Front Rudder - April 2018

Sailing Stories

As I began preparing to write this month’s story regarding the new foiling Beneteau Figaro 3 monohull and the Heineken Regatta in St. Maarten, I reminisced about how I initially became interested in sailing and what led me down the path I am on now. It’s not all about the America’s Cup. I promise!

I grew up near Lake Michigan and did a little sailing on Reed’s Lake in East Grand Rapids on a small sailboat owned by our close family friend and doctor, Dr. Haven Jones. Dr. Jones was a great story teller and could always be counted on for humorous anecdotes.

For the most part, my on-the-water adventures were regulated to water skiing on the Thornapple River or Badger Boat rides from Ludington to Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Our 6th Grade field trip was a lake crossing on the Milwaukee Clipper requiring us to sell candy door to door to raise the required passage. What I remember most about that day was dancing to Jackson Five and for the first time with beautiful older 8th grade girls!

Anyway, back to my story. My interest in sailing was about one person; Ted Turner. As a religious subscriber to Sports Illustrated and a regular watcher of ABC’s Wide World of Sports, Turner who made news as owner of the Atlanta Braves was known as “The Mouth of the South” for his outrageous, outlandish comments and promotional stunts. One thing was clear, he put his money where his mouth was. He also knew how to sail and he was good. When he appeared on the America’s Cup scene in 1974, he was stuck on a dog of a 12-meter boat called Mariner. It was a radically designed boat that sailed backwards as fast as it went forwards and its lopped off stern would pull trash along in its wake prompting Turner to say to the boat’s designer, Brit Chance, “even a turd is tapered at both ends.”

Such was Turner’s sailing adventure that summer and they were quickly excused by the NYYC’s Race Committee from the Defense Trials. The lone bright spot was the mustached Dennis Conner, Mariner’s tactician, landing a gig on Courageous for the Cup finals and the rest is history. Mariner is now at the bottom of the sea somewhere off Florida having sunk in a storm many years ago.

Turner landed on Courageous in 1977 as skipper, and even though he was a thorn in the side of the NYYC, he easily defended the America’s Cup that summer landing on the cover of SI and into my universe. His post-race press conferences were a riot! He was hammered. Probably couldn’t get away with that today.

When I followed my friends out to college in Massachusetts a few years later I ended up in Rhode Island during the summer. I took some classes at URI and low and behold ventured into Newport to find out what all the fuss was about the America’s Cup. Punk rock was the rage back then and I certainly spent more than my share of time at CBGB’s and Hurrahs. Gabba, Gabba. Lots of Art Museums too!

I grew up a huge fan of the Indy Car racing and was always fascinated by technology of the event, which at that time were all things wings. For me going to the Indy 500 is a pilgrimage like the rite of spring, the search for a Holy Grail and Christmas all rolled into one event. The wake-up call is the Kentucky Derby the first weekend in May and then it’s sugar plums until the best day of the year on June 4th!

I was first told the America’s Cup was basically the Indy 500 on water and not really knowing much about the sport other than Turner was involved, decided to stick my nose in it to find out what all the fuss was about.

In addition to being a journalism and political science student, I was interested in the fact that he was launching some radical concept of 24-hour news network on TV. CNN something?

On one evening we ended up dining at Christie’s Restaurant, I was struck by all the pictures on the wall about the America’s Cup races that had taken place in years past on Rhode Island Sound. Images of Sir Thomas Lipton, “The Wizard of Bristol,” Nathanial Herreschoff, the lordly Vanderbilt’s and Sopwiths on their mighty J-Class boats, Ranger and Endeavor all graced the mahogany paneled walls as a testament of their magnificence.

Amongst the assembled patrons that night, there was an air of excitement and anticipation of the races scheduled to be sailed, and even though it would be months before the racing commenced, the seeds were being sown for a passion of this sport that has held sway over me henceforth.

My girlfriend and I ended up staying and playing out at Castle Hill. It played host to the many who would come out to watch those magnificent 12-meter yachts sail by, while listening to the jazz bands, sipping cocktails and picnicking on the finely manicured lawns which rolled down to Narragansett Bay.

The lawn there became our front row seats on many an America’s Cup afternoon. For me that summer and beyond, the yearning turned to learning as over the next several years I crisscrossed between Newport and San Francisco catching the action at every opportunity

Even with the ongoing “trial of the century,” starring Claus and Sunny von Bulow, great jazz shows, the wild and wooly Australians, plus the charismatic skipper Turner in town (although he was primarily concentrating on launching CNN, rather than his bombastic follies aboard Courageous), it was a season generally devoid of controversy.

The time marked the beginning of the Dennis Conner dynasty. It was a warm, sunny summer generally filled with light breezes and awesome pastel sunsets, thanks in part to volcanic eruptions out west.

It is in that spirit that this work was created and much that was represented in Newport and later out in San Francisco became the tapestry of the heritage of the America’s Cup that has been interwoven into the fabric of my life.

A lot happened that summer involving racing technology both on and off the water. Indy and Formula One were consumed by ground-effects that would suck the cars down and stick them to the track allowing them to go as fast thru the corners as they were down the straight. Cars like the revolutionary Lotus 79 with input from Mario Andretti, the “Yellow Submarine” Chaparral carrying Johnny Rutherford and the Penske chassis with Rick Mears driving radicalized open-wheel racing. Plus, they were cool to look at!

For me the recent news that Roger Penske with more than a dozen Indy 500 victories as a car owner announcing he is backing an American America’s Cup effort which allows me to continue these “crossover” stories is awesome!

So, for me to catch the same buzz on the water hadn’t quite captured my attention yet. That summer I was captivated by the America’s Cup as an event, but the technology wasn’t that thrilling... yet. This would change in 1983 when wings became part of sailing with Australia 2 capturing our imagination and then the Cup.

In the last 30 years there have been many technological advances in both sports. The design aspects both secret and shocking are what drove me into the arena of sailing, propelling my interests in yachting.

It really took off in earnest in the mid-80’s when the St. Francis Yacht Club radicalized the yachting world with a never been thought of concept of a 12-meter boat with a rudder in front of the keel and behind as well to perpetuate the concept of warp like straight line speed thru the turbulent water of the Indian Ocean off Fremantle, Western Australia.

Unfortunately, Conner on Stars & Stripes approached the same idea from a different perspective by putting a “bustle” on his bulbous, beetle-like winged keel. I was in technology heaven!

The front-rudder concept was homage to the San Francisco Bay Area “scientists who sail” and with that spirit of technology driven advancements in sailing and racing thus became the impetus of my column here at Bay & Delta Yachtsman going forward.

There were other design oddities that sprung up between there and here like the Kiwi’s ill-fated ideas on their 2003 America’s Cup defender. The New Zealand team tried a radical false hull appendage called a “hula” to increase the water-line length without penalty. Unfortunately the concept was fraught with problems as the boat took on massive amounts of water in the first race leading to a shattered boom.

After almost capturing the second race, the Kiwi’s hopes were crushed as they lost one of their radical “millennium” masts in the 4th race and the Cup was off to Europe. The Swiss team was led by Russell Coutts and four teammates from the previous winning New Zealand team.

In 2007 Alinghi SUI 100 from Switzerland defends the America’s Cup in Valencia, Spain, against Team New Zealand NZL 92. The Swiss with American skipper Ed Baird and Brad Butterworth win the closest and one of the most exciting Cup races in history 5-2. The final score does not indicate how close these races were as either team could have won. The final race was decided by the first on the water penalty in the 155-year history of the event. The winning margin by the Swiss team was just 1 second!

All the excitement of the races was lost in a matter of days as Alinghi team CEO Ernesto Bertarelli created a phantom yacht club, Club Nautico Espanol de Vela (CNEV), in attempt to radically alter the way the America’s Cup races were conducted.

Then, after a time in court, the America’s Cup went “big” which ended up bringing the event here to San Francisco as Larry Ellison who spent millions defending the spirit of the original donors of the America’s Cup against the attempted Swiss coup d’etat.

Larry’s team BMW Oracle won the America’s Cup in the dead of winter off Valencia, Spain over Alinghi 2-0 in a court-ordered dog match featuring massive 90-foot multi-hulls. BMWO built a trimaran, which was skippered by Australian, Jimmy Spithill. The team represented the Golden Gate Yacht Club in San Francisco.

BMWO also featured a gargantuan 245-foot high fixed wingsail with engine-driven flap elements that easily was faster than Alinghi’s catamaran with its 3D soft sails. Led by billionaire Ellison and Russell Coutts, the team has radically altered the landscape for the next America’s Cup, which will be held in San Francisco in 72-foot fixed winged catamarans which can foil at over 50 miles per hour!

What then became fuel for the feast for me as the foiling catamarans of different shapes and sizes from San Francisco, all around the world, then to Bermuda captured more than just a feeding frenzy for me as the tech advances advanced to the insane with unheard of speeds on the water which now has trickled down to the mainstream with Beneteau’s Figaro 3.


The Beneteau Figaro 3

The world of production-based foil-assisted sailboats is about to get a little crazier with the arrival of the Figaro 3 from Beneteau. For the last few years, the luxurious French based company has made good on not only a production wing sail, but now a foiling monohull for your mom and dad or your siblings to enjoy!

The Beneteau group has announced the third generation of Figaro Beneteau One Designs will be launched in 2019 for the 50th anniversary of the Solitaire URGO du Figaro single-handed race. Following successful sea trials of the Figaro Beneteau 3 off France’s Atlantic coast, the French boat builder has announced that the boat will be built in the shipyard of Nantes Chevire.

The Figaro Beneteau 3 (FB3) is the first production foiling one-design monohull ever to be designed. A distillation of technology and innovation, it results from a collaboration between group Beneteau’s best experts and the Van Peteghem Lauriot-Prevost (VPLP) office, the architects of the two last boats to win the Vendee Globe, including last year’s Banque Popular.

The specifications define the FB3 monohull as being as reliable as its predecessor, the FB2.  It is equipped with foils, a better performing ballast-free hull, a more slender and deeper keel, a setback mast and a more extensive and larger sail plan.

Contrary to Imoca 60 foils, the FB3 foils will have an inward-facing profile. The way they operate is different. They are versatile foils that create drift reduction and improve the boat’s righting moment, without increasing the movement, which improves the boat’s performance.

In contrast to the foils on the Vendee Globe’s Imoca 60, the latter will have an inward-facing profile, as naval architect Vincent Lauriot-Prevost explains: “The versatile foil we’ve created provides more than just the dynamic power and vertical lift that is sought after in Imoca. We’ve designed it in such a way that it creates as little resistance as possible in the light airs and reduces leeway at full speed.”

The first 50 boats, reserved for the members of the Figaro class will be priced at €155,000 or $192,000 dollars (excluding tax) then the boat will be available to buy at €175,000 (excluding tax) or $217,000 dollars. After I win the next Powerball, it’s mine!

“The feedback is very positive. The results are in line with what the naval architect envisaged. The foils provide both additional stability and a phenomenon of lift, which makes the boat very balanced,” explained the head of the Figaro 3 program at Beneteau, Eric Ingouf. “The gentleness and precision of the helm took everyone by surprise and it’s a very important element with a view to not overloading the autopilots. We’re beginning to produce hulls and decks in mid-September last year,” said Ingouf. “All the boats, which are manufactured between September 2017 and December 2018, will only be delivered to their owners at the end of 2018 in the name of sporting equity with a view to participation in La Solitaire-URGO Le Figaro.”

The 50th edition of the famous La Solitaire-URGO Le Figaro singlehanded race in the summer of 2019 will be the first race to feature the Beneteau Figaro 3.

The prototype is being put through its paces during sea trials off France’s Vendee region. “It’s undoubtedly a bold move for Beneteau to adopt foils and a canting keel on the Figaro 3, but the Figaro boats have always been a training ground for sailors aspiring to take part in top-level offshore competition,” said Practical Boat Owner boat tester David Harding. “We live in exciting times! The lift generated by the working foil allows them to sail faster in lower wind speeds than ever before, though there comes a point at which the foil must be retracted to stop the boat taking off and sustaining damage. The foils work to generate lift in conjunction with the canting keel, the interaction between the two being a critical element in performance.”

The keel is a deep, with a straight blade, it creates minimum drag. Supplementary drift reduction is provided by the foils. The hull is made of foam sandwich, fiberglass and polyester infused resin, and it corresponds to current designs and is ballast-free. The mast and sail layout are like the Imoca 60s, the mast is set back, providing balance under sail. This allows the use of high performance sails and the addition of a bowsprit.

The Figaro circuit, including the well-known “Solitaire URGO le Figaro,” is renowned for being difficult. It unites the best French offshore racing sailors who compete in ten races a year.

The best sailors started out on the FB1 and FB2. The FB3 has been designed to meet
the requirements of this circuit but may well suit other uses!

These awards are to the nautical industry, what the Oscars are to cinema. The cherished titles of European Yacht of the Year 2018 and European Powerboat of the Year 2018 were awarded on Saturday 20 January at the “Flagship Night” organized for the Boot Düsseldorf boat show. Figaro 3 was elected “European Yacht of the Year” in the “Special Yacht” category.

“To have a chance to be competitive it is best to come in at this time as everyone is new and learning so there is no advantage,” says Dee Caffari, who is currently sailing in the Volvo Ocean Race. “Whereas now the old timers are so advanced at sailing the Figaro 2 that it really is a tough call to race the circuit. I think this may open the class up again with some fresh and new faces, maybe even mine!”

The Figaro 3 will replace its predecessor when the Solitaire, the championship of the solo Figaro circuit, marks its 50th anniversary in 2019. Do not presume however that Beneteau might solely be doing such a project for the typically 40-strong Solitaire fleet. The new Figaro 3 is a Category A ocean-rated boat and we can envision worldwide appeal, particularly in the burgeoning shorthanded offshore racing scene.

“We think we can go more international with this boat,” said Benet au’s sailboat marketing director Guinguido Girotti, who coordinated the project for Beneteau and heads its new racing division. “Think distance races and short-handed offshore racing worldwide and the potential for this Figaro looks exciting.”


38th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta

The 38th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta wrapped up on Sunday, March 4 with hundreds of sailors gathering at the event’s “Regatta Village” at Princess Port de Plaisance in St. Maarten to celebrate victors in the event’s 16 classes. Ever since Hurricane Irma hit the Caribbean island of St. Maarten this past September, the support from the yachting community has poured in and the regatta welcomed an international fleet of 100 boats for four days of spectacular racing on the crystal-clear waters of the Northeast Caribbean Sea. With another epic event in the history books, organizers announced that the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta’s 39th edition has been scheduled for February 28 to March 3, 2019.

“This regatta is massive for the island of St. Maarten and it shows that the yachting world is leading the recovery by holding these events,” said Race Director Paul Miller. “One hundred boats bring in close to 4,000 people, and that’s 2,000 hotel rooms, 16,000 dinners. It all adds up and is a huge boom to the island’s economy. The event was a success and although the conditions were unexpected, from the wind direction (mostly westerly), its strength (uncustomary light), and the swells (challenging), that didn’t change the fact that we put on some great racing. On Sunday, I realized that we hadn’t run a great regatta by overcoming adversity; we had simply run a great regatta. It’s not a matter that we did it despite Irma; we just did it.”

The turnout of teams was impressive. They represented some 25 countries and participated in four days of stellar competition. Every day, racing concluded off Simpson Bay and boats were greeted with cheers and champagne spray from fans at the St. Maarten Yacht Club as they paraded to Simpson Bay Lagoon by way of the famed Simpson Bay Bridge opening. From there, the sailors headed shore side to top off their “serious racing” with some “serious fun” that included a series of concerts and performances culminating on Sunday with a performance by Grammy Award winning musician, Shaggy.

Hurricane Irma was part of a trio of mega hurricanes devastating the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, Florida and Houston, Texas in the fall of 2017. Irma was an extremely powerful and catastrophic Cape Verde-type hurricane. The strongest observed in the Atlantic in terms of maximum sustained winds since Wilma in 2005 and the strongest storm on record to exist in the open Atlantic region.

Irma was the first Category 5 hurricane to strike the Leeward Islands on record, followed by Hurricane Maria two weeks later and was the second-costliest Caribbean hurricane on record, after Maria.

Irma caused extended widespread and catastrophic damage particularly in the northeastern Caribbean and the Florida Keys. It was also the most intense hurricane to strike the continental United States since Katrina which hit the same year as Wilma. The storm caused catastrophic damage in Barbuda, St. Bartholomew, St. Maarten, Anguilla, and the Virgin Islands as a Category 5 hurricane.

“Six months later, to be where we are today I’m really proud of it, and I really appreciate all of the international support we got,” said Chris Marshall, Commodore of the regatta host St. Maarten Yacht Club who raced his Melges 24 Gill Race Team in the event. “We went through a devastating storm, and what I can remember most was two days after the storm a few of the committee members sat together and had a meeting to figure out what to do next. We had to rebuild this, and we needed to make this event happen again. The rest just fell into place.”

Already many teams have committed to competing again in 2019, including all three of the Volvo Ocean Racers and the eleven boats racing in the regatta’s highly competitive fleet of 40-foot racer cruisers.

“This is the first regatta that we do each year, and it’s a great opportunity to get our season started,” said Pawel Gorski, founder of Yacht Club Sopot, which raced the VOR 70 Monster Project. “We love the event, the regatta, the weather, the food. It’s just a great pleasure to come every year. We look forward to racing again next year.”

In 1980, the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta started as the St. Maarten Regatta with a modest 12 sail boats participating. Three years later, in 1983, Heineken became a major sponsor of the St. Maarten Regatta and “Heineken” was added to the name of the event. Heineken participated with a fee of 3,750 guilders (approximately $2,100). As a bonus, the competitors received ice cold Heineken beers from a passing powerboat while they were racing.

After the involvement of Heineken, the event grew fast. With the addition of a third day in 1990, the event grew to 187 boats in 1995 and 251 boats in 1999. Another racing day, the Commodore’s Cup, was added in 2005. The record amount of boats participating in the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta was in 2008 with 284 boats.

Set in the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean, powered by the cooling northeast trade winds and run by an experienced, innovative and friendly race team, the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta is four days of world-class racing in idyllic conditions appealing to a broad range of tastes. Our four race committees provide custom-tailored racing for the thousands of sailors from more than 35 countries that come to race: from Olympic medalists and World Champions sailing Maxis and Performance Multihulls.

So aloha, whoops that’s Hawaii, or farewell from the Caribbean till next time. Write letters please to mark@yachts H

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