Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sailing 101

Know Your Racing

The Volvo Ocean Race isn’t the only high-profile sailing event
The oldest yacht race in the world, The America’s Cup pits multi-million-dollar catamarans against one another.
The Volvo Ocean Race is an around-the-world marathon showcasing 70-foot high-tech sailing machines. Precise rules govern boat and sail design, making each boat similar. It takes the racers nine months to sail the globe, with extended stops in eight ports. The boats are sponsored by syndicates that hire the world’s finest sailors to ride these carbon-fiber, sail-powered rockets. It costs about $100 million to play that game. The winner gets a silver chalice that can easily hold a couple bottles of champagne.

The America’s Cup is arguably the best-known sailing race in the world. It started in 1851 as a throw-down between Britain and the United States, both sailing knife-like, 12-meter yachts. In the current incarnation, 72-foot catamarans from countries far and wide will be crewed by hired-gun sailors making six-figure salaries, competing in a round-robin series of matches, with the winner earning the right to take on Team Oracle, the current America’s Cup champion, in a best-of-seven series.
The race has recently been embroiled in legal challenges and petty billionaire backbiting, but in 2013, the America’s Cup will be hosted by the Golden Gate Yacht Club in shark-infested San Francisco Bay. The winner gets the oldest active trophy in international sport, a rather hideous-looking metal thing the size of a small child.

The America’s Cup World Series is a tune-up for the America’s Cup, with crews from the U.S., New Zealand, France, Sweden, Italy, Spain, China and Korea. They race specially designed 45-foot, carbon fiber, wing-sailed cats that can triple wind speed and hit 30-plus knots. In 2012, they will battle it out in Naples and Venice, Italy, and then Newport, Rhode Island, from June 23 to July 1. The winner at each venue gets a large silver plate.

The Velux 5 Oceans Race calls itself the Ultimate Solo Challenge. It covers 30,000 nautical miles, making it the longest single-handed sailing event in the world and the longest race for individuals in any sport. Every four years, a small handful of crazed challengers skipper standardized Eco 60s around the globe, starting in France with stopovers in South Africa, New Zealand, Uruguay and South Carolina. The last race was in 2010-’11. The winner received a glass trophy that looks like a little blue pancake boat.

The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race was conceived in 1995 by well-known yachtsman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and, for pay, gives amateur crew members the chance to sail around the world. The organizers put together a fleet of identical 68-foot yachts, each named for a specific place — usually a city — and provide qualified skippers to lead each 17-person team. The crews are comprised of people from all walks of life, who can either sign up for the whole race, at a cost of $68,335, or one or more legs, at $16,520 a pop.
The Clipper race follows the prevailing currents and winds. The 40,000-mile jaunt takes 11 months, has 15 stages and stops in eight ports. The race is currently underway. The boats just left Australia, heading for New Zealand. Maybe the Volvos will catch them.

The World Match Racing Tour is the only professional monohull series now that the America’s Cup has decided to go with the big cats. Nine World Championship events are held each year across the globe in on-the-water stadiums, following a match-race format, using one-design racing yachts that change for each event. The top point-getter receives a cool $500,000 and a silver chalice crowned with blue glass sails.

photo by Stan Schreyer
The feather-light Extreme 40s reach such high speeds they can go air-bound.

The Extreme Sailing Series started in 2007 as part of the in-port events surrounding the Volvo Ocean Race and is now in its fifth season.
This is the Formula 1 version of sailing, featuring Extreme 40s, feather-light, carbon multi-hulls that literally take to the air as they scream along at powerboat speeds. This is stadium sailing, taking place in harbors or along coastlines, where thousands of people can watch the flying hulls in action.
Some of the world’s top match racers battle it out on short triangle courses that guarantee spectacular crashes, barrel-roll flips and exploding boats. Each race takes 15 to 20 minutes, and about eight are run, with VIP hot seats where you can join the four-man crew and get launched like a pro. There’s big prize money for the winners. And this is probably the future of sailing.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Volvo Ocean Race 2011/2012 - Leg #1 - 6,500 Grueling Miles From Alicante, Spain to Capetown, South Africa

40,000 Miles of Heartbreak and Thrills

The Volvo Ocean Race is back on the water

The Volvo fleet leaves Alicante, Spain, at the start of Leg One.
The machines are scary sharp, the crews wear bright and sexy clothing and the thrills and spills will keep you coming back for your fear-factor fix.

That’s sailing we’re talking about, not Grand Prix auto racing.
While we await Christmas and winter, one of the biggest shows in the world is playing out. So take a break from holiday madness for a turn on the water.
Follow the racers round the world at and in Bay Weekly.

The Curse of Leg One

Presided over by a prince and princess — Felipe and Letizia of Asturias — the 11th Volvo Ocean Race began with fanfare and fireworks. It ended with a curse.
In Alicante, Spain, as in every port along the 39,270-nautical-mile course, the racers compete in an in-port race before taking to open waters.
According to Volvo lore, the boat that wins the first in-port race is doomed to a mechanical breakdown in Leg One.
The curse delivered.

Strike One

Englishman Ian Walker skippered Abu Dhabi from the United Arab Emirates — the first-ever entry from an Arab country — to a 12-minute victory in the in-port race.
photo by Paul Todd; Volvo Ocean Race
After winning the first in-port race, Abu Dhabi was knocked out when its mast splintered in rough waters.
The next day, the fleet barreled west out of the Mediterranean toward the tricky bottleneck at Gibraltar, battling a fierce gale and a nasty current. Just six hours and 84 miles into the 6,500-nautical-mile leg to Cape Town, they were crashing along in total darkness when their mast shattered into three pieces.
Crewman Wade Morgan bravely jumped into the sea to cut the rigging loose so they could retrieve the million-dollar mast. They motored back to Alicante, where they spent the next few days installing a new mast before jumping back into the race. After a day of getting thrashed in heavy weather, they withdrew. If they had broken their only remaining mast, they were out of the Volvo for good, and testing a new mast under stormy conditions was not the way to go. So scratch the Arabs in Leg One.

Strike Two

That same evening, Team Sanya — the first Chinese entry in Volvo history — was smashing along the southern coast of Spain when the boat started to take on water. The wind was blowing 43 knots with 35-foot waves when a long gash opened up along the starboard bow.
photo by Marc Bow; Volvo Ocean Race
On Leg One Sanya was knocked out of commission with a gash in the hull.
“We suddenly felt a very odd lurch, like dragging the keel through soft mud. We could hear the noise of water coming into the bow,” wrote the skipper, two-time Volvo winner Mike Sanderson. “For sure if the watertight doors had not been shut, we would have been sunk. We got the pumps going … our situation stabilized, and we suspended racing and headed to the nearest port.”
After much debate, the team decided to ship the boat to South Africa. Scratch the Chinese.

Strike Three

Volvo wisdom says that once you enter the Atlantic, you head west — away from your destination — catch the Trade Winds and tack south toward the mark off Brazil that all the boats must pass to port.
But Frank Cammas, skippering Groupama, France’s first Volvo entry in many a moon, decided to test fate and head due south, hugging the African Coast where a steady easterly was making for fast sailing. But the winds off Africa are fickle. When they spit you out at the point where it’s a straight shot southwest to Brazil, you are facing a vast windless zone known as the Diablo Triangle. Scratch the French.

Riding the Wind

Meanwhile, back west, the three remaining boats had finally hit the Trade Winds, had tacked south and were running at a 20-knot clip with Puma in a knock-down drag-out with Telefonica, while Camper clung to third about 100 miles back pinballing through the Doldrums.
With half the race over and 3,000 miles to go, Puma was first through the non-scoring gate at the island of Fernando de Noranha. As they crossed the equator, King Neptune handed out silly pills and the virgins on each boat were ceremoniously humiliated.
The big question when you’re racing to Cape Town is when to stop sailing south and start heading east. Standing between you and a frosty Castle Lager is another windless expanse of ocean the size of Texas called the St. Helena High, where hot air meets cold and mixes unpredictably in the South Atlantic Convergence Zone. That always spells trouble.
Telefonica pulled the trigger first and made a break to the east before Puma knew what hit her, taking the lead as the boats prepared to scoot around St. Helena’s bottom and hit the stormy cold-weather wall of wind that had produced the 24-hour world distance record for monohulls in the last Volvo Race (596.6 nautical miles for Ericsson 4 under Captain Torben Grael in 2009).
Media crewman Hamish Cooper, aboard Camper, wrote, “It’s like being on a low-flying aeroplane.’’

Strike Four

On day 17, 2,150 miles from Cape Town, Puma’s skipper, Ken Read, radioed in to Ocean Race headquarters. “We were beam reaching in 22 to 23 knots of breeze with eight to 10 foot waves … in the middle of freakin’ nowhere … when the mast failed.” Scratch the Americans.
photo by Armory Ross; Volvo Ocean Race
After a broken mast knocked Puma out of Leg One, it was loaded aboard the freighter Team Brenen and shipped to Cape Town.
To join the fleet for Leg Two, Puma faced a logistical nightmare.
Cooper described the first step: “We were dehydrated of diesel, sucking fumes. With each new jug pulled aboard, roped in hand-over-hand from the deck of the super-freighter Zim Monaco, came another pile of miles toward our mid-Atlantic salvation island of Tristan.”
Tristan Da Cunha, a speck of lava in the South Atlantic, is the world’s most remote settlement. A former British outpost known as the Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, Tristan is only seven miles wide with a population of 262, mostly lobstermen. After a few days of playing cow-pasture golf, hiking the volcanic peaks and scarfing down fresh lobster with cold lager, the crew motored over to the lee side of the island to meet its rescuers.
Their boat, Volvo-veteran Mar Mostro, was hoisted by crane onto the pitching deck of a cargo ship specially outfitted with a cradle so the Puma shore team could make repairs as they motored the 1,200 miles to Cape Town, where a new mast would be installed.

Telefonica Victorious

photo by Ian Roman; Volvo Ocean Race
After 21 days at sea, Telefonica sailed into Cape Town, more than 200 miles ahead of the next boat.
Meanwhile, Telefonica avoided breakdown and rode the Cape Doctor, the steady southeast breeze around Cape Town, to victory, finishing in a little over 21 days and beating Camper by 210 miles and Groupama by 830 miles.
After so much drama, the finish was almost anti-climactic. Leg One was more about survival than strategy, and the sailing wounded, Puma, Sanya and Abu Dhabi, still have much work ahead if they are going to make the in-port race on December 10.
Next stop: Abu Dhabi.

Leader Board After Leg One

The Volvo Ocean Race uses a high scoring system, with the overall winner the team with the most points at the end of the race. All legs count with no discards allowed.
For leg points, the winner is awarded the total of the number of entries (six) multiplied by five; i.e. 6 x 5 = 30 points for the winner. For in-port races, the ratio is six boats multiplied by one, accounting for approximately 20 percent of the total points on offer.

Meet the Volvo Teams

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (United Arab Emirates): Englishman Ian Walker, a double Olympic Medalist and 2008-’09 Volvo skipper, has recruited a mongrel crew of old hands to sail the black, falcon-crested boat called Azzam (Determination), a radically designed boat by Bruce Farr of Annapolis and built by Italy’s Persico Apa in Bergamo.

Camper (Spain and New Zealand): Spanish shoemaker Camper is teaming up with a seasoned crew of Kiwis led by three-time Volvo veteran Chris Nicholson aboard a Marcelino Botin-designed boat built by Cookson Boats in Auckland, New Zealand.

Groupama (France): French offshore-legend Franck Cammas competes in the first two legs of the race with a veteran French and Swedish crew. Cammas has only signed on for the first two legs. Then he will leave and a new, and at this point undisclosed, skipper will be hired to run the boat, designed by Argentinean Juan Kouyoumdjian, who already has two Volvo winners under his belt.

Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg (United States): American Ken Read returns at the helm after a strong showing in 2008-’09 aboard Mar Mostro, the Sea Monster, another Juan Kouyoumdjian-designed boat built at New England Boatworks in Newport, Rhode Island.

Team Sanya (China): China’s first Volvo entry flies the Phoenix bird and has a mostly veteran New Zealand crew led by two-time, Volvo-winning Kiwi skipper Mike Sanderson aboard the refitted
Telefonica Blue, a podium finisher in the 2008-’09 race.

Team Telefonica (Spain): Dual Olympic medalist Iker Martinez leads Team Telefonica on its third successive Volvo Ocean Race with a veteran Spanish and Brazilian crew sailing a third-generation Volvo 70 boat designed by Juan Kouyoumdjian and built at the King Marine shipyard in Valencia, Spain.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Anasazi Strip - Chapter 37 - Part II

              It had taken Barry Smoot almost three hours to secure the warrant and drive down to Kanab from Cedar City. He had arrived with little time to spare.
“You wouldn’t happen to be Judge Keating, would you?” Barry asked the distinguished-looking, white-haired man standing in the hatchway of the plane.

The mustachioed gentleman glared down at the Sheriff. “I most certainly am. How may I assist you, Officer?”

Barry stopped beneath the older man and took off his hat to wipe his sweaty brow. “I’d like to ask you some questions, Judge. If you don’t mind.”

The Judge scowled. “Concerning?”

“Well, it’s about a murder case we’re working on. We have reason to believe that the helicopter you were flying in this morning might have been used by a fella named B.T. Saunders to commit several felonies. You wouldn’t happen to know Saunders, would you?”

The Judge took a sip of his beer before answering. “I believe he is a helicopter pilot for Arizona Strip Nuclear. I am a stockholder in that company and I have heard his name mentioned in the context of our mining operations.”

“Have you ever met him before?”

“It is entirely possible. What did you say your name was?”

“Sheriff Barry Smoot.”

“I may have met this Mr. Saunders before, Sheriff Smoot. I meet many people in my line of work. However, at my age, one tends to forget a large number of the names and faces.”

Barry smiled absent-mindedly; there was something about this man that he did not like. “You just getting back from the ASN mine?”

The Judge ran his right index finger along the rim of the beer bottle as he spoke. “That is correct. I try and stop in at the ASN mine every month or so, to see how the business is progressing. I met the head engineer at a new hole that is being drilled about thirty miles from the ASN office. I inspected the site with Mr. Todd Krieter for several hours, and then I flew back here to Kanab.”

“That’s a real nice plane you got there, Judge,” said Barry as he tucked in his shirttail.

“It is my pride and joy, Sheriff, replied the Judge as he caressed the side of the plane.

“Mind if I come aboard and have a look around?”

The Judge frowned.  “For what reason?”

“Well now, I noticed that you’ve got a lot of boxes inside there, and I was sort of wondering what you might be carrying?”

“Frankly, Sheriff, that is none of your business, growled the Judge.

Barry’s eyes raised with interest. “People around here are usually more than happy to help the police do their job – except, of course, when they got something to hide.”

“You can save that kind of insulting talk for the locals, Sheriff. In America, a man has the right to his privacy. I am well within my rights to refuse your request to inspect my airplane.”

“Suit yourself,” replied Barry as he pulled a letter from his back pocket. “Would you mind telling me what’s in the boxes?”

The Judge blushed with anger as he began yelling at the policemen. “I most definitely mind, Officer Coot!” thundered the Judge, purposely mispronouncing the Sheriff’s name. “Do you have trouble understanding the English language, or are you just dim-witted?”

Barry’s jaw muscles tightened as he struggled to control his temper. It had been a long time since anyone, other than maybe a drunk, had addressed him in that tone. “I just asked you a simple question. If you don’t want to be neighborly, that’s fine, but you don’t have to get rude about it.”

“I pump a great deal of money into the local economy through my very substantial investments in the ASN mine. It is my way of being neighborly. As a retired federal judge, I not only have an excellent understanding of how the law works, but I also have a profound respect for individual freedom. I take great exception to any law enforcement officer who uses his position of authority and trust to intimidate his fellow citizens. And if you persist with your present line of questioning, I will be forced to take up this matter with your superiors.”

“That’s your right, Judge,” said Barry with a tight-lipped smile. “But I’m still awful darn curious why a fellow like you – a retired federal judge, and all – would refuse to help a police officer with a murder investigation?”

The Judge dismissed the sheriff with a wave of his left hand. “I have said all I care to say to you, Sheriff. Now if you would be so kind as to move your vehicle, I have important business elsewhere and would like to depart from this little paradise.”