SCUTTLEBUTT #282 - February 18, 1999
(In 'Butt #281 we ran John Rousmaniere's unedited comments about the Around
Alone Race. Here are opposing viewpoints from three of our sport's
-- From yachting journalist Herb McCormick -- As the guy who writes a lot
of the Around Alone stuff that appears in Scuttlebutt, I guess I'm one of
the "promoters" to whom John Rousmaniere refers in his rather scathing
guest editorial about what he calls the "sad event" in 'Butt #281.
John's terrific book on the Fastnet Race two decades ago, and his
subsequent writings, have obviously made him a favorite for New York
newspaper reporters and television producers when disaster strikes on the
high seas, and a tidy, concise "sound bite" is required to instantly
interpret the mayhem to the masses. But alot has happened in the world of
offshore sailing since 1979 and, whether John likes it or not, offshore
marathon events like Around Alone, the Vendee Globe, and the
Volvo/Whitbread race are here to stay.
When singlehanded racers are able to knock off 400 miles in a day's run, it
seems to me that advancements have been made in boat design and
construction that rival the impressive gains in communications in the last
decade. Have there been problems? Undeniably. That will always happen when
cutting-edge sailors push the envelope. But, please, don't single out the
singlehanders. I seem to recall an America's Cup yacht folding in two on
the race course not so long ago.
Surely, solo sailing in the Southern Ocean is not for everyone. Then again,
neither is bucking the current on a sweltering windward beat in 5-knots of
breeze on Long Island Sound. The dazzling contrasts are one of the things
that make our sport such a great one. But don't slam the designers and
sailors drawn to the extreme part of the game. After all, for a lot of
people "adventure" is no more than a prefix for packaged travel tours.
I'm sorry John's bit didn't make it on TV but, maybe, what he mistook for
"boosterism" was in fact a tribute to the triumph of the human spirit.
-- From yachting webmaster Ike Stephenson -- Not unexpectedly, some have
raised doubts about Around Alone. Some have charged that the combination
of unstable boats, and single-handed sailing is going into harms way
intentionally. Further charges have been made that Around Alone is a
commercially driven stunt, a "bizarre race."
One can't question that this Around Alone race has been a hard one to
finish. However, Autissier's is the only boat to capsize. One also must
remember that her boat is not of the newest generation.
With Around Alone certainly sponsors do make claims that the boats and
theories behind them are 'the answer'. And just as regularly they are
proven wrong. In fact they have been shown wrong twice in the last week.
Josh Hall's mast broke and Autissier's boat capsized. Obviously there are
still questions to be answered about the best way to make Around Alone both
fast and safe.
The only correct charge is that sailing around the world alone has not been
mastered. The efforts to do so are not bizarre (defined as: conspicuously
or grossly unconventional or unusual). Rather the efforts to master the
monumental sailing challenge that Around Alone proposes are in the truest
sense adventure (defined as to run the risk of; to dare).
Around Alone sailors continue to run risks, as Do other professional
athletes such as drivers, Football players and jockeys. I think it is
these risks that combine to produce a compelling race. When the questions
of sailing alone around the world are mastered, we'll all be better off.
-- From yachting writer and publicist Paul Larsen -- Doth my friend and
neighbor John Rousmaniere protest too much? Those who undertake races like
Around Alone and Whitbread certainly know what they are getting in to.
Having had the great privilege to sail with Ms. Autissier many years ago, I
was granted a glimpse into her character and her competitiveness. I'd
venture to say long distance races are the life blood to the Around Alone
competitors and for them, the tougher the challenge, the better. We may
think they're nuts, but I'm sure they think those of us driving a desk are
equally bonkers. The point is this is their sport and they thrive on the
challenge. More people have been lost climbing Everest, sky diving, and
driving race cars than in what John refers to as "stunt" sailboat races.
John seems more upset about not getting on T.V. (we read a similar
complaint after Sydney-Hobart) than excited about the rescue. What he sees
as boosterism, I see as one of the great feats of seamanship in history.
(The following are excerpts from DEFENCE 2000, which is available from
John@roake.gen.nz -- US $48 per year.)
-- Halsey Herreshoff was in Auckland last week, scouting for a venue for
the Hall of Fame induction ceremony in February 2000. Halsey, who is the
curator of the America's Cup Hall of Fame in the Herreshof Marine Museum,
Rhode Island, plans to bring the exhibit to New Zealand. This will be the
first time an induction ceremony has been held outside the United States.
Three yachting legends will be added to the list in Auckland on February
15. Herreshoff's grandfather was one of the worlds most celebrated yacht
designers, producing six successful Cup defenders from 1893 to 1920. Halsey
sailed in four winning defences.
-- The Team Magic crew and their skipper, Russell Coutts, are unlikely to
participate in the international match racing series in Auckland, early
March. It is to be a busy time for Team New Zealand, which has personnel
priority. It is therefore unlikely that Coutts will defend his title,
despite the fact that there are a long list of the world's best sailors
likely to be participating. The names include Chris Law, Gavin Brady,
Harold Bennett, Paul Cayard, Chris Dickson, and Peter Gilmour.
-- The Swiss team have packed up and left Auckland, after two months
training in their yellow terror. Their yacht (French built, 1995), has
been left on the hard at their Viaduct Basin base.
-- It seems that the market for rented homes for the five months of the
Cup scene is likely to stabilise around NZ$1000 per week. And contrary to
earlier speculation, there is still an abundance of motel accommodation on
the North Shore. Several moteliers have described the demand for units as
a "big yawn," apart from the month of October and APEC conference time.
However, we suspect that they may be very pleasantly surprised and Defence
2000 advises intending visitors to Auckland to book now. Most city
accommodation is committed, but there is motel accommodation available on
the North shore. But don't delay!
What do you get when you combine MDT (for Multi Directional Threading) with
Stitchless technology? Well, Dennis & Sharon Case did it and they got the
trophy for the Schock 35 High Point Series -- again. Dick Schmidt & Gwen
Gordon did the same thing this past season, and they finished second behind
the Cases. MDT and Stitchless technology are two of the factors that make
Ullman Sails lighter, strongerand apparently faster. Check out the Ullman
Sails website to learn how you can improve the performance of your racing
SAILING OF TV
GMC Yukon Yachting Key West Race Week 1999 will be featured on ESPN2 in a
half-hour special hosted by Gary Jobson. The show is scheduled to air
February 21, 1999 at 1 PM EST. The re-air is scheduled for April 2, 1999
1:30 AM EST / 10:30 PM PST.
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 Greg Stewart - Scuttlebutt #281 provided two great insights:
Always carry a hammer when sailing
Soldini should be yachtsman of the year
-- From: Bruce Vandeventer--The problem with some sort of electronic gizmo
to signal if you are over early is that any part of the boat can be over -
often it's the weather rail that's over early, not the bow.
As far as the practice of using the VHF to broadcast OCS numbers, it's not
exactly kosher per the FCC regulations. This is covered in 47CFR (code of
Federal Regulations) sec. 80.89: marine VHF users are not permitted to
"..transmit signals or communications not addressed to a particular station
or stations" (no broadcasting allowed). Whether a fleet of sailboats
constitutes "stations" is beyond me.
The FCC does provide for "family radio services" and low-power unlicensed
personal radio services as well as the old CB channels. The former may be
the way to go with the Swatch - sailor watch, but I would prefer something
where the RC doesn't have to frantically type at the same time they're on
the radio and PA and looking through binoculars to get the numbers of that
guy waay down at the other end of the line.
It may be worthwhile for the ISAF and US Sailing to contact the FCC
regarding the needs of race committees to provide localized limited
"broadcasting" to competitors. For more info on the family radio services
action by the FCC, see:
-- From Jordan J. Dobrikin -- Just to clear the air/level the playing
field, the Race Committee is encouraged to use any and all means available
to it to inform the racers that they are OCS. These include but are not
limited to: RADIO, (VHF, GRC CB); voice amplifiers (Loud Hailers, Bull
Horns); other vessels (Marks Boats, Work Boats, Judge Boats, Umpire Boats).
The order in which OCS boats are announced is a specious and facetious
argument and should be given short shrift. If the practice catches on, as I
believe it will, and should; industry can, should, and will develop lower
cost, waterproof/submersible, radios, and mesh pockets on PFDs to
accommodate them. Possibly RO, (Receive Only); however a transceiver can
"double in brass" as Man Overboard, Crew Overboard, Person Overboard
-- From Peter Johnstone -- In this age of sound-bites and imagery, opinions
are formed in seconds, especially when the interest is fleeting. No amount
of level-headed or well-intentioned content can overcome the damage done by
a tabloid style cover promoting disaster and death in sailing. Recently,
many of our favorite sailing magazines have, in my opinion, done a
disservice to the sport in their attempt to spice up newsstand sales with
tabloid type covers. Yes, the Melinda Lee and Hobart tragedies warrant
thorough and balanced coverage. However, the covers should reflect the
contents' aim to share these tragedies so that hopefully they may not be
repeated. Unfortunately, the majority who see these covers will simply
remember the tabloid message of terror and death.
-- From John Slivka, NorCal PHRF Committee Member (Regarding more input on
Empirical Handicapping) -- I would like to add that the ISAF has not
published any of the Empirical Handicapping papers that were presented at
the Palma meeting. I have made several inquiries and have been assured that
these would be forthcoming? I don't want to rehash the lack of
communication issue, yet what could be going on?
-- From Peter Huston -- It is unfortunate that US SAILING has a policy that
requires to you prove your "innocence" as a Group 1 competitor. The
ultimate insult is that you have to pay for this "service". This is not
proper, and should be changed.
As the person who is responsible for first suggesting the list of Group 2 &
3 competitors through an article in Sailing World, I am saddened that US
SAILING has taken this idea and created yet another reason for people to
not be members of an otherwise worthy organization.
Tom, I would encourage you to use your many persuasive talents by working
within the SCYA framework for the goal of that body making a proposal to
the US SAILING Board at the October AGM that, at minimum, this fee be
removed for those who are found to be Group 1 sailors.
As an alternative to membership dues, perhaps US SAILING should just give
away membership to all racing sailors. Currently there are roughly 40,000
members. This is believed to represent only 10% of those who actively race
sailboats. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that on ad
rates alone, to say nothing of other marketing alternatives, this larger
group of people when presented in a proper, comprehensive manner to
advertisers can easily more than recover the administrative overhead burden
of US SAILING which is currently shouldered by only a relatively few dues
paying members...and of course those who need to prove their innocence.
-- From Carol Newman Cronin -- I'm sure this is not the only correction you
will get on this, but Neal Fowler/Mike Collins won the 1997 IC Nationals.
Tim Healy/Samantha Rosemont claimed the 1998 title. Fowler claims it was
towing an empty Snipe trailer to the IC Midwinters that was responsible for
his victory, but a recently re-rigged vang that gave that responsibility to
the crew probably had more to do with it.
TIP O' THE WEEK
Get into the Rhythm -- The dynamics on the starting line are quite unique:
Lots of information feeding into your decisions, lots of positioning,
slowing and going, etc.. These are all things most sailors do not warm up
with when milling about the starting area. We all go upwind and check the
shifts and get tuned, however, rarely do sailors do stop and go's, or
circles, just prior to starting. Doing these moves creates a rhythm that
can really affect one's timing on the line. Try it the next race you are
in. Set up right on the line and go through the motions of the last minute
of a sequence. It's a little like a skier doing mental imagery, if you get
the rhythm just before the real deal your timing will be improved and so
will your start. -- The Coach at Sailweb.net.
The 'one size fits all' baseball hats have been a fixture on the sailing
scene long before tri-radial sails so it's hard to believe that there is
much room for improvement. WRONG! Crazy Susan has raised the bar. The
patented closure and quality details set these products apart almost as
much as the unique design. Rock stars traveling the professional sailing
circuit fight over Crazy Susan baseball hats, as well they should. Happily
I no longer suffer silently with envy -- I now have my own Crazy Susan hat.
There are times when being a curmudgeon is enormously rewarding.
Probably one of our best days yet on the water! We towed to the race
course at our normal 9:45 a.m. We were greeted by a fine 14-16 knot
northeasterly, with a slight chop. As the Bucklands Beach YC set up our
racecourse we did our pre-race homework and fine-tuning on the rig. The
usual radio contact with America True determined that we would do one
practice start, come back, and do another start that would be a race.
For the past couple days the #3 match racer in the world, Chris Law, has
been in town helping us out with his match racing skill. Paul decided that
he would let Chris do these starts. Chris's style is a bit aggressive.
Chris did a great job against Gavin Brady, neutralizing Gavin's similar
style and getting good starts.
However, the highlight of the day for me was the race that we did. In a
furious tacking duel with America True we split our genoa and were forced
to do an in-line change to the 4-1 headsail. It was a good learning
experience and a good test of our team's ability to handle a crisis!
At the beginning of the change we had about a two boatlength lead over
True. Three minutes later and with a new headsail, our lead was down to a
half boatlength, but, we were still in the lead with starboard advantage.
It is easy to measure the success of the team by straight finish line
results. However, what these results don't measure is how the team is
actually performing as a "Team".
The crisis management that we experienced today showed to me that the past
7 weeks have been extremely valuable. Sure we are all learning the boat,
but more importantly, we are developing as a team! In crunch time we are
getting the job done! -- Terry Hutchinson
Standings (Distance to finish in parenthesis) CLASS I: 1. Thiercelin (2579)
2 Soldini (2956) CLASS II: 1. Mouligne (3401) 2. Garside (3439) 3. Van Liew
My sea bag is packed and in a couple of minutes I'll be heading to Marina
del Rey to navigate Harry Smith's J/160 Bushwacker on the Del Rey YC's
1200-mile Puerto Vallarta Race. I'll also be staying in PV to race the
MEXORC Regatta aboard Bob McNeil's R/P 74, Zephyrus IV. Obviously, I will
not be able to produce 'Butt from the 'high seas' and email is way too slow
in Mexico to even consider doing down there. Soooo, this will be your last
issue of Scuttlebutt for two weeks or so. And if you can hold off sending
any email until March 5, perhaps that will prevent my mailbox at Earthlink
from exploding. Adios!
THE CURMUDGEON'S OBSERVATIONS
Life would be infinitely happier if we could be born at the age of eighty
and gradually approach eighteen.