Despite the proliferation of sailing-related websites and the large number of print publications that cover the sport, not everything that happens on the water gets the attention it deserves. That's why SailNet has opted to bring you this special digest of sailing news from around the world.
After he piloted the 110-foot Club Med to a commanding round-the-world victory in The Race, we were as surprised as anyone when New Zealander Grant Dalton announced he wouldn't be continuing on the international racing circuit in the Volvo Ocean Race with Nautor Challenge as previously planned, but would be instead doing some serious soul-searching on the high seas. "We were always in a rush," said Dalton of his 62 days on the record-setting speed machine, "and the Volvo Ocean race was starting to look more and more like just another trip around the world at break-neck speed." Instead, Dalton seems to have found his calling at slower speeds with a pair of canoe-like skis and a double-sided paddle borrowed from Frenchman Remy Bricka, who walked 3,502-miles across the Atlantic Ocean in 1988 towing a catamaran with all his provisions. "It was something I always wanted to try," said Dalton before departing. Asked where he would be heading, he imply replied "If we make it back to New Zealand, so be it. There are a number of other ports that I haven't been able to stop at in my five trips around the world, so this journey will be a chance to catch up."
In other single-handed news, one of the factors behind cherubic argonaut Ellen MacArthur's strong showing in the Vendee Globe was recently brought to light by the design brain trust responsible for her 60-foot speedster Kingfisher
. The designers revealed at a recent demonstration that the boat's secret weapon was it's ability to be righted like a small dinghy. By stepping out onto on the boat's 14-foot keel, MacArthur was able to right her vessel several times during the race. She had to remain mum about the maneuver to avoid detection by her competitors. "I can't remember how many times we capsized to be honest," said the inspiring 23-year-old to a gaggle of sailing parparazzi gathered at the unveiling. "The boat actually sails well at heel angles close to 90 degrees," she said, and by using this simple righting technique, "the team was able to construct a very, very light boat."
On this side of the pond, the recent downturn in the stock market has left its mark on some of sailing's more notable personalities. Among those in this category is record-breaking maverick Steve Fosset, whose 125-foot PlayStation wasup until this pointawaiting an attempt at the Miami-New York speed sailing record. Due to bleak conditions in the market, Fosset, who holds a number of aviation records along with some well-publicized crewed and singlehanded sailing records, has had to combine his passion for flying and sailing and trade in both his beloved Citation X Jet and PlayStation for something a little less fiscally demandinga rigid inflatable with a lawnmower engine and a hang-glider rig.
For Fosset (who admits to not using a lawn mower in years), the transition has largely been a seamless one. "Just keep your fingers out of there," he instructed while demonstrating his latest toy, gesturing toward the whirling machinery behind him. "I'll miss the pure speed of the jet," he offered, "but in many ways this device will bring me closer to the true forces of lift that drive both sailing and flying machines."
"There are a number of exciting records we plan to take a crack at this summer," explained Fossett. Included among the planned attempts is a circumnavigation of the hockey-rinked sized PlayStation. (The attempt will be staged as part of a fund-raising effort to pay the berthing fees for the 125-foot behemoth.) Though Fossett said he was excited about the prospects, SailNet's repeated requests for a ride aboard his new vessel were routed to voice mail.
In other sailing news, America Cup demigod Dennis Conner's work with Stars & Stripes
in preparation for wrestling the America's Cup WWF-style from those pesky Kiwis has meant a number of long commutes for the perpetually tan sailor. The time-consuming trips from Conner's Long Island home to the New York Yacht Club's trophy room (which has been renamed the something's-still-missing-here room) in Manhattan have inhibited progress with the syndicate's challenge, so after some extra hours of tank testing by the Stars & Stripes
design and development team, the "charismatic" skipper now has a solution. Christened the Aquaglide
, his part boat part plane does not require any pilot training and allegedly travels over water and any solid terrain. But Conner and his minions are still trying to convince the officials at New York's DMV that the vessel is viable for negotiating cross-town traffic. Sailors in eastern Long Island Sound should heed the Notice to Mariners regarding unusual craft transiting during peak commute hours.
Finally, not everything that comes across the wires is racing-related. According to reliable sources at the US Coast Guard, steady guidance from the Bush Administration has helped the Coast Guard negotiate some tricky fiduciary changes in recent months. Saddled with a number of deep budget cuts and six-figured judgements from lawsuits, the agency has implemented a number of innovative, cost-saving measures that it hopes will buoy public opinion and enhance its ability to patrol coastal waters while sticking within its new fiscal constraints.
Among the changes is a new vessel intended for deployment in coastal drug interdictionthe coasties call it the "compassionate conservator." According to rear Admiral Swab D. Dech "Sailors have been jury-rigging for centuries, and most of the times it actually works. We've fought the trend for a long time, but it's high time the US Coast Guard catches up with the rest of the marine world." The agency has rewritten a number of federal regulations to encourage Coast Guardsmen and women to "think creatively" on the job says the Admiral. We'll keep you posted.