Scuttlebutt Today
  Archived Newsletters »
  Features »
  Photos »

SCUTTLEBUTT #227 December 1, 1998

The 'Butt-heads have been beating the PFD issue to death for about two weeks now and in the process, the National Governing Body, US SAILING has taken its share of the heat. This letter from USSA Executive Director Terry Harper responds to the concerns raised and adds some perspective to this subject.

In spite of what you may have heard, the prescription to the ORC Regs is not vague. They say simply, that if you are racing in a race that invokes the ORC Regs, you don't have to wear a PFD until you are "starting." Nor do you have to wear one after starting and before finishing, if your skipper says you can take it off. (If your skipper won't let you take it off when it is 100 degrees F. and there is no wind, you might consider finding another skipper.) And you don't have to wear it after finishing.

The prescription is the culmination of years of debate among sailors throughout the country and the development of reliable and unobtrusive inflatable PFDs (not to mention a reasonable alternative to government legislation that would have been much more intrusive). If Sailing World required something other than this simple prescription at the Houston NOOD Regatta, you might ask them why (but I don't believe SW did). US SAILING did not prescribe something else.

The thing that amazes me is that some of your readers erroneously perceive US SAILING as some "political" body without concern for the sailors of this country. In reality, US SAILING is a representative body comprised of small boat sailors, big boat sailors, rules experts, race officials, sailing instructors, naval architects, marine industry business people, junior program directors, and sailing association representatives from most of the states in the United States.

The West Coast, East Coast, southern, and Midwest representatives of sailors across the country voted, UNANIMOUSLY, in favor of the ORC prescription, not once but TWICE (the second time when they were asked to reconsider their FIRST decision). These people are not only sailors, they are your representatives and neighbors.

On another note, I have to admit that I am also a little amused by the reference to US SAILING being based in Newport. Its Executive Director is a native Californian who has sailed in one-designs and offshore boats for 27 years (and organized or run a few races on the West Coast too). The Executive Director (that's me) only moved to Newport 4 years ago because that's where the staff office has been for many years, and they wanted me to run it.

I can personally attest to the fact that the staff's approach to its responsibilities, and toward better service to the sailors who are our members, would be no different if the office were in Chicago, Houston, Miami, San Diego or Pewaukee. If you have a problem with a staff member, you are always free to call me personally, even if we move our office to Newport Beach (the California one).

Even so, persons' opinions about personal freedom to wear PFDs (or not) will never be unanimous. That does not mean that US SAILING does not have the responsibility for governance. It does by Federal law -- that's where it gets its authority and responsibility. -- Terry Harper

Curmudgeon comment: With this statement, I now declare the PFD thread "Officially Dead." As far as 'Butt is concerned, we'll print a couple PFD letters today, and that will be the end of it for a long, long time. For any 'Butt-head who wants to continue, I'll be happy to e-mail the all of unpublished letters I still have here in the office. Or you might check out John Burnham's "Special Report" on the Sailing World website ( Enough!

A serious storm hit Auckland over the weekend, with winds gusting over 75 knots. There appears to have been no damage to the Challengers located in Auckland, however damage around the waterfront was very serious. Forty boats broke free from their moorings, with five yachts wrecked at the Devonport Yacht Club, on Auckland's North Shore. The storm which raged for 48 hours also demolished the Compass Dolphin, a large circular concrete structure, and well known harbour landmark. It will not be replaced.

Two rescue missions were mounted to save the crews of two yachts caught off the Northland coast. In one all three crew were lifted off after being up to their knees in water in their sinking craft. In another, when the high winds were adjudged too strong for helicopters, one crewmember is missing, presumed drowned, after she disappeared while being hoisted aboard a rescuing ship. Her companion was saved.

The storm is typical of the weather pattern which plagues Auckland at this time of the year. Since early October, Challengers building up for the Cup next year would have lost about 50% of the available sailing days - mostly through heavy weather, but with the odd windless day as well. However both crews sailing here, Prada and Young America are making the most of available sailing time, and are usually out until 7:00-8:00 PM.

It will be interesting to see how the Louis Vuitton Cup is organised around the weather pattern, with the obvious option being to either sail two matches per day (creating problems if one boat encounters damage which cannot be repaired on the water). However real problems will occur if there is a spell of very good sailing weather during a between round break - playing the game of averages - you have to use every available sailing day.

-- Richard Gladwell, Sailing New Zealand

Sailing New Zealand website:

Southampton has been chosen to host the start of the Volvo Ocean Race in 2001. The start in September 2001 will coincide with the Southampton International Boat Show, the world's largest on-water event of its kind. An announcement on the start venue for the 2005-6 Volvo Ocean Race is expected shortly.

Ever since the beginning of construction, the mega yacht Mari Cha III has been the subject of much attention, especially as the owner/skipper, American Bob Miller, included in the design brief from the start, the double programme of fast cruising and racing. With the new Atlantic sailing record by monohull set on October 24th 1998, he has proved and asserted that his yacht, well set up, could pretend to a race round the world. A nice success for a first attempt just one year after launching the boat which is the biggest composite monohull in the world.

In 8 days, 23 hours, 59 minutes and 43 seconds, Bob Miller and his crew of 22 representing 7 nationalities (USA, France, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, UK and Italy), beat the record held up till then by Finlando-Swede Ludde Ingvall since July 1997 on the Grand Mistral Nicorette (24 m) in 11 days, 13 hours, 22 minutes and 5 seconds.

This performance between New York (USA) and the Lizard (GB) is most interesting, because achieved on one of the qualifying courses for The Race where few monohulls have achieved reference times. However the absolute record for the crossing is the property of the catamaran Jet Services V, skippered by Frenchman Serge Madec, since 1990 in 6 days, 13 hours and 3 minutes. Invited aboard for this crossing by the architect Philippe Briand, French yachtsman Lionel Pean learnt a lot of things which "will enable us to avoid a certain number of errors in the construction of his 53 m monohull for The Race".

Phocea for The Race ? In absolute terms, Phocea is still the fastest monohull across the Atlantic, with a record set in July 1988 with Bernard Tapie as skipper-owner in 8 days, 3 hours and 29 minutes. Mouna Ayoub the Lebanese billionairesse, new owner of the boat declared at the time of the purchase, that she intended optimising the boat for new record attempts. Therefore, if the necessary modifications were undertaken to bring the boat back into the category of non assisted sailing boats (non hydraulic or electric winches), Phocea could also be among the maxi monohulls capable of being at the start of The Race.

For the 3rd consecutive year, the annual meeting of The Race will be held at Disneyland Paris from December 3rd to 5th 1998. Skippers, project managers, architects and partners from all over the world will meet together for 3 days of exchange around the Race of the Millennium. New challengers should be announcing their declarations for The Race. At the beginning of November 1998, the list of declared challengers included 9 participants, representing 7 nationalities.

1/ Ross Field / New Zealand
2/ Pete Goss / Great Britain
3/ Henk de Velde / Holland
4/ Oscar Konioukhov / Russia
5/ Loick Peyron / France
6/ Grant Dalton / New Zealand
7/ Tracy Edwards / Great Britain
8/ Cam Lewis / USA
9/ Peder Silfverhjelm (Sweden) et Lionel Pean (France).

Event website:


In one-design racing you need boat speed -- not a soft rating -- to come away with some hardware at a major regatta. Do you suppose it's just a coincidence that Ullman Sails were used on the boats that won the Sabot Nationals (Junior and senior), the Lido 14 Nationals, the Santana 20 Western Regionals, the Tornado Nationals, the ULDB 70 class in the Big Boat Series, the Schock 35 High Point Series, the top two Cal 20s at the ABYC Turkey Day Regatta and the 505 Worlds? Find out how affordable it is to improve your boat's performance at the Ullman Sails web site:

Letters may be edited for space (250 words max) and clarity and anything resembling a personal attack will quickly disappear!

>> From Ken Guyer, Regional Sales Manager National Marine Manufacturers Association - Boat Shows -- The analysis by Peter Johnstone of our sailing industry was, IMHOP, right smack on the mark in each and every category. Especially at the conclusion where he submitted that instead of endless debate, take the positive step of adding to the list.

My contribution is in the form of reinforcement. Make friends outside of the sport/recreation and take them sailing. The ISFA (International Sportfishing Association) has been very successful in its program to introduce new people to its recreation. Watching someone you introduced to sailing catch the "bug" is quite a thrill. You never know where it is going to go. Thanks Peter!

>> From Rob Lehnert -- Some of Peter Johnstone's ideas are right on the mark, but on the whole I think that what he is trying to do is to dumb down the sport. I got into this sport because high-tech race boats fascinate me. I love to tinker, modify, sail & race them. I never raced dinghys, and didn't start through the typical yacht club program. I never took a sailing lesson, yet after only ten years in the sport, I am on my second boat, a Tripp 26, which we have a wall full of trophys with.

Don't change the way races are run, and have been run for many years for some personal agenda to sell entry-level boats. Notice the increased entries every year at regattas such as Block Island Race Week, & Key West Race Week. The thing that should be changed is the handicapping system so that the entry-level sailor can understand it. There is a place for the boat with one control line. That is why boat builders like Johnstone are doing so well producing simple entry level boats. It should be pushed to the new sailors. I hope no one takes this as personal attack, because it wasn't meant to be.

>> From Kevin Hall (Re Peter Johnstone's ideas) -- All good, very good. Having sailed on the Grand Prix 18' circuit for two seasons, one in UK and one in Australia, I can vouch from the athlete's perspective that it's a great thing. The TV coverage can be fantastic - yes crashes seem to help appeal - and the general public in Australia knew many of the top boats by sponsor and some even by athletes.

The major difference between here and there is that in OZ, or NZL, or France, everyone knows someone who sails, even if they have never been sailing themselves. And everyone wants to try sailing who is in that minority that hasn't. So expanding the base of people who get on a boat, whether it's an Escape, a Hobie, or a Catalina, is a priority.

People who want to race will guess it's possible and figure out how all by themselves. But kids during their first few sailing experiences will either have a good experience, fun, exciting, "cool" in the eyes of their peers, or they won't. That's what we need to really think about if we want more people to sail.

Second point is to echo Peter's comments about personalities. Look at most other sports' magazines, and you get to learn about the people who do the sport, not just where they put their right foot or how they adjust their whatchamacallit. Personally, I'd like to know what Paul Cayard's favorite band is, what other things he's into, how he got started, etc.

Hats off to Peter for the time he spent sharing his wisdom.

>> From Chris Ericksen -- On the PFD debate: Ike Stephenson questions the right of US Sailing or anyone to mandate wearing of PFD's. I assume he thinks they have the right to declare that port tack must yield to starboard, and windward to leeward; how is this different? When we enter a regatta, we agree to abide by the rules that govern that regatta; and if we don't like it, we choose not to enter. Since US Sailing makes the rules, if you sail under them you'll need to observe all of them, including ones with which you may disagree.

My question is, what is driving US Sailing--and individual yacht clubs and regatta organizers--to mandate wearing of PFD's? I mean, being stupid isn't against the rules: it's not illegal to refuse to wear a life jacket in dangerous conditions. We hear that this is being done because the survivors of drowning victims have sued regatta organizers for failing to require these victims to wear a PFD; but has this really happened? Does anyone know of a case where this has actually happened, or is this another urban myth, like ten-foot-long alligators living in the New York City sewers and congressional ethics?

>> From Bill Sturgeon -- Fred Jones (Butt #225) mentioned something to the effect that no death has been documented to warrant this rule. I'm quite sure Larry Klein's widow would disagree as well as the St. Francis Yacht Club who was the Host of the Big Boat Series, in which he lost his life. For those of us that were at the regatta it is something that will NEVER be forgotten.

As for PFD'S saving lives check out the article in December 1998 / January 1999 issue of Sailing World by John Burnham. In the article, he tells of Bob Hughes being knocked overboard on a Melges 24 and subsequently being knocked unconscious by the boat. The PFD "Big Brother" MADE him wear helped save his life.

I see a good lesson here. You don't have any idea when you'll need a PFD to save your life. None of us plan on falling off a boat nor do we imagine being knocked unconscious if the process. One thing I do know for sure is that no matter how calm the conditions or good a swimmer you are, you can't do it unconscious. When we aren't regularly doing something that common sense dictates Big Brother is not shy to let us know, by way of a new law or rule, as the case in point.

>> From Dan Nowlan -- Regarding the "mandate" to wear PFD's at the start and finish of a race. This controversial US SAILING prescription is found in section 5 (Personal Equipment) of the 1998-1999 ORC "Special Regulations Governing Offshore Racing for Monohulls and Multihulls". That prescription only applies if the Sailing Instructions state that the ORC Special Regulations are in force.

Placing the prescription in the ORC regs and not in the Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS) means it is not automatic. This places the decision to use or not with race organizers who know their local conditions. Does that work? Well, I know of no Southern California races or regattas other than those to Mexico (not Ensenada) and or Transpac that invoke the ORC regs.

>> From William Henderson -- Let me offer a better topic of discussion for US Sailing. Stop alienating the people already here and start thinking about ways to replace the thousands of people who are leaving this sport RIGHT NOW! Participation at club and local events is down everywhere and wearing PFD's is all you can come up with? Why are we paying these people?

Hugh Lamson passed away November 22, 1998, in his home with his family in Long Beach after a 22 year battle with bladder cancer. Born October 20, 1913 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Lamson was an active and successful racing skipper in Southern California for many years. After racing in the IOR fleet and the PHRF fleet, Lamson decided to develop a new class of racing for family and friends, and the Cruising Class Division was born. Many yachtsmen in Southern California regarded Hugh as the Founding Father of the Cruising Class. Up until his passing, Hugh was a member of the Board of Directors with the Transpacific Yacht Club and very active with yachting activities at Long Beach Yacht Club.

Funeral services will be held at Long Beach Yacht Club Dec. 3. A burial at sea will be held, leaving the Long Dock at 9 a.m., followed by a Memorial Service at 11:30 a.m. Lamson asked that in lieu of flowers and cards, cash donations be made in his name to the March of Dimes, 502 S. Verdugo Drive. Burbank, CA 91502.

Work like you don't need money, love like you've never been hurt, and dance like no one's watching.