An Interview with Jonathan McKee, Fastnet Preview, Swan American Regatta

ISAF Rolex Sailor of the Year Nominations

MISSING IN ACTIONLast week's edition of Grand Prix Sailor's Monday Digest fell victim to the summer racing schedule here at Grand Prix Sailor headquarters. Two of our staff were Swanning about off Newport while another was braving the icy waters off Mt. Desert Island in an International One Design. We hope that you, too, were too busy racing to notice the gap in our coverage and that this expanded edition makes up for the missing issue.THE MINI-MAN MCKEEFor many singlehanded ocean racers, it may take years to rise to the top of the Mini-6.50 world, let alone be the top contender for the Mini-Transat Race from La Rochelle, France to Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, by way of the Canary Islands. But Jonathan McKee, the 49er Olympic medalist from Seattle, has virtually charged into to the upper ranks. In less than six months, McKee became the man to be beat. He won on first of several prelude events and last July he was the fastest finisher in the Transcagone Race, a sprint the Gulf of Gascgone and back. We checked in with him last week, while he was schooling himself in ocean racing tactics before returning to France for the Sept. 7 start.GPS: What happened in the Transcagone Race? The elapsed-time rankings showed that you won.JM: It was bit of a mix up at the start; there was an additional mark that I didn't know about and I missed it so I was penalized. It was my own fault. I should have won by 20 minutes, but they gave me a time penalty so I ended up fourth. But it was a moral victory; the other guys know I'm for real and that they're going to have to beat me to win the race. I feel good about that. I've been lucky to have good results, but there are seven or eight guys that I have a lot of respect for and they will be tough to beat.GPS: A similar thing happened in your first race, the Mini-Pavois, didn't it? JM: Yeah, it was similar, but in that race, I had enough of a lead that it didn't cost me the race. On elapsed time, I would have won this last one, so that's a little frustrating. This race went from France to Spain and back, about 630 miles total. It was light and mostly upwind on the first leg; there were times of good sailing and the light air presented its own bit of challenges. It was an exciting finish though; I was hanging with the top five for most of the race, and then I had a good last night and squeaking across first. That was exciting. GPS: How do you stand overall speed-wise?JM: There are still things I need to improve on the boat, as well as my own technique and understanding the sail crossovers. I'm not there yet, but I'm close. The second leg of the Transcagone was good; the wind filled into beam to broad reach and there was a different set of conditions. It was more like ocean sailing and a good simulation of what I could have during the Transat.GPS: What techniques do you have to improve? Moving stuff around the boat? JM: I'm actually good at that. Understanding the weight trim of the boat is probably one of my strengths. I still have some improving to on reaching, especially understanding what the sail crossovers are and tactically how much it's worth to deviate from course to get more speed. Those are tricky questions.GPS: How much of an inventory do you race with?JM: The inventory is more complicated than you might think for reaching sails. Upwind and down it's straightforward-you have a jib and a main that reefs and a big spinnaker and a small spinnaker. Then you have one other sail that could be either a larger Code Zero or another spinnaker. I have two Code Zeros and two spinnakers so I have a lot of options for reaching. GPS: How often are you changing headsails?JM: In light air, even if you crack off 10 degrees you're putting up a bigger sail. I did seven sail change on the first night of the second leg of the Transcagone; it can get hectic, but you can be aggressive with changes and that's part of what makes it fun. GPS: Which leg are you looking forward to most?JM: Both legs really. It's an interesting tactical race because there are a lot of different types of weather we'll sail through. The first leg will be nice because it's a little shorter-you just need to hang in the top. But the second leg is where it'll be won or lost. GPS: Is the boat ready to go?JM: I have mostly small things to address. It's reasonably well prepared and it's been good all season.GPS: What are some of your personal touches?JM: We have new sails that are really good. Grant Spanhake designed them and did a great job-it's been an interesting project for both of us-and I was lucky to get the sailcloth donated by Duncan Skinner (Contender Sailcloth). I did some changes to the deck gear to simplify some systems and have a jib lead system with some interesting things. The deck layout is one area that I may be breaking new ground on, but I can't talk about that yet. One of the challenges with these boats is getting the reaching sails to lead correctly and be adjustable.GPS: It seems the marine industry has been generous with product-is that enough?JM: It's been difficult to raise as much cash as I would have liked, but as far as product and help, it's really been a community of people coming together to help me out. It's interesting how much interest there's been in the U.S.-all of a sudden. I guess it's good to have someone to cheer for. Overall, it's been great doing something very different. It's a completely different type of sailing and people. It's been challenging, but that's what you have to go through for something like this. GPS: What can you do in your downtime?JM: I'm not going to do too much sailing. I'll keep on top of my logistics and stay in good physical and mental shape. I need to do some more research on ocean tactics and talk to as many people as I can about that. That's my focus right now. I go over on August 25 and I'll be there two weeks before the start.-Dave ReedTo follow McKee's progress, see http://www.j-mckee.comSWAN AMERICAN REGATTAThe 2003 Swan American Regatta came to a foggy finish last Saturday afternoon, with two windward/leeward races for classes A and B, and one truncated race for the non-spinnaker boats in Class C. Visibility and traffic considerations delayed the two races but the race committee persevered.Overall winner of the 52-boat event was Craig Speck, of Grand Rapids, Mich., sailing his Swan 45, Vim. Speck, no stranger to the top spot on a regatta podium-his Nelson/Marek 43, also named Vim, won the IMS World Championship off Newport in 2000-credited practice and crew work for the victory. "On Monday we trained for six hours on a windward/leeward half-mile leg," said Speck on the event website. "All we did for six hours was tack and jibe, getting me prepared for a week of racing and perfecting how we work together as a team." The spinnaker divisions sailed five windward/leeward courses and two petite distance races during the week-long series, giving boats and crews plenty of opportunities to prove their worth in both disciplines. Highlights of the week included first outings for the Netherlands-flagged Favonius, a handsome, gray 80-foot racer that finished fourth overall, and Falcon, a dark-hulled 56-footer that suffered from teething problems but looked great. The next Swan American Regatta will be held in Newport in 2005, which gives Nautor Swan plenty of time to produce some of their next one-design offering, a 60-footer. "One-design is a wonderful way of racing," said Fernando Ferragamo, owner of Nautor Swan, in an exclusive interview with Sailing World. "The new 60 will be the first all-carbon boat built by Swan and is a no-compromise design."For complete results, http://www.nautorgroup.comCOPA DEL RAY-AGUA BRAVABotin & Carkeek designs topped the IMS 500 and IMS 600 classes at this year's Copa del Ray-Agua Brava regatta, which ended Sunday in Mallorca, Spain. Caixa Galicia, a Grand Soleil 56R topped the IMS 500 class and Italtel, a Grand Soleil 42R, winner of the Rolex IMS Worlds earlier this year, won the IMS 600 class. In the international team competition, the Spanish team composed of Caixa Galicia and the Grand Soleil 42R Zurich were first, and the Italian team, Subaru X-Sport (GS 56R) and Italtel (GS 42R) were second. In third was another Spanish team, King Juan Carlos' Judel/Vrolich 56 Bribon, and the Rodman 42 Telefonica Movistar. For complete results, http://www.copadelrey.comA JULES VERNE LINEUPSteve Fossett's 125-foot former PlayStation, now renamed Cheyenne, is in Norfolk, Va., undergoing it's annual summertime (read downtime) refit before Fossett and his teammates head to sea to knock off a few more ocean sailing records this fall. According to Cheyenne team member David Scully, the current refit is basic-replacing worn bits and pieces and swapping some rod rigging with PBO rigging. The boat is expected to be back in the water in August for an attempt on the 694.1-mile 24-hour speed record now held by Tracy Edwards and Brian Thompson's Maiden II.That record attempt will likely land them to Europe-either in Spain or England-where Scully says they'll set up a training base for a January 2004 Jules Verne Trophy around-the-world attempt (the record stands at 64 days). The renaming of PlayStation is Fossett's doing, and the project will now be fueled with sponsorship from Anhauser-Bush, which also sponsored Fossett on his high-altitude record-attempt in the But Light Spirit of Freedom balloon.Fossett's announcement of a JV attempt apparently came as news to the man who holds the record himself, Bruno Peyron, of France. Peyron is also head of The Race, which is schedule to start in January 2004, and he commented in press release last week that Fossett's plans impacted the likelihood of The Race going off from the Med as planned. Fossett, however, has never been one to live by other's schedules.Peyron is supposed to launch his new Giant-Class Catamaran this summer-the boat is being built in ultra-secrecy at Multiplast in France, but with all the other active mega-multis planning record attempts, including one announced this morning by Maiden II, Peyron himself may be forced join the lineup and put The Race 2004 on hold.-Dave Reed and http://www.therace.orgKEY WEST RACE WEEK 2004The Notice of Race and Entry Application for Terra Nova Trading Key West scheduled Jan. 19-23, 2004, are now available at Invited classes include Corsair 28R, Farr 40, IMS, J/105, J/109, J/29, J/80, Melges 24, MORC, Mumm 30, PHRF, Swan 45, Open Swan and Tartan-10. NEW RECORD COURSE APPROVEDA new record course has been recognized by the World Speed Sailing Record Council, "Around the Big Island of Hawaii," a distance of 251 miles. Subject to ratification the inaugural record has been claimed as follows: Fast Company, an Olson 30 monohull, skippered by Mitch Green, USA and a crew of four. Elapsed time: 2d:7h:10m:58s. http://www.sailspeedrecords.comROLEX FASTNET RACEThe biennial Fastnet Race, which this year boasts 240 entries, will begin August 10 at 10 a.m. Beginning from a starting line off the Royal Ocean Racing Club in Cowes, Isle of Wight, the 608-mile race will take competitors past the southern coast of England and across the Irish Sea to Fastnet lighthouse, perched on the South Coast of Ireland, and then back to Cowes. The monohull record for the race is 53 hours, set by Ross Field sailing the 80-foot, water-ballasted RF Yachting in 1999.Boats to watch in this year's Fastnet include Neville Crichton's 90-foot speedster Alfa Romeo, line honors winner at last year's Sydney Hobart, the Open 60 PRB, winner of the Calais Round Britain and Ireland Race, and Bob McNeil's MaxZ86, Zephyrus V. The only other American entries besides Zephyrus V are Larry Huntington's IMS 50 Snow Lion (nee Infinity), and Tom Gill's Tripp 54 Anthem. Also worth watching are Mike Slade's Leopard of London, and Charles Dunstone's Nokia (Enigma, nee Chance). To follow the action, see http://www.rorc.orgISAF ROLEX SAILOR OF THE YEARFrom the ISAF website, and don't complain about the winners later if you don't nominate now."The presentation of the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards 2003 will take place on Wednesday, November 12, 2003 in Barcelona, Spain. Over the past ten years, many of the world's best sailors have been nominated for the annual Award in recognition of their outstanding achievement, but only ten male and ten female sailors and crews have been accorded the honor."The ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards are presented annually and recognize the outstanding sailing achievements of male and female sailors, as nominated and voted by the world of sailing. To determine the winners, ISAF invites the world of sailing to submit nominations. A panel chaired by King Constantine of Greece-with representatives including past winners, media, ISAF representatives from the key geographic regions, and Rolex-determine the shortlist of male and female sailors who in their opinion are considered as the outstanding sailors of the year. It is based on this shortlist that the ISAF Member National Authorities are invited to cast their votes."ISAF invites nominations for the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards 2003 from all-whether a sailor, class, national authority, member of the media, sailing club, event organizer or other. Nominations should be made on the official Nomination Form available online at:"The criteria to be nominated is simply "outstanding achievement during the period 1 September 2002 through to 31 August 2003". The roll call of past winners is evident of the level at which the previously nominated sailors have each achieved in the sport."Sailors nominated may represent any discipline of the sport, from dinghies to offshore, windsurfers to multihulls, and their achievements may be as diverse as a record-breaking passage, a series of regatta wins over the year or triumph against the odds. Nominations close at 1000 hours UCT on Monday 1 September 2003. The sailors accorded the honor ISAF Rolex World Sailors of the Year 2003 will be presented with a marble and silver trophy and a Rolex timepiece."http://www.sailing.orgAMERICA'S CUPThe ISAF website is also reporting that Iain Percy, a gold medal winner in the Finn class in the last Olympics, has signed with Peter Harrison's GBR Challenge team for the 2007 series. For the complete story and quotes from Harrison and Percy, see AROUND THE WORLDLisa MacDonald and husband Neal have announced their intention to form a syndicate and compete in the next Volvo Ocean Race, to be held in 2005-'06. "For both of us the Volvo Ocean Race is unfinished business, said Neal in an interview published on the Volvo Race website, "We have been involved in five campaigns between us but this time we want to win. We have decided to sail together because we know it works. There is an intuition between us that goes with years of sailing and living together. The Volvo Ocean Race really matters to us and I know we can win it.""We have sailed in the same events, often as competitors," said Lisa. "For us it is our job, we just happen to do the same sort of job at the same level. However, this event is not just a job, it is part of your life and winning the race is our life."Grand Prix Sailor is compiled by the editors of Sailing World magazine. 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