Candy Store Cup and high school sailing

The Candy Store Cup, staged out of the Newport Shipyard, in RI was held over 3 days, the last weekend of July. The Candy Store Cup is a dedicated regatta for Super Yachts, with the minimum LOA for entry of nominally 30 meters, around 100 feet. Such yachts are generally not the kind of boats high school sailors get the opportunity to sail on, outside of the owner’s family and friends. Fortunately I have a lot of mates in the area who know of my interest in, work with and passion for, having local high school sailors have the kinds of experiences I had as a teenager, well sort of. NOT too many 56 meter Perini Navi Ketches in Sydney town in the 1960s and 1970s.

Sarah taking it all in during the Candy Store Cup on Zenji


A couple of weeks before the regatta I had an email from Murray Lord, principal at Wellington Yacht Partners and former yacht captain of small ships of this size. The note asked me if I was interested in sailing on Zenji for the Candy Sore Cup, and if so to contact the captain. Murray was to be the ‘race’ skipper.


One thing led to another and after meeting with Matt, the very pleasant and easy going British skipper, I got the nod. At the end of our discussions I raised one point of interest to me, ‘can I bring some HS sailors? After some more talking on this subject, Matt was gracious enough to let me bring up to three young sailors per day. Hot Dog, I thought.

Crossing tacks with Meteor

I sent out the Bat Signal for another Cooper Kaper to the Prout School Sailing team email list on this topic. Short version? I was able to have 5 of the sailors, all young ladies, (80% of the 2017 team was ladies) rotate through the four days of sailing, one practice and three race days with me.

Well, ‘sailing’ on a 56 meter Perini is a rather different bag o’ sail ties than almost any other sailing. There is barely anything one person alone can do on deck, the kite sheets are probably 350 feet of 25 mm spectra, the dock lines not as long but twice as thick and even the fenders, light though they are being inflatable, are more easily managed by two. And the kite? I did not get the actual area of the sail but it lives, on the foredeck, in a bag that would be hard to get into the average sailmakers Ford 350 Econovan.

Payton, Isabella and Lucy, hamming it up before the start on Saturday, breeze on.

So just where does one start with ‘sailing with young sailors’ at this level? The same way one does it with any other boat, how to get off the dock. At 183 feet and 550 tons more or less Zenji is not simply pushed off the dock by a collective crew heave. It is an example of the kind of teamwork that is the hallmark of good, nay great, teams. On the first day, I took my charge to a convenient watching place, out of the way and discussed the co-ordination, teamwork, communications and calm required to move this ship. The mate, another pleasant young Brit, James, was at the stern with a hand held radio, another crew member was at the bow, with radio speaking to Matt, on the bridge coordinating which line was to be cast off, in what order, the distance off the dock, distance to the pier astern of us and so on. Zenji has bow and stern thrusters, so they supplied the collective heave, to perhaps 15 feet of the dock at which point Matt engaged the (two) engines and we started to idle south. This particular process was duplicated daily over the course of the regatta. All the time we were motoring out to sea, to hoist sails, there was a look out on the bow offering a running commentary on other traffic and lobster pots.

Friday was quite a bust with very little air making spinnaker work exasperating. Here, Sarah, Isabella and Mikaela seem to be managing the stress with aplomb during lunch. Two of my aft deck crew, Owen and Bill, are seen in the background, discussing tactics, one hopes.

At the first gathering for the race crew, the Monday prior to the regatta, Matt ran through the housekeeping issues, safety, where the day head was, where to stow our kit and so on. He also handed out ‘The playbook’ for the crew, ship and regatta.

The ‘play book’ was an interesting read I shared with Sarah, the Prout sailor on Tuesday, our second practice day. Multiple copies of this ‘book,’ secured in waterproof sleeves and bound in yellow plastic binders held all the information anyone on the crew would need during any evolution to do with sail’s and sail handling. The crew numbered about 20 ‘race crew,’ plus James, the mate and 3,4 deck hands. The binders were labeled, and mine had Aft Deck Boss written across the top.

Literally, the Zenji Play Book for sail and ship handling evolutions.

The discussion with Sarah was on the idea that sailing something like this required multiple people to do even the simplest task, and given the bulk of the race crew had not sailed together and in some cases, like me, not on the boat at all anything that could be done to get every one, literally, on the same page was good, sound and prudent seamanship. A discussion of just what Seamanship is, was a constant theme during the four days with the ladies.

To give one a sense of the size of Zenji, this is a picture of bowman, Juggy, going aloft to check in something. He is between the second and third spreaders.

The five main pages in the book were spread sheets of the crew dispositions and tasks for each maneuver. OK, this might not be critical in a 420, a J-70 or a 50-foot handicap offshore yacht. But the idea I discussed with Sarah was that each position on the ship has a role that varies by what evolution is about to happen.

The procedure aboard Zenji, for gybing including the 5 minute warning, then a one minute, then the action: GYBE and the post action activities.

I was honored to have three really skilled sailors as ‘my team’ on the aft deck where the kite trimming was to happen and introduced Sarah to them and we discussed the sequence and timing of setting, gybing and dousing the kite. Outside gybes were, by the way, great entertainment with about 250 feet of sheet moving around the bow in pretty short order…

The two headsail were on furlers, vast monstrosities, hydraulically driven from the bridge, that we wrapped in towels lashed up with light line and covered with multiple passes, mummy like of a 12 inch wide roll of a self-adhesive version of a shrink-wrap like plastic to protect the blinding stainless steel finish and the 30 mm diameter hydraulic cables.

The genoa furler on Zenji is like everything else on the ship, BIG. The light line on the deck is the lashings we had securing the towels, under the instant shrink wrap. The black line is one of the forward dock lines.

During Sarah’s, and on subsequent days, the other ladies, pre-departure tour of the bridge, they were introduced to the control panels for managing the loads on this ship. Everything from the centerboard up & down controls, the sail hydraulics, (the main and mizzen were in-boom furling arrangements) headsails in & out, headsail sheet controls-they were led to under deck captive winches. The crew was admonished to stand out of the way of the genoa sheets, at full crank there is roughly 10 tons of load on the 25 mm spectra sheets, and so on. The headsail sheet warning led to a discussion of ‘standing in the bight’ and a couple of quick tales, that almost all the crew had, of someone getting hurt when standing in the bight and a block let go. All of this hydraulic power was under the command of the Toggle Master, one David Dawes, formerly the master of the Oliver Hazard Perry, the RI tall ship.

The ladies on the bridge getting some tips from Safety Officer, Ted Hood

My take on all this to the ladies was along the lines of ‘anytime you have a team of any number of souls doing anything, it is important to break the tasks up into bite size and manageable pieces, to have competent managers in each area, to make sure that every team member knows what the goal is and when and how to do their task. This example happened to be on a sailing boat, but such principals are very handy in the non-sailing world’.

Handling the kite is, in essence, the same as any other kite evolution, except it takes longer and requires a lot more coordination. To this end the bowman, Newport local, Justin Juggy Clougher had a radio, as did I, and also Dale Tremain, aka Crusty, the overall Deck Boss, so co-ordination between the bow and stern teams was thus rendered about as straightforward as on any Weekend Warrior 40 footer, may be better.

I had plenty of opportunities to reinforce one of my common memes that the physics of sailing do not change with the size of the boat, merely that the boats get more complicated to handle. The handling of the sail(s) and the required coordination with the helmsman are all the same, regardless of the LOA.

The very beautiful schooner,Naema, roaring past us in conditions perfect for her.

The primary difference in spinnaker handling was in the amount of line (sheet) moving and the speed with which it needed to move particularly during gybes. This speed required that the kite sheets be ready to run and with no kinks in them. The sheets were flaked out on the aft deck, which was fortunately big enough, in long, perhaps 10 feet per pass, all neatly nested next to each other. This action gave me the opportunity to discuss the problems that arise if the sheets fouled on something. The action of preparing for the next evolution is another theme of seamanship I try and constantly bring to the attention of the ladies regardless of what we are sailing on. The ‘what will happen next and what will we do if it goes south’ mind set being a pretty good working definition of seamanship.

Speaking of seamanship, this 30 second video is of Billy Black out doing his thing. The red line, secured to the rail, next to the Zenji crew, is the coiled spinnaker sheet


Five of the ladies had the opportunity to sail with me on this Kaper. They all enjoyed themselves, even if sailing was not strictly what they were doing. The trio on the last day did however get to experience that full effect of sailing on a Super-yacht, the ancient art of Wash-down and Shammy. The ladies took it all seriously, even while smiling and laughing, their signature trademarks as far as Prout sailors are concerned and worked just as hard as though they were a regular part of a big boat crew.

If sailing incorporates the idea of seamanship, even in an Opti, then a day or two on a small ship like Zenji is, while not strictly sailing, an eye opener into the larger (literally) world of sailing and seamanship, where everything needs planning and forethought, two key hallmarks of good and sound seamanship.

After the last race, the work of cleaning up begins. Here Isabella working is on the tidying up the kite sheets, which probably weight more then her.

My last job of the last day was to present Matt with a Prout Sailing shirt as a gesture of our appreciation of his willingness to help give young sailors a look at another card in the vast deck of this activity we do called sailing.

The last job of the day, for the ladies: shammy down the metal.

The Mini Diaries, Christmas in Australia

The Mini Dairies

Star date 24122014

(The Mini Dairies is a narrative I have started on the Joe Cooper Sailing Face book page. It is intended to chronicle my rebuilding of my Mini 6.50 (aka 650’s) a boat I built, with a lot of local help, in 1993, 4 & 5 for the French Mini Transat Race. A more targeted blog on the building of this boat is posted here in this site.

If the real core of sailing is the gathering of new material for stories, tales and engaging yarns about what people do for fun and because they have to do ‘em then this post qualifies as a Face book Mini Diaries post. If you discount the collection of stories from the top five things we all go sailing for then you can still have fun, but really it is a lot more fun to have stories to share with your mates, right?

Christmas in Australia and the search for sailing stories.

In Australia December is summer time. Growing up in Sydney the idea of snow, pine trees, skating, sleighs, jingle bells and all the trimmings of “classic” Christmas was frankly a mystery to me and my mates. Most days in December the afternoon temperature was in the 80’s and temperatures in the 90’s in January and February were not at all uncommon. So naturally as soon as were let out of school in mid-December we changed into shorts, t-shorts and bare feet and so attired we roamed, in my case, the streets of Kings Cross, getting into and rapidly out of mischief, taking the bus to the beach, swimming, surfing, sailing and generally being larrikins. There was really not much there, there, when it came to the snow and ice part of Christmas. Nonetheless there was a tiny wee bit of mostly un-uttered curiosity connected to Christmas. It was caused by this Santa Cause bloke. Yes we got the Reindeer (yes we did read National Geographic) and the sleigh, and the guy with the bag of presents, but how, went the question, did the Reindeer survive the blistering heat in the out back.

Well it turns out that there was an interesting story connected with this question. I say story because I personally have no ocular proof of it, but that does not mean to say it might not be true. We are discussing Christmas is after all, the time when the most unexpected things can occasionally happen. This yarn that follow is the story about the deal Rudolf and the boys made with Santa.

It seems that early on the Reindeer could not stand flying around in the baking temperatures of the Australian desert, aka the Outback. They got really hot really quickly, even at night, they were tired, easily sunburnt, dirt and sand in their eyes, ears and nostrils and generally got home feeling like, well not at all great. So they struck a deal. The basics of the deal was if Santa would sub-out the presents delivery in Aust. to some locals more suited to the harsh terrain then the Reindeer would navigate the sleigh back home after the last present drop and Santa could have an early kip on the bench and not have to navigate the thousands of miles back to the North. Santa thought that was a bargain, and so the deal was on.

So, as the story goes one year Santa and the boys arrive in Darwin, at the top of Australia, right on schedule and parked in the usual spot, a dark and almost deserted railway siding, for the hand-off to the Australian crew. The Reindeer being, basically Scandinavians and not wishing to let a good thirst go un-rewarded, slipped the harness quick as a flash, disappeared down the road to the local RSL (like the VFW), had a tub (bath) and with Dasher in the lead, trotted across the road to the pub and in short order had a round of very frosty glasses full of that delightful beverage know to sailors and workers the world around, a bitterly cold Pigs Ear (rhymes with beer). They downed the first one in jig time and were actually onto their third round when all of a sudden Rudolf stopped in the middle of the yarn he was spinning. The others, who were in various states of slouching repose mostly with their hind legs up on the chairs opposite them and generally relaxing, all looked at him. He was quiet and alert, with his ears back, his body was rigid with the stiffness that happens when creatures get the scent of something. He put his beer down and held up his fore leg, motioning for quiet. He cocked his head in the manner we all use when straining to listen. The other patrons in the pub all stopped talking until the entire pub was as quite as a graveyard during the Melbourne Cup. (Aussie Kentucky Derby-Whole country knocks of for two minutes or so) The only sound was the buzzing bee like drone of the fridge compressors and the occasional clink-ie tinkle as a handful of ice fell in the ice-maker.

Bluey MacFarlane, the publican listened too and looking over to the still immobile Rudolf, said, under his breath almost to himself and hardly audible “Yeah, that’s them”.

Now before we get too far on into this yarn, I have to give you some backstory. And story it is, for again, sad to say I have not seen the subject me-self nor do I know anyone who can swear to having seen them either, so we are going with “story”. Not saying it is not possible, at Christmas time, anything is possible, right?

We all know about the Kangaroos, those cute-as-all-get-out creatures found nowhere else in the world but in the Australian outback, Zoo’s and in ads for Australia. Most people hear Kangaroo and see in their mind’s eye the sort of normal 5-foot or so tall, grey ones, the kind you see the locals walking down George St. on the leash, or in the Qantas ads. (The ‘roos got the nod after the Koalas got the sack because they just annoyed the daylights out everyone so much with their attitude.) But what most people do not know is that there is another species of Kangaroos. Big ones.

Really big, like seven foot tall, several hundred pounds, with fore paws that would put The Arnold to shame, with razor sharp fore claws, with huge feet at the bottom of hind legs strong enough to clear a 20 foot high fence without taking aim. Even the length of a relatively unspectacular bound between, say, the batting and bowling ends of a cricket pitch is just a sip of tea for them. But for all sorts of reasons you do not normally see these Kangaroos and that is really is a pity because they are pure white. As white as 10,000 count prima cotton Ralph Lauren sheets freshly laundered and starched as used on the Sheik sized bed in the Uber-Sheik’s suite at the Inter-Continental Hotel in Dubai: really white. These huge kangaroo’s are formidable when just standing still. But when they are on the move, the sound they make when they land is a thundering booming sound, loud enough and of a deep enough bass frequency to rattle the bottles on the bar behind Bluey from a quarter mile away. Boom……… boom……..boom…….boom……… at quite long intervals because they travel a huge distance between bounds. Because of all these characteristics, these big white Kangaroos are known in the game as Boomers.

So back to what Rudolf was hearing—It was the approach of the Boomers, the business end of the sleigh power for Santa’s Australian run. The booming got louder and louder as they got closer of course, but then as the frequency and length of their bounds diminished as they slowed down approaching the pub, the booming tapered off to relative quiet and then nothing as they arrived on the pub’s veranda. Boomers are a bit too big to get through the pub’s front door easily so they merely stuck their heads inside through the open windows to make sure the Reindeer were there and to see if there was anything they needed to know before heading off on Santa’s Australian run. The boss boomer, with his head in the window and his forepaws resting on the window sill, looked around, nodded to the other patrons and Bluey then looked over to Rudolf and smiling pleasantly said, “Giday Rudy, good trip mate? Rudolf lifted his glass towards the Boomers, in the manner of a toast and said, in a very faint accent, that a student of languages might have called Finnish, were she pressed for an answer, “Yup all good, and yes same place mate“ he said with a weary smile. “Good oh” said the boss boomer and, casting another sweeping glance at the 8 Reindeer, said “Merry Christmas boys, we got ‘er now.”

Back at the sleigh, Santa was taking advantage of the time taken for the crew change to take his boots off and let them, and his feet, air out. Fur lined boots are all well and good in Europe, the America’s, the UK and Canada but they sure get one’s feet hot down here he thought to himself. He had just finished his final inventory on the iPad and exhaled a small sigh, happy that the inventory and presents lists for Australia all balanced. “Nearly done” he said to himself, “just another few hours then back home to Mary, the cold tub and some Aquavit” he thought with the hint of a smile twinkling from the happy eyes surrounded by the red hat and that famous beard. Just as he was checking the time on his iPad to see when the new crew would be arriving, gradually the light sound of the Boomers approaching in short, measured, almost quiet, idling bounds, pushed that lovely image out of his mind: Time to get to work.

“Giday Santa, good trip mate ”? Inquired the boss boomer. Yah, yah all goot, just the Aussie kids to go” he said. The boss boomer smiled. To hear Santa say “Aussie”, never failed to lighten the evening. It sounded strange the way it came through from the depths of the white beard with the odd accent. But no time for frivolities he thought, off to work. “O’right lads, harness up please” he said to the other five boomers in a voice that those in charge use when it is time to get cracking. And I should mention that there are only 6 boomers because they are so big and powerful they have the same power as the 8 reindeer.

The boomers were in the harness in no time flat and looking at the boss boomer to give the word. The Boss Boomer looked at Santa and Santa nodded. The Boss always took pride in the fact he and his crew did not need to be cajoled on like the reindeer. The Boomers new the work and just went at it.

Thus not long after the Boomers arrived at the railway yard, Santa was back on the trail with his six white boomers on his Australian run. North and south, east and west they travelled, zigging and zagging over the barren terrain of the Outback. The Outback being vast and empty, the stations (Aussie for ranch) with kids, fast asleep were spread out all over the place. Without help from GPS or sextant the Boss Boomer led the team across countless miles of trackless red dirt and stumpy bushy scrub. Over Wagga Wagga, they went and across Broken Hill, Bowral, Kalgoorlie, Uluru, Bong Bong, Mittagong, and everywhere in between. Because most of Australian population lives around the coast, the Outback part of the run did not take long and soon enough they were heading to the coast. The Boss Boomer wove with ease through the sky scrapers in the downtowns of the cities they passed through on the way to the suburbs and all the while Santa lobbed presents down chimneys with an accuracy that would make Michael Jordan’s hair curl.

After many hundreds of thousands of deliveries, Santa’s sack was empty, except for the spares, and as he glanced over to the East the darkness was a couple of shades lighter than it had been just a few minutes ago. Christmas day was dawning and Santa let himself have a little smile, “Good, now time to get home” he thought wheeling the Boomers back across the Outback towards Darwin

The Boss Boomer again interrupted this slight reverie as he turned his huge head and yelled back to Santa: “Oi, Santa, what’s that down there”? He nodded towards the port side of the Sleigh and down to the ground. Without waiting for an answer the boss boomer wheeled the team to port and descended for a closer look. Santa looked at the small dot, getting larger by the second. Within moments, the sleigh was alongside a little baby Joey (the name for baby kangaroos) who was in tears and slumped on the ground obviously in great distress. “Why what’s the matter son?” asked Santa. “It’s my mummy, I’ve lost my mummy and I can’t find her anywhere,” sobbed the little Joey. “Well that’s no good” said Santa, “come on up here on the sleigh with me and we’ll find your mum”.

The Boss Boomer was looking back at all this and when the Joey was all settled on an empty sack next to Santa, they nodded to each other and the Boomers lifted the sleigh skywards ever so gently. By this time having delivered all the presents and heading back to the railway yard and thinking of their own reward– a cold beer or two. But of course they could not think of leaving the little Joey stranded without his mummy on Christmas Day.

The Boomers were scanning the terrain around them looking for any sign of Joey’s mum. Joey mean while was up on the sleigh next to Santa who was telling him stories of how the Reindeer lived back home, just to take Joey’s mind of his missing mum. They had been looking for her for a while and so of course the sun had come up and the day had started to warm up. Santa was not used to traveling in daylight and certainly not in the southern hemisphere at Christmas/December/Summer and soon enough he began to feel the heat. After a few more minutes Santa slipped of his fur-lined boots and placed them on the footboard just under him. Joey looked down at these lovely fur-lined boots and was reminded of how much they looked like his mum’s pouch that he jumped into one of them. The cozy fur-lined boot felt a lot more like home and he stopped feeling glum and started to perk up a bit.

After a while Joey, feeling better now, looked up and asked Santa, “Santa, don’t you have to go and deliver all the presents to the kids?” Santa smiled that great benevolent smile he flashes when he has kids on his lap at department stores and firehouses in the days leading up to Christmas and said, “No son, all the presents are delivered, we were here last night. This is a special trip, Joeys special trip to find your mummy”

By now they were in the middle of nowhere, a place called Marble Bar well past the back of beyond when suddenly Joey, who had hoped up on Santa’s lap to get a better look, yelled out, “there she is, there she is” and pointed an excited forepaw downwards, fine off the starboard bow. Santa half closed his eyes into a squint for the glare was punishing and sure enough there she was a mummy ‘roo, hopping up and down and bounding from rock to rock looking frantically this way and that showing all signs of the stress and strain of a mummy who has lost her Joey.

The boss boomer led the team gently down to within hopping distance of the mummy ‘roo. Little Joey had bounded out off Santa’s lap even before the sleigh had come to a stop. Santa and the Boomers waited for a minute while mummy and Joey hugged and when Joey had finally jumped back into his mum’s pouch and his mum had her forepaws on his shoulders, Joey turned to Santa and the Boomers and said “this is the best-est Christmas prezzie I could ever have had, thank you so much Santa and the Boomers and Merry Christmas.”

Later on back at the railway yard when the Boomers were stretching out and the Reindeer were harnessing up for the trip home, the Boomers were talking amongst themselves and discovered that they had all developed small lumps in their throats right at the same time, just when Joey and his Mum were hugging and yet they could not work out what caused it. Hearing this Santa just smiled and said nothing.

As the Boomers sauntered over to the pub for a well-earned beer they all turned and looked up wards. The last thing they saw was the sleigh climbing into the northwest sky. They could see the Reindeer pulling an easy load, the sacks empty except for the spares for all the toys had been delivered. They could just see Santa taking off his boots and getting ready for a well deserved nap. That was the only time the Boomers worked a double run.

Boomers as a christmas gift years ago

Boomers as a christmas gift years ago. They were given to me by my future mother in law and she did not forget to have the wood carving guy make a little Joey, seen here between the 3rd and 4th Boomer.


Now I know that some of you will say “well how is this connected with sailing & how does this fit into the Mini Diaries, it is not even a sailing story”? Well, look at this way, it is a great little yarn, right? It is about a bunch of blokes, two bunches actually, all working as a team, working together as teams.  They effect a rescue in the middle of vast trackless wastes, very similar to a rescue at sea, they are traversing vast swaths of the planets surface where by and large no one ever goes and have to navigate over same. There is a sunrise in it (ever had a really, really good sea story without a sunrise or set in it?) And when it is all said and done, the boys are sitting around having a beer. I mean really it is almost identical to any sea story you ever heard or told, right?

So, for all you with nippers (Aussie for young kids), or mates with nippers, read this to them, the nippers-well actually the mates too. This is how Christmas works in the Land Down Under.


And personally I reckon if more humans acted like the Reindeer and the Boomers, we would all be a lot better off.

The Boomers on the Cooper Christmas Mantle. The chart on the wall is of the area I grew up sailing, Broken bay in general and Pittwater particularly.

The Boomers on the Cooper Christmas Mantle. The chart on the wall is of the area I grew up sailing, Broken bay in general and Pittwater particularly.

Merry Christmas

Full disclosure: This tale is based around a Christmas song called Six White Boomers, written and performed in Australia in the early 1960’s by the recently disavowed Rolf Harris. It is a Christmas song I grew up with.

And finally a little more on the chart which hangs on the wall above the fireplace at the leMaison Cooper.

This chart shows the area where I grew up with my dad on a selection of boats. All the area on the left of the chart, in orange is largely wild: then a state now a national park. It was as wild as wild in the late 50’s thru the 70’s when I was drawn away to far horizons. We, dad and I, would sail his little boats all over the place, anchoring or pulling the boat up on the beach in the early days w ith the smaller boats. We would have spaghetti bolognese from cans, bread toasted over a kerosene stove flame, held there by a pair of pliers, referred to by dad as Pliers Toast….

I would spend my days sailing in an 8 foot long dinghy, a Sabot that dad brought for the purpose that also doubled as a dinghy for the boat if we were anchored or on a mooring. At night we would rig up a canvas tarp over the cockpit and sleep on inflatable air beds, called in Australia of the day, Li-Lo’s. After dinner we would read by the light of a kerosene lamp, a Hurricane lamp so called.

Dad would gam with his mates, relax, drink, smoke, draw and paint and live a life I think he would have been really comfortable with had he been able to pull it off.

I would swim off the beach or by jumping of the wharf, climb in the bush behind the beach play touch foot ball with my mates, skip stones, fish and generally lived the life. There was no finer way for a kid to grow up I reckon. Like Spanky and our gang on the water.



Vendee Globe Banque Populaire and Armel Le Cleac’h

Banque Populaire is a co-op of banks, including retail and commercial & insurance companies around France. The holding/parent company-Groupe BP is publicly traded on the Paris Bourse. Their revenue from the Core business line for first three quarters 2012 is 5 Billion Euros.
The English website for what looks like their charitable arm states that BP has: 36 million customers, 8.5 million cooperative shareholders, 117,000 employees & 8,000 branches
In addition to  sponsoring (their first) Vendee globe entry they also sponsor a Figaro Team and are the Marque behind the current holder of the Trophe Jules Verne, the 130 foot trimaran Banque Populaire V.
They have been sponsoring Sailing since 1990 (22 years) so one must assume they like what the relationship with sailing is doing for them.

They are also an Official Partner, since 2000, of the FFV, an Official Partner of the French Olympic Team and they are the Official Partner of The Association Eric Tabarly. On their BP Voile site, there is a blow by blow of the Vendee Globe apparently direct from the VG site and the boat itself, currently leading (1430 EST-Saturday). The Vendee Imoca 60 Team Face Book page has 6500 likes-Up from 5295 earlier this week. There is also a BP You Tube channel-for just the IMOCA 60, with 25 videos on it.

Let’s see:
Figaro for a season: 500,000 Euros. IMOCA 60 for 4 years, at this level, 24m Euros. (Easy math-6m a year
This is the tricky one-a 130 foot Ocean greyhound tri…Euro10 million a year?
Consider: 10 guys in the crew, at least that many in the pits, a mainsail is probably a quarter Million Euros…2,3,4 serious Ribs,simply painting it is probably the same amount of Euros….
Total sailing sponsorship (including the Olympics, FFV and Tabarly…? I guess north of 20-25 million Euros a year.

It seems as though our boy Armel has  been recruited by a big program with lots of resources. One wonders why?

(Trivia section-His older brother Gael is the boat captain for Vincent Riou on PRB…)

From the VG skipper’s dossiers section:
2nd 2000
1st 2003
1st Solo offshore racing Championship 2003
4th in 2004 Plus winning the Transat AG2R-trans-at in the Figaro 2
1st 2010 Win, again in the Transat Ag2R
4th Route Du Rhumb 2006
IMOCA world champ and 4th in The Artemis Transat-2008 formerly the O.S.T.A.R.
2nd Vendee Globe in 2008/9
2nd Route du Rhumb 2010
3rd in the TJV 2011
2nd in the B2B (A solo race back to France from Columbia or wherever the Rd R finishes-It is another VG qualifier) after R du R in 2011
3rd In the Europe Warm Up 2012
1st GP Guyader 2012

Embarks on 2nd VG, November 2012

The Grand Prix Guyader is held in the Brenton seaport town of Douarnenez from Mid April to early May, it is a combined regatta for everything from MOD70’s, Maxi’s , IMOCA 60’s Class 40 to Dragons, mid sized sport boats to Stand Up Paddle boards, Kite sailing and stopping at Opti’s.…It is an absolutely  full blown regatta well underway while boats in the North East US are just getting the covers off…..

Oh, it is only a couple of weeks after Spi Ouest in La Trinite the 2013 edition of which, the 35th, will be held over the weekend of 28 March to 1 April, with usually about 500 boats, at 47.5 degrees north.

Junior Big-Boat Sailing

Next time you are out sailing in your Wednesday beer can race, try this exercise. Do a head count of how many young sailors (read High School) you see: on your boat and on the competition. Chances are it might look like this: a couple of youngsters sitting in the back more or less watching with perhaps the owner’s son on the bow….Who is doing the mast, sewer, trimming, mainsheet, navigating? Steering even…..Probably not a 15 year old. For those of us who pay attention to these things there is a dearth of young sailors present on yachts.  Nick Hayes’ book and the related stories not withstanding this situation is common across the country. It is undergoing a widespread and increasingly rapid change though.

Living next to Newport RI I have been involved the past couple of years with a variety of  activities of greater or lesser formality that focus on introducing high school sailors to the art, science, adventure, seamanship and the rest of the related skills necessary to be competent around a big boat.

The baseline assumption is that guys of  my age, late 50’s that grew up hanging around big boats and sailing on same with their dads, or their dad’s mates, and so absorbed “Seamanship” at an early age, are a declining cohort of sailors. This kind of experience exists for far fewer kids these days for all sorts of societal reasons I will ignore in this story. In my own case I fortunately had several mentors in my youth and by age 18 I appeared sufficiently competent to the skipper of a half-tonner to be invited to sail with him in the Hobart race. An adventure I can still recall in full Panavision and Technicolor, including being scared to death for about 20 minutes the first time I saw 60 knots of wind and 25 foot cresting seas in Bass Straight despite having to take my trick steering, but then feeling ecstatic and proud to find we had placed third overall & won our class.

When I took on the role of High School sailing coach when our son entered High School one thing that puzzled me was that, for our school at any rate, H.S. sailing lasts about 10 weeks-Mid March to Memorial Day, and then stops. This struck me as a supreme waste of resources and energy because the kids and parents are seriously invested in dry suits, and related gear and they sail 3-5 afternoons a week sometimes up to half a dozen races. Then it just turns off, like a light switch. In the summer following my first year coaching I made it a point to keep in touch with my team members and their parents, sending emails to them regarding appropriate sailing schools and programs to buff up their skills, interesting regattas and other events to keep sailing in the forefront for longer than 10 weeks. In the summer of 2010 I was involved in either the creation organizing and/or promotion of the following three events.

Storm Trysail Club Junior Safety at sea Seminars:
15 years ago Rich DuMoulin, a prominent Long Is Sound sailor developed the idea of a one day seminar to train juniors in the basic skills necessary for safe handling and crewing on a “Big Boat”. This seminar is mandatory for all crew in the Beach Point Overnight an overnight race on the Sound on big boats comprising an all teen crew with one adult owner’s rep. and a club program instructor. The Jr.SAS emphasis on hands on activity including many more MOB drills than any adult crew has contributed to one documented lifesaving event and the awarding of a Hansen Medal to the Larchmont Junior crew for recovering a 14 year old who went overboard.

The Jr. SAS is a one day program starts with a morning of instruction on what to think about on a bigger boat: What to look for about deck layouts, halyards, reefing arrangements, how to operate a winch, load and unload lines, deal with the handle and so on. A personal and up close inspection of the interior, the equipment, hardware layout, MOB protocols and drills, E.P.I.R.B’s, correct VHF use, reefing, heaving too and related seamanship skills.  The afternoon is a dedicated practice of the morning’s instruction including MOB drills reefing, sail changing and boat handling. This is accomplished aboard boats supplied by willing volunteer owners in the region. There is also a session with a life raft, flares and for the 2011 Newport seminar the local USCG station, Caste Hill, made a 45 footer available and discussed the Coast Guard role in SAR and related activities with the 30 participants. The final event of the day is a speaker, typically someone with pretty salty boots, discussing their experiences in the field.

As of this writing, late July ‘12, there are seven Junior Safety at Sea seminars this summer spread between Annapolis and Boston. I was an instructor at one in Larchmont last week in rain and 20 kts. of easterly and there were pushing 200 kids present

The original seminar held at Larchmont Yacht Club has become the default program for such training, has recently partnered with U.S.S.A. to promote the seminars around the country and today has instructed over 4,000 junior sailors in these vital skills. Other events in the same genre include:
•    STC has allowed IRC and PHRF boats to carry one (or if the boat is over 45’ LOA two)”free” junior, under 14, with no impact on head count, weight or rating at the STC produced Block Island Week.
•    The Stamford YC Vineyard Race and STC Block Island Race now also have a trophy for youth crewed boats, based on the Ida Lewis Distance race initiative (see below)
•    Junior Safety at Sea Seminars are now held in Annapolis, Raritan NJ, Larchmont, Shelter Is., Stonington, Newport RI. & Boston.
•    American Yacht Club allows the addition of one crew up to 14 years old in a boat’s roster in their fall regatta with NO (handicap) penalty for head count or weight.

Separately but in a related vein-Getting young sailors experience in “Big Boats” -the Storm Trysail Foundation and Club last October hosted the Intercollegiate Offshore Regatta, perhaps the 6th such event hosted by the Foundation and the Club. This event attracted 47 teams from 39 colleges across the US and Canada.

Ida Lewis Distance Race:
Here in Newport the Ida Lewis Distance Race introduced in the Youth Club Challenge Class for the 2010 distance race. The idea was to offer a class that encouraged the mustering of a high school crew so as to generate a body of young sailors with overnight yacht sailing/racing/seamanship experience. The basic parameters for entry were: PHRF ratings & more than 50% of the crew to be between 14-19 years of age. The balance of the crew to be made up of adults with the instructions (although not incorporated in any formal race documentation) that the kids do the work and the adults mentor. The boats sailed the 150 mile course zigging and zagging around Block Island sound with the longest leg being perhaps 30 miles, so basically an overnight passage, with lots of navigation and sail handling.

In the 2011 edition of the event, one 70 footer, “Gracie”, took 12 juniors for the race. Each adult had 3 juniors under their care and the juniors basically ran the boat with the adults watching. One young lady who left her call to Gracie too late ended up as the lone junior on a 4 man crew aboard the Class 40 Toothface and was still glowing 3 days later when I interviewed her.

Sail for Hope:
The third regatta was the Sail for Hope regatta, a regular fixture on the NBYA calendar since the first event was held in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. For the 2010 edition of this 20 mile race around Jamestown Island I gathered 12 of my high school sailing team members and loaded them aboard the N-M/Cookson 80 footer Falcon 2000. With a dozen high school sailors and half a dozen adults in the leadership roles in each part of the boat, again the kids were instructed in the tasks for each position and the adults supervised.

By the end of this race most of the kids had performed in at least a couple of positions and anyone who wanted to, had the opportunity to steer.

This series of Big Boat training was repeated in Newport in 2011 with the addition of an extra opportunity. Several of the Falcon Crew from 2011 expressed interest in doing more big boat sailing so I emailed a collection of the sailors I knew locally and offered to provide a youth sailor for the crew if they would accept the responsibility of mentoring them. Several on the locals stepped up to the plate and I was able to place 3-4 of the high school kids on local boats.

Behind the scenes, the management at the Storm Trysail Club and its Foundation is moving forward on several fronts including developing a simple-to-duplicate program to make it easy for other yacht clubs to host Junior Safety at Sea seminars in their local regions.

Mentoring of junior sailors need not only happen in a racing environment. In fact it is possible that a superior experience may come from more low key activities. Deliveries are a great way to get to do a bit of everything and there is often more time for instruction and mentoring than in the heat of a race which of course we all want to win. In fact I posted here on a delivery I did with several of “my” Prout Kids a few weeks ago. The following week we were treated to a day sail on another J boat, the performance 30 footer J-92s owned by another local who shares the idea of coaching and mentoring kids for big boats. We sailed around the America’s Cup cats on their moorings and then over to Newport Shipyard to have  a look at the 70 foot MOD trimarians preparing to race transatlantic. The kids were stoked, to borrow a surfing term. We went on to sail up the bay set a kite and sail back, with everyone getting a chance to steer and trim.

One of the great gripes one hears around the bar after a race is the difficulty of finding reliable competent crew with which to man ones club racer. If such sailors were to cast their eyes about and offer to take some of the juniors out, the son of a crew member, kids from the local High School sailing team community sailing program, then they would have a hand in solving the problem they are discussing. They are likely to give the kids a huge experience that, in my case had a life changing impact on them. The kids might even have the skills to get on a boat for the Bermuda Race and be scared to death for 20 minutes as the boat enters the Gulfstream.

Rodger Martin Yacht Design and Junior Sailing

If you are a sailor one of the many great aspects of living in Newport RI, is the wide variety of sailing one can do, sometimes on one day. In this sense Newport is almost exactly like where I grew up sailing in Sydney, Australia, where opportunities for energetic kids to sail on all sorts of boats were legion. It was like being in a candy store for kids like me.

I was reminded of this history a couple of days ago by two teenage sailors who were at Sail Newport. One had been practicing in his Laser and the other had been practicing in a J-22 with his team preparing for the Sears Cup eliminations regatta.

I was at Sail Newport about 5:00 to help a mate of mine launch and sail his brand new boat in the local Tuesday night races.

No, we are not talking your basic new from brokerage or dealership new boat here.

Something completely different. The long story will be another post but in short, an earlier boat had been sunk and so they recovered as much gear as they could from it including rig and sails and commissioned Rodger Martin Yacht Design, in Newport, to build them an up-dated version of the boat they lost (a Kiwi 35) underneath the equipment they salvaged. Mark, one of the owners, and some of the core guys in his crew spent the next 6 years building a very nice, very fast 32 foot local PHRF rocket ship in a shed behind Mark’s house. A couple of weeks ago she came out of the shed and was delivered to Sail Newport, for the fitting of the racks and stepping of the mast.

Bella arrives at Sail Newport preparatory to the fitting of the racks and stepping of the spars.

Some of the “home made” details look like this:

Port view of Bella

The two holes are for the insertion of the racks. There is a third one out of picture. The keel is a lifting one. The little dots along the side deck are for the netting lashing for the racks.


Retractable bow sprit pn Bella

The 10 foot bowsprit retracts into the forward part of the boat. All carbon parts including tube were “home made” too….


View of the cockpit on Bella

The cockpit is purely day sailing functional. The aft hatch gives access to the back of the bus, the box hatch forward hides the engine, forward and a cooler, aft. Mainsail control lines exit at the box in front of the compass

Detail of the Rudder system

The rudder blade (missing)  is adjustable up and down and fore and aft. The tiller is home made, in Carbon.

Thus Bella was put in the water at Sail Newport for the first time.

She looked like this waiting for sails.

Bella in the water

6 years in the making, The Good Yacht Bella floats quietly at Sail Newport waiting for sails

We went out that (Saturday) afternoon for a sail to see what was going to happen, only broke a couple of things and managed to get her up on a plane back into the narrows of Castle Hill in not much wind. (No meters yet so no speeds…)

Newport being Newport we passed a boat we knew full of mates including Roy Guay race chair of the Bermuda 1-2, who took a few pictures,  like this one.

Bella off Castle Hill

Bella in light air off Castle Hill
Photo courtesy of Roy Guay

Under a small reaching kite on the first down wind leg of her first race she looks like this:

Bella sailing under medium kite

Bella sailing downwind with the medium kite during her first race.
Photo Courtesy of Rodger Martin Yacht Design

Back to the kids: Mark is as keen as I am on the idea of introducing teenagers to sailing on a “Big Boat”—basically something with a keel, winches, life lines etc. He invited me to spread the word for any kids interested in sailing on Bella on a casual basis. Several of the kids of my acquaintance (I coach a High School Sailing Team)  put their hands up. So last Tuesday the fellow who had been sailing his Laser, who had also put his hand up came with us for a first race. As we were getting ready to head out one of the Sail Newport staff came down the dock with the young fellow from the J-22 and asked if we needed any more bodies. Sure we said so we took off with six, more or less adults and two teenagers.

Skill and experience in a dinghy is actually a pretty good background for sailing Bella as you might imagine from the pictures.

This day the sea breeze was pretty fresh and so we all knew sailing her was going to be, well interesting at the very least. She is big enough and powerful enough so that I was able to use the opportunity to teach the kids a few things about sailing on bigger boats. One sailed as Pit/Halyards and the other as Mast Man. They both performed extremely well for first timers. Sailing around before the start, I instructed them in some basics like:

How to handle a line on a winch, the technique and co-ordination required between the three front positions (including bow man) the sequence for getting a kite up, jib down and gybing, then Jib up and kite down. Getting virtually the same instruction as kids get in the Storm Trysail Foundations Jr. Safety at Sea seminars, (where I volunteer) they performed very well.

And the adults?

Well we managed to break the start, foul up the running backstays on the roach & stall a couple of times coming out of tacks but on the other hand we all had a great time and the owners, builders and designers area all very pleased with the boat.

As for the kids? Well I dropped one of them off in town after sailing and his last words to me were:

Kids on racks on Bella

Two teenagers (the two aft bodies) snapped up as scratch crew sample life on the rack, as it were, on Bella, headin’ upwind.
Photo Courtesy of Rodger Martin Yacht Design

“Thanks, I had a great time!”

Precisely the point.