Scuttlebutt Today
  Archived Newsletters »
  Features »
  Photos »

SCUTTLEBUTT #305 - April 7, 1999

The last time the curmudgeon saw snow was 35 years ago, but that's all changed. It's a real winter wonderland up here at Lake Arrowhead right now and there is a two-foot snowdrift blocking the door to the deck outside of the living room. An unusual spring storm came through Southern California yesterday and laid down a layer of snow in the San Bernardino Mountains. And because my Vette does not have four wheel drive or even chains, it seemed prudent to impose on Mike Campbell's generous hospitality and spend another day at his newly acquired waterfront home. 'Butt Central has never been located in such lavish quarters

Pass Christian Yacht Club, Pass Christian, Mississippi, USA - Results through the first four races: 1 .Pickel / Auracher Germany (11) 2. Shiebler / Peters USA (24) 3. Reynolds / Liljedahl USA (29) 4. Dane / Bennett USA (29) 5. MacCausland / Trinter USA (31) 6. Beashel / Giles Australia (33) 7. Bromby / White, Bermuda (39) 8. Vessella / Dorgan USA (40) 9. Lowe / Higgs Bahamas (47) 10. Mitchell / George USA (48)

Complete results:

AmericaOne concluded an extremely valuable season collecting meteorological data today from the National Institute of Water & Atmosphere (NIWA) buoy positioned in the Hauraki Gulf, the venue for the next America's Cup. NIWA is New Zealand's premier environmental research institute providing meteorological services for various private and public subscribers. The NIWA buoy takes wind readings at three different elevations making the data significantly more sophisticated than anything else available on the race course.

In early December 1997 NIWA deployed a sophisticated meteorological buoy on the Hauraki Gulf for the purpose of selling the information to America's Cup teams. During the first season, AmericaOne was one of a few teams who subscribed for the data. By June 1998 NIWA informed all America's Cup teams that their buoy would only be deployed for a second season if they had sufficient funding from subscribers, however response from teams for this information was unexpectedly low and AmericaOne was the only subscriber.

"We sent a letter to all competitors in July of 1998 stating the plain and simple financial facts surrounding the buoy," said Gavin Fisher, manager of NIWA Auckland. "AmericaOne was the only team that seemed to see the value in our product at that time. Now everyone wants it. Had AmericaOne not stepped-up and funded the entire operation to deploy the buoy for the 1998-1999 season, as well as the 1999-2000 season we never would have captured this data - in fact, the buoy would have been redeployed elsewhere."

Recently there has been a lot of interest in the buoy data. AmericaOne's ea2ly recognition of the importance of this critical on- the-water information led them to invest in excess of $100,000 USD in this project. This contract makes the data exclusive to AmericaOne. However, AmericaOne and NIWA continue to be interested in finding partners to share fair, pro-rata costs.

"The NIWA buoy provides our team with the precise information from the America's Cup race course that we need," commented Bruce Nelson, principal designer for AmericaOne. "We were astounded when NIWA informed us that we were the only team interested in maintaining the buoy, but recognizing the scientific value it represented we decided to invest our resources maintaining the buoy to gain a competitive advantage for our team. It was not an easy hit to absorb financially at the time, and we had to make other modifications in our program budget, but we are pleased with the results." -- Gina von Esmarch

AmericaOne website:

If you don't breath you die. If your foul weather gear doesn't breath you get very uncomfortable. Why would you want to be uncomfortable participating in something you do for fun? Happily it's no longer necessary. Douglas Gill's full line of breathable foul weather gear offers TOTAL protection from the elements while letting the moisture escape. Obviously, that's just one of the reasons it's soooo comfortable.

Anticipation for the world's largest international yacht race on April 23, 1999 is gaining momentum based on a reported 20 percent increase from last year's early entries, according to the Newport Ocean Sailing Association (NOSA) race officials. NOSA is the official governing body of the 52nd Annual Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race.

Dubbed "The Last Race of the Century," the annual 125-mile trek from Newport Beach to Ensenada, Mexico typically attracts more than 500 boats every year. Last year, favorable winds assisted boats to numerous new records and personal best times. Along with more corporate sponsors than ever, Commodore Wallace Cook said any of these factors might be the reason for the increase.

Additional events related to the race offer the public insight into this popular race that attracts more than 10,000 participants every year. For example, the race week kicks off on Saturday, April 17 at Bristol Farms in Corona del Mar Plaza for an Art Exhibit Ensenada Race Retrospective, featuring world-renowned painter Scott Kennedy and noted marine photographer Geri Conser.

Event website:

We read all e-mail (except jokes) but simply can't publish every letter. Those printed here are routinely edited for clarity, space (250 words max) or to exclude personal attacks.

-- From Peter Huston -- I am not exactly sure of proportional distribution of USOC money to the various entities within US SAILING, but from recollection I believe the overwhelming percentage goes directly to the US Olympic Sailing Team. Perhaps Terry Harper could clarify the relative distribution percentages of the USOC funds within US SAILING committees.

How is it that Congress came to enact the Amateur Sports Act in the first place? Was this essentially a request from the IOC?

My point is this - Olympic sailing produces great sailing and great sailors. But Olympic sailing, even top notch International Class sailing, in this country is such a small percentage of the total racing population that this group does not warrent the addition of more (12? - yikes) Board seats, when in fact the largest group of racing sailors, PHRF, would then be even more grossly under-represented than they currently are.

I still do not understand how it is that US SAILING can change it's mission statement, have a strategic review commission, yet not have the ability to change the structure of governance based on new strategic initiatives. If you changed the strategy of your business, wouldn't you also then change the operational structure of your company to compliment your new objectives? Once again, US SAILING continues to remain in a reactive mode - if the Board would listen to Tom Ehman and implement a Submissions Policy as he has been suggesting for years, we wouldn't be reacting every six months to the latest news item with a band-aid fix.

The San Francisco Ocean Yacht Racing Association is having a meeting / party on Saturday, April 10, 1999, 2-6 p.m. at the Golden Gate Yacht Club. There will be awards and presentations on local knowledge, playing the current and a Safety at Sea program from the Coast Guard. Everyone is welcome. For more information:,

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

* Everyone in town was asked to suggest a new name for the Viaduct Basin. From 1500 written responses with 92 suggestions, the Auckland City Council's Parks Committee have adopted something very original - (?) - Viaduct Harbour. Surely they could have done better than this, but Viaduct Harbour it is. The viewing island, built in the middle of the former basin, has been named Te Wero which in Maori means The Challenge! More than 50 per cent of the suggestions included reference to Sir Peter Blake.

* The Waikato University (at Hamilton) has just completed a survey which shows that a big majority of New Zealand business people do not foresee a bonanza emanating from the America's Cup in Auckland. To support this theory, Pat Booth, the outspoken Editor in Chief of Suburban Newspapers, who is certainly not a fan of the organisers, has this to say in his column. "Suggestions have come from everyone up to and including the Prime Minister, Kevin Roberts (Saatchi & Saatchi), Murray McCully (Minister of Tourism), Sir Peter Blake etc etc, that their theory of having seen and heard the racing and become enraptured by split second glimpses of the venue, New Zealand will see loads of rich Yanks hot-footing it down here to spend trillions. I've never believed it." says Booth. Time will tell!

* The challenger series will not race when the wind is 18 knots or over. The defenders have specified no wind limits, although the final decision to race/not to race will be decided by Harold Bennett, the principal race officer. He also makes the decision when to quit racing in the interests of crew safety. Further limiting factors will be tides, swell and the wave chop. But talking in Auckland before his return to Europe, Bruno Trouble of Louis Vuitton said "weather is our major concern. It is difficult to make plans for TV coverage when you don't know if we will need two weeks or three to stage each round of racing. It does though make it exciting. San Diego was totally predictable. You knew when the wind would turn on or off. It will be great in Auckland to have different wind conditions." He just may live to regret that last sentence!

There is at least one J/24 laid up for the winter in your local boat yard. It is a common enough sight, not the kind of attraction that most people notice. You won't find it parked out front next to the Farr 40's, OD35's or the Melges 24's. It will probably be parked out back quietly sitting on a partially rusted trailer, neatly tucked between an Alberg 23 and a Catalina 30. It is a lonely sight, a sight that might lead you to believe that the great racing legacy of the J/24 is over. But you would be wrong.

At the first hint of spring a late model Suburban backs up to the J/24 trailer. The door opens and the owner walks around back and pops open the gate. He pushes the baby -seat aside and fumbles around looking for a piece of cloth to wipe the winter grime off his J/24's bottom. His pants are covered with speckles of latex paint left over from painting the garage last weekend. As he works he tries to remember where to position his mast butt. He first wipes down the bow, then the waterline saving the flat spot just aft of the keel for last. That part always makes his back ache. When he's done he stands back and admires the smooth fair surfaces. No excuses there, he thinks to himself as he connects the trailer to the suburban. The money he spent five years ago on a professional keel, and bottom job was worth every penny. A quick check of the tie down straps and he's off to the first event of the season. It's a short drive, but he wants to get there early so that he and his crew have time to catch up with old friends.

As he drives past the travel lift he slows to avoid a small crowd of boat people, yard workers, and spectators who have assembled for the commissioning of the newest of off-shore-one-designs. It is easy to pick out the owner. He is about ten years older wearing fowl weather gear that still shows the factory pressed folds from the boutique he bought them at yesterday. He is trying to feel comfortable with his latest purchase. The professionals buzz around the boat tightening this and polishing that. The owner does not want to get in the way. So he stands there and watches, a little awkward, a little uncertain, not quite smiling. There is a PHRF race this weekend. He bought this boat because it is a one-design, but the first of the two one design regattas he will attend this year isn't until next month, and the boat has to be trucked over a thousand miles away for that. If things turn out well there will be eight boats.

Our Suburban circumvents the spectacle without attracting so much as a glance from the crowd. A few hours later it arrives at the regatta site with its ten-year-old J24 in tow. It is met with the customary waves and solutes of friends and acquaintances. The crew is there to help untie the boat. Most of them have been able to sneak out of work early on this Friday afternoon, but the foredeck person could not. He will arrive much later this evening. New arrivals and their obligatory welcomes occasionally interrupt the work. They are always happy to help another team step their mast because they will need the favor returned later. The topic of discussion eventually turns towards crew weight. "The scale seems to be a little heavy" someone mentions. A short silence follows as they size each other up. "Better skip lunch and diner until the whole crew weights in" the skipper announces. There is a communal grown.

When the foredeck arrives the boat is rigged and ready to race. They march as a team toward the registration desk. With hearts full of trepidation they line up to be weighed. Shirts, belts, wallets, shoes, eyeglasses, anything that might tip the scale against them is shed before the dreaded physicians scale. They hold their breath still dressed in nothing but boxers as the female volunteer tallies the weights. Two pounds to spare! High fives all round as they make there way quickly towards the free pizza and beer. Spouses, kids, and baby sitters start to arrive. The atmosphere is friendly. There is a great shaking of hands. Old timers, newcomers, and professionals mix with eager anticipation of tomorrow's race. The party slowly dwindles as most head back to their housing for a full nights rest. A few of the younger teams remain in a futile attempt to empty the beer truck of its precious cargo. Eventually even the most dedicated abandon their task and head off to bed.

The morning is cold with a brisk wind, reminiscent of the season recently endured. The first crews arrive at daybreak for some last minute tweaking and tuning. They notice a few more boats have complemented the fleet's number during the night. Their crews hastily slurping steaming hot stimulates as they rush to get their boats wet. More and more teams arrive. The mood is somber, no kidding around now. This is serious business. Everyone wants to give it their all. Mumbled discussion about current and forecasts saturate the air. Shrouds are twanged, masts are sighted, and sails are bent on. "Looks like our old rival bought a new set of sails over the winter" the tactician notices. The owner looks down shaking his head and shuffling his feet. A loud bang! Coffee, spills and heads duck as the harbor start echoes across the parking lot. Thirty-some-odd outboards, new and old, sputter to life.

The race committee boat at anchor bobs and rolls as each team sails by on starboard tack to announce their presence. Sail numbers are shouted. Somebody's mother, in a director's chair, clipboard in hand, answers the shout with a smile and a slight wave of the hand. The stern faced chairman stares into the wind talking confidently into a microphone. About a mile or so to windward the mark-boat drops its load and heads back toward the gathering. Guns and flags! There is a deafening flutter of sails before the final report. The first race of the season is underway!

It isn't the new sails, or the custom keel job that determines the day's heroes, although every little bit helps. It is the strained lifelines, the groaning bodies, and the finesse of the helmsperson that is tested. Victory is squeezed slowly and painfully out of every square wave, and every missed winch. Nylon demons thin the ranks at every opportunity. The race marches on, cruelly, mercilessly, until the unruly mob finally finds order at the finish line. The flood of emotion is overwhelming. For some it is the exhilaration of surviving their first J/24 race, or maybe its the sound and smell of gunpowder for the victors. Others fight off frustration and insult, vowing to do better next time.

By late afternoon the wet, and weary throng turn their bows toward the harbor, bodies draped over the lifelines like laundry. Some huddle in the cramp spaces below deck for a short snooze, a content expression on everyone's face. As the fleet enters the harbor and begin to form small rafts, the rubberized outer layers of clothing are peeled. The sun warms the steaming bodies as someone arrives with a tray laden with plastic cups filled to the brims with golden liquid. Wide smiles and laughter is everywhere.

The pasta dinner is delicious. Young children gather in small groups and play games that only they understand. Adolescents practice their flirting skills, and everyone else gestures with hands at improbable angles. In another part of the club old and new rivals play out emotional dramas in front of a jury. Scores are posted and there is a great rush to see in print what they already know to be true. A more organized assault on the beer truck is underway. Late in the evening just when it seems that victory is at hand a new keg is tapped and even the heartiest are vanquished.

Early the next afternoon the last boat crosses the line. The fat lady has sung. The visiting boats are hauled and the awards are dispensed. Photos are taken. Plans are made, and eventually good byes are shared. Our suburban returns to the yard. The J/24 is parked next to the Catalina. Someone has made progress stripping its bottom paint over the weekend, but there is still a lot more to go. It is hard to concentrate on work Monday morning. Phone calls and emails carry reciprocal thank-you's.

The sailing magazines don't wrap their contents with color pictures of J/24s anymore. Their advertisers are happier with more extravagant vessels. New J/24's are rare. They aren't the fastest, the most comfortable, or the least expensive of one designs, but most weekends all across North America, and in many places throughout the world there is a J/24 event with a larger than average number of entries. So it should come as no surprise that the greatest sailors on earth have learned their craft from the people who sail J/24s. -- Geoff Moore

Boxing is like a ballet, except there's no music, no choreography, and the dancers hit each other.