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SCUTTLEBUTT #253 - January 8, 1999

There are two BIG stories in today's Grand Prix Sailor. GPS has given 'Butt permission to print the brief summaries that appear here, but you'll want to check in at the Sailing World website to read the full stories. They'll be posted by 9:00 AM PST:

** Peter Holmberg's financially strapped Team Caribbean was forming an association with the low-profile Team Dennis Conner for the America's Cup 2000 in New Zealand. The agreement finds Holmberg in Conner's Strars & Stripes afterguard. Team Dennis Conner's Bill Trenkle says the Reichel/Pugh design for Team DC's yacht is firm. New England Boat Works, Portsmouth, R.I., which built Conner's Whitbread 60, Toshiba, will build Conner's new Stars & Stripes, scheduled to be finished early this summer. In a separate announcement, Team Dennis Conner reported that Ken Read, two-time Rolex Yachtsman of the Year, and a team member of Young America in '95, would be signing on as helmsman. -- Carol Bareuther and Dave Reed

** The 2001-2 Volvo Ocean Race will have only two stops in Australia with the choices still to be made among Fremantle, Melbourne, Sydney and Auckland. The South American stopover is unlikely to be San Sebastiao again as the Brazilian resort is remote, and both Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro are under consideration. The two United States ports will come from Miami, Charleston, Baltimore and Newport. All the legs will be scored with the same number of points; there are no bonuses to be awarded for the longer legs The boats will be of the same class, renamed the Volvo Ocean 60s, but carbon-fiber masts will be allowed -Bob Fisher

LASER -- World number one ranked Laser sailor, Ben Ainslie of Great Britain today had a perfect score in trying conditions on Port Phillip Bay, winning races three and four of the 1999 World Laser Championship. Sailed from Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron at St Kilda, Ainslie excelled in the heavy conditions, where winds gusted to 30 knots, kicking up short, steep waves.

In race four, the Atlanta silver medallist defeated Poland's Maciej Grabowski with third place going to reigning world champion Robert Scheidt of Brazil. It would have been a sweet moment for the Briton, having lost to Scheidt in the Atlanta Olympic Games.

After this first clash at the 99 Worlds between the top three ranked Laser sailors in the world - Ainslie, Scheidt and Blackburn, all three are equal on points in first place. In flight two of race four, Finland's Roope Suomalianen also scored his second victory of the series, beating Andonis Bougiouris of Greece and Australia's Brendan Casey in third. It was a fine day out for Casey, having claimed his flight in race three earlier in the day, beating Robert Scheidt in a close series.

Laser World Championships Race Four (provisional results): Flight One 1. Ben Ainslie (GBR) 2. Maciej Grabowski (POL) 3. Robert Scheidt (BRA) 4. Michael Blackburn (AUS) 5. Daniel Birgmark (SWE) Flight Two 1. Roope Suomalianen (FIN) 2. Andonis Bougiouris (GRE) 3. Brendan Casey (AUS) 4. Karl Suneson (SWE) 5. Brett Beyer (AUS) Race 3 (provisional): Flight 1 1. Ben Ainslie (GBR) 2. Serge Kats (NED) 3. Michael Blackburn (AUS) 4. Simon Small (NZL) 5. Anthony Merrington (AUS) Flight 2 1. Brendan Casey (AUS) 2. Robert Scheidt (BRA) 3. Fredrik Westman (FIN) 4. Jim Taylor (GBR) 5. Peder Ronholt (DEN)

EUROPE -- World champion Carolijn Brouwer from The Netherlands has stamped her mark on the Olympic Europe dinghy class for women by winning the Europe Open Class at the 99 World Sailing Championships being sailed on Melbourne's Port Phillip. Sailed from the Mornington Yacht Club, Open Week ended with the fleet sailing in the freshest wind of the week, 15 to 20 knot south-easters. In an impressive leadup to the Europe Worlds starting next Monday, Brouwer won from the Finnish sailor Sari Multala and Atlanta gold medallist Margriet Matthijsse, with Australia's Melanie Dennison coming in third followed by fellow Australian Christine Bridge.

Europe Open Week, Women: Race 8:

Red Flight Green Flight Blue Flight
1 Matthijsse (NED) Wennerstrom (USA) Terese Torgersson (SWE)
2 Sara Macky (NZL) Luciana Scarrone (BRA) Aiko Saito (JAP)
3 Abbey Mason (NZL) Chiara Calligaris (ITA) Kristin Endres (GER)
4 Cecilia Bengtsson (SWE) Denise Cesky (AUT) Fernananda Pinta (BRA)
5 Sari Multala (FIN) Fabiana Scarrone (BRA) Cathelyne in't Veld (NED)

Event website:

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(Rick Merriman prepared this special report for Scuttlebutt about Search and Rescue (SAR) operations at sea. Merriman's was a US Navy P-3C pilot for 8 years where he flew on over 50 SAR missions. He was stationed in Hawaii and California, and also deployed to Alaska and the Indian Ocean.)

To best ensure that you will be found and ultimately rescued you must try and increase your chances of being found. There are a few ways to this. The first is to make sure you have an EPIRB or GIRB onboard the life raft or boat you are in. Know how to use it before you need it. On one SAR the boat kept turning it on for an hour then off for an hour to save the batteries. All this did was take longer for the shore based DF stations to come up with a reliable AOP (area of probability).

Next is to have a radar reflector on the boat and life raft. A fiberglass or carbon hull does not present a very good radar return especially in high seas. An aluminum mast presents a good return but more and more boats have carbon fibre mast which gives a boat almost stealth capacities. Not what you want when some one is looking for you. A P-3 or C-130 can sweep an area of the ocean 300 miles across as it flies at 5000 feet with its radar. Visually they can see 10 miles on either side of the aircraft during the best conditions and next to nothing during bad weather and high seas. Most rescues are because they found the raft or boat on radar, not visually. Try to get the reflector as high as possible, especially during a high sea state. Tying a spinnaker pole up vertically also helps if it is aluminum.

A survival suit should be mandatory on board when ever the combined air temperature and water temperature is 110 degrees F. Otherwise you will die of hypothermia before they have the chance to find you. I can not tell you how many times they have found the boat or raft and the people on board have died due to hypothermia. We carry them on the aircraft in case we have to ditch and spend some time in a life raft. I would not trade the weight of that Gumby suit for gold.

Some other things that you should be aware of is that the aircraft carry a survival kit that can be dropped to you in the water. It is actually two rafts with food, water, a radio and other gear to help you out till a ship or helicopter can get to you. They will fly perpendicular to you and the wind and will throw out one raft that is connected to the other raft with 150 feet of line. Once they throw out the first raft the line will pay out till it gets to the other raft and it will then leave the aircraft. They will drop it at an altitude of 200 ft and approximately 200 knots. It should land near you. They might drop a smoke first to try and determine the wind direction and current drift. Let the raft drift to you do not swim for it unless you are already in the water.

The frequencies they are monitor are 121.5 VHF, 243.0 UHF, 8364 HF.

A signal mirror is very effective during the day when it is sunny.

Smoke and green dye are effective if the a/c is within a few miles but its usefulness decreases the rougher and more wind you have. Flares are good at night but most a/c search only during daylight hours because they cannot visually ID you unless they have an Infrared camera on board.

The best time to prepare for the worst possible situation is before you are in the worst situation.

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

-- From Ken Guyer -- I appreciate the spirit and confidence expressed by Dawn Riley ('Butt #251) regarding her team. However the spirit of a "winning team without or woman" becomes diluted and a bit convoluted when it comes from a team whose tag line in every news release is the "first America's Cup team managed by a woman".

-- From James Nichols -- In all seriousness, I read an article in the paper not too long ago about a medical study that suggested that, in fact, alcohol consumption does not kill brain cells. Reminds me of what President Lincoln is rumored to have said when someone criticized U.S. Grant for his weakness for whisky: "Find out what he drinks, and send a case to each of our other generals."

-- From Bob Wilmot -- As a Sydney to Hobart competitor, I would like to put into perspective the expected conditions for this race. Almost every year the predicted weather includes a Southerly Buster. It is not uncommon for the Southerly to generate winds up to 65 knots. We the competitors must go to sea prepared for and expecting these conditions. We must be diligent in our own and our fellow crew's safety preparations, the seaworthiness of the boat, and be committed to learning all we can about the art of surviving in extreme conditions. Blaming others for our shortfalls should not be an option.

If we were to pressure the race committee into the practice of postponing a race due to predicted bad weather, then how would it be policed? Such an arbitrary practice would always be open to scrutiny and I think it would lead to less seaworthy boats as they will not be "expected" to race in severe weather. Unexpected exposure of these "less seaworthy" boats to severe weather could be devastating. Unexpected weather is definitely the norm in Bass Strait!

I hope this tragedy becomes a reminder for years to come to fellow yachtsmen who are preparing for an ocean race or passage. Do not rely on the safety inspector or the race committee to tell you what the minimum requirements are. I do not think it is their job to guarantee that the safety harnesses have not rotted. Take it upon yourselves to be prepared as your life may someday depend on it.

-- From Harvey Loomis -- Of course ocean racing can be a dangerous sport, but Michael Ford's position that everyone out there has a choice to make about whether to go or not is pretty unrealistic. Does he really think that an 18-year-old racing with his father is going to say on the morning of the start, "Dad, I'm scared -- can't we drop out of the race?" or that a 40-year-old with experience, who may be a watch captain, is going to say, "You go if you want, but I think I'll skip this one." No way. Which puts the decision squarely with the skippers -- and they, of course, have their own heavy pressures working against "wimping" out. Not the least of which is the all-too-human tendency expressed as "Well, if everyone else is going, I guess we're going too." And that, it seems to me, puts a greater onus on the Race Committee to make the decision, not in a legal sense (I emphatically hope), but in the need to have a realistic understanding of how individual decisions are made or not made.

The decision to postpone a race is a indeed a thorny one, but one thing is sure: Only a handful of skippers are ever going to make that decision on their own; the rest of the fleet will go when the gun goes. So if anyone is going to take what seems to be a prudent measure, it's going to have to be the RC.

-- From Glenn McCarthy -- In the 1970 Chicago-Mackinac race, a storm with hurricane winds decimated the fleet. Less than half of the fleet crossed the finish line. By the grace of god, there were no fatalities, even though there was one overboard during the storm, who was recovered by his own boat.

Clearly, any fleet, anywhere is subject to an intensifying low pressure system. We have seen it with the Chicago-Mackinac, the Fastnet and Sydney-Hobart (twice). It is part of Offshore Racing. It will happen again.

Looking at the ORC Special Regulations, it is clear that each item of safety equipment has been created through failure. Reading the press on Sydney-Hobart, they seem to have a set of Safety rules they believe exceeds the ORC Special Regulations. I am sure that out of the 1998 Sydney-Hobart, revelations will be made (adding to the safety recommendations) that will give each one of us a better chance in the event we meet one of these storms. There is a silver lining in the clouds of Sydney-Hobart.

Marina del Rey's California Yacht Club has announced it will be offering an AMERICAP start in the 1999 Sunset Series. Central to AMERICAP is a velocity prediction program that handicaps a boat's performance for different types of race courses and wind speeds. However, unlike IMS, this system allows owners and tacticians to easily calculate differences in corrected times between competitors on the racecourse. There are standard ratings for over 700 yacht designs, which allows implementation with minimal cost to owners. - Dick Hampikian

CYC is holding an AMERICAP seminar on February 18, 1999 at 7:30 PM. CYC website:

Class winners: Turbo A: Magnitude, Doug Baker, LBYC, *PHRF A: Airwaves, Reiner Kaiser, CBYC, PHRF B: Superstar, S. Blinder/D Epstein, WYC, PHRF C: DIVA, Rey Costello, Jr., SMYC, ORCA: Double Bullet, Robert Hanel, CBYC, STEIN: Main Squeeze, Vic Smith, WYC

The organisers of this year's 1800-mile Coffs Harbour to Fiji race will consider changes to safety standards following the lessons being learned for the tragic Sydney to Hobart classic. The Chairman of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's committee reviewing the Hobart disaster, former Commodore Peter Bush, has already contacted Fiji Race Director Rob Mundle and arranged for any relevant information to be passed on once the review and coronial inquiry are complete.

"It is becoming apparent from the Hobart tragedy that some international standards that have been seen as being acceptable will need to change," Rob Mundle said. "The safety of competitors in the Coffs Harbour to Fiji race is paramount so if there are any new safety standards that we feel should apply to this race then they will be implemented.

Organisers are expecting a fleet of more than 20 yachts following a remarkable response from yacht owners to news of the race. The fleet will race in three divisions - IMS, Performance Handicap and two-handed - to Suva, the capital of the Fiji Islands. - Rob Mundle

The trouble with good ideas is that they soon degenerate into a lot of hard work.