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SCUTTLEBUTT No. 997 - January 31, 2002

Scuttlebutt is a digest of yacht racing news of major significance; commentary, opinions, features and dock talk . . . with a North American emphasis. Corrections, contributions, press releases, constructive criticism and contrasting viewpoints are always welcome, but save your bashing and personal attacks for elsewhere.

A masked Brazilian bandit fired two shots blind into Sir Peter Blake's cabin on Seamaster, killing the yachting legend almost instantly as he had his back turned while trying to fix his jammed rifle. Ricardo Colares Tavares then stepped forward and fired twice more, as if he was "target shooting".

These last seconds of Sir Peter's life were recounted publicly yesterday for the first time by his close friend, yachtsman Geoffrey Bullock, as he gave evidence against Colares and five other bandits in a Brazilian court. The six are charged with armed robbery resulting in death after they allegedly stormed Seamaster on December 9. Sir Peter was shot during the attack at Fazendinha, about 10km from Macapa at the mouth of the Amazon River.

Mr Bullock and two other Aucklanders, Rodger Moore and Leon Sefton, are testifying in the case, which is being tried in the Amapa Federal Court in Macapa under tight security. Mr Sefton, a cameraman on Seamaster for blakexpeditions, took the stand to tell how he had a sore throat on December 9 and went to bed. The crew had been on the deck having dinner, listening to music and having a few beers, looking forward to heading back into the ocean after an exploratory environmental trip up the Amazon. Eight were on deck when he went to bed, and 10 were aboard in total.

He soon heard "very loud voices on deck and people stumbling around and things being knocked around". He left his cabin and saw Sir Peter in his cabin with the door half-closed. He thought Sir Peter had been going to bed but had been disturbed by the noise, "which made me think I had better get on deck to see what the problem was, not knowing we had been boarded. At that time I had no idea of the real reason Peter was in his cabin, which was obviously to get his rifle."

Mr Sefton headed towards the upper deck but got only as far as the door leading to the companionway. He looked up and saw a bandit (identified as Isael Pantoja da Costa) coming down wearing a balaclava and holding a pistol in front of him. Mr Sefton put his hands up in surrender. The bandit was surprised to see him and looked around the cabin for Sir Peter, who had raced below soon after the bandits stormed the boat, saying to the crew on deck: "This is for real."

Sir Peter came out of his cabin with his rifle at his side, talking quickly and yelling at the bandit to get off his boat. Because Sir Peter had been advancing so quickly and shouting so aggressively, the bandit backed up the steps, said Mr Sefton.

He told how he next saw Sir Peter flinch and there was a rapid exchange of gunfire. He could not say who shot first. He took cover in Sir Peter's cabin, where he saw a second rifle and bullets on the bed. He grabbed the bullets when the shooting stopped and ran to give them to Sir Peter in case he needed more, "because at that stage I felt we were going to be executed".

He saw Sir Peter trying to fix his rifle and offered him the ammunition, but Sir Peter declined. He insisted Mr Sefton go to the bow and clear the hatch as an escape route. "When I got back to Peter, he was lying down on his back not moving. His head was resting on the doorway step and when I got to him I realised he was already dead."

Mr Sefton said he tried for 15 minutes to resuscitate Sir Peter while calling for help. By the time he got on deck the bandits had gone, taking watches, compact discs, cameras and other items as well as Sir Peter's rifle and the boat's inflatable dinghy. The crew on deck had been subdued with guns to their heads.

Mr Bullock told the court that as the bandits were leaving he had to restrain another crew member, Sir Peter's close friend Don Robertson. He made him lie on the deck because he had been desperate to go to Sir Peter's aid.

As the robbers were leaving, they opened fire again and Mr Robertson narrowly avoided becoming a second victim when a bullet scraped across his back. Mr Moore told the court he had grappled with Colares, who was the first to board Seamaster and who knocked him unconscious with a heavy blow from a pistol.

The three New Zealanders gave evidence at a hearing lasting more than 14 hours, during which the accused were brought coffee and cold water on a silver tray as they sat handcuffed together. Catherine Masters, NZ Herald

Full story:

Among the Volvo Ocean Race crews, anticipation is growing over what lies in store for them as the boats return to the wild wastes, giant seas and gale force winds of the Southern Ocean - small toys in one of the planet's most powerful weather machines. - James Boyd

With the yachts so closely matched, each yacht is searching for a tactical advantage through better understanding of the dynamics in the atmosphere, called the weather. The days are gone where the "go east or south" decisions were made by the experienced salty seadog looking at the clouds and the barometer. Nowadays the navigator has an IT job, processing loads of information through computers that model the weather situation and facilitate the making of the final decision. With outside routing prohibited in the Volvo Ocean Race, Race Headquarters in Southampton provides the boats with digital weather (GRIB) files that can be fed into the onboard routing computer. As models usually give just an approximate picture of real world, the navigators check the information against weather maps and other models available via the Internet and adjust the provided files to their personal believes. That is the point where the experience of the navigator comes in and where the basis for different decisions is laid. Some crews have even got meteorologists on board (Nick White on News Corp, Jean Yves Bernot on djuice), others consult meteorologists before the start of each leg to get a better understanding of what lies ahead of them. All have on thing in common, they are very secretive with their ideas about the weather development in the future, as Nick White wrote: "I have been trying to figure out when to gybe out of the high and have a few ideas, but unfortunately I can't share them with you since our fellow competitors may read it."

The routing software used by the racing sailors has its roots in the software that helps large cargo ships to optimize their routes for speed and fuel efficiency.

Tyco led the fleet into the gybe, with the rest of the leaders all completing their gybe over approximately the next half hour. Roger Nilson on Amer Sports One said earlier, "We expect the wind to increase and to move to the left". The forecasters agree that the wind should pick up and it has already moved left into the northwest. If the navigators have confidence in the forecast, they will push their waypoints and predictions out further in time, using their favored model. At this stage in the race the model is most likely to be either from the UK, Europe or the USA, which is then combined with their onboard weather router. Sometimes the navigators need to tweak the information from the models, in order to obtain the best possible solution from the router.

The Volvo Ocean Race fleet is now some 80 nautical miles to the east of the Antipodes Islands at 49 degrees south, still all heading in a southerly direction. At last the weather reports are predicting fresh to strong wind, nearing gale force at times and backing into the southwest. The V.O.60s have been eagerly awaiting this for a few days now, in anticipation of their fast sleigh ride towards Cape Horn.

The boats are maintaining an east west spread of around 30 miles with Amer Sports Too furthest to the west, along with djuice, and News Corp furthest to the east. Keryn Henderson wrote earlier from Amer Sports Too, "There is a real 'calm before the storm' feeling. The Southern Ocean is about to come and bite us hard".

Positions on January 31 at 0358 GMT:
1. Team SEB, 5855 miles to finish
2.News Corp, 1 mile behind leader
3. Assa Abloy, 3 mbl
4. Amer Sports One, 8 mbl
5. illbruck, 10 mbl
6. Team Tyco, 12 mbl
7. djuice, 16
8. Amer Sports Too, 39 mbl

In 1983 Australia II won the Americas Cup with a revolutionary keel that was very different to Liberties, but both boats used the same sailcloth technology from Bainbridge. 18 years later and we are still at the forefront of Sailcloth technology with products such as AIRX spinnaker fabric and DIAX-Carbon laminates, and for the Americas Cup jubilee regatta Australia II again chose Bainbridge. More Information at

"For me, today is the first time I have crossed the International Date Line; maybe I can fix the mistakes I made yesterday?" - Grant Wharington, djuice

* "I can't remember the quote exactly but it goes something like 'below forty there is no mercy, and below 50 there is no God'. If I have it wrong I am sure someone out there will correct me, but either way it is definitely not holding true right now.

"Sailing at night with a very bright and clear sky in comfortable temperatures and a perfectly flat sea is hardly what we expect on this leg, but none of us are that easily fooled. We are all very aware that in a day or two from now, we will be pushing south across the 50 degree line and further on into the strong westerly gales and much colder sea and air temperatures.

"We have a custom made curved weed stick which we can use from on board to clear weed and small bags etc without stopping, but it doesn't work so well with sharks .. it was dark and hard to see but there was a sizeable sunfish or shark around the rudder, which forced us to drop the chute and 'back down' to clear it." - Steve Hayles, Tyco

* "The Southern Ocean is about to come and bite us hard. It is hard to imagine that very soon there will be big waves, big breeze and lots of water. Bridget [Suckling] described it like this: "It must be how the early settlers in America felt traveling in there wagons to new lands. They knew the Indians were out there, knowing they are going to attack, it's just a matter of when." - Keryn Henderson, Amer Sports Too.

Four hundred and thirty four sailors have flocked to Miami's Coconut Grove to compete in the classes that have been chosen for the 2004 Olympic Regatta in Greece.

The star-studded fleet includes Miami's Magnus Liljedahl, a 2000 Star class Gold Medallist from Sydney, whose explanation for the huge turnout is simple: "In Olympic classes, it's getting harder to be competitive because every country is getting better and better. You have to come here to compete against the best."

More specifically, the Rolex Miami OCR is the only international Olympic classes ranking event held in American waters. It also serves as a mandatory ranking regatta for the US Sailing Team.

"I think it's fair to say that this is the biggest international one-design regatta in this country," confirmed US Sailing Team Coach Luther Carpenter. The final sign-up tally after registration today was 282 boats from 26 countries.

Considering this year's addition of long-time sailing sponsor Rolex in the event's title; some interesting developments in several of the classes; and the expansion of the regatta to include the 2004 Paralympic classes, the Rolex Miami OCR might even go down as one of the most exciting in the 13-year history of the event.

A new rig on the Tornado will have these souped-up catamarans flying around the course at warp speeds. According to Michael Grandfield, president of the International Tornado Association, the sail area has increased two-fold with the expansion in size of the main sail and the addition of a spinnaker. "The tornado has been made more powerful," said Grandfield. "As if we needed it!," he added with a chuckle.

Six racing circles will be run on Biscayne Bay, with Tornados and 49ers -- another super-fast vessel with both skipper and crew hiking out on trapezes -- speeding together on one of the circles. The other Olympic classes competing are Europe, Finn, 470, Laser, Mistral, Star and Yngling. The two Paralympic classes -- 2.4 Metre and Sonar -- add a new dimension to "competitive sailing at its best" when sailors leave their wheelchairs at the dock to join the action on the water. The Laser class is sporting the largest number of entries at 64. Following that are the Stars at 49.

Class leaders after day one included: Star, Vincent Brun / Mike Dorgan; Yngling, Carol Cronin; 49er, David Faagen / Bora Gulari; 470, Steven Hunt / Michael Miller; Laser, Brett Davis; Tornado, Lars Gluck / Jonatghan Farrar; Europe, Nik Meyla, denmark.

Complete results and more:

Results matter. That's why in the waters off Auckland during the last battle for the Cup Ockam Instruments were used by the winner Team New Zealand. And, Ockam dominated amongst the vast majority of Challengers still standing in the later rounds: AmericaOne, Stars & Stripes, America True, and Nippon Challenge all relied on Ockam Instruments. Are you looking for superior results? Visit our webpage,, or email Tom Davis (

(Following are two excerpts from a story by Bernard Orsman and Julie Ash in the New Zealand Herald about the threatened sabotage to the French America's Cup Challenge.)

* Greenpeace campaigner Bunny McDiarmid told the Herald yesterday that it was completely inappropriate for a company like Areva to polish its image in a sporting event like the America's Cup. She said Areva was 80 per cent indirectly controlled by the French Atomic Energy Commission, which developed France's nuclear arsenal and monitored nuclear testing at Mururoa Atoll in the South Pacific.

The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, which will host the America's Cup from October this year, is barred by legislation from only one type of sponsorship - tobacco. Commodore Peter Taylor said the squadron did not want to get involved in the financial arrangements of the team. "Our role is to be the host." But Bunny McDiarmid said Greenpeace would like to see sponsorship legislation changed to prohibit the nuclear industry from promoting its business.

America's Cup Minister Trevor Mallard said many New Zealanders would be unimpressed by the nuclear involvement, but the decision was up to the French. He did not favor extending the sponsorship ban to nuclear products. Tobacco advertising was linked to people starting smoking, but it was unlikely they would start experimenting with nuclear power because of sponsorship. Asked what he thought of protests against the boat, Mr Mallard said: "I have no problems with legal protest. Illegal actions would be a matter for the police."

* The one and only French boat is due to be launched in May and will arrive in New Zealand in mid-August. Senior Sergeant Martin Paget, head of the maritime police unit and of planning for the America's Cup, said that because of New Zealanders' views on nuclear issues there would probably be protests against the Areva.

He was coy about increased security for the French syndicate. "It is a fluid environment, where we are constantly assessing what the risks are and making sure we will have in place a reasonable level of resource to deal with what occurs." Bernard Orsman and Julie Ash, New Zealand Herald

Full story:

March 1-3: MORC Midwinters, Davis Island YC, Tampa FL., /

Atlantic SAIL EXPO was marked by a significant 33% rise in attendance (compared to last year's gate). That jump in attendees translates to over 15,000 sailors.

"I must admit that the America's Cup has never been in such good shape. As for the Volvo Ocean Race, it is on shaky ground. There are sadly only eight boats taking part. I've really no idea what' in store for the VOR. I usually have an opinion on everything. But I've nothing to say about it, which is very rare. You know, during one round the world race, you are preparing the next one. This time round, no one is making projects along those lines." - Grant Dalton, from an interview with Bernard Schopfer posted on the Alinghi website.

Full interview:

The America's Cup Class' Technical Director Ken McAlpine has assigned sail number 71 to Oracle Racing's first IACC boat. The boat is being built in Ventura, California. As I recall illbuck got #68, and the GBR Challenge got #70. Could there be some truth to the persistent rumors that the French will claim the unissued sail number - #69?

I want to sincerely thank Jeffrey Littell and wonderful people at Newport Harbor Yacht Club for their recognition of Scuttlebutt's forthcoming milestone - and for one of my most pleasant evenings in memory. As I've said before, it's the people that make this sport of ours soooooo special.

A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand.