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SCUTTLEBUTT #250 - January 5, 1999

After days of light and flukey conditions, mother nature came to the fore on day four of the 1999 World Sailing Championships. All but two races were abandoned because of strengthening winds.

The International Cadets were first to feel the brunt of strong westerlies off Royal Geelong Yacht Club. Wind gusts were recorded at 24 knots and freshening to 30 knots. Race officials were quick to bring the Cadets, sailing the smallest boats of the 99 Worlds ashore, midway through race five of their World Championship event.

The gale force winds also forced cancellation of the A Class Catamaran Open Week at McCrae Yacht Club. The spectacular catamarans were scheduled to contest two races. That effectively ends the A Class preparation for the 99 Worlds, the fleet opting not to attempt a re-sail tomorrow.

The Europe women managed to fit one race in today at Mornington. Racing was actually delayed for lack of wind and the lone event was conducted in a flukey 10 knots before the wind strength picked up. Flight one was won by Arianna Bogatec of Italy while flight two went to Great Britain's Shirley Robertson. But no further racing was possible as the change hit Mornington and at least another two races were abandoned for the day.

Classes due for action tomorrow include the Europe at Mornington and the International 14s are due for their final practice race at Sandringham Yacht Club before their World Championship commences on Thursday. The Cadets will not be racing tomorrow, a reserve day, but two races will be held Thursday, two in the afternoon on Friday, back to back and the final on Saturday to determine the 1999 World Champion. - Peter Campbell

Event website:

America True, Dawn Riley's San Francisco Yacht Club challenge for America's Cup 2000, announced that their campaign will have the undivided attention of North Sails designer Mike Schreiber. "Mike has over 20 years of experience in racing on the top level sailboats in the world, and 20 years of design experience with North's proven, proprietary design and analysis systems," said North Sails spokesperson Jay Hansen, adding that Schreiber is also a veteran of many America's Cups. Schreiber was the sail coordinator for oneAustralia in 1995. He also served as designer for Dennis Conner's 1988 and 1992 campaigns.

The Halsey Lidgard sail making company based in Mystic, Connecticut is also working with America True on its sails. Halsey's responsibilities will include producing some downwind sails. - Grace Kim

America True web site:

Hey racers and boat owners! Got a good action picture of you boat? Send it to Frank Whitton and let him transform it into stitches for your yachting apparel. Once the design is complete you own it and it can be sewed on just about any fabric that you can wear. The cost is cheap and the work is done by a professional specialty artist. Call Frank at Pacific Yacht Embroidery (619-226-8033).

(Eric Steinberg of Farallon Electronics in Sausalito, CA prepared the following special report for Scuttlebutt)

There are now 3 types of EPIRBS: the old style A and B class that use the same frequencies as aircraft ELTs; Category 1 and 2 406 EPIRBS; and a brand new type of 406 EPIRB called a "G"pirb.

The class A and B are "old" technology-so old that there is no reason to discuss them here. If you want to save your butt -- buy a 406. The 406 transmits to a satellite. Receiving the signal, the satellite can determine position with a good level of accuracy, depending on the angles between the satellite and the 406.

The satellite is in "transit" meaning it is passing over the earth in a polar orbit. A satellite may not be in range when you light off your 406, but it will pass over you soon. The satellite determines your position in the same way you would get a position fix with a old Sat Nav (remember those things?), but in reverse. So it is not nearly as accurate as a GPS position.

The signal transmitted to the satellite is a digital code. The code is SPECIFIC to that EPIRB. When the EPIRB was purchased, the next step after opening the box is to register the unit. It's a nifty form that asks about the vessel (colors, rig type etc), vessel berth, contact phone #s, etc. and even comes with a stamped and addressed envelope to send it in with. That info is put into a database.

When a EPIRB is activated the code is cross referenced with the info in the database and Search and Rescue (SAR) knows who and what they are looking for in addition to where (they usually start with your harbor master to see if the boat is in the slip!).

The new Gpirb goes one step further in that it has a GPS built into it, so in addition to sending the digital code to be looked up in the database, it sends a very accurate position. With this info SAR can go to a specific spot and at the very least find the Gpirb. This is a big step up in the level of confidence in sending a SAR team.

These days, I can't imagine going to sea without a 406. Perhaps that's not rue in Australia, and most of the boats were equipped with Class A and B unitsbut somehow I doubt it. I think about yachts in coastal races here in CA and I am sure that many (if not a majority) don't carry 406s for a sprint down the coast. As far as I'm concerned, a 406 should be second only to a life raft. - Eric Steinberg

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

-- From John Rousmaniere -- As the author of a book on the 1979 Fastnet storm, I sometimes get calls after other fatal events on the water. There were quite a few last week that say a little about today's news business. My first call, while the storm was still blowing, was from NBC News feeling me out about appearing on Tom Brokaw. The producer kept asking why they didn't call the race. That was all she was interested in: Somebody was to blame for this, obviously a higher-up, and I was expected to point the finger. I kept telling her it wouldn't have made any difference to the boats out there in such a tempest, and anyway it was their decision to make whether to race on or sail home. In the end, I didn't tell her what she wanted to hear and they got somebody else.

When the (New York) Times called last Tuesday I was primed with an analogy to illustrate this point. What I told the reporter was, "It's not like you can go into the dugout when it starts to rain at Yankee Stadium." Which fairly summarizes the situation, I think.

Then on Wednesday a friend of mine called from CNN asking if I'd be available to go on with Ted Turner, if they could get Turner to talk about the 1979 Fastnet. Without Turner, he said, they wouldn't run it. This indicates how "events" and "non-events" are divied up these days, the crux being the involvement of celebrities (or the news operation's CEO). I guess Turner wasn't interested because that was the last I heard from them. (John Rousmaniere has written 15 books including "Fastnet, Force 10," about the 1979 Fastnet Race and "The Annapolis Book of Seamanship."

--From Morgan Larson -- While taking a few days to drive from Sydney to Melbourne two friends and myself stopped at many little towns along the New South Wales coast south of Sydney. We were surfing at all the little bays and harbors along the coast. It was really hard to look out to sea and imagine what some of our friends had been through over the last few days on the Bass Straights. Each harbor had many race participants tied to the safety of moorings with wet gear and sails laying about the docks. You could imagine what they had been through out on the ocean by the look in their tired faces. My heart goes out to friends and families of Glyn Charles and the other sailors lost at sea.

-- From Mike Benedict -- I very much support the notion that a yacht's skipper is solely responsible for whether that yacht starts, continues, abandons, or finishes a race. The judgement on yacht construction and readiness, crew experience, equipment, weather forecasts, and much more must lie with the skipper. These variables are just that - variables. Each boat and crew will be different.

It is possible for a Race Committee to make a decision on starting a buoy race or starting a distance race when conditions are presently and obviously not suitable - either for the race boats or for the R/C. It is not quite so feasible to forecast what conditions will be at some future time in a distance race. Should the window for a no-go decision be right now?, 12 hrs?, 24 hrs?, ??? Very difficult stuff.

No one wants to think about ultimate conditions offshore. Unfortunately, if you go there you have to think about it. While forecasting could maybe help 12, 24 or 36 hours out, what about 2, 3, 4 or more days in a distance race? The obligations of the skipper are not changed.

The tragedy of these fine sailors is very sobering, and they should be our hearts and prayers. Hopefully, though, some good can come in another, more current, review of boats, equipment, and strategies - what worked and what did not. This information is what goes into a skippers decision making process, and could possibly help fellow sailors in the future.

-- From Walter Johnson -- I believe that with modern weather reporting that there's no reason to start a short or medium distance race in conditions that would put the participants in peril. Could you imagine what would happen if the Ensenada race or even the Puerto Vallarta race was sent off into 80 or 90 mile an hour winds. Theirs better ways to get publicity for our sport then the scentless loss of life.

I believe that a system should be set where short off shore / coastal races of less then a weeks sailing time should not be started if the weather window shows the presents of TD's (tropical depressions) with the potential to present weather in excess of 50 knots of wind. I believe that medium distance coastal races encourage club racers and yachts that may have some amount of differed maintenance to race. The experience level of these people and the condition of these yachts are not in a position to handle the type of conditions found in the open ocean when conditions exceed sustained winds in excess of 50 knots.

-- From Ben Altman -- I have often thought that I would rather inflate the life raft INSIDE my sinking boat... Perhaps serious offshore races should require airbags in bow and stern, with inflation tripped manually or by rollover, that would support a sinking boat. Obviously this would take some design thought so as not to trap the crew or deny access to steering gear. However, anything that delays the need to get into a life raft in storm conditions is bound to save lives.

-- From James Nichols -- So why don't we have the guys on the boat making the money pay to be qualified as professionals? I realize this is a totally counterintuitive, non-productive, sophomoric suggestion, but I'm sure someone much smarter than I am can figure something out.

-- From John Wimer -- In regards to your query for feedback on Rule 4, I think that it is important for each vessel to determine for themselves whether or not to sail in an offshore event. It boils down to personal responsibility.

On the other hand, for coastal and buoy racing I think it is a different story. In a multi day event, if races were not called due to excessive weather, the regatta would boil down to the boat that breaks the least, not the boat sailed the best.

(The following is an excerpt from DEFENCE 2000, which is available from -- US $48 per year.)

There are now two round-the-clock security guards in two watch- houses maintaining Prada's base security around their compound at the Cup Village and although we tried, we could not gain entry. This is just like their crews, who must produce a pass and be subjected to positive scrutiny to get to and from work each day. A closer check revealed that they were not the only team to be so obsessed.

Team New Zealand is equally as secure, with access requiring computer recognition of your thumb print. Getting over the fence is not an option - it's covered with razor wire, which is without doubt a deterrent to the most inquisitive spectator. All this brings back memories of the 1992 campaign when opposition challengers used frogmen, mini-submarines, and helicopters to gain tactical information. It has even been reported that one team had a waste management company scan other team's rubbish for any possible clues. New York's Young America has left a 24 hour guard in place on their compound. So getting in and out of a compound is something akin to Fort Knox only worse. Meantime, Auckland tourist buses have now put Halsey street on their itinerary and currently five or six buses per day view just what has been described. Nothing to see at all, except the security, but our guess is that this will slacken off considerably once the challenger series gets under way. Our tip: best view is from the water in your dingy!

We've lost count of the number of Kiwis working for challenging syndicates. It is nothing less than incredible for a nation as small as New Zealand to have such a multitude of sailors with the ability to lead and skipper, crew and design,and have a connection with almost every challenging syndicate. We seem to write about some new Kiwi almost every issue who has been "snapped up" by this or that challenger.

Remember BENJAMIN NATHAN! The Maori who bashed up the America's Cup. Well he has written a book on "Maori Sovereignty" since he left prison and is offering to give interviews provided they are paid for. - John Roake

The Island Sailing Club at Cowes, which organises the world-famous Hoya Round-the-Island Race, has placed an order for eight new Sonar Class keelboats for delivery in the Spring this year. These eight Sonars will be used to introduce new people to keelboat sailing; youth and adult training; and for a series of sailing challenges to corporate clients; match racing as well as fleet racing; and the traditional Cowes Regattas and Skandia Life Cowes Week.

The boats will be funded from the Club's own resources with financial support from the Lottery Sports Fund and the English Sports Council as well as the Rural Development Commission. Two additional staff members are to be employed to manage the fleet as well as the Club's other sailing programmes. - Bob Fisher

Rose Bowl Regatta, USC - Alamitos Bay Yacht Club, January 2-3, 1999 Final Results (total A & B):

1. UNIV of SOUTHERN CAL 17 20 37
2. ST. MARY'S of MARYLAND 12 37 49
3. UC IRVINE 40 33 73
5. DARTMOUTH 48 31 79
6. UC SANTA BARBARA 51 33 84
7. UC SANTA CRUZ 50 53 103
8. STANFORD 56 52 108
9. COLLEGE OF MARIN 74 74 148
10. UC SAN DIEGO 84 70 154
11. CAL POLY SLO 84 92 176
12. UC BERKELEY 93 88 181
13. CAL MARITIME 89 117 206

WINNING TEAM : USC -- Dalton Bergan '00 (All) Andrea Cabito '00 (All) Daniel Meade '00 (All) Jessica Amen '02 (All)

** This morning, Mike Golding's Team Group 4 was towed into the New Zealand Cup Village four days after striking a sandbar off Cape Reinga. Shortly after docking, Golding met the press and echoed the words Hampton spoke some 16 years ago. "The fact of the matter is, the responsibility of the boat and her navigation is profoundly and squarely and fairly in my ballcourt. No one was more surprised than me when the boat struck something. But it's clear as day I made a mistake."

If a repair can be made in time, Golding will continue on for the final two legs of the event, though he will not be eligible for the overall prize.

** E-mail from Brad Van Liew on the 50-foot Balance Bar --The past couple of days have been the toughest light air sailing since the start. I feel like the Doldrums have returned to haunt me. I am essentially trapped by a massive high in the north-eastern Tasman Sea. It is somewhat like being on the freeway and stuck behind two tractor trailers, with no way to pass them. The good news is that this "road block" has helped in my ablility to close the difference between me and Magellan Alpha. The bad news is that the clock is running on J.P.'s lead and it kills me to think of how much he is gaining because he snuck into Auckland just in front of this weather pattern.

I have been doing my best to keep Balance Bar moving and I think I have overdone it in an effort to catch Mike. I must have tacked or gybed 20 times, in the dark of night to gain an average speed of about 2 knots. As a by-product I am tired and my hands are a mess, complete with Band-Aids on three fingers. It is not easy for me to sleep when the boat doesn't have steerage and my autopilots can't hold a true course. The thought gnaws at me while Balance Bar drifts in lazy circles. I do have a little breeze (4 knots) now and God willing it will stick around to help pull me through this messy situation.

Class II standings (distance to finish in parenthesis) 1. Mouligne (finished) 2. Garside (595) 3. Van Liew (639)

Event website:

Pretty ugly