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SCUTTLEBUTT #236 -- December 14, 1998

Bertrand Pace, representing France's Yaka Challenge for the America's Cup, mastered both the tricky conditions on Charlotte Amalie Harbor and the current World Champion of Match Racing, by beating Peter Gilmour in a commanding 3-0 finals today. While all around him competitors lost their heads, their spinnakers, and their tempers, Pace kept cool and led his crew to a near flawless display of strategy and tactics. With more shifts of direction then a slick politician, the wind alternated from east to northeast and southeast in a maddening dance that tripped up one of the most competitive fields in match racing history. And if the winds weren't disconcerting enough, the rules book played a major part in the final standings as penalties were handed out faster than compliments at an awards ceremony.

The day started with the determining race of the semi-finals between Peter Gilmour and Peter Holmberg, a match cut short yesterday as time ran out before the intriguing and entertaining CitiBank Youth Regatta took center stage. With Gilmour and his Nippon America's Cup Challenge team leading 2-1, Holmberg needed two wins to advance against Pace, who had defeated Chris Law on Saturday by 3-1. But in Gilmour's best demonstration of tactics during the day, he controlled his opponent in the pre-start, forcing Holmberg over the line at the gun. The Japanese team then took a windward position and soon had a two boatlength lead which was never relinguished. Twenty minutes later, it was Gilmour moving on to the finals.

The petite-finals to determine places three and four saw more than its share of aggressive driving on the part of both Holmberg and Law. The pre-starts of all three matches were ferocious battles of bow-to-bow and stern-to- bow maneuvers, each team deperate to achieve the controlling position. In race one, Law got the better of his opponent, but Holmberg kept the race extremely close until two penalties spelled his doom.

In race two, Holmberg came storming back with a masterful display of match racing skills as he and his team tacked several times on windshifts on the first beat and pushed Law to the right as they caught a massive left-hand shift that allowed them to lay the line to the mark without additional tacks. From there it was simply a matter of the Virgin Islanders stretching their lead to tie the series at 1-1.

The decider was decided on a controversial pre-start windward-leeward penalty that saw Holmberg luff into the wind before contact could be avoided. Both teams called for a penalty and the umpire's decision went in favor of Law. From start to finish, the race was led by Holmberg, but Law was never more than a length or two behind. Holmberg reached the finish line in front, but as he executed his penalty turn, Law passed him to win third place and $5,000. Holmberg received $4,000.

The Pace/Gilmour final might be summed up in two words--"spinnaker trouble". The Japanese team struggled with the massive asymmetrical chute throughout the competition, but never more than in all three races today. The Frenchman got the better of the start in the first race, and controlled a close match throughout, with Gilmour's crew work below the standard expected at this level of competition. Spinnaker wraps and hourglasses gave a signal of what was to come.

In the second confrontation, Pace forced the Japanese crew into two rules infringements, which sent them into disarray, and they compounded their problems by dropping their spinnaker over the side of the boat. Gilmour finally got control of the situation at the start of the final heat, and held a narrow lead at the first mark, but a tactical blunder left him in a windless patch, while the French crew sailed around him, and off into the distance.

Pace commented after his victory, "this is our first year sailing together as the Corum Sailing Team, so it is good that the teamwork has come together, and we have started winning." A very disappointed Gilmour simply commented, "In this sport you can have good days and bad days, we had a dead set shocker".

Though Pace has been near the top of the leaderboard in most of the events he has sailed this year, this is his first victory of the season, in what is the last regatta of the '98 circuit. For his efforts, the Frenchman pocketed $10,000 and Gilmour was enriched by $6,000. - Paul Larsen & John Roberson.

Final Standings:
1. Bertrand Pace France / Yaka Challenge
2. Peter Gilmour Japan / Nippon Challenge
3. Chris Law Great Britain / Spirit of Britain
4. Peter Holmberg US Virgin Islands / Team Caribbean
5. Paul Cayard USA / America One
6. Luc Pillot France / Yaka Challenge
7. James Spithill Australia / Australia Challenge
8. Gavin Brady USA / America True

Event Web site:

"You just can't beat this place for match racing," declared Chris Law in a conversation with the curmudgeon just before the start of the petite finals. "They have great boats (J/120s provide by the Moorings), great breeze and the top umpires. And because of the intimate 'amphitheater' atmosphere of the Charlotte Amalie Harbor, you get wonderful spectator support, so the sponsors get very good value. This event has certainly grown in stature on the world stage of match racing," Law concluded.

Law acknowledged that the J/120s are big demanding boats for a crew of five to handle, but did not complain about it. "At this level of racing, the boats should be challenging," he stated firmly. Sailing short-handed, it was commonplace to see the helmsman handling the mainsheet while steering the boat through a jibe, and he generally also doubled as a mainsheet grinder while turning the boat around the leeward mark.

Law expressed a preference for asymmetrical kites over conventional spinnakers in match race events, although it was only about two hours later that his 'ayso' went up with a very tight 'hourglass' and cost him a race in his petite finals match with Peter Holmberg. There were lots of spinnaker wraps during the week, despite of the fact that some the best bowmen in the game were at the regatta. And those spinnaker wraps were frequently responsible for transforming a race leader into race loser. There were also two kites totally shredded - one by Gavin Brady and another by Chris Law. In fact, the regatta organizers were out of spare chutes and if they blew up another one they undoubtedly would have raced the finals non-spinnaker.

Paul Cayard may not have won the regatta, but he certainly won the concluding press conference. His remarks about the joy he experienced as a coach and mentor to the junior sailors from the St. Thomas YC during Saturday's Citibank Youth Regatta (which also used the J/120s) won the hearts of the hundreds of Virgin Islanders who attended the function. It was also obvious why Peter Holmberg has brought Team Caribbean so far along on their journey to the America's Cup. His popularity here was obvious throughout the event.

All of the skippers at this year's Marriott Frenchman's Reef International Match Race Series plan to be in Auckland next year. But even with different skippers, you can't help but get the feeling that there is more than sufficient local support to insure this event will be one of the biggies on next year's match race calendar.

Lindsey Cunningham has decided to shelve plans for an assault on his own world sailing speed record for probably a year after control problems continued to plague his latest contender, Macquarie Innovation. With Simon McKeon and Tim Daddo aboard, the triple-hulled sailboat reached a top speed of 43 knots on one run--less than four knots under their world mark. But at times the four finely developed vertical foils fitted to both leeward hulls were not giving the desired directional stability and the boat became extremely difficult to control. -- Rob Mundle, Grand Prix Sailor

For the full story:


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Letters may be edited for space (250 words max) or clarity or to exclude personal attacks.

>> From Gary Thorne -- However, this is how I view hunting -- If a right-of-way boat holds her course until she as to maneuver to avoid collision, she has been fouled. If a right-of-way boat does not hold her course, and a collision results, or the burdened boat must make extreme course alterations to keep clear, I tend to assume the right-of-way boat has committed the foul unless she makes a good case otherwise.

I realize this is not the majority view, but I think it could help resolve the hunting issue without requiring any changes to the current rules.

>> From Gay Lynn -- The team racing Appendix has an addendum to Rule 16: "Furthermore, when boats are on a beat to windward and a port-tack boat is keeping clear of a starboard-tack boat, the starboard-tack boat shall not change course if that immediately compels the port-tack boat to change course". Hunting is really a frightening concept in team racing; they have chosen one way to avoid the problem.

>> Keri Shining -- Of all the ideas that you have passed along from your readers on how to increase participation in sailing, I think the most immediate and most effective way to grow the sport of sailing is by doing exactly what you are doing -- telling people immediately and quickly about the best of sailing as it happens.

Yacht racing isn't dull and stuffy -- it is fast-paced stuff that requires real skill and dedication to do well. And yacht racers aren't dull and stuffy -- those who are devoted to the sport as are as devoted to their craft as any athelete in any sport. We just haven't had a medium that effectively keeps people informed and excited until e-mail and the Internet came along (I feel the same way about the ISAF Web site,

The best way to grow the sport is through faster, better reporting of the great events that already occur.

>> From Richard Spindler, Publisher, Latitude 38 -- Regarding Shef Phelps' intimation that Latitude 38 made up his wife's letter that appeared in our November issue: After the BBS article, Marda phoned Racing Editor Rob Moore to complain that her 'Marda Gras' hadn't been identified as the winner of the 'SC 52 Nationals'. Since Latitude is a print medium, Moore naturally encouraged her to write a letter to the editor. A few days later Latitude received a letter from Phelps, which we ran. Shortly after the Letters section had gone to the printer, a woman identifying herself as "Marda Phelp's secretary" phoned Moore to ask that the letter be pulled. It was too late. Shef is correct that Marda did not send the photo that accompanied the letter. It was taken at this year's Big Boat Series by Moore, and Marda was favorably identified as "the only woman to earn a trophy at the BBS." While we're certainly not above making up Letters, it's regrettably been years since we've had the time or space for that kind of mischief.

Nick Moloney became the first person to WINDSURF across the notorious Bass Strait from Victoria to Tasmania. Moloney, 30, set out on the 150 nautical mile journey from Flinders at 6 am yesterday and at arrived at Stanley on Tasmania's north-west cape at 4.01 am, 22 hours later.

"I'm not feeling very flash. I actually feel worse now I'm off the board than when I was on it", he said after his epic trip."I trained really hard for this but it turned out to be a lot tougher than I ever thought it was going to be to complete.

Moloney who describes himself as "Not the world's greatest windsurfer," is seeking treatment for a severely swollen left hip, his hands, in particular three fingers that have lost a lot of sensation.

Moloney is an accomplished international yachtsman from Melbourne. He has completed the Whitbread Round the World Race, crewed on the 1996 Sydney-Hobart winner "Ausmaid" and was involved in two America's Cup campaigns. The idea to undertake such a journey stemmed from Lanee Butler's participation in the Newport-Enesenada race on her Mistral One-design windsurfer.

(A special report to the 'Butt-heads from Jonathan McKee) Welcome back to Sydney, site of the 1998 49er South Pacific Championships. After 3 days of qualifying races, the Gold Fleet was determined, with the top 25 teams squaring off for 4 final races to determine the title. As usual, the field was hot, with nearly all the top 49er teams in the world on the starting line.

The day did not start well for the American teams. Sailing up the course getting ready for the first start, both boats failed to hear the warning signal and missed the start. Morgan Larson and Kevin Hall made a strong recovery to 11th place, while the McKee brothers on Team McLube struggled back to 16th place after being 2 minutes late. The race was won by the French team of Mark Audineau and Julian Farnarier, who have been training on these waters since September. Second went to perennial favorite Chris Nicholson and Ed Smyth, winners of the qualifying series. The Budgen brothers from Britain were third, followed by the second French team, Silent Night from New Zealand, and the Italians.

The second race was sailed in similar conditions, a shifty 6-12 knot easterly in Rose Bay. Dan Slater and Nathan Handley from New Zealand led around the first lap, followed by Nicholson/Smyth, Team McLube, the Budgens and Larson Hall. On the puffy second beat, the crafty Australians moved into the lead, which they held for the run to the finish. The Kiwis were second, followed by the McKee brothers and Morgan and Kevin. The Gold Fleet headed fo shore as the Silver Fleet took the water for 4 races.

When Gold Fleet racing resumed in the late afternoon, the breeze had swung southeast and built to 10-15 knots. The course was shifted entirely within the narrow confines of Rose Bay, making for a very short course with radical puffs and shifts. Larson and Hall controlled the starting pin for Race 3, and extended to a commanding lead which they never relinquished. Adam Beashal and Teague Czislowski on Smith's Kodak Express, winners the previous week in Brisbane, came second. The Bruni brothers from Italy were third, and Chris and Ed battled back from mid-fleet to finish fourth. The McKees had a poor start and first lap and finished 12th, effectively dropping them out of contention for the title.

It appeared at this point that Nicholson and Smyth had the regatta won, with 1, 2, 1, 4 scores and only one race remaining. But the sailing instructions did not provide for a discard race, so a couple of other teams were still mathematically in striking range.

The wind build to a puffy 15-20 knots for the final heat. The Boyd brothers from Australia finally found their form in the stronger breeze and led around the first lap, followed by the French, Italians and 2 New Zealand teams. Team McLube rounded the top mark in 6th, a couple places ahead of Larson and Hall. Then the unthinkable happened. Chris and Ed capsized in a big puff at the top mark during a spinnaker set! The regatta wasn't over after all. Boyds held on to win the race. The McKees rallied to third on the second beat and passed the French at the finish to claim second. Morgan and Kevin moved up to 4th, just ahead of the Bruni brothers and Hansgrohe from New Zealand. Nicholson and Smyth righted their boat and worked their way furiously through the fleet. But the course was short, and at the finish they had clawed only up to 18th, 3 places short of what they needed to beat the consistent scores of Larson and Hall.

So Kevin and Morgan won their first major international regatta with very consistent sailing in a variety of conditions. Their starting was especially strong, and upwind speed was good throughout the wind range. Nicholson/Smyth were beaten for the second regatta in a row, showing at least some degree of vulnerability. Despite poor starts, Team McLube also had pretty consistent speed and good tactics to finish just ahead of the snarling pack. Other North American finishers were Tina and Trevor Baylis in 17th place in Gold Fleet, and Jason Rhodes/Jeff Echard from Canada were third in Silver Fleet. Stay tuned for our next Team McLube Race Report from the Sydney International Regatta next week. - Jonathan McKee

Final Scores: 1. Morgan Larson/Kevin Hall, USA (23) 2. Chris Nicholson/Ed Smyth, Australia (26) 3. Team McLube Jonathan & Charlie McKee), USA (35) 4. Dan Slater/Nathan Handly, New Zealand (36) 5. Francesco Bruni/Gabriele Bruni, Italy (36)

We had dozens of entries in the 'Butt contest to pick the four finalist in the Marriott Frenchman's Reef International Match Race Series. Interestingly, none of those entries picked Bertrand Pace' to win the event and only one entry that correctly identified all four of the finalist. So our distinguished international panel of yachting journalists that included Bob Fisher (Yachting World - UK), John Roberson (Australian Yachting) and Charles Mason (Sail) quickly agreed the official 'Butt-head embroidered tee shirt should be awarded to JOE ERWIN, who predicted the following order of finish: 1. Holmberg, 2. Gilmour, 3. Law, 4. Pace. As you can see, Joe had #2 and #3 spot-on, and just reversed #1 and #4. Congratulations, Joe! Frank Whitton from Pacific Yacht Embroidery will be sending you an official 'Butt-head tee shirts soon!

The curmudgeon will be on an airplane in just a few hours, starting the 12-hour journey back to California. And while there probably will be an issue of Scuttlebutt sometime tomorrow, it certainly will not be my top priority.

THE CURMUDGEON'S OXYMORONS (from the Virgin Islands)
Working journalist