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SCUTTLEBUTT #451 - December 1, 1999

The curmudgeon once thought of himself as a pretty creative person. However, any traces of that self image were obliterated last night as I viewed what was undoubtedly the most spectacular stage event I've ever witnessed. The Louis Vuitton Cup show was simply awesome. Not awesome the way kids now (mis)use that word. I mean AWESOME!

Perhaps it's because I grew up in an era before the popularization of recreational drugs, but I truly can't imagine how human beings can conceive -- let alone execute -- such dramatic and sensational stage effects. Forget the opening shows at the Olympics. That's bush league compared to what we saw down here in Auckland last night.

The Louis Vuitton Cup party was the first event staged in Auckland's newly refurbished Civic Theater. $43 million was poured into the refurbishment project, and it showed. The theater is absolutely magnificent! It would be hard to imagine a more perfect setting for the show to which the participants of the Louis Vuitton Cup Series were treated.

Creative? Oh my, YES! Somehow the show magically combined ballet, opera, native dancing, fireworks, an incredible violin virtuoso, extraordinary lighting effects, choruses and pianists being 'flown-in' from the heavens, an audio-visual extravaganza and IACC images into one of the most thrilling hours of my life.

Before and after all of this we were treated to an apparently endless supply of Moet Chandon. It ended with dancing (until well after 3 AM, I'm told), food from all of the nations represented in the Louis Vuitton Cup Series, and a unique chance to talk with your friends from other syndicates in a magnificent setting.

Thank you Bruno Trouble and Louis Vuitton. You did good. REAL GOOD!

* When the Louis Vuitton Cup resumes on Thursday with the first matches of Round Robin Three, the real fight to stay alive begins. By the end of December, five of the Challengers will be sent packing, their America's Cup dreams ended. The other six live to sail another day, spending Christmas in New Zealand and bringing in the new millennium in Auckland, before moving on to the Semi-Finals of the Louis Vuitton Cup on 02 January.

The make up of the Semi-Finalists is far from sure. The Louis Vuitton Cup is structured such that later races are far more important than the early matches - helping to ensure the strongest Challenger goes on to compete for the America's Cup. A victory in Round Robin Three is worth nine points, compared to being worth just one at the start of the regatta. That means that nearly half of the points are still available, so there is plenty of opportunity for movement on the points table.

Materially, there is no difference in finishing first or sixth as when racing resumes in the New Year, everyone starts with a clean slate. For team morale of course, it's a different story. And being on top going into the Semi-Finals could help attract some last minute sponsorship dollars. But for the purpose of the following discussion, we will focus simply on being among the top six.

The Prada Challenge is clearly the class of the challengers so far. The team has lost but once, and is four wins up on a berth in the Semi-Finals. That means one of the teams currently out of the top six would need to earn five wins more than the Italians, to bump them out of the Louis Vuitton Cup - unlikely, but not impossible.

The next three on the points table are America True, Stars & Stripes and AmericaOne. These teams are in a similar position, in that they are all two wins up on a top six finish. That gives them a little breathing room, but not a lot of margin for error. Any serious equipment damage or protest problems and these teams could slip.

The two most vulnerable of the current top six are the beleaguered Young America syndicate and the Nippon Challenge. The Japanese are one win up on the chasing teams; there's not a lot of security there.

Young America provides a perfect example of how a strong looking challenge can suddenly find itself in trouble. At the conclusion of the first Round Robin of the Louis Vuitton Cup, the syndicate was tied for second place, with eight wins from ten races. But early in the second round, it's first boat USA-53 buckled in the middle in heavy seas and nearly sank. Its replacement, USA-58 was hastily commissioned but showed plenty of teething problems in early use. Young America limped to just four wins in round two, and questions linger about the seaworthiness of USA-58.

The team is currently rebuilding USA-53, skipper Ed Baird saying it's crucial to have a second boat to test against if he's going to seriously challenge for the Louis Vuitton Cup. Even though USA-53 will hit the water again, Young America has suffered immeasurable drains on its resources. The team has taken a financial, spiritual and morale breaking hit and all the other favourites know they are also but one slip away from being in a similar situation.

Among the teams currently in a top six position, AmericaOne, Prada and Nippon all have second boats that have yet to be raced. Is this the time to debut a different boat, or will they hold off until the Semi-Finals? Prada has already decided to use ITA-48. Nippon and AmericaOne still have another 12 hours to decide.

Of the teams trying to claw their way into the top six, the Spanish Challenge and Abracadabra 2000 are in the best position. Both need just one extra win over Young America to join the party in the New Year.

It is a bigger ask for the bottom three teams. The French, Australian and Swiss challenges all need two extra wins over Young America if they are to keep sailing in the Louis Vuitton Cup in January, and none of the three have shown that capability yet. None of the teams have a new boat to debut, but all are making substantial changes to their current ride - will it be enough? -- Peter Rusch, Louis Vuitton Cup website,

Full story:

* "Mr Quirky" will come racing out of the shed tomorrow in a final attempt to keep the Hawaiians in the America's Cup. The Abracadabra 2000 team need to pull a lot of wins out of the hat to survive the cut for the Louis Vuitton Cup challenger semifinals. So skipper and boss John Kolius has pulled out the untried USA50 - a boat he describes as a little erratic - to sail in the final round-robin starting tomorrow.

USA50 was the first boat built by the Hawaiian syndicate and was tested at length off Ko Olina before being shipped to Auckland. But once it arrived it stayed at the back of the compound shed while the more conservative USA54 was finished off to race the first two rounds. But the Abracadabra team have found themselves holding a plane ticket that will have them home for Christmas if they do not better their eighth placing this round to make the top six.

"We're bringing USA50 out of retirement," Kolius said. "It hasn't been that patient waiting for its turn, either. The guys call it 'Mr Quirky' because when it's hot, it's hot, and when it's not, it's pretty average. It's more difficult to sail, but it has more potential. We've had some pretty long days out there this last week getting used to it. We towed home in the dark once."

The Hawaiians are eight points off sixth-placed Young America, but a win in this round is worth nine points. "We've dug ourselves a big enough hole and I never enjoy getting beaten up," Kolius said. "We pretty much need to win seven races [from 10] to pass through. Anything less than that and we'll need pretty serious help from the other challengers. -- Suzanne McFadden, NZ Herald

Full story:

- Young America vs. Prada
- FAST 2000 vs. AmericaOne
- Abracadabra vs. Spanish Challenge
- Team Dennis Conner vs. Young Australia
- Le Defi BTT vs. Nippon Challenge
- Bye -- America True
Courtesy of Quokka Sports:

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.

-- From -Craig Leweck -- Thank you Bob Black for reminding us of the importance of personalities to a sport. The importance of heroes can be debated, but not personalities. A storyline can only survive so long on the description of the race.

Anyone else notice how little was posted between Rounds 2 and 3 on the Louis Viutton website ( Because there is no sailing, must there also be no stories? This is a prime example of either the challenger's lack of personalities, each syndicate's inability to create interest or gain attention, or this site's lack of attentiveness all together.

Feel free to categorize the type of stories you find in your daily newspaper's sports section. Were they about an event, or about the people who participate in the sport? As spectators, we become excited about a team when we know who the players are. Don't tire me with technology or tactics, thrill me with bullshit and antics. Like every successful spectating sport, it needs to be entertaining. I want to be entertained!!

-- From Bill Keith (Re Bob Blacks letter in Butt #450) -- He believes that we need "Heros" to advance the sport, and he may be right. But the heros he mentions all had something that set them apart from their contemporaries. When Arnie Palmer came on the scene to invigorate golfing one of his attractions was the come from behind runs he would make that had golf fans, and media, following him on the course ("Arnies Army"). He seemed to project a daring that the other golfers did not. I believe Turners image as a nonconformist set him apart from the other challengers. Jobson has no real competition as a media representative for sailing. Of course all were successful. My point - media heros need to be selected for their personality as well as image if it's going to be successful

-- From Doug Brown (re Mike Guccione's question about improvements) -- The wind is the same as it was in 1920, the water and waves are the same as in 1920,and. the current designers may have a slightly better understanding of the loads imposed by these factors due to more effective data collection. The only really MAJOR IMPROVMENT is MATERIALS!

Consider how much lighter, less expensive , lower maintenance, and longer lived boats became with the use of aluminum masts, fiberglass, sandwich construction and other composite hulls. How about Dacron sails and Nylon spinnakers, compared to Egyptian cotton in shape holding, rot resistance,wieght aloft and cost, not to mention the advantages of Kevlar, Mylar and all the others.

Relatively recent breakthrough designers initiating mass use of these materials has to include Bill Lapworth :Cal 24and the very light for its day Cal 40. Bill Lee who was one of the first designers/manufacturers to design and produce series of ultralight sandwich structure boats (the Santa Cruz 27) Running a very very distant second is instrumentation.

The materials and structures that are so important to modern sailboats were not only not developed for the America's Cup, but were actually banned from it for many about about leading development of technology!!!

-- From Mike Martin (Regarding Ken Millers response to Mike Guccione's question on developments from the AC boats) -- A few corrections 1. TV sailing coverage: This was pioneered by the 18 foot skiffs down under 20 years ago by Color 7. 2. Sailing as a front page story: Ditto Above. The 18 still make the front page of the Sydney papers. 3. Corporate sponsorship: Again 18 foot skiffs have been doing that for over 100 years. Also the biggest development in Yacht design in the past 20 years, the Modern Asymmetric spinnaker was developed by the 18 foot skiffs. Maybe we should hold the Americas Cup in 18s it would surly be exciting to watch. For more info on the 18 foot skiffs check out

-- From Dick Squire -- It wasn't the design that was at fault! It was the ocean! Think of it! If the ocean (and its playmate and co-perpetrator, the wind) had been at all considerate USA Number 53 would never have broken! If it hadn't been for these two elements, designers could create spars and keels and hulls just strong enough to support the loads! They wouldn't have to worry about undulating surfaces or sudden changes in pressures! We could throw scantling rules out the window! Out damn scantling! Out!

The following are excerpts from Suzanne McFadden's story in the New Zealand Herald about her adventures as the '17th man,' sailing with Paul Cayard on AmericaOne against the French syndicate in Round Robin 2 of the Louis Vuitton Cup series:

Some are willing to pay $150,000 for my spot in the crew of AmericaOne. I wouldn't have swapped my seat for twice the price.

I am not a champion sailor - I get seasick. I had nightmares about retching over the side of the boat, falling into the Hauraki Gulf, forcing an unimpressed crew to turn back, fish me out and lose the race. This story would have begun, "Sorry guys."

I saw nothing of the start or the finish of the duel with Le Defi France other than the monstrous sails above me - the crew advising me to lie low on the deck at the stern of the boat to keep out of trouble. But when I was upright, it was better than Disneyland. The dizzying sensation of these Cup boats pirouetting on a coin; their deafening creaks and groans shuddering up your spine and rattling your teeth; sitting on the high side, looking down past your feet and seeing the sea rushing by.

On the way out to the race, trimmer Morgan Larson had explained what I couldn't touch at the back of the boat (almost everything) and what I could hold on to (very little). When the boat tacked, it was a matter of rushing across the deck, skipping over ropes, and latching on to the side of the hull before the boat heeled to 30 degrees. You try to dig your feet into the deck and hope your shoes aren't worn.

The back of the boat is a minefield. If you are clocked on the head by a pulley, you won't be sailing again for a while. Even though I wasn't supposed to speak to the crew, Larson would sneak me lollies and Cayard would ask if I was okay.

After a tough day at sea, Cayard asked me to drive the boat home, in a solid 22 knots of breeze. No matter what happens between now and March 2000, my lasting memory will be steering an America Cup's boat home from the sea - while eating a carrot. -- Suzanne McFadden

Complete story:

LARCHMONT, NY, November 22, 1999-At a dinner held at the Larchmont Yacht Club Friday November 16, 1999, Storm Trysail Club Commodore John Storck, Jr presented both perpetual and class awards to the top finishers who competed last June 21-25 in Storm Trysail Club's Biennial Block Island Race Week XVIII. The regatta drew 223 boats from around the country and the world who competed in 20 classes on three courses in Rhode Island Sound. For a new twist in Block Island Race Week history, three Rolex Timepieces were awarded to the boat on each of the three circles who, in the opinion of the Race Committee, had the best performance on their circle.

The IMS Boat of the Week Trophy to the IMS Racer of Cruiser/Racer with the best performance of the week as judged by the Race Committee This year's winner was Isam Kabbani's Rima (a Carroll Marine 60) of Middletown, RI.

The A. Justin Wasley Memorial Trophy is presented to the overall winner of the one-design class with the largest number of entries. Damian Emery's Eclipse of Shoreham, NY bested the 23-boat J105 Fleet.

The Isbrandtsen Overall Perpetual Trophy awarded to the second best performance for the week went to Gray Kiger's Fatal Attraction of Norfolk, VA.

The Everett B. Morris Memorial Trophy is awarded to the participant who wins their class, and in the opinion of the Race Committee and the Commodore, has made the "Best Overall Performance". This year's coveted Ev Morris Trophy goes to Jim Bishop's Gold Digger of New York, NY.

The Shelter Island Yacht Club Team Race Trophy for the best collective performance for the week was awarded to the Mystic River Mudhead team of Tomahawk (Paul & Peter Bergendahl), Hawk (Paul,Carroll and Morgan Conner) and New Wave (Paul Hewitt).

The Governor's Perpetual Trophy is presented to the foreign yacht with the best performance of the week. This year's winner is Canadian Paul Baehr's Fast Company for his 4th place finish in the J-80 class.

The Island Sailing Club of Cowes Perpetual Trophy is presented to the class winner who competed in the class with the lowest average time differential between first and fifth places. This year's winner is John Fisher's Jazz of Peabody, MA who competed in the tough 1D35 Fleet. -- Amy Gross,

Pedro Campos, skipper of Bravo Espana on changes to the boat: "We have changed the size of the wings, the rudder, the genoa, the main and the spinnaker. We have changed everything, in some directions bigger, in some directions smaller. We know we had to do something so we have bet for a radical change."

John Kolius on the tactician's job on Abracadabra: "I have myself and American John Bertrand and then Chris (Larson) is there and I think we'll just arm wrestle for it. I'm not exactly sure how it is going to work out but it's going to be great. Usually we try to save that (arm wrestling) for inside the ten minute gun."

Ken Read, helmsman of Stars & Stripes, on whether Dennis Conner will race: "To be honest we don't know if Dennis is going to be sailing until the ten-minute gun. He kinda takes it on a race-by-race basis. He's pretty comfortable that we have adult supervision in the form of Tom Whidden."

Louis Vuitton Cup website:

Bob Gay's 50' Vendee Globe "Convergence" designed by Naval Architect Jim Antrim was recently launched in San Francisco. Ascend is underwriting the construction of Gay's custom-designed boat, complete with supportive technology allowing for tracking via Global Positioning System (GPS) and Internet-based communications. Through enhanced technical innovation, the public will be able to track the boat's progress and experience the race interactively, with unparalleled clarity. -- Rich Ray

For plans and pictures:

Please forget any email address you have for the curmudgeon other than: It's the only one that will get mail to me now. And any email that was sent to some other addresses yesterday is destined to float around endlessly in cyberspace.

What was the best thing before sliced bread?