Grand Prix Sailor’s Monday Digest

Groupama First to Finish Transat Jacques Vabre, US Olympic/Paralympic Trials, Transatlantic Races

For many of us in the United States, winter is fast upon us; the northern hemisphere tilts a little farther away from the sun every day and our boats get some well-deserved rest and refit time. But for the U.S. Olympic sailing team, it's crunch time. Our senior editor Stuart Streuli flew down to Texas last week to watch the Olympic Trials and see who made the cut and who will be heading for Athens next summer. We also have the latest on the U.S. Paralympic Team Trials, an update on Steve Fossett--who's added another glider distance record or two to his collection--and for planning purposes, an overview of some upcoming Transatlantic races. TRANSAT JACQUES VABREFranck Cammas and Franck Proffit, sailing the ORMA 60 Groupama, crossed the finish line in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil on Sunday, and won line honors as well as the Open 60 trimaran class in the Transat Jacques Vabre. The two Francks sailed 4,624 miles in 10d:23h:10m:41s at an average speed of 17.57 knots. "The race was shorter but much harder than the last time," said Cammas. "There were a lot more weather systems to play with, strong upwind, downwind, and we got fairly trapped by the calms in the Doldrums, too, when the boats behind didn't have it so bad. This victory is sweeter than the one in 1999, because it was one, which we had to fight much harder for. She's a great boat, but in a race where pure boatspeed was crucial for the last part and with Belgacom hard on our heels for the last 2 days, we know that she's not as fast as the others now. But the team had to put her back together after my capsize in the Rhum, and they deserve this victory as much as we do." Finishing an hour-and-a-half behind Groupama and taking the second spot on the podium was Belgacom, sailed by Jean-Luc Nélias and Loick Peyron.In the Open 60 monohull class, the Farr-designed Virbac, sailed by Jean-Pierre Dick and Nicolas Abiven, and with a tad over 400 miles to go, looks as though they'll clinch the top spot, as they have a 130-mile lead over their closest competitor, Ecover. When you go to http://www.jacques-vabre.co to check the latest, don't forget to hit the Union Jack button to get the English version of the website.OLYMPIC TRIALSKatie McDowell and Isabelle Kinsolving proved on Sunday that while it may be difficult to win your first Olympic Trials, it's not impossible. With a fluid wire-to-wire victory in Race 15 of the Women's 470 competition, the duo earned the U.S. berth in the 2004 Olympics, though they still need to qualify the United States for the event at the 2004 470 Worlds.Amanda Clark and Sarah Mergenthaler came into the final two races five points behind and needing a little help from the rest of the fleet. The two teams sparred lightly with a minute remaining until the start."We weren't sure if she was going to come after us," said McDowell, "and sometimes the best defense is a good offense. We were both keeping each other in check more than being aggressive about it."The boats separated, as the clock approached 30 seconds to go, with McDowell and Kinsolving taking the pin while Clark and Mergenthaler started in between a couple of other boats at the starboard end. The other four boats in the fleet peeled off toward the right side, leaving the two contenders to drag race.Though the boats were separated by no more than 30 feet coming off the line-and both held their respective lanes heading left-McDowell and Kinsolving were able to turn a left shift into a significant advantage as both teams raced back toward the rest of the fleet on the right side of the beat."We were comfortable with our speed," said McDowell, a coed and women's All American while at Brown University. "The forecast was trending left. That was going through my mind. And the fleet is so small; we just wanted to stay in touch. We got a little left shift, and I think we were going very well upwind."A loose cover the rest of the way up the beat pushed Clark and Mergenthaler back to fifth, while McDowell and Kinsolving were able to round in first with a five-boatlength edge and lead the fleet toward the wing mark. The ensuing run was, "a little spotty," said McDowell. "We got into a hole and then jibed to consolidate. We just wanted to stay in touch. Even if she'd beaten us by a point, we wouldn't have had to sail the last race. We just wanted to stay focused. We've seen some weird stuff out there." Clark and Mergenthaler were able to move up to second, working through the fleet very quickly, but were unable to close the gap on first and, with the breeze building slightly, McDowell and Kinsolving cruised to a comfortable win.In the other two fleets racing on Galveston Bay-there were also two Trials taking place at the US SAILING Center-Martin County in Jensen Beach, Fla.-the most important position had already been decided. Paul Foerster and Kevin Burnham capped one of the most impressive Trials performances in recent memory with a first and a second in the first two of three races on Saturday. The veteran duo had built such a commanding lead they were able to clinch the Olympic berth with three races still to sail."We've got the boat pretty ramped up, really feeling good boatspeed-wise; and we just really hit the shifts," said Burnham, who will be sailing in his third Olympic games next summer. "Things have just gone our way. We created a lot of it for ourselves. The line was small with nine boats, so you could get onto the lifted tack right away and we did. We just tried to stay in phase and go fast to the next shift."Mark Mendelblatt's win in the Laser class was less convincing, but only slightly. In a strong 32-boat fleet where nine different sailors won races and OCSs and double-digit finishes were rampant, Mendelblatt was the model of consistency. He finished the first 13 races in the top five, surviving some sketchy winds early in the regatta, and with one day remaining had built a 23-point lead over second place. When the race committee scheduled just two races for Sunday, Mendelblatt clinched the title.In the Men's and Women's Mistral Trials, both of which were held on the Intracoastal Waterway along the East Coast of Florida, Peter Wells and Lanee Butler both dominated their respective regattas, winning easily. Butler, who has now won all four U.S. women's boardsailing Trials, didn't lose a race and had the option of watching the final day of racing while Wells, who survived a few wobbles early in the regatta, needed just a solid result in the first race on Sunday, in which he finished second, to secure the Olympic berth. He sailed the last race anyway, and won.The next set of U.S. Olympic Trials-for the Europe, 49er, Yngling, Tornado, and Finn-will take place Feb. 12 to 22 in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The Stars will hold their Trials on Miami's Biscayne Bay in mid March.For complete results, and photos, www.ussailing.com, www.houstonyc.org, or www.usscmc.org--Stuart StreuliU.S. PARALYMPIC TRIALSTwelve races in each of the two Paralympic classes last week decided which teams would attend the Paralympic Games in Athens next September. The races were held in St. Petersburg, Fla., and hosted by the St. Petersburg YC and US SAILING. Representing the United States in the singlehanded 2.4-Metre class for the second Paralympics in a row will be Tom Brown, of Northeast Harbor, Me., who won eight of 12 races sailed. At the 2000 Games, Brown was also a member of the U.S. team and won a bronze medal.Racing in the three-person Sonar class was close, with John Ross-Duggan, J.P. Creignou, and Brad Johnson coming from behind in the second half of the regatta to take first place. Ross-Duggan, of Newport Beach, Calif., sails with Creignou and Johnson, both of St. Petersburg, and will return to the Paralympic Games after sailing in 1996 and earning a bronze medal when sailing was an exhibition event. To win the trials, Ross-Duggan's team took five firsts in seven races, passing their rivals Paul Callahan, Roger Cleworth, and Keith Burhans; Callahan and Burhans were teammates aboard the Sonar that won the U.S. Trials in 2000. Report and scores: http://www.ussailing.org/Olympics/OlympicTrials/2004/ISAF ANNUAL MEETINGDelegates to the International Sailing Federation met for a week in Barcelona, Spain, and made decisions affecting the management of the sport from offshore to the Olympics to windsurfing. Among the highlights of ISAF Council actions were decisions to not allow any throwouts in the scoring of the 2004 Olympic regatta and to clarify the Anti-Hunting Rule (16.2). The former will change last-race tactics during the Games while putting a premium on avoiding starting early or breaking equipment. The latter makes it clear that 16.2 prohibits a starboard tacker--in a crossing situation with a dipping port tacker--from bearing off, but doesn't prevent the same starboard tacker from luffing up to force a port tacker to tack instead of crossing close ahead. For the official report, see http://www.sailing.org. SAILORS OF THE YEARRussell Coutts and Siren Sundby were awarded the top achievement awards for 2003 by ISAF last week at a ceremony in Barcelona, Spain, during the ISAF annual meetings. Coutts, representing Switzerland, and Sundby, representing Norway, became the ISAF Rolex World Sailors of the Year for achievements at far ends of the racing spectrum. Coutts, 42, led Team Alinghi to victory in the America's Cup last February. Sundby, 20, won the Europe Class World Championship in Cadiz, Spain. Nominations are still open for the 2003 U.S. awards, also sponsored by Rolex. Members of US SAILING are encouraged to make nominations by November 30 through US SAILING's website: http://www.sailing.org/Article_content.asp?ArticleID=5743TRANSATLANTIC RACESIf part of your plotting and planning for the next few seasons concerns distance racing, specifically eastbound distance racing across the North Atlantic to the other, you've got a few to choose from in the next year or so. The most recently announced race is the St. Brendan's Cup, which will start in Baltimore, Md. next May 31, and finish in Baltimore, Ireland. Participants can then compete in Cork Week, which runs from July 10th to 16th. A scheduled second race in 2007 is being touted as a great way to get across to Europe in time for the America's Cup, wherever it may be held. The St. Brendan's Cup is open to racing and cruising yachts in excess of 45 feet, and will be run by The Storm Trysail Club and Ocean Race Chesapeake. Interesting note for owners of boats held out of other races because of their size or speed; while there's a minimum size of 45 feet, there's no upper limit for this race. Co-founder Billy Burke tells us that the Irish government is not only backing this race with sponsorship, but is hoping that the St. Brendan's Cup race will prove popular enough to run every two years. http://www.oceanracechesapeake.orgIf you've a mind to be in France in time for the Bastille Day celebrations in July 2004, consider the Liberty Cup, which will start from Marblehead, Mass. on June 14 and finish in Lorient, France. Three classes of monohulls and one class of multihulls are planned. Cruiser/Racer and Cruising Canvas classes will be measured under Americap II, a Racing Class under IMS, and Multihull Class under multihull regulations. The Liberty Cup is sponsored by Corinthian YC, the Blue Water SC, and Comité Nautique du Pays de Lorient. http://www.libertycup.net In 2005, the New York YC and the Royal Yacht Squadron are co-sponsoring the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge to mark the 100th anniversary of the schooner Atlantic's 1905 transatlantic record of 12d:4h:1m:19s. There will be two finish lines, one the traditional finish off Lizard Light, the other off the Needles fairway buoy off the Isle of Wight. This transatlantic race will have three divisions-Classic, Performance Cruising, and Grand Prix, and all entries must be 70 feet or larger. Any boat in any class that breaks the schooner Atlantic's record will, of course, become the new record-holder, and any yacht in the Classic division that breaks the record will win and retire the Atlantic Challenge Cup. The first two entrants in the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge are Mari-Cha IV, the 140-foot schooner that owns the current east-west Ambrose to the Lizard transatlantic record, and Sumurun a 94-foot Fife-designed schooner built in 1914. http://www.nyyc.orgBERNOULLI WOULD APPROVEIn the southern hemisphere it's summer and the perfect time to ride mountain waves of air off the Andes mountain range in a two-man glider, as Steve Fossett and Terry Delore did on their way to claim the "Out and Return" glider distance record of 2,002.44 kilometers (1,244.26 miles) (subject to ratification by the FAI (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale) last weekend. Fossett and Delore added nearly 300 km to the previous mark by German Klaus Ohlmann. In addition to the outright Out and Return distance mark, they also established a new "Out and Return Distance to a Pre-declared Goal" record at 1804.7 km (1,121.39), as well as a new speed record for 1,500 km (average speed of 97.3 mph), breaking previous records by Ohlmann of 1708.4 Km and 85 mph, respectively. Grand Prix Sailor is compiled by the editors of Sailing World magazine. If you'd like to subscribe, see http://www.sailingworld.com Contributing Editors: Tony Bessinger (tony.bessinger@sailingworld.com), Dave Reed (dave.reed@sailingworld.com), Stuart Streuli (stuart.streuli@sailingworld.com), John Burnham (john.burnham@sailingworld.com