Friday, July 29, 2005

We Love a Parade (of sail)

An event called Sail San Francisco, sponsored by the Pacific Rim Foundation, began yesterday with a “Parade of Sail” from the Golden Gate to the Bay Bridge – the event runs through the weekend, ending Monday. For anyone who lives in the Bay area this is a unique opportunity to see these beautiful, historical ships under sail…as well as to tour aboard them dockside, join as crew on a day sail, witness the booming battle reenactments, enjoy the history of the San Francisco waterfront, etc. As this article in the SF Chronicle details, ships in the fleet include the 270-foot Mexican barque Cuauhtemoc and the fully rigged, 2,284-ton Russian training ship Pallada. Thirty-two ships and smaller vessels, including diesel-powered-vessels, are to participate in the parade. Vessels range in size from the 30-foot sloop OlÈ to the 442-foot Jeremiah O'Brien, a World War II Liberty ship. The 88-foot scow schooner Alma hailing from the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park will be the senior ship – 114 years old. I’ve posted on tall ships before and for those who have not seen this sort of thing you will be impressed not only by the beauty of the ships, but also by the thought that our seafaring ancestors actually ventured to new worlds, plied trading routes and made their lives aboard these vessels – as pretty as they are they offer one tenth the comfort of your average modern production cruising sloop.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

S/Y Avalon downwind at the Newport Bucket Race,
July 16, 2005 (Photo Credit: Billy Black)

At the Altar of Endeavor

Back to the Newport Bucket for a moment – I failed to mention a key opportunity I had when we were back at dock. The charter chef for the classic J-class yacht Endeavor was part of our crew on Avalon and post race he invited me to tour her at dock three slips down from us at the Newport Shipyard. I’ve posted on Elizabeth Meyer and the work she has done in yacht restoration through the IYRS– being aboard a craft like the Endeavor, even at dock, is a religious experience. The care and workmanship that has restored her glory is astounding but beyond this, the sense of history that permeates every corner of the boat, both above and below deck, is truly exceptional. For someone who loves classic yachts, not only for their form but as a living link to a bygone era, this was a highlight. She charters for 65K a week plus expenses…nine professional crew aboard to serve eight charter guests...looks as if I’ll have to be content with a dockside visit ;-)

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Not for Wussies

I posted on Great Lake sailing a some weeks back and received very positive feedback from Great Lakes sailors agreeing that inland sailing grounds make for excellent cruising and racing. It’s a good follow-up to point you toward a wrap-up of the annual Bay View Yacht Club-sponsored Port Huron-to-Mackinac Island Sailboat Race - the self proclaimed largest fresh-water sporting event in the world. According to the article the 266 boats competed on two separate courses (depending on what class they were racing) and both routes had heavy winds that made this race one of the fastest (read most nerve racking) in history. The 253-nautical-mile Southampton Course featured a steady blow throughout the race, while the 204-nautical-mile Shore Course challenged sailors with heavy thunderstorms that caused carnage across the fleet. A point I made during my last post on lake sailing is well proven by this experience – yes these lakes are relative ponds compared to the ocean and yes, we all know that many dangers lurk on oceans that aren’t part of lake environments...but don’t think for a second that lake sailing is for wussies. It can blow like holy hell and the waves build quickly and steeply. Another point being that they apparently have good wind in the summer - not a factor on Long Island Sound at the moment.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Swan Song

Busy day so back in force tommorow. In the meanwhile check out updates from the Rolex Swan Regatta in Newport - including an announcement of a new racing class sloop, the result of a collaboration between Nautor Swan and the New York Yacht Club.

Mari-Cha (Photo Credit: Thierry)

Monday, July 25, 2005

NEWS: Morning Glory Takes the Transpac

To kick off our week we have news that the 80-foot maxi sloop Morning Glory has shattered the elapsed-time record for the 43rd biennial, 2,225-mile Transpacific yacht race from Los Angeles to Hawaii. Morning Glory, co-skippered by German owner Hasso Plattner and three-time America's Cup winner Russell Coutts, reached the finish early yesterday morning to complete the race in six days, 16 hours, four minutes and 11 seconds – beating the record of 7:11:04:11 set by Roy Disney's Pyewacket in 1999. According to reports her average speed was nearly 14 knots. Wind was light at the start of the race and for most competitors consistently below the normal 20 knot trade winds that define the sleigh ride to paradise. Morning Glory didn’t see winds above 20 knots true until they had nearly finished the race, but the boat, built by yacht designer Reichel/Pugh, claims a "go fast" pedigree that few other offshore grand prix sailboats can match: it was designed, get this, using "...state-of-the-art America's Cup calibre design tools, including computational fluid dynamics (CFD), velocity prediction programs (VPP), tank testing and ultra-advanced construction methods and materials. " All of this boils down to making Morning Glory one of the fastest high tech rocket ship maxi yachts that money can buy. How very German industrialist...

Friday, July 22, 2005

S/Y Chippewa bears down on competitor S/Y Avalon
- Newport, RI - July 16, 2005

THIRD REPORT: Newport Bucket

If you are, like me, a fan of sailboats made by Nautor’s Swan, then you’ll want to tune into the Rolex Swan American Regatta set to take place July 25-29 in Newport, R.I. Hosted by the NYYC, over 40 Swan yachts from America, Asia and Europe – including two Swan 56’s, a Swan 60 and a new Swan 601 – will be competing courtesy of sponsor Rolex.

Speaking of Newport, I posted earlier in the week on my experience last Saturday aboard the S/Y Avalon during the Newport Bucket…but haven't detailed the actual sail. The wind was SW at six knots at the start, not ideal for a 106’ yacht but we put the canvas up and crossed the line in good form. Conditions had been fair in Newport Harbor but as we left the East Passage behind outbound to the Narragansett Bay, we sailed back into fog. Interestingly the wind picked up as the fog thickened and we soon had nearly ten knots of breeze with low visibility. As helmsman Ron Holland had several people calling tactics and monitoring the radar the limited line of sight did not slow us down...but the mist did make keeping track of our competitors a challenge. The boat sailed well with more pressure and I soon got the hang of the push button winch system. It was a strange feeling not to be able to see the headsail from the primary winch – we had someone amidships call the trim for me which took a bit of finesse out of the job but still, nice to be ghosting through the fog at six knots SOG (speed over ground). All through the day as the fog cleared the wind lightened. When we sailed back into it, it built. It was my first encounter with fog tactics. By far the best leg of the day was downwind – the boat sails very deep and accelerated well with the spinnaker up. All in all a pleasant, if a bit damp, sail with nobody getting their blood pressure up… though we emerged from the fog to see the last mark dead on our bow and had to bear away sharply. Our tactician was nearly too good! The post-race scene back dockside was epic – I’ll finish up on this topic next week. Have a great weekend all and hope you spend some of it sailing.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Deck crew at the 2005 X-Yachts Adriatic Cup
S.Giorgio's Island, Venice, Italy (Photo Credit: Max Ranchi)

Schooner Woodwind II Goes Hollywood

Here’s an article in the Washington Examiner about actor Christopher Walken’s use of the Annapolis day-sail schooner, Woodwind II. Walken was filmed sailing the boat for the new Vince Vaughn comedy, The Wedding Crashers. Not having seen the movie, I can’t vouch for the cameo but I used to crew aboard the Woodwind when I lived in Annapolis in 1998. That spring, having hopped a yacht delivery up from the U.S.V.I., I scored a bartender job at Pusser’s Landing and by June had a 2nd job as deckhand aboard Woodwind. The family (Ken and Ellen Kaye, daughter Jen) that owns and runs the program are tremendous people – the Examiner article features daughter Jen Brest who was steering the boat, flat on her back with a compass on her chest, during the film sequence with Walken. The first Woodwind, the one I worked on, was built in May 1993 by the Scarano Boat Builder's Yard in Albany, NY. Her hull is made of Port Orford Cedar ribs and strip planked with the same material, her decks Douglas Fir, a thin sheathing of fiberglass on the outside of the hull. As the business grew, they added the Woodwind II in 1998. My deckhand job ended as the season wound down post Annapolis boat show. I let my apartment near St. John's College go and sailed on a yacht bound for Ft Lauderdale and points south.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

W-Class Yacht Wild Horses approaches the mark, day one Newport Bucket - Newport, RI, July 16, 2005

New ISAF Pres Goran States Populist Mission

I'm taking a break midweek from Newport Bucket narrative to discuss this Sailing World interview with the new ISAF (International Sailing Federation) president, Goran Petersson, of Sweden. Goran took over from former president Paul Henderson in the fall of 2004. Paul had been president for 10 years and, according to the article, his leadership was characterized by aggressive use of the media on sailing issues. In contrast, Goran has been much quieter and so Sailing World went knocking at his door. The resulting Q&A is, in my humble opinion, heartening in that the man is ocused on the most essential issue of all, increasing grass roots participation in sailing. It may seem strange to write about participation opposite a post about my day aboard a multi-million $$ mega sailing yacht in Newport…but rich people will always have their toys and while it’s fun to have a chance to play on one of them, the reality is that a sport where only the wealthy can participate is not much fun at all. Take a look at polo for a real life example. The future of sailing depends on making the sport accessible, enjoyable and generally welcoming to as broad a segment as possible – including a generation of youths coming of age in a world overflowing with distraction.

"The biggest challenge to our sport is participation. We are not only in competition with all other sports, but also with a lot of other activities. We have to make the sport attractive to young people—and older people—and we have to make it accessible, affordable, and exciting." - Goran Petersson

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Avalon crew gathers for a winch lesson, outbound to the Newport Bucket day one start - Newport, RI - July 16

SECOND REPORT: Newport Bucket

We motored out through Newport Harbor for the first race of the 2005 Newport Bucket on Saturday – a procession of 70’ plus classic and modern yachts, some outfitted for racing and others for well heeled pleasure cruising. I was aboard the S/V Avalon, a 106’ ketch with five professional, full time crew. As our crew T-Shirts clearly indicated, the boat split its time between Nantucket and St. Barths – not exactly tough duty. Our start had been delayed due to a layer of fog that was only just beginning to lift. In the harbor it was brilliantly sunny, all manners of craft on the water including the ubiquitous water taxis, a couple of classic 12 Meters under sail, a swarm of sailing dinghys at the edge of the fog bank under the Pell Bridge. I had a lesson on the primary winch as we motored along. It was push button but the gears were a little tricky so I practiced switching from the faster first gear to the slower second, used when the load was on and only slight adjustments were needed. The professional crew were mostly quiet, only speaking when necessary to instruct or to accomplish a task. The rest of the pick-up crew chatted happily – some knew one another, others had just met…but everyone was thrilled to have the chance to go sailing on a glorious Saturday in Newport. I admired the green sweep of the lawn in front of the NYYC's Harbor Court clubhouse, the precise grouping of buildings and fortifications that make up Fort Adams. The air smelled of brine and diesel. Our American flag snapped in the breeze off the stern. Captain Tom called for a crew meet and everyone gathered on the aft deck to discuss positions and tactics. The breeze had built and we had nearly ten knots true...

Monday, July 18, 2005

Newport Bucket fleet motors to the line, NYYC & Ida Lewis YC in the background - July 16, 2005

FIRST REPORT: Newport Bucket

I was only able to sail the Saturday race at the Newport Bucket Regatta due to familial responsibilities…according to reports I missed the best day of the two but for somebody like me, the ability to get out on the water is hard won and enjoyable no matter what. Conditions Saturday morning in Newport Harbor and waters beyond to Narragansett Bay were foggy, light wind from the SE…not the ideal conditions to move the so called “super yacht” fleet that had assembled for the parade. I came aboard the 106’ ketch Avalon after an early morning drive from CT up 95, arriving at the Newport Shipyard around 9:00 AM. The owner and his family were waking up and having coffee, live aboard crew hustling about the boat readying her for the day and my good friend and old captain on Javelin, Tom Motley below decks in his quarters plotting the day’s course. Tom is taking over as captain of Avalon after several years in the South Pacific running the yacht Coro Coro. We’d not seen each other in three years plus and it was a treat to re-acquaint. The stewardess had laid out shirts, belts and caps for the race crew in the main saloon and I suited up, glanced admiringly about the interior of the yacht and headed topside to introduce myself around. That’s when I learned Ron Holland would be aboard Avalon for the duration of the regatta as our helmsman. One of the world’s preeminent yacht designers, Ron’s firm launched Mirabella V in 2004, to date the largest single-masted sailing yacht in the world... I’ll be writing on my Newport Bucket experience through the week so stay tuned to Zephyr. Many thanks to owner Tom Taylor and his family for allowing me the privilege of crewing aboard Avalon and, of course, to Captain Motley for inviting me.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Crew for 1998 Key West Race Week (I'm at the helm)

The 100 Year Ocean Racing Triumvirate

A good follow-on to yesterday's post is a discussion about the Transpacific Yacht Race (Los Angeles to Honolulu) which began off Long Beach, CA on July 11. Kimball Livingston reports for SAIL Magazine here on the atypical start to this years race - rather than punching through to the usual boisterous offshore sea breeze, competitors langished in Los Angeles smog for two days and, according to the race web site, boats are only now picking up the trade winds that usually provide a sleigh ride to paradise for this classic competiton. This is a 2,225 mile endurance sail. Most boats understandably attempt with a full complement of crew - here's an article that details the record seven boats sailing doublehand this year, meaning a crew of just two sailors. According to the article the doublehanding sailors are just looking for a challenge. ;-)

"I used to run big boats and raced them all over the world for my whole life, and you get bored sailing on big boats," said Bruce Burgess, who will leave for Hawaii today on Two Guys on the Edge. "You get to the point with five people on a boat where it isn't fun. There isn't a whole lot to do."

2005 is the 100 year anniversary of the Transpac...notable in and of itself but worth placing in the context of the 100 year anniversary of the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge this past May and the 100 year for the Newport-Bermuda Race next year - together the three of these races practically define modern ocean racing. There's a very good story in this triumvirate on how the past 100 years have shaped the sport and where collectively we're heading with the next 100. One thing is for certain, the proving ground is timeless.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Credit Where Credit is Due

The sailboat winch is surely something I’ve taken for granted – in my time aboard I’ve mostly been too busy winding it to reflect on its origin. But if I pause for a moment and think about it, the winch is integral to my (and I’m sure your) modern sailing experience. From big maxi drums to the smaller Barient on a daysailer…we have Derek Baylis to thank for the modern sailboat winch. Mr. Baylis, 81, died this past Monday - an article in the SF Chronicle details his life and contribution to the sport. According to the article his daughter, Elizabeth Baylis, learned of her father's death 30 minutes before she was about to board a Cal 40 sailboat for the start of the famed Transpacific yacht race from Long Beach to Honolulu.

"We all decided Derek would be outraged if she jumped ship at that point, " Mr. Baylis' stepson, Tim Salz, said of his stepfather's immutable devotion to yacht racing and its traditions. "She's gone."

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Go Forward Team Shosholoza

In sailing news today South African Team Shosholoza is challenging the long line of rich, old white men who traditionally compete in the America’s Cup race. The BBC moved a story here with background on the team and an update on their training regimen, profiles on team members etc. Sponsored by shipping magnate Salvatore Sarno, the team is comprised of young black and mixed race men from the streets of Cape Town, South Africa. I’ve posted on blacks in sailing here and discussed Shosholoza team member Ashton Sampson here…this development is part of a welcome trend towards obliterating the homogenous status quo in sailing. Hundreds of years won't be erased overnight but onward, upward and good luck Team Shosholoza.

  • A Zulu word, Shosholoza means "Go forward" or "Make way for the next man"
  • It is the title of an African song traditionally sung by black convicts enduring hard labour
  • It has been recorded by several artists, from Ladysmith Black Mambazo to Peter Gabriel

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

106' Christoffel's Lighthouse - 2004 Newport Bucket, Newport, RI


It's confirmed - I'm racing the Third Annual Newport Bucket Regatta, sailed out of the Newport Shipyard this coming weekend. The Newport Bucket is an invitational regatta open to yachts over 90-feet (27-meters) - it's really more of a parade for megayachts than a hard nosed race. I'll be aboard the S/Y Avalon, a 108' Rodney Holland designed, Pacific Yachts-built ketch owned by Tom Taylor out of Texas. For those who followed this earlier post I went for the bribery option...a nanny for six hours on Saturday and a hour long facial spa treatment. I'll get around to bringing the wife and kids along for this type of event, but a three-month old baby and a Newport Regatta don't mix. After racing Saturday they'll do the traditional Yacht Open House where all yachts are encouraged to participate in putting forward cocktails and appetizers for their competition. It'll be a great way to get a rare glimpse of some of the most magnificent sailing yachts on the planet. On Sunday Carnegie Abbey will host the Bucket Awards 8 miles up Narragansett Bay. The entire fleet is invited to proceed up the bay after Sunday’s race and anchor off the clubhouse for the dinner and dance reception. I'm very excited to be able to take part in this - stay tuned for updates.

Megayachts racing the 2005 Newport Bucket include:

  • The 118-foot DuBois/Alloy Atlanta
  • The 108-foot Custom Holland
  • The 168-foot Perini Persius
  • The 104-foot Bruce King Whitehawk
  • The 112-foot S&S Zingaro
  • Monday, July 11, 2005

    The Fabric of Sailing

    I like to highlight stories outside the mainstream sailing press – we all know and love the big races and regatta events but the fabric of sailing is woven with the thread of people like Mike Rowney. In June of 2001, while working as a delivery skipper in the Greek Isles, Mike sustained an eight-meter fall from a yacht in a boatyard onto concrete and broke his spine. Now a paraplegic, Mike has embarked on a solo around Australia sail in his 26 foot yacht Gypsy Rose to raise funds to make wheelchairs for children in third world countries. I’m incredibly fortunate to have my health and the use of all of my limbs…a favorable condition that in all honesty, I often take for granted. Reading about Mike and his determination to not let his disability stop him from living is inspiring, not just because he is making the best out of a bad lot, helping people who need help, etc…but rather because as much as I would like to think that I could have the courage and fortitude to accomplish what Mike has set out to do with the Around Australia Challenge, I’m not really convinced that I do. When getting knocked about offshore, my old captain and good friend Tom Motley was fond of saying “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” It’s a good thought and one that Mike Rowney is living before our eyes.

    Friday, July 08, 2005

    2005 U.S. Youth Sailing Championship, Day 3
    (Photo Credit: Allen Clark)

    Westport YC Hosts 2005 Youth Sailing Regatta

    I have to give shout to my adopted YC, Cedar Point Yacht Club in Westport, CT. CPYC recently hosted the 2005 Youth Sailing Championship. The top 160 14- to 19-year-old competitive sailors from 22 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada competed in Westport from June 23 to June 30th. As this article in the local Westport paper details, some 150 volunteers helped register, house, feed, hydrate, entertain, photograph, coach and run races for the contingent – three fleets raced: double-handed Club 420s and single-handed Lasers and Laser Radials. Emily Dellenbaugh, 15, of Easton, CT., and Leigh Hammell, 16, of Warren, VT., became the first women in the championship's 33-year history to win the double-handed class in a fleet of 50 Club 420 boats. Today's youth champions are tommorow's Olympic stars so watch for these names as the years pass. I never competed at this level when I was a teenager - reading about these kids makes me wish I had.

    Thursday, July 07, 2005

    UPDATE: Sakae Hatashita Dead

    A reporter from the London Times Tokyo bureau confirms and updates on the death of ocean voyager Sakae Hatashita. No new details but good context.

    Hana wa né ni kaeru. The flower goes back to its root.

    100 Years of the Marblehead-to-Halifax

    The 100th Marblehead-to-Halifax Ocean Race will begin this weekend from Marblehead, MA - a gorgeous sea-faring town on the North Shore of Boston. According to this article from the Lynn Daily Item, when the race began in 1905 it was an informal competition among several East Coast yacht clubs. Since 1939, the Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron, which is the oldest yacht club in North America, and the Boston Yacht Club, have held the race biannually while establishing it as a staple of North Atlantic ocean racing. The sailing grounds of Nova Scotia and the port town of Halifax deserve a seperate post - tidal swings aside this is a region of pure delight.

    Wednesday, July 06, 2005

    And the living is easy...

    North Sails Race Week '04, Long Beach, CA: June 25-27

    Now try that at home. Don't you fucking love summertime.

    Photo by Jack Hardway

    Sakae Hatashita Reported Dead

    It’s with great sadness that I report news of the death of the ocean voyager Sakae Hatashita. I wrote about Hatashita back in March after learning of him from a story in The Wall Street Journal

    Hatashita was well into his 80's and lived a long and full life. I am glad he died on the ocean. Any sailor would welcome such an end over the many other, significantly less appealing possibilities.

    a sailors song

    Came across a new sailing weblog authored from one of my favorite places on earth, the British Virgin Islands. "Hold Fast," a shipwright and sailor by trade has posted some fine writing on a sailors song - the site offers local perspective on life in West End, Tortolla. Many readers have been to the BVI and many have probably enjoyed anchoring in the West End...I reluctantly left the Caribbean boat bum life behind years ago and have not been back since...but I remember boozy crew dinners at the Jolly Roger...after work some days drinking at Pussers West End, telling lies and amusing ourselves by placing bets on bare boaters trying to make the fuel dock without loosing their deposit - star strewn, hazy memories of rafting up and rocking out in Sopers Hole. We had a charter guest on one run who was stung by jelly fish diving on the anchor and insisted her husband piss on her leg. I've heard that the BVI are crowded and overrun all year round now. I left in '99 and it was crazy on season but we all expected and made our living off the rush. It slowed up considerably after the BVI Spring Regatta, a welcome break before hurricane season. I can't imagine it's that much different now...

    Tuesday, July 05, 2005

    Seeking a Hall Pass

    I've been invited to sail the Newport Bucket Regatta over the weekend of July 15 - 17. The event is hosted by the Newport Shipyard in RI - at the moment details are scarce but I'll update as I know more. In the meanwhile any idea of what I can suggest my wife do with our three month old and three year old while I'm off for a weekend of sailing? Initial ideas are 1) have her visit friends on the Cape 2) hire a nanny to help her for the weekend ($$) 3) leave without tellling her and phone her from the race course...

    Suggestions/comments are very welcome... Sorry for the slow start after the holiday weekend but we'll be back up to speed shortly.

    Happy (belated) 4th of July - flag flying at dock in Sausalito, CA

    Friday, July 01, 2005

    Sailing the Inland Seas

    The Great Lakes don’t get enough chops as a sailor’s haven – at least not from me and so I’m going to remedy this. I’ve never sailed on a Great Lake so I’m not speaking from personal experience but I’ve always wanted to cruise Mackinac, a pine covered resort island of 2,200 acres located between Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas - as well as generally explore the vast inland ocean that, despite my ignorance, has a very well-storied sailing tradition. There’s a recent press release here detailing the summer races that the Mackinac Island Yacht Club sponsors…of these I think that the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac is the most renown. The Great Lakes even have their own singlehand society, which, according to local legend began appropriately after the mass consumption of alcohol. So those who crap on lake sailors – recognize that pond, lake, bay or sea we are all one in booze-fueled nautical bonding. Seriously, sailing the Great Lakes has long been considered as hazardous as sailing the ocean - or even more so. As a site on Wisconsin's shipwrecks notes, the ever-present nearby shores leave little room to "run" before a storm. Waves tend to be be closer together, making them steeper on the lakes than on the ocean. And storms on the lake are renowned for their seemingly instantaneous development.