sailboat racing

  • 2014 ROUND ISLAND REGATTA: An Embarrassing and Provocative Outcome

    RIR Sail winner

    I have been tardy in reporting on what happened at the fourth annual Round Island Regatta, held Saturday, August 23, right here in Portsmouth, NH, both because the regatta's media department has been very slow getting photos to me and because I am a bit embarrassed by the results. After missing last year's event, I managed again to get Mimi, our trusty 15-foot Drascombe Dabber, to the start line this year. And no, I did not manage to sail her any faster than the other boats (quite the opposite). This distinction went to Class 1 (Sail) winner Joie Paciulli, seen in the photo up top displaying her winning form aboard her banged-up old Banshee. The Banshee proved an ideal boat for the conditions (weight is just 120 pounds with 82 sq.ft. of sail area), which were very light, and Joie (daughter of Bruno Paciulli, head sailing instructor at the Kittery Point Yacht Club) handled it expertly, easily besting the other 34 sailboats in the fleet, which included a Hobie 16 catamaran.

  • 2016 ROUND ISLAND REGATTA: Racing In No Wind At All

    Melon seeds

    This photo right here tells much of the tale of my bid to ascend the podium at this year’s Round Island Regatta (held last Saturday). Note first that I did not succeed in getting daughter Lucy to crew for me in our Melonseed skiff MiMi2 (seen on the right in this image), as she has come to question my abilities as a sailor after we shipped some water in a near-capsize while sailing MiMi2 in strong conditions a few weeks ago. Instead I lured my wife Clare aboard, whose faith in me remains unshaken. Note next there was another Melonseed for us to compete against, sailed by one Mike Driscoll (on the left), and yes, you can see he was barely ahead of us here. And this shot unfortunately was taken just before we crossed the finish line.

    As I’ve always said: I’d much rather sail a close race and lose than sail a boring race and win.

  • 2016 VENDEE GLOBE: A Mob Scene and Then Some

    Vendee dock

    About 16 years ago I wrote a story for SAIL Magazine about sailing in the Sydney-Hobart Race and dropped a line about having died and gone to heaven, as at last I’d found a place where ocean sailing was considered a top-tier sport. Well, this week it’s like I’ve died all over again and heaven is even grander than before. It's also very French. Before I left to travel here to Les Sables d’Olonne I told some non-sailing friends of mine I was going to the start of the world’s most popular sailboat race. “Like the America’s Cup?” they asked. “No, this is much bigger than that,” I answered. And it is, and it’s a shame the French get it mostly to themselves.

    I hope I don’t really have to explain this to anyone who reads this blog, but just in case: these guys are racing non-stop around the world all alone. It's a very simple concept, but also a very large one.

  • 2016 VENDEE GLOBE: And Away They Go!

    Race start

    I’m back in the States now, having endured the indignity of the presidential election results while in France, and finally have a moment to drop a word or two about the actual start of the Vendée Globe. This was almost a week ago now, and I’m still sort of buzzing from the experience. There really is nothing that compares to this in the sport of sailing.

  • AMERICA'S CUP 2017: Catching Some Live Action in Bermuda

    AC race village

    It’s only a coincidence that I happen to be here while AC35 is going down, but it is a happy one. Yesterday I took full advantage of it and hopped on the special weekend ferry ($10 round trip) that runs direct from Ordinance Island in St. Georges out to the America’s Cup race village in the Dockyard. It’s a 45-minute run, all the way from the eastern to the western tip of the island. As we were pulling into the race village I could see the Defender Oracle’s boat was out on Great Sound, running through her paces in a light 8-knot breeze, and soon after I actually stepped ashore I saw she’d been quickly hoisted out on to the hard.

    One of the impressive, and I assume expensive, features of these boats is that enormous cranes must be deployed every time you want to go for a sail in one.

  • AMERICA'S CUP: Why Not Bermuda?

    Bermuda announcement

    Since word first leaked out two weeks ago that Bermuda would be selected to host the 35th America's Cup in 2017 there has been a drumbeat of criticism in the sailing community. People saying the island doesn't have the infrastructure to support the event, that the sailing conditions are not adequate, that it would be a travesty for an American defender to defend the Cup in foreign waters, and mostly, it seems, that the "real reason" Larry Ellison wants his Oracle Team USA to defend the Cup in Bermuda is because of its status as an international tax haven. Well, today the rumor became official, Bermuda IS the venue, and funnily enough not one member of the media attending the press conference in New York had the cojones to ask a single question about taxes.

    Why is that? Why is it that people do nothing but bitch, bitch, bitch about the way the America's Cup is run, no matter who is running it, no matter how it's being run? And when someone who has strong opinions about the Cup finally gets a chance to actually do something about it, even just to ask a simple question in public, they gape and do nothing?

  • MELONSEED SKIFF: Successfully Deployed as Secret Weapon (Sort Of) in 2015 Round Island Regatta

    Start

    There’s a rumor going around that the only reason I’ve been looking to sell Mimi, my beloved Drascombe Dabber, is because she’s not competitive in the Round Island Regatta, an anarchic free-for-all involving small sailing and paddle/rowing vessels that is convened each summer on the back channel here in Portsmouth. And yes, it is true we did very poorly in Mimi last year. And I will confess it had crossed my mind that the Melonseed skiff I had set my heart on as Mimi’s successor might just get me on to the podium.

    And, in fact, it almost turned out that way. In that photo up top (taken by my crew, daughter Lucy) you see me helming our new Melonseed, MiMi2, at the Class 1 start of this year’s regatta this past Saturday. We did well off the line and were in the top three (out of 27 boats in Class 1 Sail) after one lap round the course. And by the end of the second lap, we had a firm lock on second place. But then the anarchy factor took hold.

  • NEWPORT 12-METER JUNKET: With A Little Help From My Friends

    American Eagle deck

    I should have learned this lesson a number of years ago, but now I'm quite certain I have learned it for good. For the second time in my life this past Friday I was lured aboard one of the several 12 Meters that sail out of Newport as part of a business team-building/schmoozing exercise and made the grave mistake of raising my hand when our skipper asked if anyone coming aboard had any sailing experience. Never again!

  • OPEN 60 DELIVERY: From Portland to Marblehead with Rich Wilson

    On deck GA4

    I narrowly missed my last chance to sail on an Open 60, way back in 2001 at the Heineken Regatta, when Josh Hall and Gartmore turned up a last-minute no-show due to family issues, so I was pretty psyched about getting aboard Great American IV (ex-Mirabaud) with her skipper Rich Wilson late last week. This was his first outing on the boat this summer, a delivery jaunt from Maine Yacht Center in Portland to her home mooring in Marblehead, a distance of about 100 miles. Also onboard was Jonathan Green, a local Massachusetts racing sailor (on the left in the image up top) who is assisting Rich in tuning up the boat for next year’s Vendeé Globe start in France.

    Unless something pretty dramatic happens, Rich, who last ran (and finished!) the Vendeé Globe in 2008-09, will (again) be the only American sailing in the race. At age 65, he will also be the oldest competitor in the race’s history, a fact he doesn’t necessarily like to dwell upon.

  • RACING SCHOONERS: Sterling Hayden Versus Bluenose

    Bluenose and Thebaud

    Back in the 1930s the next most important match-racing event after the America’s Cup didn’t involve yachts but fishing vessels. The Sir Thomas Lipton International Fishing Challenge Cup had only a brief tenure in the annals of competitive sailing, but it commanded major media attention at the time. Effectively a grudge match sailed between Canadian and American Grand Banks fishermen, the event was run was just three times, and each time featured the same two competitors, the famed Canadian schooner Bluenose (on the right in the image up top) and the American schooner Gertrude L. Thebaud (on the left).

  • SAILING THE ARCTIC RACE: Through the Northwest Passage in Recyclable "Volcanic Fiber" Yachts

    STAR46 image

    This is an event I've had an eye on for a little while, but had mentally stashed it in my IBIWISI (I'll Believe It When I See It) file. Well, I think I may be starting to believe it. Since the beginning of the year, organizers of the Sailing the Arctic Race (STAR), to be run in 2017 along a 7,700-mile course that stretches across the top of North America, have announced the enlisting of their first official competitor (a team called STAR Spain, led by Vendee Globe skipper Javier Sanso) and--more importantly for all us boat geeks out here--have also recently released renderings of the one-design STAR46 yacht in which the race will be sailed (see image up top). The most salient feature of these boats is that they are to be constructed of a fully recyclable basalt-fiber balsa-cored laminate developed by an Austrian company Fipofix (a race sponsor, of course) that is trying boot basalt-fiber boatbuilding into the big time.

  • SEASCAPE 18: Evangelist Test Sail With Andraž Mihelin

    Andraz astern

    How’s this for convenience? I get the word from SAIL HQ that I should look into test-sailing the Seascape 18 from Slovenia, recently revealed on these shores, and it turns out the new U.S. rep is based in Kittery, Maine, mere footsteps from my home. Even better, on arriving at the anointed moment last Friday at Pepperell Cove, where said rep, Toralf Strand, a tall gangly Norwegian fellow, has assembled both a Seascape 27 and 18 for test-sailing by prospective buyers and this one journalist, it turns out I’ll be sailing with Andraž Mihelin (see photo up top), one of the masterminds behind the whole Seascape concept.

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