in the past 24 hours, as of this writing. With the two lead packs all sailing on a starboard tack, Cleac’h sailed slightly hotter to make a bit more southing, effectively bringing him, JP Dick and Francois Gabart even closer together. Anarchist “Estar” has run all of the numbers through his routing software and projects MACIF, Banque Pop and Virbac-Paprec 3 to all reach the Aigulles Ice Gate at exactly the same time, seeing as how they are virtually tied right now. Saturday night, all three boats have pulled even with Banque Pop furthest North,Virbac-Paprec 3 in the middle and MACIF furthest South, with a mere 15 miles separating all three boats, now more than 3 weeks and 7,000 miles into this seventh edition of the Vendée. Sailing north and slightly behind the leaders are the new-generation Juan K designedCheminees Poujoulat of Bernard Stamm and the previous-generation Farr designed Hugo Bossof Aelx Thomson, the only previous-generation boat in the top 5.

Expect the race to remain close over the coming days. At this point, it is truly anyone’s race and it will continue to get even closer. Expect Bernard Stamm to be the lead group’s biggest mover and shaker in the next 24-48 hours. Being North of the 3 leaders, he will encounter the Southerly breeze a bit longer than than the 3 leaders and this should benefit him, as his Jaun K design has proven to be a reaching monster. As the breeze goes aft on Monday, watch for Alex Thomson to continue running hot angles and make some Southing to avoid getting trapped in a developing High.

Three elder statesman continue stalking the leaders 

Beginning to sound like a broken record here, but the 3-boat “second pack” of Jean Le Cam on Synerciel, Mike Golding on Gamesa and Dominique Wavre on Mirabaud have continued to stalk the leaders, slowly closing the gap, despite the record-setting pace of the frontrunners. “King Jean” has continued sailing his previous generation Farr design at a frenetic pace as the three-time Figaro Champ has now closed the gap to less than 300 miles between him and the race leaders. With just a 70-mile split between Le Cam and the Swiss veteran Wavre, the trio of “old guys” have been sending it in close formation since before the Cape Verde Islands, some two weeks ago. Fast and consistent, the pack has been following in JP Dick’s wake since he made his remarkable move West. The ring leader Le Cam has shown no hesitancy in being aggressive, evidenced by his decisiveness in becoming the second boat in the fleet to commit to the aforementioned westerly option, and his again entertaining quotes where he has proclaimed to “attack JP Dick” and “wage war” on other competitors. If there is one skipper in the fleet who shown an ability to engage the public, make people laugh, share impassioned self-interviews and showcase his personality, it is the Frenchman Le Cam.

Expect the 3-boat pack to remain close and consistent. These über-experienced skippers have shown a great deal of maturity, skill and discipline perhaps lacking in other parts of the fleet, while still displaying fortitude and no shortage of pace, however they may see some light air near the Aigulles Gate, allowing the “rich to get richer”, as the lead pack may extend out on this second pack. If caught in the grasp of this high, expect the second group to dive south immediately after the Gate in search of more breeze.

Update: Jean Le Cam has had a fishing net trapped around his keel. Discovering the problem, “King Jean” donned a wetsuit and diving gear and has dove on the bottom of Synerciel, cutting the netting away from the bottom of the keel, requiring several cuts to get the massive net away. As a result, Le Cam was stopped for 30 minutes, slowed for several hours and has relinquished his 6th place ranking to Mike Golding on Gamesa. JLC is now back in the race, making 12 knots as the second pack begins to encounter lighter air.

Records are made to be broken…. 

Shifting gears back to the monumental display of speed that we all witnessed in the past 48 hours, an incredible 4 boats in the fleet surpassed Alex Thomson’s previous 24-hour solo speed record which stood for nearly 10 years. First, it was Francois Gabart who amassed 482.91 miles in 24 hours. Before record-keepers could even begin to confirm the record, Jean-Pierre Dick posted up an absolutely staggering figure of 498.90 miles; within spitting distance of 500. Just five short hours later, the trackers revealed that Dick had broken his new personal record by becoming the first singlehanded monohull sailor to ever break through the 500-mile barrier by recording a new world record of 502.53 nautical miles in 24 hours, sailing at an average speed of 20.9 knots. This record is less than 4 miles short of Dick’s own 24-hour doublehanded speed record of 506.33 miles that he set in 2011 alongside Loick Peyron en route to victory in the last edition of the Barcelona World Race.

In addition to Dick and Gabart’s record-breaking pace, Bernard Stamm on Cheminees Poujoulatand Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss also surpassed Thomson’s old record.

The day before this incredible showcase of pace, Dick, invigorated by the massive boat speeds he was sounded like a giddy school boy in describing his emotions at returning to the Roaring Forties and the Southern Ocean:

“It’s a little like a velvet carpet; we’re surfing! The weather is not very nice. This is the early signs of the Great South! The sky is rather white with clouds (cirrus) like flying sparks. During the night we had a very beautiful moon which formed a halo in the fog. It was magnificent! I’m back in the world I love! I love sailing in these southern regions. They are very wild and it is very beautiful. I have started to put on under-layers and soon I will put on my boots.”

Several skippers in the fleet reported seeing speeds in the high 20’s, with Dick’s tracker reporting 25.9 knots at one point! The pace of these new generations VPLP’s and Juan K design are absolutely phenomenal! Once deep into the Southern Ocean, it’s almost inevitable that with the right conditions and right sea state, one of these sailors will break Dick’s new record of 502.5 nm.

When the rich get richer, the poor get poorer…. 

With the frontrunners running away at record-breaking speed and the “second pack” showing unwavering consistency, the back markers of the fleet are all finding it impossible to keep up. Sailing mostly older boats, and with another split-high scenario in the South Atlantic, the bottom five are losing miles to the leaders in mass quantity as they negotiate an again complex Saint Helena High.

Leading the effort in trying to bridge the gap to the second pack, Javier “Bubi” Sanso, sailing the only new generation boat in the bottom half of the fleet is being stalked by a developing high. Pushing his Owen Clarke designed Acciona 100% Ecopowered as hard as he possibly can, the fleet’s sole Spanish skipper had slowed to 12 knots at the time of this writing, with his nearest pursuer Arnaud Boissieres on Akena Verandas being caught in the trenches of the high, making just 8 knots. 350 miles behind Mirabaud and 350 in front of Akena Verandas, Javier finds himself in a rather lonely stretch of the South Atlantic.

Elsewhere in the fleet, Bertrand de Broc on Votre nom Autour du Monde continues to be stymied by the weather, having sailed into another massive hole. Adding insult to injury, it looks like this area of high pressure is going to follow him all the way to Gough Island, which must be left to starboard, forcing him to stay in the light stuff, while Tanguy de Lamotte on Initiatives-couer also finds himself between a rock and a hard place as he will likely be forced to sail into the same high, with his only alternative option being to sail additional miles over the top, straight into slow headwinds.

Difficult stuff for the bottom third of the fleet….

While Bertrand de Broc is suffering, Tanguy is going to be hating life as his route to Gough looks long and slow. Expect Bertrand to re-pass Tanguy for 11th position while the rest of the pack will maintain position and continue to bleed miles to the front runners. The one wild card to watch is Javier Sanso. With his speedy new-generation boat, it will take just one fortuitous weather system to allow him to re-engage the second pack. In the right conditions, he has shown the ability to average 20 knots, in line with the front runners.

What’s up next 

Don’t expect any records to be broken in the next 3-4 days, but the front runners and second pack should all cross the first Aigulles Ice Gate during that time and be well on their way to the second “Crozet” Gate. A developing high should see the front runners gain miles on their stalkers, while the long-term forecast shows a potential for the fleet to again compress at the second gate. The major tactical decisions are going to be when to dive south and how far to dive after crossing the gates. With the top-three skippers potentially within eye sight after the first third of the race, conducting battle at record-breaking pace, this is turning into one of the best editions of the Vendée Globe yet!

Check out our next update in 3-4 days!

-Ronnie Simpson

December 3rd, 2012

Article Separator

Created by Scott Meyer & Peter Chaibongsai, join The Billfish Foundation as they bring science and sport together to protect the fastest fish in the world! Spread the lust at waterlust.org. Shot entirely on GoPro camera

December 3rd, 2012

Article Separator

Statement from ORACLE TEAM USA General Manager Grant Simmer regarding recent protest filed by Luna Rossa Challenge:

“Further to reports, we confirm that Luna Rossa Challenge has filed a protest claiming a breach of the Protocol regarding observation within 200 meters of their yacht. We will make a submission to the International Jury together with submissions from other teams, which will be focused on an interpretation of the Protocol. The Jury has permitted us to make this statement, however in accordance with the Jury confidentiality guidelines, we are not permitted to disclose further information in advance of the decision.”

December 3rd, 2012

Article Separator

Your editor here did his very best to blow a 12 point overall lead going into the third and final weekend of the 127-boat SDYC Hot Rum series, and by trophy time, it looked like he had done just that. DC (yes that DC) closed the gap with his Farr 60 on the final race to tie Anarchy for 34 points after 3 races, with the tiebreaker going to DC. Damn, Anarchy’s chance at Hot Rum Glory looked to have gone the way of the Dodo!

But wait – a protest was heard after the prize giving, throwing out a boat that finished ahead of Anarchy in the last race, giving them the point they needed for the Overall Win. Showing how close this seemingly disparite series can be, Anarchy had 33 points, Stars and Stripes 34, the Kernan 68′ Peleigroso 35, the 70′+ Velos and J/105 Wings 36 each. Four points seperating the top 5!  Anarchy also won Class 2.

This is a really difficult, often random and brutal series that is actually incredibly hard to win. It looks really lame (pursuit start, PHRF, big tides, tons of traffic, etc.) until you actually try to go win it, and then you see that it is both really lame and really hard to win. The Anarchy boys and girls did good to nab this one!

Overall results here.

December 2nd, 2012

Article Separator

Great shot from the Melges 32 Gold Cup in Fort Liquordale. Results and photos from Joy Dunigan are here.

December 2nd, 2012

Article Separator

It’s called Boyd and it is a a new way to experience sailing media.Free in itunes - check it!

December 2nd, 2012

Article Separator

We have just learned that Terry Hutchinson, skipper of the Artemis America’s Cup team, has been released from the team. The new after guard includes Iain Percy, Nathan Outteridge, Santiago Lange and Loïck Peyron. We expect either Outteridge or Peyron to steer from here on out. It seems a bit extreme to kick Hutch off the team completely, but it speaks to the disarray within the team under the command of Colonel Cayard. We don’t know the inside story on this one, yet.

Jump in the discussion in our AC Anarchy forum…

November 30th, 2012

Article Separator

It’s not often that a jaded Aussie expat pro cat sailor like Andrew “Macca” Macpherson gets excited as a schoolboy about anything, much less yet another 30-something foot beach cat.  But every time I’ve spoken to him over the past year, he’s been giddy with yet another development of his and owner Laurent Lenne’s ‘baby’ – the Great Cup 32 one-design cat.  Macca’s enthusiasm, and the commitment of Lenne to the creation of a new boat, circuit, and series – was contagious enough to rope me in to do something I really try to avoid; report on the first sail of a new design.  In Dubai, the land of the trillion dollar shopping mall, and little else.

For those who’ve been there before, you know the drill – and it always seems the same whether it’s a Hunter or an America’s Cup boat: This is the wrong thread, that’s the wrong material, this is too long, and that’s too short.  Call the designer, call the engineer, call the sailmaker, and then solve the problem yourself.  Why a trouble-free launch is so impossible will perhaps always be a mystery, but Lenne and designer Martin Fischer didn’t make things any easier when they added huge, serpentine carbon foils worth many thousands of dollars and the articulating bearings that they slide through, or L-shaped lifting rudders with tricked out rake adjusters.  You can understand why I got off the plane thinking “If I get 20 minutes of good sailing in over the 2 days, it’ll be a good trip.”

We got far more than that – more than 4 times that much, actually, sailing in light airs just in front of the Dubai International Marine Club for an hour and a half before something went ‘crunch’.  And then they got another couple of days in before they had enough to go back for the final round of changes.  And funnily enough, pretty much everything that went wrong was the low-tech stuff — the rudder foils, main foils, and rig all worked beautifully, and showed us just a hint of what makes this boat so special.  What sent us back to the dock was the simple stuff:  The long, ‘spinal’ sprit, which is a big part of the boat’s structure, failed exactly where it should have when loaded up; at a poorly patched entrance hole.  The end fittings on both the sprit and the main spine also showed serious wear; the choice of materials just didn’t hold up to the loads involved.

So while the team is off re-engineering what they need so they can finalize a reliable one-design boat in the next couple of weeks, let me tell you what she’s really like, at least in light to moderate breeze, and before any of the kinks have been ironed out.

The Great Train Report

First off, let me get the disclosure out of the way: Laurent and the GC-32 are advertisers here, and they paid for my plane ticket to Dubai.  But if you think it was some kind of luxury junket, you’re dreaming – unless you think luxury is trading 10 hours of sweat, dirt, and grease for an hour on the water.

Upon my arrival to the yard, a nipper told me where to put my bag, and I was soon pushing boats around with a GC-32 t-shirt on (UV protected, of course!) and helping to step the mast. I met the team as I entered the yard, and this wasn’t your ordinary team of yard workers; On station were current F-18 (Thijs Visser) and Moth (Josh McKnight) World Champions, along with top F-18ers Karel Begemann and Bastian Tentij, and X40 guru and Tornado coach Hugh Styles.  Also along were designer Martin Fischer, owner Laurent, PM Macca, a couple of videographers, and photographer Christophe Launay.  All in all, a pretty esoteric group of mostly young and mostly shit-hot racers, off spending their holidays helping launch a new concept with old friends.  More importantly (in a town where booze is verboten) they were almost all comedians, able to find the humor and entertainment in a dusty boatyard in 90 degree Fahrenheit.

The first day, they launched without a mast. The boys towed her around with a RIB, and while not all that useful a measurement, they noted the boat popped up completely out of the water at around 20 knots of boatspeed. Some fitting issues kept us from getting on the water a second time that day, but at least we got the rig in without drama, the boat was in the water, and we were ready to go the next morning.  It would be my only chance to sail the boat.

We finally took the tow line at around 11 AM the next day, and it was a cozy group; two RIBs full of champion sailors, but just Macca, Laurent, and I aboard the GC, and just a breath of hot breeze; maybe 6-7 knots.

The Look

Offshore powerboat racing’s dominant Dubai-based Victory Team craned their 12 meter racer into the water just a few meters away from the black GC-32 for some propeller testing, and we chuckled as the shore crew and pilots of this ultra-sleek, impossibly aerodynamic 160 MPG monster stared slack-jawed at the sex appeal of the GC cat.  With its crazy-looking daggerboards and winged cassette rudders raised clear of the water and the knife-sharp bows popping off the surface of the water, the boat looks like she’s ready for an aircraft carrier’s steam catapult and subsequent flight.  The compound curves that transition the flat deck to the edged bow create an interesting illusion, especially appropriate for an Arabian backdrop; in the right light, each bow looks just like that curved Arabian blade made so famous by Sinbad; the scimitar.

The carbon is all flat-black or clearcoated, the fittings are all soft Tye-Tech except for the occasional Harken block or winch, or Karver furler, and the finish work from Premier (the Dubai-based builder of the hulls and many of the structures), Southern (beams, spine, sprit, mast, and boom), and Heol (boards and rudders) is near-perfect.  Even the most critical customer would be hard-pressed to find room for improvement on the boat’s appearance. Compared to other offerings, the GC has a more substantial feel; more freeboard than most of the other ‘super 30’ cats, more structure tying everything together; overall, the GC is far less beach cat and far more ocean racer.

The Feel

While I didn’t get to see how the boat responded to big seas, my short sail combined with a long crawl through the boat afterwards left me little doubt; this thing is stiffer than any multihull I’ve ever sailed.  Compared to something like a Marstrom 32 or SL33, it should be stiff; after all, the GC32 is almost double the displacement of the jibless M-32 and 30% heavier than the SL-33.  It’s more in line with the three-hulled, offshore proven SeaCart 30, and that’s appropriate, because Macca and Laurent specifically pushed for a design that can handle more boisterous coastal racing than the lighter, more lake-focused boats.

That’s not to say the GC is underpowered; not by a long shot.  With greater weight and the additional righting moment created by the foil arrangement, the boat can easily handle its big rig and huge, nearly vertically leached mainsail.  And the tall bows and forgiving foils system seem likely to solve the biggest problem all these super-cats have; bearing away in the big stuff.

Upwind

Tacking out of the channel wasn’t particularly fun; the boat was sluggish without a jib in the 2-4 knot breeze at the harbor mouth, and going upwind with no power and all that board dragging below was a chore.  Once clear to bear off a bit, the boat glided to life quietly, and with a body on the low side, it was easy to get the hull out of the water and build to maybe 9 knots of speed in 5-6 knots of breeze.  Even when we were working at it, tacks weren’t great; as you’d expect in a boat lacking the headsail designed for it, building speed was hard, and meant bearing away 15 or more degrees just to get the boat moving.  The windward foil can create around 300 kg of downforce on the windward hull; more on that below.

Reaching

The big roller-furling gennaker made us forget about the lack of a jib for a while.  Acceleration was immediate, and as we passed through 10 knots, you could actually hear and feel the leeward hull start to come out of the water.  At 12 knots, the leeward bow was clear of the water for a third of its length.  But it never felt the slightest bit skittish; but both upwind and down, the boat tracked like a damned train even as her displacement changed.  We threw in a few gybes and pressed up after each; gybing through around 130 degrees; Macca was proud of how the sailhandling controls prevented trampoline spaghetti on gybes and furls; even the rotator and traveler lines run inside their beams to prevent snafus when things get hairy.  Again, with no jib, no instruments, and an early iteration of the gennaker, I just don’t have much data on performance; whatever speed I noted comes from a great little iPhone app.

The Foils

I’ll leave you to check out the specifics of the foil program yourself, but a quick summary will help with the rest of the report.  The foils are the lifeblood of this boat; they set it apart from the competition, and if they work as designed, they will absolutely make sailing the GC a very different experience than any other boat.   Keep in mind that, as complex as the engineering was, the end result was designed to be simple and easy to deal with for any sailor, and on that note, it succeeds well.  It’s more subtle than you might think, but the system is sensible, well-tested on a smaller boat (on Fischer’s 18’ Phantom testbed), and needs a lot of tuning (and some racing!) to see just what is fast, and when.

Essentially both boards and both rudders stay in the water all the time, except perhaps for the lightest of airs.  The rudder rake, and hence the L-foil’s angle of attack, is adjustable ashore or between races to get the proportion of lift between rudder and board correct.  But the main foils – they’re the fun part.  They’ve got a long horizontal section upwind and down, and by pulling a slim, lightly loaded line that runs from a block to the exposed top of the board, you can change the angle of attack of the big boards from positive to neutral to negative in just a fraction of a second.  While the team knows there is a serious learning curve for these things, the basic rules are pretty easy: Upwind you want lift on leeward, and downforce to windward, and my job on a tack was to pull the AoA line on the new leeward side, and then run across and let the board float forward on the new windward side.  My 10 year old nephew could have done it, and he’s more mathlete than athlete.

Downwind, you’re looking for pure lift, and the sideways forces are a lot less significant than upwind.  So you rake both board tops back for max lift.  While the windward hull, adjusted properly, can create around 80 kg of downforce, the main foils can carry more than 500 kg each at speed.  And watching them in clear water is mesmorizing.

I Believe I Can Fly

The team got another day or two in after I left, including a 12 knot day and a 18 knot day that sent the boat back to the shed.  “We saw numbers that surprised the entire team,” Macca said to me in a phone interview shortly after my trip.  Even so, we still haven’t seen the boat fly completely clear of the water; Macca and his team are taking things slowly, but given the hype, we’re hoping it happens soon.

Real flying probably shouldn’t matter, but it does, and here’s why:  It only takes one run on a nukin’ day with boatspeeds in the 20+ knot range to hook a prospective sportboat owner. The test sailor knows he may not sail again in those conditions for a long time, but that one run is enough to get him to not only sign a check, but to stay interested until the next big air run in a few months or years.

A fully foiling GC-32 will do the same thing for the budding class and series;  owners and crew who feel the boat unload and light up downwind in the 30+ knot range are going to be blown away even if they’re hardcore cat sailors, and they’ll make the best missionaries to convince their pals to come join the fun, regardless of what they currently race. And a couple of shots or videos with the boat 2 feet above the water, skimming the surface like an osprey hunting a trout and leaving everything – even bigger multihulls, far behind, will raise a lot of eyebrows – even if it only happens when the conditions are just right.

The Verdict

I have to constantly remind myself that boats succeed or fail based largely on factors completely unrelated to boats, and no matter how shit-hot the GC-32 is or how easy it is to drop in a container for shipping, it will only sell in numbers if there is a real series, solid marketing, and great customer service.  Laurent and Macca are at it almost a year now, and they seem committed to making

The Great Cup series work, with the 2013 dates and venues on the verge of being announced, and the potential for double digit fleets in just the first year of operation. But that’s a story for another day.

Christophe Launay photos, with the full series here.

November 30th, 2012

Article Separator

Willy Clark gives us a detailed look at what makes the SailRocket just so damned special.  From the Clarksail.com, and Facebook folks can get informative updates fromWilly’s page here. 

“Imagine spending three years of your life, sitting on this boats potential, watching the kites and L’Hydroptere, and knowing in your bones that your boat has this in it”
-Paul Larsen

Lets get the obvious out of the way – what Paul Larsen and the Vestas SailRocket team just did in Namibia was special just for the sake of the numbers alone. The actual speed of their 65 knot run is still being assessed by the Water Sailing Speed Record Council, but the report from the team is a peak speed in excess of 68 knots over one second, and 65.45 for 500 meters. No one goes that fast. Only a few years back 50 knots was supposed to be a big deal, and now Paul Larsen is pushing 70? To be sure records are made to be broken, but shattering them the way SailRocket did on Walvis Bay is frankly unheard of. Crossbow made some serious breakthroughs in the early 70s, Macquarie Innovation was the first non kite or wind surfer to get through the 50 knot barrier, and Hydroptere was an impressive achievement if ever there was one. But 68 knots? Really? That is, for lack of a better word, ridiculous. It is to speed sailing what Chuck Yeager was to air speed when he first broke the sound barrier in the Bell X-1: unbelievable because nobody does that. It is supposed to be impossible.

However while the raw numbers are staggering that isn’t the real reason why SailRocket is so special. The numbers are the biggest part of the story to be sure, but there is more to it. The really impressive thing about the SailRocket team is that they stuck with it. Paul Larsen has been running this racket for 11 years. Malcolm Barnsley has been at it for 13. That is nearly a quarter of Paul’s life that he has given to this project. Even more for Malcolm. The only one who has exhibited that kind of dedication is Macquarie’s Tim Daddo, who held the record for 11 years as part of the Yellow Pages Endeavor team before he, along with Simon McKeon and Lindsay Cunningham, broke the 50 knot barrier for the first time. That level of dedication is something that other sailors can only respect, but it is even more impressive when considering how far SailRocket has come in the decade plus of work.

When the Vesta’s team first showed up with SailRocket I it wasn’t exactly a smashing success. The boat was certainly fast, but there was nothing particularly breakthrough about it. The concept of removing the overturning moment was not new. In fact it was first conceptualized by Bernard Smith in his book “The 40 Knot Sailboat” published in 1963. Aligning the force vector of the foil with the force vector of the rig is actually along the lines of what the kite boards do now, except if they could the would cant their boards in the opposite direction. SailRocket I had a nice foil that they didn’t have, but the boat never really did much. It was famous for one spectacular crash, but other than that they weren’t seeing the results.

The fact that the SailRocket guys even built another boat after such a disaster is incredible. Most other programs would have simply concluded that the boat wasn’t going to get them there and walked away. One has to assume that Vestas came through for them in a big way but, again, the idea had been tried and abandoned by people before. It hadn’t worked then and it didn’t seem to be working now. However as Paul put it they “knew there was truth at the core of it,” so they came back with SailRocket II.

The concept of the second boat was still mostly the same. The pilot’s pod was moved forward on top of the foil thus taking stability out of the equation which made a big difference, but overall the boat was pretty similar. Then they put a fence on the foil and the whole thing just went berserk. Breaking a record by one knot is a big deal. Breaking it by 15? That is outside of the realm of comprehension. It’s the kind of thing that just doesn’t happen. At a certain point one has to wonder “where does it stop?” Now that they have removed stability from the equation and have a foil that delays cavitation to such a high speed the idea of limits is becoming a very abstract concept. The kite boarders can only go so fast because a human being can only pull so hard. That limit doesn’t exist for SailRocket. In fact one has to wonder which ones do.

Yet the numbers are not the truly impressive part. The fact that Paul and Malcolm stuck with the idea for so long, that they were willing to keep hitting their heads against the wall sorting out all the engineering intricacies, is why they got the result that they did. Once again the idea wasn’t new, but the simple truth is that no one had worked this hard at it. Other people had tried it and walked away. The guys at SailRocket, through pure will power, simply outlasted them. “So many people talk about these things and then never follow through,” said Larsen. “I was determined that that wasn’t going to be the case.” The key word in there is determined.  Skill, vision and intelligence are all key components to any project. But anyone who has ever built a boat knows that getting everything right takes a long long time. And when trying to build one as fast as SailRocket it takes even longer. The smarts and the expertise help, but without the will and determination to see the project through it would never have happened. Guys who stick with something for so long and work so hard to get it right deserve their big day, and in the end the SailRocket team got what they deserved.

November 30th, 2012

Article Separator

With the Vendee Globe fleet whittled down to 2/3 strength, news coming in from the fleet is getting more manageable, letting the fans start to see the whacky personalities that make the Vendee so interesting.  Case in point:  Jean a/k/a “King John” Le Cam, who clearly takes his Equatorial crossings seriously even after about 400 of them, gives a hefty shot of drink to Neptune in this video (subtitled by SA’er ‘popo’).  Judging from Le Cam’s lack of equilibrium, it appears he left plenty for himself…even racing along at 15 knots.

If you liked that, here’s some more of King Jean’s comedy routine.  And how about someDominique Wavre, who apparently smuggled a cat and chicken aboard.  And Bernard Stamm showing that Wavre isn’t the only Swiss to lose his mind out there. And finally, here are a few words from second-placed Alex Thomson during one of the VG LIVE shows; get on his Facebook page right away to post any burning questions you have; Alex will answer them live on video tomorrow at 0730 Eastern/0430 Pacific on his website. 

Live and Learn 

VG organizers have thankfully renamed their daily live call-in and analysis show from the silly “Radio Vacations” to the more descriptive Vendee Globe Live.  It’s a solid half-hour show with weather and race analysis from Alain Gautier and a slew of ultra-credible guests, mixed in with live video chats with 3 or 4 sailors each day.  You can watch it as it happens at 1200 GMT/0700 EST/0400PST on VG’s DailyMotion channel; the French version starts a half hour earlier.  Sensible Norteamericanos will check it out after a coffee or three; all the dailies are archived here.

November 30th, 2012

Article Separator

…and then the bow goes down. Awesome sailing on one awesome machine – the General! Report below and thanks to Thanks to the bro’s at Evolution Sails...

The Coventry Reef race again lived up to it’s reputation as a tough day race at the weekend as more than 40 boats fronted for the race around the rock. With a strong wind warning issued and ominous skies hanging overhead the race started in a light South Easterly for the run out towards South Passage.  A great start and upwind for us on the General saw us lead Div 1 at the day buoy with a handy margin. From here the breeze started it’s turn to the South West as lightning and rain developed – and as the breeze freshened the big boats started reeling us back in.  Some 3 hours later the clouds dissipated, the breeze was up at the 30 mark and we were preparing to round Coventry Reef…and the sleigh ride back to Fremantle.  And what a ride it was!  Great result for us with a corrected IRC win of over 20 minutes.  Third year in a row we have smoked this race.  Good times…except our regular bowman Billy who missed the ride with broken finger and a tendon damage.

 Not so good for some others, a Beneteau 40.7 dropped its rig, another boat had a drama with the seawall at the finish, a man overboard, a man in hospital  and a swag of broken sails.

Check the video for some killer action.

November 29th, 2012

Article Separator

LEAKED DOCUMENTS FROM THE CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER’S OFFICE LINK PLANS FOR DISPOSAL OF SPENT URANIUM WITH VENDEE GLOBE OCEAN RACE

It appears the plan was to supply depleted uranium to skippers doing the Vendee Globe Ocean Race.  The Uranium which is much denser than lead would be used in the keel bulbs.  The Uranium could be coated in lead to ensure the safety of the sailors.  Race organizers were to receive a large anonymous donation and Canada was to enter 3 boats in the next Vendee Globe.

A Canadian engineer who was working on the project until recently when he was laid off, explained the concept.  Open 60 designers have long been searching for ways to get more weight into the keel bulbs without increasing the overall weight of the boat.  They have built composite fins and more recently we saw Titanium used by Marc Guillemot on Safran. That did not work so well as his keel fell off only a few days into the race.  The idea all centered around the use of lighter materials in the fin and other areas of the boat so that more lead can be carried at the tip of the keel in the bulb.  This results in more righting moment and thus more speed when using the keel canted to windward.  The boats with heavier keel bulbs literally have more horse power.

The engineer (who can not be named) went on to explain that the other thing that can be done in addition to more weight at the tip is to make that bulb more compact.  A smaller bulb has less drag and this is good even when you are not using the keel, which is the configuration when sailing downwind.  On that point of sail the entire keel (fin and bulb) are just creating drag and slowing the boat down.  There is a lot of downwind sailing in the Vendee Globe Ocean Race, so reducing drag has big benefits.

The plan was discussed with the French government at a recent trade mission in Europe which the PM attended.  Apparently the French, who use a lot of nuclear power, were interested in this Canadian technology and are considering a joint venture.  The Canadians had evidently discovered a way to clad the bulb in lead and fasten it to the bulb without any radioactive leakage.  The US was also interested because they have had to discontinue using depleted uranium in shell casings for their military.  This has become a big problem for the US Government as the protests and lobbying by military veterans groups have been growing.  According to other sources, deleted uranium was widely used by the US military for munitions in Iraq.

Sources inside the Prime Minister’s Office have in revealed that the Prime Minister’s real plan was the hope that lots of these keels would fall off over deep areas of the ocean and effectively be disposed of once and for all.  This is apparently a lot cheaper than burying it in Northern Canada. The accumulation of this hazardous, radio active spent Uranium has been a thorn in the side of the national energy plan in Canada and France for decades and they thought they might have the answer.  The 2016 Vendee Globe Ocean Race was to me the first test run for the plan but evidently the program has been put on hold because not enough keels have been falling off the boats.

This spoof courtesy of our pals at Wind Athletes Canada.

November 29th, 2012

Article Separator

Other than Wow, what else needs to be said?

November 28th, 2012

Article Separator

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

First it was a dramatic start with 300,000 adoring fans in a rain-soaked Les Sables d’Olonnes. Then a thrilling speed test across the Bay of Biscay, followed by a carnage-filled run down the coast of Portugal. Finally after tip-toeing across the slow and frustrating doldrums, the Vendée Globe has entered it’s latest, and arguably most exciting stage: the chess match to enter the Southern Ocean. In between the fleet’s leaders and the first ice gate stands a complex weather scenario with two highs and a low coming up from the South. Race leader Armel Le Cleac’h on Banque Populaire is trying to rhumb line it to the first ice gate, while Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac-Paprec 3 has made the difficult decision to take a flyer to the West, hoping for stronger breeze. The “Golden Boy”, Francois Gabart is stuck in the middle onboard MACIF, trying to cover both Dick and Cleac’h, while the “Boss” Alex Thomson and Swissman Bernard Stamm follow in Cleac’h’s wake. A few hundred miles back, the three elder statesman of the fleet hope to watch the leaders and use the unstable South Atlantic weather to close and re-gain touch with the frontrunners, while a 4-boat pack continues to sail a further 300 back. Happily bringing up the rear is the relatively ancient, fixed-keel Team Plastique of Alessandro di Benedetto. Since our last update, another boat has officially retired, that of ’04-’05 winner Vincent Riou onboard PRB, after his collision with a large metal harbor buoy.

The Great Divide

For the first time since the race started, Vendée race fans have a split fleet to watch. With a split-high scenario setting up over the next couple of days, Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac-Paprec 3 has made a ballsy move and gybed onto starboard and away from the rest of the lead pack on Monday morning. Owning the West and sailing almost due South, the two-time Barcelona World Race champ hopes to be the first sailor in the fleet to hook into the strong Westerlies that will propel the fleet into the Southern Ocean. Race leader Armel Le Cleac’h has opted to work east, stay north and attempt to sail straight for the Aigulles Ice Gate; the first ice gate of the race. MACIF skipper Francois Gabart stuck to Cleac’h’s hip and attempted to follow the race veteran but eventually gybed to cover Dick, setting up this split-fleet scenario. Given all of the chaos at the front of the fleet, Alex Thomson has followed Banque Pop and has moved into second place on the tracker, with Bernard Stamm on Cheminees Poujoulat, maintaining a similar heading, some 50 miles West. Important to note is that at this point, the tracker positions are somewhat irrelevant and probably short-lived.

An excellent analysis from Anarchist “Estar” in the Vendée Globe thread:

“Banque Pop’s direct/shortest route was always a risk. Its only very rarely been successful in these RTW races.  But for a while the picture was so muddled that no-one knew what the correct path was and a reasonable approach was just to bag as much distance to the mark as possible. We all just have to give JPD great credit for seeing the new picture first and committing to it.”

And a further shout-out to “Estar” for providing EXCELLENT analysis and even overlaying routing software projections over downloaded GRIB files, complete with up-to-the minute analysis and predictions. And while we’re throwing the love around, mad props to “popo” for taking existing YouTube videos off the Vendée site and adding English subtitles, almost in real time! If you’re not following the Vendée thread, you’re missing the best English language Vendée coverage there is!

The two highs present a huge routing challenge as there isn’t much room between them, no breeze in the center, slow head winds above, and most likely stronger breeze below and behind the westernmost high. The scenario is quickly changing and evolving, making it somewhat of a crap shoot at the moment, wreaking havoc on skippers, race fans, virtual regatta players and armchair quarterbacks alike. Two days ago, it looked like Dick stood to make massive gains on the fleet. One day ago, it looked as though a weather scenario might set up that would allow Cleac’h to thread the needle and sail straight to the ice gate and consolidate some massive gains. And today, it just looks like a hell of a yacht race. It truly is anyone’s race right now.

One thing to note for everyone following the race is that Gough Island is required to be left to starboard, forcing skippers North of the isolated South Atlantic island as the first official ice limit, while the Aigulles Ice Gate has been moved both 1 degree North and 7 degrees East as the Vendée Globe race committee aims to keep skippers north of concentrated movements of “growlers”; the fragmented, semi-submerged pieces of larger icebergs that have broken off and ultimately pose a greater risk to competing skippers than actual icebergs, seeing as they are harder to detect via radar and tend to blend in with breaking seas.

Expect Banque Pop and his pursuers to retain their temporary strong positions on the leader board before being pushed South and consolidating with Dick and Gabart near Gough Island. If this fast-moving Western High continues it’s path East, it looks like the whole fleet might get parked up near Gough Island, further enhancing this front-pack compression and making possible the “Gough restart”, just before a low from the South brings more breeze.

Good hunting for Le Cam

The ever-entertaining multi-time Figaro Champ and ’04-’05 Vendée runner-up Jean Le Cam on Synericel has shown impressive speed over the past 96 hours, finally reeling in Briton Mike Golding to gain control of sixth place and lead the second pack’s charge in bringing the fight to the leaders.This second pack of Le Cam on Synerciel, Golding on Gamesa and Dominique Wavre on Mirabaud look to be loosely following Dick and Gabart in their Westerly approach around the high. When asked about the possibility of being hunted down by the “English hunting” Le Cam, Mike Golding joked, “I won’t. I am a one-man war machine.” You’ve gotta love the tongue-in-cheek trash talking going on between these multi-time Vendée veterans!

Expect this second-pack to make gains on the frontrunners as they encounter smaller “holes” and maintain higher boat speeds in their approach to Gough Island and the Aigulles Gate, allowing the fleet to compress while adding even more excitement and intensity to this potential Gough Island restart!

Boissieres on the move

After a miserably slow crossing of the doldrums, Arnaud Boissieres on Akenda Verandas has had a ripping ride ever since. Consistently posting 24-hour runs either near or at the top of the fleet, “Cali” has been on a tear, moving up to just west of Spaniard Javier “Bubi” Sanso on Acciona 100% Ecopowered, who is still playing catch up in his new-generation Owen Clarke designed boat after his pit stop in the Canary Islands to ascend his rig. Tanguy de Lamotte continues to wow fans around the world with his jaw-dropping performance on his three-generation old Lombard designed Initiatives-couer, still holding onto tenth place on the leaderboard, although this will probably be short-lived as his Easterly course becomes less favored in the next 24 to 48 hours, as Acciona and Akena Verandas hook into northerlies and begin a sleigh ride that should take them towards Gough Island and the Roaring 40’s in rapid fashion. Bertrand de Broc on Votre nom Autour du Monde is finally re-gaining his step after joining Boissieres in an equally miserable crossing of the doldrums.

Alessandro di Benedetto happy at the back

I’m beginning to sound like a broken record with my love of all things Alessandro, but you absolutely have to admire what he is doing at the back of the pack. The “adventurer” of this Vendée fleet, di Benedetto became the last boat in the fleet to cross the equator, but judging by his demeanor, entertaining on-board videos and feathered sailing companions, I don’t think he minds being at the back of the pack! Sailing a 15-year old fixed-keel boat on a shoe-string budget with Team Plastique, Alessandro is doing a fantastic job in sticking to his plan of sailing a smart, conservative race. Not to mention, his French-Italian accent is hilarious!

Riou abandons

After hitting a floating metal “harbor buoy” that had presumably broken loose and was left to drift around the Atlantic, ’04-’05 Vendée Champ Vincent Riou onboard PRB has officially abandoned the Vendée Globe and is slowly limping into port in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. With a 1-meter long tear near the bow of his VPLP/ Verdier designed Open 60, there was significant delamination to the outer skin of the hull, with crushed-in honeycomb core. Riou, a composites expert, was able to fix the tear in the hull, but was unable to fix the real problem; a damaged outrigger shroud. Shockingly, as if some sort of bad joke, Vincent Riou has now abandoned two consecutive Vendée Globes after sustaining damage to an outrigger. In the ’08-’09 race, Riou turned around to rescue the capsized, keel bulb-less Jean Le Cam, damaging his outrigger on Le Cam’s keel fin in the process. A day later, Riou’s yacht dismasted and he was awarded a share of third place as re-dress. I’ll bet he goes with a classic rig next time!

Stay tuned for our next update in 3-4 days, this is turning into an epic race!

-Ronnie Simpson

November 28th, 2012

Article Separator

It’s almost impossible to comprehend; after nearly a decade of decline and a couple of years now with an overall fleet that’s around a third of its historic (2003) high-water mark, West Race Week – now rebadged Quantum Key West – is likely to have it’s first up year! And wonder of wonders, it ain’t because of TP52s or HPR or Melges 32s or any of the other high-dollar boats that KW spent so many years wooing.

Ironically, the smallest and arguably one of the most Corinthian boats of all is saving KWRW’s bacon (after the DeVos family and Quantum saved it from death last year); in fact an incredible thirty-seven J/70s are registered as of today for 2013 Quantum Key West. 

Other noteable classes forming up in bigger numbers than past years include the Swan 42 (7 entries) and the IRC52 (6 entries) and HPR class (8 entries), which are benefitting from a schedule that includes multiple Florida events this winter, including the US 52 SuperSeries stop that’s taking over where the Miami Grand Prix failed with a major March event in Florida’s showcase city.

All this good news, and more: Dengue Fever is gone (sort of), prices have dropped a bit for those visiting the crazy island at the end of the road, and fuel prices are almost reasonable for the first time in years.

But the J/70-fueled increase might mask some other things going on. It may not be America’s biggest and most important regatta anymore, but the timing and expense help clarify what’s going on in grand prix racing, if such a thing even exists anymore…

Note:  The Farr 40 has just four entries as of the end of November.
Note:  The Melges 24 is down to just 22 (though we expect a few more)
Note:  Just seven Melges 32s are registered.
Note:  Farr 30s don’t seem to be coming.
Note: J/80 and J/105 fleets are hanging on by a thread
Note:  No PHRF class has more than four boats
Note: IRC is down to 12 boats.  Outside the 52s, you have a 2-boat Mini-Maxi class and an IRC3 class that looks more like a clown car than grand prix racing.

All in all, Quantum Key West is finally starting to reflect the changing trends in racing that have been so obviously quantified in events around the country.  Most Americans want to sail smaller boats in more convenient locations, while the true Grand Prix boats are going for standalone events.

If we were going, we know what we’d sail:  A J/70 with Quantum sails.

November 28th, 2012

Article Separator

Contender sailor Ron van den Berg sailing off the beach in the the North sea at the Sailing Club Noordwijk in the Netherlands. Check the vid!

November 28th, 2012

Article Separator

There has been a lot of contention regarding Traffic Separation Scheme’s  (TSS) in offshore racing/record breaking recently. The most well known in  recent times being the Round Britain and Ireland record breaking attempt by  Marc Guillemot on ‘Safran’, for which he has a court appearance and likely  hefty fine, later this month. Now however, the penalties handed out to 7
skippers in the Vendee Globe 4 days ago by the race committee (and not by  Alex Thomson, but more on that later..) has taken centre stage.

I have been  asked to explain the whole thing for the running Artemis Offshore Academy  blog on the Vendee Globe, so here goes.

So first off, what is a TSS?

Traffic Separation Schemes – ‘TSS’ are in place around busy commercial  shipping areas to funnel commercial traffic (big ships) into specific lanes  at key points, rather than allowing them to take their most economic route.  Much like lanes on a road, they structure shipping routes, and are  designed to limit the amount of times ships meet and converge, therefore  reducing the amount of collisions. If you want to cross these lanes as a  leisure craft, you can. To do this you must cross at 90 degrees,  perpendicular to that of the ships, thereby crossing in the shortest
distance. As soon as you enter the TSS, you must also go all the way  across, no turning round halfway cause you don’t fancy your chances! And  that’s a ‘heading’ of 90 degrees by the way, not a COG (Course Over the  Ground) of 90. If you don’t do this, you are actually breaking the law.

So what happened during the Vendee? And why the 7 penalties?

Very simply, 7 boats entered the TSS just off Finnisterre, and didn’t  follow correct procedure across it. Some for just a matter of minutes  before realising and gybing away, Mike Golding and Jean Pierre Dick for  example, were as others crossed completely, but not at 90 degrees.

I understand that the sailing instructions/rules of the race, for the  Vendee Globe 2012/3 state that normal COLREG’s, (collision regulations/rules of the road if you like) are to be adhered to if you want  to cross a TSS. None of those 7 skippers did that, none sailed at 90  degrees and others turned around in it, therefore breaking not only the  rules of the race, but technically the law as well. As you can imagine it’s  important for race organisers to follow the rules of the road and the law  with their events.

So why all the controversy?

The feeling amongst some skippers was that those who stayed in the TSS  longer, or crossed it completely, gained a tactical advantage by doing so,  and therefore they asked the Race Committee to look into it. The Race  Committee then asked them to protest the boats believed to have infringed.  Sailing is the most prolific self policing sport I can think of, and  protesting is the only, just, fair and correct way for potential  infringements to be looked at in more detail, so fair enough, and protest  them they did. Why should there be a rule if some people are just going to
ignore it, and gain an advantage by doing so? The main areas of controversy are outlined below:

Lack of clarity of the rules

In the Figaro, all TSS zones as well as other stated navigational hazards,  a known ship restricted in its ability to manoeuvre for example, are stated  as ‘no-go zones’. It is a disqualification (DSQ) or a very hefty time  penalty if you infringe, depending on the race. In the Solitaire this year  for example, every TSS in the English Channel was a no-go zone, it was a
DSQ if you entered them in any way, shape or form. It is not an uncommon  notion to think of boats having to short tack up the side of a TSS zone,  treating it as an island, or un-navigatable (if that’s even a word) bit of  shallow water for example.

The Vendee Globe race rules stated that the normal rules for leisure craft,  COLREG’s, apply to all TSS zones. But how do you police whether someone was  ‘heading’ at 90 degrees through the shipping lane when all you can see is  their course over the ground? Better to just write the whole area off in my  opinion and not deal with the issue any longer.

Unfair penalty distribution

The way the penalties were handed out was also unfair. The committee  penalised boats that were in the TSS ‘for up to 3 hours’ with a 2 hour  penalty, so at worse case, 66.6% of their offence. Whereas Brit Mike  Golding was in the TSS for 10 minutes and got 30 minutes, 300%. And  Frenchman Jean Pierre Dick entered for 150 meters before realising and  gybing out and got 20 minutes?! The scaling seems unfair, but a blanket,  TSS ban in all racing and record attempts again would prevent this issue,  making it clearer for the skipper, easier for race committees, and not to  mention safer and fairer for everyone.

Penalty taken on your own terms

You can also do the penalty at your own discretion, when you see fit, even  if it does have to be completed by a certain longitude or latitude. Meaning  those who were sharp witted and did their ‘2 hour’ penalty whilst in the  doldrums, when not moving for 2 hours anyway, could potentially have less  of a ‘real life penalty’ to someone doing a 20 minute penalty whilst  surfing along at 20 knots.

This is a harder one to solve. Personally I think adding time at the end is  fairer, and therefore better. It is what is done in the Figaro and in my  opinion works very well. Being raced on accumulated time however, and over  a smaller timescale, the races have their differences. And it does bring up  the potential scenario where the first boat across the line may not be the  winner. And for a race like the Vendee, where its simplicity in message to  the general public is key to its success, one human, one boat, race around  the world, first one back wins… It is a dilemma.

Other issues

Another issue is that Alex Thomson, the skipper who raised the issue with  the committee, asking them to look into whether some boats had crossed the  TSS incorrectly, is now being heralded as the villain for his actions,  especially in France. This is because the race committee asked him to  protest the boats that he felt infringed, which he did. It’s a self  policing sport, and happens all the time, nothing wrong there. What it did  though was put the onus on him and not the committee. I don’t think this  should have ever been the case, this was something they could have looked  into and protested the boats for once it was brought to their attention  themselves. And if they didn’t agree with what he raised, it would have  been thrown out or simply given as a ‘non incident’. Again something that  happens all the time in our sport.

All this led to comments on the French version of the Vendee Globe website,  many quite insulting (to put it politely) towards Alex, his team, and ‘les  glouches’. A real shame as he is having a fantastic race so far.

Some claim it is a difference in how the French and British view the rules  on this. But 3 French, 1 Spanish, 1 Swiss, 1 Polish AND a Brit got  penalties? And at least 1 French skipper, Jean Pierre Dick, claimed to know  the rule and ‘tried his best’ to avoid it…

So, lessons learnt?

1) Make all TSS for offshore racing and record breaking attempts from this  day onwards, a no-go zone with a DSQ as a penalty for infringement.

Personally as a solo skipper, racing around coastal waters on the Figaro  circuit, it’s the only way to create clarity. What really is crossing at 90  degrees? And how can you prove you did that to the best of your ability  over someone else? And is that really racing? I don’t think so, let’s just  avoid them all together.

*If you do have a problem and enter the TSS by accident, you could ask for  redress, and follow normal COLREG’s during the incident. State to all ships  on CH16 you have a restricted ability to manoeuvre, you inform the  coastguard of why you are crossing incorrectly and ask them to put out a  notice to all ships to keep clear of you, giving your position and current  COG/SOG. While there may be an argument for difficulty in manoeuvring being  solo in big 60ft boats, you plan the TSS into your race strategy, simple -  you don’t (or shouldn’t!) hit land because it got in your way, you plan to  avoid it, you don’t go over a sand bank because it got in your way and you
don’t go in a TSS because it will get you DSQ…

2) Power to race committees to protest boats for such infringement, without  the need of input from skippers would also stop the situation with Alex.  It’s not cricket, do we really need to appeal for someone to be given out,  or deemed to have not played by the rules?

3) A solution for time penalties

Being able to do them at your own discretion in my eyes isn’t a fair way of  doing it. Anybody know the historic penalties that people have been given  in the Vendee Globe? Any suggestions?

Overall it is an interesting situation and I am sure many lessons will have been learnt from it. Issues like this are actually more prominent in the  Figaro than the Vendee due to close proximity of the racing in coastal  waters. Why not let’s use a set standard of rules across all races and  record attempts from here on in? I would be very interested to hear any  alternative opinions if anyone has them? And I apologies in advance for any  factually incorrect statements I may have made… – Henry Bomby

November 28th, 2012

ewol banner ad

melges banner 10 14

fisheries watch ad 9 18

sapphire 27

swing keel ad.jpg_sml

salty tag 2

Gunboat 60 sailing in Annapolis, MD.

uk ad 4 3

ropeye banner 3 25

rbs banner ad

ullman banner 7 24

anchor new ad

fisheries banner 9 4

http://www.camet.com/

hh banner purple

race q banner ad

FSS_SA

sound ad 4 23

BBY_SA

http://www.shaw650.com/

fireball banner ad

http://www.mauriprosailing.com/

seascape banner

pyi banner ad

http://www.lymanmorse.com

ner 2

farr 280 banner 9 4

karver ad 1 14

helly 10 9 side banner

http://www.dryuv.com

weta banner 2 9

c c 8 7 ad

velocitek banner 10 14

schwab tall banner ad

torqeedo small ad

http://www.crowleys.com/

c tech 9 22

fastsailing_sailing_anarchy

hh banner green

http://www.quantumsails.com/

tacking battle