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February 20, 2023

SailGP Sydney Day Two Canceled After Major Storm Damages Boats and Infrastructure

In a season fraught with damage and incidents, the KPMG Australia SailGP Sydney has topped the list with a man overboard and a destructive weather event. The Sydney SailGP was canceled after only one day of racing after a severe storm ripped through Sydney, leaving the SailGP technical site in turmoil and causing extensive damage, including Team Canada’s F50 and several of its wings. “It was some of the most wind I have ever seen in my life,” Canada SailGP Team’s driver Phil Robertson said.

The YouTube video below, posted by William Nguy, shows the incident as it occurred, presumably from the press or public viewing rooms.

SailGP reported that working closely with local experts and its in-house weather knowledge, it was believed they had a window to crane the boats and “… with the advice received, proceeded to do so.” Fortunately, no injuries were reported.

The Sydney event has officially ended after only three races, with Team France being declared the winner. According to SailGP rules, the three completed races are enough to constitute an event. Team France is now in third place on the leaderboard.

SailGP France mid-race
On the one day of racing, France took three firsts, and Team USA took second place in all three races thereby keeping their chances for the San Francisco final alive.
© 2023 Bob Martin/SailGP France

In a separate incident during Friday’s races, Emirates Great Britain SailGP Team crew member Matt Gotrel fell overboard during a maneuver.

The team was on the final stretch to the finish line of the first fleet race and traveling close to 50 mph when Gotrel fell through the fairing during a jibe. He remained attached to the boat via his safety line. Team driver Ben Ainslie told SailGP reporters, “We were in pretty good shape in the race and went into a jibe and we had to take some evasive action on Canada — that little bit of movement on the boat sent Matt just flying through the fairing. He was like a rag doll at the end of his tether, with two foils up quite high.”

The team slowed the boat and was able to bring Gotrel back on board. He was later assessed with muscle strains and bruising, but was not admitted to hospital.

The incidents in Sydney follow January’s mishap during the Singapore SailGP, when lightning struck Team New Zealand’s F50 shortly after the conclusion of the final day’s racing. The boat was under tow to the technical site, its crew ashore receiving the event’s winner’s trophy, when the lightning struck the top of the 29m wing. One person was taken to hospital for electrical injuries but was later released.

The current top three teams for SailGP Season 3 are Australia, 74 points; New Zealand, 64; and France, 63. Team USA is at number six with 52 points.

At this stage the next scheduled events, New Zealand on March 18-19 and the Grand Final in San Francisco on May 6-7, 2023, will continue.

Critical Oakland Estuary BCDC Hearing on Wednesday

Tireless Oakland Estuary advocate Brock de Lappe wrote us to send out the rallying cry for sailors to offer their support and join him this Wednesday, February 22, at 9:30 a.m., on Zoom at the BCDC hearing regarding the agenda item “Abandoned and Derelict Vessels and Anchor-outs in the Oakland-Alameda Estuary.” De Lappe’s leadership, with the support of you and others, is aimed at keeping the Estuary clean, safe and accessible to all. As he has documented on many occasions, what should be a beautiful shoreline for the pleasure of all Oakland and Bay Area residents has been overrun by a nautical blight of abandoned and derelict liveaboard vessels.

Burned vessel in Oakland estuary.
Navigation hazard: On Friday evening, February 10, 2023, a sailboat illegally anchored between Union Point Park and Coast Guard Island caught fire and ultimately sank. This is what remains: a danger to mariners, damage to the environment. and an expense to taxpayers.
© 2023 Brock de Lappe

According to the meeting notice, the BCDC hearing will provide a one-year update on “Actions to Address Shoreline Encampments” and “Abandoned and Derelict Vessels and Anchor-outs in the Oakland-Alameda Estuary, Alameda County.” The committee will receive a briefing on the actions to address shoreline encampments, abandoned and derelict vessels, and anchor-outs in the Oakland-Alameda Estuary by BCDC staff and the cities of Oakland and Alameda, as a follow-up to the discussion and direction provided by the Enforcement Committee during its meetings on February 23 and March 23, 2022. There is supposed to be time allotted for public comment for those who join the meeting by Zoom.

Coast Guard Island
Wrecks along the shore are wrecking what should be a recreational space for all.
© 2023 Brock de Lappe

As de Lappe states, “It is important that the committee receives input from the community on the importance of addressing the growing problem of illegal anchor-outs on the Oakland Estuary. The January storms resulted in multiple sinkings and vessels breaking free of their anchorage and drifting free on the Estuary as an extreme hazard to navigation.”

These are not scenes featured on the Oakland Convention and Visitors Bureau website.
© 2023 Brock de Lappe

We all know these photos don’t represent the entire Oakland waterfront. Most of the areas from Jack London Square to Brooklyn Basin are greatly improved and under renovation, though many rough patches remain, with illegal liveaboards living rent-free. Brotzeit Local German Restaurant and Biergarten is an inviting oasis along the winding Oakland waterfront, but de Lappe points out that the increasing number of wrecks along the shoreline continues to undermine the health and safety of the waterfront for both marine life and sailors.

Lake Merritt Sailboat House
A photo of beautiful sections of Oakland’s long shoreline similar to this one of the Lake Merritt Sailboat House could do wonders for its image.
© 2023 Oakland Convention and Visitors Bureau Website

We visited the Oakland Convention and Visitors Bureau website, which has a beautifully produced video on the home page and includes the image of the Lake Merritt Sailboat House above. What’s missing in all the enticing scenery in the video is any connection to the Bay. The image above could easily be mistaken for the waterfront in St. Louis or any inland city. A viewer wouldn’t know that Oakland has one of the longest shorelines, with some of the warmest weather and best sailing, of any Bay Area municipality.

It appears some of the boats living rent-free in Oakland are in the guest slips at Jack London Square.
© 2023 Brock de Lappe

De Lappe has put together a flyer for you to share with others if you’d like to get involved. The homeless crisis is certainly one that needs to be solved for the benefit of those in need. However, letting decaying, poorly maintained vessels moor for free or be abandoned along the Oakland shoreline is not going to solve the housing crisis, and will only become a growing expense plus a  navigational and environmental hazard for the city and its residents. De Lappe is asking for others to speak up, as he sees the problem is only growing worse.

Another shot from the Convention and Visitors Bureau website shows the beauty of Lake Merritt and a glimpse of water in the background, which could position the city next to the Mississippi River.

Even if everyone got on board, this process could take years to resolve. The last cleanup in 2013, instigated by de Lappe, took the collaboration and coordination of numerous agencies and actually eliminated the problem for a short while, but lack of enforcement has allowed the problem to return. You can add your voice on Wednesday here. For those unable to attend the meeting, public comments can be emailed to: [email protected].

The “Where’s Waldo?” of Sailing — Where’s S/V ‘Freedom?’

Happy Monday, Baja lovers; we have a quiz for you. From the photos below, can you tell us where S/V Freedom is located? No, we’re not asking you to spot the invisible boat in the photos, but simply tell us in which secluded bay, in the Sea of Cortez, Kirk and Charlene Wagner have been enjoying their winter aboard their sailboat, Freedom Kirkland.

Do those little pinnacles, or does that bird, look familiar?
© 2023 Kirk Wagner
S/v Freedom dinghy in Baja
Could be anywhere, right? Maybe. But there’s only one correct answer.
© 2023 Kirk Wagner

We’ll give you a hint. The location is somewhere along the Eastern Baja side of the Sea of Cortez. Here’s another hint — we’ve played this game before, albeit with a different location.

Let us know your guess in the comments below.

Max Ebb: Cast Off Your Chains

“It was an offense to science, nature and yacht design.” That was how the owner of this home-built catamaran described adding 200 feet of chain to his ultralight carbon fiber creation.

That comment pretty much summed it up. He had home-built a large cruising catamaran, and his being skilled in composite construction, just about everything on the boat was made with carbon fiber and weighed nothing. Not just the foils, the spars and the main structural components of the hull, but the hatch boards, the cabin table, even the treads on the steps leading down to the accommodations in the hulls. And then, following recommended practice for a cruising boat, he felt compelled to add 200 feet of steel anchor chain.

The anchor rode was massive overkill for the project at hand: We were the race committee boat for a midwinter race on the Bay. There were no rocks or coral heads, and the holding ground was good, sticky mud. The heavy all-chain rode was the only option on board. “Like, you couldn’t find carbon fiber anchor chain?” asked Lee Helm, only half joking.

max ebb - feb 2023
The spring buoy saves weight, but doesn’t offer nearly as much resiliency at the low end of the surge vs. force curve. At maximum holding power, it functions the same as chain. Much better with an elastic rode.
© 2023 Max Ebb

Lee was not part of our RC crew. She was racing on a boat that sailed from a club on the opposite side of the Bay, so she had talked her skipper into picking her up from the committee boat prior to the start. “Carbon chain would be wonderful, if it existed,” the owner agreed. “Strong and light. But for a cruising anchor we need the weight, to increase the effective scope at the anchor by keeping the pull more parallel to the bottom.”

I was about to suggest, “Just use water ballast,” but stopped short when I remembered that water ballast weighs nothing underwater. I made a mental note to ask Lee, some day when we had more time, to explain why water ballast works on ships.

But as the chain rattled out through the chock at the end of the carbon anchor sprit, Lee made an interesting technical point: “The most efficient way to increase the effective scope is to add weight at the anchor, not distributed along the chain.”

“Really?” I questioned.

Continue reading in the February issue of

The Future Arrives
Angel Island Ferry has announced a partnership with PG&E to develop California's first zero-emission, electric propulsion short-route ferry beginning in 2024.
Tragedy Averted
Every little bit helps when it comes to removing plastic from the ocean. Especially when you are the turtle whose life is hanging in the balance.