News & Views

School Ship Concordia Disaster

I'm sure a few Hollywood agents are already wrangling over the rights to this one. It's got everything needed for a blockbuster movie script: a crowd of innocent kids, some seriously mortal danger, plus a big fat happy ending. The scary part of the tale concerns the fate of the Canadian school ship Concordia, a 188-foot square-rigger with 48 high-school students aboard, that sank in a matter of minutes last Wednesday after being struck by a savage microburst 300 miles off the coast of Brazil. The miraculous part of the story is that everyone aboard--all the students, plus 16 other crew--escaped alive and was brought safely to shore.

Smack dab in the middle of this drama we find one huge unanswered question: why did it take Brazilian authorities over 24 hours to respond to Concordia's distress signal???

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America's Cup: Valentine's Day Massacre

 

I am back from Miami and have lots to share with you, but first we should wrap up the AC coverage. As predicted here on WaveTrain, Larry "the Oracle" Ellison has crushed Ernie "the Alinghi" Bertarelli 2-zip in the best-of-three series. The first race didn't get sailed until Friday morning ET (our hero intended to file a gear post at that time, but instead watched the race on his laptop in the boat show press room), and the second race only got off yesterday after the Principal Race Officer Harold Bennett reportedly quelled a mutiny aboard the committee boat (big kudos to Scuttlebutt's Cory Friedman on that mega-scoop). But the outcome was never in doubt. Ernie and his cat were little more than bullet-riddled corpses by the time it was all over.

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Let's Have a Tea Party for Loran

While celebrating the start of America's Cup racing come Monday don't forget to shed a tear and hoist a cold one for our old friend Loran, which is scheduled to get shut down the same day. For you Sarah Palin fans who like to rail against the idiocy of the federal government, this should make an excellent talking point. Having spent $160 million over the past 10 years to upgrade Loran to "enhanced" eLoran status so it can serve as an effective back-up for the GPS system, the government will now flush that money down the toilet, in spite of the fact that shutting down the Loran system will probably cost more than finishing the upgrade.

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America's Cup Predictions

 

Get ready to set your alarm clocks, sports fans. The good news is you will (finally!) be able to watch Race One of the Great AC Showdown live via the Internet at ESPN360.com next Monday. The bad news is you'll have to get up at 0-dark-hundred (3:45 a.m.) to do it. If you're too lazy to manage this, I'll save you some trouble and make a bold prediction: Larry is going to take Ernie down in two straight races.

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That Crazy Italian Guy

I first met Alessandro di Benedetto on a dock in November 1992 in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, as we were both preparing to sail across the North Atlantic from the Canary Islands to the Bahamas to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus' voyage to America. I was crewing on an Australian-owned Taswell 56 called Antipodes that was enrolled with 145 other yachts in Jimmy Cornell's America 500 rally. Alessandro planned to cross with his father on a 18-foot Hobie Cat called United States of the World.

As I remember, Alessandro was the quiet one; his father, Federico, was the voluble, talkative one. They roamed the docks where all the rally boats were tied up handing out photocopies of a letter they had sent to the Secretary General of the United Nations. In the letter they explained that the purpose of their voyage was to help establish a new democratic international order based on economic justice and environmental responsibility. Not surprisingly, they were often referred to casually as "those crazy Italian guys."

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Too Much Teen Spirit?

 

So now the fat is in the fire. We have two pubescent girls on the loose bound non-stop around the globe via Cape Horn and the Southern Ocean with all the world watching and cheering them on. Abby Sunderland, age 16 (in the photo above), departed Marina del Rey in Los Angeles on Saturday, and as I write is west of Ensenada heading south down the Mexican coast. Meanwhile, her rival, Jessica Watson, also 16, of Queensland, Australia, who already cleared Cape Horn on January 13, suffered multiple knockdowns over the weekend while riding out a 70-knot gale. During the worst of these her boat, an S&S 34 called Ella's Pink Lady, was reportedly inverted at a 180-degree angle. Jessica's EPIRB was ignited, though not intentionally, and both she and her boat are purportedly in good shape.

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Global Plumbing

 

Here's an oceanic news flash from the realm of geoscience: the Bering Strait is a valve that can play an important role in global climate trends. Open the valve (its current position; see photo) and the northern hemisphere tends to get cooler. Close the valve and it tends to get warmer.

No, this intriguing bit of climatological wisdom will not prove useful next time you have to dismantle your marine toilet...

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Some Catching Up To Do

 

Happy New Year, sports fans. I'm just back from a post-Xmas family cruise on Lunacy down in the W'Indies, of which more later, but today I wanted to give you some quick updates on three evolving stories we were following back there in the tail end of 2009.

First up the Cup. Ernie Bertarelli has fortunately succeeded in getting his boat Alinghi 5 to Valencia for next month's America's Cup showdown. No information yet on how he managed to smooth things over in RAK, but presumably some species of time-consuming negotiation was involved. RAK, after all, is much closer to Valencia than San Diego, and in the end the two super-sized AC multihulls arrived on their respective freighters within hours of each other this past Sunday.

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Yachts of Titan

 

NASA's Cassini probe, currently in orbit around the planet Saturn, has in recent years confirmed that there are large liquid lakes of methane, ethane, and propane on the s urface of Saturn's moon Titan. (The radar image seen here was gathered by Cassini in July 2006.) Titan also has a dense atmosphere, which, believe it or not, makes it more like Earth than any other planetary body we know of. Might it make a decent cruising ground? One group of scientists, led by Dr. Ellen Stofan of Proxemy Research, is dying to find out. Last week at the American Geophysical Union's Fall Meeting in San Francisco, Stofan presented details of her proposal to land a boat on one of Titan's largest methane lakes, known as Ligeia Mare, which is believed to be about the size of the Caspian Sea.

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