After the devastating capsize October 17 that destroyed USA 17’s wing sail, Team Oracle have been busy repairing the boat and readying her for a new wing. A second wing, build in New Zealand, was already in the works, so the timeline for its completion was bumped up. The 131-ft tall miracle of modern technology was delivered to San Francisco’s Pier 80 yesterday after arriving by ship in Oakland.
“The guys have done a fantastic job to get the wing built, and it will go together very quickly. You’ll see it out on the water in early February,” said Jimmy Spithill. “We’re really excited to get out there again and, from a sailing point of view, sort of reward those who put all of the work in to get the boat ready again.”
In other AC news, Team New Zealand’s CEO Grant Dalton dropped a bombshell in late December when he announced that, instead of sending his crack AC team to any AC World Series events this spring — which he called "distractions" from the Louis Vuitton Cup and the AC Finals — he’ll be sending his youth team to sail the AC45s. The Examiner’s Chuck Lantz wrote up a very insightful piece on Dalton’s decision, but the short of it is that Dalton doesn’t want his pro team distracted and worn out by messing around in the AC45s when they should be preparing for the big event in the 72s.
That news was followed up by the AC Event Authority’s announcement on Monday that they "will no longer pursue plans to host a regatta in New York," instead focusing on a "Summer of Sailing" on San Francisco Bay, starting with the Louis Vuitton Cup on July 4. ACEA CEO Stephen Barclay noted that the already scheduled (and partially paid for) ACWS event in Naples, Italy, in April is still on the calendar, but that "our number one priority has to be the events scheduled for San Francisco this summer." It’s unclear how much influence Dalton’s decision had on Barclay’s announcement, but we suspect it may have been substantial.
For three long days, Bernard Stamm has been running his IMOCA 60 Cheminées Poujoulat on emergency energy rations after a UFO disabled both of his hydrogenerators. He was able to contact his shore team only once a day to determine a plan of action, which ended up with his friend Unaï Basurko — a Basque sailor who happened to be in Ushuaia — delivering diesel to Stamm after his Cape Horn rounding hours ago. Shortly thereafter, Stamm notified race organizers that he was officially retiring from the race.
Now with the ability to charge his batteries, Stamm can once again run all of his instruments, including his autopilot, which he had to make due without . . . in the Southern Ocean! (He reports having caught only five hours of sleep in the last three days.) He’s intent on continuing on to Les Sables d’Olonne at top speed to finish with the rest of the fleet.
"The entire Cheminées Poujoulat team wishes to wholeheartedly thank Unaï Basurko and the Pakea Bizcaïa crew for their precious help and their response in these difficult moments," read a press release from Stamm’s team. "The competition outcome may not be the one we all expected, but their generosity gave this sailors’ story a very strong human dimension."
With any luck, Italian sailing legend Giovanni Soldini will be paying a visit to San Francisco Bay before March 1 — via the most difficult route we can think of. He and an international crew of eight men left New York on New Year’s Eve day aboard the VOR 70 Maserati on a nonstop, 13,000-mile sprint that will take them south to Cape Horn, then north to the Golden Gate. Their goal is to break the Clipper Challenge Cup record of 57d, 3h, 2m, set in 1998 by Yves Parlier and his crew aboard Aquitaine Innovations. Previous to a flurry of new records and failed attempts between the mid-’80s and late ‘90s, the record set by the famous three-master Flying Cloud (89d, 8h) in 1854 stood for more than 130 years.
So far, Soldini’s record attempt appears to be going well, with Maserati now approaching the Equator. The sole American on Soldini’s team, Ryan Breymaier, reported this morning: “So we blasted straight through the tradewinds in good time. It was not your typical downwind slide like in the ARC brochure; more of a firehose reach as we crossed at a 90 degree angle.
“As I write this, we are about 160 miles from the equator. We just sailed directly out of perfect 20-knot trades into a 25-knot squall with a 40-degree forward windshift. Boris [Herrmann] says ‘Oh s**t, welcome to the doldrums.’ And he was right. The wind now fluctuates between 9 and 14, but at least we have one thing going for us: there is still wind.”
Breymaier went on to report that GRIB files currently show no wind holes ahead, so they may squeak through the equatorial doldrums without coming to a grinding stop. And the long-term forecast looks favorable also. “It’s looking good though, with no major stoppages before the Falklands, just a super wet boat.”
A rough estimate made by the Latitude 38 supercomputer tells us that Maserati is currently moving at a record-setting pace. That said, they still have 10,000 cold, wet miles left to go.
Whenever they arrive, though, we expect the Bay Area sailing community will give Soldini and crew a very warm welcome, as was the case when Isabelle Autissier broke the record in 1994, and when Parlier broke it four years later.