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.

 

It is uncanny how the sea and sailboats offer the most unimaginable adventures and, in turn, education, one can ever experience as a human being. Some discover this right off the bat as a young child exploring shallow bays in a dinghy. Others spend their last hours, and dollars, sailing in a straight line for as many days as possible to soak up the grandure that is life on this aquatic planet.

Jesse Smith serenades his daughter with his Ukelele 500 miles from Virgin Gorda.

Jesse Smith serenades his daughter and his mother, far left, with his Ukelele 500 miles from Virgin Gorda.

I know three families who have come to this realization at mid-life and luckily for them, they have young children whom they can share their wanderlust. And these sailors have done what seems to be the hardest part in taking a grand adventure: they actually moved onto a sailboat!

One couple has spent years angling to actualize their experience as charter captains pre-children and re-explore the caribbean with their son and daughter. Another has found a life, they hope, will re-define their core reliance on each other and allow them to educate their children in an open and inspiring way. Yet another couple, spur of the moment, decided circumstances were ripe for an adventure and recognized the potential to create a family connection beyond almost anything you could accomplish on land.

I will write about their diverse stories. Each family comes from a very different socio-economical background and has different interests and approaches to navigating through life. And it is wonderful to watch those approaches unfold in their boat and homeschooling choices.

Now, I would like to share with you the spark, or baby steps of one of those families. Jesse Smith and Annice Kenan have chosen, or in some ways were chosen by, an 11-year-old traditional Gannon and Benjamin Schooner named Rebecca of Vineyard Haven. While their two young daughters transitioned into homeschooling last summer, Jesse completed a major refit of the boat’s hull and electrical systems. They had a brilliant shake down in Maine but friends and family were usually in the mix. Two weeks alone gave them a taste of family freedom. Then came the raucous fall reach to Bermuda and the Caribbean with wiley friends. Now the Smiths and the two other families, all well acquainted, are in the Caribbean attempting to avoid the temptation to swim all day, or think of a way to make a lesson plan out of all the wondrous natural and cultural glories that accompany touring and passagemaking.

l-r, Amanda Sparks (1st mate), Richard Feeny and Dave Fallon (cook), off watch in North Atlantic.

l-r, Amanda Sparks (1st mate), Richard Feeney and Dave Fallon (cook), off watch in North Atlantic.

In the images here you see the Rebecca of Vineyard Haven crew, one being Richard Feeney, a professional sailor and coach who is notable for his success with Tommy Hilfiger in the Extreme Sailing Series and running the education programs at the Herreshoff Museum. You’ll also see Tim and Dave Fallon singing a song they wrote one night at sea on Rebecca. Tim is a two-time ISAF team race world champion and owns a magnificent, engineless, 28-foot wooden catboat Kathleen.

Enjoy their inspiration and I hope you find your own. It’s all around in our sport. And it is addictive. When Tim and Richard returned from the delivery, they spent a December Saturday in 17 degrees match racing in Beetle Cats.

Tim Fallon (green sail) and Richard Feeny reach to the finish, 12/14/13, Sakonnet River.

Tim Fallon (green sail) and Richard Feeney reach to the finish, 12/14/13, Sakonnet River.

Team Snarky striped bass carcass Rally Flag 2013

Team Snarky striped bass carcass Rally Flag 2013

The only thing we expected about his year’s Archipelago Rally was having a fantastic time on the water. The unexpected was the icing on the cake at Quonochontaug Pond with aqua marine colored water and white sand shoals the size of football fields, there was a lot of walking of boats and damaged rudders and centerboards but nothing could dampen the Rally spirit!

Tim and Benjamin Fallon 2013 Archipelago Rally

Tim and Benjamin Fallon 2013 Archipelago Rally

The highlights this year weren’t that there were 35 craft and more than 40 kids sailing or that the breeze and bright sun made for a spectacular venue. I would say the main takeaway was the fact that two young girls were second and third and that a windsurfer won for the first time in the eight year history of the event. The third place girl miraculously has placed in the top five each time she has competed! We tell everyone, it is impossible to plan on winning the Archipelago Rally. Just ask new;y anointed head of sales for North Sails, Kimo Worthington who was on his way to a top three finish before hitting a shoal. He wound up steering the boat to the finish with his legs hanging off the transom while Bridget Murphy trimmed the sail on their wooden Penguin dinghy.

Hambletons in Dyer around the rock with the Collins fam in the Mirror "Dark Knight"

Hambletons in Dyer around the rock with the Collins fam in the Mirror “Dark Knight”

There are many more fun facts and I will send a report to the online media folks. For now, enjoy the links to the pictures and Annie Tuthill’s fabulous film (she has yet to miss a rally and her father drove to Vermont to pick her up from school just for the Rally). And finally, HUGE thank you to not just all the volunteers but to Mike Mills of Jamestown Distributors (who also took some great shots here) and their Total Boat line of products, and Mike Sarnowski of Mad Athlete, they both had all their children sailing.

Rally on!

Rally fleet at Quonny Pond 2013

Rally fleet at Quonny Pond 2013

Special Awards:

Broken Head Perpetual (first place): Will Tuthill, Mistral Windsurfer

Last Place: Matt Gineo, Crosby Fast Cat

Lonely Loon: Rush and River Hambleton

Furthest Traveled: Ray Garcia, Zef, Babylon, NY

First All Family: Tim, Karen, Benjamin (2) and Jamie (2 months) Fallon, Beetle Cat

Vintage Rallier: Adam Walsh, McCaffery-built Peapod Sailing Dory

Rally-2013-final-results

It was 2006 when Olympic silver Medalist Bob Merrick won the inaugural Archipelago Rally on a beat up Hobie 14 by a mear 30 seconds over windsurfing champion Nancy Johnson. That first weekend in December was thrown together the week before with a few phone calls and emails and with a 20-25-knot Westerly, about a dozen “craft” raced, slowest starting first, to Spar Island, a scrubby little sand bar in the middle of Mt. Hope Bay.

Seven years later and the infants that were on the beach that day were all on the water in 100-acre Cove in Barrington in 2012, about 29 kids in total and some steering their own boats. Wow!

Without getting too far into the history, this post will serve as a detail page I will add to over the next few weeks for this year’s Rally. Please pass along to anyone who is interested in racing ANYTHING THAT FLOATS AND IS POWERED BY WIND!

2013 Archipelago Rally

2013 Archipelago Rally

What? 2013 Archipelago Rally, an annual pursuit race (slowest boats start first under Portsmouth Yardstick Ratings, in hopes all finish at the same time), LeMans start off the beach, with a BBQ/Beach Party afterwards.

When? Saturday November 9, 2013, registration at 10 a.m., first starters 11:45 a.m.

Where? Quonochontaug Pond, Charlestown, RI. Start location and parking at RIDEM Launch Ramp end of West Beach Rd. off Rte. 1 (No Shelter, there will be a Porta Jon). Average depth of pond is 5 feet with 10-20 yards of knee deep water at beach launch.

Who? Anyone! Please bring your dinghy, catamaran, windsurfer etc. and RSVP your boat please with: cmuseler@gmail.com or ezrasmith@yahoo.com

BIG NOTE: Everyone is encouraged to fly a PERSONAL Pennant/Flag from their rig!!!

This year we will have a standard “regatta” liability form noting that all participate at their own risk. This has never been done before but was recommended to avoid any complications.

Otherwise, we provide food, prizes and swag, bring your own drinks and very young kid foods.

Please email with any questions and check this post for updates.

Cheers!

Chris Museler, Ezra Smith

2013 ENTRIES SO FAR:

Mohawk Canoe
Mirror Dinghy
Penguin (2)
RSX Windsurfer
Snark
Dyer 9
Cape Dory 10
Beetle Cat
Peapod Sailing Dory
Laser Radial
Laser
Bic O’Pen
Sunfish
Finn (2)

O’Day 14

French CB Dinghy (Like an FJ)

I know I didn’t. At least it wasn’t until leg three of yesterday’s last race of the day at the America’s Cup that I thought there was a better than 50 percent chance Oracle would win the America’s Cup. Today I wrote a live blog for the New York Times for it’s online race coverage. It was running on the front page of their website during the race and that whole time I couldn’t help think about the Achilles  heel of all athletes. When you have such a big lead in a series, one or two losses don’t dent the armor, unless there are signs of strengthening.

Oracle Team USA retains the America's Cup 9/25/13

Oracle Team USA retains the America’s Cup 9/25/13

When your opponent is getting better with each exchange, it’s human nature to question your abilities. That psychology combined with a true increase in boat speed and more precise tactics put Dean Barker and Team New Zealand squarely on the back foot even when they were at match point. Last week I raced in my eighth US Match Race Championships in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. I have been on match point in many finals only to have two losses derail our minds and adding a psychological hurdle we would have rather avoided. Strange as it may sound, this is real in match racing when each race is never over until it’s over. As Jimmy Spithill of oracle said when he was down 7-1, “Stranger things have happened.”

The more delays and abandoned races last week only gave Oracle more time to develop their crew and boat and become stronger psychologically.

Russell Coutts

Russell Coutts

In the end, it seems New Zealand’s boat had reached it’s peak performance early in the series and Oracle’s boat turned out to be a superior design once refined. It was a race against time, in hindsight, from when Spithill’s first boat broke to pieces outside the Golden Gate Bridge. Russell Coutts, the team’s CEO seemed to have known that at the time, that they would need every minute, and every break to win this Cup. It was a master stroke by Coutts to secure five-time Olympic medalist Ben Ainslie for the team before his last Olympic campaign was even over. See how the final boat and personnel development ended up and again I say, Coutts must have known, that all that, and some serious faith and crew spirit, would be needed to keep the America’s Cup in America.

There is no doubt that the current America’s Cup transition to foiling catamarans has launched interest in that developing corner of sailing into the stratosphere. And though the Cup has sent its developments straight into the veins of the sports manufacturing sector to produce items and boats we all begin to use, this time the prospect seems a little far off.

Not being able to have a tangible connection to the sports marquee event is potentially a missed opportunity. Even the wasp-like foiling International Moth has received a huge boost but in reality, $20kUSD for such a challenging little platform has major limits in usability for the masses.

Upon closer observation, the unintended consequence of the AC loophole that allowed foiling and the impressive mass coverage of the event will likely be an infusion of energy into kitesurfing via their foil boards.

Yes, kiting was on the verge of a major popularity push when is was marked as an Olympic discipline two years ago, the second surge in popularity since the first production drive in the mid-2000s. It was pulled shortly after. But this month, a perfect little storm just formed, and I believe this is a key moment in sailing and kiting history.

Johnny Heineken foiling this month in San Francisco

Johnny Heineken foiling this month in San Francisco

Enter Rolex US Yachtsman of the Year, Johnny Heineken. It wasn’t enough that the wavy-haired, handsome and happy kiter/sailor stole the coveted Rolex trophy from our country’s crop of professional, team jersey-wearing men. Or that he rides his race board in the same low and stretched stance as Matt Sweitzer who turned the world onto the freedom and sex appeal of windsurfing in the 1970s.

This week many of us saw nirvana on YouTube and Johnny was waving us in at the gate. Here’s the impression. The world is watching San Francisco and the outrageously wet and wild scene on the water that is the America’s Cup and this video pops up of Johnny floating what could only be called elegant, buttery and seamless foil board tacks just next to the Cup venue.

Johnny Heineken

Johnny Heineken

A slow, but up beat pulses as we watch the man so casually pirouette through his turns. You’re drawn in immediately and without any knowledge of any water sport, one can ascertain the simplicity and ridiculous natural talent this young guy possesses. THAT’s compelling, and that moment, that video and that cool head of hair sliding effortlessly past an industrial background with a saxaphone playing in the background could be the biggest takeaway and inspiration many will get from this Cup.

Is that a good result? All these ramped up people have to use their energy somewhere and it is unlikely there will be a run on foiling catamarans or moths next month.

One night last August when the thermometer was still reading 85 at 11 p.m. I stopped in Andy Pimental’s dinghy repair shop down the road in Portsmouth to bring a beer to Gus Miller, the legendary 78-year-old Finn sailor. He was drilling carbon plates that serve as his signature GoPro camera brackets for the Finn that are now ubiquitous on the international scene and used for technique training. Gus started filming body movements on a Finn in the 1980s when the equipment was significantly more chunky.

August Miller, Portsmouth, RI August 2013

August Miller, Portsmouth, RI August 2013

The strange part about that evening was that he was finishing about six full brackets and had to catch an early flight out of Boston the next morning. He was about to deliver the brackets to the Finn Gold Cup where he would also race, fulfilling a promise he made to an old Estonian friend around 35 years ago.

This summer I was busy wrapping up several assignments after I fractured a rib racing in the Atlantic Cup in Class 40s last May. That injury put me out of commission and forced me to clear my sailing schedule and sell work for the winter and spring. My calendar was open and that opened the door for one of the best chance meetings in recent memory: being reacquainted with legendary Olympic coach Gus, who happened to be in the middle of a full-on world championship campaign.

I have an article due on this 78-year-old sailor who hasn’t stopped racing this grueling singlehanded class since he first jumped aboard one in 1966 while he was a professor in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I run into, and seek out great yachtsman as a career. And I have known of Gus since childhood, reading his name in the magazines after he was a close second at the 1976 Olympic Finn trials, later as a fitness guru for the US Sailing Team and then as an international Olympic Coach for the Finn Class.

Gus’ turning point in his sailing career was when he turned down an opportunity to launch into the world of top ocean racing as a crew member aboard Flyer in the 1977-’78 Whitbread. The friends he made and the drive to improve every aspect of mind, body and boat in the Finn was too strong a pull for his academic mind.

Gus and I met when I was PR director for US Sailing in 1996 and even back then he was considered this crazy old “Finnatic.”

Almost 20 years later, Gus was looking for a place on a beach to keep his Finn to practice this season. Andy put us together and a few weeks later Gus’ Vanguard-built Finn was on our beach along the Sakonnet River. He proceeded to explain to me that he was training for the Finn Gold Cup, the class’ world championship, that was last August in Tallinn, Estonia. Only the fittest of athletes sail top Finn regattas and at his age, I thought he was crazy. But here’s the story.

Gus was at the pre-olympic regatta in Tallinn back in the late 70s. He had friends from the Eastern Block, some KGB agents/sailors. One asked him how much longer he’d be sailing the Finn and his reply was, “I will stop when the Finn Gold Cup is sailed in Tallinn Bay.” He told me this summer, “I thought it would be in five years or so, and here we are.”

August Miller, 2013 Finn Gold Cup, Tallinn Bay

August Miller, 2013 Finn Gold Cup, Tallinn Bay

It has been around 35 years since that conversation and Gus’ efforts to compete in this year’s Gold Cup in Tallinn are nothing short of miraculous and inspiring. This spring, he spent a week at the heralded Dinghy Academy in Valencia, Spain, training in powerful seasonal winds against the top, fully professional, Finn guys. Then it was back home to continue a daily workout that involved weights, swimming, Yoga and meditation. May brought the strenuous Finn Masters Worlds for Gus in La Rochelle, two weeks of breeze and nearly 300 competitors.

Upon his return, Gus rebuilt a friend’s boat and began training behind our house. You had to see it to believe it. What he did before a small but famous Finn regatta in Upstate New York in July was a powerful statement of ambition and perserverance. Sunfish World Champion Stephen Smeulders came to Rhode Island and the two spent one day sailing their Finns around Aquidneck Island in a building seabreeze and the next day sailing around all the other islands in Narragansett Bay (Prudence, Patience, Hope and Despair). Almost 80 nautical miles of sailing in two days, in one of the hardest dinghies to sail in the world.

Dawn Patrol, 37-mile training sail.

Dawn Patrol, 37-mile training sail.

Gus made it to Europe at the beginning of August, enjoyed meeting old friends from the class, some he has been close to for more than 40 years, and sailed every race of the 2013 Gold Cup as the oldest competitor. He even had a crispy new sail hand built for him by David “Sid” Howlett, a dear friend of his and the ridiculously talented coach of five-time Olympic medal winner Ben Ainslie.

I can’t wait to see Gus when he gets back this month and hear a new batch of sailing stories, about the beautiful and sharp Estonian women, how some basic truths still exist in modern racing and how robust a sailing experience it is, and always has been, to sail in a class with so much history. Whether he believes it or not, Gus is a part of history, and is still making his own. I sailed against him in a Finn this summer. My takeaway? My body will break long before I am able to sail a Finn at 78!

It has been quite some time since I have posted here which is a shame but since the spring I have stumbled upon quite a few sailing scenarios that really are upfront in all our consciousness these days. There have been two notable fatalities in our sport already, mirroring 2012, one inshore with the America’s Cup and the unfortunate loss of the wonderful sailor Bart Simpson, then the loss of another family man during the LA-San Diego Islands Race.

I am starting this post off this way to place in juxtaposition to the other highlights of my reporting thus far in 2013. Today, the article I wrote about the 1930 S&S yawl Dorade winning the Transpac Race after more than a 70-year absence lead the sports section of The New York Times. What a fantastic story this has been. Dorade literally launched Olin Stephens’ career into the stratosphere, and this year, with an exceptional crew, driven owner and a good bit of luck, they won the whole shootin’ match. These are the happy stories in our sport and there are many.

To maintain perspective in sailing, I try and remember the idea that Bernard Moitessier, the great French circumnavigator, spoke of which was that the ocean has remained the same for thousands of years (save the trash and containers floating around). We are small and appreciating the massiveness and agelessness of the ocean, and the fact that we can physically interact with this fascinating environment, is one of the more special experiences a human can have.

Loss of life and ecstasy on the ocean are so closely associated, and it is important to be honest with the allure of risk that many sailing experiences offer. I was reminded of this clearly rounding both Catalina and San Clemente after sunset in the fateful Islands Race this spring aboard Dorade. I mentioned to my crew mate as we changed sails in a heaving westerly wind and swell with the rocky shore of Catalina as our lee shore, “It wouldn’t take much to go wrong for us to end up on the rocks right now.” Shortly after I said that, I leaned forward over a sail on the foredeck to secure a sail tie and when I stood up and began walking back, I saw on the deck my harness tether lying there, still attached to the jack line, laid out perfectly without being attached to my person. I pointed it out to someone and they just said, “wow.”

Along that bumpy, treacherous stretch of shore a lightweight Columbia 32 was near our track working hard to keep from broaching as we all were. Over the next few hours, Dorade’s crew was on call to lend assistance to what turned out to be the exact scenario that was playing in my head during our sail change: one small mistake, one slip and things go from exhilarating to deadly.

The balance of Dorade‘s absolutely spectacular and significant win this week in the same piece of ocean (can you think of another boat who has that much history to recreate? Let me know!) with what could happen is partially why we take on these crazy, exciting adventures. My take away, certainly, after seeing how much fun the Dorade crew had fishing and drinking wine all the way to Hawaii, is that we shouldn’t let fear overcome our enjoyment of the sport. Yes, it’s a fine line. But where would we be without it?

DCIM100GOPROOcean racing is something I revisited in my life when I began freelancing in 2004/05 when I raced in the Rolex Transatlantic Race aboard an 84′ yawl from 1939. Since then I have been able to experience some amazing pieces of water around the Atlantic theater. Offshore courses were chosen for many different reasons over the decades but I would have to say that even though the location and timing is less convenient than most of the major races, the historic Pineapple Cup from Ft. Lauderdale to Montego Bay is by far the best stretch of water any sailor can race upon.

I was fortunate to sail in this race last week aboard Michael Hennessy’s Owen&Clarke Class40 Dragon. We sailed with five crew which is quite crowded for a doublehanded boat with water ballast. I won’t bore you with too many details, but first and foremost, the perfect analogy for this race is doing a never ending windsurf or kitesurf downwinder in the Gorge, or off the Molokai Channel or any other long stretch of perfect ocean you have seen from the plane: pure, perfect angle, at speed, with warm water and sunshine for as long as you feel like it.

The icing on the cake with this event is the ridiculous history you join when you participate for the first time. When the Southern Ocean Racing Conference was the king of coastal racing circuits in the 1970s and ’80s, this race became the stuff of legends. One fifth generation Jamaican told me, “A young man named Ted Turner laid on his back at the end of that dock right there, looked up at the stars and said, ‘One day we’ll be transmitting everything from up there,’” predicting an eventual communications and TV empire.

There’s more of course including the chapter of Jim Kilroy’s new book KIALOA US-1: Dare to Win about the battles between his maxi and Windward Passage when that class was the pinnacle of all yacht racing. The images of two giants rounding Guantanamo Bay with clouds of sail in the firing trade winds are what made dreams for generations of now top sailors.

Unfortunately the other winter events in the Caribbean are more than 1,000 miles upwind from Jamaica. And the rising popularity of the heavily marketed RORC 600 in Antigua and others in the Eastern Caribbean have made the Pineapple Cup fall off the radar, with 10 starters this year. If you are interested, however, in just simply sailing a perfect course in a significant part of the world (beam reach down the entire Bahamaian chain, round Cuba and slide through the Windward Passage the “right” way), than join the history of this race, it was truly the most special and enjoyable ocean race of my life. Even the small, ice-cold bottle of Red Stripe I was handed at the Montego Bay Yacht Club tasted like champagne, perfect!

Enjoy this video of our trip!

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Javier Sanso, Acciona 100% EcoPowered

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