Have you seen this headline or opening sentence in a story lately? “Canceled.” In the spirit of our newfound ‘cancellation beat’ — and with the recent nixing of SailGP’s 2020 season as well as pretty much every other sailing event imaginable — you might be asking, “What about the America’s Cup?”
At the moment, sailing’s biggest regatta is scheduled to start in early 2021. On our recent trip to New Zealand, we’d hoped to visit Auckland and the Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) compound, but the Kiwis kept things tightly buttoned up. Their answer to everything was simply, “Let’s wait and see.”
The first of three America’s Cup World Series (ACWS) events — scheduled for April in Sardinia, Italy — was canceled in mid-March. A few weeks later, NZ said in a press release, “It is with great regret that the America’s Cup Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand, announce the unavoidable cancellation of Emirates ACWS Portsmouth, which was scheduled to take place between June 4-7,” The final World Series Event in Auckland is slated for late December. The Challenger Series — now known as the Prada Cup — is supposed to commence in January 2021, with the America’s Cup starting in March.
When the country of New Zealand started to ease its lockdown restrictions in late April, ETNZ was eager to get back to work. “Emirates Team New Zealand is a commercial enterprise . . . and its test boat is an extension of that business activity,” Grant Dalton told Sail World. “We have been in communications with all appropriate parties; coincidentally, NZ Marine Industries Association announced today that they had negotiated some easing of the rules to allow sea-trialling and movement of vessels.”
In a press release, ETNZ said that the lockdown cost the team about six calendar weeks of sailing time. “Their first AC75 was already en route to Italy when the Cagliari AC World Series was cancelled, and the yacht is still in Italy. Construction of their second AC75 was held up for five weeks, and restarted on April 28. They resumed on-the-water development with their 12 meter test boat Te Kahu (The Hawk) on April 29,” the press release said.
Meanwhile, the New York Yacht Club’s American Magic will be the first Challenger to arrive in New Zealand, according to according to Sail World. “The team confirmed Tuesday [May 5] that [they’d] packed their AC75 Defiant onto a ship bound for New Zealand, presumably with chase boats and a base. The team says their arrival time in New Zealand is ‘early June.'”
Speaking in the ambiguous, who-knows-what’s-going-to-happen language of our time, Terry Hutchinson, the skipper and executive director of American Magic, equivocated about his team’s plans in an online piece for Seahorse magazine. “By the time this is on your kitchen counter, we will have executed on a pivotal decision for our program. All our gear will have been loaded and will be on its way to New Zealand. It is a nervous time as we have no guarantee at this very moment when non-New Zealand citizens will be allowed into the country. We do know our future is in Auckland and we can only ‘hope’ — a great value but not necessarily a great strategy — that by the time Defiant and the gear land in early June, the New Zealand government has set up a smart, safe process to allow us to execute our planning.”
Oh yeah, and what about Stars+Stripes Team USA? We’ve been reaching out to their leadership for some time now, but mum has been the word.
On March 16, 2020, the San Francisco Yacht Club, in accordance with the Shelter-In-Place Mandate issued by the County of Marin, shut the doors to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Since then, SFYC, like every yacht club in the country, has been closely monitoring the situation, preparing for an eventual reopen, and conceptualizing what ‘reopening’ will look like in this new reality.
Meanwhile, SFYC’s staff commodore Jim Robinson was working on an idea behind the scenes. The idea grew from a service he provides to the club as the chair of the Eight Bells Committee, which supports families of a member who has passed. Robinson and his wife, Martha, often welcome the bereaved family aboard their boat, Flyer, a 47-ft catamaran, to sprinkle ashes on the Bay. During these trips, the signal flags A over I fly from the mast of Flyer signaling, “I Will Not Abandon You.”
Robinson derived this concept from the 1926 story of the SS President Roosevelt, which heroically stood by the British steamship Antinoe during an Atlantic gale on January 20, 1926. According to the story, as recorded by the San Francisco Marine Exchange, the passenger ship President Roosevelt was bound for the English Channel when she answered a call to rescue the Antinoe in a torrential storm. It was “one of the worst storms ever to be recorded on the North Atlantic, as far as violence and duration were concerned.”
Upon arrival, the situation appeared hopeless. The President Roosevelt stood by the Antinoe for 85 hours and 40 minutes. They launched several rescue attempts, losing two of their own crew along the way. Eventually, every single life aboard the Antinoe was saved. On the Antinoe, “Their only hope and comfort during those long hours were the two little signal flags, ‘A over I’, whipping in the gale from the President Roosevelt’s yardarm.”
During SFYC’s closure, Robinson’s idea was to fly the A over I signal flags from the club’s flagpole until the clubhouse could welcome her crew back.
Before enacting his plan, Robinson wanted to confirm that these signal flags still had the same meaning they held in 1926. He sent queries to several maritime agencies, including the National Maritime Museum in England, the Netherlands National Maritime Museum, Mystic Seaport and the United States Coast Guard.
Alas, these enterprises were all shuttered because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On April 16, the mystery was solved when Gina Bardi, who was sequestered and working from home, responded to Robinson’s query. Bardi, a reference librarian for the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park’s Maritime Research Center, was able to access some of her research material and determined that the signal flags’ meaning had changed since 1926. In fact, they have changed several times. It was determined that the correct signal flags to fly are C and G over 1, meaning “I will stand by to assist you.”
Equipped with this information, Robinson, aided by fellow members Admiral Jim Ellis, USN (Ret); David Jampolsky; and Rear Commodore Christopher Lacey, hoisted C and G over 1 at SFYC.
Says Robinson, “These flags are a message not only to the club’s members, but to the community at large. There is no reason that such a signal couldn’t be flown from the masts of yacht clubs across the nation — the globe for that matter. The book of maritime signals is an international publication and is the same in every language. This specific message binds us together. The simple act of offering assistance to someone in need is universal.”
With so many races already canceled and so much uncertainty surrounding the schedule for the future, we’re wondering if people are considering — heaven forbid — taking their racing boat cruising.
But maybe you always have.
The vast majority of boats are designated as racer/cruisers, and most performance boats still have some very reasonable accommodations. Our Ranger 33, Summer Sailstice, has always been a regular Friday night beer can and club racer, but we also really enjoy afternoon sails with friends, and have taken many Delta cruises with the kids.
For racing, you take weight off the boat for speed. For cruising, you put it on for comfort. For space and speed preservation, you take off the racing sails and put on cruising sails. If you’re like us, you race non-spin most of the time and have roller furling. You can add the barbecue to the stern rail, and an inflatable and outboard. If you’re a competitive racer, the boat might be easier to adjust than your sailing perspective.
You may remember that back in the ’70s, boats like the Ranger 23, J/24 and Santana 22 were all marketed as racer/cruisers. Brochures featured interior shots of families cruising in these four-bunk boats. In fact, many have participated in the Delta Doo Dah over the years.
If you have plans for cruising your racer this summer, we’d like to hear from you. There are plenty of places to go in the Bay Area, including Jack London Square, Aquatic Park, the South Bay, the Delta, and out the Gate to Monterey or Half Moon Bay, or north to Drake’s Bay. In Southern California, there are the offshore islands and lots of coastal harbors. Let us know your plans and any changes you plan to make to your boat.
Please comment below, or email us here, and please include your boat name, make and homeport.
On Monday, we issued a BOLO for Velvet Hammer’s equipment trailer, stolen in the dead of night out of Richmond Yacht Club’s (gated and locked) parking lot. On Tuesday, Will Paxton reported that he’d recovered the trailer. “Good news — our trailer was found!” he wrote to us. “Extra thanks to you guys and Latitude 38 for the extra coverage. The community came together strong to put pressure on the thieves, as it looks like they hastily dumped our goods. Below is my update from Facebook.”
“The trailer for Velvet Hammer has been recovered,” Paxton posted on Facebook. “As we suspected, everything of easy street value was stripped, but thankfully most of the hard-to-replace custom gear was still in there.
“Many thanks to all who kept up the social media pressure to drive the outcome. First of all I could not have done any of this without the support of the amazing and beautiful Jeane Marie Rodgers who worked tirelessly to create posters and push the social media outreach. I am humbled by the community sharing and contribution to the search, as there are too many to name. I personally traveled many roads outside our community to post fliers and plead for help and found great sympathy and willingness to help outside our sailing family. Officers of the Richmond PD, Contra Costa Sheriff’s Dept. and CHP all were very professional and responsive in our quest to recover the stolen gear.
“The insurance claim and investigation are ongoing, but rest assured we are still after these a-holes who targeted our community. We have some leads to follow.”
RYC, in the meantime, has continued to step up security and plans to update the key-fob gate entry system.