About Kimball Livingston

Kimball Livingston is a former senior editor, and now editor-at-large, for SAIL. His work also has appeared in Sailing World, Cruising World, Soundings, and more. Over three years, Kimball sailed the Centennial Transpacific, Centennial Newport-Bermuda, and 100th Chicago-Mac. His blog posts appear courtesy of his website www.KimballLivingston.com.

Protocols, Meetings, Pending

What jumps out at me from the 23 June Protocol is that a door remains open to a match in 2013 rather than 2014, which still seems more likely.

Also, there’s item 24.4:

Racing Areas to be Shared: The racing areas for the Challenger Selection Series and the Defender Trials shall be the same racing areas for the Match and the racing areas shall be shared equally between the Challengers and the Defender Candidates as the Regatta Director shall reasonably determine after consultation.

Hmm. My favored patch of water, on the cityfront between Treasure Island and the Golden Gate, could become quite the busy hive, if that quiet meeting today at City Hall is leading to something.

We are speaking here of the Protocol for America’s Cup 34, released jointly by the Golden Gate Yacht Club and Club Nautico di Roma, Challenger of Record.

Should I ramble too far into the aether, you can read the whole thing yourself at Draft Protocol Governing America’s Cup 34.

But it won’t give you answers to what most people want to know. Per previous announcements, we’re supposed to have a new AC class by September 30 and a set venue no later than December 30. The Protocol limits the number of new class boats to two hulls per team; rebuilding of less than 50 percent of skin area does not constitute a new hull. No shrouding of the hulls will be allowed. There also are restrictions on the number of keels and bulbs (for example) a team can build, which may or may not be a hint that we’re headed back to monohulls, always the likely bet.

The Protocol calls for 6-8 pre-regattas in each of 2011 and 2012, and it seems as if the V5 boats of 2007 will be with us until we roll into 2012, at which point the competition rolls into the new America’s Cup Class. Win the season and you win three sails on top of your limit of 25. Place second and you win two; third gets you one.

And it’s expensive to be late. The challenge period runs October 1-January 31. After that, at the discretion of the Event Authority, you might get a challenge accepted by paying a late fee of $1 million on top of your $3 million performance bond.

Oh, and btw. Lamination in-country will satisfy the built-in-country requirement of the Deed of Gift. The rest is wide open. And the Protocol includes an either-or provision, tba, for either no nationality requirements for crews, or a 20 percent requirement.

Still a lot of talking going on, eh?

Happy Luxembourg National Day. Oh, you didn’t know that the World Sailing Teams Association is incorporated in Luxembourg?

Define Heavy Weather?

In yet another example of racing when the most recent crop of America’s Cup boats would be huddled ashore, youngsters from up and down the West Coast spent last weekend sailing the Opti Heavy Weather regatta on the San Francisco cityfront. This is one place where locals can give an event a name like that, and proceed with reasonable confidence.

The scene on Saturday, through the lens of Eric Simonson . . .

Local Kyle Larsen was a one-point winner over Jack Toland of Seattle in a fleet of 62. More at stfyc.com. (Sunday was milder; one day of that stuff is enough.)

SAVE THE BIRDS!

What would it take for a half dozen Daisy Scouts to raise $545 in 45 minutes in a shopping center in a suburb north of San Francisco?

The answer is an oil spill, a bake sale, and half a dozen Daisies (ages 5-7) jumping up and down with signs saying, “Save the birds.” Two of those girls, Lucy Berry and Lilly Womack, appeared one day recently at the Crissy Field headquarters of the Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association with a check in-hand (Lucy’s mom’s hand, actually) to “save the birds.”


Jennifer, Lilly,Lucy, Terri Watson of the Sanctuary Association, baby sister, and Jeff. Photo courtesy Gulf of the Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association

Truth to tell, though, Lucy’s parents, Jennifer and Jeff, were a feeling a little sheepish. That $545 fundraiser followed the Cosco Busan oil spill on San Francisco Bay. Oops. Almost three years ago. Slow delivery (but, mom and dad, I sympathize).

So we ask, in the hectic pace of modern life, what does it take to get grownups moving? The answer, apparently, is another oil spill.

Watching the girls crawl through the exhibits and dash over the dunes at Crissy Field, Lucy’s father, Jeff, allowed, “On the upside, they’re getting more out of this now than they would have then.”

FURTHER DEFINING HEAVY WEATHER

Winds in the twenties and thirties is not super-rough, but it’s more than enough to get your attention when you’re beating upwind or close reaching on the ocean on a modest-sized keelboat, and there were victims in the early going in the Singlehanded Transpacific Race that left San Francisco Bay on Saturday. Electricals and communications were the failure thread.

Ben Mewes found that he wasn’t getting a battery charge out of the solar panel on Mirage and returned to switch out the batteries and tweak the panel installation. Then he set out again late Sunday night.

Sam Burns (Catalina 309, Southernaire) delayed his departure to work around some issues with a SSB and rent a sat phone for position reports. He too got away on Sunday.

Reducing the total fleet to 14, however, Al Germain on Bandicoot—he had led the fleet out the Gate—packed it in after his sat phone and SSB got salt water-soaked out of commission.

Ronnie Simpson on Warrior’s Wish as of Monday afternoon was farther out the track than his competitors, but he is also the boat farthest north. Usually, that becomes a vulnerable position before a race to Hawaii is over. Winning strategy is all about picking your lane as you enter the Trades, and they’re a ways short of that as yet.

AJ Gold, sailing the 36-foot Second Verse, writes:

“For two hours there was 34 kts sustaining with gusts to 38. The seas were above my second spreader! I have to admit for those two hours I wished I were somewhere else. Better now.

“One of the blades of the wind generator ripped off. Gone. Well, there goes that power source, I will bring a spare set next time.

“I have all this great food but I really have not eaten yet, just one apple and some jerky. I’ll try to force some food down today.

“A tanker crossed my path last night when I was asleep. I called him up on VHF and asked if he ever saw me, nope! Oh well, no reason to worry about that now.

“Once these seas calm down I’ll begin to tidy up, it is a mess in here. BTW, sleeping on the floor is not that bad, I got a full hour at one point last night, real good sleep, and I dreamed I was taking a hike with the kids.

Second Verse, signing off and searching for the sun and calm seas.”

Solo Transpac – Simplicity Counts


Solo sailors and the Overseas Los Angeles departing San Francisco Bay. Photo KL

It would be cruel to start the solo Transpac against a foul tide, but the downside to letting the ebb tide flush you out of San Francisco Bay—current against wind—is the flying spray that soaks you down in the first few minutes of a passage of maybe two weeks.

But, comes with the territory.

Local Al Germain led the way on Saturday as the fleet worked out through the Golden Gate Strait, and I liked the sound of it on Channel 14, hearing Vessel Traffic advise the bridge of the tanker Overseas Los Angeles of “fifteen sailboats outbound for sea.”

I saw them off from the headlands on the south side of the strait (I’d rather be sailing, but I had a fence to paint) and could just make out Germain’s Wyliecat 30, Bandicoot, in front. Germain explains himself by saying that his solo-sailing hormones “have been percolating for a while, and I have stood on the shores of Hanalei Bay more than once wondering what it would feel like to arrive by boat.” In the photo above we see his Tom Wylie-designed 30-footer sailing on a different day. It’s a type indigenous to San Francisco Bay, minimizing sail-handling chores through simplicity, and Germain was putting that much to good use.

In the image below, Bandicoot is the tiny, dark sail, the left of three, and that is the Overseas Los Angeles again, likewise outbound for sea. If you click to enlarge, you will easily see the line of brownish ebb streaming out to the left of Point Bonita, westward, and the tide-line break between that whitecapped stream and the ocean water to the north.

The awards ceremony is scheduled for, um, July 9.

More at the organizers’ web site, Singlehanded Sailing Society.

Meanwhile, inside the Bay on the cityfront, the kids were gathered for what we call with confidence the Heavy Weather Opti Regatta. As the solo leaders cleared the Gate, I checked the St. Francis YC webcam where the report was “18 knots gusting to 23.” Against a lumpy ebb tide. Confidence maintained.

BERMUDA BOUND


Starting from Newport on Friday. Photo by Daniel Forster/PPL

At the same mid-day hour on Saturday, the cant-keel maxi, Speedboat, was sailing at the front of the Newport-Bermuda fleet with a little over 450 nautical miles to go. Race info and boat tracking are available at bermudarace.com. This was Speedboat at the start . . .


Photo by Daniel Forster/PPL

RPGs and the Big Ocean

Walking toward his ride for the solo Transpac, Ronnie Simpson slowed us down to point out that the mast of his 30-footer is taller than the mast of the 35-footer next door.

I like this guy. He made one fast passage through youth—

Enlisted in the Marines. Got blown up by an RPG in a firefight outside Fallujah at age 19. Medi-vac’d out in a coma. Slowly, eventually, recovered (enough). Medically retired from the Marines at 20. Re-entered society per prescription.

Didn’t take to it.

Went off to sail around the world.


Photo by Kimball Livingston

Failed. Lost the boat.

Finished the journey on a bicycle and a nickel and a dime, and there’s much more to say about that, except:

Today, Simpson is preparing to leave San Francisco Bay for Hanalei Bay, Hawaii. The race starts on Saturday, or you could say the race started months ago. You might think that because his borrowed Scott Jutson 30 completed the 2008 solo transpac under its North Carolina owner, Don Gray, not to mention the Bermuda One-Two in 2007 and again in 2009, it would be ready to go. But if you think that, you don’t understand how boats are.

No, this has been a frenetic time, readying skipper and boat. You meet Ronnie Simpson, you believe in Ronnie Simpson immediately, but there are friends who fret that he’s been working too hard, that he has not had all the pure sailing time they would wish for him. No dispute on his part except, “If not for my job at Spinnaker Sailing, I wouldn’t be able to do this at all.” This despite help from the Hope for the Warriors foundation, which is Simpson’s cause d’ d’été in the race. Hope for the Warriors is all about getting wounded vets back into the game, any game, the game of life. Ronnie Simpson wants to help. He wants the word to go forth.

Stateside after his Iraq tour, recovering in a military hospital, Simpson says, “I was surrounded by people who were fucked up. The worst thing I saw was fucked up people sitting around, shut down with nothing to do.”

Thus, Hope for the Warriors and a huge debt of gratitude to Don Gray for making his boat available. “Don’s helping me achieve a dream,” Simpson says. “I hope I can do as much for someone else, some day.”

So what’s it like to go in two years from nonsailor-never-even-thought-about-it to, as he says, “working in the sailing sector; playing in the sailing sector, living in the sailing sector.” That’s no way to get rich—

“I own less, and I make less than I ever have.

“And I’m happier than I’ve ever been.”

RECOVERY, RHYMES WITH DISCOVERY

Simpson came out of the Marines with all his limbs intact, but he had to overcome massive internal injuries, and his insides don’t look like yours. When he went ambulatory, he did all the things a good boy is supposed to do. Went to college back home in Texas, got a job, bought a house, got engaged. Fine. But there were feelings boiling inside that he didn’t understand, didn’t even recognize, except, “I was selling motorcycles, and I was riding sportbikes as daily transportation, and a couple of events called to my attention, rather sharply, that I didn’t care whether I lived or died. Once I saw that, it came to me that I was unhappy. I really hadn’t understood that.”

The young man was stewing along in that frame of mind and who knows how long that might have continued or how soon it might have come to catastrophe when, one night, out of nowhere, “My brother called. He had read an article about some guys who sailed around the world. He thought that was awesome, and he said, Want to do exactly that in five years?

“I had never looked at a sailboat in my life, but I didn’t go to bed that night. I sat up till 5 a.m. on the internet, figuring out what sailing is. I walked through my house, and I didn’t want it. I went to the garage and looked at my bikes, and I didn’t want them. I looked at my life, my fiancé, my future, and I didn’t want that future. Until that moment, I had never realized what a profound experience I had in Iraq. That was dawn, December 18, 2007. On the 23rd, I had a For Sale sign in the front yard.”

THE BEST LAID PLANS

In California, in San Diego, Simpson bought an ocean-equipped 1961 Bounty II—the grandaddy of fiberglass cruisers—learned something of sailing and seamanship, and set out, only to run into a Tropical Depression that upgraded to a Category 4 Hurricane. The Bounty’s rudder snapped, the rudder dropped off, and this becomes a story in itself, trying to jury rig a rudder, dealing with successive failures, being offered a lift onto a freighter and then being torn because the boat and what was on the boat was everything Ronnie Simpson had in this life. Except his life.

“I decided that I had nearly died once, and that was enough.”

He took the lift.

And that becomes a story in itself (the ship hit the Bounty head-on; Simpson wound up swimming for a life buoy thrown from the ship) and there he was onboard, bound for Shanghai (“Yes, I literally got Shanghai’d”).

So there was Ronnie in China, and that becomes a story in itself. He was pretty much broke, with a little pocket change coming in for being a medically-discharged Marine.

So he bought a bicycle.

Nine thousand miles and 21 countries and many, many variations later of this becomes a story in itself, Ronnie Simpson arrived again at the edge of the Pacific Ocean, pedaling onto the Golden Gate Bridge and looking out to the sea that had claimed his first boat, not so very long ago. But he was not calling the journey complete.

On Saturday, Simpson aboard Warriors Wish will be passing out the Gate as part of a fleet of fifteen entries, bound 2,120 miles for Hanalei Bay. Sponsored by the Singlehanded Sailing Society of San Francisco Bay, this race has nothing in common with the big-bucks-sponsored solo races of Europe. This is grass-roots stuff, run what you brung, and it has a great spirit to it. If you look to the sailing community and ask what makes us “us” you will find no finer example.

OH, THE BOAT

That tall mast on Warriors Wish is paired with a 16-foot spinnaker pole (on a 30-foot boat, remember) that brings the downwind sail area to 1,700 square feet, nearly identical to the maximum downwind sail area of a Melges 32. Setting the spin at sea? Well, it probably helps to be a Marine. Under PHRF for this race, the price for that pole is six seconds a mile.

Built by Sydney Yachts in Australia to the Mount Gay 30 box rule, the boat is plenty lively, Simpson says. It has a huge rudder, “so you never feel overpowered, but it’s important to sail flat. Don came out from North Carolina and sailed with me for three days and showed me a lot about setting up the rig, and depowering. The mast is really bendy. Pull in the backstay, and it’s like taking a reef, which is handy and really helps because the boat was designed with water ballast and a full crew in mind. I’m not using water ballast because of the rating hit.”

The galley was designed with the gourmet in mind . . .

And what did you learn on your 400-mile qualifying sail?

“This boat is built. The hull is stiff. And it’s an ocean boat. Getting it out of the bay and onto the ocean was like getting a race car off the street and onto the track. It just felt right.

“And I learned that I’ll have to throttle back and take better care of myself.”

Sounds like a plan, Marine.

Come Thursday, Ronnie Simpson will be moving Warriors Wish out of Marina Village, Alameda (which comp’d him six months docking, in honor of Hope for the Warriors). He will be transferring to race headquarters at Corinthian Yacht Club in Marin County, on the north shore of San Francisco Bay, to join his fellow competitors. Traveling along from the same dock will be Harrier and its skipper, a fellow known in this crowd simply as The General, because he is.

Ken Roper is entered in his last solo transpac (again). This one is number 11. And in this crowd his 100,000 miles in his 31-foot Flyer would probably earn Ken Roper the title of The General even if he hadn’t graduated from West Point, even if he hadn’t served in the US Army 25 years, even if he hadn’t retired as a Brigadier General. But get this factoid about an ultimate military man:

Born Walter Reed Army Hospital, Washington DC, 11 Dec 1929.

Thank you for your service, gentlemen, and have a nice boat ride—Kimball

From Planks to Lams

We don’t have to explain it the way Obi Wan explains The Force to young master Luke, but just the same, everything is tied together. Including traditional boatbuilding and carbon fiber lamination. For today’s take we drop into Thames Street, Newport, Rhode Island where . . .


Photo by Tom Daniels/IYRS

Clark Poston is the Program Director at the International Yacht Restoration School, which graduated 31 students in June of 2010.

Those students came from either the two-year Boatbuilding and Restoration program or the one year Marine Systems program. Come 2011, there will be graduates also from the new, one-year Composites Technology program that launches in September.

There are no prerequisites to enter the Boatbuilding and Restoration track.

There are no prerequisites to enter the Composites Technology track.

Poston, however, believes there is good reason to start by learning plank on frame. I was taken by his passion for this, and I want to share, so here we go. Poston says, “People wonder why an ancient craft is relevant, but let me tell you, laminating a boat is a cakewalk compared to putting a garboard into a Concordia.

“Our students draw each boat full-size on the lofting floor, in three views—that proves the fairness—and then they draw it to scale. Then they move on to patterns for the transom, for example, that allow them to design the steering system.


Photo by Tom Daniels/IYRS

“The student controls the shape through the lofting process. If you can’t get the lofting right, you’ll never get the boat. This translates to grp, metal, any material in boatbuilding. Ask any of our first-year students why they’re here, and I don’t think they will tell you that. But the people who graduated four or five years ago know it very well.”

“To prepare someone from point zero,” Poston says, “we have to have repetition. No one gets it on one time around. That’s why we have a two-year program, with progressively complex challenges.”

As we noted in our Part One story on IYRS, the second year also focuses upon estimating and bidding, with the aim of creating a successful professional. Poston says, “They learn that on any job, the labor is 4-5 times the cost of materials. We show them how to function in the real world, so they can build a profit margin into a contract. We force them to analyze why one guy’s estimating $60 thousand and another guy’s estimating $40 thousand for the same Herreshoff 12.5.”

Boatbuilding and Restoration classes are taught at the signature IYRS facility on Thames Street in Newport, Rhode Island. Systems and Composites are located up the road in Bristol. (Systems including engines, gearing, electricals, pumps, tankage, LPG, firefighting, etc., to prepare students for American Boat and Yacht Council certification.)

Expanding the range of offerings is part of a long-term strategy to make the school self-supporting, Poston says. The school was initially funded entirely by a few benefactors. Now it is 50 percent self-funded; the goal is to get to 100 percent, without, of course, imagining a time when generous benefactors will not be warmly appreciated. Poston figures it would take five or six effective programs “to develop a business model that would take over from philanthropy.”

Classes are taught by industry professionals. “We do teach people how to teach,” Poston says, “but if it’s the right person, there’s an inner teacher that just comes out.”

Poston observes a different mindset between the boatbuilding students and the systems students. “We teach a high level of craftsmanship,” he says. “The boatbuilding students are drawn by a passion. The systems people tend to be more concerned with how much they’re going to make when they get out.”

The International Yacht Restoration School presents its own story at IYRS.org


I DON’T CARE WHAT THEY DO AS LONG AS THEY DON’T DO IT IN THE STREET AND SCARE THE HORSES

I’ve heard rumors that somebody’s 16-year-old daughter was recently plucked off a dismasted but otherwise sound vessel in the Indian Ocean, short of her proposed circumnavigation.

Had there been no effort to commercialize the case, however unsuitable the timing and half a dozen other factors, I might have one outlook. But—

Sniff.

Shaping Boats, and the Industry


Puzzling the problems of the day. Photo by KL

Walking through door of the International Yacht Restoration School will likely affect you considerably.

Speaking from experience.

But I’ll let Jens Lange tell it his way. Jens is a grownup who had a successful but less-than fulfilling 18-year, Europe-based career in the auto industry that had him jetting around the world earning pretty good money. He was also a sailor who sailed Nordic Folkboats and had a thing for wood and—

“I read an article about this place. I read it more than once. It sat on my desk for months. Finally I had business close by, and that was an easy opportunity. I walked in, I smelled the boatyard smells, I loved the atmosphere, I was hooked.”


Clamp it. Photo by KL

Jens left his job and went back to school, graduating on June 5, 2010 from the two-year Boatbuilding and Restoration Program at the International Yacht Restoration School, which going forward we’ll call IYRS, and which you might as well know the in-crowd pronounces as in the flower “iris.” Picture a huge facility on the waterfront of Newport, Rhode Island, with light filtering in from high overhead, encouraging a sense of spirituality amongst an assortment of tools and parts and materiel that will eventually become boats—or become boats again—and altogether this might be taken for clutter, but it is not that. IYRS is not the only school in the USA that is teaching the woodbutchers’ craft, but it is a leader. If you’re into this sort of thing you will know a cathedral when you see one.


A quiet floor with most students in lecture. Photo by KL

Hand it to Jens. He says, “I left the auto industry two months before the whole thing went bonkers. In the present economic situation, this has been the perfect place to hide.”

Besides which, he’s doing what he wants to do.

Besides which, he’s doing it in a special atmosphere that has delighted thousands of visitors. If you’re in Newport, you should visit IYRS. It’s free, the experience is there waiting, and you won’t be sorry.


Loving wood. Photo by KL

IYRS likes to describe its mission as “shaping the people who shape the industry.” That’s lofty, but without a doubt the school addresses the need for skilled marine professionals who understand both the business side and the craft. Along with building and restoration in Newport, the school has been teaching a one-year Marine Systems curriculum in a facility in Bristol, preparing students to sit for the ABYC certification exams, and this year it is launching a Composites Program that integrates the skill sets one step further. IYRS needs additional programs, probably, to become a self-sufficient teaching institution not dependent on philanthropy, and that’s the goal. Even if it succeeds there, IYRS will continue to solicit boats to be restored by the students, which then are sold to help keep the lights on. Some beautiful work has come out of this place where they espouse, “preservation through use.”

IYRS attracts a spectrum of students, as described by Jens’ fellow 2010 graduate, Bobby Cutler, who puts it this way: “One kid is a second-generation cabinet maker; another had been into building surfboards, and other kids have never picked up a tool in their lives. They’re all ages, all backgrounds, different nationalities. We get along because we share a love of working with our hands.”


Bobby Cutler and his project. Photo by KL

Bobby is our focus for this segment of the story because he is, himself, a story, someone from a college-expectations family who tried a few “but it didn’t work out” and was searching for something. “I couldn’t sit still in a classroom,” he says, and points to a nearby room where lectures are given, “even that is a nightmare for me.”

Bobby hails from the idyllic rural community of Harvard, Massachusetts (not to be confused with the university): “My dad is a developer. He tells me now he wishes he could have gone to this school. If you can build a boat, you can build anything.”

The two-year Boatbuilding and Restoration Program in its first year addresses hull measurement, lofting, drafting, half-model making, and the restoration of a small plank-on-frame sailboat (where “restoration” includes documentation, backbone construction, steam bending, planking, spar building and finish work). The second year builds upon those skills with a more demanding project on a larger boat and, importantly, teaches the skills for success on the business side. By way of project management, the student estimates a job, Cutler says, and that involves “every single fastener, rivet, bronze rod, the dimensions of every piece of wood, the type of wood, the lofting, the pencils that you’re going to use, the paintbrushes you will use for painting, labor costs, shop hours including selecting stock and milling to dimension, contract agreements—it’s kind of a nightmare.”

An approximation of the real-world nightmare, obviously, that lays bare the differences when one student estimates a job at $40,000 and another at $70,000.

“Students start with a Beetle Cat,” Cutler says, “and that gives you a pretty good idea of how things are done. Then comes the Herreshoff 12.5, which has tighter joinery and a higher level of finish. There’s no room for filler, no room for mistakes. And we loft out the 12.5 even though, technically, we don’t have to.”

(IYRS will sell you a restored Beetle Cat for $11,500 in “appropriate colors”.)

For his graduation project, Cutler worked on a lovely little Gar Wood that had pretty much left this world. “The boat came to us in pieces,” he says. “We kept the hardware, some engine parts, the benches.”

Then came the other 98 percent. The early project phase looked like this.


The beginnings of a 98% restored Gar Wood. Photo courtesy of Bob Cutler

Cutler had grown up with motorboats, so a 21-foot Gar Wood was a logical choice (for his nephews, he had already built a pair of “boat cribs” that should be around for generations). Next year he wants to come back for the new Composites Program. “I love working with wood,” he says, “but I’m also intrigued by high technology in boatbuilding. If I have both skills, I’ll be twice as valuable.”

Speaking of graduation day, and Gar Woods—and some late nighters, coming down to the wire—how many schools are there, besides the International Yacht Restoration School, where graduation day means launching boats, and setting forth in those boats? Nothing metaphorical, a literal setting forth. They either float or they don’t.

Find the International Yacht Restoration School on Thames Street in Newport, or online at iyrs.org. Next, a view from the admin side.

I Failed

I tried to make “500 million euros and a city in Italy” go away, and I failed.

It keeps coming back. But, while I thank you for the inquiries, dear reader, I don’t know a thing, and I am nostalgic for a time when I wasn’t sucked into rumors. I wouldn’t have been sucked into this one, if it weren’t persistent and coming from—

Etcetera. The people who know, of course, can’t deny because once you deny one rumor you’ve opened Pandora’s Box.

That’s the reason, right?

Right?

I’m ready to let go of this any time, guys.

Because, we’re all one happy America’s Cup family . . .

My wagon train continues to roll west, meanwhile, with the San Francisco Mayor’s office today releasing a letter written to the Director of the Port of San Francisco, Monique Moyer, by the Executive Director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Steve Heminger:

“No doubt the need to move people to and from the race vantage points and elsewhere around the region will encompass more than San Francisco—and as a regional transportation agency for the San Francisco Bay Area, we look forward to assisting your effort.”

And there’s an irrelevant but tasty RAK-ripple in international news, as reported by Robert Booth and Stephan Kahn in the UK paper, The Guardian:

The gist is a report about the doings of a British lawyer, Peter Cathcart, who “appears to act as an agent for the exiled Sheikh Khalid bin Saqr al-Qasimi of Ras al-Khaimah (RAK) in his audacious bid to regain power in the Gulf emirate.” Khalid got the boot from his brother, Sheikh Saud, in 2003.

The Guardian’s lengthy report runs through a spy novel’s treasure trove of intrigues, all aimed at destabilizing Saud in favor of the return of Khalid. It pops up here for a detail that’s minor to the reporters’ narrative, but jumps out at people like me. The authors state:
“On a more discreet level, the firm supplied research detailing the emirate’s alleged links to Iran to the America’s Cup team, BMW Oracle, led by the computer billionaire Larry Ellison, which at that time was mounting a legal case against holding the prestigious sailing race in Ras al-Khaimah.
” ‘Our concern was for the security of Americans who could have potentially been put in harm’s way,’ the team has since said.”

We know that an American court eventually ruled that the 33rd America’s Cup match would be sailed in Valencia, not Ras al-Khaimah, and the winner in Valencia, 2-0, was the trimaran of BMW Oracle Racing/Golden Gate Yacht Club. In an added twist, Carla Marinucci reports in the June 8 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle that a California PR firm representing Khalid has requested that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder investigate what it says appears to be a computer hacking of its files. Sensitive information related to Iran may have been involved, the firm says.

Whatever may be the fate of the 34th AC match, Newport, Rhode Island will have a gander at the Auld Mug on July 1. Downtown in the morning and at Fort Adams State Park in the afternoon. In all the years that foreign challengers raced against American defenders on Rhode Island Sound, the Cup itself sat ensconced in a glass case on West 44th Street in Manhattan, never seeing the light of day until September, 1983, when it was presented to the Royal Perth Yacht Club on the terrace of Marble House, the Vanderbilt summer cottage at 596 Bellevue Avenue. You could say that, in its American tenure of 132 years, the America’s Cup spent about “five minutes” in Newport, en route to Australia. The Cup gets out and about a lot more these days.

FutureSailing: West Coast Wood

Giant, wing-masted trimarans in the America’s Cup, hydrofoilers busting 50 knots in the Med, these innovations open a window onto a gee-whiz future that turns me on. But they don’t answer one question: Will we, or will we not in that future, still have with us the racing classics of yore?

For every Dorade that inspires another and then another deep-pockets hero to step up and bleed money for the luster of being the trustee du jour, there are who knows how many boats that just get lost in the shuffle. They are the disappeared.

I don’t want a future without the classics, and that goes for a lot of other people, apparently. America’s only celebrity sailor, Dennis Conner, has been into classics of late, and so has designer Doug Peterson, while attracting less attention than The Dennis. But these guys are plugged into high-end circuits. The world is bigger than that. I’m thinking now of a loosely-organized (or disorganized, but passionate) group of people on the Pacific Coast who are calling themselves West Coast Wood. They are called together because, as boats disappear, says Southern Californian Steve Barber, “We who love them are being overwhelmed by their abandonment.”

Our case of the day is a sweet Rhodes 33 named Caper, partly restored, that needs a new project-home. Because—

“Hundreds of wooden boats have disappeared,” Barber says. “We are all familiar with the slow ‘death by donation’ cycle. Or the press of business pushes yards and marinas to not think about contacting anyone (if they know who to contact) until it’s too late. We lost a New York 30 to this very problem last year; there was just not enough time to do anything about saving it. The yard owner failed to let me know what was happening regarding its ownership status until it was on the trailer to the landfill. He needed the space, and that was that. Then it was, “Oh, you were interested in that old thing? I didn’t remember that.”

West Coast Wood folks are presently compiling and collecting all the information they can gather about old boats on the left coast, the fruits of which will eventually be shared through a section of the Classic Yacht Foundation web site. In the meantime, here’s a poster child, Caper, actively raced up to two owners ago, now needing a new owner because the fellow who more recently undertook the restoration has realized 1) It’s not working out for him, 2) He doesn’t want this boat to go “disappeared.”

That would be Michael Bogoger, on the Oregon coast, who has thrown his heart into beautiful restoration projects, but on a smaller scale. You can read about that at his blog, dory-man.blogspot.com. Michael doesn’t have indoor space for the Rhodes, so the work is weather-dependent, and then, every improvement is, ah, out in the Oregon weather.

Caper was the boat/problem/opportunity that sparked the West Coast Wood conversation in the first place, months ago. Today, this old warhorse is still in need of a new home. Bogoger says now, “I am keeping her alive with infusions of TLC during the months that allow work outside. If I were a younger man, this fine old vessel would get a complete work-over. She is planked with African mahogany over oak frames. She deserves the best.

“I am making a renewed effort to pass Caper along,” the man says. “I have limited space to store and work on boats and have decided that the Rhodes is just too much concentrated work for me at this time. I am looking for $2,000 to cover the costs of moving and storage, and I am willing to sell the trailer the boat currently sits on for an additional $1,000. The trailer is a home-built, three-axle unit designed for a boat twice as heavy as the Rhodes. It should have new tires, and maintenance on the bearings, before any long distance travel.”

Last fall, fully enamored of the project, Michael displayed images of the boat and enthused, “Isn’t she a thoroughbred? Just look at that custom-made hardware and rigging. That stick on the deck is a roller-furling boom. The boat also has a standard boom and all the fittings of an old racing yacht, including a bronze bell and two fine old compasses.

“Racing was once a stylish and genteel event, no wonder the crew all wore ties!

“The mast is forty feet of clear spruce and is also undergoing a face-lift. All old varnish and paint has been removed and the bottom three feet replaced by scarfing-in new wood where rot had taken hold: Mast step and mast butt, two eternal problem areas in an old wood boat. Caper also suffers from slacking at the turn of the bilge, another predictable problem area. Some sistered frames and new corking will solve that problem.”

It’s premature, but the boat has a new set of sails waiting.

Philip Rhodes designed the Rhodes 33 in 1938. The boats were built by the South Coast Boat Building Company in Newport Beach for short-distance and medium-distance class racing in Southern California waters, including overnighters (when the Southern California seabreeze shuts down and you spend the night with the mainsail rattling dew down the back of your collar every time the boat rolls, and whoever works hardest is half a mile ahead at first light). At least, in the Rhodes 33, you had a nice, deep cockpit for sitting in the “rain” and waiting for the beauty of the dawn, the slow gray coming of it, and the slant of the seabirds and the far-off cries, and off Southern California after a slow night, as the morning begins to warm, there are these small, ambulating lumps of a nearly-flat sea, with just a hint of wind-ripples teasing over here, teasing over there. But that’s not your racing breeze and there’s no use chasing.

Between Los Angeles and Catalina, just a few miles clear of the roar of the 405 Freeway, I have seen dolphins breaking the surface from horizon to horizon. It was amazing.

And lifelines weren’t exactly standard while Rhodes 33s were sailing overnight races in Southern California, so yes, sitting in the cockpit while racing at night would have been acceptable. Time lurches on, but hey, somebody out there actually raced Rhodes 33’s back in the day, which I did not. Who’s got a story?

And who has a home for an honest chunk of West Coast wood.

Who has a home for Caper?

Or, perhaps, for the fully-restored Vixen, which would matter to Caper. Read on . . .

RHODES 33, 2010

In Newport Beach, Ralph Rodheim sails the beautifully-kept Rhodes 33 #41, Madness, and does his best to watch over the flock of 33’s that remain. In his home port, he says, there also are #3, Lanaki, and #12, Mistress, “which needs a new home.”

This is Lanaki sailing . . .

“Up in Port Townsend,” Rodheim says, “there is Vixen, which has been totally rebuilt; just beautiful work. The owner would like to take on Caper next—the boat’s not in terrible shape—but he needs to sell Vixen first.”

Which fits your palate? A project, or a showpiece?

Rodheim has set himself up at rhodes33.com as a chronicler of the Rhodes 33 class. Anyone with information to contribute is urged to chime in. “There is one boat in Maine,” Rodheim says. “That is Loki, and it was barely rescued, but now it’s pristine; better than new. It’s the only one on the East Coast. We think there’s probably a boat in Ventura, and we think maybe there are two at Lake Tahoe, but we’re not sure.”

I love this factoid quoted from Rodheim’s site:

Rhodes #34 was purchased new by Ray Milland, the movie actor, sometime just after WWII. It was in the Newport Harbor YC roster in 1950 or 1951. There must have been some other owner between Milland and Strat Enright, who named the boat Witch. He sold it to Paul Loveridge, who sold it to Gale Post in about 1963. Gale renamed her Therapy and painted her bright yellow.

Gale performed extensive restoration after Paul’s “experimental” modifications. For instance, the mast was off-center since he wanted it to be more vertical on port tack. This was the favored tack going up the beach off Newport after a racing start.

500 Million Euros & Italy?

Say it ain’t so, Joe.

I mean, Larry.

I mean, those rumors that are flying around that a city in Italy has promised 500 million Euros for the America’s Cup, the rumors that claim said city is on the brink of taking over America’s Cup 34.

It’s serious enough that a member of the Long Beach committee—they want a Cup in San Francisco and a Louis Vuitton event in Long Beach—has written to the president of US Sailing, urging him to “use your bully pulpit of editorial comment to encourage the organizers to host the 34th America’s Cup on San Francisco Bay.” That would be John Sangmeister, veteran of the 12 Meter days, writing to Gary Jobson (likewise a veteran of the 12 Meter days, come to think of it).

As a matter of fact, Sangmeister rang my chimes too, which is how I came to be rattling the doors at BMW Oracle with a message on the order of: I know you can’t tell me anything, but tell me something anyway.

They didn’t, exactly. The responses were a mix of the calming and the cryptic.

Herewith their Director of Communications, Tim Jeffery, via email: “There are some interesting punts around at picking the venue: some so way off base you really wonder where these ideas come from; some public and known; some plausible but wrong. All of them are much farther advanced than the reality, as the options continue to increase.” Best, Tim

I would prefer to think that there is only one option, and that is to hold America’s Cup 34 on San Francisco Bay, in the home waters of Golden Gate Yacht Club, inscribed on the Cup itself as the winner of the 33rd match.

I’m sure that even in the midst of the European debt crisis, there are ports in Spain, France, or the home country of the Challenger of Record, Italy, that are eager to roll out a pathway smoother than any that lead through the quirky backalleys of San Francisco politics.

Maybe the Board of Supervisors should threaten to boycott Italy.

But—

If Larry Ellison wants to secure his place in the history of yachting, most of which is recorded in the annals of America’s Cup, he won’t be sailing the 34th Defense in foreign waters while there remains water lapping American shores.

I know there are people who think I’m softheaded to take Ellison at his word, but he’s made all the right noises so far.

I know there are people who are skeptical of the boat selection process and perceive ulterior motives in it. But I don’t see the evidence. I figure that’s yet another Rorschach test.

Misters Ellison and Coutts have sworn themselves to high standards, and we are watching and waiting with high expectations.

Say it’s so, Joe.

Feast, Famine

REPORT FROM THE SWIFTSURE

By David Schmidt

“Hey David, do you want to drive?”

I glance up from a sodden perch on the rail of JAM, John McPhail’s well-rigged and well-sailed J/160, as we pound into stiff westerly winds and square waves six to eight-feet (did I mention square?) about two hours into the start of the 2010 Swiftsure International Yacht Race. This is only my second race aboard JAM, my first of any distance or importance, and I practically jump for the wheel.


Jam at the Swiftsure start, before the race got “interesting.” Photo by Jan Anderson

At the helm, I see that this is sink or swim: The seas are a cross-hatched mess of wind-against-tide, punctuated by tidal rips and boiling, evil-looking upwellings that threaten to destroy boatspeed. It’s impossible to predict wave patterns, if there are any patterns at all in this mess, so I simply drive for speed, doing my damndest to keep from plunging the bow and doing my damndest to keep from falling off the backside of a wave. The boat feels balanced, powerful, under a number three blade and a single deep reef in the big main.

Balanced . . .

Powerful . . .

Controlled is a different story.

Six hours later I take the wheel again, this time with a full main and a light number one. The sun has slipped to a palm’s width above the horizon, the square waves are down to gentle open-ocean rollers, and off our port bow is Neah Bay, one of the most northwestern points of the continental USA. The Straits of Juan de Fuca have relented, but the farther west we sail, the more the wind clocks to the south. Normally this would be time to say, Hallelujah!, but right here, right now, it’s a slow kiss of death: NOAA’s models predict the wind to eventually rotate to the east, giving us perhaps an hour’s worth of kite time before settling into a long, 70-mile beat back home. That’s 70 miles as the seabird flies, not 70 miles as the seaboat tacks.


Photo by Jan Anderson

Looking around, our class is scattered along an east-west axis thanks to several starts and restarts. Mind you, not restarts run by the RC from the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, but restarts dictated by nature: Here in the Pacific Northwest it’s common to start racing and run into A) adverse tides, B) a no-wind zone, or C) a combination of the two. “C” is the house bet. Then, boats park up, wait for the wind or tide to relent, and wait for racing to resume. It’s a different way of sailing from what I’m used to, as an east coaster recently transplanted to Seattle. But, given the rugged topography of the wild Olympic Mountains to my left and the awesome coastline of Vancouver Island to the north, the adventurous spirit of sailing out here doesn’t take long to become addictive.

Twelve hours later you can have your addiction back, thank you. We’re again near the entrance to Neah Bay, this time after rounding the lightship and making our way back to the entrance of Puget Sound. But, we ran out of quarters for the wind machine and we are parked, utterly parked. Truth to tell, we’re drifting backwards to the tune of two knots over the ground. And it’s cold — a daytime high of 47-degrees Fahrenheit — and it’s raining and it’s hard to be excited when your competition is somewhere out there in the mist and rain and all of your clothes are sodden and caffeine and sugar are not woooorking . . .

Sigh.

Then just like that, somebody finds a few quarters for Item C and we’re back at it. The beat goes on. Literally and figuratively. JAM slowly accelerates, her rail a few inches above the water, the current still very much foul, as we finesse our way to windward. It’s sticky sailing, but at least the GPS has modified our ETA from “Never” to “Eight hours, thirty-two minutes.” This too will change for the better as the tide swings.

Moods improve, concentration and psyche return, and I drive towards hazy, cloudy points on the Vancouver shoreline, or the American shoreline, depending on the board. Some of our competition plays close to the beach, sniffing for a positive eddy, but aboard JAM our strategy is to stay in the breeze and keep our sails filled.

“There’s Race Rocks.” It’s the voice of our skipper John McPhail, speaking from the helm. “We’ll have a huge push through there, and if we’re patient we should get a big push towards the finish. It’s only another 9.5 miles to go after we clear Race Rocks.”

We carefully thread the needle through the bricks, clipping along at 11+ SOG (amazing, given the light breeze). Finally, Victoria appears on the northeastern horizon, tempting us with thoughts of hot showers and the curry buffet at the regal Empress Hotel (N.B., put this on your to-do list after your next Swiftsure. The hot mango chutney is worth suffering for). Minutes stretch…then stretch some more. I keep reminding myself that the Swiftsure is the quintessential PNW yacht race, but after sailing upwind for 30+ hours, food and warmth are more appealing than living in the moment. Buddhist serenity be hanged. What’s the sound of one hand clapping? What’s the sound of one stomach growling?

And just like that we cross the finish line, an unceremonious whistle blows, sails are flaked, the boat is tidied up, and our adventure is a wrap. Dock talk is rife with news: sixty-plus boats dropped out of the race, two boats were dismasted, and plenty of crews suffered rough nights.

Our ride on JAM quickly starts sounding better. And better. Especially the part where we actually finished. And by the time the first spoonful of hot curry and cold beer finds my palate, I realize why the Swiftsure is iconic, a classic.

By morning, I’m contemplating next year’s race, my mind aglow with fond memories of the good times: driving by a full moon and stars, contemplating my new friendships aboard JAM.

Such is ocean racing: yesterday’s misery becomes today’s golden-hued memory.

Many thanks to John McPhail and the crew of JAM for taking me aboard and for taking a gamble on a newbie’s driving skills. Many thanks as well to the power of selective memory—DS

Race results were not yet available when our PNW correspondent posted this account, but they are due later today, Tuesday, at swiftsure.org. This was the 67th running of the great Northwest classic. I read a lot into this excerpt from a race committee release: “By late Sunday afternoon 66 boats had withdrawn, leaving 26 still on the race course.” ‘Nuff said—KL