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SCUTTLEBUTT #461 - December 16, 1999

The final day of the Sydney International Regatta has been a day of action-packed racing and close results, particularly for the Australians, many of whom the event is their last Olympic nomination event for the 2000 Australian Olympic Team.

In very close racing in the 470 Men's event, Australia's Nathan Wilmot and Daniel Smith finished in second place, only three points behind Spain's Martinez and Cantero. In close racing today USA's Foerster & Merrick were 11 of 42.

In the 470 Women, the action has also been very strong as the competitors battled it out for points on the Olympic nomination pointscore. JJ Isler & Pease Glaser tied for 4 of 23 to take fifth place just 13 points off the pace.

Racing has also been action-packed in the 49ers, with World Champ, Chris Nicholson and Daniel Phillips clawing their way back to win the regatta. In what was a very exciting final day of competition, Nicholson came home very strong. Adam Beashel finished in seventh place overall. Beashel finished second in the first race of the day, but was forced to retire in the final race after a collision with a boat from another fleet which broke his spinnaker pole. The USA's Jonathan & Charlie McKee finished in fifth place.

The Australian Mistral competitors have performed admirably at this event, with Australia's Lars Kleppich adding another win to his already successful record for 1999. Kleppich had a great regatta, with a scorecard boasting five wins over nine races. However, not to be outshone was Jessica Crisp in the women's event. Crisp had a great regatta and is starting to hit her best, recording an astonishing six wins in this regatta. Her two worst results were two sixth placings. And all this up against current World Champion, Barbara Kendall (5th), and 1996 Olympic Gold Medallist Lee Lai Shan (4th). USA's Peter Wells finished 40 of 54 and Lanee Butler was 11 of 32.

The Europe Class was won by Denmark's Kristine Roug, with Sari Multala of Finland in second. Melbourne's Melanie Dennison finished in seventh place overall. The top US boat was Meg Gallard finishing 15th of 28.

In the Laser Class, Robert Scheidt asserted his authority on the fleet, with placings of 2,2,6. These results improved his overall lead to 17 points ahead of Australia's Michael Blackburn. Blackburn had a slower day, but managed to keep his overall second place ahead of Serge Kats of the Netherlands. The top US boats were Mydal (17), Mendelblat (20) and Hardesty (26).

Pierre Pennec of France has won the Tornado class ahead of Australia's Darren Bundock and John Forbes. Pennec scored a 1,2,3 today, which was enough to hold Bundock out of first place even after he won the final two races today. The USA's Daniel & Bernier were 12 of 37 boats. -- Megan Seton

Full results are available from

Record setting American yachtsman, balloonist and adventurer Steve Fossett and his 9-man crew aboard the 105-foot maxi-catamaran PlayStation begin an historic voyage today, aimed at shattering the TransAtlantic speed sailing record between New York and England.

The current record of six days, 13 hours, three minutes and 32 seconds is held by Frenchman Serge Madec (Jet Services V). The original 1905 record of 12 days, by the schooner Atlantic, stood for 75 years. Between 1980 and 1990 it was broken seven times. Today, in the world's fastest sailboat, in an endurance race against time, distance, and the elements, PlayStation skipper Fossett and his experienced crew are challenging the nine-year-old maritime benchmark.

The team is comprised of five Americans, two Australians, one New Zealander, and two Britons.Virgin Group Chairman Richard Branson, a TransAtlantic record-setter via hot air balloon and powerboat, had been counted among the crew until yesterday, when he had to withdraw from the attempt because of pressing business commitments. In 1998, Fossett, Branson and Per Lindstrand of Sweden attempted to circumnavigate the globe by balloon but halfway into the flight, on Christmas morning, failing winds forced the trio to ditch their craft off the coast of Hawaii.

Wind and weather pose equally unpredictable obstacles for sailors, and this week's climate conditions in the North Atlantic could determine if PlayStation's wintertime record-hunting expedition goes down in the books as the last world class sailing record of the 20th Century.



Congratulations to Dawn Riley and her intrepid crew for qualifying for the Louis Vuitton AC Semi-Finals. Hard work, professionalism, and serendipity generally leads to success. Such traits are the hallmark of the Dave Ullman legacy in sailing. For insights on the How To "go faster" department, don't hesitate over the Holiday Season to get inspired, or perhaps get a faster set of threads at:

* Halfway through the third round robin of the Louis Vuitton Cup, Nippon skipper Peter Gilmour declared that the "real" regatta really only begins in January. It was a remark that could only come from someone confident of still being in the game next year when the semifinals, finals and the 30th America's Cup Match take place. For a number of others, however -- those who were heading home for the holidays -- the round robins have been all too real. For all but one of them, their early demise spells failure.

The exception is the Young Australia team, which came to the regatta with the youngest team, the oldest boat and the smallest budget -- and, realistically, the lowest expectations. "We just want to win a couple of races," said 20-year-old skipper James Spithill at the start of the regatta.

Remember, 16 teams put in official entries to this regatta; the five that did not turn up had already lost a vital part of this event when they failed to raise the funds to play the game. On its third attempt at the Cup, Spain held more promise. With the Doreste brothers, Luis (helm) and Noluco (tactics) adding muscle to the afterguard and Rolf Vrolijk heading the design effort, they were reckoned as real prospects for at least a semifinal slot. They never lived up to their promise, however, and a palace revolt which saw Luis Doreste take the helm and Pedro Campos left on shore did not make any difference to the results.

A less drastic reshuffle took place on Abracadabra when John Kolius relinquished the helm to Chris Larson and imported American John Bertrand into the afterguard. This was said to "improve the chemistry" on board, although Kolius pointed to some confusion in the strategy when he joked that the three arm-wrestled each other at the 10-minute gun to decide who would steer. Kolius later said their fundamental problem was lack of money as their budget spiralled down from US$30 million to less than US$10 million.

From very early in the regatta, all these teams displayed the symptoms of an early exit. The huge surprise is that Young America ended up being swept out on the same tide. With the backing of the New York Yacht Club -- holders of the Cup for 132 years -- a US$40 million budget and the talent of Farr Yacht Design, this team always featured much higher in pre-regatta reckonings.

The team arrived in Auckland with a kind of swagger -- the rightful owners of the Cup come to reclaim their property. Before racing began, skipper Ed Baird gave an interview proclaiming that Young America was the best of the American teams. Yet after breaking one boat and going on an embarrassing losing streak with their second, Young America found itself clinging to a very greasy pole. In contrast to his early bravado, Baird was left publicly speculating about his own replacement and arguing against it with homely advice: "Dance with the one that brung ya."
Worse, arrogance, a habit of tendentious visits to the international jury and frequent requests for postponements left the New Yorkers friendless in a hostile world. They were vulnerable and suddenly their destiny was not entirely in their own hands. Other teams could and eventually did tip the scales against them by helping their rivals. Young America's hopes were finally destroyed by a late winning streak from Le Defi Bouygues Telecom-Transiciel and a decision by America True not to race the French, thus handing them the nine points that would guarantee them sixth place and the semis.

At the top of the leaderboard, there was no surprise at finding Prada's beautifully designed and presented Luna Rossa, Cayard's AmericaOne and a resurgent Nippon Challenge. Gilmour's Nippon Challenge team finished the first two round robins in fifth place, uncomfortably close to the bottom of the cut at sixth. But in Round 3 Nippon lifted its game.

Gilmour is a notorious late starter who seems to thrive on the pressure of coming from behind. With their narrower yacht Idaten (JPN-52), Gilmour and his Japanese team have a weapon that is a real contender and it appears to have given the Australian skipper the confidence to go about his business with less desperation and more deliberation.

Even more upwardly mobile was the young French team. They managed only two wins in the first round and three in the second. But after radically reducing their rudder size and shifting it farther back, enlarging the winglets, adding weight to the bulb, a new mainsail and bringing Luc Gellusseau on board, the French yacht came alive. With six straight wins in succession -- plus the gifted nine points from America True -- the French tumbled New York out of a semifinal place.

Less dramatic, but no less remarkable, was America True's story of the rounds. Dawn Riley's coed team, helmed by New Zealander John Cutler, was the quiet achiever. Hardly rated as major league players, they gambled by bringing their only new boat into New Zealand's winter and setting up camp early. "Practice, practice, practice," was syndicate head Chris Coffin's formula for the team's extraordinary success.

Of course, for the top six finishers, Gilmour's comment about the "real" regatta only starting in January is correct. Now the slate gets wiped clean and thecy start again. The Auckland America's Cup spring is over. The summer is about to begin. -- Ivor Wilkins, Quokka Sports

Full story:

* Lycos, Inc. announced that AmericaOne, the San Francisco-based St. Francis Yacht Club challenger for the 2000 America's Cup, has launched a unique auction on Lycos that will put one lucky bidder onboard its International America's Cup Yacht as it competes for the right to challenge Team New Zealand's hold on sailing's holy grail: The America's Cup. The package offerings include an exclusive position aboard the high tech yacht as the 17th crewmember during the Louis Vuitton Semi-Finals in Auckland, New Zealand on January 9, 1999 (weather permitting). Bidding has begun and concludes December 23, 1999 - the ultimate gift for the sailing enthusiast.

The winner will be in position to observe all of the action up close as Skipper Paul Cayard and the AmericaOne Team put their sailing skills to the test. This once-in-a-lifetime trip includes two-business class tickets onboard Air New Zealand to Auckland, where the winner and their guest will spend four days and three nights at the Sheraton Hotel. The winner's guest will enjoy the race onboard AmericaOne's spectator boat. The package includes an assortment of team gear, a poster of the winner onboard the AmericaOne boat with Skipper Paul Cayard, a signed framed limited edition poster of AmericaOne, a 1/2 model of the boat and two dinners with the sailing team at the AmericaOne base. -- Gina Von Esmarch

Auction website:

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 Barton Beek (re Dawn Riley's withdrawal) -- This is bad sportsmanship to an extreme. It is the ethical obligation of every participant to race in every race of the series, if he or she is able, so that the winners of the last races will face just as difficult a field as the winners of the early races. If this is true in fleet racing, which it surely is, then it is true in spades in match racing, as Riley's "withdrawal" so clearly demonstrates. I wonder how her crew members feel about handing a spot to the French and denying it to Young America, possibly because Riley has some ancient beef with the NYYC?

-- From Mike O'Brien -- May I point out the New York Yankees did not play games 6&7 of the World Series? Thats not indicative of everything thats 'wrong' with Baseball, nor is True's decision to stay home indicative of whats wrong with the Cup. Further the America's Cup is no reflection of the state of sailing in general, as indicated by record 1 Design fleets at KWRW. More people are going sailing, and competing at high level regatta's- now what could be wrong with that?

-- From Richard Kelton -- (Drastically edited to the 250-word limit) I think John Marshall properly apprised the situation. He said that there was no question of poor sportsmanship because the decision was made within and contemplated by the rules of the competition. Thus, any complaint about unfair competition lies against the rule makers, not the competitors.

The first problem was that there was no negative penalty for losing a race. The scoring should provide that at the least 1/2 of the point differential consisted of a loss of points for a loss. Thus, if there were a 9 point differential, the win would be worth a positive 4 1/2 points and a loss a negative 4 1/2 points. The winning boat would still be 9 points ahead of the loosing boat. But later the change could encourage competition. If a boat were even with one competitor and two points ahead of another. A loss would result in the non-competitor loosing 4 1/2 points and falling behind the other two boats, instead of retaining his lead on one and tie with the other.

The rules must encourage competition without creating issues that require a subjective determination as to whether the competitor had a legitimate reason for not competing (danger to his boat, crew fatigue, repairs etc.) or, even worse, trying to determine whether a boat which competed did its best to win. Rules which attempt to judge the competitor's state of mind would be more divisive then even the present unsatisfactory arrangement.

The rule makers have a mandate to do better next time around.

-- From Peter Huston -- New York Yacht Club has been eliminated from further competition in the Louis Vuitton Cup because their boat broke in half - not because America True didn't sail against the French. They simply weren't fully prepared to win.

-- From John Ross Duggan -- I'm the head of the Ross-Duggan challenge - 1 of 3 teams with a real shot at representing the USA in Sydney in the Paralympics in the Sonar class. I'm looking for crew with minimal physical disabilities (i.e. amputations of a hand, fingers or a foot) to expand my crew as the trials approach this April. (

-- From Mark Herrmann -- As a Finn sailor and a class representative to the US Olympic Committee, I have been hearing that the Finn would no longer be an Olympic Class since 1989. Despite these sentiments, the Finn Class remains an Olympic Class. It may be interesting to note that the same sentiments are not shared by the entire world. In fact, many people around the world feel that the Finn will remain Olympic in the next quadrennium. The North American Finn fleet has suffered as a result of this perception. Many young sailors, who keep hearing that the Finn will be knocked out of the Olympics, have avoided the class in North America. In Europe, however, the perception is very different and the class continues to grow.

To add a 7 man keelboat to the Olympics would truly put the cost of a campaign out of reach for all but a select few no matter who provides the boats at the Olympics. Small boat racing is very popular throughout the world, but it also provides the truest test of a sailors abilities. No instruments to tell you how fast you are going, etc., not to mention the fitness level required to compete on the international level is far beyond that of large keelboats. It is no mistake that large keelboats have been replaced in the Olympics over the years. Now is the time to support the classes that put an Olympic level strain on an athlete's body and mind, not their checkbooks.

Wouldn't it be nice to receive (better yet give!) a beautiful gift of love and appreciation to your fellow friends and loved ones? Call Frank Whitton at Pacific Embroidery today (619-226-8033) , or email for details on how to help ring in the Holiday spirit at home and offset those Y2K blues. Send a classic polo shirt or warm, fuzzy jacket today with a personalized logo. Heck, you could even send those infamous red socks from Down Under, too!

Dennis Conner made a rare appearance behind the wheel of his America's Cup boat yesterday - and was still beaming last night even though he had lost. "I don't like losing - but I love racing sailboats. It's my idea of a holiday, and I don't think anyone would begrudge me my day off," the legendary Stars & Stripes skipper said.

Five minutes before the startgun in Stars & Stripes' last race of the Louis Vuitton Cup round-robins, Conner stepped up to the wheel. But he was the second boat across the finish line, trailing the homeward bound Spanish by 35s - in a race that counted for nought. Still, it was a jovial Conner who cooked hamburgers for everyone on the compound afterwards. "Everyone out there was great - the police boats were honking, [race director] Vince Cooke phoned me and thanked me for racing," he said. Conner has been noticeably absent from the boat in this America's Cup, taking his boss role very seriously on land.

"I would love to be on board the boat in the semifinals. But I'm afraid if that happened, we might not be able to pay the bills so we can carry on," he said.

Regular helmsman Ken Read said Conner had loved every minute of his day as captain. "He's been itching to get behind the wheel," he said. "He complained that we didn't bring our best sails out. But he would have complained if we had brought them. "By his absence Dennis is shown a lot of confidence in the sailing team."

Conner has not been on board since his lifetime friend Tom Whidden, joined the Stars & Stripes afterguard. The King of the Cup said he was "pleased" with his team's performance - ending up fifth in the fleet of 11, and making the cut. " -- Suzanne McFadeen, NZ Herald

Full story:

Following are some comments by Ed Baird, skipper of Young America, at the final press conference of RR3 "We are going to wrap up some things that are very important to us; one is to put USA-53 back in the water and make sure that it's sound and that it's repair is completely finished. We are going to finish some of the projects that we had underway that we expected to make us faster in the next round and we are going to confirm that they in fact work."

"We don't know how fast those guys (the Kiwis) are, and I don't think - unless somebody's doing something that we don't know about - I don't think anybody is going to find out before that first day of racing. So, the anxiety should be high at that point."

"At this point no, we don't have any plans but we are here as Challenger of Record as well as one of the challengers. If there's some way that we can help the challengers be stronger it might make sense, so the answer really at this time is - 'No, we have our own projects that we're in the middle of."

More quotes on the Louis Vuitton Cup website:

If you ate pasta and antipasta, would you still be hungry?