Sail Scene - Florida and the South

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New era dawns for America’s Cup

The next America’s Cup regatta will begin July 18, 2009, it was announced at a Nov. 8 press conference in Barcelona, Spain. The next race for the Cup will incorporate new competition regulations, including the event format and schedule, and a new AC90 Class sailing yacht.

The AC90 yacht will be 90 feet overall with a 21-1/2-foot draft while racing. The new yachts will have a 17-1/2-foot beam, up from 11-1/2 feet for many of the ACC V5 boats used. The AC90 will have a displacement of 23 tons, a mast height of 125 feet above the deck, a maximum bowsprit distance of 51 feet from the mast and unlimited spinnaker area.

With a crew limit of 20 people, this will be a demanding boat to sail (there are three more crewmembers than on a V5 boat and about 50 percent more sail area). In recognition of the demanding nature of the new yacht, the crew weight limit has been removed.

Regatta organizer ACM aims to limit costs for competitors through outlawing two-boat testing (the only permitted opportunity for one AC90 yacht to sail alongside another is when racing in ACM organized Practice Race or the Event), introducing “no-sail periods” and limiting the total number of sails produced. All this has been decided through consultation and in agreement with all five entered challengers and the defender.

A further major difference to previous America’s Cup events is the competition format. The 33rd edition will be divided into four phases — Acts, Trials, Challenger Selection Series, and the America’s Cup Match — with the defender being able to compete in the Acts, the Trials and the Match, but not in the Challenger Selection Series.

Practice Racing has been introduced as a replacement for two-boat testing.

Any team can request a practice race and the regatta director will arrange an official practice series. This will be a carefully organized schedule publicized well in advance and providing equal opportunity for all challengers who wish to participate. These are due to start as early as October 2008 and will continue up until April 2009. They will include a mixture of fleet and match racing round robins. www.americascup.com

New England sailor comes up short at M30 Worlds

On the fourth and final day of the Moby M30 Worlds, organized by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in Porto Cervo, Italy’s Matrix ArcaTxActive, owned by Luigi Melegari and Gianmarco Rinaldi, and with Tommaso Chieffi, on tactics, took the championship title.

American Jim Richardson’s Barking Mad, with Terry Hutchinson calling tactics, came second and Vincent Portugal’s New Caledonia from France came in third.

Jim Richardson, president of the Farr 40 Class, was philosophical about his second place: “It’s interesting that I won the Farr 40 pre-worlds in Newport in 2006 and then I came third to Vincenzo Onorato [in the Worlds]. Then I won the pre-worlds in Copenhagen this year and came in third to Vincenzo. I won the M30 pre-worlds here and I said to Vincenzo, ‘Please do not do this to me again!’ and he promised he wouldn’t, but I forgot to speak to the other Italians!”

Olympic team trials a challenge before China

After a nine-day regatta that took place Oct. 6 to 14 off Rhode Island’s Aquidneck Island and in Southern Californian waters, winners in 11 classes were named to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams.

US Sailing coordinated with six host organizations to hold these contests concurrently on East and West coasts, to select the sailors who will represent the United States at the 2008 Games.

The range of wind conditions during the Trials was wide: from East Coast weather that transitioned from summer temperatures to fall during the regatta, bringing light, fluky air balanced by blows of 18 knots and surfable seas; to West Coast weather that mixed days of little wind and battles in wet and wild conditions.

The diversity of new team members is also wide: from Tornado Olympic veterans John Lovell and Charlie Ogletree, who will sail their fourth Olympic Games; to 19-year-old Nancy Rios in the RS:X, making her first bid for Olympic glory. But for the 21 sailors who triumphed at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Team Trials, this competition had a singular impact: winners earned their gateway to Olympic and Paralympic dreams; for all others, this regatta brought their medal aspirations for 2008 to an end.

Zach Railey, 23, had been sailing a Finn dinghy less than three years when he showed up at Newport Beach, Calif. With ages ranging to 72, some of the fleet were sailing the single-handed dinghy long before he was born. Still, the Floridian punched his ticket to China.

Other winners were 33-year-old Tim Wadlow, a 2004 Olympic veteran, and crew Chris Rast, 35, formerly of Switzerland, in the 49er; Ben Barger, 26, in men’s RS:X sailboard; Stuart McNay, 26, and crew Graham Biehl, 21, in men’s 470, and Amanda Clark, 25, and crew Sarah Mergenthaler, 28, in women’s 470. Andrew Campbell, 23, in Lasers, and Anna Tunnicliffe, 24, in Laser Radials won on the East Coast.

The 2.4mR class may have been small, with four boats; but in the end, it came down to a lethally close battle among the top three boats: winner John Ruf, second place Mark LeBlanc, and third place Mark Bryant.

Sonar skipper Rick Doerr and his crew of Tim Angle and Bill Donohue started the regatta looking golden — after taking three bullets in the first four races — but back-of-the-fleet finishes, a DSQ in Race 5, and a rocky path back to the top of the leader board ensued. After winning the regatta, Doerr sounded relieved and, at the same time, thankful: “The strong competition here in the U.S. has only pushed us to another level,” he said.

SKUD-18 sailors Nick Scandone and Maureen McKinnon Tucker are the only East Coast winners who did not fit the pattern of being pushed to peak performance by a rival close on their heels: They launched themselves in the standings by winning 11 individual races and had the class win mathematically sewn up before the final day. They are a new pairing in this double-handed class making its Paralympic debut-and one to watch in Qingdao.

The Beijing 2008 Olympic Games will take place Aug. 8-24; the Paralympic Games take place Sept. 6-17, 2008. Both the Olympic and Paralympic regattas will be held in Qingdao, China, a coastal city located 430 miles east of Beijing.