Wingsuit Wilding

Wow.

Racing Class40s In The Atlantic Cup

Late last week, I dropped onto the Class40 “Initiatives,” with Emma Creighton and Rob Windsor, to serve as a media embed in Leg 1 of the Atlantic Cup, which saw 15 Class40s race from Charleston to NYC.

It was a sweet and easy 3 days at sea: short-tacking out of Charleston Harbor, beating toward Hatteras, and then a long downwind sprint past the Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay, and New Jersey, to finish off the Battery in NYC at 4 am Tuesday morning. We stayed inshore and finished 10th. Turns out the right move was to sail extra miles to get to the Gulf Stream. Every boat that did that beat every boat that didn’t.

Atlantic Cup is doing a nice job on the media side, and this is the Leg 1 video they put together from the footage all the media embeds shot aboard their boats.

 

The Tragic Loss Of Low Speed Chase

Sailboat racing on the ocean can be thrilling. It can also be hard and dangerous, and sometimes people are killed. That happened this past weekend. One person died, and four are presumed dead, after a boat in the San Francisco Yacht Club’s Farallon Race was hit by a series of waves that washed crew overboard, and then drove the sailboat onto the rocks.

I wrote about the tragedy yesterday at SailingWorld.com, if you would like more details. And you can read the latest, from my friend Ronnie Simpson, on Sailing Anarchy (which inexplicably does not have permalinks to individual posts, so scroll down).

SFGate.com also has a good update, and has published a series of pictures showing the wreck, the Farallons, and some of the crew (full set is here). The photos, as they always do, help convey the sadness and loss.

What Could Be Better Than A Mega-Trimaran Racing The Southern Ocean?

Over on my Sailing World blog, I take a look at the 131-foot Banque Popular’s blistering attempt on the circumnavigation record. Here’s the intro (read the full story here):

The Volvo Ocean Race fleet has arrived in Cape Town—or at least the half of the fleet that managed to stay in one piece has. In years past, this would be a time of Southern Ocean anticipation, with crews and sailing junkies preparing for the dramatic sleigh ride to New Zealand, with boats surfing down the monster, storm-driven waves rolling eastward around the bottom of the Indian Ocean. But with Volvo’s marketing interests drawing the fleet toward the Middle East, that spectacle is not to be—at least not until the fleet heads around Cape Horn.  Bummer.

But for anyone needing a Southern Ocean fix, the 131-foot trimaran Banque Populaire is currently speeding toward that legendary sailing arena. Banque Pop, which set off last week on a Jules Verne record bid, has been flying a bit under the radar on this side of the Atlantic, thanks in part to the Gallic aversion to publishing sailing websites in English. Of course, we don’t publish websites in French, so fair is fair. Besides, you don’t need words to appreciate the drama of a full-on, round-the-world, speed-sailing voyage.

Read the rest (with some cool vids) here.

Weekly Adventure Fix

The latest edition of my Adventure Fix newsletter is out. This edition features a haunting story about a 40 year old plane crash, a dark look at humanity’s future, through the prism of Africa’s Albertine Rift, and lots more. Like this spectacular video:

Adventure Fix costs just $1.99 a month for weekly links to great online adventure content. You can sign up here.

Weekly Adventure Fix

The latest edition of my Adventure Fix newsletter is out. This week I’ve got some harrowing tornado tales, Walter Cronkite on the America’s Cup, and more, including this gem:

Adventure Fix costs just $1.99 a month for weekly links to great online adventure content. You can sign up here.

In Search Of The Wetass Gene

[Cross-posted from SailingWorld.com]

“Hey, Dad, are we winning?” my 6-year-old son, Jamie, asked me quietly, his face conspiratorial and hopeful in equal measure. We were sailing a small dinghy called a Topaz in the beautiful harbor of a small fishing village in Ireland called Glandore. I looked around. We were inside boat in a leading group of three headed toward the leeward mark, so it looked pretty good. “We might be,” I answered. “But you never know what might happen in a sailboat race.” As it turned out, we managed to hang on and crossed the line first. It was his first victory, and also his first race. He was thrilled—in part because I’d told him we could capsize the boat on the way into the harbor if we won a race. I was happy, too. I want him to love sailing, and figure it can’t hurt to experience the suspense and excitement of doing well in a sailboat race.


http://www.glandoreyc.com

Of course, it’s not always possible to do well. Or sail in fair winds, or in the sun. So as much as we may try to instill a love of the water in our kids through good times on the water, you also have to hope that they simply have a Wetass gene—that no matter how wet and cold they get, or what sort of bad luck the gods of sailboat racing might try to inflict on them, something inside them makes them want to get out there for more. Parents who sail put a lot of pressure on themselves to introduce their kids to boating, trying to make each experience on the water a perfect combination of fun and excitement. But being on the water is partly about weathering the hard times and figuring stuff out for yourself, and maybe parents should simply stop worrying so much, chuck their kids in a boat whenever they can, and walk away. If there’s a Wetass gene, that’s the way to cultivate it.


Jamie at the helm

Forcing a kid into an intensive sailing program and then hovering endlessly in a Mommy boat—you know who you are!—can only turn a kid off over the long run. But beyond avoiding that obvious mistake, I’m mostly banking on something innate within my two kids (I also have a 9-year-old daughter, Natasha) to connect them with the water. If I get at least one full-fledged Wetass out of the two, I’ll be happy. But it’s a bit of a gamble, because I’m acutely aware that their Brazilian mother has infused them with genes that strongly prefer warm temperatures and sun.

Still, I’m hopeful. Both my kids are pretty adventurous, and the genetics seem to be kicking my way. My son has spent plenty of time this misty Irish vacation messing around in a kayak and jumping off the harbor wall. And the other day, when I suggested that it might be more fun to go crabbing on a day that wasn’t wet and chilly (I was also thinking how nice a pint of Guinness in a cozy pub would be—but didn’t actually mention that), he looked at me with disdain and said, “Dad, don’t be such a wimp.” If anything, the genetics might be a bit too strong in the boy. He insisted we go out dinghy racing again a few days after our victory, but halfway through a race in which we were lying perhaps fourth, he seemed a bit glum that we weren’t out front. I asked him what the matter was. “You’re not trying your hardest,” he charged. I was touched that his faith in my amateurish sailing skills led him to believe that we would always be out front if I would only try hard, but opted instead to explain that no one can win every race, and that the idea is to have fun and compete no matter where you are in the fleet. After that, with the possibility of parental sabotage cleared from his mind, he seemed to start enjoying himself again, as most kids do when let loose around water.

Still, regardless of the strength of any kid’s Wetass gene, what we do can have an impact at the margins. I took Natasha J/22 racing when she was about four. She was having a great time as the designated yeller of “Starboard!” (she particularly enjoyed calling for starboard rights even when we were on port, much to the amusement of my local fleet) until we laid the boat on its side during a windy and chaotic spinnaker takedown. On the way into the dock she ventured to say that she would sail with me in the future, but only after she turned 13. For now, I have turned her over to the capable hands of the sailing school here in Glandore, and they seem to be doing a pretty good job of undoing whatever damage I did in the J/22, even though there hasn’t been much sun this week. And it doesn’t hurt that whenever we go out sailing in my mother’s little gaff-rigged Cornish Shrimper, I authorize all children, no matter what age, to yell “Hike, Bitches!” whenever we settle in on a new tack. They definitely love that part of sailing.

So far, this combo of having fun together when possible, plus underlying DNA, seems to be working out. It’s pissing with rain today, and Jamie asked if we could go sailing. And when I asked him whether he wanted to go racing again on Saturday, he looked at me with a grin, and said “Oh, yeah!” I think the kid just might be a Wetass.

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Wetass Weekly Marketing Initiative #1

Okay, so I’ve created this fun (at least it’s fun for me) newsletter, called Wetass Weekly. It’s an e-mail that subscribers receive once a week, filled with links to the best stories and videos about adventure and the outdoors. And it costs just $1.99 a month, less than a cup of half-decent coffee.

I set a low price because I wanted the charge to subscribers to be negligible, and I also wanted to be sure subscribers feel like it is a good deal (I figure if every subscriber sees one or two items every week that inspires or impresses them, then that is worth the 50 cents they just put in my pocket). But that means I need to scare up subscribers, and that means I confront a classic writers problem. I have content (lots of it, and good stuff, too), but what I really need is marketing.

Plenty of writers are good at marketing themselves. Me, not so much. But part of the fun of starting anything new is the challenge of learning new things. So I am trying to get creative about marketing. And I figured I might as well clear out my closet as I go. So I have launched the first in a series of marketing giveaways. And this week’s Wetass Weekly incentive is a rare, and very red, Audi MedCup cap (snagged at last year’s MedCup Marseilles event).

The MedCup is the Formula 1 of professional sailboat racing. Here’s what the Audi MedCup TP52 action looks like:

And here it is in moving pictures:

And if you are the 15th person to subscribe to Wetass Weekly using this link, then I will send you the above hat. And maybe when you wear it sailors will think that you are either a) such an amazing sailor that you are a MedCup regular; b) so successful that you run a $2 million a year MedCup team; or 3) you won it in an off-the-wall marketing campaign started by some blogger.

Whatever, it is a nice hat. So go for it. Subscribe. You might win. Even if you don’t, you will get a weekly guide to some of the best content online. For just pennies. As Charlie Sheen would say, that’s “Winning!”

An American In Paris, I Mean The Mini Transat

(Originally published on SailingWorld.com)

The Mini Transat is hands-down one of the most testing, exhilarating, intense sailboat races any sailor can choose from the long list of epic sailing challenges. Solo, 4,200 miles across the Atlantic from France to Brazil, in a Spartan, designed-to-the-edge-of-safety, 21-foot boat that’s a brutal bitch to drive to weather but an absolute rocket off the wind. Being solo and masochistic, the race is of course dominated by the French. But it’s always refreshing to see Americans take a crack at the Mini Transat, and in 2003 Jonathan McKee almost upset the established order of the universe by threatening to win—before the sailing gods woke up and flicked his mast over the side as he zeroed in on the finish. What’s even more unusual is when an American woman sails up to the start line, and this year’s distaff daredevil is one Emma Creighton, from San Francisco.

www.emmacreighton.net

If Creighton makes it to the start, and then—just as importantly—makes it to the finish, she’d be the second American woman ever to complete the Mini Transat. The first was Annapolis’ own Gale Browning, who finished the race in 2001. Plenty of Annapolis sailors remember the sight of Gale sailing her tiny boat on the Chesapeake every chance she got, as she prepared for her Atlantic crossing. Despite the fact that the usual 4 knots of Chesapeake “breeze” was not ideal preparation for slamming to weather across the Bay of Biscay or surfing through the tradewinds at double-digit speeds, Gale managed the not insignificant feat of finishing, and even managed to beat another boat across the line—whereupon she promptly put her boat up for sale. “It was the toughest challenge I ever took on,” she says. “And it’s really hard whether you’re a man or a woman.”


http://www.galebrowning.com

Creighton still needs to complete her 1,000-mile qualifier, in Pocket Rocket, her 2006 Prototype Mini, and says she plans to set off this week. After sailing the double-handed division of the Pac Cup last summer, and a bunch of short-handed San Francisco Bay races, she shipped the boat to France and has lined up a series of Mini races to sharpen her skills and familiarity with the boat. She completed her first real solo race earlier this month, the 300-mile Pornichet Select, and discovered something pretty important. “I hadn’t realized just how much I would enjoy racing alone,” she says.

The Pornichet was fairly light, and Creighton will no doubt face a sterner test when she heads off on her qualifier, which will take her around the Fastnet Rock. But she’s plugging along with her plans, hoping to pull it all off and sail to Brazil. Succeeding would give her some serious cred, which she thinks will help her make her way aboard some big-boat ocean-racing teams. “It’s hard for everyone to break in on that scene, but especially hard for women in the U.S.,” she says. “I also hope to get back into the Melges 32 at some point. And the Tour de France a la Voile is very cool.”

The top sailors in the Mini class spend years honing their skills, pour lots of sponsorship money into their Mini Transat campaigns, and spend tons of time on the water. Creighton is still feeling her way into the Mini, and there are still a lot of unknowns for her. “The first leg [to Madeira] is a little scary,” she says. “And I don’t know how I will deal with being alone for three weeks.” Accordingly, she’s keeping her goals modest: “I just want to finish,” she says, but later goes on to admit that she would also love to break into the top 20 in the Proto class. That’s ambitious, but the Mini Transat is about dreaming big.

Solo-Sailing To Save The Taiji Dolphins

(Originally published at SailingWorld.com)

You have to admire California-based solo sailor Michael Reppy, now in his 60s. He wants two things in life: first, to set the singlehanded transpacific record from San Francisco to Tokyo; and second, to help stop the Japanese drive fisheries (made notorious by the film, “The Cove” ) that slaughter thousands of dolphins every year.

Lots of would-be record-setters link (sometime in the most casual of ways) their attempts to environmental causes, but Reppy has been singularly dogged in his efforts to both set the record AND call-out the Japanese on their brutal, annual dolphin drives. He’s about to set on out his fourth attempt on the record—set by Bay Area singlehander Peter Hogg at 34 days, 6 hours—on his 43-foot trimaran, Dolphin Spirit.

Hogg laid down that mark in 1992, besting a time set by the legendary Eric Tabarly in 1969. And Reppy has been trying to better it ever since.

It’s certainly been an exciting campaign. His first attempt, in 1997, in a 36-foot Shuttleworth-designed trimaran, ended in classic solo-sailing multihull fashion, which is to say with a spectacular pitchpole within days of Tokyo and the record. For that attempt, Reppy partnered with Earth Island Institute to draw attention to a pod of killer whales captured by the Taiji drive fishermen.

Thirty days into the journey, as Reppy ripped along at 18 knots through squally weather 300 miles from Tokyo, he was anticipating a big press turnout to mark his imminent record. With a gale forecast, he wanted to make as many miles as he could before dropping his spinnaker. When he finally came on deck after a nap to drop it, he was a few minutes too late. As he stepped into the cockpit, the tri took off on a wave, stuck a bow in, and cartwheeled. Reppy dove back into the cabin and called for rescue. Eighteen months later, his tri turned up on the island of Midway. Bummer.

He made his second and third attempts in 2000 and 2001 in the classic Warren Luhrs Open 60 Thursday’s Child. Ironically, he lost a chunk of rudder to a whale on the first voyage and came up short thanks to light winds on the second. Now, he’s back with the speedy Dolphin Spirit, planning to set off in April. His hope is that, since the success of “The Cove,” the tide of sentiment in Japan is turning against the cruel drive fisheries. He’s again promoting Earth Island, this time their Save Japan Dolphins initiative.

Reppy wants that record. But he also wants the big press conference in Tokyo he was denied when he pitchpoled in 1997. He knows there’s only so much a foreigner can achieve in Japan, but there’s no questioning the sincerity with which he’s doing his part to stop the dolphin slaughter. “Japanese media: that’s the whole ballgame, because for years and years they would not report on it,” he tells me. “There isn’t much of an environmental movement in Japan, and that’s what we’ve been trying to help develop.”

Any sailor who’s seen the beauty and grace of dolphins playing in a bow wave, or marveled at their intelligence and, yes, humanity, has to be rooting for Reppy and the dolphins of Taiji. So I’ll be following this one with more than casual interest. You can too, and also learn a lot more about Reppy and his solo-sailing advocacy at the Dolphin Spirit website. And our friends over at Pressure Drop have also posted a nice video interview: