Archive for January, 2006

VOR: ABN AMROs Win Again, Synergy Out Until Baltimore, Cayard Defends Keels

Posted by John Callender on January 29th, 2006 at 8:51 am

ABN AMRO One at the leg 2 finish in Melbourne

The two ABN AMRO boats went 1-2 in Leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race (again), giving them a solid lead in the overall standings. Two boats (Brasil 1 and Ericsson) withdrew with gear failures, and one (ING Real Estate Brunel, now to be renamed Brunel Teamwork), has announced they will skip the next three legs and rejoin the race in Baltimore. With funding for the last-place team being tight, and the opportunity now to optimize the boat for the presumably lighter winds to be found late in the series, the theory is that this will deliver more bang for the boat’s sponsorship buck than continuing to trail the leaders around the world.

Meanwhile, in a press conference in Melbourne, Pirates skipper Paul Cayard defended the canting-keel technology that has knocked his boat out of contention for the last two legs running. Said Cayard:

Canting keel technology is smart technology. It allows you to keep a boat light (which is fast) yet have high stability which translates into horsepower and speed. This technology will be the standard for the entire marine industry, racing and cruising, in 10 years time.

Personally, I have a hard time believing that. It’s true that racing systems tend to work their way down to the cruising fleet, but I can’t see how a recreational sailboat industry that is currently losing market share to more user-friendly, if less aesthetically satisfying, nautical pursuits like powerboats and PWCs is going to embrace a complex, expensive, and potentially scary technology like canting keels, at least outside the high-performance racing segment.

Photo: That’s ABN AMRO One approaching the Leg 2 finish in Melbourne.

Craig McCabe’s Big Adventure

Posted by John Callender on January 15th, 2006 at 1:04 pm

Craig McCabe

Mark Twain famously quipped that a man with one watch knows exactly what time it is; a man with two is never sure. A nice example of that is provided by Internet news sites, which make it possible to pull up different newspaper articles describing the same event.

I thought about that when reading today about Craig McCabe, a lawyer who lives aboard his powerboat Heather in Marina del Rey. McCabe was singlehanding the boat from Marina del Rey to Newport Harbor this past Thursday, when he fell overboard and ended up spending more than five hours in the water.

Meanwhile, his boat wandered off on its own and eventually plowed into Catalina Island, prompting a search for the missing boater. He was plucked from the water near a buoy that sounds like it might be the LA Harbor entrance buoy. But first he was overlooked by a passing fishing boat, almost run down by a passing freighter, clung to a balloon and some driftwood, recited the 23rd Psalm, and was threatened by a territorial sea lion.

The articles all pretty much agree on these dramatic apects of the story. But there seems to be an interesting looseness regarding more basic information like how old McCabe is (58 or 59, depending on which article you read), and how long his boat is (either 50, 55, or 65 feet).

Anyway, you can read the articles and try to figure out the details for yourself:

All the articles seem to agree that McCabe was checking over the side to see if his boat had snagged a lobster pot when he fell in, which is easy enough to believe. But I find myself wondering if it might actually be that McCabe is embarrassed to admit that the real reason he was leaning over the side was that he was peeing.

I guess I’ll never know. Anyway, I’m glad the story had a happy ending.

Photo: McCabe, along with his daughter Kelly and Dr. Jonathon Lawrence, at a press conference Friday at St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach. Photo by Bruce Chambers of the Orange County Register.

VOR: Brasil 1, Ericsson Out; ABN AMRO One Leads

Posted by John Callender on January 8th, 2006 at 9:37 am

ABN AMRO One crewmember

Leg two of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Cape Town to Melbourne, is well under way. Brasil 1 suffered structural damage to the deck in heavy seas soon after the start, and has retired to Port Elizabeth, South Africa, for repairs. From skipper Torben Grael’s writeup, as hosted at Bang the Corner:

Unfortunately, during the second night we faced not so strong wind but really tricky waves, coming right into our faces. Brasil 1 got some really strong hits, changing directions every time a big wave got near.

One of these waves was especially hard but in the dark we couldn’t find anything wrong with the boat. As the sun appeared and the wind slowed down, Kiko found a big depression on the deck with a fissure next to the cabin. We lowered the headsail and reduced the main, to get some pressure off the mast.

After a quick evaluation of the size of the problem, knowing that we had 6,000 miles ahead and this was the last chance to come back, we decided to return to land. If we had continued we could put our lives and our boat in danger.

Meanwhile, Ericsson has also dropped out, having suffered (again, as on leg one) a failure in the canting keel’s hydraulics. Skipper Neal McDonald had this to say (from’s Devastated, frustrated and empty):

I’m devastated. There’s no really another word for it. And even that doesn’t convey the true depth of the frustration and emptiness all of us feel.

A major problem with the keel on Ericsson means that for second leg in a row we can’t compete with the other boats in a race to which we devoted months of toil to have a chance of winning.

On the first leg, the control mechanism failed with 1,000 miles to go to Cape Town. We limped home for a fourth place finish. Then on Wednesday morning, less than 48 hours out of Cape Town, one of the rams broke with a bang.

Down with the sails boys, we’re going back, I told the crew. For about 35 minutes afterwards nobody really said anything. What was there to say?

The people at Sailing Scuttlebutt ran a poll, asking, “With two boats broken, should Volvo Ocean Race officials abandon Leg 2 for safety concerns?” The final results: Yes: 54%, No: 45%.

Meanwhile, ABN AMRO One continues their winning ways by leading the five boats still on the course. They’ve passed the first of two “ice gates”; special waypoints along the course that require the racers to stay north of the more-dangerous regions to the south, where floating ice is a major concern.

Photo: Unidentified crewmember on ABN AMRO One, from the team’s official site.

New Chart Edition for 18772, ‘Approaches to San Diego Bay’

Posted by John Callender on January 8th, 2006 at 8:17 am

Part of \'Approaches to San Diego Bay\', chart 18772

The latest Local Notice to Mariners for the 11th Coast Guard District contains some important navigational updates for San Diego sailors in particular.

  • The Point Loma Light’s sound signal is currently inoperative.
  • Chart 18772, ‘Approaches to San Diego Bay’, has a new edition out, “due to numerous Notice to Mariners changes.”

On the new chart, more information (including the downloadable raster version) should be available soon from NOAA’s nautical charts web site. As of the time of this posting, though (0854 PST, 8 January 2006), they’re still offering the previous edition (from 2003) for download.

I actually have really fond memories of working on that chart. I talked about one time in particular in a book I wrote most of, but never (yet) got published, called A Distant Sea. At some point I might post some of that book on this site, since it would be nice to let that material see the light of day.

The story regarding that chart involved the finish of the San Clemente Island race one year. That race started off Dana Point, left San Clemente Island to port, and finished in San Diego. This would have been in the mid-1970s, and I was racing on my dad’s Columbia 52 Victoria. The approach to San Diego was made in the morning, after racing all night from the southern tip of San Clemente with no navigational aids to speak of. (This was pre-GPS, and we didn’t have anything fancy like a radar or LORAN.) It was pretty hazy that morning, so the approaching shoreline wasn’t visible, and it was a tricky navigational problem to know just where to aim to hit the #3 buoy (the last turning mark before the finish off Point Loma). We were doing pretty well in the race, with lots of competitors close to us, so there was a lot of pressure to make the right call; coming in in the wrong place and having to make a big course correction at the last minute would surely have cost us positions.

I’ll leave it until later to post the whole story. But the (supremely satisfying, for me) result ended up involving some careful dead reckoning, a running fix on the Point Loma radio beacon, and (especially) my dad’s uncanny ability to accurately estimate the distance of a visible landmark.

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