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Posts Tagged ‘America’s Cup’

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IMG_3996We don’t have to feign shock at the latest comically silly behavior from the America’s Cup; the release of thousands of balloons into the air to celebrate the end of the otherwise non-noteworthy America’s Cup World Series Göteberg event.

It seems like just yesterday when the America’s Cup had partners like Sailors for the Sea to tell them that RELEASING BALLOONS IS NOT A FUCKING ‘THING’ ANYMORE!  Apparently, that kind of thing doesn’t matter to them anymore.  Or maybe they were jealous of all that press that Rio’s been getting.

But the environment matters to us as sailors, and we have long known that the balloon industries’ claims about biodegradable latex are mostly bullshit. Even the most ‘eco-friendly’ marketed balloons will be in the water or on the ground for months or years, doing wonderful things to the airways of fish, birds and mammals while decorating shorelines with their pretty colors as they ‘break down.’   That’s why no one with a conscience still releases balloons.

And even if they were biodegradable, would it matter? Cardboard boxes are biodegradable – does that give you the right to drop  thousands of them on a city from an airplane to celebrate your sailboat race?

Listen, folks – we get that the AC and its title sponsor Louis Vuitton has decided that super-wealthy are really all that matters for AC35′s bottom line.   But we don’t believe that you need to take a huge, stinking blue and yellow shit all over the environment just to show that you’re part of their club.

Unless…hang on a second…could it be that Russell Coutts is hunting for some of that big fat Gazprom sponsorship money? Hey Russell, here’s an idea for a ceremony to end the Bermuda ACWS event later this year: The party starts with a celebratory oil spill in the Great Sound, continues on to an all-you-can-eat conch, lobster, and bluefin tuna barbecue, and concludes with the release of thousands of mourning doves.  Be careful, though – it appears the Bermudians care more about their environment than you thought when you tried to steamroll them.

Title reference to something almost as nasty as the AC’s environmental stance (NSFW).

 

August 31st, 2015 by admin

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Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 11.37.06 AMQuestion of the Week

The most common question we’ve gotten over the past month is some version of “what’s going on with/why can’t I watch the America’s Cup like I could last time around?”  With the Gothenberg ACWS event ready for action this weekend, here’s the very bizarre explanation.

Last month, Organizers of the America’s Cup rolled out perhaps the most embarrassing display of cluelessness we’ve seen in sports broadcasting in years with the “AC+” App. At the same time, Russell Coutts went from the guy who so famously and recently promised to bring yacht racing to the ‘Facebook Generation’ and share the excitement of the sport’s pinnacle with the world, to the guy who has completely given up on whatever lofty goals he once had for the America’s Cup sailing’s penetration into mainstream sport.

The pullback really began way back during the buildup to the last AC; a huge broadcast and media budget slash and organization-wide layoffs just after the San Diego ACWS event signaled Cup Watchers that Ellison had cut off the funds necessary for a lasting push into mainstream media.  With tens of millions already spent and the AC looking like a walkover, producers lucked into a dream scenario that included a massive lead for the underdog and tapped into the public’s intense dislike for Ellison and Coutts. The free, live, Youtube coverage of the actual America’s Cup was, without a doubt, the most compelling sailboat racing we’ve ever seen.

The problem, as we’ve discussed ad nauseam, was that outside of New Zealand no one watched. To us, that wasn’t a surprise at all;  huge budget cuts and poorly negotiated contracts with the TV networks who agreed (for a fee) to carry the AC broadcasts meant almost zero promotion or advertising in the mainstream; Official Broadcast Partner NBC couldn’t even be bothered to add ‘sailing’ to the sports listed on their website menu – a menu that included badminton, poker, fishing, and competitive dog shows.  Presumably, Coutts and his team were operating under that old standby for the incredibly arrrogant or clinically insane: the Field of Dreams marketing plan. “If you build it, they will come.”  And of course, they didn’t.

While the elusive ‘new fan’ stayed away, the filmmakers at least created some gorgeous-looking visuals and showed how exciting and compelling the racing could be, and most of us anticipated some success when Coutts and his team went hunting for a broadcast strategy for AC35.  But rather than building on the great work they did to get an exciting event and a wonderful sport in front of millions of young, new fans, ACEA went the other way.  And rather than a 2017 event and buildup that would push the sport’s exposure forward, a combination of huge delays, venue uncertainty, unqualified staff, and the kind of hubris that left TV executives walking away from negotiations scratching their heads meant the end of the dream.  So now, instead of being able to share a Youtube link with all the kids in your extended family, you’re gonna be paying 8 bucks for a buggy, glitchy, horribly-reviewed app that might just let you watch some sailboat racing (if you are in a non-blacked out area and you don’t mind watching on a phone screen).

Somehow, despite all of this being fairly public and extremely obvious, the people at America’s Cup have no problem sending out bullshit ‘News Releases’ touting the awful job they’ve done as something amazing.  It’s some of the most bizarre PR work we’ve ever seen, something closer to the dissembling and revisionism of Donald Trumps handlers than the words of a major sports body.

Let’s take a look at just their most recent release, which caps a few months of fetid bullshit spouting from the ACEA press corps.

Since Bermuda was revealed as the host venue of the 35th America’s Cup on December 2, 2014, a flurry of significant commercial partnerships and broadcast agreements have been reached, including with Louis Vuitton, who return to extend one of the longest title partnerships in international sport.

Let’s just get Louis Vuitton out of the way, because we all know that the very last thing LVMH care about is the public, 99.9% of which will never be able to afford the least expensive product they sell.  Louis Vuitton’s sponsorship model is very simple, and works entirely by bringing in a couple hundred of their very best customers – people who spend well over a million a year on hugely expensive handbags, clothes, watches, and other substitutes for self-confidence – and they VIP the hell out of them during the various AC events.  The experience can get those VIPs to double their purchases that year, and that’s why Louis Vuitton spent 8-figures on the deal.  They like it exclusive – the fewer people who watch, the better. Not unlike Rolex (which couldn’t come up with the pile of cash that LVMH did).

But let’s get to the meat of this latest ‘news’.  ACEA writes with glee that “NBC in the United States, BT Sport and the BBC in the UK and Ireland, CCTV in China, Canal+ in France and ESPN in Central and South America are among the major broadcasters who have acquired the rights to show the full two year program of racing in the 35th America’s Cup.”

But it’s almost entirely bullshit, and it’s part of a pattern of deceit that shows a basic and complete disregard for the public’s intelligence.  Here’s why:

1) NBC is MOST DEFINITELY NOT the America’s Cup Broadcaster.  For foreigners, NBC is a massive, free-to-air network that reaches tens of millions, and they will not be broadcasting a fucking thing! Nope; the AC’s ‘broadcast partner’ is NBCSN, which was until recently known Canada’s Outdoor Life Network, and then Versus. NBC Sports Group picked it up a couple of years ago for their ‘niche sports’ stuff – things Americans rarely watch.  Premier League, F1, and American soccer, for instance.  Yet despite the low-rent address, you still could not watch the ACWS-Portsmouth live on NBC, NBCSN, or any other network in the USA.  Must have been a poker tournament on.

2) The BT Sport 2 channel that ACEA was so excited about in England is another sparsely-subscribed pay-only channel, and English broadcast sources tell us that the max audience for the BT Sport 2 stream in Portsmouth would have been well under 20,000 households.  And that’s with a British hero fighting for the win over the Yankee invaders.

3) As of right now, you can’t even watch the BBC version of the short highlight show on the BBC iPlayer.  It is apparently on BBC2 only, and apparently only on late at night.

4) CCTV China is an internet-only channel that exists almost entirely as a report-padder for Western TV broadcast dealmakers, and as one Shanghai sailor told us, “If a hundred people watch it on CC, we’ll all be shocked.”  Look, we’re in China and available for billions!”.  No, you aren’t.

5) The most egregious example of ACEA’s shenanigans comes with their release this week about their new deal with ‘ESPN’, which, ACEA writes, has acquired the exclusive multiplatform rights to the 35th America’s Cup in more than 40 territories, including Mexico, Central America and South America, and non-exclusive rights in the Caribbean.

And yet once again, and despite what the release says, it’s not what it seems.  The ‘Broadcast Partner’ is not ESPN, which ‘reaches sports fans in 61 countries and 7 continents’.  It is ESPN International, which reaches those hotbeds of yachting in Central and South America, along with the huge audiences in the Caribbean. </sarcasm>.  And meanwhile, ACEA touts the hell out its deal with ESPN publicly despite ESPN (not ESPNi) being a direct and massive competitor for NBC Sports, which was the first and presumably most important partner for this AC.

What’s The Solution?

We’ve seen how the America’s Cup is immune to negative public opinion; if it weren’t, Russell Coutts would have been fired from management 50 times over the past two decades.  But if the world publicizes the fact that ACEA’s staff has literally dialed the clock back a decade, something will have to change or the America’s Cup will continue to slip off the pinnacle to be replaced by events that do a better job of reaching the public and the sponsors.  The 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race eclipsed the AC in almost every major metric, and already brings in more money than the Cup; if the AC doesn’t join the rest of the thinking world, it will continue its march to obscurity, gaining more sponsors like Louis Vuitton as it hemorrhages fans.

It’s not that hard if you have half a brain and the tiniest ability to get your head out of the boat; It’s not like you can’t find other inspiration.  From the New York Times:

An average of more than 6.2 million people tuned in live to watch the Billabong Pipe Masters, where Mr. Medina won his first title. Those numbers exceeded the American television audience for the final game of the 2014 Stanley Cup hockey finals. Not a second of the surfing competition was shown on traditional live television in the United States; instead, it was streamed on YouTube, with 35 to 40 percent of its viewers on mobile.

“It was hard for us to realize a direct relationship to linear TV,” Paul Speaker, the chief executive of the World Surf League, said. “We’re a global sport, so there is always a time zone concern, and we have to wait for swells” — suitable wave conditions — “so we don’t have a start time and an end time like other sports.”

The World Surf League’s successful web-first broadcast strategy is at the leading edge of a gradual transformation taking hold in sports television. As more and more viewers move online and audiences become more global, the professional leagues have all adopted streaming as an important way to attract younger fans around the world. But the purity of surfing’s model — reaching millions of viewers online without being beholden to exclusivity contracts with broadcast and cable networks — demonstrates the power of online audiences for sports big and small.

“It’s one of those things where there’s a lot of fans out there,” explained Matt McLernon, a spokesman for YouTube. “But they’re not necessarily combined enough into a media market where it makes sense to put this sporting event on TV. But when anyone can watch it online, you open up a whole concept.”

All of the major sports leagues have embraced this reality. The N.H.L. recently teamed with the camera maker GoPro this year to bring real-time highlights shareable on social media like Twitter and Facebook. The P.G.A. tour is trying something similar with GoPros and the tour’s online network, Skratch TV. The N.B.A. has the biggest YouTube sports audience with 2.5 billion videos viewed, nearly all through highlights. It also streams its “D” League games online, and joined with Tencent to stream N.B.A. games live in China.

 

August 28th, 2015 by admin

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Rather than charging a small fortune to watch an hour of racing on an iPhone screen like some regattas seem to favor, the M32 folks are spending a small fortune to grow the sport, grow the competition, and increase the opportunities for sailors to excel  They’re the M32 Series, and they’ve got four days of ultra-hot live racing action for you from Copenhagen, Denmark.  It’s free, it’s live, and they’ve got onboard cameras, a rocketship of a beach cat, and a cast of athletic young studs.  With 2-time Match Race World Champ Simon Shaw on the microphone, give yourself some time to enjoy this one from Thursday to Sunday on Livestream and right here on the front page.  Here’s the preview.

August 12th, 2015 by admin

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Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 10.59.47 AMMillions of sailing fans – Kiwis and foreigners both – have wondered why Grant Dalton remains at the head of the most famously choking team in the history of sailing.  After some fatefully wrong calls in San Francisco – including some really personal inter-team shit that still hasn’t seen the light of day – you’d think the New Zealand public, who partially funded the team, would have gotten their calls for blood answered.

But that never happened, and in a rare instance of good journalism rearing its head inside yachting, the boys from Canvas published a deep and interesting look at one of the hardest working – if deeply flawed – individuals in the sport.  His marriage woes, that fateful call to allow Oracle the lay day, his sailing ability, and plenty of other sticky subjects; here’s an excerpt:

It was at his grandparents’ waterfront house that Dalton had an epiphany. He was at the window when Heath’s Condor, with Peter Blake on board, hoved into view as it completed a leg of the 1977 Whitbread Round the World Race.

“It came around North Head with this giant yellow spinnaker and I thought, ‘holy shit’. Right down to where every seagull was sitting I can remember that place in time and I knew that was what I wanted to do.”

He rang his mum, Rose, another huge influence, to tell her he was chucking in his accountancy job that Christmas to do a Fiji race. On his return, he went the tried-and-true method and started sailmaking to broaden his skill base. He got a spot on a round-the-world boat, loved it, and decided to get his own boat for the next one. “And that’s what I’ve been doing ever since, basically.”

And here we enter another tricky port-tack in the Dalton story: his skills as a sailor. You do not have to go far to find someone who will denigrate Dalton’s yachtsmanship. Montgomery, who has known Dalton since his early Whitbread days, says the man himself would never confess to “being a rock star round-the-buoys sailor”, and he will correct anybody that claims Dalton won a Whitbread by saying he won the maxi class only.

Read the full story here.

 

August 12th, 2015 by admin

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Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 11.40.29 AM

In the best Aussie tradition of having the biggest, sharpest knife in the bush, the legendary machete that is Bob Oatley’s Wild Oats XI is going back under the knife for a massive refit before the 2015 Hobart.  And when we say massive, we mean cut in half and rebuilt from the mast forward, with a huge DSS-style fin at the beam…and that’s only part of the job.  Will the WOXI boys continue to stay just ahead of the new curves from VPLP, Verdier, and the Juank?  Apparently, all it takes is money, hard work, money, great crews, money, skilled boatbuilders, and a little more money.  Gotta do something will all that cash meant for an Aussie AC team, perhaps? (A team which, hilariously, continues to publish a website, hosted on the Americascup.com domain, that loads with a huge image of the Harbour with the words “2017 – Australia Gets Back In The Ring” as of a few minutes ago).

Check out the details over here, and WOXI’s Facebook is always good for something interesting.

 

August 7th, 2015 by admin

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Screen Shot 2015-07-26 at 6.34.32 AM

The AC World Series Portsmouth will be remembered not for the racing and not for the teams; instead, it will be remembered as the event when God, Nature, the Devil, and Karma looked at Russell Coutts in the face and said, “You’re kidding, right?”

This is the event where we learned that the same, gorgeous live feed the world saw two summers ago was going to cost some serious money – 8 bucks for what turned out to be an hour of racing – and that in most countries, you wouldn’t even be able to watch it on your laptop anyway (but you’d only find that out after you paid).

This is the event where we learned that Russell’s minions are so understaffed and underqualified that they were literally wrapping up TV distribution deals this past Friday night after having TWO YEARS TO SELL THEM. And those TV deals?  A complete and total joke.  Nothing  broadcast in the defender’s home country for this one.  Nothing in New Zealand, the country that supplied nearly every one of the audience from AC34 and the only country to pay meaningful money for TV rights last time around.  Nothing in sailing-crazy Australia, where the defending skipper and seemingly half the fleet is from.

“But no!” ACEA will exclaim. “We have CHINA!!!!”.  I’m sure the Chinese really ate that hour of racing up.

So Russell Coutts tries, once again, to pull one over on the world, but this time, the world laughs, mother nature sweeps in overnight, and the race village is so poorly set up that a common English wind event EVACUATES THE AMERICAS CUP.

We’ll have more analysis of the complete mess that was the inaugural foiling ACWS event later in the week once our friends at the ACEA have had a chance to answer thousands of fans’ criticisms on Facebook, Twitter, and the forums.

Results stand after 1 day of racing, and the Sailor Girl Nic Douglass grabbed the best post-race interviews over here.  For a look at the actual evacuation conditions on video, go here.  Thanks to James Boyd’s Facebook for the shot above and Cascada (and our 12 year old niece) for the title inspiration.

And by the way, you still can’t watch a race replay on your computer in most countries.

 

July 26th, 2015 by admin

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Today’s AC World Series press conference featured the first instance in recorded history of Jimmy Spithill being speechless.  A well played piss-take from Glenn Ashby reminding the world of kingpostgate with a laugh and a smile and the usual stuttering from Tugger T.  All the chatter about the ACWS Portsmouth is in here, but if you’re lazy, check back right here tomorrow on the front page for a guide to watching this weekend’s action online, including how to avoid paying $7.99 for the privilege of checking it out.

 

July 23rd, 2015 by admin

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Artemis Racing AC45F

Team BAR heads down the mine as they practice for what should be a massively attended AC World Series event in Portsmouth in this awesome shot taken wednesday  by Artemis photographer Sander Van Der Borch.   City councilors predicting as many spectators as the sell-out Formula 1 Grand Prix of Silverstone last week.  Who’s gonna be there, and who’s gonna win?  Trash talking always welcome in America’s Cup Anarchy over here.

July 15th, 2015 by admin

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Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 2.52.19 PM

We’re extremely excited to announce that the longtime SA supporters and advertisers at Aston Harald, the builder of the M32 (née Marstrom 32) racing cat, have closed on the purchase of the World Match Racing Tour this week, and in 2016, the Tour will go either mostly or entirely multihull in three 8-boat fleets of identical M32s to be transported to WMRT venues around the world.  Fleet racing will become a part of the events, as will an entirely new prize money structure – basically, Aston Harald founder and longtime sailing sponsor Hakan Svensson (ex-Berg Propulsion CEO and Puma/Mar Mostro sponsor) wants to use the M32 as a modern platform to provide younger sailors with the pathway to top-level pro racing that doesn’t exist today.

In some ways, the WMRT will go back to basics, regaining its stature as the feeder that it was back in the IACC days.  In other ways, it’s an entirely new day with an entirely new vision, and we’re proud to have been around to help the wonderful Goran Marstrom put the rig up on the first-ever M32 in Miami, 2012.

There’s even more exciting news to come about the revamped WMRT during a press conference next Wednesday at the Stena Match Cup Sweden; it’ll be streamed live.  And keep your eyes out for more full-noise action at the next M32 Scandinavian Series in Copenhagen in August.

The rendering of Valhalla ( Svensson’s new M32) shows that the Viking spirit is still alive and well in the Western isles of Sweden. If you’ve been itching to go live in the land of a million perfect blondes and you know carbon fiber, they’re hiring…

Got questions or wanna read the full release?  Here.

June 25th, 2015 by admin

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One of the well-proven adages in business is to spend, spend, spend during a recession.  Marketing hard and growing fast when the markets are down is a great way to build market share, and it seems that the big names in the United Kingdom sailboat racing business are doing just that, despite all kinds of fears about austerity measures and deficit problems.  Here are three quick bits to illustrate.

The Great Contender

Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 10.24.53 AMRussell Coutts chased off the most serious challenger for the next America’s Cup.  Then he pulled the rug out from both his own hometown and the team that came a couple of minutes away from ending his run at AC34.  Just one of those is fully funded by a billionaire, but it’s the less well-funded one – Ben Ainslie Racing – who currently has the best chance of ending Larry Ellison’s reign of bullshit and the constantly waffling hypocrisy from the Russell Coutts Flying Circus.

Why, you ask?

Because Ben and his team are genuinely not in it for cash, but for nation, for country, for all those things that the rest of the world finds quaint and anachronistic.  Their hashtag is #BringTheCupHome, and that resonates like a motherf&%*ker.

That’s how he got longtime Mclaren Formula 1 team boss Martin Whitmarsh involved, and that’s where Red Bull Formula 1 designer and aerodynamic wunderkind Adrian Newey came in.

And perhaps most importantly, Ben will have home field advantage, as we’ll see during next month’s ACWS event in Portsmouth.  Bermuda is unfailingly British, and there are we cannot find anyone from the United States who wants to see the betrayal of Ellison and Coutts go unpunished.

Don’t underestimate the power of the crowd; unlike the almost entirely mercenary teams (and Oracle Team NOT-USA just added yet another non-american to the mix), Ben can get talent like Whitmarsh and Newey to help him despite being unable to pay them what they made when they worked for the F1 juggernaut.  And the more one-design the boat, the more cerebral the game becomes – and the more morale and confidence come into the mix.  If you don’t know what we mean, head over to Portsmouth and listen to what an estimated half a million people sound like when they are cheering.  The biggest questions remain about Ben himself; is he a fast enough driver in foiling boats?

Longtime pommie sailing boffin Matt Sheahan wrote a solid profile of the team and its obstacles over at howtospendit.  Check it out here.

Long Overdue

The Extreme 40 has been long in the tooth for the better part of 5 years, but much of that time was devoted to ensuring the Extreme Sailing Series survival and OC Events future cash flow.  As the rest of the world’s catamarans innovated, the Extreme Sailing Series looked more every season like a race for lorries in a downtown parking lot.  But Mark Turner’s stature as one of the sport’s best organizers doesn’t come from his generosity; he is a master of spending only when necessary.  Thanks to a few years of downturn and the ineptitude of his ostensible competitors, the X40 got a bit of breathing room – but not anymore.

And while Turner has been saying for years that ‘foiling is not for them,’ on Wednesday the ESS announced just the opposite; 2016 and beyond will likely see the new Extreme boat flying.  Turner says they have ‘four options’ that they haven’t distilled down yet, but the clock is a-ticking.  The X40 hulls are a mess, with dozens of repairs adding weight and reducing stiffness throughout the fleet, and one-design something of a joke.  The design itself is as dated as you’ll see in a modern event, as you’d expect from a boat created more than a decade ago for the 2005 Volvo Ocean Race; the event that re-launched stadium sailing (though not a new concept; cf. the Formula 40 series in the 90s, the wildly successful 150,000-person Match Cup Sweden in the late 90s and early 2000s, the One-Design Grand Prix circuit, the…well, you get the point).

So there are a lot of reasons for a new boat and it’s almost imperative for it to happen quickly, but it is already pretty late for one of the brand new designs being evaluated by OC to impact the 2016 season.  Enter the GC32, currently the front-runner for the Extreme series next year.  It’s a bit small for much of the corporate PR and VIP work that’s the bread and butter for Turner, but Martin Fischer’s flying boat is furious and exciting in anything over 8 knots of breeze.  Perhaps more importantly, two years of now-solved foil issues has taken much of the value out of the GC32, and having spent millions on the creation of his dream boat and a relatively low-budget series, GC32 creator Laurent Lenne is ready to get back to racing instead of running a sailboat marketing company.  That could mean ‘bargain’ to the famously cost-conscious Turner, solving all his problems for 2016.  The only other option for next year is to modify the truck-like X40 for foils, but that’s crazy talk.

And for 2017, look for an all-new X36/X37/X38 – a straight or foiling daggered monster that looks as modern as possible.  Whether you are talking about markets, boat types, or formats, the world is a-changing, and Mark Turner and his group will continue to be one of the most important drivers of those changes.

Watch the final day of ESS racing from Cardiff today.

He’s Got The Look

WSince we couldn’t get a new rendering from the Alex Thomson Racing team, we’ll keep this one short, but a monster piece of sailing sponsorship news hit the wire this week providing further evidence that a good look, a strong marketing team, and a few successful PR stunts are far more important than performance when it comes to finding big money for sailing.  Thomson’s team announced on Thursday that Mercedes-Benz had joined the Hugo Boss/ATR racing program as a ‘Core Sponsor’ in advance of this summer’s launch of Thomson’s brand new VPLP/Verdier Open 60 HUGO BOSS.  The move comes on the heels of last years defection of Hugo Boss from the McLaren F1 team to the all-conquering Mercedes Silver Arrows, marking the end of F-1′s longest team sponsorship deal.  The best part about it?  Thomson doesn’t even need to change his color scheme.

With Alex scoring a 3rd in the last Vendee in a last gen boat, and telling us numerous times that he’s getting a bit old for all this noise, and with golden boy Francois Gabart sitting this one out in favor of a much faster singlehander, 2016 will mark Thomson’s best chance ever at the biggest win ever for an Englishman since Sir Robin beat Moitessier in 1969, nearly 50 years ago.  That is, if he can finish, unlike the last BWR, or the one before that, or…

 

June 21st, 2015 by admin

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