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SCUTTLEBUTT #447 - November 23, 1999

COMMENTARY - John Bertrand
The comparison is stark. The three-year-old Prada syndicate, with a $40 million budget and 90-plus people, in contrast to Young Australia, with a 28-man team, bare-minimum budget of perhaps a couple million, and all their boat and equipment housed on a barge in the Viaduct Basin.

I had the great pleasure of spending the day with the Young Australia team. Average age of the crew is about 22, led by skipper James Spithill, at the ripe old age of 20. The level of match-racing ability at this America's Cup is far in excess of what we saw in 1995 in San Diego. The Aussie team is not only keeping up with these standards, but in fact is winning many of the starts against much more highly acclaimed afterguards. As Rob Brown, coach and tactician of Young Australia, says, "James is a coming star of international competition."

The syndicate chairman Syd Fischer was there, this being his fifth America's Cup campaign, and he's not finished yet. He explained it was impossible to raise any real sponsorship dollars for a challenge, what with the huge exposure and commitment by corporate Australia into the Sydney 2000 Olympics. Approximately $800 million from corporate Australia has gone into underpinning the Olympic Games. Too much competition for the America's Cup. So Syd and his very young team are here to keep flying Australia's flag, as it has been for the last 30 years (the second longest participation streak behind the U.S.). They are also here to lay the foundations for a new America's Cup challenge, wherever it may be in 2003. In the meantime, this team is having a ball. They have captured the hearts of Auckland in their open manner, no security and youthful approach to learning. They are sponges in this melting pot of ideas.

I had the great pleasure of speaking and briefing the team before yesterday's race, and going out on the boat before race start. In fact I was going to be 17th man, but we sought a ruling from the jury and I was considered ineligible, something to do with too much expertise. They were worried that maybe if I winked at the right time, I would be giving advice to the team. Remember that the 17th man isn't allowed to speak to the crew while racing.

The trimmers were all questions and ears about shifting gears on these IACC boats. Trim tab angles coming out of tacks. Communication channels between themselves, tactician and helmsman, how to communicate in a continuous, even-handed manner. Internal issues on how to keep a team focused. How to hang in there for the long haul, how to maximise their time here. I hope I gave them some sense of the uniqueness of their situation here, and their great opportunity to not only be part of history, but also part of something very special: a building block of future Australian America's Cup campaigns.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN: After two rounds, Prada continues to lead the points score. Nineteen wins from 20 starts. Steady and impressive. My helmsman of 1995, "Rocket" Rod Davis, told me that this is all very well, but that he and the syndicate know that this regatta will only get tougher when the heat gets turned up and the other challengers get their acts together. Talking with Prada Skipper Francesco de Angelis the other night confirmed that they are under no illusions about the enormity of the road forward and have their feet firmly on the ground in the amount of work they need to put in to be truly successful.

Having Rod around is a very smart move by the Prada syndicate. Rocket has seen it all. From bowman with Lowell North on Enterprise in 1977, to the unravelling of the New Zealand team in '92, through to skipper of oneAustralia with myself in '95, this is his fifth Cup campaign. He's an important anchor that keeps this team steady.

The Prada boats are the best that money can buy. They look sensational on the water. Their sails are a dream, maximum roach mainsails, held perfectly steady behind rock solid masts (50 percent stiffer than the '95 versions) with great twist profiles. Their approach is low key. They're a machine at this stage of the game. The kind of machine that Young Australia plans to grow into in another era.

(In 1983 John Bertrand, skippering Australia II, became the first non-American to win the America's Cup, ending the New York Yacht Club's 132-year winning. He's a co-founder of Quokka Sports. ) Full story:

Vince Brun put together a new Melges 24 (hull #415) to defend the world championship he won last year in Europe. Who do you suppose Brun worked with to develop his custom rigging? He worked with the same people who are eager to help you; guys who are sailors themselves; fellas who have the knowledge, experience and equipment to handle all of your rigging requirements. Just give them a call to learn for yourself -- Sailing Supply: (800) 532-3831 /

Did I forget to mention Brun successfully defended his championship, winning by 16 points?

* AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND, 23 November, 1999 - Abracadabra 2000 skipper John Kolius announced today that he has tapped his longtime friend, American John Bertrand to further strengthen the team's afterguard during Round Robin Three of the Louis Vuitton Cup, and during critical two-boat testing between Rounds Two and Three. Bertrand, who will join the Abracadabra 2000 afterguard as strategist, has sailed with John Kolius and several other members of the crew throughout his sailing career, filling the role of tactician for Kolius on two prior America's Cup campaigns.

"I have raced with John Kolius and many of his crew for a long time," notes Bertrand. "It's a great opportunity to be back onboard with John again." Taking time out from his newly formed company, BRace, Bertrand is keen to begin training with the Abracadabra 2000 team. "I have been actively participating in the America's Cup since 1983 and from what I've seen, Abracadabra 2000 definitely has the potential to be a top contender for the Cup. I look forward to working with John, Ian, and Chris to tap that potential and move up in the standings."

Kolius emphasizes that with nine points per win, Round Robin Three will be critical for Abracadabra 2000. "This is it. Round Three is where all the marbles are if you're going to make it to the Semi's. We are more concentrated than ever on bringing together all of the lessons learned in Rounds One and Two to move forward in Round Three." -- DJ Cathcart,

* It was a glamorous day on the Hauraki Gulf today, especially for AmericaOne. We had our second day of two-boat testing, leaving the dock promptly at 10:30 AM and setting spinnakers just outside the channel by Rangitoto, the volcanic island that is just one of the fantastic distinguishing features of Auckland's sailing venue. USA 61 seems to be everything we hoped it would be. Time will tell, but early indications are positive, and the two boats look impressive side by side with their battle grey and green shards slicing through the water in unison.

You couldn't look in any direction on the gulf in the sunny southerly today without noticing another America's Cup team training. Team New Zealand, Prada, Nippon, and Aloha were all out two boat testing and were spread out around the Gulf, sometimes times coming within 100 meters of each other as they crossed tacks or gybes. Round Robin 3 will surely be even more exciting than the last two rounds, as teams become more polished, more used to the local conditions, and more hungry to win every race. Kevin Hall, AmericaOne,

* The pointy end of Abracadabra 2000's alternate boat, USA-50, just got pointier. The aquamarine boat with dolphins prancing across its hull has sprouted a bowsprit. But it's not an act of desperation, as has been suggested by some of his competitors, Kolius said. Rather it's something that was in the works for several months. He said the design of this boat, which has its mast and rigging farther forward than any other boat in the competition, requires it.

"We sailed the boat in Hawaii without it, and the first time we dropped the spinnaker over the bow we thought about it," the wry Texan said with a chuckle. On most International America's Cup Class (IACC) boats, including stablemate USA-54, the forestay -- which keeps the mast from tipping backward -- attaches to the deck three to four feet behind the bow, leaving room for the crew to work. This is particularly important when using a massive asymmetrical spinnaker, or "A-sail." But on USA-50, the forestay attaches at the very bow of the boat, leaving no place in front of it for the crew to stand, and nothing to catch the spinnaker when it's brought down. The bowsprit, which is roughly one metre long, solves the problem.

"Primarily, it's there to stand on while setting and gybing the spinnaker, particularly the A-sail," Kolius explained. "We always knew we had to put a snoot on the boat in some way, shape or form. With a bow like that, it's the only way to keep the A-sail from going in the water."

The secondary purpose of the bowsprit is to route the foreguy -- one of the lines used to control the spinnaker pole -- farther forward when sailing downwind under an asymmetrical spinnaker. When using a symmetrical spinnaker, the foreguy attaches at the standard spot behind the forestay, Kolius said. But if they did this when using the A-sail, the spinnaker pole could break. The bowsprit is set up in such a way that the foreguy is led to its outer end, then is threaded through a tube that doubles as the vertical support arm, supporting the outer end of the diving-board-like appendage. -- Larry Edwards, Quokka Sports

Full story:

Letters selected to be printed are routinely edited for clarity, space (250 words max) or to exclude personal attacks. But only one letter per subject, so give it your best shot and don't whine if people disagree.

-- Michael vanBeuren -- I have found Jim Marshall's Young America daily press releases to be very entertaining reading over the last couple of weeks, a mix of the "poor me's" and "us against the world". As long as I have been racing, it has been known that if you don't finish (or start) you can't win. The seven P's also come to mind- Proper pre-race preparation.......!

We have heard how two-boat testing has made the team stronger and how much has been learned but then Marshall states that the problems with USA 58 are due to having tested and learned how to sail USA 53. Isn't part of learning applying what has been learned on one boat to the other to avoid teething pains?

Young America would have served themselves better by taking the lessons learned from USA 53, doing whatever was required to tune up the new boat and sitting out some races if necessary before leaping back in to the fray. They have lowered the respect given to them by their constant requests for postponements, redress etc. rather than getting their act together and getting the boat out to the track and around it.

Going in to this event, everybody knew that this was not San Diego and that they were going to have to race at the upper limits of windspeed allowed by the class. If a team has to forfeit races when it is blowing 15+ it should not, and does not deserve to, win the America's Cup.

-- From Michael Silverman, Tulane University Sailing Team -- Last year in the NFL, referee's were criticized for changing their decisions on calls, after making their initial decisions. The situation with Young America seems to be closely related. The Intl. Jury has no right to reverse a decision based on evidence from a TV program. Their decision had been made. The fact that Young America had little or no chance to win is of little consequence here. Had that information not been released until Round 3 started, what would the jury have done then? In addition, how can anyone be sure that Young America could not have won if they weren't given the chance to examine their situation?

-- From Dick Lemke -- (In regards to your Butt Extra) -- Seems like we could end a lot of confusion, if we just sailed the races! Everyone is aware of the starting time, and unless there is a collision with threat of loss of life, let's get on with it. Come prepared to race - challenge or defend - not to do research and development on something so basic as a hull design. If this keeps up, the challenges will all be postponed while the various syndicates go back home to start the design process all over.

"Baird said the gooseneck kept them from racing". Sounds more like a turkey (or two) did them in - not a goose. Perhaps a goose would have gotten them to race!

The schedule is posted, and weather co-operating - heavy or light air, sail the race. We are turning this thing into a spectacle of prima-donnas and excuses. Where are the Ted Turners and like that just went out, did the best they could and kicked butt when possible? Time to give up following this "thing" we call racing and concentrate on some really good Formula One or Superbike racing! At least they all leave at the same time - when the word is "Go" - and I haven't heard of too many (any) asking for redress or postponement because their tires were low, the windscreens dirty, the weather too hot/cold, or the engine timing off.

-- From Dave Benjamin -- Perhaps Young America has stumbled upon the reason that most boats aside from trailerable ones have keel stepped masts. It doesn't take a rocket scientist (or NA) to realize that it is much easier to distribute the load at the keel than it is at deck level. Duhhhh. While I'm on the soapbox I can't help but wonder about all the requests for postponements shortly before the start. We'd be laughed off San Francisco Bay if we tried that. Real racers show up ready to race period.

-- From John Roberson -- John Roake's Commentary in Butt 446 is a personal attack on everyone involved in Young America. I don't want to reduce your publication to a battleground, but I think the record should be put straight. Any journalist who has followed the progress of Young America over the past couple of years would know that they, like most other teams, are short of money, they have made no secret of that, so the comments about "all their supposed money," are totally out of place.

Further there were big periods of time when most of the crew were "stood down", so they couldn't have been spending a "mammoth amount of hours" training." It's inappropriate to say "their crewing leaves a lot to be desired." Those of us who have watched the racing know that the one thing that hasn't let them down is their crew work. Guys like Jerry Kirby, Ross Halcrow, Grant Spanhake, Stu Argo, Jim Brady, and more, are amongst the best in the world. Roake also mistakenly said that designer Bruce Farr is in New Zealand "in survival mode." For the record, Bruce Farr is not in New Zealand, and hasn't been since the first round robin.

-- From Dan Phelps, Viper 640 Class Secretary - (Regarding Giles Anderson about writing to ESPN) -- Kudos to Giles for pointing out this site. I immediately went out and gave my respectful plea to ESPN. Let's mobilize the troops and encourage everyone you know to take the 60 seconds to send ESPN a note. They may actually realize what their viewers want, and the advertising potential, when in the course of a week they receive 2,000+ e-mails. Besides, I hate programming my VCR.

The 1999 International Sunfish Class Association World Championship was held at the Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club, Ponce, Puerto Rico, November 13-20, with a fleet of 103 new Vanguard Sunfish. While the initial plan was to have 8 races over 5 days, due to Hurricane Lenny the championship was declared after 5 races were barely completed. Day 1 of racing was Monday, with mostly light conditions. Day 2 of the planned schedule was spent walking the Sunfish over 1 mile on Seitech dollies to a secure warehouse and making preparations for storm survival.

The Puerto Rican government secured the vehicles which had been arranged for competitor transportation, leaving members to transport competitors to their hotels. In Puerto Rico hotels are responsible for water, food and care during periods of emergency, such as was declared during the near brush of Hurricane Lenny.

Dire warnings proved to be of the "close but no cigar" variety, as the eye passed but 56 miles south of the island and sailing venue. There were some rain showers and a few gusts of wind, but nothing more than any of us see with the passage of a normal cold front.

Wednesday afternoon (original lay day) saw the sailors returning their boats and dollies to the beach and preparing to race on Thursday. Thursday's races were in very light air (0-6), leaving the need for a minimum of one on Friday to have a championship.

Friday was the last day of sailing. The day started out windy (18 at the start) but as soon as the competitors got out on the water the wind started dying down. By the 2nd windward mark of a 2-1/2 W-L course, the breeze was down to nearly nothing. It was Lenny's final laugh on the fleet, as racing was suspended.

Four-time World Champion Eduardo Cordero commended the Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club's committees for making a championship out of conditions that could have led to absolutely nothing being completed. Upon his proclamation the sailors erupted in raucous support with cheers and applause. Due to the amount of energy consumed by the preparations and issues with securing the club (and all of its moored boats, too), communication during the event became secondary. This was an incredible test of an evenly matched fleet, which in the last race at the first windward mark saw packs of 8-10 boats overlapped trying to get around the mark--all boats rounded within seconds of each other.

ISCA is overjoyed to have had 15 countries represented at this year's championship and looks forward to continued growth. -- Gail M. Turluck


Do you realize that creating and maintaining a comfortable microclimate close to your skin surface could make all the difference in the world for your sailing comfort? Happily, the folks at Camet International have taken advantage of this technology and produced a Neo-Thermal top -- a top that compensates for how hard your working and sweating by flexing the Neoprene fabric to pump out the vapor. This is a "must have" item for small boat sailors:

The One-Design Class Council of US SAILING presents up to five awards each year to recognize outstanding individuals and organizations in one-design sailing. The categories are: Service, Leadership, Club, Regatta, and Creativity.

You can read all about the criteria for each of the awards, and download the rules and forms for making nominations, at the ODCC section of the US SAILING website.

Please spread the word about these awards. Nominate your favorite club, fleet, regatta or one-design sparkplug. Here is your chance to recognize excellent service to our sport! The deadline for nominations for the awards to be presented at the Spring US SAILING meeting in March, 2000 is 12/31/99. -- Dick Martin

Jim Long, a long time California YC member and current owner of the Schock 35 "Troublemaker" passed away Sunday, November 21, 1999 from a Pulmonary Embolism (clot lodged in a blood vessel in the lung). Jim was a really nice man who will be greatly missed by those that knew him. Many saw him enjoying the camaraderie at the Schock 35 "Hinano" fleet party just last Thursday evening. Arrangements have not yet been announced. Please check with the California Yacht Club on Wednesday for service date and time. -- Alex Benson

It's frustrating when you know all the answers, but nobody bothers to ask you the questions.