Scuttlebutt Today
  Archived Newsletters »
  Features »
  Photos »

SCUTTLEBUTT #326 - May 19, 1999

The curmudgeon has seen the future, and it's pretty amazing.

Last week I participated in a demonstration of Sea Marshall Rescue Systems' new SMRS8 -- a personal EPIRB (Emergency Position Indication Radio Beacon) which might be better described as a homing beacon. It's a lightweight unit that's about the size of a pack of cigarettes, but considerably more useful. This item won't give you cancer, but it may save your life.

Fall in the water wearing a SMRS8 and the unit will automatically start transmitting a 121.5MHz signal -- the standard EPIRB frequency. Airplanes, Coast Guard and commercial shipping all monitor that frequency, but this unit does not necessarily rely on them to rescue the person in the water. If the wearer's vessel is equipped with the compact MDF-202 Crewfinder, it's warning alarm will alert the crew to the emergency, and its graphic display will lead that boat right back to the person in the water. In fact the output of the Crewfinder can be linked into GPS and on-board computers.

This new four-ounce SMRS8 is worn around the neck on a lanyard that integrates an antenna and a very bright electoluminescent fiber that emits either a steady or a flashing light. We tossed one into Marina del Rey on a life jacket in the black of night, and had no trouble homing on the device with either the Crewfinder's graphic display, or visually by easily spotting the flashing light.

The good news is that this product sells for only $99.95. The bad news is that it's not in stores yet. However, the products and the literature are available now:

* Team New Zealand's new boat to defend the America's Cup will be known in officialdom as NZL57. The defender received her new sail number yesterday, and within minutes, it was protected by copyright. But the boat, almost certain to be painted black, will be christened with a quirkier name - as the Black Magics were in 1995 - when she is launched in September or October.

Team New Zealand's latest yacht, being built at Cooksons Yard in Glenfield, is the 14th new boat built for this America's Cup. The number is issued when the first layer of skin is laid on the hull of the new boat.

Team New Zealand business manager Scott Chapman said the new number had to be protected with a trademark. "The sail number becomes part of the team, it's a brand of ours now," he said. "People want merchandise with the number on it, so we have to protect our brand. Otherwise there would be T-shirts on the streets within two seconds."

Work has yet to start on New Zealand's second defence boat, but it is expected to be finished six weeks after NZL57. Team New Zealand plan to have both yachts sailing together on the Hauraki Gulf by the end of November. -- Suzanne McFadden, New Zealand Herald

For the full story:

* Peter Rachtman, who formerly headed MAREX, the Marine Export Group, has joined America's Cup Challenge Association (NZ) Ltd. (ACCA), organizing authority for the Louis Vuitton Cup, as Business Development Manager.

Rachtman, who came to New Zealand after a lengthy career in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, has had a highly visible career in New Zealand's marine industry. In this new role, he will be responsible for development of sponsorship as well as liaison with existing suppliers of the Louis Vuitton Cup that commences in October. In addition, Rachtman will work with the New Zealand business community helping them to take full advantage of the opportunities the Louis Vuitton Cup can provide. He will also work with the development of special programs that will help the Association and the challenging yacht clubs and syndicates with their activities in New Zealand.

Rachtman, American born, but a New Zealand citizen since 1992, has had a high profile career in New Zealand's marine industry and is often credited in helping to expand the export activities of many companies and the industry as a whole. He set up a company to build offshore cruising yachts in the 1980's and was one of the leading boat importers when he first brought Bayliner to New Zealand in 1987. Heather M. Pike, America's Cup Challenge Association

Opinions are like noses - everyone has one. So what happens when you put together seven Whitbread veterans from seven former Whitbread campaigns and hand them all a set of Gill foul weather gear to wear during the recent offshore testing done by the illbruck syndicate for the next Volvo Offshore Round the World Race. According to illbruck skipper John Kostecki, "They ALL liked it a lot!" What Kostecki liked best was the fact that, "The Gill people are very keen to make sure their product is the best." You don't have to sail the Southern Ocean to appreciate what a difference good gear can have on you sailing enjoyment:

This June, Great Lakes sailors will open the sailing season with an ultimate test: the Detroit GMC Yukon/Sailing World NOOD (National Offshore One-Design) Regatta. Part of a national racing circuit that features intense boat-for-boat competition, the Detroit NOOD stands as the first major regional event for many Great Lakes classes and will draw this area's top sailing talent.

The Detroit NOOD, hosted June 4-6 by the Bayview Yacht Club, will draw 19 classes and a fleet of over 200 boats from U.S. and Canadian waters. Twelve champions from the 1998 Detroit NOOD are returning to defend their victories of last year. Surveying the competition, defending J/120 winner Robert Kirkman (Northville, MI) echoed the sentiments of many skippers with their efforts focused on a place in the winners' circle: "It's going to be very tough this year."

The Great Lakes are a stronghold of activity for the Tartan Ten (T-10) class, and a fleet of 22 T-10s will compete-with entrants from Michigan and Lake Erie's Ohio shoreline. Top finishers from the 1998 Detroit NOOD will return to reclaim their titles, including T-10 defending champion Len Chamberlain on WILDCAT (Vermilion, OH) and third-place David Klassen on MACHO DUCK (Grosse Pointe Park, MI).

With 22 entries to date, the Cal 25s join the T-10s as one of the largest classes competing in Detroit. Top Cal 25 competitors from 1998 returning this year include Dale Marshall (Grosse Pointe Woods, MI) and Bill and Sally Martin (Ann Arbor, MI), who were second and third, respectively, in '98.

The Express 27 class will hold their 1999 Great Lakes Championship at the Detroit NOOD, and a fleet of nine boats will contend for this perpetual trophy. Last year's fleet of Express 27s-a 27-footer designed on the West Coast to withstand the windy conditions of San Francisco Bay-had to battle against California skipper Paul Deeds (Boonville, CA). Deeds skippered LORAX, owned by Michigan owner Ralph Deeds, to a win in 1998, and he will return to defend his title with a crew of San Francisco Bay-area sailors. According to class organizers, Peter Fortune of Grosse Pointe (MI), who was second in 1998, and Harald Kolter of Harper Woods (MI) will also be contenders to watch.

Additional classes heading to the starting line in Detroit include: Level 35, Grand Prix, J/120, Level 40, Etchells, C&C 35, Santana 35, Crescent, Level 114, Hobie 33, Level 66, J/24, Level 141, Grand Prix B, Level 99/Warhorse.

The Detroit NOOD is the fourth stop on this nine-event racing circuit sponsored by GMC Yukon and organized by Sailing World magazine (Newport, R.I.). The Chicago NOOD, hosted June 11-13 by the Chicago Yacht Club, immediately follows the Detroit regatta. Traditionally the largest event on the circuit, the Chicago NOOD will draw a fleet of 200-plus boats. Twenty-four classes have been invited to compete. -- Cynthia Flanagan Goss

Event website:

I read all of my 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 Morton Weintraub -- In Monday's issue one reader commenting on changes needed to jazz up the America's cup calls for more thrills and danger, such as the fourth corner at the Indy 500. He continues, "Why would the average viewer or sailor watch or care when there is no chance for mishap." I don't know why the average viewer watches anything. But, I would like to believe that anyone who sails, racing, cruising, whatever, would appreciate the consummate skill that is demonstrated on these boats.

I have a great deal of respect for Gary Jobson and Scott MacLeod. I know that both of them are good guys. They would like to see sailboat racing take a leading position in the world of commercial sports. I've got a lot of very good sailing friends who might do very well if that happens. For their sake, I hope it comes to pass. They deserve it! I just hope we don't have to have collisions and rigs falling down to make it into a TV sport.

-- From Steve Glassman -- I believe the reason sailing fails to catch the attention of the masses is because there is little to which it relates in the everyday life, except for those who sail. How do you describe the feeling one feels on the water to someone who either rarely or never is? How do you explain the thrill of going 6 knots to one who drag races between stop lights?

It's not that the sport lacks anything for the participants. It does lack the "hook" that allows those who don't participate to relate to the sport or something in the sport. Success for sailing does not begin with opening the sport to more people, although that is both an admirable and hopeful beginning. Acceptance comes when the talk around the water cooler includes "Did you see that (great, blown) takedown at the leeward mark in Saturday's first race?" Or "Didn't Yacht A do a great job of covering Yacht B all the way to weather yesterday?" Maybe it's the lingo that makes it hard to take.

Here's a suggestion. Everyone who's involved in sailing and racing must bring at least one new person on board for at least one race at least once this season. No excuses about excess ballast will be accepted. Call the program "Take a Newbie to Weather." Have US Sailing issue a card to be stamped by the skipper, then offer these folks a discount on their first year's membership dues. Offer the skipper a discount on his renewal.

-- From Daniel L Phelps (In response to Brad Ruetenik) - I think that skiff sailing, or other high performance sailing, scares the hell out of many clubs. Speaking from my experience in trying to keep the Viper 640 program moving, we have found that many clubs were uncomfortable providing us with starts because of our different sailing angles and perceived insurance issues. In addition, many new skiff or high performance boats cannot get handicap starts due to accommodations requirement limitations imposed by the PHRF rating rule. This means that either a one-design must develop, or you are out of luck.

This struggle means that these boat owners have to work hard to find a venue to race. Unless a boat has a marketing machine behind it, such as J-Boats or Melges, owners may spend more time trying to sway public opinion than actually racing. I have read more recently in 'Butt about the new RORC rules which would seem to provide a medium for the existence and development of newer skiff craft along side of their displacement cousins. Of course getting your local region to change its rating format poses its own battle.

As with all developmental sailing, whether through classic Herreshoffs revivals or in new MX-Rays, the driving force seems to be that a club has to state that they are interested in supporting new sailing in any form. I applaud clubs that make this effort, and agree that keeping younger sailors interested, and giving them a place to try new things, needs to become more commonplace.

AUCKLAND UPDATE - Quote / Unquote
* "I am not going to be included on the next America's Cup campaign, whether we win or not," Said Peter Blake. Sir Peter's future plans completely involve him in his work for the Cousteau Society, an organisation he is about to lead. And talking about the challengers, he says "We have the best people in the world coming here to take New Zealand on - if we think we are good, we have lost."

* "Defending the Cup is almost certainly going to be much tougher than winning it, so we are, and have to remain, fully focused on what it will take to give us the best chance of becoming the first non-Americans to successfully defend the Auld Mug." -- Tom Schnackenberg, Team New Zealand's design coordinator -- Excerpts from DEFENCE 2000, available for US $48 per year from

In a major boost for British Olympic class sailing, 1996 Olympic Silver Medallist Ian Walker and Mark Covell, who are now campaigning in the Star class (two man Olympic Keelboat discipline), announced today that they have received backing from United Airlines, who will finance their Star boat. In the first six months of their campaign United Airlines are buying one of the boats they will need to compete in both Europe and at Septembers Pre Olympic Regatta in Sydney. The new Italian built Folli design they launched yesterday at the Royal Southern Yacht Club is based on all the experience Mark and the late Glyn Charles learnt during 1998.

The pair, who are both members of the Royal Yachting Association's (RYA) Team GBR and Elite Performers under the World Class Performance Programme (WCPP), have already trained for five weeks in the US this year where they have received some coaching from the 1998 US Team coach Tom Olsen. They were sufficiently encouraged by their early progress (in their first regatta - the Bacardi Cup - they finished a creditable 17th out of 95) and have decided to commit to Star sailing full time.

On behalf of United Airlines, Mike Tunnicliffe, Marketing Projects Manager said: "It's a great opportunity for United Airlines to get involved with a team already boasting one Olympic silver medal and with the potential to emulate that feat in Sydney. We hope that our support will provide the necessary backup for Mark and Ian in their training and regattas this year, as the first stage of their campaign for the 2000 Olympics". Britain last won an Olympic medal in the Star class when Mike McIntyre and Bryn Vaile captured the Gold Medal at the 1988 Olympics Games.

This sponsorship is the first stage of United Airlines Sailing Team. Two further projects will be announced soon. -- Nigel Cherrie

For the full story:

Alstar, the offshore racer owned by the world's oldest "owner-driver", 83-year-old Alby Burgin, had tonight taken over the role of leader in the Coffs Harbour to Fiji race when line honours favourite Fudge was forced to retire with a blown-out mainsail. Burgin, who has accumulated more than half a million offshore miles since he started sailing at age nine, was also looking set to battle Michael Thurston's Drina for a win on handicap in the 1800-mile race that will finish in Suva.

Backed backed by three crew aboard the 50-footer, Burgin had pushed Alstar to the south of the rhumb line course to maximise his gain from the easterly change that had hit the fleet. He gave his position tonight as 130nm south of New Caledonia - then in a cheery voice reported that he and his three crew were all well and pressing on regardless with 728nm to go. He is using this race as a "warm up" for this year's Sydney to Hobart.

Fudge reported headwinds gusting from the ENE at up to 40 knots when it was forced to retire into Noumea which was then about 90nm to the northeast.

For tonight's radio schedule for position reports race meteorologist Roger Badham again stressed that the bulk of the fleet would experience tough conditions over the next few days. Winds gusting to 50 knots were possible between Lord Howe Island and New Caledonia at the weekend. As a result of the forecast a number of entries decided to seek safe haven. The largest entry, the 33 metre gaff schooner La Violante (Fred Looijschelder), turned back to the Australian coast. At the same time the smallest entry, Moonpenny (Anthony Doncaster) opted to ride out the storm and run to the northwest for the next two days. Geoff Hill radioed that he had changed course with his 56-footer Antipodes of Sydney towards Noumea. He was being followed there by Ellene (Tony Levett) and Misty (Bryan Clague). All crews reported they were safe and well.

As well as coping with the weather the crew aboard Neville Watson's Too Impetuous had to contend with being hit by flying fish last night and then having a close encounter with a massive whale. Drina (Michael Thurston), which is leading the racing division on handicap, had to avoid a pod of whales.

Hugh Treharne continues to make good progress with his 51-footer, Bright Morning Star, 70 miles astern of Alstar. Southern X (Gunther Schmidt-Lindner) and the cruising division leader Trew Blew (Scott Jackson) are continuing without incident while Drina (Stan Wallace) has experienced halyard problems during the day. -- Rob Mundle

Curmudgeon's note: I've been advised that the Green Hornet that sank earlier in the week is not the highly modified a Hobie 33 that was used to do R&D for the upcoming Schock 40.

Event Web Page:

It's not just the sailing, it's the parties! Over 100 boats are expected for the June Classic - Long Beach race Week. Inside and outside courses will cater to Cal 20, Cal 25, J-24, Melges 24, Santana 30/30, Etchells, Shock 35, J-35, J-120, Cat 37, Farr 40, 50 Foot, PHRF, and any other one design keelboats. Racing starts at 4:00 Friday. 6 races with a throwout are scheduled. Parties include the Ullman Sails Crew Party Friday night, the Mount Gay Rum Party Saturday, and the Corona Beer Awards Party after racing on Sunday: For more information:

Pomodoro won the day. It was their first win in this race. The crowd on the beach cheered as she tacked to cover Rudee's Restaurant near the beach and beat her across the finish by 14 seconds. "This was a regatta day, not a Worrell 1000 day," said Hans Meijer of Pomodoro. "It was a great beach sailing day and a match race to boot."

The sailors were slicing hands in the air, re-playing the tacks and wind shifts as the sun set behind them. A team member asked for a photo. Rudee's sailors and supporters dutifully lined up. Randy Smyth was spotted. By the time he had finished he had lost about 23 seconds to Rudee's Rest. According to our unofficial calculation that put Brett Dryland and Rod Waterhouse back in the lead by about seven minutes after over 800 miles of hard sailing.

"Well, I can tell you where every hole is from Wrightsville to Atlantic Beach," said Keith Notary of Chick's Beach. Randy was philosophical. "This is more like the race. Most of this race has been two minute - one minute finishes. That's not how the Worrell 1000 usually is."

Standings: Rudee's Rest. Brett Dryland / Rod Waterhouse 2. Chick's Beach Randy Symth / Keith Notary (6 minutes 52 seconds behind) 3. Pomodoro (02:48:01) 4. Tybee Island (04:10:14) 5. Worrell Bros. Rest. (07:51:10)

Event website:

Whiplash is not a worry. The remaining four official competitors in the Around Alone race around-the-world were setting no speed records this morning as they drifted towards the finish of what has become an unexpectedly long fourth leg from Punta del Este, Uruguay. At 0944 GMT today, Brad Van Liew was ahead of the pack, making an average speed of 3.6 knots and 567 miles from the elusive finish line. Van Liew has done his darnedest to shake Neal Petersen once and for all, but the pesky South African aboard his 40-foot No Barriers is having none of it. At the early report, Petersen was just 24 miles behind Van Liew and sailing a tad faster, at 3.8 knots. Petersen is trailed by Japanese skipper Minoru Saito, who early this morning was another 245 miles in arrrears but making a steady five knots. Bringing up the rear, Aussie Neil Hunter today was 994 miles from Charleston, and making a fleet-best average of 5.3 knots. -- Herb McCormick

For the full story:

Kids in the back seat cause accidents; accidents in the back seat cause kids.