Friday, November 25, 2011

Photo Card

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Changing the lexicon of sailing

Our sport is complicated. What sport isn't? But if you sail enough, the obstacles soon disappear...except this one: right and left.

Pre-start strategy includes assessing the upwind leg. "I'm liking the right. Definitely more wind to the right." And sure enough, half way up the beat, the boats on the right are ahead.

Nearing the windward mark, it's time to assess the downwind leg. "The right still looks solid. Puffs are coming from the right." After rounding the windward mark, the boats gybe to the left to get the wind from the right... looking upwind.

The course is viewed again during the run. "The boats behind are gaining on the left. More wind to the left now. We need to get to the right...looking downwind." So the leaders gybe to protect, heading to the right to get the wind on the left."

Soon it's time to choose which gate mark to round. "I think the right gate is closer. Yes, definitely closer." This is good as the wind is still strongest on the left... looking upwind.  

And on it goes.

During the broadcast of the America's Cup World Series (ACWS) in San Diego, the commentators would have this same conversation. As the AC45s were zig-zagging throughout the bay, there would be confusion if their right and left references weren't followed by "looking upwind".


I was thinking how complicated it sounded. At a time when commentators need to be analyzing more and explaining less, they had to turn the listener's head for every reference to the wind. And this was assuming the listener knew how to "look upwind".

So what if we used green and red?

These colors have long been associated with right and left, starboard and port. Stan Honey, who has developed all the broadcast graphics for the ACWS, said he could stripe the sides of the course green and red. He could also paint the gates green and red at the upwind and downwind ends of the course. Could the lexicon of sailing be changed to colors?

"There is definitely more wind on the green side," said the broadcast commentator. "The leaders downwind are coming from the green side, and the key decision of the leg will be when to gybe. The tea
m that nails their approach to the green gate will have the advantage to own the green side on the next upwind leg."

I can hear it now.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2011

If you were coming to San Diego...

Attending sporting events is risky business. When to get there? Where to park? Where to sit? So what do you do with an event that has never been held before? You wing it, which is what spectators will be doing in San Diego for the third stop in the inaugural America's Cup World Series (AWS) on November 12-20, 2011.

Here are some tips to help enjoy the experience:

Schedule:
The first weekend has mandatory practice races. No races are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, but expect the teams to either be on the bay for practice or in the pit for prep. The planned competition is Wednesday through Sunday, so expect bigger crowds those days too. Click here for details.

Transportation:
For car parking, a pay lot is a block away from the Event Village and there are coin meter spaces on the adjacent street. However, get there early to avoid getting shut out. Safer options could be to use bikes, pedicabs or taxis, or drive to a San Diego Trolley station and take the train to the downtown station a couple of blocks away. Click here for details. 

Viewing:
Specatator boats will be kept approximately 50-60 meters from the course boundaries. Click here for details. Watching the races from the Midway Museum, Navy and Broadway piers are closest to the course, but there may not be bleachers so prepare to stand in crowds (or buy a VIP package). The ends of the race course are adjacent to G Street Marina and Harbor Island, which both have limited parking and space to sit. Hot tip is to have lunch at The Fish Market (nice) and Top of the Market (nicer) at the leeward marks (SE of Navy Pier), or at C Level (nice) and Island Prime (nicer) near the windward marks on Harbor Island. Click here for details. Another hot tip is to listen to race commentary from the broadcast on your iOS mobile device (see below).

Entertainment:
The AC Village has closed Harbor Drive at Broadway and Navy Piers, and will be hosting live music, DJ's and local California cuisine and shops and specialty stands. The village will have a large screen for race viewing, plus host interactive entertainment such as the America's Cup Experience, a racing simulator that offers a taste of what it's like to sail on a high-speed catamaran. Prize giving and team interviews will be on the village stage. Hours are 10a-6p on Nov. 12-15 and 10a-10p on Nov. 16-20. To enter the AC Village, there is a requested $10 donation to support the AC Healthy Ocean Project. Click here for details.

Weather:
Despite the propaganda from San Diego Convention and Tourism Bureau, it does begin to get colder and wetter in November. And winter winds are hit or miss. The forecast currently calls for rain and big breeze on the first weekend, with clearing skies and calmer winds expected through the week.

Broadcast:
The America’s Cup YouTube channel will be streaming the event live online Nov. 16-20. Look for the broadcast schedule to begin 30 minutes before racing begins each day (see schedule above). And for the first time, there will be live streaming to iOS mobile devices through the AC YouTube channel. Also, a recap of the event will be broadcast on the Versus cable channel on November 22 at 5:00 P.M. ET. Streaming live here: http://www.youtube.com/user/AmericasCup

Preview:
Teams began training on Tuesday, and the America's Cup World Series Event Village will be open to the public on Wednesday, Nov 9th. Get an insider's look of the village after 3:30 pm and you'll also get to see the AMERICA'S CUP TROPHY. Unveiling the trophy will be Tom Ehman, Vice Commodore of Golden Gate Yacht Club, who will be joined by Ian Murray, Bruno Trouble, and Terry Hutchinson for 'Cupdates' at 4:00 pm (youth sailors) and 5:30 pm (open). No RSVP necessary.

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Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Sailing is supposed to be fun

It had been two years since I last raced Snipes. I have had a Snipe since 1983, twice won the U.S. Nationals and North Americans, but the time between outings had steadily increased in the past decade. I still liked the boat and the people, but had tired of the training needed to remain competitive. The problem with having success is that it becomes hard to settle for less.

Certainly family needs was vying for time, but I found the emphasis of windward-leeward race courses had magnified my problem. Gary Bodie, former US Olympic head coach, once said that the demise of one-design racing is partly a result of better race management. I agree. A perfectly set W-L course left little room for part-timers like me, as the fastest win and the less able give up and disappear.

I can already hear people saying, "But isn't the point of a race to provide the fairest test?" And to that I say yes, but while some races are to determine championships, most racing is for recreation. Some races should provide different challenges. Some races should provide variety. Racing should be fun, and when it isn't fun, people leave.

When I heard the annual fall Snipe regatta this past weekend in San Diego would not use W-L courses, I had to experience it. The races used the permanent marks in Mission Bay, and some legs were not perfectly in line with the wind. Courses criss-crossed the entire bay. One race went around an island. This thirty boat fleet was tested in new ways, and for me, it was exhilarating.

This coming weekend is the biggest event of the year for keelboaters in San Diego. It is the Hot Rum Series, where legs are not perfect to the wind, and the inverted start allows the smallest boats to begin first. But people support this event because it is fun. Like sailing is supposed to be. - Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

They wouldn't print it if it wasn't true

Giovanni Soldini
One of the changes with grand prix events is that they have drifted from competitions to paydays. There was a time when the people that competed in the America's Cup and the Whitbread Race invested their soul for the sake of a trophy. It was a significant sacrifice but their intent was honest.

But in current times, the true competitors are mixed with people pursuing paychecks, and the vociferous appetite of the media bites on everything. Here are two press releases:

September 22, 2009 - An Italian campaign led by Giovanni Soldini has been officially confirmed for the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race. Known as Italia 70, the team will race under the il tricolore with an all-Italian crew for the next two editions of the race. Soldini, 43, has completed two single-handed round the world races and has made over 30 Atlantic crossings. He is partnering with John Elkann and Carlo Croce on the project. Italia 70 has acquired the Volvo Open 70 Ericsson 3 which competed in the 2008-09 event. -- http://www.volvooceanrace.com/en/Soldini-signs-on/2865/news.html

October 7, 2011 - Giovanni Soldini and his team of nine sailors will next year captain the yacht Maserati in an attempt to break the Cadiz-San Salvador (Bahamas), Miami-New York and New York-Lizard Point (UK) records. The three ocean course attempts will be monitored by the World Sailing Speed Record Council, the international body certifying the record times on the historic clipper routes. Soldini and Maserati will also attempt to break the record for the longest distance covered by a single-hull yacht in a 24-hour period. Maserati is a VOR 70 that participated in the 2008-2009 round-the-world race. -- http://www.boatpoint.com.au/news/2011/masarati-set-to-break-records-27148

While attempts to contact Soldini for comment have been unsuccessful, it is common for teams to announce their intentions to do something without the funding to actually do it. How many of the seven America's Cup challengers will actually exist this time next year? Maybe Maserati can be their Plan B too.

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Sunday, October 09, 2011

Finally, a real race track

Let's be honest. Would you want the America's Cup if someone gave it to you? What a pain in the butt! Thank goodness Larry Ellison has a ton of money to take on the task of shining up this tarnished trophy.

You remember the legal delay after the 32nd Match. How about the obscene money spent on the farcical 2010 mis-match? Not the best of times. And with the 34th America's Cup not until 2013, the event was on a road to nowhere.

To create interest again, the America's Cup World Series was invented. But again, let's be honest. It's been a work in progress. The first event in Portugal wilted under the bright lights. And in the UK, only the 'crash & burn' angle rescued the show. If this was Broadway, it'd likely be a very short run.

What's been missing is a legitimate sailing venue. Thus far it's solely been about entertainment, and the actors have been performing on a sound stage. But now, with the circuit coming to San Diego (Nov. 12-20), the racers will finally get a chance to race their boats on a tested track.

And we're not talking about the track that hosted the Cup in 1988, 1992, and 1995. No, the AC45s will be competing on the same course as... the... annual... San Diego Bay Beer Can Series. Inside the bay, baby! And they're lucky that four-time America's Cup winner Dennis Conner has retired. Nobody went undefeated this past summer like DC did with his Farr 60 'Stars & Stripes'.

And the organizers of the San Diego event are for real too. Sailing Events Association San Diego is chaired by Chuck Nichols. Chuck has been Commodore of the world famous San Diego Yacht Club and was President of both the 1995 America’s Cup and the 1998 Super Bowl. And Chuck is bullish on the venue too.

"We have a natural amphitheater," said Nichols. "We have developed areas around the bay that will facilitate on-land spectating. We have Harbor Island with all the open space. We have Coronado Island, which we hope to have available with the Navy's cooperation. And then we have the city front area. All of this is close enough to be able to enjoy the races from shore.

"With the cooperation of the Navy and Coast Guard, we can push the sailing area to the edges. And the race management is really flexible on course layout. This isn't like the old America's Cup where everything is set in concrete. While we know the footprint of the sailing area, how the course gets set within that area will depend on the wind direction so that it provides for both good racing and shoreside viewing."

While most events are bleeders, Nichols sees this one in the black. "A study by a local university estimates that the event will induce $20 million in spending. And I think that's light. They were quite conservative in their analysis. Between the sponsors, and each team's sailors and staff, I think the estimate is 20,000 room nights. And then you have the people coming to watch. Hotels, restaurants, retail stores, rental cars, airport fees... people stay overnight and it all adds up."

With a proven race track and veteran administrators, the only other significant variable is the weather. While San Diego is known for its mild climate, it's also known that winds from November to March are hit or miss depending on storms. But there is reason for optimism, as rain has come early to California. And 'The Old Farmer's Almanac' has good news too. Their prediction for the event week is 'Rain and t-storms, then sunny, cool.' Sounds like a hit!

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Thursday, October 06, 2011

Sponsor brainstorm session

Regatta organizers are already gearing up for the 2012 events, and the bigger events are on the hunt for sponsors. The following note sent to Scuttlebutt stirred up a brainstorming session:

"We are planning a North American championship in 2012 and need sponsors.  Who in your opinion are sponsor friendly/willing in our sport?  I have gotten a lot of interest in 'in kind' donations but we actually need money to do this right.  Any advice?"

Here were some of our immediate thoughts:

- View sponsorship as a partnership rather than a donation.
- Seek advice from the previous North American event hosts.
- Determine the demographics of who the sponsor will be getting exposed to.
- How will the sponsor be exposed? (website, event comms, site banners, etc)
- Any sponsor perks? (ie, sponsor spectator boat with eats and treats).
- Can 'in kind' donations help reduce operating cost/participant expense?
- Everyone who advertises in the class publications are potential sponsors.
- Are there companies with a history of sponsoring the class?
- Are there companies with a history of sponsoring similar type events?
- Are there companies with a history of sponsoring events from host club?
- Are there people who make donations for important events?

Any comments or additions?

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