Sitting on the trampoline of an International Moth is rarely good. It probably means you slipped in a gybe and you’re about to get your ear sliced open by your shroud. Well, that happened to the winner of last week’s Amlin International Moth Regatta in the penultimate day when there was another 25-30-knot front.

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American Pat Wilson at “the knot” out of a gybe, big breezy Day 4 of The Amlin. BEAU OUTTERIDGE Image.

Rob Greenhalgh looked like he was in a round with Mike Tyson and on the light wind finale on Friday, the Volvo Ocean Race veteran, scabbed-over ear and all, was sitting mid tramp, coaxing his Exocet Moth across the line to clinch this inaugural Bermuda Moth regatta. With about a dozen Olympic medals represented among the fleet, America’s Cup winners, world champions, winner of this fall’s Transat Jacques Vabre and the best “corinthian sailors” on the planet all doing their own boat work and tuning, this regatta has started something amazing. There is The Vendee, The Volvo and now there is “The Amlin.”

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l-r Rob Greenhalgh, Simon Hiscocks relax after The Amlin

Greenhalgh sported a TotalBoat hat as he sat in a cafe last Friday after racing with two-time Olympic medalist Simon Hiscocks. But, as a finely tuned competitor usually affords, he had no use for the glues or paints that brand represents. “The boat did all the work for me,” he said to a reporter after hitting the docks at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. On top of this satisfaction, he was also rewarded with a $5,000 check.

The story of the event, though, was the massive breeze every two days, and the Herculean efforts of the sailors who used about a dozen tubes of TotalBoat’s Thixo and other TB epoxies and supplies to get their broken boats back on the track.

Thursday’s racing left an evening of repairs stuck in garbage bags with hairdryers attached for rapid curing. “In the third race there were piles of capsized boats between the leeward gates,” said Dan Ward, whose major transom repair had held through two days of racing. “There was no room to go so sailors would crash at 30 knots and couldn’t get through until someone righted their boat and went around.”

Ward said there was an unspoken agreement sorted out which all affirmed on shore was called a , “one in, one out” leeward rounding scenario. “You’d come barreling into there and have nowhere to go so you’d just crash.”

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Benoit Marie wing bar repair sleeve.

One of the most well thought out repairs that evening was commenced by Benoit Marie of France. This wide-eyed Frenchman won the outrageously aggressive and punishing Mini-Transat in 2013. There has yet to be a winner of the Vendee Globe who hasn’t trained for the same.

Marie, with help of the aforementioned Simon Owen-Smith, sanded and cut through his cracked wing bar. Luckily another broken wing bar had the same section in tact. The piece was dry-fitted then Thixo Low Viscosity epoxy was used as a glue. Though much thinner than Marie had expected, the fit of the sleeve was tight, banged on using the side of a file and a mallet, so little gap-filling was necessary. It was also way quicker than mixing regular epoxy in a pot. Into the bag with hairdryer it went and the repair held strong for the final day.

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l-r Marie and SOS hammer on sleeve.

“Regional legend” British sailor and winner of the Corinthian trophy in 11th place was Tom Offer. After the big breeze of Thursday, Offer clamped a carbon plate to his shroud prodder for a new setting to allow his rig to bend more. The extra Thixo left on the cardboard with a popsicle stick was used to fillet Marie’s wing bar repair.

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Hairdryer fast curing.

Interestingly, all the Bermudans and many of the international sailors had heard of or used www.JamestownDistributors.com. It makes sense in the global market of boat building and repair and the presence of JD and TotalBoat was a perfect fit with these world travelers who do all their own boat work.

The Americans ended the event with two top ten finishers with Anthony Kotoun and Victor Diaz de Leon. It was a tough event with the well-honed Brits staying consistent in both the light and heavy breeze. Nat Shaver, who had been modifying his Mach2 up until day one of the Amlin started planning his projects on the flight home last weekend.

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Tom Offer prodder Thixo adjustment.

Shaver will design a high-lift main foil for the light winds and also a bowsprit, like the ones that served the British so well in the heavy going, keeping the wand far from the foil elements and stabilizing the ride.

With the US Fleet now in a container enroute to Miami, it looks like the lessons from the Amlin will manifest themselves in more creative boat development and a hungrier, more concise on-the-water regime. The next Amlin is now a year away and sponsors are reportedly committing to an annual event after this year’s rousing success. And there is a Moth world championship in Hayama, Japan between now and then. Who knows what will be developed between now and then, but in this group, ears and egos will heal and boats will always be put back on the track.

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The “foil” room at RBYC.

SOS Said it best at the awards about this class and the camaraderie and expertise present among the group. Referring to Dan Ward’s transom repair, he said: “To have your boat fall apart on day one and be out of the regatta for the rest of the week seems, to me, a bit of a shame. Given that these little machines are pretty high tech pieces of kit and someone can put a bandaid on them and get them back on the water, I enjoy doing it. And being surrounded by so much enthusiasm and people who are young at heart, that’s what it’s all about. Well done to all of you.”

And long live The Amlin!

 

It seems like months ago the US Moth fleet was quietly making night repairs after long, daily river sessions in North Carolina. After last weeks sunny practice on the Great Sound in Bermuda, a depression smacked the 50 international sailors for Sunday’s Dash for Cash, breaking boats and people. The Amlin International Moth Regatta, with some of the top professional and amateur sailors in the world, was on!

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Dan Ward’s split Mach2 transom

A squally 25-35 knots of breeze today filtered out the weak and all knew this was the real deal, what we had been preparing for. “I think the sail in was the most exciting sailing I have ever done,” laughed US Mothie Anthony Kotoun after the second day of racing. “Greenhalgh and I were wing bar to wing bar beam reaching between little islands with a ragged reef as our lee shore.”

The US team has had some great moments on and off the water, and with the 11th Hour sustainability practices in our heads, we’ve been keeping repairs tidy and enjoying some clean living. Thanks to our materials sponsor, Jamestown Distributors and their TotalBoat line of products, there’s nothing that can’t be fixed.

When 30 knots rakes a fleet of Moths, there’s no escaping breakages. Fixes from Sunday and Monday were tested. Olympians broke booms, and America’s Cup champions cartwheeled, skipping over the water in crashes. With everyone in, repairs began anew.

Kotoun ripped the tiny barrel nut out of his main foil flap earlier in the week. It’s not Moth sailing until the Dremel comes out, he always says, and he ground delicately into the flap, lubed up the little cylinder and set it in Thixo Fast Cure. “This is a TotalBoat moment,” (VIDEO here) he said as he moved the articulating nut while the Thixo cured. It worked today, in the most challenging of conditions.

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Kotoun’s barrel nut set in Thixo on main foil flap.

Victor Diaz de Leon got some help from Australian legend boatbuilder Simon Owen-Smith (appropriately nicknamed SOS)  with his front vertical foil. A split trailing edge was cleaned, injected with TotalBoat 5:1 and clamped for the night.

British sailor Tom Offer was bucked into his spreaders, landing ass first, making some cracks and scraping his bum. A few carbon unis and TotalBoat epoxy will be curing in the shed.

US sailor Matt Knowles will be repairing a cracked wing bar but the biggest TotalBoat project of the event so far was for UK Mothie Dan Ward.

A crash with 50-knot closing speeds split Ward’s Mach2 transom apart and left him swimming with a lacerated eyebrow. Enter the elder statesman of Moth building, Mr. SOS.

SOS began by bravely gutting a huge square inspection hole in the bottom of the boat to access the inside of the transom. Late at night he read the sign in the shed with an arrow pointing to a box that read, “Thixo thickened epoxy. TRY IT! From TotalBoat.” He said it was a miracle, and that’s what he needed to fix this boat.

Realigning the after cross beam, carbon layering ensued with TotalBoat 5:1 and its Fast Cure hardener.

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Simon Owen-Smith drills into the transom repaired overnight.

Once the transom cured, SOS drilled through the back to place the rudder gantry posts. This area takes some of the highest loads on the boat. SOS carefully filled the hole with Thixo and slid the carbon/stainless posts in and out until fully coated then only had minutes to attach the removable gantry so they would cure with the fitting in place.

The most intriguing part of the repair wasn’t that SOS worked until 2 a.m., slept in the next room of the shed on a chiropractic table and used a homeless man as his helper.  But the sweet re-application of the hull’s inspection hole was brilliant.

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Cleaning up the edge of the bonding plate for inspection hole

SOS created a bonding plate inside the hull to allow the cutout to be glued. “The Thixo viscosity was perfect for this job,” said the Australian. “It’s just thick enough but it doesn’t need high clamping pressure. It came out very smoothly.”His explanation (VIDEO here) stated that Thixo can hold a bead as it is dispensed with a standard caulking gun. When something is pressed onto that bead, it squeezes out with little pressure but keeps put, filling gaps. “The fact that it fills gaps with little pressure is the key,” he added. “I was thinking about it last night how perfect Thixo was for these jobs.”

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Finished transom

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Gantry post set in Thixo

A break in the torrent is expected and I will report back on whether or not the fixes worked. The top US guys struggled in the bumpy conditions and dropped some places. Only the leader, Kotoun, managed two solid top 10 finishes. But they are hungry to tackle the next races.

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l-r Dan Ward and SOS re-christen the moth after a marathon repair session. Ward was 13th in the day’s race in 25-33 knots of breeze.

“Ah, the smell of epoxy in the morning, smells like…victory.” This was one of the many punchy comments on Nat Shaver’s recent FB posts of a modification to his International Moth.

Last week’s US Moth training camp in North Carolina, supported by 11th Hour Racing with supplies from Jamestown Distributors and TotalBoat is now in the books. The work lists are smaller and there was a lot tested, performance measured and modified on the boats. The fleet is now packed in a container enroute to the Amlin International Moth Regatta in Bermuda.

The finishing touches on boat work are still in progress, though. Today, Patrick Wilson was putting the final paint on his foils in his Charleston garage, ending four months of intense grinding, sanding and gluing. (Details on all projects, products used and outcomes listed below)

“I’m not going to do anything to my boat that’s not going to make me faster,” he said on the last day of the training session in Minnesott Beach. And as he would fly up to leeward of the group to signal the start of a lineup, all would trim in. Just one click off the breeze than the rest, it was just a matter of a minute or so before this barefooted blonde guy took off, ending up boat lengths ahead. His approach is working and it started four months ago.

When the US fleet held its Nationals in Hood River, Oregon last summer, Anthony Kotoun walked away with the title sporting a canting rig that stood more upright while sailing upwind, and also used an adjustable rake system to lean the rig forward downwind. That kicked off a massive carbon cutting and vacuum bagging session in the following months to glue in new bow tubes to make adjustable forestays. Shaver designed and 3-D printed a forestay fitting with a pulley and by last week, everyone was going as far forward as they dared off the wind with their mast before the boats became super squirrely and crashed.

Throughout the season, the sailors in this fleet ordered supplies online from www.JamestownDistributors.com because it was fast and efficient. With the warehouse in Bristol, Rhode Island, the product could be shipped anywhere. The supplies donated to the fleet last week were consolidated for all and sent to Minnesott for use there and in Bermuda.

All the quick fixes and repairs in North Carolina were perfect opportunities to use the TotalBoat Thixo, both the Low Viscocity (during the warmer daytime) and the FastCure (at night when temps dipped into the 40 degrees range). With its mixing tip, this quick, ready-made thickened epoxy dispensed with a caulking gun was perfect for Shaver’s boom end that split into pieces at the outhaul. Two thin carbon plates clamped on either side of the end were perfect anchors for a new outhaul system, ready in the morning.

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Quick and dirty Thixo repair.

A small batch of TotalBoat 5:1 Epoxy Kit resin and hardener combined with some carbon tape and a G-10 fiberglass dowel fixed a snapped tiller extension overnight as well.

This week, Wilson was doing something that will definitely make him faster: re-doing his main horizontal foil hinge. The magic of the Moth is directly associated with the main horizontal foil flap. This is attached to a push rod (held within the vertical foil) that is controlled by a linkage that terminates at a carbon wand off the bow. As the boat goes lower in the water, the wand presses back and the flap is pushed down, adding more lift, and visa versa.

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Anthony Kotoun uses a digital protractor to measure Front Vertical Foil flap angle change as he moves the wand. Minnesott Beach, NC.

For elite sailors like Wilson, making that flap’s “hinge” as smooth as possible on the top and leaving a super polished finish on the entire foil means that he will blow through the 30-knot barrier downwind and hang with the best in Bermuda. The major part of this equation is the flexible joint on the top of the foil. A bead of Sikaflex is laid and sanded smooth, then the foil is sanded, primed and painted and sanded again. For the best guys, this last bit is pure art. We all can do it, but top results come with experience. Too smooth in cold water, the foils will cavitate. Too coarse, and you’re slow.

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Patrick Wilson checking the finish on the freshly faired and painted front horizontal foil. 11/23/15

Here’s Wilson’s product list this week:

Sikaflex, Sika Primer, Awlgrip 545 Primer, Awlgrip Topcoat, sandpaper (3M Stickit roll of 120, 220, 320; wetland paper 600, 800, 1000, 1200)

Anthony Kotoun spent all his free time wet sanding his foils in North Carolina, even taking an interview with a local journalist at www.TownDock.net wile he worked his little sanding block at opposing 45-degree angles with the trailing edge of his flap against the table to avoid over-sanding that edge.

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Anthony Kotoun putting the time in, wet sanding his foil at 45 degree angles.

Shaver was a designer with Emirates Team New Zealand in the last America’s Cup and is now working with France’s Groupama Cup team. Check out his project list below to get a feel for the DIY projects the US fleet completed up until the Bermuda container arrived last Monday:

“For all the carbon work I used a vacuum pimp, vac bag, breather and peel ply bought at JD along with sandpaper.For most of the bonding I used SpaBond from JD but have started using Thixo.” – Nat Shaver, US Moth Sailor

Designed and 3-D printed ball-socket Rudder Rake adjuster; Bent Boom 18 degrees (carbon, epoxy); constructed Boom Spreader (carbon, epoxy, foam); Installed Centerline Utility Tube for forestay purchase (carbon, epoxy, SpaBond); Designed and built New, Longer Rudder (carbon, epoxy, foam, plywood); Faired and painted all foils; Designed and installed 3-D printed Forestay Mount; Rigged boat with Adjustable Rig Rake, can’t and control lines  moved to outer wing bars.

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Double vacuum bagging carbon bow tubes for adjustable forestays.

The Bermuda Moth regatta we are all gunning for starts December 6th. Wilson and several other American’s will be buffing out their foils until then and hand delivering them to that awesome island in the Atlantic. Last week’s Moth Camp was fantastic and the sailors were leapfrogging each other’s performance each day. Every adjustment, modification, seemed to work. The proof is in the pudding and even in Bermuda there will be a work list. But everyone is prepared, jacked up and ready to test their systems and their abilities against all those professionals they will be sitting next to on their flights in next week. I will be reporting on how it all shakes out so stay tuned and follow the US Flagged Moth sailors!

 

 

 

 

 

“OK, someone has to take a picture and send it to our hosts as a thank you gift,” shouted Anthony Kotoun, the Dali Lama of the US Moth fleet at dinner a few nights ago. “Then we have to shanghai Zack Maxim’s boat from the shipping company. There’s a $200 prize for anyone willing to wake up at 6 a.m. tomorrow for the 1.18-hour drive…” And the list rolled on that way until our beers and grilled oysters were delivered.

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November US Moth Training Camp, Neuse River, NC

It was a pretty spendy call to take a week from work and family and head to the Neuse River in North Carolina for a training session in the outrageously quick and touchy Moth. The US fleet was offered rooms and a launch at Steve and Heidi Benjamin’s compound on this enormous estuary of brackish water and oyster fishermen.

The major selling point? A $10,000 prize, of course! Amlin International Moth Regatta in December has hand-selected the best sailors in the world to bring their personal, single-handed boats to Bermuda and race for not only a prize purse but bragging rights. You see, all the top America’s Cup teams (with the highest paid sailors on the planet) have fleets of Moths for their sailors to train with. And the Royal Yachting Association has sponsored elite Mothies from the UK for a few years now to top this influential class. They all want to beat the crap out of each other on their own terms, with their own boats. Trimmers wanting to take races off their Cup helmsmen, etc.

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Victor Diaz de Leon, nearing 30 knots downwind, Neuse River, NC

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3-D Printed adjustable forestay fitting by Nat Shaver

Then there are the Americans, last week layered in wetsuits during the day getting ripped off their trampolines and hucked into the brown water of the Intercoastal Waterway when the chop would pitch the boats while they were hitting 30 knots. Strangely absent from many of the Cup teams and only supported by the environmentally forward thinking 11th Hour Racing, this group of pro and amateur sailors have been covered in carbon dust and resin every week for the past season adjusting, designing, 3-D printing and training their way toward their goal of out sailing the privileged group in Bermuda.

Last week was my chance to witness how the DIY approach to boat work and training can get someone ready to beat the most well paid, and funded, teams in the world. Very American!

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Mach2 Moth box always doubling as work bench

The routine has been the same for this group since the frigid mornings of last April in Newport, the fleet’s summer home. Boat work at night and hours of training during the day to test new systems. North Carolina was a hyper-focused version of this system. Late the other night, Nat Shaver, who designed foils for Team New Zealand in the last Cup and is now working with the French Cup Team was jamming on one of his many carbon fixes since the training camp began.”It’ll be so shitty and ugly,” he said, after using a dremel to grind off the broken bits at the end of his homemade boom, “but it’ll do the job, I think.”

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11 p.m. boom repair, 49 degrees

Moth sailors in America easily spend 70 percent of their time on boat work in this development class and barely the remaining 30 on the water. The base structure of the boats is the Mach 2 Moth built by McConaghy in China.

Why do the boats need so much work? Foiling sailboats are still new, at the boundaries of the sport and when you are traveling upwind at 16-17 knots and downwind at 20-30, the most minute adjustment can make many knots-worth of difference. So the short answer is: systems.

Making carbon levers to articulate and assist canting the rig from side to side, gluing little tabs to anchor sail adjustment pulleys (some so tiny they are sourced from remote control boat manufacturers) and repairing the constantly breaking modifications to the carbon wing bars and booms are added to work lists daily, attended to at night, and tested the next day.

The Americans are their own pit crews and coaches. And they want to kick ass next month. Jamestown Distributors president Mike Mills, a foil boarder himself, saw an awesome parallel between what this group is doing and what he was part of in the late 1990s in the International 505 class, easily the most elite double handed class in the world. Mike won the worlds in 1998 with Nick Trotmen after years of this very organic approach. JD sent me down with boxes of their house brand Total Boat epoxies and supplies to support the group.

Asking around, I realized that literally all the top performance sailors in the US, all plugging away in their garages to modify and repair their boats, use JD and the growing line of Total Boat products, especially the epoxies and fibers.

And when you do everything yourself, and pay out of your own pocket to make your boat faster, knowing there is a company that understands and gets you what you need STAT, makes a huge difference.

I’ll report back on how it all went with the work lists, which fixes worked, which didn’t and if this rag-tag group of rouge sailors will be ready to dethrone a few of those fully-sponsored pros in Bermuda next month.

 

Apologies for not posting since earlier in the year. More editorial to come, BUT for now:

This is the 10th Archipelago Rally so let’s see what you have under the porch!!! The shallow, warm waters of the Westport River await and our wonderful host, the Spindle Rock Club is ready to go.
Please let us know what craft you are bringing and DON’T FORGET YOUR PERSONAL PENNANT to fly from your rig.
The Broken Head Perpetual, Clark Cherub Stein All-Family Award, Pine Needle, Lonely Loon and other awards will be on hand. See you there!

PS: MORE DETAILS TO COME ON THIS SITE and through PaperlessPost invite.

Slide1

Like any journalistic endeavor, a lot of great thoughts end up on the editing floor. Thought the foiling talk is over, the discussion is not!

Below are some extras from crazy new and old friends who are on the “emerging” side of the sport. I”LL ADD MORE TONIGHT

Enjoy!

From Jack Gierhart, Executive Director of US SAILING:

Jack Gierhart, US SAILING

Jack Gierhart, US SAILING

“This area of sailing is driving a lot of interest and excitement, creating
a whole new approach that will attract interest from new audiences and
potential participants. I see corollaries between the developments in
sailing with kites, multihulls and foiling, and what happened in skiing
with snowboarding, telemarking, backcountry, boarder cross, kite skiing,
etc. that has help rejuvenate the tradition sport of skiing and add
entirely new angles. While not everyone is going to jump on a moth or a
foiling kite, their interest will be peaked and potentially directed
towards other platforms and options. Anything that creates new interest
and excitement in sailing will be good for the future of the sport. While
I am not sure the recent AC had a direct impact on sailing participation
(possibly a bit in the Bay Area), it has certainly had an impact on
product development which is driving these new segments and evolution of
sailing and generating new interest. An indirect benefit.

“At US Sailing we need to follow these developments and make sure our
programs and services to sailors and organizations support these
developments and foster an environment that encourages this evolution. US
Sailing realizes the marketplace does a great job driving innovation; we
need to embrace this and insure we evolve our programs to take advantages
of these innovations and help create an environment where they can spread
and prosper. We look forward to working with this part of the sailing
community to push developments into the mainstream.”

From Tyler Doyle, President Doyle:

Doyle CFD Rendering

Doyle CFD Rendering

“I think the rapid development of foiling is opening up all sorts of exciting new design and analysis opportunities in the industry. As I’m sure you know the hydrodynamics of foiling have been understood for a long time but it has only been recently that modern laminates and construction processes have evolved to the point where the structures needed for foiling can be made light and strong enough to make foiling dreams a reality. So far we haven’t worked directly on any foiling projects however most if not all of the high performance sailing projects we’ve worked on recently from 90 ft cruising catamarans to planing 100 ft monohulls have at least considered foiling. We have worked on a few projects that don’t go all the way to foiling but use horizontal foils to either partially lift the boat out of the water or create down force to help with stability.

“Foiling and other creative appendage designs are great for our CFD consulting business because it’s exactly the type of thing we can simulate accurately and usually much quicker than a similar tow tank test program. Typical hulls and appendages have been developed and refined long enough that there is a huge amount of knowledge that just needs to be adapted for a given project. Foiling is just the opposite, there a few proven design concepts that designers are scrambling to try and apply to new projects however usually changes are needed that are not well understood and need to be simulated or tested to get right. Simulating foils isn’t easy because you need to model things such as the water free surface, turbulence and cavitation to get the performance right which creates computationally demanding simulations. The type of CFD we use most, RANS CFD, is well suited to the problem and our approach of using open source CFD codes and cloud computing results in cost effective simulations that can fit into reasonable design budgets. The older approach for simulating hulls and appendages using panels codes that only model surface conditions isn’t up to the task of modeling foiling performance correctly.”

LiveStream Slide1 Foiling in the USA will be broadcast LIVE via LiveStream and answering questions from TWITTER @Oakcliffsail !! WHEN: THIS THURSDAY, April 9 at Doyle Sails LI,1345 New York Ave. Huntington Station, NY 11746 COME IN PERSON! FREE Pizza and an open discussion on how the rapid development of hydrofoil technology is going to change the way we enjoy sailing!! Will we all be cruising on hydrofoils in the future? Will kids be flying out of the water on mass-produced plastic foilers at their learn-to-sail camps? Here’s the line-up to answer those questions: -The New York Times correspondent CHRIS MUSELER makes sense of the latest developments –GunBoat founder PETER JOHNSTONE on live SkypeVideo chat about the foiling G4 cruiser/racer catamaran in trials THIS WEEK! –The Foiling Week founder Luca Rizzotti will chime in from Lake Garda to explain the vibe when the world’s top foil designers get together to create the future of the sport -AND contributions from other influential visionaries including radical kite foiler Bryan Lake, Waterlust Project filmmaker Patrick Rynne, US Sailing Executive Director Jack Gierhart and more!!! This is the HOTTEST TOPIC in sailing today and since there has been overwhelming interest in this discussion, Thursday’s talk will be broadcast LIVE with the help of LiveStream producers. A Q&A will be held with the live audience and a TWITTER Feed @Oakcliff will be used to handle questions from viewers around the world.

G4 Foiling Cruiser/Racer Catamaran on trials April 2015

G4 Foiling Cruiser/Racer Catamaran on trials April 2015

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Kite Foilboarder BRYAN LAKE fresh from Foilboarding Gold Cup in La Ventana

What a year 2014 was. Besides a normal pipeline filled with marine-based writing assignments, I had the fortune and privilege of producing a mini-documentary for The New York Times and PBS on the New York to Barcelona Race. Working with some of the world’s top visual journalists defined a very real distinction being created in modern media where video news is not just videographers’ footage being edited by a producer, overseen by an editor. I wrote more about the experience for the Times’ Lens Blog. The professional sailors I was with, in this case, work hard for their salaries and the conditions, both on the sea and contractually, are often rough. But what an amazing life to capture.

Isle a Vache, Haiti

Isle a Vache, Haiti

This year began in a much different fashion for me. January produced an assignment that took me through the trash-choked canals and streets of Port au Prince, Haiti, to an orphanage on an island void of cars or electricity where some children are laying on the ground, with various disabilities, unable to move, and onward to a rough neighborhood in Jamaica and finally into the bizarre time warp that is Cuba.

Next up is the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s Caribbean 600, February 24, where my assignment is to document the experience of racing aboard a classic yacht, in and out of the islands of the Caribbean. And like the rest of the Caribbean racing circuit, we will see the luxury and squalor of these islands each day when we walk the streets and travel the harbors. It is always a bitter sweet experience when you are on your way to a regatta party with flowing Rose’ and you pass people living under ratty blue tarps with little, if any clothing covering them.

Children-only Birthday Party, Isle a Vache, Haiti

Children-only Birthday Party, Isle a Vache, Haiti

January’s trip, aboard the Gannon and Benjamin wooden schooner Charlotte was 180 degrees off what the 600 represents. That was a humanitarian trip that, strangely, Charlotte’s owner, designer, builder, Nat Benjamin took because it was the most rewarding and enjoyable way to spend his time. Nothing gives Nat more pleasure than to load his boat with supplies (donated sails and tools, boxes of crayons, canvases, garbage bags and a few hundred clothes pins), at his own expense, and sail through a snow storm from Martha’s Vineyard to Isle a Vache, Haiti, and deliver these items to people who seem to have nothing.

As I write about all the major yachting events of 2015 I will certainly have a different view of who the heroes are in our sport. Professional sailors have chosen their careers. They earn an income and their personal “brands” are pushed out to the world through every imaginable technological platform. They are paid to do what they love and their challenges inspire us.

Nat Benjamin on dawn watch aboard Charlotte in the Windward Passage

Nat Benjamin on dawn watch aboard Charlotte in the Windward Passage

Nat Benjamin has also chosen his career and his sailing experience. And though his Caribbean winter experience is vastly different than most of ours (paying thousands of dollars to help teach art to children and bang in rough-hewn garboard planks so a family can continue subsistence fishing), he reminds us that a sailing hero does not have to be eating freeze dried meals in between lifting tons of sails while sea water is being fired at their bodies.

Apartment living across street from El Capitolio (Capitol building), Havana, Cuba

Apartment living across street from El Capitolio (Capitol building), Havana, Cuba

I will share my work on these Caribbean adventures as it is released in the Times Travel section, Sail, Sailing and Wooden Boat. And I am excited to continue looking at the sport of sailing and its players through an ever-changing and focused lens so we all can gain a broader perspective on its relevance today.

Shorthanded sailing, the massive challenge of sailing solo or with just one other across oceans, is one of the most compelling, dramatic athletic endeavors imaginable. Though satellite and broadband technology has allowed these adventurers to transmit the world this strenuous lifestyle, we are only seeing part of the story.
By its nature, these disciplines of sailing are solitary endeavours. The camera is only on when they are speaking to it. And with two, you only see one usually, not the team working seamlessly together.Image

I have always wanted to see deeper into the hidden rhythms of these sailors and surprisingly the Ocean Masters Series has taken a tremendous leap and dropped media crew members and reporters on the IMOCA 60s for the NY-Barcelona Race.
I am writing from the transom of Hugo Boss while American Ryan Breymaier and Spaniard Pepe Ribes feel eachother and ghe boat out sailing from Newport to NYC.
I will becreporting fir the New York Times all the way to Barcelona starting June 1.my challenge is being thar fly on the wall to allow their natural rhythm and feel for the boat, the weather and eachother show through.
But i am sceptical. Another human im their space has to have an impact. Their tongues will surely be bit a few times. Over the course of two weeks at ses, however, patterns will emerge for me to capture in words, images and video that have not been seen before from these superhumans who can race non-stop around the world, alone, inside of three months.
This is a first in this discipline and we will see!

For the first time in the modern history of the Volvo Ocean Race, a large portion of the skippers and sailors will be newbies to the race. Most have never lapped the planet on a sailboat. This is in stark contrast to previous races where only the most elite helmsmen – Chris Nicholson, Paul Cayard, Frank Cammas, Grant Dalton – have been able to garner the support of top sponsors and yacht designers to compete. This rarified atmosphere was the driving principle of what is considered the marquee professional ocean race in the world.

SCA Womens VOR Team

SCA Womens VOR Team

This fall we will all see a new race with the same challenges of ocean, mind and body, but with a new one-design Volvo Ocean 65 to defray costs and eliminate the quess work in designing and building a custom racer that could be the key to winning or losing before the race even starts. This is race director Knut Frostad’s vision and with nearly all boats spoken for and teams already training, Frostad’s concept already has legs. Will the infusion of new, yet untested talent prove to keep the level of racing high this fall and the return on investment for sponsors even higher? Time will tell. But this bold move is a very modern style of thinking brought to a very established sport. I remember when the Volvo 70 first hit the water and I sailed a punishing upwind leg in 2006 for The New York Times. The boats changed the sport of ocean racing and provided a drama and backdrop to exploit what was already a compelling and harrowing event.

The May issue of Seahorse Magazine (UK) has a brief analysis of this evolution of the race that has allowed for the first major paradigm shift in professional ocean sailing since Sir Peter Blake and his generation basically created professional offshore sailing. Blake personally found the funds, created a team, and took a professional approach never before seen in the sport. Dennis Conner did the same and all those crews and those to follow never knew a world where sailing wasn’t a full-time profession.

In my article I focus on the creation of Team Alvimedica and its American leaders Charlie Enright and Mark Towill. Much like Blake, these two sub-30 year-old sailors created their own opportunities. But before Knut’s visionary move with the Volvo, these two would have been a decade away from leading their own Volvo team. They and several others teams in this year’s Volvo have been fast tracked with equal boats and a more robust marketing package from the VOR.

Here is a selection from my interview with Charlie done at his home Bristol, RI on an ice-covered day this winter. It is exciting to speak with someone on the threshold of the greatest opportunity of their career. You will here in his voice and read his words and see that regardless of age or experience, the Volvo has opened the doors to a very worthy batch of freshmen to the race who know no different than being payed to race full-time. This is certainly a notable milestone in the sport and it will be fascinating to watch this next race play out.

 

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