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SCUTTLEBUTT #452 - December 2, 1999

COMMENTARY -- Rob Mundle
For months I've followed with interest the on-going debate in 'Butt about increasing the profile and subsequently the popularity of sailing. Finally Bob Black's piece has flushed me out of the forest and brought me to put fingers (two) to computer.

I think my background puts me in a positive position to comment - sailing (a lifetime of racing and cruising), journalism (newspapers in Australia and magazines internationally plus author of Fatal Storm) and television (yachting commentary on every AC since '83, 18ft skiff commentary, three Olympics).

Bob Black is correct - the sport does need heroes. But before you have heroes in the true sense you need product that can profile them to the public.

I think everyone agrees that television is the way to go if sailing is to reach the masses, but sadly what is on offer internationally generally generates little more than a grunt from television station executives. It certainly doesn't have the visual impact needed to push other sports out of strong time slots. Instead sailing is more often than not looked upon as a nice filler at obscure times. It's a terrible position to be in for a sport that is truly international in form and which boasts a remarkably high participation rate.

Keen yachties can appreciate what is happening when they watch sailing on the rare occasions that it does reach a television screen. The average punter, however, finds it about as exciting as watching his car rust (hence the almost always late time slot for the program).

Sadly - and I say this out of no disrespect for my good mate Peter "Splash" Montgomery and his team doing the AC coverage in Auckland - not even the America's Cup coverage out of Auckland is delivering any high level of excitement and entertainment for the mass market. It certainly reinforces the widely held attitude among TV execs. here in Australia: "No votes in boats".

The big market, the mass market, won't be reached until we are honest enough, and brutal enough to accept that sailing must be done differently for TV. We need to look beyond what we now consider the 'norm' for the sport. The only way we will get the profile we desire is to create sailing product that is nothing short of high entertainment. If we don't we will stay in the back row of the theatre of sporting life.

The fact is that TV sports addicts will watch any sport - so long as it is entertaining. They have the capacity to embrace new sports. Give them excitement, crash and burn, heroes, speed and you'll have 'em hooked. Kids will watch it, see it as a great sport and want to be part of it. The momentum builds, more sponsors get interested - for the TV show in particular and sailing in general. More media interest is aroused in your local sailing scene.

Sailing has the potential to achieve all this. What everyone has to realise is that it doesn't matter what type of sailing it is that appears on television so long as it is sailing and it works as entertainment. I have no doubt that it can become global entertainment that is effective and relatively inexpensive to produce.

The Olympic sailing in Sydney does have the potential to light the wick for the sport internationally, but we must be ready to follow up that opportunity with real product.

The one thing for certain is that ISAF is not the group to initiate this. What is needed is way beyond the capacity of that august body. It must be totally professional and beyond the influence of committees.

The big results won't come overnight, but given the right backing, the right boat, the right sailors (the world's best) and the right television production techniques sailing can get there.

That's when we will have our heroes and be able to talk sailing in everyday life. -- Rob Mundle

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Prada, Nippon and Abracadabra all entered new boats in this round. Team Dennis Conner, Young America, Le Defi Bouygues Telecom-Transiciel, AmericaOne, the Spanish Challenge and FAST 2000 all carried out modifications to their steeds.

The results of this tinkering were both positive and negative. The three new boats were all winners. Team Dennis Conner's Stars & Stripes seemed to have better pace upwind in a sound defeat of Young Australia, the only boat not modified.

FAST 2000's Be Happy stayed with AmericaOne during the whole race, as if attached by a tether, before taking its 19th loss. Although it won, AmericaOne, sporting a squared-off transom that seems to be missing the last two feet, seems to have lost a little pace on the wind.

The outcomes resulted in large leapfrogs on the leaderboard. Team Dennis Conner now holds second place after climbing over idle America True, which slipped to fifth on its bye day. Also leapfrogging Dawn Riley's crew were AmericaOne and Nippon, which moved into third and fourth respectively.

Abracadabra made the biggest move of the day, supplanting Young America for the sixth and final semifinal spot. The Hawaiians are one point ahead of the New Yorkers. -- Quokka Sports:

One minute after the start the Italian boat tacked and crossed one boatlength behind the Americans. Baird and his team were comfortable with the left hand side of the course and pulled out some distance as the pair progressed up the first weather leg - Young America would eventually round 17 seconds ahead. The first run was even and the pair were only 20 seconds apart at the start of the second beat. Italian tactician Torben Grael called for a tack to the right and the Young America team chose not to cover. The pair separated considerably with Young America again hoping for the benefit on the left, but it didn't come. Worse, the Italians had found some better pressure on the right and took control, rounding the second weather mark with a lead of 25 seconds.

Bertrand Pace sailing Le Defi (FRA-46) was late entering the start box, and Peter Gilmour jumped all over him. Sailing Idaten (JPN-52) for the first time, Gilmour pushed Pace above the line in a dial up. As both boats fell off to reach back to the line, Gilmour established a leeward position, and again luffed Pace head to wind. The Japanese were able to fall off first, and reach around the committee boat to cross the start line two seconds ahead - a lead Gilmour would never relinquish. Pace fell further behind on an early left shift and rounded the top mark 31 seconds back. Le Defi showed speed on the first run and Pace gained five seconds but then gave up time on each of the following legs. Gilmour collects an important nine points early in Round Robin Three to cement his position in the top six.

Stars & Stripes (USA-55) steered by Ken Read beat Young Australia (AUS-31) to the start line. Read was to leeward and one second ahead of Spithill with both boats on starboard tack. One minute and thirty seconds after the start Stars & Stripes squeezed out the Australians to tack away to port. The first two shifts went to Stars & Stripes and the Americans went around the top mark 38 seconds ahead. On the run Spithill sailed smarter and gained some but the next beat Stars & Stripes extended its lead again and finally finished more than one minute ahead. On three occasions the Y-flag went up during the pre-start. Read had to keep clear and Spithill had to give him room to do so. All three incidents were green flagged by the umpires.

Spain's Luis Dureste led Abracadabra out of the pre start dial up, before luffing to let the Americans pass. Abracadabra gybed first but the Spanish held a windward position as the boats dragged to the start line on starboard tack. Spain crossed the start line first and the boats looked even dragging up the first windward leg. At the right layline, near the first weather mark, the Americans were able to fight off a Spanish luff, and tacked around the mark just six seconds ahead of the Spanish. Abracadabra stretched that lead downwind and then pulled away a little more on the second lap of the course, before giving back 20 seconds on the final sprint to the finish.

The twin-foil Swiss boat be hAPpy (SUI-59) made a perfect start in her first race attempt today, despite a collision with an umpire boat that left propeller scars down her starboard topsides. But the race was abandoned to allow the Swiss time to assess the damage. AmericaOne (USA-49) got the better of the Swiss boat on the second start, leading at the gun by three seconds and about one and a half boat lengths. American skipper Paul Cayard claimed the committee boat end of the line at the second start and sailed into a right hand shift that helped consolidate his lead. The boats were even in speed and pointing ability on three weather legs. The Swiss gained on the runs but gave it all away and more in mark roundings and tacking.

Louis Vuitton Cup website,

1. Prada 20-1 55 points
2. Stars & Stripes 14-7 45.5*
3. AmericaOne 16-5 45
4. Nippon 13-8 38.5*
5. America True 14-6 38
6. Abracadabra 8-13 25
7. Young America 12-9 24
8. Spain 8-13 17
9. Le Defi BTT 5-16 14
10. Young Australia 3-18 9
11. FAST 2000 2-19 8

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

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 Mark Yeager -- In all professional sports there are elements of athletic competition and entertainment. Which is dominant?

A second point concerns participation in our sport. Sailing World is running a big series of articles on improving things in sailing. Different programs, different committees, etc., all designed to effect something that's already there. What no one has focused on so far is the most basic improvement of all. Each of us needs to help this sport grow by simply inviting more people to sail. Instead of depending on someone else, or a program, or a committee, or a sanctioning body to solve the problem for us, each and every one of us needs to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. Personally, I consider it a bad week if I don't invite at least one new person out to sail in that time span. And make no mistake about it; "Come go sailing with me sometime.", is not an invitation. "Meet me at the docks at 6:30 Wednesday evening for the beer can race. Here's the directions.", is an invitation. All the programs in the world to improve existing conditions don't mean anything if we're not bringing in more people at the beginning.

If you really want to see more boats on the starting line next year, more crew available for everyone, or just more people using their boats in general, do something about it on a personal level. It's easily within your power to affect a change.

-- From Christy Schisler -- Regarding the big push to enlighten the general public and get them on the water, I'm not wild about jamming the bays and lakes with traffic. My income is solely derived from the boating industry, but that doesn't mean I want to get every doodah into a boat. Of course I'd like to see increased opportunities for people to get paid while they are on the water, whether it be crew on a sport fisher or on an AmCup boat. I think that if we improve public and private junior programs, we'll develop skilled, lifelong enthusiasts that support the marketing efforts of race sponsors, without making sailing a stadium event. Tennis and golf are similar to sailing in that they have had the stigma of "rich man's" sport, and yet those two sports command a lot of air time. Why can't sailing follow suit?

-- Mike Milburn -- Just to let Mr. Guccione know that the yachting community does indeed use wing keels. Most shallow draft offerings of production sailboats feature wing keels. They allow concentration of ballast low down while smoothing water disturbance. The Hydokeel used by O'Day and Schock showed that shortened chord sections are very effective at keeping a hull lifting to weather and with less drag too. These new AC boats don't seem to have the same degree of draft restriction as the Twelves or you would still be seeing wings.

-- From Paul Galvez -- Right On Mike! Skiff Development classes such as the 18 Footer have always made breakthroughs in our sport which make the racing exciting to watch. These types of classes may not be the most popular, but everyone benfits from them in the long run. Take the International 14 for instance; the planing hull, aluminum spars, and boom vang originated from this class long ago. I don't recall ever seeing any Rivlets, or "Dolly" Spinnakers in my local fleet.
In realtionship to the AC: As veryone knows, AC boats are rediculously expensive to build, transport, race and maintian. They are also boring to watch on TV, and totally useless when the event is over. Let me stress that there is nothing wrong with big, expensive, and slow boats, but if you want to generate more public interest in our sport, we need more action for the viewers. The future of our sport lies in the hands of today's younger generation. If we want to gain their interest, we need to introduce a more extreme or radical approach to "Sailings Superbowl."
Now picture the America's Cup raced in Skiffs; campaigns would be a mere fraction of what they are now, enabling much more competition. Fleet racing in big wind venues would provide the neccesary thrills and spills for the audience's appetite and the sponsors would definitely get thier money's worth. Everyone wins.

If you follow racing the names, Sagamore, Bravo, Sleigh ride, Timonner, Sayonara, Samba Pa Ti Playstation and Stars and Stripes will have a familiar ring. And the Whitbread boats -- Toshiba, Chessie Racing and Silk Cut. What do they all have in common? They all entrusted their sail graphics to North Graphics. Well guess what -- the same skillful folks will happily work on the spinnaker design for your Catalina 27, 1D35 or J/105. Why don't you call Whitney Gladstone and find out how affordable it is to put custom sail graphics on your boat:. (619) 224-8667,

A fleet of 84 yachts is expected to line up for the start of the Telstra 55th Sydney to Hobart Race on Boxing Day, December 26, a figure the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia is pleased with, considering the tough competition from New Year's Eve celebrations on Sydney Harbour.

"The CYCA is really happy with the number of entries considering the spectacle Sydney is putting on for New Year's Eve," race director Phil Thompson said today. "This year's race has also attracted an increased number of interstate yachts, overseas entries have doubled, and the quality of the fleet is outstanding."

Prominent yacht owners, including those not competing this year, have thrown their support behind the Telstra Sydney to Hobart Race. "I personally don't think that any seasoned yachtsman would regard last year's race as reason not to go this year," said George Snow, owner/skipper of Australia's fastest maxi yacht Brindabella. "The active sailors know that the Sydney to Hobart can be tough and they accept this as part of the challenge - most of those guys are back competing again this year," he added.

Bruce Gould, crewman off Winston Churchill which sank in last year's Sydney to Hobart and lost three crewmembers, wasn't planning to compete again this year but is back for his 32nd race. "The only reason I am going again is to get back on the horse, but I've promised my wife I'll be back in Sydney for New Year's Eve."

While for Ed Psaltis, skipper of the overall winner of last year's Telstra Sydney to Hobart Race, AFR Midnight Rambler, commented: "Last year's events have not eroded the spirit of myself and the crew to keep doing the Hobart Race."

Most Australian states are sending similar numbers to last year although Victorian entries are up markedly. First time entrants and International entries are also up on last year because of the Telstra Southern Cross Cup International Teams Series which begins on December 15, and because of the increased interest in 'doing a Hobart'. -- Peter Campbell

The 1998 Telstra Sydney to Hobart attracted 115 entries and in the storm 71 retired, leaving 44 boats to finish the 630 nautical mile race.

Curmudgeon's Comment: Although it's been a while since we've mentioned it here, I still get a lot of email from people asking where to get the official videotape of the last Sydney-Hobart Race. And for good reason - it contains some pretty amazing images. The footage from cameras on board the boats documents the bravery, the terror and the extraordinary rescue efforts. This videotape is available online, and it's only $29.95 plus postage and handling:

Ed Baird why he didn't cover Prada: "When you are just a little bit ahead of your competitor in a match race, you have to balance between paranoia and confidence. Today we were overly confident and we should have been more paranoid.

John Bertrand, tactician on Abracadabra, on afterguard roles: "At the start Chris Larson drove and John Kolius called tactics. I lost the coin toss today so I ground up the runner, and then after the start John took over driving, I slid up to tactician role and Chris was more of a strategist with his experience here."

Marc Pajot, on money problems in the FAST 2000 syndicate: "It's true that we had a problem inside the team from the last week because of the problem of the cash flow. We were not sure to be able to pay the salary by the end of the last month but finally we find a solution two days ago and everything went well yesterday."

Ken Read on modifications to Stars & Stripes: "Every time you make a change, there is an element of risk involved, but what we saw today certainly validates our thinking. There is no question - the boat is faster now than it was in Round Two."

Louis Vuitton Cup website:
Dennis Conner website:

The sooner you fall behind, the more time you'll have to catch up.