Friday, June 30, 2006

Ullman Sails Long Beach Race Week - June 23-25, 2006
(Photo Credit: Rich Roberts /


I've been playing with a newly launched online weather tool for sailors - it's called "SailFlow" and you can access it here. It gives you the ability to customize to your home sailing region, where you can target your access to marine weather forecasts as well as the current state of affairs on the water should you be - hopefully - heading to the marina or yacht club. You can also overlay wind forcasts, wind observations, current radar, water temp and tidal flow - all at the click of your mouse. One of the best things about the technology is that they've deployed 300 plus proprietary weather sensors to collect data - adding value to the available public information. It's a very cool resource..for skeptics who suspect a shill, I remain, as I always have in nearly 17 months of writing, utterly unsponsored by SailFlow...or any other vendor.

From the "About SailFlow" section: SailFlow was designed by a dedicated team of engineers, meteorologists, and IT professionals who also enjoy sailing, windsurfing, fishing, kiting, kayaking, etc. Years ago we recognized the need for a real-time weather reporting system and accurate forecasting to maximize enjoyment of our favorite sports. By combining our various talents we have created the ultimate sailing weather resource.

Here's wishing you a healthy, happy and sailing-centric Fourth of July holiday weekend.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Morning Light Project

You'll have to be certain to download the latest flash software foryour browser...but it's well worth it for a look at the "Morning Light Project" web site. The Morning Light Project is an effort led by Roy E. Disney to record a real-life adventure feature film during next year's 44th Transpacific Yacht Race to Hawaii

According to the web site, the project is based on the premise of "the youngest crew ever to sail Transpac," and will chronicle the recruitment, training and performance of sailors as young as 18 throughout the 2007 race. On their own they'll campaign a Transpac 52 called Morning Light. None will be actors (the public call for applications just closed). There will be no script and no preconceived outcome.

The film will be distributed by the Walt Disney Company as a theatrical release in 2008. From my perspective, I think this is a tremendous opportunity to not only raise the profile of offshore racing, but also to capture the unfiltered spirit of a historic and compelling team sport that, compared to more widely televised sports events (i.e. the World Cup, The U.S. Open, etc), recieves very little public recognition.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The original "Chelsea Chart"

Sorry Winston, it's a Chelsea

Last night our friend Winston slept on the couch in our den. She's been sailing Long Island Sound with her folks aboard a stunning 60 ' Gulfstar sloop - the Calibogue II & got off the boat for a few days to pay a visit. This morning over coffee I asked how she slept. A cheerful person by nature, Winston replied, with typical vigor, "just fine, thanks, although..."

Her "although" had to do with my Chelsea "Shipstrike" clock, affixed in all it's brass and chiming glory to the wall in the den...where it routinely comforts me by lending a faint sense of shipboard ritual to my landlocked couch time. The Chelsea Company has been making its line of Ship’s Bell clocks since the late 19th Century - they're mechanically wound and signal according to the count of a four hour ship's bell system indicating a change of the “Sailor’s Watch.”

Luckily for Winston you can set them to be silent, though that spoils the fun.

More history: soon after its inception the company became the primary supplier of timepieces to the United States Navy, creating Chelsea’s legendary reputation as the “Timekeepers of the Sea.” Every American President since Woodrow Wilson has owned a Chelsea Clock and today the Office of Protocol continues to order Chelseas as Presidential gifts to foreign dignitaries.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Endless Summer, Chesapeake Style

Tred Avon Anchorage, June 2006

Viking Throws Down the Anchor

There's an interesting piece on Paul Cayard in the Marin Independent Journal today, but the real news comes to us today from Eastport, MD...a true blue sailing republic next door to better known Annapolis.

According to The Capital, after nearly 38 years of business Viking Boat Supplies in Eastport will..."throw down the anchor and close for good next month." Owner Peter DeSilva, 75, has been at it since November 1969. What I enjoy about this story is that Pete, a graduate of Harvard with a MBA from Wharton, was always more interested in running his own business than working for a big corporation.

Smart man.

I've also written about Fawcett Boat Supplies on the Annapolis City Dock. Fawcett was (and still is) a family business as well and though ostensibly a competitor of Viking - both chandlary's represent the business acumen of zealous sailors who were wise enough to combine their work with their passion. These people could have done anything. They chose something that they loved and success - though never assured and not without effort - definitely followed.

It's a good lesson for me to keep in mind.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Volvo Ends, Will Begin Again in '08

I've been more than slightly focused on the historic Newport to Bermuda...and benefited greatly from Laurie's regular Hamilton Bermuda wire updates but - as my friend Joe pointed out when we were over at his house for dinner Saturday - the Volvo Ocean Race has come to a close and I've failed to note it. So, as most of you likely know, on June 17 the U.S. yacht Pirates of the Caribbean won the ninth and final leg of the Volvo Ocean Race while Dutch entry ABN AMRO ONE took overall honors.

Woth noting is that the organizers are breaking with the traditional four year cycle...the race will now be held every three years with the next one beginning in 2008.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Running Tide

Circa 1976: The S & S designed 'Running Tide' owned and skipped by A.G.Van Metre won Class A and the Bermuda Trophy in the 1976 Bermuda Race. (Photo Credit: Sparkman & Stephens Archive/PPL)

Flags Down on Newport to Bermuda

As the flags were lowered at sunset Saturday marking the finale celebration of one hundred years of yacht racing to Bermuda, the words of the race founder Thomas Fleming Day still ring true. "Sailors simply want to get a smell of the sea and forget for the time being that there is such a thing as God’s green earth and the universe,’ Now, One hundred years later, sailors like His Excellency The Governor of Bermuda Sir John Vereker agree. "It is not hard to understand the bond with the sea when you go out in a small boat," he said. "I loved the vastness. It was just wonderful to be out there for so long under the stars in the Milky Way. When we neared the finish, and the other masthead lights appeared, I actually felt it was a bit of an intrusion."

-Laurie Fullerton

Friday, June 23, 2006

Memorial for Merrill

I don't like ending the week on a sad note but as a follow-up to my earlier post on the death of publisher and avid Chesapeake sailor Philip Merrill...his body was discovered nine days later floating in the Bay, ankles tied and a reported shotgun wound to the head. The Washington Post published an article today that covers the memorial ceremony attended by D.C. luminaries including Former CIA directors R. James Woolsey and William H. Webster, former secretary of state Colin L. Powell, World Bank President Paul D. Wolfowitz, Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta and Reagan administration chief of staff Ken Duberstein.

According to the article, Merrill's family has said that his suicide resulted from a struggle with poor physical and emotional health that followed heart surgery a year ago. Police would not comment on the family's statement and are awaiting an autopsy report expected next week that may resolve at least some questions surrounding Merrill's death.

Regardless of the circumstance of his death - Merrill contributed much during life and, like most of us, had a keen appreciation for the life-affirming, soul soothing, challenging yet peaceful character of the sport and pastime of sailing. God rest.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Final Race Update from the Newswire

Ashley Shephard from Hamilton, Bermuda is first to greet Hap Fauth and his 'Bella Mente' crew from Newport RI, with a tray of' Dark 'n Stormies' to celebrate their spectacular victory over 264 strong Newport Bermuda Race fleet. (Photo Credit: Barry Pickthal)

Temptress and Four Stars take Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Trophies
by Laurie Fullerton

Hamilton, Bermuda -- The long wait is nearly over for many among the 263- fleet participating in the Newport Bermuda Centennial race. With over 200 yachts reaching the finish over the last 24 hours, the provisional winners are eyeing up the coveted Gibbs Hill and St. David's Lighthouse Trophies.

The man with most anticipation is Dr. Richard Shulman from Barrington, Rhode Island, whose lifelong dream of winning the Lighthouse trophy finally looks set to become reality. His IMX 45 Temptress, not only heads her class but the entire professional ORR section of the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division racing for the ORR Gibbs Hill Lighthouse trophy including Hap Fauth's line honors victor Bella Mente.

“We knew we had a good shot at winning this race as soon as we saw the kind of weather we would have," said Shulman today, adding. “I have one of the greatest crews who have been sailing with me for many years, and we have a boat that is extremely fast in light airs."

In the IRC rating rule section of the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division, Timothy McAdams' 44-foot Four Stars has also earned the coveted trophy.

"We knew this was a good reaching boat. We set out to be competitive. It was a two year program and we felt we could do well, but to win it all is beyond our expectations," said McAdams from Brewster MA.

Peter Henderson, his bowman, added, “We sailed on a track close to everyone else but for the smaller boats there were a lot of restarts in this race, As the bigger boats got ahead, they then sailed into a hole, the smaller boats caught up, and the re-start gave us the edge. We all felt we had a good chance of winning and sailed as well as we could. We all wanted this win."

The Temptress team has been regular competitors in this race since the 1980s in three different boats named Temptress and have come close to winning several times. In 1994, they missed out on an overall win by just 3 minutes 40 seconds. Nick Nicholson, Shulman's veteran navigator from Newport, Rhode Island was just as ecstatic. “This is big, both individually and collectively. We all wanted this."

Both men are members of the Cruising Club of America and involved in the organizational aspects of this race, with Shulman chairman of participation and Nicholson standing as vice-chairman of this race.“We like light air sailing and have a depth of knowledge here. Our tactician is Jack Slattery from Marblehead and he made some fantastic calls. When we were in the Gulf Stream and watching the forecast, given our position within the fleet, we knew we had a shot."

Shulman put their victory down to a last minute change of plan. “We had intended to head out east of the rhumb line but in the end we went west. We listened to the experts telling us that it would be best to go east, but the data they presented suggested that the westerly option through the Gulf Stream was best.

For more than 300 miles, Shulman's Temptress was within hailing distance of Clayton Deutsch's larger 68ft Swan Chippewa, and the two were still trading tacks close to the finish.

“It was great to wake up each morning to see a larger mast nearby." Shulman joked.

The Newport Bermuda race is a right of passage for many ocean sailors ranging from the Governor of Bermuda to British heroine Dee Carraffa who on May 18 became the first yachtsman in history to successfully complete a solo circumnavigation west to east.

“I will not easily forget getting a lesson in winch dismantling in the middle of the Gulf Stream, or for that matter cleaning my teeth in the dark with Savalon antiseptic cream instead of toothpaste!," noted Sir John Vereker, Governor of Bermuda who sailed aboard Colin Couper's Swan 46 Babe. “Altogether, we thoroughly enjoyed the race. We may have fallen into a hole without breeze after the Gulf Stream, but it was enormous fun and a great experience."

- Laurie Fullerton

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Dateline 20/06/06 Bermuda: Finish of the Newport Bermuda Race.
Hap Fauth (centre with white hair) and his 'Bella Mente' crew from Newport RI, celebrate a spectacular victory as first finisher among the 264 strong Newport Bermuda Race fleet.

Their 66ft Judel Vrolijk designed racer crossed the St David's Lighthouse finish at 15:12:18 EDT, having beaten much larger yachts down the 635 mile course.

(Photo Credit: Barry Pickthall/PPL)

Three Cheers for Summer Sailstice

Today is the longest day of the year - an occasion of particular resonance for sailors in the northern hemisphere…specifically those of us who work office jobs and need to time that mad dash for the marina.

As this article in the Tahoe Daily Tribune details, solstice celebrations go back many millennia. Originally a pagan holiday, several European countries celebrate June 24 as Midsummer's Day. William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" was inspired by the frivolity of the solstice holiday, which is preceded by all-night feasting and revelry.

What you may not have known is that this is also, officially, summer Sailstice - billed as "The Global Celebration of Sailing on the Solstice."

Says the official summer Sailstice website:
"Summer Sailstice is the global holiday celebrating sailing held annually on the summer solstice, the longest sailing day of the year. This international event was founded to connect the global sailing community in a fun, creative, multifaceted, multi-location sailing holiday."

Three cheers for the Sailstice. Luckily it's a long slow ride to the other side (Winter solstice is December 22).

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Line Honours to Belle Mente!

Bella Mente takes line in Bermuda Race
by Talbot Wilson

Hamilton, Bermuda: Bella Mente, the JV66 owned by Hap Fauth of Newport RI, did a horizon job on the 264 boat fleet and crossed the finish line off St David's Lighthouse at 15:12:18 EDT today.

The spectacular performance upset all predictions of a Maximus line honours victory in the Centennial Bermuda Race. Bella Mente led the light air contest much of the the 635 mile course that started from Newport RI on last Friday afternoon June 16th. The yacht chose to go down the west side of the rhumb line and found favorable current and better wind to carry them into Bermuda well ahead of Alchemy and Kodiak II, their nearest class rivals.

Belle Menta is first to finish, but the skipper and crew must now wait to see how the other competitors in the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division correct their time against Belle Mente's finish. The corrected time trophy is a silver replica of Bermuda's Gibbs Hill Lighthouse.

Richard Shulman's Tempest, an IMX 45 from Jamestown RI, may be within striking distance to grab the corrected time victory and the elegant silver Gibbs Hill Lighthouse trophy. Time will tell. Details on Bella Mente's spectacular performance will follow.

-Talbot Wilson

Approaching the Onion Patch

Class 12' Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Start - June 16
2006 Newport to Bermuda (Photo Credit: Race Committe)

Bella Mente Shines in Light Air Marathon
by Laurie Fullerton

Hamilton, Bermuda- In what is proving to be one of the most frustrating light-air races in the 100 year history of the Bermuda classic, the leaders within this year’s 263-strong fleet are finally converging on the final leg towards the St David’s Lighthouse finish line. At 10:30am EDT today (Monday) Hap Fauth’s JV 66 Bella Mente was 126nm from the finish, 33 miles ahead of the Charles St Clair Brown's 98-foot New Zealand super maxi Maximus.

Early today, Maximus led the much smaller Open 50 Gryphon Solo skippered by Joe Harris by just 12 miles. “This is not exciting sailing by anyone’s standards, with any chance of this year’s race setting new speed records now all but gone,” one Maximus crewman reported overnight, adding. “During the past 8 hours we have covered just 42 miles. It is a huge frustration for a team that knows they have a record-setting boat beneath them.”

After three days and nights at sea, not everyone is disheartened, especially those on the 66-foot Bella Mente, John Thompson’s Alchemy and Dr. Richard Shulman’s 45-foot Temptress, who now find themselves in prime positions to challenge for the coveted Gibbs Hill Lighthouse trophy.

“I am still chasing that Holy Grail,” Shulman admits. In the 1994 race, he missed a first place by 3 minutes and 40 seconds. “If I had won that race, I don’t know if I would still feel the same way today. I know that you cannot win unless you are well prepared and lucky. The luck part of it is really true. The good Lord has to be there.”

In the St. David’s Lighthouse Division, another dramatic lead change took place during the early hours today when E. Llwyd Ecclestone’s Kodiak II (138nm from the finish at 10:30am EDT) slipped ahead of Skip Sheldon’s 65-foot Zarraffa (141 nm from the finish). Lawrence Huntington’s 50-foot Snow Lion and Trey Fitzgibbon’s 65-foot Mischievous are tied for third place, 153nm from the St David’s Lighthouse.

Gary Jobson, the navigator on Kodiak II said today “While there is a fair share of luck involved in winning, it is difficult to control your destiny. We have an incredible afterguard whose average age is 63. We also calculate that between us, we have completed a combined total of 170 Newport Bermuda races!”

Frank Steinemann’s Selene (163nm to finish at 10:30am EST) led the Cruising Division 23 miles ahead of Jim Reiher’s Swan 53 Sky and James Brown’s J133 Rumba a further 7 miles astern.

Tom Slade’s 52- foot Renegade, which has led the double-handed division throughout, was 163 miles from the finish this morning, 23 miles ahead of Gardner Grant’s J120 Alibi

The lead boats are expected to reach Bermuda early Tuesday morning followed by more than 100 others which are all in close proximity to each other. The bartenders are waiting.- Laurie Fullerton

-Laurie Fullerton

Monday, June 19, 2006

Update from Gary Jobson - aboard Kodiak II

Report #6 Stats Under Sail

2006 Newport-Bermuda Race
June 19, 2006, 0800

Wind! The fleet is on the move again. Bermuda, here we come. In less than 24 hours the first of the fleet will arrive in Bermuda in one of the lightest air races in the 100 year history of this classic ocean race. I can hear the steel drums from here, 140 miles out.

Aboard Kodiak II we have tabulated some statistics. We have 21 crew onboard. Collectively, this crew has sailed in 170 Newport - Bermuda Races. Six of the crew are members of the CCA. The CCA members on this boat live behind the traveler. The average age of the afterguard is 63. In front of the traveler our crew averages 40 years old. The younger group was in charge of T shirts and had the words “The Dark Side” printed on the sleeve. The afterguard has deck chairs printed on their sleeves. So far this race has been a cruise with warm weather, little rain and light to moderate winds. Could it be so easy?

During the calm we took a survey of the most unique names of boats in the fleet. We used a democratic process to make the selection. Here is our top 10 boat names: Nasty Medicine, Zippity Doo Dah, Goombay Smash, Upgrade (hey do we get air miles for this race?) Moneypenny, Regatta, The Cone of Silence, Fat City Too, Better Than...., and our favorite, Euro Trash Girl. Whatever happend to bold, patriotic names like: Vim, Valiant, Intrepid, Courageous, Freedom, Liberty or Stars & Stripes? Now we have Euro Trash Girl. Before you know it people will be sailing to Bermuda without sextants, or even paper charts. What next?

The entire fleet is starting to funnel on to the original layline. Everyone is looking forward to arriving, but the final results are still up for grabs. Lets hope the wind holds.

Gary Jobson
Kodiak II

Trim In, Laddy!

Our four-year-old, Will, trims the port winch on his Granddad's sloop.
June 2006 - Oxford, MD

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Update from the Race Wire

Bermuda Racers Reach Gulf Stream
by Laurie Fullerton

Dateline: Hamilton, Bermuda. As David St Clair Brown’s New Zealand super maxi 'Maximus’ led the fleet into the Gulf Stream yesterday (Saturday), the challenge facing all 263 crews was to pick the most advantageous point of entry into the Stream and ride the favorable back-eddies. Crossing the Stream is what makes this ocean classic a true navigator’s race.

Their second problem is the wind. If it goes light overnight as predicted, the boats will be swept along by this moving carpet of warm water and will then face the problem of punching out on the last stage of the race to Bermuda.

Television commentator Gary Jobson is racing aboard Kodiak II skippered by former winner E. Llwyd Ecclestone, Jr. As they entered the Gulf Stream yesterday, Jobson said. "The weather is considerably different to the original forecast. We approached the Gulf Stream at 11 knots which was a good morale booster. Now, tactics become all-important."

In the early days, it took a thermometer dropped into the water, to determine when you were in the Gulf Stream and help you navigate a way through the eddies and currents. Skip Sheldon, winner of the 2002 Newport/Bermuda race, who is racing his Reichel Pugh designed Zaraffa againin this Centennial race, reflected yesterday. "In those days, your boat went 5 knots at best across the Gulf Stream and invariably faced a 4 knot counter current. It all changed in the '80s when you could view the exact course of the Stream via satellite imagery. Now, some of us can average 11- 20knots. With technology, the role of the navigator has changed to one of strategist."

For Open 50 sailor Joe Harris, his fast moving Gryphon Solo was only 30 miles from the Gulf Stream at Noon on Saturday. "We are watching the sea temperature, which will rise from the mid-60 degrees F to the high 70's. We are monitoring the difference between our speed through the water and our speed over the ground so that we know exactly when we are in the Stream," he said. "The wind is forecast to go very light overnight so we hope that we can get through the Stream early so that we can maintain steerage in the fast-flowing current."

The record number of yachts participating in this year’s centennial Bermuda race was down by two from its original 265 count yesterday after the Transpac 52 Decision skippered by Stephen Murray from New Orleans, hit a submerged object on Friday night. The crew is safe and due to return to Newport.

Another early drop-out was the British Open 60 Pindar Artemis skippered by Nicholas Black after she grounded on a rock moments before the start. She was lifted out for repairs yesterday and will not be rejoining the race. – Laurie Fullerton

More stories, updates and information at

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Update from the Race Wire

Clean start for Bermuda Race Centennial record-breaking fleet
by Laurie Fullerton

Newport, R.I. -- A record-breaking fleet of 264 yachts set off for Bermuda today with one less boat after "Pindar Artemas" skippered by Nicholas Black suffered damage after hitting a rock just prior to their starting gun. With one less member of the historic fleet, 16 divisions quickly set the pace for the duration of this 635-mile centennial race.

The Reichel Pugh 75 "Titan 12" owned by Tom Hill was leading Divison 12 in a close contest with "Blue Yankee" and the Swan 60 "Moneypenny." In Division 4, Bernie Coyne led the fleet aboard his J42 "Amigo" with J42 "Dolphin" owner Henry Morgan close behind. The cruiser division set an aggressive pace with up to 26 boats powering up the coast towards open water with the Concordia 39 "Dame of Sark" owned by Stephen P. Donovan holding a lead in Division 14. In Division 15, the SL73 "Donnybrook" owned by James Muldoon was out in front.

In the Demonstration Division, the massive super maxi "Maximus" accelerated off the starting line followed by Open 50 skipper Joe Harris aboard "Gryphon Solo."

In the Class 3 division, the Swan 44 "Moondance" owned by Cliff Crowley led the fleet with Swan 46 "Galadriel," a close second. In a spectacular start in Class 7, the Sparkman and Stephens restored classic "BlackWatch" owned by Joseph T. Dockery led the fleet with the US Naval Academy Custom 60 "American Promise" owned by Gregory T. Nannig, MIDN close behind.

While the afternoon breeze sent the boats off with good boat speed, a light air race is predicted overall and will give navigators a true test as boats move through the tricky currents of the Gulf Stream.

"This is one of the classic events and it has been on our list to do," said British solo sailor Dee Caffari, 33, of "Pindar Alphagraphics" who just completed a record solo circumnavigation of the globe. "We have a lot of knowledge on board our boat but we also have sailors who are developing in the sport. This race offers them that first hand knowledge and it is also a great test for me."

While some of the top boats decided to unload sail inventory and extra crew prior to the race, smaller, heavier boats were working out their overall strategy.

"This race is going to be a guess. The ones who guess correctly will be among the winners," said veteran tactician and Bermudian Jordy Walker who is racing aboard the BER 400 "Alice Kay." "The wind will be behind us as we get into the Gulf Stream and it could clock around but it depends where we are when we get to the other side of it. It is definitely going to involve guesswork."

For team members of the J133 "Siren Song" who had a strong start in Division 7 on Friday, the captain and crew are preparing for a long race.

"We have already made calls and let people know it may be a long haul," said owner Thomas J. Carroll of New York. "The idea of spending days and days with eight men, no beer or women will be a challenge. However, we are stalking up on water, sunblock and we are carrying a defibrillator and we will take it as it comes."

For veteran sailor Sy Shemitz of Connecticut who owns "Light Fantastic" this will be his 12th Newport to Bermuda Race and he is prepared for "five days in a ‘washing machine’ but we will still manage to cook a hot breakfast," he said. "What we find exciting is that while we have 264 boats at the start once you get out there you don’t see any other boats until you begin to approach Bermuda. That is when the race really gets interesting."

Friday, June 16, 2006

They're Off to the Onion Patch!

The Newport to Bermuda Race began today at 1250 hrs from a starting line between Castle Hill Lighthouse and Beavertail Lighthouse at the Mouth of Narragansett Bay off Newport, Rhode Island. A "quick view" race tracker - sponsored by Coldwell Banker - can be accessed here. As well offers a more detailed view. Skies in Newport are clear and wind light at 10 mph from the SSW.

Fair winds, racers.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Search Continues But Hope Wanes

Merrilly, the 41' sloop of Annapolis newspaper publisher and former diplomat Philip Merrill was found last Sunday drifting off Annapolis, MD without her owner aboard. Though the search continues, The Washington Post recently ran an editorial that reads like an obit.

Merrill set out solo last Saturday under sunny skies and winds gusting to 25 knots. By all accounts he was a superb yachtsman but as we all know, being alone on a sailboat means that a mistake can be fatal. The loss is very sad news for Merrill's family and friends but a good reminder to all of us who venture out on the water by ourselves...every task - be it minor like the turn of a winch or major like putting in a reef - undertaken routinely with crew aboard must be accomplished with safety top-of-mind when sailing alone.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A Centennial Race

The Newport/Bermuda Race celebrates 100 years of offshore competition this Friday. I've sailed to Bermuda several times but never done the race, though I've desired greatly to get on the course. This is not the year for it...but I have friends and former mates who are racing so I'll be tracking their progress. The seas will be lumpy at the outset if the Alberto moves north along his predicted path.

Some widely known facts:

  • The rhumbline course to Bermuda is approximately 162 degrees magnetic, the distance 635 nautical miles.
  • The first Bermuda Race was run in 1906 starting from Gravesend Bay, NY with three starters and was competed intermittently until 1926 when a regular schedule of holding the race in even years began.
  • The finish Line is 635 miles SSE off of St David's Lighthouse, Bermuda
  • A "Dark & Stormy" can only be properly made with Goslings Black Seal Rum
  • Come Friday you can access the racetracker here
  • Racing sailors call the Bermuda passage the “thrash to the onion patch.”

New York Harbor Sailing Foundation's sandbagger "Bull" races upwind with a crew from Shrewsbury on board. (Photo Credit: Michael Fortenbaugh)

Monday, June 12, 2006

One Design Chutzpah

We were at my son's end-of-year Montessori school picnic in Wilton, CT yesterday. Brilliant afternoon, unseasonably cool, sunny and breezy. The perfect mix for the type of day on the water you might enjoy around here in late September. During the picnic I was catching up with fellow sailor & Montessori father Geoffrey Morris...he's a writer as well and we were talking about various topics I cover on Zephyr. He mentioned a class of boat (the sandbagger) I'd never heard of so I went to Google this morning and dug up link to all things sandbagger. A nod to Geoffrey for the tip - my research proved to be an interesting history lesson in one design chutzpah.

As this article will tell you, sandbaggers were 19th century working-men’s boats. They evolved from the shoal-draft sloops that once worked the rich oyster grounds off Staten Island in the shallows of New York Bay. Invariably when the boats got together, boatmen raced-casually, informally, and without rules.

In the 1870’s racing was centered on New York Bay and Hudson. Development, loss of anchorages, and explosive commercial waterfront growth gradually drove these fleets east to Long Island sound, with Manhasset, Larchment, Bridgeport, Norwalk, and New Rochelle all holding races. Sandbaggers were found on LI Sound, east to Boston, down to the Delaware, on the Great Lakes around Erie, and in Southern cities like New Orleans, Charleston, and Savannah. Besides its plumb stem and stern and its jib-and-mainsail rig, the classic bag-wagon had a bowsprit two-thirds the boat’s length and ladder-like stern outrigger aft, creating a low, long rig measuring some 70’ for a 27’ boat.

You heard right - a rig of 70' for a 27' foot boat!

The rig created enormous leverage, easily overpowering the rudder. Handling the jib sheet correctly meant the difference between sailing and swimming on a gusty day. Slacking the jib reduced heeling almost as much as slacking the main. And it could be accomplished more quickly because there were fewer blocks in the system. More important, letting the jib luff forced the boat to turn into the wind and spill the wind from its mainsail. If the main was slacked without slacking the jib, the boat would bear off and the situation got worse.

I'll follow-up tommorow with more on the sandbagger as it relates to more modern times.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Placida è l'onda, prospero è il vento

I spoke with Captain Tom Motley today. He's down south taking over a new boat and should be headed north shortly. Those of you who have read awhile will remember that last summer I crewed on the late Tom Taylor's yacht Avalon with Captain Motley during the annual Newport Bucket Regatta.

Tom is going to run a Rivolta 90. It's the first time I've heard of the boat or designer/builder, Piero Rivolta. I took a glance at the photos - see for yourself, she's a smooth piece of work. The description reads..."THE RIVOLTA 90, A MODERN PERFORMANCE CRUISER, redefines high-speed, comfortable sailing. The unique design provides a sleek underbody with a light displacement hull, combined with the more gentle lines of a traditional cruising yacht. This unusual combination produces a fast cruising boat that rides the seas smoothly and efficiently—a truly satisfying experience." It also sports a retractable keel system - with the keel up, the draft is only 5.85 feet...down it draws 12.9 feet.

I'm looking forward to a first hand account from the Captain and maybe (just maybe) having a chance to be aboard.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Chesapeake Bay Skipjacks

I shot this photo of a Skipjack off Oxford, MD last Saturday. She was carrying what looked like charter guests for a sunset sail under fair skies and a light breeze.

As this article details, the Skipjack was introduced to the Chesapeake in the 1890s and became the preferred oyster dredge boat. By some estimates nearly two thousand Skipjacks were built, all specifically designed for dredging oysters from the Chesapeake Bay. The peak building years were during the 1890s and the first decade of the 20th century.

Skipjacks carry a sail design known as the "Leg-O-Mutton" Sloop Rig consisting of a main sail and a jib. The standard design formula calls for a mast height which is the same the as length of the vessel on deck, plus the width of the beam. According to legend, no Skipjack was ever built from a formal set of plans, but rather by "rack of the eye". They were developed from the lines of the Chesapeake Bay Log Canoe, the Brogan, and the famous Clipper Ships. They are unique to the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia. The few remaining skipjacks still dredge oysters under sail during the fall and winter oyster season on the Chesapeake Bay.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Blairgowrie Bandit

This caper is worth a mention. One David James Appleby, of Patterson Lakes in Melbourne, Australia, was apprehended after he stole a luxury yacht and sailed it from Melbourne to Tasmania. According to this news article, Appleby (the audacious bastard) stole the 14m yacht from the Blairgowrie Marina on the Mornington Peninsula in January last year and sailed it through one of the worst storms ever to hit south-eastern Australia. Yesterday he was sentenced to two-and-a-half years' jail with a minimum nine-month term. The judge indicated that he felt that the crime was influenced by Appleby's psychiatric condition, bipolar disorder, rather than greed or a desire to benefit in some way.

The theft sparked a massive police search for the $350,000 yacht, Premier Cru - it was finally spotted (after the storm) by a plane a co-owner chartered for the search.

The judge can't be far off here on the lack of desire to benefit from the theft. Who else but a raving lunatic would swipe a yacht only to sail it through one of the worst storms ever to hit south-eastern Australia.. Then again, what a way to (ideally) cover your tracks. One clue as to his state of mind...Appleby stole a $42,000 Mazda MX6 coupe in March 1994 and drove it for a few days and then left it locked away until it was discovered by police 11 years later.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Sunday Sail vs. Monday Morning

I woke yesterday morning on Maryland's Eastern Shore, a sailing paradise generally at it's loveliest in the spring and fall seasons. Summers are known to be an oppressive combination of heat and humidty, light air and swarms of stinging jellyfish. As they say, August on the Chesapeake is better spent in Maine. Luckily it's early June and yesterday morning was crisp and clear with a steady ten to twelve knot breeze. Once we were clear of the mooring we set sail out the Tred Avon River on a nice reach past Oxford, then set the hook up La Trappe Creek for lunch. The land around Trappe is nearly gives you a sense of what the area must have been like before the destination was "discovered." We had to motor back in light air but the day remained picture perfect. I took the above photo of a very happy singlehander off our port beam.

I'm writing this from a windowless office. The disparity between these two environments is, if I allow myself to consider it, quite painful.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Summer Reading

Here's a jump to a review (in the SF Chron) of a new nautical potboiler by travel & sailing writer Ferenc Máté (The Hills of Tuscany, The World's Best Sailboats: A Survey). According to the review, "Ghost Sea," is a seafaring adventure tale set in the Pacific Northwest of the 1920s. Though the reviewer says that much of it is "overwritten" and some of the characters are "boilerplate," the plotline looks good...might be a strong addition to the easy summer reading list.

I'm heading to the Chesapeake today with Will, my four year old son. We should be getting out on the water Saturday, weather permitting. Have a great weekend all.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Downwind Dinghys on LI Sound

STC Block Island Race Sets Attrition Record

Our boat left out of Brewer Yacht Haven Marina in Stamford, CT last Saturday - in the parking lot I noticed a fleet of sail trailers and at dock, a number of racing sleds with their deck apes standing idly by. Shows how out of the loop I am...clueless that it was the weekend of the Storm Trysail Club's annual Block Island Race, which began late Friday afternoon (May 26). Though many boats showed up to compete, most dropped out due to light wind and fog which explains why there were so many fast yachts going nowhere at Brewer's docks. According to the STC web site, 103 boats started but only 15 finished.

This has to be a new record in attrition for distance yacht races.

STC is a venerable ocean racing club with quite a history. It was founded in 1938 by a group of well seasoned offshore racers...mostly from New England and the NY area. From the club's site - "..the birth of The Storm Trysail Club dates from the gale which scattered the 1936 Bermuda Race fleet. The exact time would be the instant when Salee's mainsail blew out beyond repair and the storm trysail was set for the jury-rigged trip home." Membership of about 800 individuals is by invitation only to expert offshore sailors who have experienced storm conditions and are capable of commanding a sailing vessel in such conditions.