Rudder - June 2013

Tribute To Olympic Champion

Andrew Simpson

Andrew “Bart” Simpson tragically lost his life in a training accident on S.F. Bay.Our worst fears about racing in the new AC72 class of high-speed racing machines have been realized as Artemis crewmember Andrew “Bart” Simpson perished during a training accident on San Francisco Bay as the team was preparing for this summer’s America’s Cup regatta.

In what is a terrible tragedy, Simpson, 36, who was born in Chertsey, Surrey, and lived in Sherborne, North Dorset in Great Britain, leaves behind a wife and two young children after efforts to resuscitate him failed.

He was trapped in the water and underneath the platform wreckage of the collapsed catamaran for possibly more than 10 minutes before being pulled out in a rescue attempt by his crew.

“Andrew was one of the 11-man crew aboard Artemis Racing’s AC72 catamaran which capsized during training,” said Artemis Team CEO Paul Cayard. “All other crew are accounted for. Simpson, however, was trapped underneath the boat and despite attempts to revive him, by doctors afloat and subsequently ashore, his life was lost.”

Simpson won an Olympic gold medal in the Star Class in Beijing in 2008, crewing with his best friend and Artemis chief helmsman Iain Percy. The dynamic duo won a silver medal in the London Olympic Games last year. Unfortunately, for the time being the Star Class has been retired from the Olympics, but that is another story for another day.

Simpson joined the Artemis crew as a strategist. The team’s yacht was out training with Oracle Team USA in the “triangle” between Treasure, Alcatraz and Angel islands, on an afternoon when the conditions were fairly moderate, with winds blowing around 20 knots and a light flood tide.

The America’s Cup Race Management (ACRM) will lead an investigation on what caused the accident with the San Francisco Police Department and the U.S. Coast Guard.

It is possible that the catamaran had a structural failure and broke apart, leaving the crew little or no time to react, though it is important to stress that it may take weeks before investigators piece together the circumstances that led to the accident.

In a media conference that was arranged to give the Artemis team “time to properly grieve,” officials outlined the process that will take place in the coming weeks to work together to understand what led to this tragic occurrence and to hopefully ensure that it will not happen again.

Iain Murray, the ACRM’s chief executive officer, will be in charge. Murray, who commands the respect and admiration of the entire America’s Cup community, was visibly shaken by the event, speaking thoughtfully as he addressed the media, federal and local officials.

“Andrew was a very good friend, it is hard to believe he is gone,” Murray said. “He was out doing what he loved, at the highest level. This will not lessen the tragedy until we understand the consequences. We take the safety of our sport very seriously and respect the ocean at all times.”

Paul Cayard said, “The entire Artemis Racing team is devastated by what happened. Our heartfelt condolences are with Andrew’s wife and family.

“Our prayers are with Andrew Simpson’s family, his wife and kids, and also the rest of my teammates,” said Cayard. “It’s a shocking experience to go through, and we have a lot to deal with in the next few days in terms of assuring everybody’s well-being.” 

ACEA CEO Stephan Barclay said, “Andrew was an immensely popular and respected member of the sailing community, and his two Olympic medals were testament to his talent. His easy-going personality made him loved by many; always friendly, always smiling and always supportive of others.”

Torbjörn Törnqvist, Chairman of Artemis Racing, said, “Our thoughts are with Andrew’s family, who suffered a tragic loss yesterday – of a son, a father, and a husband. As our friend and teammate, Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson was central to Artemis Racing, both in the course of racing and our lives. His presence and personality was a binding force and he will be missed.

“Right now, the primary focus of Artemis Racing is on the well-being of our team members and their families,” said Törnqvist. “The America’s Cup competition will remain second to that.”

In a statement from the team, “Artemis Racing will conduct a thorough analysis and review of this accident and will be looking at how the risks inherent to such competitive sailing can be limited in the future for the safety of the team and all competitors in the sailing community.”

Percy said, “I lost my closest friend of over 25 years, the friendliest and kindest man I have ever met. All of our thought should be with his wife and two amazing boys who meant the world to him.”

Sir Ben Ainslie, from Oracle Racing and one of Great Britain’s greatest Olympic champions, said, “This is such a tragedy. Andrew was such a wonderful husband, father, friend and one of the nicest people you would ever meet. The only solace I can find is that he died doing something which he loved. I have such fond memories of growing up sailing together as kids and then as adults. I will miss him so much. My thoughts and prayers are with Leah, their two boys and their family.”

Similar salutations came in from all corners of yacht racing’s extended family and community, including Oracle Racing Team USA CEO Russell Coutts and skipper Jimmy Spithill.

Barclay said, “It’s too early to speculate about the causes of the accident. Iain will conduct the review and will liaise with the San Francisco Police Department and the United States Coast Guard and any other third-party experts as necessary.”

Iain Murray is a veteran ocean racer and America’s Cup sailor, having been part of four America’s Cup campaigns. His knowledge of the sport is thorough and he declined to speculate on the causes, or prejudge the results of the review.

“All we know is that the boat ended up capsized, the hulls upside down, broken in half,” said Murray. “The split seconds from when the boat was sailing upwind to the pictures that we’ve all seen (of the boat turned upside down and broken apart), there’s a gap in there and that’s what we need to fill in and find out what happened.”

Artemis Racing chase boats were assisted in the recovery effort by members of Oracle Team USA, Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa Challenge 2013, all of whom were onsite observing the training session.

“This is a tragic reminder of the challenges faced by sailors on the water, whether they’re commercial sailors or recreational or professional sailors,” said Captain Matt Bliven of the U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Francisco, which will liaise with Murray on the review.

Bliven said, “It also underlines the importance of adequate training and proper gear to minimize the impact when something goes wrong. That’s something we’ve consistently seen from the America’s Cup organization and the participating teams – their level of preparation and training to avert these types of mishaps.”

No timetable has been placed on completing the review. The San Francisco Police Department is also conducting its own review as normal procedure when there is loss of life.

“Iain’s going to conduct his review and it’ll be thorough,” Barclay said. “I have every expectation that we will host a spectacular event here in the summer, but I’m not going to prejudge it. Iain will conduct his review and we will see the outcome and recommendations of that.”

“We’re devastated by the news from San Francisco,” said John Derbyshire, Performance Director for the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) in Great Britain. “Andrew is someone I’ve worked closely with since the age of 16 – he was a great talent, and a key figure in our world class program over many years culminating in his well-deserved Olympic success. He was a huge inspiration to others, both within the British Sailing Team and across the nation and our deepest sympathies go out to his family at this terrible time.”

The ACRM has taken extreme precaution and preparedness to ensure safety at sea for the teams. Safety measures include: updated high-speed support tenders, trained paramedics in wetsuits, knives to allow crew members to cut themselves out of danger, and “buddy-breather” cartridges to help a trapped sailor to breathe under water for up to 5 minutes.

All competitors on the water wear strong protective safety gear, including helmets and padding to protect themselves. They are required to go through rigorous safety training. All training practices have been under the watchful eye of S.F. Police and U.S. Coast Guard authorities.

Murray said, “Artemis was in their last day of training on ‘Big Red’ and unfortunately it was definitely its last day. They were attempting a bear away, which is one of the more difficult maneuvers in any fast boat be it a skiff or catamaran, when you change the direction and the wind flow across the boat.”

Oracle 17 was attempting a bear away when it capsized last fall under much more extreme wind and tidal conditions.

“Capsizes are part of the game. We are constantly working to improve the way we manage these boats on and off the water,” said Murray. “The boat nosedived and capsized. It was broken into many pieces. It appears that ‘Bart’ was trapped under solid sections, out of view and out of sight to the myriad people onboard trying to locate him, including proper divers with apparatus. All the crews on these boats have been trained underwater and carry oxygen.

“The boat has never foiled,” said Murray, when asked. “The area on the water is not particularly dangerous; it is where we took the Red Bull Youth AC teams to train, but it is in an area that is not part of the race course.”

Barclay said, “It is important to communicate to those who understand the America’s Cup, that we are like a big family. Yes, we bicker, quarrel, but when something happens to one of our members we all feel the loss, and this is a big loss. Any person passing away in any sport is tragic. We will not be held to a timetable, but we recognize the time issue. Nothing is off the table (in terms of the investigation), but it will be very public and open to scrutiny.”

Nothing we say or do can ever replace the loss of life in sport. It is sometimes part of the risk of competing at the highest level. It is easy to say that Andrew died doing what he loved, and at the end very few of us will probably be able to say that, but in the end it provides little comfort to those who knew him and loved him.



Christening Day For Oracle Racing Team USA

Oracle Racing’s spanking new AC72Like an intricate complicated web, the formula for sowing the seeds toward the secrets of success a second time around can be transformed into a genetically designed “engine of creation.” These are rare breeds of flying America’s Cup monsters and for Oracle Team Racing USA (OTRU) it may be just the prescription the doctor has ordered, because with the America’s Cup finals just around the corner, a third time will not be a charm. It’s all as simple as our abc’s…

Just a few months removed from a chilling somersault in an extreme ebb tide while “pushing the envelope” in their first AC72 class catamaran, the sparkling new Oracle 17(c) with its Yanmar “flaming red” front end was bathed with a splash of Moet champagne delivered with a smashing blow to the bowsprit by Oracle Corp’s chief marketing officer Judith Sim.

Under bright blue skies, with families, VIPs, invited guests and, yes, the media in attendance, the atmosphere surrounding the launch of Oracle’s new boat had the feeling of a big fun picnic, with much of the politics of the past three years set aside for a true celebration of this historical moment in San Francisco’s storied maritime history as the Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) christens their new champion.

“This boat is a little bit different from the last one,” said Oracle Racing design director Dirk Kramers. “We’ve changed a few things around in trying to improve the aerodynamic features and there are still a few things to come, which we’ll see in the next few months. But this is just one step along the way.”

Ms. Sim joined Oracle in 1991 and has held various customer-related and marketing positions during her tenure. Today, she is head of corporate marketing programs including field marketing, corporate communications, global customer programs, advertising, campaigns, events and corporate branding. She has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California, Davis.

Team skipper Jimmy Spithill said, “We’ve learned a lot from foiling Boat 1(b). We’ve made some changes to our foils, to our aero packages on this boat, and then there are a lot of refinements in the systems and how the guys sail the boat. There’s so much that’s gone into Boat 2(c), and there’ll be so much that goes into it in the future.”

Oracle’s new catamaran is bathed with a splash of Moet champagneKramers said, “It’s really about how you put the whole package together. Sometimes one area becomes a bit more important than another, but in the big picture you have to make sure you have no weaknesses. You have to make sure you do everything well, or well enough.”

Just as the team was going to test the waters with their new toy, the winds kicked up into the 20s and the boat was brought back into the compound at Pier 80. With so much on the line, there was no reason to risk damage to the fragile racing machine until the structural loads and other systems are properly tested.

Spithill said, “It’s an awesome day. We’re all very, very excited to get it out on the water. We hope to develop the fastest AC72 that will hit the Bay. There’s been a lot of energy, a lot of hours, put into this boat from the entire team. Now, it’s up to the sailors, along with the support of the rest of the team, to get out there and really try to get the most out of this boat.”

Spithill recognized the months of work put into the design and build of the boat in preparation for the launch. “We have the best, most committed shore team, build team, design team, and the entire team is behind us, supporting us,” he said. “They’re the first to arrive, the last to leave, work 7 days a week, just to provide us with a reliable, race-winning boat, ready to go.”

“A last shout out to the shore/build teams,” fb’d Oracle team member Shannon Falcone said, “as it’s hard to fathom the effort put in and sacrifices made in order to give us this amazing feat of engineering within a few days of its original launch date… and to rebuild boat 1 during its construction!”

Oracle Racing CEO Russell Coutts said during the launch, “There’s been an enormous amount of work that has gone into this boat. It represents extreme performance and extreme engineering. It represents a significant improvement in performance over where we’ve been before. And probably most importantly, this represents the boat that is going to defend the America’s Cup, for America, in America.”

The event included remarks from San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, who noted that this is a week of celebration as the Port of San Francisco marks its 150th anniversary tomorrow.

“The Engines of Creation and The Coming Era of Nanotechnology” was a 1986 molecular nanotechnology book written by K. Eric Drexler from Stanford, who envisioned much of the technology we now take for granted. The America’s Cup has embraced many of science’s advances in one way or another over its 162-year history. Though, probably not growing a new boat from a seed in the ground!

“We’re going fast, probably faster than a car on the Golden Gate Bridge,” said team tactician John Kostecki, from San Rafael. “Upwind we’re doing speeds of around 20 knots, downwind we’re doing speeds over 40 knots. It’s really going to be interesting to take into account the current, that is ever-so-changing, and the winds that are ever-so-changing here on the Bay. That’s what keeps San Francisco an interesting and exciting place to race sailboats, because it’s always different every day.”

A true celebration and picnic for the Oracle Team USA’s families and other invited guests“It’s all coming together,” said trimmer Joey Newton. “It was a tough time after the capsize, and we felt like we were a little behind the other teams, and I think we were. Now, it really feels like we have everything pointed in the right direction, and we’re starting to make pretty big steps. We’ve got high hopes for this boat, and I’m sure it’s going to be fast.”

Spithill said, “This is a big day for Oracle Team USA. Tom Slingsby and team won the match racing, and finished second in the fleet racing, meaning our team wins a second consecutive America’s Cup World Series (ACWS) championship! We are still the only team to hold the trophy since its inception in 2011. At the same time here, the team rolled out our second AC72 and stepped the wing. This was a huge effort by the designers and shore/build teams; great to see the depth and talent across the team in action.”

All the attention is ratcheting up as the pace of progress quickens with the start of racing just a couple months away. Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) has started to develop their compound at Pier 30 as the team’s AC72, Aotearoa, is shipping out of the Port of Tauranga on its way to the Port of Oakland.

More than seventy 40-foot containers are on their way to the Bay Area for ETNZ with equipment that includes: two 12-meter chase boats, a 14-meter catamaran tender, a hydraulic travel lift, two 40-meter-long wing sails, and the AC72 catamarans. The team hopes to be on the water by May 23.

Aotearoa is New Zealand’s native Maori’s name in their language for New Zealand. The Kiwis won the America’s Cup in 1995 with the ACC yacht Black Magic. They lost the Cup in 2003 with their radical “hula” designed NZL-81.

Team Luna Rossa will be arriving in Alameda as you read this and a new Artemis AC72 is on its way to being readied for testing, so that by mid-June all four teams with five boats will be on the water at a furious pace.

The practice action will be as exciting to watch as much of the racing, with the teams crisscrossing the Bay in search of each other to drag race a bit in preparation for the start of the Louis Vuitton Cup in July and the GGYC’s own version of defense trials between 17 2(c) and 17 1(d).

During the launch festivities, I caught up with Oracle Racing’s General Manager Grant Simmer. He was the young 26-year-old navigator on Australia 2, which won the Cup in 1983 from Dennis Conner and the New York Yacht Club, ending the longest winning streak in the history of sports.

Since then Simmer has been part of eight America’s Cup campaigns through the years in a variety of roles. He most recently worked with Team Origin from Great Britain before they withdrew from the 2013 event shortly after its inception.

Simmer was one of the “Alinghi 5” who defected from New Zealand in 2000 to sail for the fledgling new team from Switzerland. Simmer left with Coutts, Brad Butterworth, Murray Jones and Simon Daubney, in a move that really sparked “free agency” in the America’s Cup and led to Coutts being “banished” from the 2007 Cup in Valencia, Spain.

Simmer said, “Having won the America’s Cup with and without Russell Coutts, and then having been beaten by his team in 2010, I think we have healthy respect of each other’s abilities and what it is required to win.

“As a team, I think we have recovered well from the capsize,” said Simmer. “It forced us to make some design changes to Boat 1, and if you look back on it, if we hadn’t capsized we would have been slower to make those decisions.

“We decided that while we were repairing and modifying Boat 1, we were building Boat 2 and we never slowed down,” said Simmer. “So this was the date that we were originally planning to launch from way back. It is really quite something to make your target date from a long way out.”

In hindsight it may turn out, other than trashing their first wingsail, you’re only allowed three, that capsizing the first boat may have ultimately allowed the team to modify their first hulls sooner rather than later. They had accumulated eight days’ worth of data when the boat tumbled over and was washed out to sea.

Oracle Racing’s blazing new AC72 at speed in the South BaySimmer said, “We have got a lot to learn yet and changes are still coming, but Boat 2(a) is the next step in that process, with slightly different geometry. I can’t predict where we will be by September (in design and modifications), but if we think that we are there today, we are wrong. We are going to continually develop the new boat.

“We now have to commission the boat, load it up, there is some structural testing. There are so many pieces that have to come together to make sure everything is OK. Are there any issues from an engineering or construction point of view? Most likely not, but you load it up slowly, so we can be sure; we are going to be very cautious to make sure it’s right before we start pushing it.”

Simmer continued, “Then we learn how it performs, how stable it is when it’s foiling. There will be lessons learned in that process and then we have got changes cued up to then try, the priority right now at this moment is the platform. When we get that finished, we will have a look at wing 3 and again we have to ease that in gently. We are happy with the wing we got on the boat now. It is such a big project to build wings; all the control systems are so difficult to manage.”

Spithill said, “Quite simply, we’ve got to develop the fastest 72 on the Bay and we have to keep this process going. I think we’ll be doing this until the last race of the America’s Cup. We’ll be doing everything we can to keep modifying, keep improving, and that’s what’s great about this team. We have a proactive build team and engineering team. You give them a challenge and they grab it with both hands and run with it.”

Spithill says he’s looking forward to seeing all three challengers sailing on San Francisco Bay. “For us, it will be fantastic to have a couple more boats out on the Bay. We look forward to lining up against them. We’ve been doing a little bit of work with Artemis and that’s been really beneficial for both of us. Right now, I think it’s too early to say who is a threat. Until we line the boats up on the water we won’t really know.

“But as far as our sailing team goes, we’ve got to take a lot of confidence from our results in the ACWS,” said Spithill. “The other teams haven’t been able to deliver, which would be quite concerning for them.”

Oracle Team USA has won all three of the 2012-13 match racing titles at the America’s Cup World Series and in Naples. Tom Slingsby finished what Spithill started; winning the fleet racing season championship for the team.

Spithill did have one piece of friendly advice for the newcomers to San Francisco Bay: “Don’t underestimate how quickly you run out of room when you’re sailing at 40+ knots. The thing about the Bay is how small it is in these boats. You don’t have the luxury of just running for miles if you get in trouble or you need to sort something out. It can happen very fast here. But they’ve spent a lot of hours on their boats, they’ll adapt quite quickly and pretty soon I think it will become pretty crowded out there.”

The team has spent some of the time after the launch of the new AC72 training and testing different foil shapes on its AC45 against Artemis Racing on their AC45.

Spithill said, “We’re learning a lot about the boat with foils in the pre-start. We haven’t done that at all with the big boat. And it’s always nice to go against another team, because you’re under pressure and you don’t want to lose.”


27 Years Later, Looking Back At The StFYC’s Cup Christenings

A blast from the past.In the summer of 1986, the St. Francis Yacht Club (StFYC) christened two America’s Cup challengers, one evolutionary (February 1986) and one revolutionary (June 1986). In a celebration of these special events during the America’s Cup “summer of sailing,” we are going to look back at some of sailing’s seminal moments here in the Bay Area.

We are fortunate to be the home of several of the finer yacht clubs in the country and certainly around the planet. That said, certainly the StFYC is ranked among the best in the world. The yacht club was founded in 1927 adjacent to the harbor that was built as part of Panama Pacific Exposition of 1915.

The club hosts one of the premier annual yachting events with the Rolex Big Boat Series. Its members have captured numerous championships and titles in most of the prestigious sailing in the United States and Europe. Its members include Paul Cayard, the late Tom Blackaller, ACEA’s Stan Honey, Oracle Racing’s John Kostecki, among others including the subject of this month’s feature, former Commodore and current curator and club historian, the legendary Robert C. Keefe.

Keefe was the founder of the Barient Winch Company in Sausalito and an esteemed racer in his own right. In 1964, Keefe convinced Commodore Stan Natcher that StFYC should create a series to showcase big boat yachting talent from around the world. Only nine yachts started the first Big Boat Series (BBS), but an annual tradition was started and will continue again this year in late September after the America’s Cup finals are completed.

We started our discussion about the StFYC’s America’s Cup challenge in 1986. The Club formed the Golden Gate Challenge, which according to Keefe was the “total brainchild of Blackaller.”

Keefe said, “I had been involved in 12-Meters for some time in Newport, RI. There were some people here who felt they could raise the money and that was all that Thomas needed. He ran the whole program, he sailed the boat, he built the boat, it was a Thomas David Blackaller effort.

“Though, what he didn’t have was the checkbook to carry it forward,” recalled Keefe. “But, there were a group of men here who said, OK, we’ll do it. We built the first boat (US 49) in Stockton (at Stevens Marine). The boat was designed by Gary Mull and really what she was, was a Sparkman & Stephens 12-Meter as he saw it, with a winged keel on it.

“There would have been no 12-Meter America’s Cup program here at the StFYC, if there hadn’t have been a successful 6-Meter program here leading into it,” said Keefe. “One follows the other.”

US 49 was christened in February of 1986. She was nicknamed “E1” or “Evolution 1.”

“To some degree we knew early on that the first boat was not very quick,” Keefe said. “We had sailed other 12-Meters enough to know what boat speed was; and she didn’t have it.

“Then Buddy Melges was here with an older boat Clipper while their 12-Meter Heart of America was being built and that older boat was obviously quicker and faster than US 49,” said Keefe. “We knew at that point the best we could get was a training boat to get the crew together, work on sails; we could do a lot of things with her, but we could never, had we not gotten the money from Pacific Telesis, have ever sent that first boat to Australia.

“The original idea was to go to Australia with the first boat, if it turned out to be a really good boat. But, at the same time we were able to acquire some corporate help and we had never really done that before. Today, the whole thing (America’s Cup) is commercial and corporate.”

Keefe continued, “We had this connection with Pacific Telesis; they stepped in and wrote a check that allowed us to develop and get US 61 (R1 or Revolutionary 1) built. The technology was a lot more in her than anybody else’s 12.

“What we had really done was cut down the wetted service of the boat, because it will go faster if there is less of the hull in the water,” said Keefe. “We had a 44,000-lb. torpedo keel on the boat, then we balanced it with a forward rudder… and it worked! We got the boat sailing with some speed and it was OK.

“What wasn’t OK were all the controls to control the boat,” remarked Keefe. “Thomas used to describe sailing the boat ‘as a woman who has had too much to drink driving a cart of baskets through a Safeway store!’ You could never really tell what way it was going to go.

“Sometimes the boat was blazingly fast; the problem was that it was going right when you wanted it to go left. But, because US 61 (the front-ruddered boat) displayed a fair amount of speed, the other teams could see that too, though they could see that even though she was going in the wrong direction, she was going fast in the wrong direction!

“We would have felt OK 4 years from then to try it again,” said Keefe. “There was not enough time. If we had the boat another 6 or 7 months we might have been able to iron out all the problems we had. She was too unique. But, we still made the semi-finals and that was an accomplishment.”

Keefe said, “That winter I attended the 12-Meter Class Association meetings in Italy and some of the owners didn’t want to see the forward rudder; they didn’t think it was good for the class. We made a motion to have US 61 ‘grandfathered’ into the class with the support of the Kiwis and Aussies. We thought that someone else would pick her up and work with her, but there was no more development on the boat. Anyway, the boats were later sold and that was that.”

Keefe continued, “Paul Cayard was a big part of the program, but nobody paid attention to him because he was just a young man at the time. But, Blackaller did a good job at surrounding himself with talented younger sailors that had potential and with Paul it certainly was there.

“My son Kenneth with Cayard was responsible for the build of the boat, maintenance of the boat, repairs to the boat and keeping it sailing,” said Keefe. “Ken would sleep all day and work all night with his crew in Australia, then when they also needed him onboard he was there!”

Ken Keefe and Cayard had grown up together, eventually working together in multiple classes including sailing on the St. Francis Yacht Club 12-Meters.

Cayard said, “Ken and I sailed together in the Star, which is a two-man boat, in the 1984 Olympic Trials where we placed second.”


First Noah’s Ark, Now US 49 Beats The Flood!

In homage to the historic christenings of the first two America’s Cup boats launched in the Bay Area, I am dusting off the stories I wrote at the time in a blast from the past.

With thousands in attendance, and the flow of champagne dripping down the bow, with the first drops of rain mixing with the flying bits of the shattered magnum, USA US 49 was baptized into this world. With all the fanfare of Noah’s flood, San Francisco Mayor the honorable Dianne Feinstein christened the St. Francis Yacht Club’s first entry into the America’s Cup derby.

The christening of US 49 will live in infamy as the same day the rains came in the forefront of this century’s worst storm systems in Northern California. With the Golden Gate Bridge switching in the high winds, closing it down for one of the few times in its history, the new 12-Meter was adorned in the colors of the syndicate’s million dollar sponsor, Pacific Telesis.

USA has the distinction of being the first 12-Meter christened in the colors of a corporate sponsor, a brave new world indeed, not to mention the luck and timing of the draw it took to grab the 12-Meter hull number 49, in homage to the San Francisco 49’ers!

The yacht US 49 will begin sail testing in San Francisco Bay as soon as the Pacific storms subside. The beautiful white and orange trimmed 12 was designed by Gary Mull with the assistance of Heiner Meldner and many other mad scientists who sail.

A very formal setting for USA’s christening’s press conference was chaired by her honor Mayor Dianne Feinstein. One of the highlights came from charismatic USA’s skipper Tom Blackaller’s proclamation that he just may be the second coming of HMS Resolution with her captain, James Cook, and the St. Francis Yacht Club’s team mantra “isn’t just the America’s Cup, but the whole damned island itself”!

The Golden Gate Challenge announced that Cray Computers has joined as a major sponsor and the computer system was instrumental in the production of the world’s first totally computer-lofted boat.

The name of the l2-Meter USA falls in line with the patriotic theme of the other American syndicates which have christened their yachts America 2, Stars & Stripes, Eagle, and Heart of America.

Golden Gate General Manager Ron Young said that USA was not necessarily going to be the name of the second yacht now under construction at Derecktor’s Boatyard in New York.

As expected, Tom Blackaller will skipper USA, and the syndicate announced the remainder of the crew, which will include: Paul Cayard, Russ Silvestri, and project construction manager Ken Keefe.

In a somewhat lively press conference, which was attended by most of the yachting press, including Channel 9 (Alan Bond) from Perth, Australia, Blackaller returned reference to Australia’s lack of a Cray Computer system by saying: “I don’t think they do have one. That’s a little dinky country, you know.” After another question, however, Blackaller backtracked a bit saying that, “In no way are we underestimating the Australians.”

“The magnitude of our efforts should prove that, we don’t just want the Cup, we want the whole damned island,” exclaimed an exuberant Blackaller.

The addition of two corporate sponsors was a major boost to the syndicate, which has raised about $4.5 million to date. With USA in high profile now, fund-raising should pick up.

The possibility that development of the second “revolutionary” yacht could be hindered was covered by Blackaller who said, “The possibility exists that we could be curtailed from lack of funds in developing R-1.”

High-tech secrecy pervaded throughout as Gary Mull quoted the syndicate’s golden rule, “Top secret – burn before reading.” Mull said, “We have a lot of red hot ideas, and we are not going to tell you any of them. Look out, there are spies everywhere.”


The “Revolution” Begins!

The radical one has arrived! With an air of confidence among the assembled membership of the St. Francis Yacht Club and their America’s Cup syndicate the Golden Gate Challenge, San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein rocketed a bottle of magnum champagne across USA’s bow on the first swing and warned: “Aussies beware!”

On a beautiful afternoon with a blazing blue sky above and the emerald waters of SF Bay below, much to the delight of the thousands in attendance, USA’s crew baptized the radical new boat with ceremonial streams of water. As it poured forth from their buckets, it signaled to all those present that the America’s Cup world as we knew it was irrevocably changed forever.

To the untrained eye, the revolutionary new boat is indistinguishable to its sister ship US 49; dubbed E1. It looks similar above the waterline to most of the new 12-Meter Class yachts going down under to Fremantle, Western Australia.

But, to take a look below, which we can’t, lurks a radical new steering system, keel and hull shape which could be the high-tech trump card that brings the America’s Cup from the waters of a former island prison to the waters around a prison island.

Now, for the ship and crew it’s onward “ho” to wage a nautical war with those Aussie bastards!

Feinstein was on hand to lend what has been generous support from the city toward the St. Francis Yacht Club’s effort to land the America’s Cup, by proclaiming, “to the high-tech and the non high-tech, we want to show once again, San Francisco is the city that knows how!”

The revolutionary new 12 has been rumored to have everything under the sun attached to her hull, from the cutting edge of technology to the outright bizarre. This for sure, when pulled from the shed last week at Anderson’s Boatyard in Sausalito, the wind lifted up her security skirt just enough to reveal a bulbous torpedo-shaped bullet keel.

USA US 61’s revolutionary front rudder.The San Francisco Chronicle spilled the beans last week as writer Kimball Livingston reported that US 61 was sporting a rudder in front of the keel and in addition to another one in the back, or stern section of the boat.

“He’s guessing,” says Tom Blackaller, who is the team’s sailing director and skipper. As for confirming these rumors, Blackaller, never lacking for something to say, offered either a vague response or “no comment,” both of which are entirely new additions to his vocabulary.

“I am not saying I don’t know about the new boat because I do,” Blackaller said.

Security for the new boat will be tight, though there was no word from the powers that the syndicate was considering hiring great white sharks for patrol.

The revolutionary new boat was designed by naval architect Gary Mull, and scientists who sail, Alberto Calderon and Heiner Meldner. The new 12-Meter was built out of aluminum by R.E. Derecktor’s in Mamaroneck, New York.

Included in the Golden Gate Challenge’s high-tech all-star team of scientists is Meldner, a physicist from Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, here in Northern California. Meldner is considered the world’s foremost authority on super computer simulations.

His fluid dynamic programs have been incorporated on everything from the super-secret skins on nuclear submarines to these America’s Cup thoroughbreds. He was one of the chief architects behind Enterprise US 27’s fast hull design in 1977.

Calderone said, “The emphasis of the new design is control and acceleration.” A rudder in front of the keel is expected to give the yacht quicker tacking capabilities and the key to next year’s attempt to acquire sailing’s “Holy Grail”: boat speed.

The switch this time around for yacht designers to the emphasis on boat speed is because the legs on the new America’s Cup race course have been shortened by a mile to 3.5 nautical miles.

Controlling the start and arriving first to the mark will be of paramount importance for teams racing on the heavy seas and strong winds off the Western Australian Coast on the Indian Ocean.

US 61 “R1” with Blackaller at the helm will begin sail testing this week against Paul Cayard, who will steer US 49 “E1” out on our own “rough seas” off Point Bonita on the Pacific Ocean.

Cayard has previous experience sailing during the New York Yacht Club’s defense trials aboard Clipper in 1980 and Defender in 1983.

“It will take some time to learn how to sail the new boat,” explained Blackaller, who compared it to trying to ride a bicycle backwards. “Though, I don’t think that it will take an extraordinary amount of time.”

In order to test out some of their ideas and to give the crew an opportunity to become more acclimated to the idiosyncrasies on the sailing behavior of the radical new boat, the syndicate built or modified a 40 percent version of a 12-Meter. It had been sailing at an undisclosed location for the past month.

Design team coordinator Gary Mull explained that the 40 percent model was used to “Duplicate the sailing and performance qualities of the revolutionary concept. The 40 percent model will check to see if our design actually works other than in a computer and everything so far confirms that it has.

“I would guess that if other designers could see our new boat, that they will wish that they had thought of or had investigated our idea,” Mull said.

The initial concept of a front rudder steering system has been credited to Calderon and his company, Advanced Aero Mechanisms in La Jolla, CA. Calderon specifically worked on the idea of reducing hydrodynamic resistance to US 61’s hull.

When asked as to how someone goes about designing a revolutionary new boat, Calderon replied, “You don’t start with Australia 2 (the winged keel yacht that won the America’s Cup in 1983) and say, well, let’s add whiskers.

“You start with the function of the racing sailing boat,” said Calderon, then “with the foundations of physics and math you come up with the vehicle shape that does the function. Regardless of what has been done in the past with USA 49 E1, or anybody else, you see how it compares to Australia 2 and it truly is a revolutionary boat.”

USA 61 is 66 feet long, with a 12.6-inch beam and weighs in at just under 60,000 pounds. The crew onboard includes Olympic Gold Medal winners Brad Lewis and Steve Erickson, 1985 North American Finn champion Russ Sylvestri, project manager Ken Keefe and on-shore operations are handled by Jim Taylor.

During the event, the Golden Gate Challenge announced the addition of a fourth major sponsor, Robert Mondavi Wineries from Napa Valley, CA. Mondavi will join Pacific Telesis, Coca Cola and Cray Computer Systems as the top-level corporations onboard to date. Mondavi will pledge $2 toward the challenge for every bottle of Chardonnay sold in the United States.

Syndicate executive and chief supporter Bob Cole, put the effort in this light, “We are exuding confidence with very good reason and we’re approaching the role of dark horse and underdog, and that’s exactly where we intended to be all the time.”

Blackaller puts it this way, “We are just a bunch of sailors chasing a dream.”


2013 America’s Cup Updates

Led by helmsman Francesco Bruni, Luna Rossa Swordfish today won the overall championship of the America’s Cup World Series Naples, Italy. Bruni posted a thrilling win in the fleet racing finale, coming from behind on the final run in a race that saw the lead change hands three times.

The win was cathartic for the emotional Italian helmsman. Earlier in the day Luna Rossa Swordfish lost the match racing championship to Oracle Team Slingsby. Bruni was critical of his performance in the loss after leading the match early on.

“This win was the only way to forget our mistake in the match racing,” said Bruni, who will be the tactician aboard Luna Rossa Challenge’s AC72 in the upcoming Louis Vuitton Cup, America’s Cup Challenger Series (July 4-Aug. 30).

Bruni said, “The fleet race win really means a lot to me. We had an opportunity for the double win, but just missed out. I can’t thank my crew enough, Paul Campbell-James, Max Sirena, Xabi Fernandez and Manuel Modena. They did a great job today.”

Oracle Racing Slingsby celebrates a well-earned match racing championship in Naples.Tom Slingsby delivered on his stated goal: to secure the overall 2012-2013 America’s Cup World Series season championship for Oracle Racing.

Slingsby said, “I’m really proud to be getting the ACWS trophy for Oracle Racing. Jimmy Spithill and his team set it up for us. We just had to come here, do our best and luckily he gave us enough of a lead to take home the trophy.”

The second America’s Cup World Series Naples surpassed last year’s event in terms of spectators. Local event officials estimate that more than 1 million people turned out along the Naples waterfront and in the Race Village to enjoy the week-long event.

The crowds began coming out in force last Sunday with some 100,000 people estimated to have lined the shores of the Bay of Naples for the informal coastal race. The fans kept returning, lured by close racing yards from the shoreline and nightly entertainment at the regatta village.

Slingsby won the match racing championship by overtaking Bruni on the second upwind leg. After trailing by 22 seconds at the leeward gate, Slingsby showed the moves that have earned him the nickname “the wind whisperer” due to his ability to sniff out wind shifts and puffs.

Slingsby said, “It was so shifty that I honestly thought we had a good chance. I knew if we could get them out of phase on the shifts and we were in phase, huge gains could be made. We said we could catch them and I’m so glad that we did.”

Slingsby passed Bruni when the Italian failed to cover. Until that moment, Bruni had sailed a brilliant match. He showed great patience in the pre-start, stuffing Slingsby and holding him off the course.

“We did everything perfectly until that moment,” said Bruni. “We made a couple of big mistakes on the last upwind leg. The wind was shifting a lot and we had a couple of bad tacks where the boat completely stopped.”

Second place in the America’s Cup World Series season championship went to Chris Draper and Luna Rossa Piranha. The defending champions at America’s Cup World Series Naples placed fourth overall this year.

Draper, the helmsman of Luna Rossa’s AC72, said, “I think we were going so well just before the event; we probably got a little bit expectant and ahead of ourselves. But we’re pleased to place second overall in the series. There are a lot of good teams out here.”

Slingsby said, “I know that on my day I can match all the top guys in the world and beat them. This is my one chance in an America’s Cup World Series. Who knows when the next event will be so I’m trying to make the most of it.”

Coutts said, “Some people were complaining about us sending our ‘B’ or ‘C’ team. Pretty stupid thing to say when you are talking about Olympic Gold medalists! Needless to say both Tommy Slingsby and Ben Ainslie are both qualified for the match race semi-finals! Maybe we should have sent the E team?” Thanks to ACEA for contributing to this story.


ACEA CEO Stephen Barclay Looks At The Naples ACWS

The following comments are courtesy of Stephen Barclay CEO, America’s Cup Event Authority:

The closing ceremonies in Naples, Italy, as again the Italians have enthusiastically supported the ACWS.What a finale! Naples delivered huge crowds (again), great weather and exciting competition. Proof, if any was needed, that this in-shore racing in fast boats with the world’s best sailors is what the fans want.

As I have written before, it is also what the sailors want because the best excel when they are pitted against the best. To illustrate the point, there have been six different winners of the nine fleet racing competitions and four different winners of eight match racing competitions.

I believe a couple of comments from Roman Hagara and Ben Ainslie after racing on Super Sunday put the level of competition into context.

To Roman’s comment: ‘I feel I’m finally ready to race now,’ Ben replied: ‘Yeah, I thought it didn’t look too hard on TV but needed an event to get up to speed.’

And look at Emirates Team New Zealand dropping back as Dean had the team focusing on their AC72 preparation while the opposite was the case for ORACLE TEAM USA with their enforced AC45 training following the AC72 mishap.

The America’s Cup World Series has also provided career opportunities for young talent. Draper, Outteridge and Burling came into the events via Team Korea and have subsequently been picked up by Louis Vuitton Cup teams.

Additionally, Charlie Ekberg helmed Artemis Racing in Naples (Charlie is the team’s Red Bull Youth America’s Cup skipper).

Naples also showcased a new-look China Team. Four Chinese nationals are on the five-person boat, skippered, coached and led by Mitch Booth. I recall that Mitch left the helm four times on Saturday to assist his teammates – for a couple of them it was their first regatta!

We saw Xu Lijia, China’s Olympic Laser Women’s Radial gold medalist, practicing with the team and out on the boat as a guest racer. This is a team with one eye on the future.

The same could be said of Energy Team. Bruno Peyron put together, and held together, one of the few truly commercial teams. Having Yann Guichard skippering for Naples following Loick Peyron’s move to Artemis Racing proved right with Yann getting fast starts around 80 percent of the time. His 4th placing on Super Sunday highlighted how quickly he came up to speed.

On the event side we have learned a lot since the first America’s Cup World Series in Cascais, Portugal, in 2011. The Naples 2013 model is how a city, a promoter and the ACEA can work together for the benefit of all.

According to local media, Naples hotels experienced an occupancy rate of 85 percent (up from 43 percent during Easter). Local officials estimate nearly 1.5 million fans visited the 4km waterfront over the course of the week, while over 300 journalists and photographers covered the event (representing 178 outlets from 12 countries).

The America’s Cup World Series Naples was broadcast in Italy on RAI TV, where early returns showed Saturday’s 600,000 audience (peaking at 750,000) beat the F1 qualifying session into a distant second place.

Local promoter ACN paid ACEA an event fee and supplied various components of the event village and in return received local sponsorship rights including local television rights and concerts. Fifty-nine local sponsors paid varying levels of sponsorship/licensee fees to access the crowds.

ACEA in turn benefited from an event fee paid by the local promoter and reduced the onsite footprint due to key features being provided by the local promoter – the result being reduced shipping costs.

As I said, this was a model of how a city, a promoter and the ACEA can work together.

So, while we now look forward to the Summer of Racing in San Francisco, we also look back on an America’s Cup World Series that delivered great competition, fantastic TV pictures, new stars, huge crowds (some now ticketed) and a model for how we collaborate with cities and promoters. The foundation stones are there for the winner of the 34th America’s Cup.

What’s Next For The ACWS?

Stephen Barclay continues:

In the old days, you needed a boat to go and watch an America’s Cup race. Now you can walk up to the edge of the race course. Of the slew of innovations brought in for this America’s Cup, bringing the racing in from the ocean has to be most popular.

Last week a number of our race management team left for Naples, Italy, for the ninth and final America’s Cup World Series (AC World Series) event before the Louis Vuitton Cup and America’s Cup. This gave me pause to think: Has the AC World Series been worth it?

Let’s first look back to why the AC World Series was established:

1. Proof of Concept: stadium racing and a live television broadcast that captures the audience; 2. More visibility for team and event sponsors; and 3. Create an annual competition to build anticipation and excitement for the once-every-four-yearly Louis Vuitton Cup and America’s Cup.

Regarding objective 1, the answer is a resounding “yes,” it has been worth it. The AC World Series has created memorable images of the crowds lining the shore and cheering like the fans at a football match. If you ask any of the sailors if they get a buzz when they hear the roar of the crowd, you will get a very vocal ‘yes.’

Similarly regarding the TV product, if proof was needed that sailing could be exciting, the AC World Series delivered! One Emmy Award has been won plus a nomination for a second, along with USA ratings that have at least matched the 2013 NHL averages. Importantly, the ratings suggest that when viewers watch the best sailors racing America’s Cup boats, they tune-in and stay tuned-in.

We have achieved more visibility, both in terms of fans watching the events and TV viewers. As at October 2012 (the second of two events here in San Francisco), the AC World Series had delivered a cumulative TV audience of more than 250 million, nearly 12 million YouTube views, 7 million visitors to the America’s Cup website and more than 2 million spectators onsite at regattas.

The AC World Series has also seen new stars emerge… young ones!! So ‘yes,’ the AC World Series has delivered the anticipation and excitement we expected. That said, we haven’t delivered a compelling ‘annual season,’ but more a series of one-off events.

So where to go from here for the AC World Series?

First, it needs a regular season of 14 or more events. All the great competitions have a ‘season’ that includes at least 18 events/matches and we need to get close to that to make the sports pages week after week.

This will mean the AC World Series adopts a ‘hub-and-spoke’ model for its logistics: ship to a port and road/rail to multiple locations. Second, the competition needs to be for something the public can relate to: prize money! Third, costs need to be contained, which means shorter events with much less equipment and personnel taken on the road. Finally, having over-achieved as a proof-of-concept series, we need to evolve it into one with a direct and tangible connection to the America’s Cup itself.

The America’s Cup World Series has achieved what it was set up to do. The challenge now is to develop it into a financially sustainable sports property that is connected to the America’s Cup. It is certainly what the sailors want.

Thanks to Stephen Barclay, CEO ACEA for those comments.

I hope to hear from you: mark@yachtsman


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