SCUTTLEBUTT #281 - February 17, 1999
-- Italian skipper Giovanni Soldini, who earlier today sailed into the
annals of solo sailing history after rescuing Isabelle Autissier from her
shipwrecked 60-footer PRB, contacted race officials here in Charleston this
afternoon to report that all was well and that he was resuming course for
Cape Horn. According to a spokesman at the Around Alone race operations
center, who received Soldini's COMSAT satellite phone call at 1815 GMT,
Soldini said, "Doing well in good seas. Very light wind here now. But soon
there will be lots of wind!"
Soldini also provided further information about today's rescue operation,
which took place shortly after he rendezvoused with Autissier at 1400 GMT.
"[Soldini] said there was nothing in sight at the EPIRB position, so he
turned northwest and found PRB in poor visibility about two miles from the
original search sight," the official said. "He made two passes close aboard
yelling for Isabelle with no response. On the third pass he threw a hammer
at PRB's upturned hull and Isabelle appeared. She had been sleeping!"
Soldini finished by saying that he and Autissier were enjoying a wine and
cheese party in celebration of their unscheduled reunion aboard his 60-foot
Late this afternoon, Soldini and Autissier were again en route for Cape
Horn, less than 1,900 miles to the west. At 2000 GMT, FILA was positioned
at 54 degrees 40 minutes South, 120 degrees 29 minutes West, and making 8
knots on a course heading of 065 degrees. From his remark about "lots of
wind soon," Soldini was clearly aware of a significant low pressure system
packing gale-force winds and large, accompanying seas, that was moving in
from the west. Holding a northeasterly heading, Soldini is now making
tracks to avoid the brunt of the impending storm.
Also late today, Autissier's shore team in France released a transcript
from the rescued skipper that answered several questions about the
incident. "Isabelle explained that the boat had been [knocked down to 90
degrees], in 20 knots of wind, following an [unexpected lurch] due to a
problem with the boat's autopilot," said spokesman Eric Coquerel. "What is
surprising, and what Isabelle still didn't understand this evening, was
that the boat rapidly overturned [to a full inverted position] and stayed
that way. Isabelle had just enough time to take refuge inside and send out
a distress signal. Then began...a 24-hour wait [for Soldini to arrive].
When Gio threw a hammer at the hull to let Isabelle know she could come
out, she exited by the escape hatch built in to the boat's transom."
At 1545 GMT, Autissier sent this email message to her shore team: "Well,
here I am being a tourist in Italy... I'm not unhappy, the boat [lost
control] in a moderate wind of 20 knots following an error in the
autopilot... Normally one would sleep after this, but I'm recovering
nicely. The boat [went over] more than 90 degrees and I was no longer able
to go into the cockpit. It then overturned very quickly. I only had time
enough to close the door [behind me as I dove into the boat's interior]."
Autissier then waited patiently until she was awakened by the sweetest
sound she ever heard: A tossed hammer glancing off the carbon-fiber hull of
her upside-down boat. -- Herb McCormick
-- GALES AHEAD - The gale that rolled across the Around Alone frontrunners
has pressed on, giving the competitors a brief breather before a huge storm
system envelops the entire fleet. Ken Campbell of Commanders' Weather
(official forecaster of Around Alone) sees a storm advancing that will
blast the racers with winds in the 40- to 60-knot range, and 25- to 30-foot
seas. This is expected to be the most severe weather of Leg 3 so far. The
spiraling wind field is expected to affect the 10 remaining boats within
the next day and a half, and the trailing boats will soon see their first
gales. "Everyone is going to get hit with this one," he said.
"It isn't so much the wind that will hamper them," Campbell said, but the
size of the waves. "Seas can be generated thousands of miles away. If
there's no land to impede the seas they'll just keep on going. If you have
strong westerly winds for thousands of miles, you're talking about a very
large fetch." Fetch refers to the distance of unobstructed open water.
"Each storm that goes by will increase that sea again. But it's all part of
the territory down there," Campbell said. "It's exactly what you would
expect for that part of the world." -- Betsy Crowfoot
STANDINGS (Distance to leader in Parenthesis) CLASS I: 1. Thiercelin (0.0)
2. Soldini (364.9) CLASS II: 1. Mouligne (0.0) 2. Garside (49.0) 3. Van
Event website: http://www.aroundalone.com
GUEST EDITORIAL - by John Rousmaniere
The Tom Brokaw people, who had called six weeks ago to talk about the
Sydney- Hobart Race, phoned again today to ask to interview me about the
capsize of Isabelle Autissier's boat in the Around the World singlehanded
race in the far South Pacific. The producer said she was especially
interested in my critical observation in this morning's New York Times:
"These boats are probably beyond the ability of one person to handle," I
had said. "They are extremely unstable and would be a handful even if they
had a full crew. But to put them out in the lower latitudes of the
Screaming Fifties [of southern latitude], each with only one exhausted crew
member on board, is like going into harm's way intentionally." The only way
I'd change that would be to drop the 6th word from the end: "like."
The producer and I spoke several times, I was approved with the
understanding on my part that I would repeat that comment and on hers that
I would not criticize the sailors personally, and she and a film crew of
two drove out to Stamford from New York. After half an hour or so setting
up, they interviewed me for 15 minutes. She pushed me to repeat and
elaborate on the critical point. I did so, stressing the dangerous mix of
the wild boats, the vulnerability of singlehanders, and the regularly
appalling weather down there. I praised the courage of Autissier and the
rescuer, Giovanni Soldini, but added the suggestion that this bizarre race
and its weird brothers have become stunts driven by sponsors,
professionals, and commercial interests.
I held back from observing that if these boats are the triumphs of high
technology that their promoters say they are, then why is it that they have
such problems? (Autissier suffered a damaged mast two months ago, then
capsized; and one of the putative rescuers could not turn back to her
yesterday because of a broken gooseneck.) In this sad event, the triumph
of technology to be reckoned with is that not of the boats but of Silicon
Valley, which saved her hide with the communications revolution. Autissier,
though upside down 1,900 miles west of Cape Horn, was able to report her
capsize to France using a cell phone, and to pinpoint her location by
setting off emergency beacons that alerted others through another
satellite. Her rescuer Soldini received his instructions via e-mail -
e-mail!! The only device older than a decade that played a part in the
rescue was the radar with which Soldini hunted Autissier down.
Interview over, the crew and producer packed up, and back to New York they
went. Two hours later the show came on: an homage to the brave French
navigator, with not a breath of doubt about the race or the circumstances
of her accident.
The producer very kindly and professionally called to apologize for taking
so much of my time for no result. There had been a moment, she said, when
it looked as though they would use one of my sound bites - the one that
described the tough weather in the Screaming Fifties. She did not mention
the sudden turn the story had taken from journalism to boosterism. -- John
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IC DINGHY MIDWINTER CHAMPIONSHIP
Larchmont Yacht Club, February 13 - 14, 1999 -- The IC Dinghy MidWinter
Championship Regatta travelled from its home in Annapolis for the first
time this year, but little was lost by the change of locale. Racing took
place at the Larchmont YC in Larchmont, NY on Long Island Sound, home to an
active Interclub fleet since the boat was originally commissioned in 1946.
Forty teams braved small craft warnings and forecasts of near southern
ocean wind conditions for the event. Saturday was sunny and cold with a
westerly breeze of 15-18 knots with stronger gusts and much higher winds
forecast with a coming frontal line in the afternoon. The Committee set a
windward leeward course with a wide offset that had the effect of reducing
the number of jibes downwind.
In the third race, chaos began to break loose. A strong puff on the run set
many of the boats as close to a plane as the venerable design will come,
however several of the boats which had held high on port jibe found
themselves in trouble and several capsizes ensured, including a spectacular
crash jibe flip by Larchmont skipper Anthony Law during which his boom
snapped in half. Neal Fowler put another bullet on the board in this race
and began to put a stranglehold on the regatta.
The fourth and fifth races saw a slight decrease in the chaos. Former
Sunfish Class Champion Paul-Jon Patin won the fourth with Fowler second,
however Patin was never able to become a factor in the regatta because he
found himself rendering assistance to swimmers in several races. Ed Adams
of Newport won the fifth race (Fowler's only double digit performance) to
press Bowers in second.
The sixth race once again saw the fleet pummeled by some spectacular puffs.
Bill Lynn was one of the victims when an out of control competitor caused
him to capsize at the leeward mark. Two other boats had already flipped on
the run and several others escaped from close shaves. Bill Tripp won the
race, but with Adams in second and Fowler in fourth there was no room to
move up. With all of the crashboats occupied and fully 25% fleet retired
due either to capsize or breakdown, the Race Committee elected to call it a
day and try to save something for Sunday's predicted lighter winds.
Unfortunately, forecasts are notoriously inaccurate, and Sunday, far from
bringing more sailable conditions brought - in addition to frigid
temperatures - a gusty northerly with puffs in the mid-30's and shifts all
over. The Race Committee postponed for an hour, but with no sign of a
decrease in the wind, packed it in and called it a regatta, giving Neal
Fowler an additional feather to add to last spring's National Championship.
- Andrew Besheer
1. Neal Fowler, Mike Collins - Hyannis: 1,3,1,2,(14),4..11
2. Jim Bowers, Myrna Fong MacRae - Winthrop: 3,1,9,4,3,(11)..20
3. Ed Adams, Carol Cronin - Newport: 7,(9),6,6,1,2..22
4. Kerry Klingler - Larchmont: (18),4,3,8,4,5..24
5. Bill Tripp, Joanie Tripp - Larchmont: 2,8,7,(21),7,1..25
For the full story: http://sailingsource.com/interclub/
LETTERS TO THE CURMUDGEON
We read all of our e-mail, but simply can't publish every submission. Those
that are published are routinely edited for clarity, space (250 words max)
or to exclude personal attacks.
From Paul Cayard -- It is great to know that Isabelle is safe. It is
extremely dangerous down in the Southern Ocean but as sailors we are
fortunate to have technology that helps us locate someone in such a remote
part of the world. In the Around Alone Race the sailors must really look
out for each other because when something does go wrong you are all alone
and you need your competitors to help.
-- From Tom Farquhar (Re OCS technology) -- The technology is certainly
changing quickly. If Paul Henderson is right and the RC can know + or - two
feet where the boat is, that's progress. Personally, I would like to see it
work in a racing environment before getting too excited. Pager technology
is inherently less good than some "broadcast" technology, since, as far as
I know, pages are serially transmitted, and takes a while for each
transmission. Everyone's life will be easier when we have a "go/no go"
light on each boat, and the RC can freeze that data at the start. Such
technology might make I, Z and black flags obsolete, but only if the cost
is tiny. It will also require that we revisit some of the rules regarding
starting, for example, if the sensor is in the bow of a 30-foot boat that
is approaching the starting line from the course side just before the
starting signal, under the current rules she would be OCS but the light
would be green.
-- From Geoff Jarvis, Vancouver, BC -- I would gladly welcome a pager
system or some way for dinghy sailors to know they are OCS. However, we
should be careful that when we introduce such technology, that the
responsibility of starting correctly remains squarely on the shoulders of
the competitor. If perhaps, the paging system failed for one or two boats,
would they have a right to redress? I would hope not.
In my opinion, the heart of the problem does not lie with the RC's ability
or inability to communicate with an OCS competitor, but with the
competitor's ability to know whether he/she is OCS. Rather than working
towards an improvement in the swiftness of punishment (faster informing of
OCS through paging), we should be working towards a system that prevents
competitors from being OCS unnecessarily.
-- From John Mandell-- I have an additional comment re OCS hails that I
haven't seen mentioned. One good reason for OCS hails (arguably the best)
is to benefit clean-starting competitors by expediting the removal of OCS
boats (who are essentially not racing at this moment) off the air of
still-racing (and gasping) boats directly beneath them. Further up the
course, these non-racing boats may further disturb the racing fleet. Once
you justify the existence of a hail, doing it over the radio is simply an
efficient, unambiguous way of communicating with the fleet. And, like you
said, if the SIs are written correctly, no redress is possible related to
the timing or order of hails. As a competitor, I consider efficient hails
a mark of a courteous, considerate Race Committee.
--From Elizabeth Meyer -- I doubt the America's Cup will ever be sailed in
one design boats because it is seen as one of the ultimate development
venues for race boats. But a certain commodore of the Royal Yacht Squadron
once proposed a new international sailing competition with the following
An international design competition is judged by a rotating committee of
designers. Designs can be for anything - multihulls, large boats, small
boats, whatever, but the design must be able to be built cheaply. Only one
design is chosen and announced with an approximate per boat cost published.
Any country can challenge. When all challenges are in, the boats are put
out to bid at yards in the participating countries. Each component of the
boats is built at only one yard - components could be broken down thus:
hulls and decks, masts, rigging, winches, electronics, sails. The parts are
assembled in the venue country and the teams arrive. The racing is a
combination of team racing, fleet racing and match racing in a round robin
series. There is no differentiation between professional and
non-professional crew, but each team must have 20% of its crew under the
age of 20. Payment to crew is limited to expenses plus a pre-agreed price
for each position. Obviously, since no one gets the boats in advance,
practice is limited to a two-week period on the boats in the venue country
before the even begins. Any sabotaging of boats between rounds results in
expulsion from the event.
Just imagine it, simple and sweet, fun and cheap racing in some really wild
boats - huge Sidney 18's, bilge boarders, multi hulls, whatever. I loved
the idea. Unfortunately, the idea was grabbed by a certain other yacht club
and altered until it was unrecognizable as the RYS concept. The resultant
event has not yet been sailed.
-- From Craig Fletcher -- I was just sitting here writing big brother (US
Sailing) to apply for amateur status and realized that I have had it. I
have to give $75 to an organization I loath to tell me I'm an amateur in a
CORINTHIAN sport. Topping that off with the DRYC only at night life jacket
LAW in the same week. This makes no sense. I'm looking for guidance, what
is a boy to do?
DANGER - PENDING EXPLOSION
Immediately after I issue tomorrow's 'Butt, the curmudgeon is off to
navigate Harry Smith's J/160 on Del Rey YC race to Puerto Vallarta. And
because I'm doing the MEXORC Regatta after the PV Race, I'll be away from
my computer for two weeks. Normally, I get 40 - 60 email messages per day.
Unless that slows down dramatically, my mailbox at Earthlink should explode
by about the following Tuesday, scattering my email violently through
cyberspace. It's possible there may not be anything readable remaining to
by the time I return on March 4. Consider yourself forewarned.
(The following are excerpts from DEFENCE 2000, which is available from
John@roake.gen.nz -- US $48 per year.)
-- "The big black boat will go into the contest as the underdog. The US in
general and the New York Yacht Club in particular believe having the Cup in
New Zealand is just a temporary aberration in the history of the event"
Alan Sefton, Executive Director, Team New Zealand.
-- Special arrangements are being made by the New Zealand Government to
ensure that children of the competing syndicates that are in New Zealand
for several months will still get their schooling. The Ministry of
Education are expecting at least 150 children in port from September
onwards, of which 90 will not have English as their first language. Some of
the Prada (Italy) syndicate children have already enrolled in a New Zealand
school, but they may all be together in one centre. The Department is
looking at opening the vacant teacher's centre in Herne Bay, which will be
re-labelled the "International School." What a great opportunity for their
kids. Let's hope they make the most of it!
-- Most Auckland boatyards have more work than they can handle and it is
going to get worse. Big money is being spent. Race repair crews from the
One Alone race who were in port January through last Sunday, said they have
been delighted with what they found here. Scott Wallace, project manager
for Gartmore Investments, made the comment that the facilities in Auckland
are equal to the best in France, the UK and the US. The level of knowledge
and the materials are all here, and the prices are fair. "After all," he
said "New Zealand is the Sailing Capital of the World."
-- You can buy a personally autographed Conner art work labelled
"impressionist yachting" from Dennis, direct at the shop on his base at the
America's Cup Village this month. We wouldn't have thought that Dennis had
the artistic touch, but the one-offs have been produced using a technique
of screen printing called serigraphy. Previously, signed Conner prints
have sold for as high as US$800 overseas, but reports indicate that he has
not set his sights as high in New Zealand. Money raised goes into team
THE CURMUDGEON'S OBSERVATIONS
Even a turtle has to stick his neck out to get ahead.