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SCUTTLEBUTT #465 - December 22, 1999

81 boats expected to set sail from Sydney Harbour next Sunday, December 26. Highlighting the lead-up racing has been the intense interstate competition between Grant Wharington's 70ft maxi Wild Thing from Mornington Yacht Club and George Snow's 75ft Sydney maxi, Brindabella, from the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia.

SportsTAB in Sydney has Brindabella a short-priced favourite for line honours, but Wild Thing's odds have dropped sharply in betting over the weekend. Competition between the two maxis has been fierce in lead-up races over the past week, with Wild Thing beating a trouble-wracked Brindabella in four out of six Telstra Cup races and protesting her out of the Canon Big Boat Challenge.

Purpose-built to contest last year's Sydney to Hobart, Wild Thing was forced to retire after suffering rigging damage to its mast and spinnakers, which Wharington acquired from the 1995 America's Cup challenger, OneAustralia.

"We have taken two metres off the mast since last year," the hands-on owner/skipper Wharington said today. "A lot of work has been done on it, so it is much stronger this year. The bigger sails are great; it makes a big difference downwind. We are very happy with how the boat is going."

If conditions suit the big boats, Wild Thing must also have strong prospects of winning IMS overall handicap honours, the prized title based on corrected time regarded by all competitors as THE winner of the Telstra Sydney to Hobart. Wild Thing won IMS honours in this year's Sydney - Gold Coast Race after finishing a close second across the line to the record-breaking Brindabella. Since the last Sydney to Hobart she has also taken line honours in the Adelaide to Port Lincoln Race and the long South Pacific race from Auckland to Fiji. -- Peter Campbell

* FLAGS OF CONVENIENCE -- The current professional sailing circuit is an example of the global village concept. The sailing community moves around the world from event to event - from the Admiral's Cup, to the Sardinia Cup, from the Whitbread to the America's Cup. In today's sailing fraternity, nationality is of less importance than your performance at the last regatta.

The nationality list of just one American Challenger reads as follows: American - 24, Australian - eight, New Zealand - six, Canadian - two and one each - from Germany, the United Kingdom, South Africa and Sweden. There's even one canine! Only one Challenger in the Louis Vuitton Cup had a team that was solely made up of nationals and that was Young Australia.

Almost a thousand people moved to Auckland for the Louis Vuitton Cup - many professional sailors don't seem to have a real home. Their whole life fits in a big sea bag and wherever that bag is, that's their home. Roots are rare for these modern day seafarers, in some cases it's just a mysterious island tax haven, where the sailor's bank account resides. But there are some restrictions.

For the Louis Vuitton Cup and the America's Cup there is an eligibility rule that restricts the lifestyle of the modern day sailing professional. The eligibility rules state that any member of the sailing team or design team must be a national, or show three years residency, in the country of the challenging yacht club. The boat, the sails and the mast must be designed in the Challenger's country of origin.

Most of the team members for operational tasks on shore and on board can be found within the home country's selection of talent, but some tasks are too specific or too strategic; like a good tactician, experienced helmsman, intelligent designer, or skilled navigator. The syndicates are forced to comb through talent all over the world, as the skilled specialists can be hard to find.

In addition, some talent rich countries like New Zealand and Australia are 'suffering' from a glut of talent, but have only one syndicate entry each. For them, there are too many sailors and designers and not enough jobs. Hence, Peter Gilmour (Australian) is the Japanese skipper. John Cutler, a Kiwi, is at the helm on America True. Bruce Farr, another Kiwi, designed the Young America fleet, and Rod Davis, also from New Zealand is coaching the Italians.

John Cutler worked for the Japanese Syndicate in 1992 and 1995 before working for Dawn Riley's American Team. Cutler has lived in his home country for one year during the last ten. He thinks it would have not been different if the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron had allowed more defending syndicates, "One and a half million Kiwi's live abroad, we are travelling people. We were not forced to go anywhere. This is what happens. The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron did the right thing. I think that having only one team defending the cup is a good thing for New Zealand."

The Prada Challenge has employed a lot of foreigners, but not in its sailing team. That lesson was learned in 1992 when the powerful Italian media was critical of all the foreigners onboard Il Moro di Venezia. Prada's owner and campaign leader Patrizio Bertelli has tried avoid that problem this time. Torben Grael, the Brazilian tactical magician who lives in Italy is the only exception to the rule. But it's a different story ashore and behind the scenes, where a large number of foreigners are employed. The Prada design team consists of a few "foreigners" who have been Italian residents long enough to comply with the rule. They are from Argentina (German Frers), New Zealand (David Egan), and from the USA (Doug Peterson). The Director of Operations is the famous Cup veteran Laurent Esquier, originally French.

A big part of the Italian coaching staff is American and New Zealand origin. In fact, head coach Rod Davis is a perfect example of a person changing citizenship and/or residency to qualify for opportunities that would otherwise not be available. Davis was American born, then a Kiwi, was Australian once and now officially qualifies for the Sydney 2000 Olympics as a New Zealander again. Davis was skipper of oneAustralia in the 1995 Louis Vuitton Cup. He now coaches the Italians along with two other Kiwis.

Rod Davis has 20 years of America's Cup experience including three campaigns as a skipper. He must have been on the short list of many campaigns. On top of that, Rod Davis is a successful match racer. What does he think of this eligibility rule?

"The eligibility rule was extended to three years after the 95 cup. Really I don't think about it much, in any case for this Cup it would not have applied to me since I am not part of the crew but coaching. My role is one of "head coach". That means I coach the sailing team, in particular the afterguard on match racing tactics and sailing style and I steer the second boat in the testing and in house racing. Personally I find the coach role as very challenging. I am learning how to coach as I go. I have been contacted by three other teams but the Prada offer was there early."

The question still remains whether these sailors are modern world citizens or defectors? To promote the sport of sailing and keep the audience glued to the Internet or TV it surely helps to have nations battle it out against each other. Just look at the enormous amount of interest in World Cups - be it Rugby, Football, or Golf, or with the Olympics. But if you look at the lifestyle of a modern pro-sailor and the demand for their skills, it is inevitable that some syndicates use foreign expertise. And after all, it has been that way since the very beginning of the America's Cup. -- Simon Keijzer, Louis Vuitton Cup website

Full story:

* CLOSER THAN EVER -- It may be because the belief nice guys finish last pervades all sports, and because game faces impress more than warm smiles, that the Spanish were treated at America's Cup 2000 more lightly than they deserved. Their failure to make the semifinals was anticipated. They arrived in Auckland on the back of unimpressive challenges in 1992 and 1995 and in the wake of a publicised series of misadventures.

From the start they seemed to respond to the experiences of each new day with the surprised delight of children in a toy store at Christmas. When they suffered minor breakages aboard Bravo Espana in their first days of testing on the Hauraki Gulf, when winds gusted to 30 knots, they disported them as badges of courage. When they ran aground in the Viaduct Basin on the way to sea, then ran aground outside the Basin on the way home, they responded to what might have been an embarrassing predicament with unrestrained hilarity.

They especially enjoyed the quizzical reaction provoked by Bravo itself, the curiosity engendered by the bow that angled steeply upwards like a launching ramp. What Bravo's awkward appearance effectively disguised was that Spain, for the first time in their three Cup campaigns, had come to town with a competitive boat.

Campos believes a combination of factors caused the Spanish to drop out of semifinal contention. There were several days of racing in light conditions, while Bravo had been tuned to race best in heavier weather. As the pressure went on and each match carried more importance, Spain's competitors lifted their games. Campos also admits Spain began to make mistakes.
"Of course I'm not satisfied about being out of the semifinals," he said. "I'm a little more satisfied about our boat handling and boat speed, especially in strong conditions.

"The general idea is to come back," he said. "But first we must see where the next Cup will be, whether it is Italy or the United States or New Zealand. In general it might be easier if it is in the U.S. or Italy to gain the interest of sponsors." Campos believes that there is sufficient interest among the Spanish sailing community and enough momentum generated by this campaign to fuel another challenge. "We have a lot of experience now," he said. "About 50 percent of this crew were with me in 1992 and more than 50 percent in 1995. We now have a lot of knowledge of the America's Cup and we have shown we can improve." -- Steve McMorran, 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.

-- From Peter Huston -- The reason that the America's Cup pre-season ended on a somewhat controversial note is because there is a flaw in the event structure. This flaw still exists, and unless corrected prior to the start of the semi's the Louis Vuitton Cup runs the risk of further controversy.

I recall someone suggesting in 'butt towards the end of Round 2, that it would have been possible for 6th place to be material impacted by a teams decision to not sail a race or two towards the end of the round. Perhaps now the six remaining teams will address this problem and set up a system which at least significantly decreases the opportunity for the second place finisher to be determined by virtue of someone not competing in a race and thereby skewing the results.

I offer this suggestion to the six teams - score the leader of each mark rounding as one point - that's a total of five points per race - no points for the start - and then score 11 points for each win.

-- From Chris Ericksen -- I agree absolutely that having a seven-person keelboat in the Olympics is a bad idea; the truth is, however, it'll never happen. One of the reasons smaller boats are appealing to those who select Olympic classes is that many national authorities acquire the boats used; the people on the selection committee for Olympic classes are also often bigwigs in their national authorities, and they will certainly vote their pocketbooks if the proposal comes up.

I am also hugely in favor of team racing in the Olympics. It is a competition that would be understandable to both television and on-site viewers. Men and women are often teamed together in this kind of sailing, which has some appeal. And it is just plain fun: as chairman of the 1998 US SAILING Team Racing Championship at Alamitos Bay Yacht Club last December, I was completely caught up in the fun and excitement of the activity. Adding team racing to the OLympics is a great idea that deserves serious consideration.

-- From Bruce Van Deventer -- Why not have an Olympic class for a larger keelboat, but each boat's crew has to be made up from the sailors in all the other classes representing that nation?

-- From Geoff Ewenson, Finn Campaigner (Brutally edited to the 250-word limit) -- While it is true that the Olympics have slowly gone away from larger boats and been replaced with smaller dingys I must disagree with Gary Jobson in his thought that the trend is wrong. The Olympic games are fundamentally grounded in athletics. The idea is that no matter what the sport or the competition that the best athletes will stand atop the medal podium. They are the epitome of success in our very complex sport. It would be a catastrophic mistake to propose a seven man Keelboat to replace the Finn.

I am not suggesting that keelboat sailing is not athletic but rather that it is less about athleticism and more about money and ones ability as a manager. The Finn is without a doubt the most physically demanding sailboat I have ever had the pleasure to race. This entire struggle is done in the name of the Olympic spirit. The training and discipline gets put to the ultimate test to rise above the competition. There are no contracts to sign or endorsement deals to fall back on or dollars per day sailed. In the end the winners are just looked up to as heroes for younger sailors to emulate.

The Olympics are already addressing the issue of cutting the overall number of sailors. Replacing the single-handed Finn for a seven person craft will never fly. We would have to look at replacing all of the single-handers in order to cut the numbers down to allow in seven other sailors.

-- From Cy Gillette -- Shame on you Matt, Kialoa means long LIGHT canoe, not white.


-- From Sam Crawford (re Bruce Vandeventer's thread about inflatable sails) -- Paul Stanton, a sailmaker in Marina del Rey, experimented with inflatable sails in the early '70s. Most of his experimenting was done on Sabots. If I recall, the sails had an inflatable luff, making the sail perform somewhat like a wing mast/soft sail combination. Paul also made sails for the Santana 22 with scallops of very light material sewn into the luff of the main and these were raced successfully in the local fleet.

-- From Harry Pattison -- In regards to the letter from Bruce Vandeventer inflatable sails have indeed been tried. In the early 90's we built quite a few sails for a company named "Angelwing Sails". They were experimenting with both mains and jibs and did quite a bit of work both in actual sailing, and in wind tunnel testing.

While the results showed a definite increase in performance they were never able to market the concept. It was to expensive for cruising sails and all the current race rules still keep real innovation illegal.

-- From Steven Schwartz -- In regard to Sailor of the Century it has to be Dennis Conner. Like him or hate him, he is the main face of sailboat racing. There may be a lot of faster ( Paul Caynard), better sailors ( Buddy Melges), and richer sailors (Ted Turner ), But when he walk into a room, DENNIS is the MAN!!!

Paul Who? You me that Euro who wrote the books. No way! We need heroes not literary geeks!!!!!! My second choice goes to the Hobie Cat family. Even Bill Lee is above Paul Elvestrom. Hey I am a southern Californian and I am bias and I admit it!!!!!

-- Cam Lewis -- Paul Elvstrom gets my vote if there is such a thing for small to medium size boat/racing sailor of the century, there must be other sailors who would get big votes in their disciplines, but Paul is the man for racing! Do not forget the countless hours he put in to win all his singlehanded golds at the big O.

One of the comments today about the idea of all the USA teams working together to get the A-Cup back is a little far fetched, I have heard of NO cooperation or anything that smells of a TEAM USA approach to this challenge in NZ- is there such a thing now? Was there ever such a Team idea???? What if a US team wins the challengers trials, will another USA group step up to help them? Would a USA team help a foreigner take the Acup north of the equator?

Have a very Merry, all is full on here with the big kitty cat project, building starts Jan 3rd. Glad to see Steve Fossett is sticking around for a few more months to help out with some stateside promotions. Tell all the east coasters playStation is parked in Newport RI for a few more days, maybe until after Y2K. Go have a look. It is worth it!!

-- From Fin Beven (re Barton Beek / America True and his opinion that there is an "ethical race in every provide as difficult a in the early races".) -- I've long respected Mr. Beek, but I'd just like to know where it is so written. On the (very) few occasions when my crew and I have sealed a series before the last race, the first thing we do is fold and bag our good sails. We then use our back-ups and alternate crew positions for practice. We race, but we are not so extravagant as to put our best assets on the line. Once a series is won (or lost), the next series is the one that counts. Sometimes you just get on a hot streak. I see no "ethical obligation" to run up the score once the game is won. Share the fun.

-- From Ben Beer (In response to Scott Diamond's observations that the goal of the American teams was to bring the Cup back to America) -- The goal of the American syndicates is to win the Cup. We are all individually fighting towards that goal. At the end of the day or in the bar should one of us loose, as Americans, yes we would like to see the cup return to America, but we are here to win races not loose them regardless of who we are racing. America True is here to win the cup -- not help Young America or any other Syndicate win it.

CURMUDGEON'S COMMENT: It's fitting that an America True crewmember would have the final word and that was indeed the final word. Enough of America True's decision or of Young America's problems. Those subjects are now off limits. Bring on the Semifinals and fresh controversy. Do you suppose if Tom Ehman's vision were to become reality and we had an America's Cup every year, it would still 'heat up' people the way it does now?

Pete Goss will launch his maxi-catamaran Team Philips (120 ft) in Totnes (Southwest England) on Feb. 29, 2000 instead of Jan. 12 as initially planned. The complete platform (wave-piercing hulls, crossbeams and central pod) is almost finished, but Pete Goss' team cannot remove her from the building without disturbing the construction of the 2 masts.

Indeed it is these spars, extremely complex and 130 ft long, that have caused the delay. At the current time the team is working simultaneously on their load-bearing structure, on their aerodynamic fairing and on the mast-foot cockpits. With this new launching date, the crew of Team Philips are putting all chances on their side to having a well prepared boat right from the start. The first sea trials are planned for the beginning of March 2000.

The catamaran will then sail for London, where she will be named by Queen Elizabeth II on March 14. In the meantime, on Jan. 6 at the London Boat Show, Pete Goss will reveal the identity of his router and the 10 ports where Team Philips will be calling in during her European tour before the start of The Race, on Dec. 31, 2000 from Barcelona.

The Race website:

Getting old is hell -- Last week I forgot how to ride a bicycle.