Scuttlebutt Today
  Archived Newsletters »
  Features »
  Photos »

SCUTTLEBUTT #242 - December 22, 1998

In the December issue of Seahorse magazine Rod Davis ranks the top America's Cup syndicates. For this evaluation he used a matrix, with admittedly subjective values placed on SAILING (all of the on the water operations but most importantly, racing ability) FUNDING, DESIGN, plus an X-FACTOR (which quantifies Davis' gut feelings about potential, desire and doing the extraordinary). Davis emphasized these are strictly his personal views and do not have anything to do with his position as coach of Italy's Prada America's Cup syndicate. And you'll notice he did not include Prada in the ratings, because as he put it, "it just did not seem like the right thing to do." But he did add, "I would not be with a team that I did not think would be in the hunt."

So here are the total points from Rod Davis' matrix:
Team NZ 19
Team Paul Cayard 17
Team NYYC 16
Team Dawn Riley 14
Team Aloha Racing 14
Team Switzerland 13
Team Japan 13
Team Dennis Conner 11
Team Syd Fisher 9

Check out Seahorse magazine for the whole matrix and Davis' insightful remarks. But it's not on the Internet - you'll have to buy a copy.

OK - We now know how Rod Davis feels. What are your thoughts on the matter?

The final day of the Sydney International Regatta proved to be a day for the underdogs, in stronger conditions of 15-18 knots blowing from the south. With over 400 boats from 32 nations, the regatta brought world class sailing action to Sydney Harbour, as athletes prepare for the World Championships in Melbourne during January.

With all Olympic Classes appearing at this regatta, and nine current Olympic Class World Champions going through their paces on the Olympic venue today, the Harbour was a truly magnificent sight, awash with sails.

Continuing their stunning form in the final day of the regatta, Australia's Adam Beashel and Teague Czislowski sailing Smiths Kodak Express won the 49er class, ten points ahead of fellow countryman and current World Champion, Chris Nicholson and his new partner Ed Smyth sailing Skilled. Beashel and Czislowski capped their win by crossing the line first in the final race of the day.

(Curmudgeon's addendum: The USA teams of Morgan Larson / Kevin Hall and Jonathan / Charlie McKee finished in third and fourth place respectivelyand respectably.)

The Lasers were another example where the underdog has succeeded. Australia's Michael Blackburn has finished in first place, five points ahead of current World Champion Robert Scheidt of Brazil. Great Britain's Ben Ainslie has finished in third place, ahead of Australia's Brendan Casey.

However, not all the World Champions were toppled today. In the Star Class, current World Champions, Col Beashel and David Giles of Australia were the victors, whilst Australia's most recent World Champions, Darren Bundock and John Forbes were also successful today. Bundock and Forbes won the Tornado World Championship only a month ago, and have backed up again at this regatta to fight off a strong challenge from fellow-countryman and fierce rival Mitch Booth. Bundock and Forbes finished the regatta five points ahead of Booth.

In the Solings, Australia's Neville Wittey has been defeated 2-1 in the final series by Andy Beadsworth of the UK. -- Megan Seton

Event website:

E.W. "Skip" Etchells, designer of the international racing boat that bears his name, died peacefully in his sleep at his home in Easton, Maryland, on Sunday, December 29, 1998. He was 87 years old.

Skip was active in the Star Class on Long Island Sound. High point of his career was his winning the 1949 Star Worlds with his wife Mary as crew. They remain the only husband-and-wife team to ever have achieved this pinnacle of sailing excellence, and Mary remains the only woman ever to have won a Star Worlds as either skipper or crew.

In 1965 Yachting Magazine sponsored a design competition based on IYRU specifications for a three-person Olympic keelboat. Skip designed and built a 30-foot sloop named "Shillalah" for the sail-off, held in Kiel. "Shillalah" won eight of the ten races sailed that year and 10 of the 13 races sailed in Travemunde, Germany, the next year, showing exceptional performance against a new 5.5 Metre and a Dragon, Olympic classes both; while it did not perform as well as "Shillalah" in the series, the Soling was chosen as the three-person Olympic keelboat, which it holds to this day.

While "Shillalah" did not impress the Olympic selection committee, it did impress a number of sailors in the western Long Island Sound who knew Skip and his work. What started out as "Shillalah" became the Etchells 22, so named for its waterline length; the boat gained IYRU international status in 1972 and became the "International Etchells" (dropping the "22" from the name) in 1990.

Now, thirty years later, the class is active in the US and Canada, Australia and Europe, with builders on three continents. The 1998 Etchells Worlds was the biggest ever, with 105 entries. It is a tribute to Skip Etchells and his timeless design that the class has owners ranging from Olympic medallists and America's Cup winners to at least one Southern California sailor too old and fat for dinghies anymore.

Skip's wife, Mary, was with him when he died. A Roman Catholic funeral will be held on Wednesday, December 23, 1998, in St. Michaels, Maryland. - Chris Ericksen

Monte Livingston died on Sunday at the ULCA Medical Center from the affects of a cerebral brain hemorrhage. He was 85. A funeral service will be conducted on Sunday, December 27 at the Leo Badck Temple located at 1330 N. Sepulveda Boulevard in Los Angeles.

The official launch of Steve Fossett's giant catamaran PlayStation took place in Auckland with an announcement that the American adventurer's plans for the 32m supercat culminate with an entry in The Race at the end of 2000.

Fossett could not be at the launch because he is in mid-flight with Richard Branson in a joint bid to become the first people to fly around the world by hot air balloon. But, in a videotaped message, Fossett listed the programme for the boat which included attempts at the 24-hour speed record, the transAtlantic record , the Trophee Jules Verne round the world record and The Race.

PlayStation was officially launched by the Mayor of Auckland, Christine Fletcher, who said she was delighted that New Zealand's boatbuilding expertise had been selected for this high-tech project. Both main contractors, Cookson Boats and Southern Spars, are Auckland-based companies.

PlayStation is expected to sail for the first time before the New Year, although it is likely to be mid-January before she is ready to really stretch her legs and explore her full potential, reckoned to be in excess of 35 knots. The bid for the 24-hour record, first on the list of targets for the yacht, is likely to take place towards the end of January, weather permitting. Steve Fossett is expected to be on board for the attempt.

Photos of PlayStation are on the ISAF website:

Information on THE RACE:

Curmudgeon' addendum: While Fossett's new boat was being launched in NZ, Steve and the crew of a hot air balloon attempting to fly non-stop around the world were trying to get permission to fly over China. Hours from an anticipated border crossing, an intense diplomatic crusade, that included the personal appeal of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, failed to convince the Chinese government to permit the balloon to continue its current course into China. Chinese officials have indicated that should the balloon cross the border, the balloon pilots must obey all instructions. If China orders the balloon to land, it will do so, according to a statement by ICO Global, a mobile telephone company sponsoring the balloon trip.


What do you do if you've completed all of your Christmas shopping and still have money left? That's easy -- buy yourself a new Ullman jib for next season. You deserve itand it's an investment in your boat's performance! Shop on-line -- you don't even have to leave the comfort of your home or office.

BTW - Ullman Sails can also help you out with a fast new mainsail or kite. Improved performance is more affordable than you think.

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

>> From Frank Whitton (regarding the IMS changes) -- I find the story in Scuttlebutt #241 amusingly entertaining. The 'kenwellian' expression "twist model" for twisting sails isn't something earth-shakingly new. As far as I can remember, sailors have been "trimming" their sails to effectively combat stability. How this should now be recognized in the VPP as a stability factor is good. I still can't figure out why it wasn't considered before now as a speed factor. I will be interesting to see the magnitude of the change of the rating.

I still am waiting for an answer from someone on why Pyewacket is considered 20+ seconds a mile faster in an 8-knot windward leeward course than Zephyrus. I would think investigating this due to the order of magnitude of the discrepancy would be of much more importance.

Race organizers and participants need to know the limitations of IMS in order gain both credibility and confidence. Please someone consider this and address it before it is too late and it goes the way of IOR on the scrap pile of measurement rules rejected by the end users.

It seems to me the same people that controlled the destiny of IOR are now controlling the destiny of IMS. An open forum on the limitations as well as the successes would be not only healthy but also informative. This response is meant to stimulate a discussion of the plusses and minuses of the IMS Rule and ultimately a better application of its strengths rather than its weaknesses.

The Sydney 40 "Loco" owned jointly by businessmen David Lowe and David Coe has won the 1998 Telstra Cup. The winners of this years' Cup sailed a closely fought series to come away with a victory in the final race ahead of Bob Steel's "Quest" and Syd Fischer's "Ragamuffin".

The Telstra Cup that began on Wednesday 16, is the lead up regatta to the Telstra Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, and comprises 7 short races in the waters off Sydney Heads and in Sydney Harbour.

The results show the Sydney 40 performs consistently in both inshore and offshore conditions in a wide range of winds. The Cup winner really came down to the last day of racing. The conditions definitely favoured "the big boats" with long beats, short runs and due to the unusually strong current with wind. We were extremely lucky to beat Ron Jones's Sydney 40 "Sledgehammer" as they sailed an extremely competitive series, the boat showing great performance, and obviously excellent crew work. They had an unlucky first day of competition which gave us a points advantage that they were unable to close as the regatta drew to a conclusion."

The closeness of the results shows all the design input and refinement from Murray Burns & Dovell has paid off resulting with the Sydney 40 proving to a consistent and competitive grand prix racer amongst other grand prix yachts such as "Quest" and "Ragamuffin". Despite two individual recalls on Day 1 "Sledgehammer" finished with a 4th place overall, following its excellent results in the remaining races of the regatta where she scored two 1st places and two 2nd places on IMS, clearly demonstrating the Sydney 40's consistency over varying conditions. - John Roberson

Six races at Stanford: 1. Nick Adamson / Mark Mantle (18) 2. Steve Bourdow / Stacy Takiguchi (19) 3. Scott Sellers / Mara Holian (2) 4. Dana Moore / Sean Svendsen (28) 5. Alex Ascencios / Chelsie Wheeler (32)

In an exclusive offer to our readers, bona fide 'Butt-heads can now order SEAHORSE magazine at special discount prices to new subscribers. This special rate is US$60 for 12 monthly issues airmailed directly from the UK, or US$110 for two years -- a savings of nearly 35% off the newsstand price, and 20% off the normal subscriber rate.

SEAHORSE International Sailing is published in the UK as the official monthly newsletter of the Royal Ocean Racing Club. It is widely recognized as the leading authority on what's happening in the world of performance sailing. You'll find the content to be a refreshingly direct and informed view of the sport's current trends, major regatta reports, and technical reviews.

To take advantage of this special offer, e-mail Dobbs Davis, US Editor of SEAHORSE, at, or contact his 24-hour subscription phone/fax hotline: 1-888-FASNET1 (1-888-327-6381).

Observers are convinced that the Andy Dovell-designed 70-footer Wild Thing, owned by Melbourne yachtsman Grant Wharington will be a strong challenger to George Snow's 1997 line honours winner Brindabella and Larry Ellison's US maxi Sayonara as they dual for line honours in the 630 nautical mile Telstra Sydney to Hobart, starting Saturday, December 26. -- Peter Campbell in Sydney via John Roberson

I am looking for a wonderful baby-sitter for Amy, (now 9 months old), while I'm racing at Key West Race Week. -- Stacey Ely,

The fleet meteorologists at Commanders' Weather service are not the sort of chaps given over to hyperbole. Their job is to rationally assess and interpret the weather, not panic over it. So when Commanders' issues a fleet update that reads "CAUTION strongly advised!!!" in attention-getting capital letters, as they did for this morning, something's up. The weathermen are currently monitoring three significant cold fronts: a "monster" front off South Africa packing winds of 60 knots, and two "strong" independent fronts with powerful westerlies off Western Australia's Cape Leeuwin and the island of Tasmania, respectively. In other words, if you happen to be anywhere along the Leg 2 course between Africa and Oz today, watch out.

No one knows this better than American skipper George Stricker, who retired from the race two days ago with spar damage and is now fighting his way back to South Africa into the teeth of a gale without a mainsail. In a COMSAT email to race ops early today, Stricker sent this concise report: "Winds to 50 knots. High seas. Barometer 960 [millibars]. Jib sheet parted. Small jib damaged. Will lay ahull until a drop in the wind. One heavy jib to get me to Cape Town. The risk is too great [with one remaining sail] to attempt to sail. All is well otherwise." - Herb McCormick

Standings (distance to leader in parenthesis) CLASS I: 1. Soldini (0.0) 2. Golding (94.8) 3. Thiercelin (145.5) 4. Autissier (475.8) CLASS II 1. Mouligne (0.0) 2. Garside (135.2) 3. Van Liew (581.5) 4. Yazykov (632.4).

Event website:

Live as though it were your last day on earth. Some day you will be right.