Monday Morning Digest

News from the World of Sailboat Racing

April 15, 2002

The Atlantic Ocean is where it’s all happening today: Jules Verne Trophy hopeful Orange is heading North at a rate of knots and is four days ahead of Sport Elec‘s 1997 run. Nick Moloney, crewmember aboard Orange, describes what it’s like to turn the corner and aim the massive cat for the barn.

“We spent yesterday jibing our way to the Falklands and now with them in our wake we are making 32 knots of boatspeed directly towards Brest. As usual, progress today may not be as good tomorrow. We have some difficult weather ahead, the biggest headache being a strong depression to the north of us will become a dominant feature in the next few days almost certainly bringing us strong upwind conditions. Keep in mind that this is where Club Med suffered most of her damage in The Race.

“Every mile is golden right now. We have a reasonable margin on the current record and hope to maintain it. We have had a great Pacific portion of the Southern Ocean. We covered the distance of the Sydney-Hobart race in 22 hours one day, another we saw an iceberg. We definitely are the lucky ones. I hope our luck holds for the next 20 or so days.
We have the full length North/South, East/West still to sail but today we feel like we are almost home.”


The crew of Maiden II is enjoying perfect conditions on their East-to-West transatlantic Route of Discovery record attempt/training session. Crewmember Paul Larsen describes the tradewind sailing conditions.

“You work hard on these boats dreaming of these conditions. The sailing is fast, dry, and easy and we are all dressing for the beach. The sails all stacked aft and to windward make for a comfortable bench seat from which to trim from. You still must not get complacent. The helmsman, whoops, helmsperson, is the one doing all the work but is reluctant to hand over the hotseat. Guillemo Attadil in his helm change briefing to Helena Darvelid whilst steaming along at 26 knots simply said ‘perfect’ and walked below. We laughed at how cool this exchange was but soon realized he had summed it up beautifully.”

Off L’Orient, France, the crew of La Défi are learning how to sail an America’s Cup boat in big breeze. Afterguard crewmember Sebastien Destremau describes the action.


“Friday, we took FRA46 out for a practice session in heavy weather. The training program was maneuvering in 23 to 28 knots of wind … tough, real tough!

“After going upwind for ten minutes, we turned around the top mark to hoist the spinnaker as usual. In this sort of wind, the spinnaker hoist is never easy but we managed to do it properly. Then arrived the time to throw the first jibe in. Ouch! That was not going to be easy. At first we started to pull the mainsail in using six people on the winches, and it didn’t move at all. The second go was better timed (after we gave the ‘dark look’ to the guy whose winch was not connecting properly). Inch by inch the mainsail started to come in (the power is incredible), and then faster and faster. The runner man was pulling the rope as quick as he possibly could and I was waiting on the other side for his ‘all clear’ shout before releasing mine.

“So, when I heard the ‘all clear’, I quickly released the runner on my side and heard a big bang above my head. Ooops, did I do anything wrong? The whole team feared for the worst and looked up to see if the mast was broken. Thankfully it was not but the 220-square meter Kevlar/carbon fiber mainsail was in two pieces, shredded like a sheet of paper.


“And that was when the real thing started. The procedure was to complete the jibe before trying to do anything else, but without the mainsail’s power the America’s Cup yacht was losing her balance and she started to roll from one side to the other. Only thinking about it and I’m shivering going down my spine.

“The guys at the bow were working real quick to put the spinnaker pole back into position before starting the spinnaker take down maneuver but we didn’t anticipate that without the mainsail to mask the spinnaker, the take down was going to be something else.

“Now, close your eyes and try to imagine the following picture:
The helmsman, alone at the back of the boat, driving a 25-ton yacht screaming down Lorient Bay at 15 knots, rolling from one side to the other with his massive Kevlar/carbon mainsail in two pieces. The 15 other crewmembers, all at the bow of the yacht pulling the 500-square meter spinnaker down which wants just one thing, to fly away as far as possible from the boat. What a picture it must have been!


“On top of this, dead ahead of us was Groix island, approaching quickly. We had to be fast if we didn’t want this incident to become a real drama. No sign of panic on board though, the boys knew exactly what needed to be done, but it was just much harder than usual, and normally it is already very hard.

“We finally managed to put the spinnaker back on board, then it was just a matter of going head to wind, dropping what remained of the mainsail, and taking the tow back to the base. Sailing time? 20 minutes. Preparation, loading, unloading, packing and cleaning? 4 hours. No comment.

“Everyday on these boats, we realize that a simple incident can turn into a hectic situation within a few minutes. Thanks to the training and preparation, last Friday was just another day at the office.

“The de-briefing took place in the sail-loft around the ripped sail and, at the end the whole team took their hats off and observed a minute of silence in memory of the dead mainsail.”

If you spent the weekend incommunicado, or watching Tiger win his third green jacket, here’s some of the things you may have missed.

The top-ranked match racer in the world, Peter Holmberg, won his fourth Congressional Cup on Sunday, staving off a strong effort by Gavin Brady who placed second. Stars and Stripes helmsman Ken Read placed third in the event, his best finish so far in a Swedish Match event.

Speaking of Team Stars and Stripes, take a look at what their design team thinks an America’s Cup boat should look like. The website has a great picture of USA-66 posted, showing plenty of overhang.

The Volvo re-started on the waters off South Beach, Miami Sunday, and it was ugly, with six out of eight boats called over early at the start. The only two to start properly were Amer Sports Too and Assa Abloy. After re-starting, the six offenders pelted north in chase and as of this morning’s sked, things had sorted out in a familiar manner. Assa and Illbruck were in the lead with the rest within one to three miles.

This leg is the first of the sprint legs and is only 875 miles. The scoring, however, is weighted the same as a distance leg so tactics up the East Coast and the Chesapeake are key. At this point, the only boat not straight-lining up the coast is Amer Sports Too, which looks to be getting some easting in.


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