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January 15 - ???

What the . . . ?

Photo Christopher Miller

(email Richard)

'PlayStation' Out

January 15 - Atlantic Ocean

If there was a favorite in The Race, it was Steve Fossett and 'PlayStation'. He had the most money, she'd been sailing the longest, and she was the biggest boat. Unfortunately, she fell victim to a critical system - the sails - that weren't up to the job, and as a result has dropped out. Here's the story:

"0700 GMT Mission Control (UK) Sunday 1/14/01: After the port daggerboard was shattered late on Saturday night, Skipper Steve Fossett of the 125' maxi-catamaran 'PlayStation' has advised The Race officials early this morning that he has reluctantly had to make the decision to withdraw from the 23,000 mile race around the world. Key problems with the old 1998-2000 'delivery' mainsail showing serious signs of wear - and ongoing breakage - coupled with the daggerboard breakage last night - have led Steve (after consultation with and fully supported by his crew) to make the difficult decision not to pursue The Race into the Southern Ocean.

"At about 21:40 GMT on Saturday night January 13, maxi-cat 'PlayStation' and her 13-man crew received a jolt as the port daggerboard was shattered and broke off at the waterline. They had just gotten back up to speed, having spent much of the day at second reef during rapid repairs to a 3-ft tear in the mainsail (at the first reef clew) from earlier on Saturday. The sail repair was working well when the daggerboard incident occurred. It is not yet known what was struck. Inspection of the remaining part of the port daggerboard may subsequently point to the cause."

After consulting with the crew, Fossett decided to withdraw from The Race. "Now it's the daggerboard. Just after we hoisted the mainsail after a day of repairs, the port side daggerboard was shattered and broke away. I suppose we probably could sail around the world with just the starboard daggerboard, but the real issue is the sails: We bought a new set of sails for The Race because we doubted our old sails were fit to make it around the world. When the new mainsail and solent broke before we got out of the Mediterranean, we knew we were in trouble, but we were game to give it a try with the old sails. Today's repair of the first reef clew by Nick Moloney looks good, but then the second reef clew looks like it is starting to fail. We are destined to be struggling with sail repairs for the rest of the way. We just aren't prepared to tackle the Southern Ocean.

"I laid out my reservations about our continuing in The Race and asked the crew to tell me what they thought. They have thrown their every effort into this project for months and in some cases years. Some of them would like just to finish the passage even if we were uncompetitive. I get to make the tough decisions. Unless the crew could offer a persuasive argument to continue we would have to turn back. The crew talked it over, and came back to tell me they all supported my decision. I turned the boat around and we're heading for Miami. I doubt that it is the way a skipper is supposed to make a decision, but that is how it was done on 'PlayStation'."

In a further conversation with Mission Control this morning, Fossett advised that all was well onboard and that they would arrive in Miami/Ft Lauderdale in 10-14 days time. The mood onboard is "one of disappointment, of course, but morale is pretty good, considering. We are still very confident in the boat and her structure - and in her tremendous speed and record-setting potential." Following replacement of the daggerboard and refitting of new sails in Miami/Ft Lauderdale, Steve, 'PlayStation' and crew are now looking at targeting the Miami-NYC record and the Transatlantic records - beginning this May.

That leaves the three Gilles Ollier designed cats - 'Innovations Explorer', 'Club Med' and 'Team Adventure' - as the overwhelming favorites. Currently 'Club Med' has a small lead on 'Team Adventure', with 'Innovations Explorer' having moved up in the last day or two. Here's Grant Dalton of 'Club Med' commenting on the relative speeds of the leading boats, and the condition of his boat:

On the bridge of 'Club Med', a calm night
Photo J.Caraës/Club Med

On PlayStation's boom, repairing the mainsail
Photo Courtesy PlayStation

Sail repair aboard Innovations Explorer
Photo Courtesy
Innovations Explorer

Graphic Courtesy Team Adventure

"In moderate airs he ('Team Adventure') is faster than us. We wouldn't be surprised to find that he has a small reacher/genniker on board. We built one but we didn't like it and so we didn't bring it. For the light airs we built a Code Zero sail from North 3DL which we are really happy with. This sail is the main reason we pulled forwards on 'Team Adventure' since the wind has dropped. As in all major international regattas sails are playing a really important part. If we had had a Whitbread-type stopover in Cape Town we'd probably change a whole load of fittings on board to make them stronger. The crew have done a really good job with spare parts. They haven't brought a lot, but they manage to bring something out from down below that will do the job just fine every time we have a breakage. Being at sea makes you resourceful."

Ranking of 01-15-01 / 1100 GMT / 0300 PST

1. Club Med dtf 19,007
2. Team Adventure dtf 19,054 / dtl 47 miles
3. Innovation Explorer dtf 19,136 / dtl 129 miles
4. Warta Polpharma dtf 20,474 / dtl 1,467 miles
5. PlayStation dtf 20,808 / dtl 1,801 miles
6. Team Legato dtf 21,146 / dtl 2,139 miles

Note: 'PlayStation' is still officially racing until they reach land and ask for assistance. Her position will be included in the official standings until then.


January 15 - Catamaran Land

When we built 'Profligate', we had Gino Morrelli - half of Morrelli and Melvin which designed 'PlayStation' - do some consulting. Gino's advice on daggerboards: "You don't want them on cruising boats, because it's not a matter of whether or not they're going to break, but when they're going to break." We went with daggerboards anyway. You get better pointing ability and less drag, but the daggerboards are a complication that can, as 'PlayStation' discovered, become a liability.

The Money Guys from the Pacific Northwest

January 15 - St. Barts

In the January 11 'Lectronic, we asked readers to guess the identities of the two moneybags brothers from the Pacific Northwest who were in St. Barts over New Year's with their mighty megayachts - and who the two even bigger moneybags were on yet another yacht in St. Barts. On January 12, we got as far as the brothers being from the MacCaw clan of Seattle, but didn't know who belonged to which boat. Dick Enersen of San Francisco says he knows for sure.

Craig, by far the richest of all the MacCaws, owns the 283-ft 'Tatoosh' and the 43-ft half size version of the sailboat 'Stealth' that lives aboard her. He is also the money behind the Seattle OneWorld Challenge for the 2003 America's Cup. John, who is the real sailboat racer in the family, owns the 323-ft motoryacht 'Grand Bleu', the 72-ft Dubois 'Bellatrix' that lives aboard her, the 118-foot daysailer 'Extra Beat' that's in Newport, Rhode Island, and used to own the 115-ft ketch 'Christine' that was often berthed in Sausalito or at the St. Francis YC. Bruce owns the 115-foot motoryacht 'Skye Time', but is really into car racing. Keith is the only brother who really isn't a player in the big boat world. According to Enersen, "These guys obviously have shitheaps of money, but are good guys in the bargain."

Hangin' with the big boys in St. Barts
Photo Latitude/Richard

The two other guys who were in St. Barts over the holidays? Microsoft co-founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen, who were aboard Allen's 199-ft motoryacht 'Meduse'. If we're not mistaken, they were Med-tied next to Jennifer Lopez and Puff Daddy, which would make sense, because Allen is a music freak with a state-of-the-art recording studio in the boat.

Anyway, there was an article in Sunday's New York Times by Herb McCormick that brought many of these names together. During an email interview with Craig MacCaw aboard 'Tatoosh' in the Caribbean, MacCaw said that he and Larry Ellison of the St. Francis YC's Oracle Racing America's Cup effort might have become partners in their campaigns rather than competitors. According to MacCaw, when Ellison heard that there was to be an America's Cup effort from the Northwest, he assumed that it would be from his rivals Gates or Allen. There's nothing Ellison would like to do more than beat Gates and Allen. But by the time MacCaw announced that he was the one behind the Pacific Northwest effort, Ellison had already announced, and it was too late for the two efforts to become one. MacCaw also said he's long been a student of the America's Cup.


New Fees in Mexico

January 15 - Mexican Ports

The new year brought an unpleasant surprise to cruisers in Mexico - without warning they are being charged about $20 each time they check in and out of a port - and double that on weekends and holidays. Previously, it was free. Based on our cruising experience, such fees and/or cruising permits aren't unusual, but the amount of those imposed in Mexico seems rather extreme. We'll be checking on details.

Darwin to Bali Instead?

January 15 - Indonesia

Until violence started to take its toll in Indonesia, one of the most popular cruising rallies in the world was from from Darwin, Australia, to Ambon, Indonesia. In fact, quite a few West Coast cruisers have participated. But the event had to be canceled last year as rioting swept over Ambon and much of Indonesia. Indonesian officials, however, don't want the event to die, so they have asked that race officials create a Darwin to Bali rally. Bali as yet hasn't suffered from violence. For details, visit

The start of the 1998 Darwin to Ambon rally
Photo Courtesy Darwin Ambon Yacht Race

200 Slip Marina to Open Soon in Ensenada

January 15 - Ensenada, Baja California

Jens Kolbowski - who cruised Mexico in the '70s aboard the Cascade 42 'Radiant', and now at age 75 is running a Web site that promotes Mexico - reports that a new cruise port and 200-berth marina is to open in Ensenada within the next few months. It will surely be open for the Newport to Ensenada Race. Reservations for slips are being taken now. Ensenada is also starting to form its own yacht club, the Club Nautico de Ensenada. The first commodore will be Nico Sad, owner of the famous San Nicolas Resort Hotel in Ensenada. The vice commodore will be Julio de A'Costa, a racer from Mexico City. For full information, visit:


January 15 - The Pacific Ocean and Cyberspace

Who is out making passages in the Pacific and what kind of weather are they having? Check out YOTREPS - 'yacht reports' - at

Weather Updates

January 15 - Pacific Ocean

San Francisco Bay Weather

To see what the winds are like on the Bay and just outside the Gate right now, check out

California Coast Weather

Looking for current as well as recent wind and sea readings from 17 buoys and stations between Pt. Arena and the Mexican border? Here's the place - which has further links to weather buoys and stations all over the U.S.:

Pacific Ocean Weather

You can view the University of Hawaii Department of Meteorology satellite picture by clicking here.

Pacific Sea State

Check out the Pacific Ocean sea states at:
For another view, see

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