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SCUTTLEBUTT #409 - October 1, 1999

Philadelphia 30 September 1999: The world's fastest ocean sailing yacht arrives today at the port of Philadelphia. World record setting yachtsman and balloonist Steve Fossett's giant maxi-catamaran PlayStation has been shipped from New Zealand to begin preparations for a late-October NY-UK attack on the classic TransAtlantic record of 6 days 13 hours 3 minutes, held since 1990 by Frenchman Serge Madec on Jet Services V. (In addition to the international acclaim on offer, Jet Services - now a part of TNT - have put up a FFr 200,000 prize to the boat that beats their record!).

The delivery sail from Philadelphia to New York City is scheduled for October 6th- 7th (weather permitting). PlayStation will undergo two weeks of further tests before setting off on approximately October 25th on the standard 2888 mile course from Ambrose Light in New York Harbor to the Lizard in Cornwall, UK. Joining Fossett's crew for the record attempt will be the American former balloon rival - and latterly partner - Britain's Richard Branson, the latest addition to the eleven man squad required to handle the giant all-carbon fibre cat - and its 10,000+ square feet of sail and 40 knot top speed.

"Richard invited me to fly with him on his Round the World balloon attempt in December (1998); now I'm glad to be able to return the favour and invite him to sail with me. He will be a PlayStation crew member with full responsibilities" according to Skipper Fossett.

The Atlantic has been Branson's target before - both at sea and in the air. He held the Blue Riband for the fastest powerboat crossing (June 1986) and achieved the first hot air balloon crossing (July 1987).

Commenting on his confirmation, Richard Branson said: "When Steve asked me to join the PlayStation crew I felt very privileged and fortunate. It is a great challenge and will probably be the last classic sporting record to be broken this century. The largest catamaran I have sailed is an 18 foot Hobie, so PlayStation at 105 feet long could be called an exciting step up!"

PlayStation at 32m (105ft) overall length, was designed by Americans Gino Morrelli and Pete Melvin (who are also on the crew) and was constructed in New Zealand. She was launched only 9 months ago in Auckland and is already officially the world's fastest sailboat, smashing the 24 Hour Record with an extraordinary 580.23 nautical mile day between New Zealand and Norfolk Island in March, 1999.

The TransAtlantic Crew: Steve Fossett (USA) Skipper, Stan Honey (USA) Navigator, Brian Thompson (GB) Watch Leader, Ben Wright (AUS) Watch Leader, Richard Branson (GB) Crew, Mark Callahan (AUS) Crew, Peter Hogg (NZ) Crew, Pete Melvin (USA) Crew, Gino Morrelli (USA) Crew, Andrew Preece (GB) Crew/camera David Scully (USA) Crew.


British company, Peters & May Ltd, have been appointed Official Freight Co-ordinator for the Volvo Ocean Race, working in partnership with the Volvo Transport Corporation. Peters & May will work closely with the Volvo Transport Corporation, utilizing the global purchasing power of the Volvo Group, to develop a world-class transport solution individually structured to fulfil the needs of syndicates, sponsors and event organisers of the Volvo Ocean Race Round the World 2001-2002.

This appointment underlines the importance that Volvo Ocean Race organisers place on the logistical activities of the race. Peters & May together with Volvo Transport will offer a cost effective and streamlined freight management system which will be of benefit to all. In each port the Volvo Ocean Race visits, there will be a dedicated team working within the Freightnet system of specially selected local agencies Peters & May as developed over the last thirty years. Each team has an intimate knowledge in customs and immigration in their country as well as an excellent understanding of the Volvo Ocean Race and will work under the guidance of Peters & May. This already established network of specialists will integrate with Volvo Transport, to form a world-class transportation activity especially developed for the Volvo Ocean Race. -- Lizzie Green,

When you're hosting a regatta for a collection of seasoned campaigners that includes Lowell North, Roy Dickson, Bill Buchan, Don Trask, Dick Deaver, Malin Burnham, Bruce Kirby, Bob Johnstone and the curmudgeon -- you won't dare offer anything but the very best regatta apparel. And that's exactly why St. Francis YC asked Frank Whitton's Pacific Yacht Emboidary to do the shirts and jackets for their Masters Invitational Regatta. If you call Frank, you'll quickly learn what so many regatta organizers already know -- high quality crew apparel can be affordable. / 619-226-8033

* From a sailor's perspective, the only downfall to a beautiful sunny day in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf is lack of wind. Which is exactly what Friday, September 24 brought to the America's Cup training ground. Although sun and cloudless skies were a relief from the rain and hail that the past two weeks have delivered, no wind on the water means no sailing for anyone.

We left the dock at 9:30am yesterday morning with a full practice day ahead of us. After all, this is the America's Cup and every day on the water - wind or no wind - counts! After our tender, the Daintry II, towed us around the Gulf for a few hours searching for breeze, Skipper Dennis Conner asked team member (and native New Zealander) Erle Williams if there were any local spots that would be a good place to bring the crew ashore for lunch. "Absolutely," Erle replied, "we should swing over to Waiheke Island and eat lunch at the Onetangi Hotel." And the rest is "no wind history."

Although the hotel's restaurant was closed for the afternoon, a call from our team's strategist (and local sailing legend) Murray Ross, was enough for the hotel's staff to kick into gear and create a spectacular lunch for our team.

The locals on Waiheke were ecstatic to see our tender drop anchor off the beach, with the Stars & Stripes tied to her and the crew heading in for an unexpected afternoon lunch stop. One surfer running up the beach asked our sponsor relations expert Jerry LaDow to autograph his surfboard and everyone at the Onetangi Hotel was genuinely thrilled to see Dennis in person.

So although training for an America's Cup can be strenuous and draining, the generosity and eminence of Skipper Dennis Conner is appreciated by his crew and recognized by New Zealanders more and more each day. Perhaps the afternoon was best described by bowman Geordie Shaver, "I though I'd died and gone to America's Cup heaven." Stars & Stripes website,

* If the wind gods are kind today, the Hauraki Gulf will become a very busy place. Three more boats are ready to join the fleet of challengers on the gulf course in the countdown to Race One of the Louis Vuitton Cup on October 18.

Prada's first Luna Rossa (ITA 45) boat was dipped into the water outside its base for the first time yesterday since arriving in New Zealand. The Italian crew had worked late into the night on Wednesday, stepping the mast, but ran out of time yesterday to sail the boat.

Young America's second boat (USA-58), will make its debut today if the winds lighten from the 20-plus knots the New Yorkers shied away from yesterday. And Paul Cayard's AmericaOne has now put the rig in their only completed boat in Auckland, USA-49. The Swiss and Hawaiians are still busy working behind closed doors in their sheds in the America's Cup village, while the Young Australian boat, AUS-29, remains high and dry on its floating crane.

Tension is rising out on the Hauraki Gulf as the challengers check each other out. Young America's first boat, USA-53, was dogged by chase boats from eight different syndicates one day earlier this week. Non-Stop Action in Auckland. -- Susan McFadden, Louis Vuitton Website:

LETTERS TO THE CURMUDGEON ( Letters selected to be printed are routinely edited for clarity, space (250 words max) or to exclude personal attacks.

-- From Helen Johnstone Falk -- In response to Robert Bethune's comment: "I'm tired of the constant drumbeat that sailing has to become a big-bucks, big-money, big-t.v., big-media sport and why can't sailing continue to be a participant activity and why does it have to become a spectator activity".

Sailing does not "HAVE" to become all of the above mentioned; it has simply EVOLVED into a" big media sport", like any sport does, when the "big media" discovers how lucrative it can be for them to focus on a sport like sailing that has all of the elements the media looks for in a sport: the excitement; the thrill; the risk; the ever evolving and changing high technology; the simple enjoyment; the competitiveness and the list goes on and on.

And, what great free advertising for the sport of sailing that the media has caught on; it is excellent exposure for the "spectators" who may become "participants". I am sure a survey of "spectators" turned "participants" would confirm this.

-- From Jim Puckett -- In 'Butt 408, you mentioned that in the upcoming America's cup, "According to the rules, races will not be run in steady winds above 23 knots." I think it's interesting that people wonder why yacht racing, and the Americas' Cup in particular, seem to have such trouble attracting sponsors and TV coverage when there are rules like this in place.

Here we have millions of dollars being spent on boats that in most conditions can't even exceed their own hull speed, and are therefore slower downwind than even a modest sportboat. Then they make a rule that they won't race in perhaps the only conditions that would make them truly exciting to watch even to the non-sailor. Imagine leeward mark roundings with two IACC boats converging in 25 knot winds- now that would be fun! Alas, thanks to the rules, it's something we'll probably never see.

-- From Jan Visser, PIYA Youth Coordinator -- Re Butt 408, you have just tickeled my fancy when you talk about kids and their hero's. In past years '92, '93, '94 and some of '95 the winners of the US Sailing Youth Championships, Sears-Bemis-Smythe and others were treated to the masterful coverage of Media Pro. American Sailor bristled with the smiling faces, charging for the finish, Beuhler & Ames, the dynamic duo of the doublehanded circuit, they won everything in sight. These were just kids, the Battle of the Best in '94 Sears, a team of youngsters, not rolling in money, just average kids having a great time, the coverage was incredible, what do we see now? Not much!

In '98 that '94 Sears Team got together to talk over old times and discovered that the Men's Championships were being held in their home town area, could they do it, well they went to the elims and won, shortly there after the ventured into Victoria, B.C., and the rest is history. The Team of Bergan, Visser and Oliverio-Guitron, Sears '94 became the '98 Men's Champion's, a great story, the only team to do it as far as we could tell. Sailing World agreed, great story. Did they ever write it? No!

Look at the coverage these days, not much, sponsorship gone, costs through the roof. Not much inspiration here.

-- From Kathy McKenzie (In response to Pat Healy's letter) -- When the IBM server went down at the beginning of the Sydney Harbour Regatta I put up the provisional results for the first five placings by about 6pm (Sydney time) on Boating OZ at I continued to do this throughout the regatta as results were not on the official website or the ISAF site until much later in the evening. I will do the same next year if I have to.

PS to Mark Reynolds -- Information on the MTS and DGTS systems are on Boating OZ at This page also gives a break down of the boats and volunteers used in the Sydney Harbour Regatta and to be used in the Olympics.

On November 7th the Vic-Maui Race Committee will be hosting an Information and Safety Seminar Day. Similar to last year's format, this daylong activity will consist of a series of speakers on several pertinent issues related to race strategy and safety. Subjects covered will include: rigging and gear, use of flares and life rafts, crewing anecdotes, navigation and tactics, sail maintenance and provisioning.

In addition to the seminars there will be several vendors present who will present information on their equipment, including radios, satellite telephones, liferafts, beacons and alarms. The Canadian Coast Guard will be present to answer questions, as will a representative of a boat return company. Of course, the Race Committee members will be present to answer questions. If you know of relevant vendors who would like to participate, please contact one of the undersigned.

This "don't miss it" event will be hosted by the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, on the Main floor, from 10:30 am until approximately 3:30 pm. A light lunch of soup and sandwiches will be served. -- Peter Bennett

WHEN & WHERE November 7, 1999 10:30am to 3:30pm Royal Vancouver Yacht Club 3811 Point Grey Road, Vancouver, BC (604) 224-1344

Questions: Ron Ogilvy (604) 551-9608 / Website:

I think my favorite part is the deep pockets. Sure, I like the great look of my Camet sailing shorts; and the fact that Supplex really dries quickly; and the way the Cordura seat patch stands up to course non-skid patterns. And Lord knows I love the 1/4-inch foam pads that can be inserted into the seat patch to eliminate fanny fatigue. But I still think I like the deep pockets best. They hold lots of stuff, but more importantly -- nothing ever falls out. NEVER. Take a look for yourself - they come in four great colors (Red, Navy Blue, Khaki, Grey):

Gary Jobson's Transpac Special on ESPN is scheduled for Saturday, October 2 at 1:30 PDT. As always, check your local listings for the time in your area.

(Note: The Mini Transat is a singlehanded race for boats of 6.5 meters (21 feet) in length. The fleet is currently sailing the first of two legs from France to the Canary Islands.)

Conditions are starting to improve as the wind starts to swing to the North, and even the sun is out. There is still a great deal of concern over a number of competitors beating their way across the Bay of Biscay. Last night the skippers saw the peak in conditions, and the sea-state ferocious especially near to the northern western tip of Spain.

Early this morning Frenchman Xavier More was airlifted from his Mini after abandoning his boat during the height of the storm. This was followed a few hours later the activation of the distress beacon of Brit Paul Peggs. A spotter plane was sent to the area to verify the status of a number of competitors including Paul. Nothing was seen, and a second plane plus an RAF Nimrod were dispatched late morning, as well as a SNSM lifeboat to the scene of the EPIRB signal. The Nimrod reported seeing the hull of a Mini Transat boat in a position that corresponded with the EPIRB, and the colour of Blue One. A commercial ship in the sector was diverted to the position to verify the situation. The Nimrod then located the yacht again, and this time ascertained that it was indeed Paul Peggs, but that the boat was the right way up, and had been dismasted. Relief for the Peggs Team and the rescue services who had done an excellent job.

In the meantime two more competitors were picked up by helicopter after activating their safety beacons - Herve Gourdon and Radolphe Jacq. No more details are known at this time. All skippers are now accounted for and safe.

These boats, whilst just 6.5metres, are fitted out to extremely high safety levels - with both 406MHz EPIRBS and backup ARGOS beacon, full ocean liferafts and full survival suits obligatory.

In the race, Sebastian Magnen continues to stretch his lead, as he makes his way down the Portuguese coast, but he is closely followed by two non-french youngsters making very good progress in the past hard 24 hours. Kiwi Chris Sayer (Navman) is now in second place according to the satellite positioning system, with Britain's Alex Bennett (English Braids) in 4th place. Alex is sailing my own ex-Carphone Warehouse, a boat which has always been known for its solid upwind performance. He has covered the most miles in the fleet since the last positions, 77 miles - doesn't seem much, but if you can imagine what they have been sailing in to, its very good going! Chris and Alex have something in common, with Seb as well - they have sailed many miles on their well proven boats - and are tough guys capable of just pushing on through the last couple of very hard and uncomfortable days at sea. -- Offshore Challenges,

Full positions and charts at

You know you are getting old when you bend down to do up your shoelaces and ask yourself "what else can I do while I'm down here."