Tuesday, March 20, was the official start of spring. Crocuses are sprouting, the air is warmer, and the days seem to be longer, though this might be a perception based on wishful thinking. While the frostbiting spring season continues into April, sailors area already daydreaming of spending time down at the boatyards preparing their boats for launch. Thoughts turn to weekend racing and Thirsty Thursdays, picnic lunches on an afternoon sail on Long Island Sound, and evening sails to watch the sun set over New York City, with a return trip to Manhasset Bay under the stars. The summer just can't arrive soon enough!
Frostbiting was canceled on Sunday, March 18, due to high winds, but the skippers and crew are confident that they will be able to compete next Sunday.
Tom Farquhar, chairman, US Sailing Race Management Committee, announced some changes in the Racing Rules of Sailing for 2001-2004. One of the changes involves the starting sequence, which will now only be one starting system, which includes the best parts of System 2 with System 1. The advantage of this new system is to allow Race Committees the opportunity to adjust the starting line before each starting sequence and to change the time between successive starts. For example, for large classes, more than one minute between the warning and the preparatory signals may be needed. Another advantage of the new system is that some flag is up throughout the starting sequence, including the last minute before the starting signal - this will help competitors to know what class is in a start sequence. Members of race committees should be happy with the use of flags for several reasons: greater display flexibility, as the cones (or shapes) were on halyards in fixed locations, and flags lend themselves to being hoisted or lowered quickly, giving the competitors accurate signals. Later in the spring, there will be a meeting to discuss the new rules, for both race committee members and skippers/crews. Until then, readers can find a more complete description of the starting system and its benefits at www.ussailing.org/racemgmt/NewStartingSystem/index.htm.
Readers may also want to check out David Dellenbaugh's Speed&Smarts, a newsletter of how-to tips for racing sailors. The January/February 2001 issue discusses the new racing rules and has a terrific column by Dick Rose, a current member of both the US Sailing and ISAF Rules Committees, who gives a brief overview of what sailors should look for and expect in the new racing rules. An especially appealing feature of Speed&Smarts is a 1994-2000 index by topic. The next issue will highlight smart pre-start strategies and offer a four-page racing rules IQ test. Their website is www.SpeedandSmarts.com or call 800-356-2200 for subscription information.
BT Global Challenge update: The BT Global Challenge set sail on Sunday afternoon, March 11, for the "toughest leg we've seen so far" according to Isle of Man skipper Lin Parker. The flotilla of 11 boats departed Sydney Opera House and headed south to Tasmania, where they will be joined by Save the Children, then on to the cold, cruel Southern Ocean. They will encounter 6,000 miles of rugged, open ocean, before the next port of call - one solid month of mountainous seas and icy gusts. "The biggest challenge is having to go back," added rival skipper John Read, of TeamSpirIT. "It's like having been in a battle and having to go back and fight again. It's not particularly pleasant." Says Logica's Rob Bell, "If you can mentally do it, your body will follow."
The 37th Congressional Cup will take place on April 25-29 in Long Beach, California at the Long Beach YC. It is one of two ISAF grade 1 match racing regattas held in the United States. The other is the Knickerbocker Cup, scheduled this year from Aug. 27-Sept. 3. Both events are part of the World Match Racing Conference. Ted Weisberg, past commodore of the Knickerbocker YC, is the current president of the Match Racing Association.
This year's Congressional Cup will bring many skippers and crew who are challenging for the America's Cup 2003. Rod Davis, who is sailing for Italy's Prada challenge for the Cup, has won twice as many Congressional Cups as anyone else, a total of four. He will face formidable competition this year, as seven of the 10 skippers challenging for the Cup will compete in the Congressional Cup. The scratch sheet includes: Bertrand Pacé, Peter Holmberg, Ken Read, Jesper Radich Johansen, Andy Green, Luc Pillot, France, James Spithill, Morgan Larson and Sebastian Destremau. Two-time ('96-'97) Congressional Cup winner Gavin Brady, a New Zealander living in Annapolis, MD, has moved from AmericaOne to Prada and will be Davis' tactician. Terry Hutchinson of Annapolis, who won in 1992, has joined Team DC (Dennis Conner/New York YC) and will work with Read. Australia's Peter Gilmour, the 1988 winner, is the designated skipper for OneWorld and could sail with Spithill; Larson's tactician will be another OneWorld member, Olympic gold and silver medallist Jonathan McKee. The competitors will sail Catalina 37s in a double round-robin format, followed by best-of-three semifinals and finals. A windward-leeward course will be set near shore off Belmont Pier, which will offer facilities for spectators. The Congressional Cup appears to be a good preview for the LouisVuitton Challenge and the America's Cup. Results to follow when available. For more information on the Congressional Cup, go online to http://www.lbyc.org/
Another match racing event, the Steinlager Line 7 Cup, in Auckland, NZ, the fourth event on the Swedish Match Grand Prix Sailing Tour, was completed on Sunday, March 18. The event took place on Auckland's Waitemata Harbor. Bertrand Pace and his Team New Zealand crew won, defeating the Prada America's Cup challenge skipper Gavin Brady in a final that went to the wire. The two skippers and their crews kept the large crowd on the edge of their seats until the last winning gun was fired, with Pace grabbing victory after a furious battle down the last leg of the fifth and deciding race. An exhausted Pace said, "It was a very difficult final, it was very, very close." The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron race committee and the umpires had a very long day on the water. They were kept busy throughout the final, issuing at lease one penalty in all but one race of the finals. It will be interesting to compare the following Steinlager Line 7 Cup finals to the Congressional Cup results next month. Final Results: 1. Bertrand Pace (NZL); 2. Gavin Brady (ITA); 3. Cameron Appleton (NZL); 4. Magnus Holmberg (SWE) NZ; 5. Dean Barker (NZL); 6. Rod Davis (ITA); 7. Chris Dickson (USA); 8. Jesper Radich (DEN); 9. Andy Green (GBR); 10. Jes Gram-Hansen (DEN); 11. Nicola Celon (ITA); and 12. Bjorn Hansen (SWE).