Oracle Team USA members are probably as relieved today as 49er fans are frustrated, because their AC72, 17, was finally relaunched this morning after being fitted with a new wing mast. The original, you’ll recall, was ingloriously broken up by ocean swells on October 16 after the powerful cat capsized inside San Francisco Bay and drifted four miles outside the Golden Gate. That was only the team’s eighth practice day aboard her.
Although it took three and a half months to construct and refit the new 131-ft wing mast — and repair hull damage — that’s actually remarkably fast, as the original build estimate we heard back in October was six months. That would have meant mid-April, leaving relatively little time to prepare for the AC 34 Finals in early September.
Having now relaunched, we expect to see 17 out practicing on the Bay again very soon. But there are two key questions on our minds now: 1) Will Oracle Team USA’s crew be gun-shy about pushing the boat too hard? That’s not an attitude that usually brings a team to the winner’s circle. 2) And was the October 16 flip a harbinger of similar tragedies yet to come during this summer’s Louis Vuitton challenger series and AC 34 Finals? When 17 dug in a bow and turtled she was just completing a bear-away maneuver in about 25 knots of wind — normal mid-summer conditions on the Bay.
One thing seems certain: During the summer events, AC72 helmsmen and their crews will be riding the razor’s edge between achieving their boats’ maximum speed potential and staying upright. It should be one helluva show because during the contest’s 182-year history there has never been a boat design more powerful than these 72s. So mark your calendars: The Louis Vuitton series begins July 4, and the Finals begin September 7.
For an overview of the nightmarish rescue process last fall, check out this video. And see this one for insights into the complexity of the mast’s construction process. Stay tuned for AC updates here as the momentum builds.
It’s a bitter pill, but every Vendée Globe skipper knows going into it that there isn’t a single mile of the course where they’re safe from potential trouble. Two skippers were reminded of this over the weekend in most dramatic fashions.
Two EPIRBs on Spanish skipper Javier ‘Bubi’ Sansó’s IMOCA Open 60 Acciona 100% Eco Powered were activated yesterday morning after the boat capsized while sailing upwind in about 20 knots. After his rescue that night by the Portuguese Maritime Rescue Service, Bubi reported that he had been on deck preparing to let out a reef when "there was a sudden bang that made the boat shake. It heeled over suddenly, which threw me in the water before I could react." He was able to reach the transom of Acciona to retrieve the liferaft but a strong swell prevented him from tying to the boat.
A SAR plane spotted Bubi in the raft during daylight hours, but the rescue team arrived by helo around midnight. By then he reports that he’d drifted a couple miles from Acciona. He fired his last remaining flare and says he initially thought the helo crew didn’t spot it, but happily they did. A rescue swimmer helped get him aboard the helo and back to the Azores island of Terceira, where he was found to be in fine condition.
Le sauvetage de Javier Sanso by VendeeGlobeTV
"After a needed break," he says, "it will be a matter of preparing the boat recovery operation with my team to be able to assess with accuracy what happened." From the photos supplied by the Portuguese Air Force, it seems abundantly clear what caused the capsize: Acciona‘s missing keel. The next step is to figure out why it went missing.
In the wee hours of Sunday morning, Tanguy de Lamotte hit a UFO that severely damaged the starboard rudder, the port daggerboard, and daggerboard casing of Initiatives-coeur. In the video below you can see the damage to the daggerboard — and, if you speak French, get a fair idea of the frustration the skipper is dealing with — which is jammed too tightly in the case to move. It’s unclear what the skipper is planning, but for the moment he’s moving slowly — about four knots when this report was posted — presumably attempting repairs.
Tanguy n’y arrive toujours pas by VendeeGlobeTV
Tanguy should take comfort in the fact that Jean-Pierre Dick, who lost the keel of Virbac-Paprec 3 on January 21, crossed the finish line at Les Sables d’Olonne this morning after 2,650 miles of some undoubtedly unnerving sailing. Dick took fourth place, and the International Jury declined to issue a penalty for his use of his engine while picking up a mooring to wait out inclement weather.
Meanwhile, Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel) and Mike Golding (Gamesa) are battling for fifth as they approach the finish line. They’re both expected to arrive some time on Wednesday afternoon, after the disqualified Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat) limps back into port.
In order to enter San Francisco-based ocean races in 2014, "At least 30% of those aboard, including the person in charge, shall have attended a US Sailing sanctioned Safety at Sea Seminar within the last five years, or other course accepted by the NCORC," per the NorCal Ocean Racing Council recommendations. This will take effect locally starting January 1, 2014, and will be required for this year’s Transpac.
A US Sailing-sanctioned SAS Seminar at Cal Maritime Academy in Vallejo on Sunday, February 24, will address issues that are specific to Northern California racing, including:
- Lessons Learned (Low Speed Chase and Aegean fatal accident reports review and dinghy capsize report review)
- Lending Assistance to Others
- Crew Overboard
- Personal Safety Gear
- Search and Rescue
- Fire Fighting
- Abandon Ship
- Emergency Signals
- Damage Control
Anticipated presenters include: Chuck Hawley, Sally Lindsey Honey, Chris Lewis on weather, Dr. Kent Benedict on hypothermia, and the Coasties on SAR. Sal Sanchez will demo a liferaft and cover liferaft deployment steps. The cost is $100 for US Sailing members ($5 more for non-members) and $3 to park. To sign up for the seminar, go to norcalorc.org/sas.
A reception for seminar attendees, sponsored by Cal Maritime Foundation, Philip Thompson of Just Marine and BAMA, will follow the seminar from 5-6 p.m. with appetizers, beer and wine. Then GGYC Vice Commodore Tom Ehman will give an America’s Cup update at 6 p.m. in Rizza auditorium. Everyone’s welcome to attend.
The SAS seminar will repeat on May 19 at Cal Maritime, and a SoCal seminar will be held on July 7 at Shoreline YC in Long Beach.
On Saturday, February 23, NorCal ORC is sponsoring an Ocean PRO Meeting at SFYC. Clubs sponsoring ocean races, their principal race officers, and race committee volunteers are encouraged to attend. Free, but RSVP at norcalorc.org/pro/rsvp.
This photo of the Olson 30 La Gamelle hauled out in St. Kitts cracks us up. After all, is there anything as incongruous as a boat hull deep in green grass? Fear not, she’s not missing her keel. Many boatyards in hurricane zones backhoe a hole for the keel, line it with tires, and then strap the boat down. In such a state, it’s difficult for boats to be blown over. Although in the case of a low-rider such as La Gamelle, we fear she may have become a home for any number of varmints — even Dacron-eating ones. We’ll soon find out, as we’ll be relaunching her for the Caribbean season in about two weeks.
If we’ve learned one thing in life, it’s that Clare Boothe Luce was correct when she said ‘no good deed goes unpunished.’ For instance, wanting to do a small bit for the environment, when it came time to paint the bottom of the La Gamelle Syndicate’s Olson 30 La Gamelle, we decided to go with ePaint’s zinc-based paint. The manufacturer assures us it doesn’t cause any harm to the environment. We’d rate the paint as below average for La Gamelle‘s time in the Oakland Estuary, but not bad for the Caribbean. Of course, we only had La Gamelle in the water in the Caribbean for three months before hauling her out for the off-season, so it wasn’t much of a test.
But as you can see from the accompanying photos, the paint has developed an unfortunate tendency to flake off, something not particularly conducive to boat speed. So the way we see it, we’re faced with three options: 1) Remove all the ePaint with some kind of stripper — the soy-based kind has received some excellent reviews — then repaint from scratch. It sounds like dirty work, particularly when it would have to be done in the humid lee of St. Kitts, where the yard has absolutely no supplies of any kind. 2) Sand away the flaking material, then have another go at it with more ePaint. The obstacles to this option are that we’re not sure how much of the paint has flaked off and that ePaint has no retailers in the Caribbean. In the old days we used to take gallons of bottom paint as carry-on baggage. The kill-joys don’t allow that anymore. 3) Our third option is to sand down — or find someone else to sand down — the flaking bits as well as the rest of the hull lightly, then paint it with some ablative bottom paint, preferably a type that sticks to just about any surface. We know there is a big chance that a new ablative paint would be incompatible with the ePaint and it might all fall off. But we tend to take risks. And it only has to last for three months. If it’s a complete disaster, we can have all the bottom paint removed next year.
Anybody have any experience with ePaint? Or thoughts on our earth-shaking dilemma? Email them to Richard.
By the way, we’ve got a couple of nice Olson 30 spinnakers, plus a pretty nice North Gatorback main with no reefs points. We’d rather have a pretty nice main — Dacron is no problem — with reef points. The main needs to have external slugs.