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SCUTTLEBUTT #469 - December 28, 1999

The Danish/Australian-crewed yacht Nokia has slashed the Telstra Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race by more than 18 hours in finishing off Hobart's historic Battery Point this morning. Nokia, skippered jointly by Danish Olympic yachtsman Stefan Myralf and Australian skiff and ocean racing sailor Michael Spies, crossed the finish line at 08.48.02.

The 60-foot former round-the-world racer was making good speed up the Derwent River in south to south-west winds to finish with a big welcoming fleet of local boats. She is officially the first yacht to break two days for the 630 nautical mile race and her average boatspeed of more than 15 knots will be one of the fastest in the world for a long ocean passage race.

Second-placed yacht Brindabella is about to enter the Derwent and Victorian entry Wild Thing is crossing Storm Bay in third place.

More than an hour earlier, the 146 foot superyacht Mari-Cha III crossed the finish to complete the fastest ever time for the race - unofficially because she sailed by invitation as a demonstration yacht for next year's superyacht class division. Mari-Cha's performance pleased American owner skipper Bob Miller. "Wind conditions were very much in our favour but we knew by the sea and wind conditions they were also ideal for the Whitbread boats. It was great to be able to stay in front."

New Zealand helmsman aboard the superyacht, Mike Sanderson, was at the helm when Mari-Cha III hit its top speed for the journey - an exhilarating 31.08 knots, not far from the speeds the yacht reached in establishing a transatlantic record under sail.

Sydney yachtsman Rob Kothe, a survivor of the storm-battered 1998 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race is placed first in progressive provisional placings for the prestigious IMS overall category of the 1999 Telstra Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. During the 1998 race Kothe lost a crew member, Glyn Charles, and his yacht, Sword of Orion, when the yacht was dismasted and her hull severely damaged in the Bass Strait Storm. Kothe and the remaining members of the crew were airlifted to safety by helicopter.

Back in Sydney he bought a new yacht, a Sydney 40, which he also named Sword of Orion and has been racing the yacht with success this season, including placing second to Brindabella on IMS corrected time in the Sydney to Gold Coast race in August.

Computer calculations released by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia after the 1405 hours "sked" with the fleet show Sword of Orion in first place, with Atara (Roger Hickman), a Lyons 43 from the Cruising Yacht Club in second place and the South Australian boat Ausmaid, a Farr 47, being sailed by Kevan Pearce holding third place.

While the smaller boats are faring best on handicap, these positions may change in the conditions being experienced by the fleet, which is now mostly south of Flinders Island and down the Tasmanian east coast. Winds of 30-40 knots had been forecast earlier today by the Bureau of Meteorology, with gusts exceeding this, and rising seas, which will slow the smaller boats considerably in the heavier conditions. -- Peter Campbell

Full story:

Tim Jeffery, yachting correspondent of The Daily Telegraph, London, is the first outsider to sail on the boats New Zealand has built to defend the America's Cup. Reprinted courtesy of The Daily Telegraph, London

There are no trials to win the right to defend the America's Cup. Next February, Team New Zealand is charged with retaining the trophy it won in 1995. It will be down to skipper Russell Coutts, spanning nine races starting 19 February, to determine if the Cup stays in New Zealand.

Ninety per cent of the country tuned-in to see or hear New Zealand win in San Diego. The support and weight of expectation bearing down on Coutts to win again is enormous.

That's why I am standing at his shoulder aboard NZL-57, one of the two new Black Boats. We're under sail and we've entered a start sequence. Young tyro Dean Barker, Coutts' understudy, is hard on our tail in NZL-60, trying to beat his boss. "He is an enormous talent," concedes Coutts. The two 80-foot yachts spin on a sixpence as Coutts and Barker joust and parry, Coutts' legs wide apart and arms using all their leverage to muscle the boat through the turns.

It is a disadvantage not to have a long trials series like the challenger," explains Coutts. "That's why we have in-house simulations. These guys are very, very competitive so, in some respects it's even tougher than racing another team because if you lose, you've got to look the guy in the eye on the dock afterwards."

Ahead of Coutts is the speed team. Warwick Fleury trims the five-story high mainsail, steering the boat almost as much as Coutts, thanks to the skinny keel and rudder under the boat. Too much trim and Coutts can't overcome the mainsail's power. Too little and the foils' wind tunnel perfected shapes aren't working.

Trimming the jib is Simon Daubney, more animated than Fleury, pulling armfuls of rope off his winch drum and firing a staccato "Trim" and "Hold!" To the four grinders leaning into the winch pedestals alongside him. Craig Monk, an Olympic bronze medallist in the same Finn dinghy class in which Coutts' won his own gold, is not the tallest but he's the biggest with a chest cavity of aircraft hanger proportions - ideal for this lung-busting work.

The noise on these Cookson-built carbon-fibre war canoes is enormous, their drum-tight hulls amplifying every sound. When Coutts' first lieutenant Brad Butterworth cracks the highly loaded running backstay a centimetre, you'd need a heavy piece of ordnance to match it for volume.

"It would be nice to have the same speed edge as '95," admits Coutts. "You could have put any of the top crews on NZL-32 and they'd have probably won. This time I think the speed is going to be more even generally, with variations according to the wind speed."

Don't think Coutts is playing down Team NZ's chances though. He's just more realistic and honest than most in this game. Take heed of his parting thought however: "In various regattas around the world when we sailed equal boats, we've proved ourselves to be more than competitive." - - Tim Jeffery, Louis Vuitton Cup website

Full story:

* As Team New Zealand continues to search for boat speed, key members of its design team are fully integrated into the sailing programme in a move to have them experience and identify at first hand the slightest hint of improvement. This process has been in place both during the development of the new designs and continues during the post-launch optimisation of the two new black boats, NZL-57 and NZL-60.

Design team coordinator Tom Schnackenberg, 53, and structural engineer Mike Drummond, 37, both have navigator roles onboard. Yacht designer Clay Oliver, 47, who shares the principal hull design duties with Laurie Davidson, made a conscious decision when he joined Team New Zealand to build his sailing skills enough to make a useful contribution on a daily basis.

"Not having a position such as navigator, I have had the luxury of moving around from position to position and learning a lot of the intricacies of various positions at the highest level of sailing," he said. As a yacht designer, Oliver finds that hands-on experience invaluable, particularly among a group of sailors as experienced and skilled as the Team New Zealand line-up. "It1s all part of the integration of this team," the designer said.

"There's great value in being onboard all the time, listening and communicating and coming up with ideas. Unlike some other teams, we don't have lots of notes and reports and paperwork. How it works is that something will happen, there will be a subtle performance lift. It may be to do with the keel, or wings, sails, or a new technique. Onboard, that moment is obvious. Almost everybody gets it at the same time," Oliver said.

"As you get closer to what you think may be the optimum design, it becomes more difficult to make choices. When that ambivalence sets in, there is often no wrong choice, so you might have to go with intuition," Oliver said.

Oliver, who trained at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, has a strong academic grounding, however, which makes him favour science over feelings. "If the numbers are there, you would always go with the numbers," he said.

In the optimisation phase after the boats are built, Oliver said the biggest gains come from developments above the water, rather than below. "Once you have established the right length, beam and stability questions, the performance difference between the two or three best boats due to hull shapes alone will be about one to two percent. That translates to one to two seconds a mile. This is a small number, but it applies all the way around the racecourse.

"In contrast, a change in mainsail shape, or trim, can lead to a five-second a mile advantage. This may not necessarily apply on all points of sail all the way round the track, but it is significant. The more dynamic performance gains are achieved above the waterline, but the foundation for speed lies below the waterline," said Oliver.

"At Team New Zealand, this is one of the things we have learned over the past three years, which is why we place such great importance on involving the people who design and build the rigs, the deck hardware systems, the sails. By integrating them directly in the whole process, you might gain two seconds a mile here and there. It all adds up." -- Ivor Wilkins, 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 Craig Fletcher -- When the Americas Cup is over where will all the pro's go? Some will go to Whitbread campaigns or Kenwood Cup, but most will go home to be paid by local amateurs to beat up on other amateurs. Anyone who is paid to sail should only sail against other professionals. Our amateur national sailing body (US Sailing) should mandate all racing in the USA to be category one only. This would force professional sailors to create their own league. This would be win win for both sides. The pros would have a chance to make some money and the amateurs would not have to put with all of the unsavory actions that are sure to be brought home from the AC and applied to local racing.

-- From Chris Welsh -- Sailor of the Century? Paul Cayard in the Men's Division. Buoy racing, small keelboats, Whitbread, America's Cup & down to earth personally - a terrific resume - but how about women? Dawn Riley would be my pick. Great sailing experience in many different venues (Whitbread, America's Cup), and ahead of the pack for putting together a AC Campaign led by a woman - breaking new ground. Humble enough to not grab the helm she could have had, but instead being the ultimate CEO - taking the role of doing whatever needs doing on the boat right now. Runners up? Isabelle Autissier is the first to come to mind.

-- From John Fracisco -- I would have to agree the nomination of Paul Elvstrom, and would also include others like Jochen Scheuman (product of the Eastern Bloc sports programs), Robert Scheidt (4 time Laser World Champ), Cam Lewis (what hasn't he done?), Sir Thomas Lipton or DC (kept the AC alive and interesting), , Sir Robin Knox Johnston (first solo around the world alone in a race), Stan Honey (continues to push technolohy into sailing), the Johnstone clan (the J/24 was a boat at the right time and place that we'll never see again), Doug Peterson (genius?), Bill Lee (ULDB revolution), Paul Cayard (he's been walking on water in the '90's), and the list could go on and on.

-- From Tom Weaver (Re: Sailor of the century) -- Lets not forget about the rest of the world's sailors (It is a bit like ESPN leaving Pele off their top 100, I guess he is in a class of his own!) I would nominate Sir Francis Chichester and Sir Peter Blake.

-- From Blake MacDiarmid -- Buddy Melges is for sure a candidate to be sailing's Mohammed Ali-- his career both on and off the water is diverse and distinguished as it gets. But specifically, anybody sailing at the Melges 24 Worlds this fall will admit he is a good sport and can "take a hit" considering that every time you saw Buddy on the course somebody was running into his boat!

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, Buddy.

-- From -- Ken & Pam Guyer, San Diego, California -- To my fellow subscribers of the "Butt": As this century draws to a close and we step off into the year 2000 and all that it will offer, here is wishing all of you out there a really great holiday season. Hopefully many of you will be able to bring in the New Year out on the water which is what brings all of us to this common ground, the love of the sea and the flutter of jib and main while executing the perfect tack.....whether we be on the same side, or competitors, we all are here for the same thrill of a race well sailed, win or lose.

The America's Cup is shaping up to be one of the best. May the semi-finals be full of spectacular crew work, brilliant strategy and tactics, and the excitement of close and tight racing. A sailors race.

A sincere wish for a safe and sane New Year.

Kiwi sailing legend Chris Dickson has reunited with one of his old America's Cup boats to help out a foreign challenger. Dickson, 38, spent the two days before Christmas sailing with Dawn Riley's America True syndicate -- which meant driving USA-39, the boat he raced as TAG Heuer in San Diego in 1995. It was the first time Dickson had ever sailed the boat on New Zealand waters. In 1995, the Bruce Farr-designed yacht was shipped directly to the United States, where it made the semifinals of the Louis Vuitton Cup

"Sailing the boat in Auckland has completed the circle so to speak," Dickson said. "We had a New Zealand challenger that I never sailed in New Zealand. Something was missing. Getting behind the wheel here was very nostalgic for me."

The past week has also been a reunion for Dickson and America True's Kiwi helmsman John Cutler, who sailed together for the Nippon challenge in 1992. They squared off in 20 starts and four short races over the two days' practice in light airs on the Hauraki Gulf. Dickson, a veteran of three Cup campaigns, said he took all of five seconds to get in sync with his old stead.

Dickson is a self-described gun for hire in this America's Cup. He has helped three of the challengers, including round-robin winner Prada, tuning up against its helmsmen. "I'm just having fun -- I'm not privy to anything," he said. "I can't say I miss being involved directly in the America's Cup this time. Last time around the big objective was to bring the Cup to New Zealand. I started the job with KZ-7 in Fremantle, I didn't finish it, but the job was done."

Riley was thrilled to have Dickson as guest skipper for a couple of days. "It's always great having someone new -- but it's even better when it's somebody new with experience, talent and who really knows the boat," she said.

Dickson was, as always, impressed with his old boat: "The TAG boat is very well suited to the gulf. She's very difficult in pre-starts, but very good on the racecourse. She's been overtaken by the '99 generation yachts, but she was probably the second or third fastest boat in San Diego last time. If Team New Zealand hadn't won the Cup, maybe she would have." Suzanne McFadden, New Zealand Herald

Full story:

* Auckland is on holiday, like the rest of New Zealand. It is summer vacation time, Christmas, New Year's, and the end of the Millennium all rolled into one, and the walkways and waterfronts of the America's Cup Village are just one big street party.

In contrast, the syndicate compounds on the other side of the Viaduct Basin, were quiet today, with the six Louis Vuitton Cup Semi-Finalists out at sea working on tuning and training for the big confrontation next week.

Just four days remain to the start of the Semi-Finals and all the teams were making the most of an 8 to 12-knot Northeaster and sunny skies. It has been that way ever since the end of the Third Round Robin. Top-seeded Prada, for example, has worked continuously, except for half a day on Christmas Eve and a day off on Christmas Day.

On Thursday, 30 December, the challengers will gather at the Louis Vuitton Media Centre at 8:30 am to draw for pairings in the Semi-Finals. The pairings will be posted on the website as soon as they are completed.

The Semi-Finals will consist of a double round robin in which each boat will sail against its opponents twice. Ties will be broken by sailing the minimum number of additional races between the tied teams necessary to break the tie. -- Keith Taylor, Louis Vuitton Cup website

Full story:

Pursuant to the San Diego Sir Thomas Lipton Challenge Cup Deed of Gift, The San Diego Yacht Club Board of Directors has been received and approved a proposal for the 2000 Lipton Cup Challenge. This proposal was prepared by the 2000 Lipton Cup Advisory Committee which consists of representatives from Coronado Yacht Club, Newport Harbor Yacht Club and San Diego Yacht Club, as provided for in the 1994 Protocol for the event.

The following event specifics were established in the proposal:
Dates: May 18, 19 measurement and crew weigh-in
May 20, 21 2000 Lipton Cup regatta
Yacht: Schock 35
Venue: South San Diego Bay
Format: 7 races, no throwout

A notice of Race and Invitation to Challenge will be published in early 2000.

"It has been said that a million monkeys banging on a million keyboards would eventually create a Shakespearean play. But now, thanks to the Internet, we know that this is not true."- Robert Silensky