Racing with Larry Ellison and Russell Coutts
Racing with Larry Ellison and Russell CouttsReport Abuse
I recently traveled to Italy's Lake Garda to film the RC 44 Malcesine SLAM Cup (view photos of the event). There are currently 19 of these Russell Coutts-designed 44-footers in the world; nine showed up on Lake Garda. I spent a day practicing with Coutts, Larry Ellison, and their eight-person team. Ellison is the helmsman, Coutts the skipper. I got a chance to steer for about an hour. In 11 knots of wind, the boat sails at 8.2 knots and tacks through 68 – 72 degrees. When downwind in 18 knots, the boat planes and hits 20 knots and more. It is a lot of fun.
The boat is similar to an America's Cup class design, but it's shorter and weighs only 8,000 pounds. It has a lot of sail area and is raced by four professional crew and four amateurs.
The mood onboard was fairly calm. Coutts called all the shots. I watched carefully when Ellison steered. He is right on the polars all the time and made some good calls on wind trends. Later I interviewed Coutts and teammates Dirk de Ritter, Ross Halcrow, and James Spithill (who was sailing on another 44). The premise of the television program I'm working on is how this team prepares for the America's Cup.
The regatta took place at The Sailing Center, a three-year-old club that features a 200-boat marina and a unique, modern clubhouse that rests beneath a lawn that is also the roof. Very interesting.
Great Harbor Yacht Club
Speaking of new clubs, a group on Nantucket has recruited a roster of 350 sailing enthusiasts to join Great Harbor Yacht Club. Having survived some local resistance to the building plan, the new GHYC clubhouse is currently under construction on Nantucket's storied waterfront. Due to be completed in 2009, this beautifully designed clubhouse fits with the traditional architecture of the island.
In the meantime, highly respected sailing instructor Carolyn Grant and a staff of collegiate sailors is offering lessons for Opti sailors, teenagers, and adults. GHYC, along with the well established Nantucket Yacht Club further up the harbor and the Nantucket Community Sailing Association, is working hard to make the island a key stop for racing and cruising sailors alike.
A Busy Summer
Eventually I plan to get out and do some sailing again, but this summer my schedule is the most ambitious it's been since I graduated from SUNY Maritime College 35 years ago. In addition to 25 lectures, I have productions going simultaneously on the College National Championship (July 20 at 11:00 p.m. et on ESPNU), a documentary on Maine Built Boats, a documentary on the History of the New York Yacht Club, an ESPN show on the 100th running of the Chicago Mackinac Race (November 9 at 12:00 p.m. et on ESPN Classic), a celebration video on Sail Newport's 25th anniversary, the RC 44 program, and (deep breath) the Olympic Games.