Team Brunel skipper Bouwe Bekking brings the pain…
Even that the first couple of days out of Sanya in the Volvo Ocean Race were uncomfortable, it was again a relative light leg with a lot of of cloud action. After TeamBrunel’s move to North started paying of, we knew it was not going to be an easy lead to hang on, as we were sailing into lighter air. Is it frustrating that when you sail into lighter air and the other catch up? Of course it is, especially knowing that once across the equator the situation was not looking better for us.
The east was strong and during one sched, we got overtaken while we we stuck under a big thunderstorm. Then a unexpected the breeze build 10 knots more than forecasted and we shot back in the lead, pushing hard doing 130 miles in 6 hours. The issue was that we got more lifted breeze than the the boats behind and with a forecast of a hole to the west we decided to do a gybe towards the east. And that ‘s were we made a small but costly mistake.
The weather forecast changed in 12 hours completely and basically gybed too late back and every mile we sailed east was a loss, we went from 1st to 5th. If you would have had that crystal ball, we should have been sailing on, as afterwards the girls team, made a swift transition in the west. We got right back in the leaders and could the other boats during one night as we were all lined up with a separation of 8 miles measured east -west. Then the breeze filled in from the east, while we were stuck under a thunderstorm with no wind. Within 12 hours we were 70 miles behind the leading boats. That was it, form there on it was follow the leaders.
So what brings the next leg: hopefully some nice down wind sailing in some big breeze., where we have showed not be slow. For sure it will get very nippy and moist, also downstairs, where through condensation the interior changes into a rainforest, with continuous dripping water of the ceiling., with a 100% humidity . What is wet , stays wet. Unfortunately we are not allowed to install a diesel heater downstairs., to dry things out. Some of you might agree and say we are pussies, but when you haven’t been there, you don’t know how it is and what a miracle a bit of heat can do for the crew.
If you still think we are not tough enough try following: next time you step in your car in temperatures around 0 – 4 C( 32 – 38 fahrenheit) , while it is raining, having sleet or snow, LEAVE YOUR HEATER OFF, open your windows and drive around for couple of hours, or better even longer:-) I bet you change your mind us being pussies. For sure it will be the toughest leg until know.
March 1st, 2015
Being on a mark boat, pulling up and dropping marks, makes one appreciate the value of not wearing surf sandals for the job. Having successfully not crushed my toes, here is a short report of the 2015 High School PCISA Golden Bear Regatta held at the Treasure Island cove in the San Francisco Bay.
The Golden Bear regatta is one of two northern calif PCISA regattas of the five in a normal PCISA calendar. Which scores towards the years season rankings. (link) The Sea Otter regatta in Monterey at the beginning of the season, and the Golden Bear, once the Cardinal Regatta at the Sequoia YC, is the second. A final end of season championship for both Silver an Gold fleets is split alternating between Northern and Southern California.
Who comes to this regatta? There is a team cap, which is being reached more often, at 64 teams. This divides into A/B teams so 120 or roughly 300+ sailors plus coaches and parents. They come from as far away as San Diego/Newport Harbor and Northern California.
These regional regattas are supplied with a standard set of sails only used for these events while the boats are brought by teams and there is a boat rotation system. Treasure Island is man made for a former World Exposition then converted to a military base. It lies at the apex of two SF bays coming together. The protected cove has the imposing backdrop of the former and current bay bridges, towering Eucalyptus trees and the San francisco skyline.
In general, the course is surrounded by big buildings, and hills shifty wind - normally from the west but in winter time, anything can happen. There is limited space to make a course, so, as seen on Sunday, the wind direction was perpendicular to the length of the cove putting the start line in shallow waters leaving boats to dodge shallow water markers. Moving the course out of the cove and into the full strength of sometimes 3+ knots of current and boating traffic is out of the question. Saturday early morning NorthEast wind bode no good when the prevailing breeze is Westerly. The wind slowly disappeared until about 10:30 when within seconds the Easterly did a 180 degree shift to the West and with a good 10knts.
The racing took off with the organizers focusing on getting through rotations and races off while the breeze held up. So intent on maximizing sailing time, races continued up to 5:30 and in the end, boats were onshore and put away well after sunset. Not Boston, but still a stiff winter wind. Relatively flatwater from prevailing westerly breeze turned into a bumpy ride on Sunday. when the 10+ breeze from the NE allowed for a good fetch
Not only did the NE wind start the day but it stayed and did not let up which was predicted. The difficulty was setting the course so as not to have the huge 45 degree shifts accentuated by the long 3 story hangars at the top of the course. This also meant setting the start line in shallow water and not getting the course into the main channel. There were a couple full course moves but the racing continued for what has to have been the biggest wind in years for this regatta. The fetch coming from the East made dockside operations bumpy and even sent the dockmaster to ratchet down dock connection threatening to break loose.
Teams made their camps with excellent viewing which is a nice bonus for all. There was an “Annual Meeting” to reelect the board of directors for the PCISA, layout plan for transition from President Mike Segerbloom stepping down after 9 years of building up the organization. Tim Hogan, a key organizer for years, along with Mike Segerlbloom, and others, said a few words and met to answer questions.
Overall, this was one of the best Golden Bear Regattas ever thanks to all of the dedication of those involved (parents included). Finally some advice for sailors: Go out on a mark boat, committee boat, or support boat. You will get huge advantage from understanding of the mechanics of setting a course. – Lyn Hines. Pics here.
March 1st, 2015
It’s a 3-way battle with just a mile of separation as Xabi Fernandez’s MAPFRE holds a slim lead over Azzam and the Dong in the last couple of hours before the Volvo frontrunners hit Auckland. Genny and the live feed start now! (or very soon, anyway). Click the player and compare photos, performance stats and trivia in the thread.
February 27th, 2015
Ya gotta dig this cool shot of Johnny Goldsberry taken by our friends at Waterlust. We will have the full story, via their awesome video work, soon…
February 27th, 2015
We covered this story last week, and below Webb Chiles offers his take…
My initial subject line for this entry was ‘some fools deserve to die.’ Perhaps I’m mellowing in my old age. I changed because I realize they don’t deserve to die—if they can save themselves. What they don’t deserve is to be saved by anyone else. You may have read reports as I did of a father and son rescued last weekend from a sailboat 150 miles off Nantucket Island in a blizzard. If you did you surely thought as I did: What the hell were they doing out there?
I googled and learned. A pretty good report can be found here, even though the journalist uses the hackneyed ‘once in a lifetime adventure’. Another of the infinite misuses of the word. In this instance ‘adventure’ should have been replaced by inanity. And I suspect this was not a ‘once in a lifetime’ occurrence with these people. I deliberately don’t call them ‘sailors’.
I don’t like those ashore who second guess and criticize those at sea. They have often done so with me. Wrongly as I have proven. But the blunders here beggar belief; and on first thought I disagreed with the younger man’s assertion that “If anyone sat down and worked things out they’d understand why we left.” Actually I do understand: they were too stupid and inexperienced to know what they were getting themselves into. This was a failure, multiple failures, of intelligence and imagination.
I don’t care that they left Newport in February on an ill-prepared and perhaps structurally defective boat with a blizzard forecast. I do care that they called for help and were rescued at considerable risk to the rescuers.
If you do something so foolish, I believe the Coast Guard should have the authority to require you to sign a waiver before departure that any distress calls will be ignored. Even better, you shouldn’t be allowed to have a radio transmitter or EPIRB on board.
If these people had not known that if they got in trouble they could call for help, I doubt they would have sailed. On the other hand, they might have. In which case they would have already gotten what they deserved.
February 27th, 2015
We were a little cagey about the news we posted last week that the 103-foot Banque Populaire VIII (ex-Groupama 3) had been sold to Francis Joyon for some solo action; that’s because longtime SA contributor and project manager Ryan Breymaier asked us to keep our big mouths shut for a few days at least. Unfortunately, someone else opened their trap the other day, and today Ryan gave us the go-ahead to confirm what we were so stoked about.
So get ready, America, because one of the world’s iconic maxi-trimarans – the first ever to round the world in under 50 days – is coming to the USA to destroy all of our records, or at least a handful of them. This ain’t the Lo’Real, or the Tritium, or some other decades-old multihull suitable to the backwards-ass heavy-monohull-loving USA; this is the big green monster (now blue, soon to be a different shade of blue) that Stan and Franck used to obliterate the notions of just how fast a boat could go when crossing oceans. G3 paved the way for the Ultim’ concept, but she also got the world ready for the 40+ knot boats that we’re starting to see everywhere, and it’s just awesome to see her headed to US waters.
And it’s even better to see her with a US owner, run by a US sailor, aiming at US events. Join that up with Jason Carroll’s GC-32, Lloyd Thornburg’s MOD70, a pile of M32 beach cats, and yet another 40-knot multi that we’ve learned is coming to the US this spring, and we can now say with some certainty that the multihull thing has finally broken through those last barriers on this side of the pond. Will the old establishment guys ever come around? Probably not; they seem to prefer 30 knots to 40, and 25 crew to 8, but for the rest of American top-end sailors, there is a new aspirational goal: The top boats just don’t carry lead.
We’ll have photos of the new Lending Club livery on the chartered 103-footer next week along with a few words from our old pal Ryan.
Be afraid…be very afraid!
February 27th, 2015
Former helmsman Dean Barker has vowed today that he will seek revenge on his former teammates, and single-handedly construct a “giant death yacht” with which he will defeat Team New Zealand and “take over the world.”
Barker, who was this week publicly dumped from New Zealand’s competitive moneyboat team, said that, prior to his axing, he had warned Team New Zealand manager Grant Dalton that, “if he were to strike me off now, I would become far more powerful than he could possibly imagine.”
Barker is now promising to follow through on that threat, by competing in the next America’s Cup entirely by himself, in a yacht designed to “shatter the souls of men.”
“Would you say, you’re… bitter?” a thoughtful John Campbell asked Barker in an exclusive interview last night on Campbell Live.
“Oh yes,” replied Barker, softly. “Very.”
“I’m mad,” he added, “but uh, I don’t need to tell them that.”
He shook his head. “They know what’s coming.”
Barker told Campbell that, while plans were not yet finalised, he believed his yacht would be a state-of-the-art, “unprecedently deadly” boat.
February 27th, 2015
The PR folks at Crowley’s Vessel Management department dropped a beautiful if somber photo bomb on the web last night, along with a short report of their assistance to Rainmaker last month. Meanwhile, we’re still finishing up the crew’s own ‘lessons learned’ from the incident, which you’ll see here soon. More from Crowley (and there’s a closer shot of Rainmaker in Crescent’s lee here).
First on scene, Ocean Crescent approached Rainmaker, pulled alongside and shielded the 55-foot sailboat from seas reaching six meters. The crew also relayed communications from the inbound USCG helicopter and search plane to the sailboat’s uninjured occupants, both of which arrived on scene about an hour after the Ocean Crescent. Once each of the sailboat’s occupants was loaded onto the helicopter, USCG dismissed Ocean Crescent from the scene, thanking the Crowley mariners for their assistance.
February 27th, 2015
Oracle just launched their test bed AC45 last week, and in just 5 days their maneuvers and boatspeed already look to have far surpassed the very similar Artemis 45 foiler. They also look a hell of a lot smoother, more stable, and faster than what we’ve seen from the Luna Rossa testers months after their launch in Sardinia. Meanwhile, Franck Cammas is playing with his C-Cat, and there’s a whole lot of silence in the AC45 action from Sir Ben and ETNZ (at least on sailing issues) while Slingsby notches nearly 46 knots of boatspeed on San Fran Bay. We sort of hate to say it, but it looks like Oracle are on their way to a 3-peat dynasty in Bermuda, assuming they don’t turn any AC boats into matchsticks again a few months before the AC.
Kudos to San Fran videographer John Navas for the first 4K Ultra HD video we’ve ever posted here; we hope the 68 people in the world with 4K televisions love it! More chat about the Bay in the thread.
February 26th, 2015
We’ve expected Barker to get eased off the helm of ETNZ for quite some time now, and the only nasty or surprising part of the affair was the shitty way he found out. Kiwi’s biggest radio station RadioTalkZB gave our Senior Editor a call to discuss the controversy over Barker’s axing this morning; listen to the six minutes with host Rachel Smalley by clicking the player above.
- Tags: America's Cup, dean barker, Emirates Team New Zealand, Grant Dalton, Mr. Clean, new zealand, newstalk zb, peter burling
February 26th, 2015
The silicon solar cell was discovered back in 1953, but it’s taken more than half a century of innovation to finally get yacht-based solar cells where they belong – on the sails. Developers tested the durability and effectiveness of the system on this Open 50, and now the new PowerSails system is coming as an OEM option on the Arcona 380Z Zero Emission Yacht. This is the kind of innovation that can really push sailing into the green atmosphere, and it’s been a long time coming. Kudos to UK; here’s the presser.
Arcona Yachts of Sweden, Oceanvolt Electric Engines of Finland, and UK Sailmakers have teamed up to create the first zero emissions cruising sailboat: the Arcona 380Z, where the “Z” stands for zero emissions. Their combined efforts won Best-In-Show at the 2015 Helsinki Boat Show. The primary source of electrical power generator will be seven square meters of photovoltaic film attached to each side of the Tape-Drive mainsail built by UK Sailmakers Sweden and outfitted with the solar panels and components by UK France. The PowerSails® solar cells developed by Alain Janet, owner of UK Sailmakers France, will generate an average of 1,000 watts (1KW) per hour. According to Janet, “Modern thin-film photovoltaic cells do not need direct sunlight to generate electricity. In fact, the panels on the sail opposite the sun will generate 30-40 percent of their maximum output with the indirect and reflected light.”
February 26th, 2015
For the first time ever, our own staff asked the question of the week, largely based on a consistent theme in all of the VOR threads in Ocean Racing Anarchy about the combined effects of AIS and the 6-hour position updates on the Volvo fleet and the racing experience. Mr. Clean posed the question during a live interview with Bouwe Bekking last week, and then forwarded the same question to all the teams. Sam Greenfield posted the Dongfeng response yesterday, and Sam Davies weighed in on audio, which you’ll find below Sam’s letter.
After I read your question, I went and asked Erwan Israel, our navigator, word for word what he thought.
The question was, “the current system (6 hour fleet updates, AIS inside 10 NM or so) has skewed the racing to a ‘stay with the pack at all costs’ mentality, meaning fliers are more rare and morale far more tied to the ability to see blips on a screen. What do you think about this unintended consequence of the AIS system in this race and –in simpler terms- do you want it or not?”
Don’t let this go to your head, but Erwan’s initial response was, “Wow. That’s a very good question!”
I took full credit and he’s been much easier to interrogate at the NAV desk ever since.
But it does bring up a good point, because instant access to the boat speed, distance and heading of every boat in eyesight has made each and every one of us screen addicts.
It’s also highlighted different navigation styles.
If a boat is within the AIS range Pascal makes sure that he or one of the crew is sitting at the desk with the microphone in hand, relaying bearing and speed to the trimmers and driver on deck.
Every. Five. Seconds – Like an old French sub hunter.
I wrote about it in my ‘Hunt for Red October’ blog during leg 3.
Erwan opts for a less maniacal approach, preferring to plot distance and bearing every few minutes onto an excel sheet so that he can see who’s gaining and losing. He doesn’t announce to the guys on deck, preferring to walk up and say it in person.
Everyone, myself included, agrees that having the AIS for safety –to alert for oncoming ships and fishing boats- is indispensable, but the crew were split when it came to the debate over performance.
Kevin Escoffier says, “I like it for safety only. Otherwise it’s like a smartphone. Once you get it you can’t put it down.”
Thomas Rouxel says bluntly, “No, I don’t like it. You don’t make your own strategy.”
Martin Stromberg had two answers:
First, ever the Swede, he says, “It’s not good or bad, it’s just a different version of the game.”
But when he overheard me asking Eric Peron just before sitting down to write this blog he admitted with a grin, “It makes it boring.”
For the sailors, yes, but from my point of view the last 48 hours have been anything but, as outlined in Charles’ French blog today:
“We’ve just gone through the worst night yet of this Volvo. On the menu we had no wind, big swell, stopping waves right on the nose and adverse current! At the end of the night enormous thunderstorm clouds with wind coming from all over the place. We came out of this night behind our two chasing competitors. Unfortunately the final cloud was fatal for us. But Abu Dhabi is just in front of us now, and we have 4 days to overtake. Once again, we are back in a drag and speed race.”
Which translates to; either Charles or Erwan or one of the sailors is glued to the screen at any given moment of the day watching Azzam’s speed.
Mapfre is out of range.
Eric Peron says, “I like it and I don’t like it. It takes away certain tactical options, and it opens others.”
Erwan Israel was more blunt: “I wish we didn’t have it – it forces the pack into a group mentality.
I know Erwan is thinking about our decision to sail to the North Philippines. His gut told him to sail north to Taiwan, like he and Charles did last race on Groupama, but the two chose to stick and cover Ian Walker’s team.
Horace told me “yes, we need it,” and Wolf said, “For safety, of course. I think it’s good for performance, unless you’re in first place and the guys behind you can see exactly how fast you’re going.”
Which leaves our skipper, Charles, who may need a reading prescription at the end of this Volvo.
“Bah. Well…” He hesitates. “I like it. It’s good. It’s interesting. You get to compare the speed and see where the other guys are.”
He’s glued to the screen as he says all this to me.
“But it’s a bit addictive, if you see what I mean.”
So, Clean, that’s the breakdown from Dongfeng Race Team. We’re almost approaching 1,000 NM to Auckland and Azzam is just off our bow. Keep glued at your screen, and we’ll do the same.
And here’s Samantha Davies on the subject.
February 25th, 2015
When we left Rainmaker skipper Chris Bailet, the Gunboat 55 was being run over by a freight train of wind, and Chris had just made it to the cockpit.
CB: The boat lurches and I hit the plinth station just as we all hear a crack, followed by a louder crack. The mast hits the deck at the midship cleat, throwing the butt end of the mast off the step and into the air, though it is still held down by running rigging, wiring and hydraulics leading through the organizer. The port forward window smashes under the mast’s impact on the deck. I see the boom on the cabin house along the port side.
SA: How long until you were in action?
CB: Immediately, I yelled, “rig down, all hands! Grab the rig kit!!” I see Max and Brian ready to come through the port side companionway, and I tell them to make sure their lifejackets and shoes are on and watch for broken glass.
SA: Who’s on the helm at the time?
CB: The pilot was driving on apparent wind when the rig came down, Jon told me it was maybe 5-7 seconds between when the gust hit to when the rig was on the deck. I took the helm from Jon, who’d grabbed the helm and cut out the pilot when the gust hit. Meanwhile, Jon and George opened the aft daybed up to grab the rig ditch kit. Jon grabs a hacksaw to begin cutting the shrouds. The boat still has forward momentum and the swell is causing the rig to move around the deck, and the boom on the pilothouse, so I steer the boat around the mast in the water to try to get the boat pointed dead downwind. The wind has backed down to 40 kts and visibility returned.
SA: What did George and Jon tell you about the moments before the squall hit?
CB: visibility was about 5nm, overcast but there weren’t any dark clouds. Radar was on, XM weather was on, nothing notable in range. George was talking about how well the boat was handling actually.
SA: Talk us through the process of getting the rig off.
CB: We tried to be as calm as we could, but it was all a bit chaotic; I grab my ceramic knife, open the forward sliding windows, and begin cutting all the running rigging and hydraulic hoses. I get hydraulic fluid in my eyes, and George steps in to finish cutting the hoses. I grab a set of wire cutters from the ditch kit and cut all the wiring connecting the mast. Using the ceramic blade, I cut all the halyards where they connect to the deck. George is at the headstay with a hammer, banging the pin out to release the stay from the furler. Jon has just freed the last shroud, and I begin cutting the mainsheet. As soon as the main sheet is cut, the rig is fully disconnected.
SA: And how long do you think all that took?
CB: Somewhere between 5 and 15 minutes.
SA: So everything is free, but all that heavy shit is still laying on the boat. Now what?
CB: We attempt to push the boom off the coachroof, but we can’t move it. There is hydraulic fluid and glass on the deck. We decide the only way to get the rig away from the boat is to drive out from under it. The butt end was cleared, and close to punching the hull with each wave. The starboard engine wouldn’t start, port engine started, and I put it into gear and drove forward, as George guides the boom off the cabin top. We motor away from the rig about two boat lengths, noticing that the storm jib is trailing behind us. I put the engine in neutral and shut it down. Then ask Jon to get comms going with the satphone and handheld, and issue a Mayday.
SA: Okay – damage assessment?
CB: The boom and rig impacted and compressed the pilothouse port mullion above the companionway. This bent the port companionway sliding hatch frame so we can’t shut it all of the way. The port forward window is gone. We were getting rainwater and salt spray in the salon. The electronics and navigation at the helm and radio box are out. The aft enclosure tracks have blown out. Without being underway, we are getting some wave tops into the salon. The port companionway hatch could be an issue if seas get bigger. George checks the port hull bilges for water. There is none. The longeron appears stable. It is lower without the rig but the side and whiskers are supporting it. The electrical tech space with the genset’s charger/inverters has gotten some water through the cleared away mast electrical conduit. Starboard engine still isn’t rolling over. Comms are limited to the Sat phone which is working on its battery. The satphone charger is mounted at the navstation. It’s wet and doesn’t appear to be charging. Port prop is fouled by the storm jib sheets and the seas are too big to get in the water and free them. George, Jon and I have a load of cuts on our hands and knees from the glass, but no major injuries.
SA: How long til Jon made good contact?
CB: Maybe 10 minutes. He had a full emergency contact sheet. Then he initiates the boat’s EPIRB, as well as his personal EPIRB (going to his folks in NYC, who contact GB). Max and Brian are sitting in the settee, quiet and in a bit shock. George is at the helm, trying to get STBD engine going. I go to the port aft scoop and begin fishing the two lines that are stuck around the prop and connected to the storm jib with the boat hook. I pick up the solent halyard and sheet and pull the storm jib up into the salon and begin to cut the sheets as close to the water line as I can. Once it’s clear, I look over at Jon who’s beginning to create a muster station at the helm chair with the liferaft, first aid kit, and both ditch bags. Jon says the Coast Guard is constructing a plan, and that he will make contact with them again in thirty minutes.
SA: Did you know you were going to abandon already?
CB: We weren’t sure at that point, we were still in damage control and assessment stage. I told the crew to get their foulies on and make sure that their lifejackets are ready. George stays at the helm, while Jon and I put on dry clothes and foulies. We compile all other safety equipment at the settee table which was pretty sheltered.
SA: So you’re ready to abandon if you need to – any thoughts of self-rescue at this point?
CB: Of course – no one wants to abandon their boat. I try again to fire up the starboard engine. It finally catches, and I slowly start to bring the boat around so that the swell is on the beam. Heading around 110 degrees, TWS 30kts+ at 220TWD, seas around 15, and we’re making about 4kts.
SA: And meanwhile, the CG isn’t wasting time.
CB: Jon has another transmission with them on schedule, and they tell him that two cargo ships have been diverted for support, and they’d dispatched a helo and C130. The CG was crunching numbers to see if the helicopter could make it to the scene, stay on station long enough and safely back, as we were approaching the end of their range for a helo evac. Shortly after the call, we see a tanker on the horizon. I make contact with the Ocean Crescent over the handheld. They tell us they have no visual, so Jon shoots off three flares, and they confirm our location
SA: Right – the moment of truth. What’s your decision making process when there is a rescuer on site?
CB: I went back to our damage assessment. The port companionway hatch is a concern without being able to close it. If we have to motor into a seaway, the longeron could be an issue and may need to be cutaway, but would be a huge risk trying to get that thing free. Port engine is out with the lines on the prop, and starboard is still having issues. The aft enclosure tracks are blown out. The cockpit and deck have broken glass and hydraulic fluid, the nav station electronics we’re all soaked. Two of the crew were potentially in shock. And the forecast weather coming in was looking pretty horrible.
SA: Some of that could have been sorted out though, right?
CB: Of course, but not easily and not quickly, and if there was one factor that made my decision for me, it was the forecast, combined with our location. A nasty trough was moving in fast with the certainty of continually deteriorating conditions, potential for hurricane-force winds, and huge seas for the next 3 days if we couldn’t motor out of the area. We all discussed it, we all agreed, and radioed the Ocean Crescent.
SA: Was it a relief once you made the decision?
CB: ABSOLUTELY NOT. That fucking sucked. Now we had to get everyone safely onto a ship!
SA: Time for some sketchy action?
CB: Oh yeah. The Ocean Crescent told us to hold course and they would come around our port side, around our transom, and to windward, along the starboard hull. As they were in final approached, they radioed that they would be crossing in front of our bow, then stopping to windward of us. At this time we were going approximately 2-4kts down the waves, no engines (STBD kept cutting out) with our starboard quarter to the wind. The Ocean Crescent made this call while they were within approximately 900ft (3 of their boat lengths) of our bow, approaching at about 10 knots. As they got close, they made an emergency turn to port to try to avoid collision. As soon as it became obvious they were going to hit us, I try a handful of times to get starboard engine on, finally it caught and I threw it into reverse. The starboard side started to turn, exposing our port bow and longeron to the ship, and they collided with our port bow forward of their midships. It was a big blow, and we heard the crunching of the carbon (really getting sick of that sound now), though we didn’t know how much damage we’d sustained as we rolled off their bow wake and slid down their starboard side. But OC was still turning to port, and as we neared their transom, the tanker went bow down on a wave, completely exposing their massive spinning propeller. It missed our port hull by a few feet.
SA: Holy crap!
CB: Yeah, right? Slightly terrifying. Anyway, they radioed back. “Let’s try that again, Captain.” I told them we’d prefer to see if we could get into their lee on our own engine, and slowly bring our starboard side into their port side. They agreed, and we slowly reversed toward them, but were blown away. We made a second attempt after asking them to lower their boarding nets further down the topsides of their boat, and we slowly crept to them, leading with our starboard stern.
SA: Same sea state?
CB: Choppy seas still, maybe 15 feet, with winds still to around 40.
SA: OK. So the second time’s the charm?
CB: Not really! We were able to catch two heaving lines from their crew with Rainmaker standing off about 100 feet from them. It gave us a chance to look at the boats’ relative motions, look at the cargo net, and evaluate the potential transfer. We all agreed that jumping from the cat to the ship would create some real potential for death or serious injury, and we dropped the heaving lines, motoring a couple more lengths to leeward to keep clear of the Crescent.
SA: Scary shit. So then what?
CB: Yeah, not something you can train for. But it looked seriously bad. Anyway, Jon called the CG again and let them know what happened – they responded that the C130 and helo were 20 minutes out, and that the helo would have very little time on station, 18 minutes max. We discussed the options, and agreed unanimously that an air rescue was the best option. Jon radioed back to the Ocean Crescent that we planned a helo evac, and asked them to stay to for support.
Check back tomorrow for the final piece of the Rainmaker saga, including the air rescue, salvage attempts, and lessons learned.
February 25th, 2015
To no one’s surprise, Lloyd Thornburg’s Phaedo^3 absolutely obliterated the Caribbean 600 race record with a 33h35m30s elapsed time, beating the previous time set by an ORMA 60 by 6 and a half hours – some 15 percent. Brian Thompson, Michel Desjoyeaux, and Lloyd did all the driving, and when we spoke to him a few minutes ago, he said he owed “a huge debt of gratitude to Michel for his amazing help – without him, we’d never have been able to turn this project around so quickly.” Thornburg only purchased the MOD-70 in January, and is seriously excited to bring his new weapon to the Heineken before taking it North for the NY-UK Transatlantic Race and the Fastnet.
The rest of the fleet is struggling through light air, and turbo Volvo 70 Maserati never got away from Bella Mente before losing their canting mechanism and withdrawing; track the fleet here, and check the thread for pics and video.
Team Phaedo/Ocean Images photo.
February 24th, 2015
The Choate 48′ Good Times, was an under water playground during a one week salvage biding war. She’s now resting safe and sound in Oahu pending future play dates. Anarchist Lolo.
February 24th, 2015
As the first of the widely anticipated Irens-designed Gunboat 55’s, Rainmaker was always going to get a lot of attention, and owner Brian Cohen spent much of last season cruising and racing (and getting Forbes magazine press) around the New York area under the watchful eye of a guy we’ve sailed with ourselves and consider one of the best; Yachtmaster and USCG-licensed Captain Chris Bailet. At the end of the season, Rainmaker headed back to the Gunboat factory in Wanchese for winter upgrades and warranty work, and when that was done, the waiting began for a good trip to the Caribbean.
When the weather window came in on January 29th, they set off, and the next day, Rainmaker dismasted 200 miles off the Carolina coast, her crew rescued by a USCG helicopter. We spoke to Bailet for the details.
SA: Before we even talk about the boat, let’s talk about the weather. Tell us about your decision making leading up to the trip.
CB: We’d been monitoring weather along with Commanders for some time, and the forecast when we left it looked like high pressure across the stream into a downwind sleigh ride. We expected up to 40 knots in squalls when the front came through, but all from behind us.
SA: So what was your routing, precisely?
CB: The plan was to cross the stream with a SW’ly while the high pressure held, then turn to the South as the wind went NW’ly and ride it quickly down to the islands.
SA: Were you sticking with it?
CB: We spoke to them on the morning after we left around 1000 – we were 5 nm North of rhumb to their Waypoint 1 for our route.
SA: And is 40+ knots in the North Atlantic in winter really Gunboat weather in your opinion?
CB: I’ve sailed about 30,000 NM on Gunboats in winds up to 65knots, and always come through. We were extremely careful in our preparations and felt ready for anything, and I wouldn’t hesitate to take a Gunboat into that forecast again.
SA: Okay, so let’s talk about the crew. We understand that Brian Cohen had little offshore experience, and he brought his 24-year old son Max, who had less. Was this really the trip for them?
CB: Brian had done the maiden delivery on the boat from, NC-NY and then sailed the hell out of the boat – we went out pretty much every day last summer. Max spent loads of time on the boat – he was comfortable too – though this was his first offshore experience. But a sleigh ride on a Gunboat with three pros wasn’t something treacherous or frightening – it was a great chance at a cool voyage.
SA: Who were the rest of the crew and what is their experience level like?
CB: George Cahusac and Jon Ollweather, who are probably the two offshore sailors I would most trust with my life or my boat. Both are impeccable seamen. Both hold multiple licenses.
SA: Ok, so we’ve done crew and weather. Let’s talk about the boat. Were there any majors done during the NC visit?
CB: Not really – a few small issues and the addition of a rollerfurling Solent and J1, a new spinnaker, some electronic upgrades and a prop change.
SA: And did you have time to check everything before you left?
CB: Yep – we spent a week pushing the boat pretty hard inshore and testing the new sails, electronics, and engine/generator systems.
SA: So everything’s good but the boat is taking her first major offshore trip in some shit. What’s on the safety checklist?
CB: Jon and I made about a hundred runs to prepare the ditch bags, life raft, MREs. Specifically, we made a rig ditch kit with a battery operated grinder with spare grinding wheels for carbon, a hacksaw with spare blades, a handful of ceramic knives, a few Leathermens, some underwater epoxy, and a set of wire cutters.
SA: Pretty comprehensive. What about the life raft and other safety gear?
CB:We organized all the safety gear under the aft day bed, assuming this would be the easiest accessed place if the boat were to turn over or an emergency. Under the day bed was the life raft, a drybag full of MRE’s to last 5 people 4 days, complete offshore medical kit, our primary ditch bag (full of hand held flares, aerial flares, glow sticks, first aid, water bottles, heat blankets, mirrors, smoke, water dye, solar panel 12v charger, sat phone charger, hand held VHF and a hand held gps), and our rig ditch kit.
SA:So you set off in light air on the 29th. Tell us about that day.
CB: After checking all systems, seatrial list completed and the boat loaded up, RAINMAKER departed the dock around 0130. I split watches 2 hours on, 4 off with the experienced sailors teaming with Max and Brian. Jon and Brian took the first watch until 0000, then George and Max until 0400, and I until 0600, planning for me to be the one on watch when we arrived Hatteras at sunrise. We expected to motor the entire way down, about 45nm. Before entering Pimlico sound, I conducted a safety meeting with all crew in the salon. Covering where all fire extinguishers were, safety gear location, medical, and duties in case of emergency, along with our planned route and weather conditions.
SA: So then what?
CB: Everything was chill, wind variable for a while, then coming in gradually from the SW and building through the night. We took our first reef before nightfall and had a great sail all night long under 1st reef and solent in 15-20 TWS, running down waves to 18-20 knots of boatspeed, heading around 100-120 to keep the wind on our starboard hip. The boat felt great and balanced. Brian had brought a bunch of serious fishing gear aboard, and we’d nailed a monster yellowfin tuna in the stream – I mention that because we were all feeling quite lucky to be cruising so calmly at 18-20 knots that night while eating fish tacos that had been swimming a few hour earlier.
SA:When did it start to get ugly?
CB:In the morning, we knew the shit was coming, and we tucked in the third reef and set the little storm jib. We were felling a little underpowered sailing 7-10 knots, the wind built to an average of maybe 27-35 by noon, with waves to 14 feet.
CB: Not really. We felt very controlled, checked the rig for any pumping action and then going through a rig check after the reef was tucked. All seemed cool, the mainsail clew locks were set in to help keep the belly contained and we let the autopilot sail 100-110 AWA.
SA: You were woken up by the dismasting. What’s the last thing you remember before you went to sleep?
CB: At noon on the 30th, Jon is on watch after a 20 minute handover. TWS is between 25-40 kts, seas are between 12-15 ft. TWD of 220. Heading is 100, autopilot is steering to an apparent wind angle of 110. The boat was feeling stable, waves were starting to slap the wingdeck and the leeward hull. George stayed topside with Jon, so I could head down to catch some sleep.
SA: So you wake up to all hell breaking loose.
CB: At 1350, I wake up to a gust hitting the side of the hull like nothing I’ve ever heard, and I spring out of my bunk. I see nothing out the starboard porthole except for white. I run topside and see Jon at the wheel, eyes wide. By the time, I’m topside it’s a complete white out around the boat. We couldn’t make out the orange storm sail 10ft in front of us. It sounds like we’re being run over by a freight train.
Check back soon for Part 2 of the Loss of the Rainmaker to find out about the attempted rescue, the actual rescue, the salvage attempts, and to watch video of the conditions just prior to the dismasting. Big thanks to Bailet, Commanders, Gunboat, and Brian and Max Cohen for bringing us the story.
February 23rd, 2015
Next time you prepare a regatta budget, just remember this one…and thank your lucky stars you aren’t on the hook. According to the Bermuda government, the 77 million dollar cost of hosting the regatta can be broken down into two categories: The $37M bill is all Bermuda’s, while the second depends on ‘private sponsors’ and totals another 40 million.
- Investment in Bermuda infrastructure and services over the next three years, which is estimated at $37 million, and
Sponsorship of the event over three years as part of Bermuda’s bid package, which includes $15 million in direct sponsorship and a $25 million sponsorship guarantee. For clarity, this sponsorship guarantee is not money spent by the government, but rather an underwriting of private sponsors. That underwriting will be reduced as additional commercial sponsorships facilitated by Bermuda come on line and by a proportion of admissions revenues earned up until August 2017
Finance Minister Bob Richards stressed that the claim that the America’s Cup will cost the Bermuda government $77 million is false. That statement assumes that the America’s Cup in Bermuda will be an abysmal failure with no sponsors.
February 23rd, 2015
Paradox and Phaedo^3 are currently oblitering the existing Caribbean 600 race record while both Rambler 88 and Bella Mente are ahead of the monohull record; it’ll be over almost before it started so track ‘em all here and have a look at the people involved in the video above. Ask or talk about this race over here.
UPDATE: Phaedo Start video here.
February 23rd, 2015
Another 505 Midwinters is done. No breeze and no racing today. After a couple of postponements it was three horns and abandon, and the derigging and packing started. Those driving are some distance up the road by now, others are on planes or waiting for flights at the airport, and more are flying out tomorrow morning. While the event was originally going to be off the beach at Pass a Grille, it was very breezy Wednesday and Thursday, with more breeze in the forecast, so the event was moved to SPSC for ramp launching with docks rather than beach launching in surf. Three 505s from SSA were in a trailer being towed down, but the tow vehicle broke down near the Virginia-North Carolina border. Two of those teams were forced out, but Lauren Schoene and I were able to borrow Zack Marks’ boat for the event, leaving 14 teams in a stacked fleet. This was a very competitive event with all the top teams deep at times.
The fleet included: two world champion skippers (including current world champion), the current world champion crew, several teams with North American Championships (Ethan has won the NAs once a decade for the last four decades), several more with East Coast Championships and Midwinter Championships. Without checking championship results going back 20-30 years we are guessing that over half the fleet were 505 champions from one event or another. Then there was a multiple-time Flying Dutchman North American Champion, Lin Robson; Augie Diaz who wins in Snipes, Stars, and 505s at least and has been a Rolex sailor of the year.
Lauren and I were not getting off the line in the gate starts with the top teams and were very slightly off the pace, but that was enough in a fleet were the top guys were all very fast, and very high. At the back of the fleet it was a little softer, but in most races some of the top teams were back there. Eight races were started Friday and Saturday, but race 5 was thrown out, and race 8 was abandoned when the wind died, leaving six races for the event.
When the dust had settled Mark Zagol/Drew Buttner won by a single point over Ethan Bixby/Chris Brady. Augie Diaz/Rob Woelfel (current world champion crew) were third. Macy Nelson/Reeve Dunne “won” day 2, pulling them up to 4rd overall. Tyler Moore/Patrick O’Brien were 5th. Current world champion Mike Holt (sailing a borrowed boat with his long time crew – but not this year – Carl Smit, was 6th.
Lauren and I were DNS in one of the six races, as we were working on the boat and launched late, getting to the port limit mark just as the gate time limit expired. We passed one boat but were still DNS for missing the gate. And our best finish was 8th or so in race 6, which was thrown out.
Conditions were mostly light with a bit of medium. Crews were on the wire at times, but were eating their knees much of the time. Runs were mostly sit running, but there was some wire running and some reaching when wind shifts skewed the rhumb lines of the windward/leeward courses.
Other highlights included dinner at the Bixby’s Friday night, SPYC putting on a dinner at Pass a Grille Saturday evening, the usual 505 debriefs, and Lauren and I pulling frogs, lizards and a snake out of Mark’s boat. The snake was pulled out Saturday morning, so had raced with us Friday. The snake had no comments about 505 racing. - Alexander “Ali” Meller.
February 23rd, 2015
Seve and team on Gotta Love It 7 may have clinched their record-setting 8th JJ championship, but the fight for the podium is still on during this final day of broadcasting for the 2015 18 footer Worlds. Will Howie Hamlin get the first US podium in more than a decade after winning race 6 on Saturday? Clicky play and tune in live above. Nic Douglass did some killer interviews with Howie and most of the boat park yesterday – click here for that noise.
February 21st, 2015