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Southern Spars

Cupdates and an offshore tragedy—Sailing news from the U.S. and beyond

by David Schmidt, Sail-World USA Editor on 13 Mar 2013
High and dry aboard Oracle’s USA-17 training in San Francisco Guilain Grenier Oracle Team USA © http://www.oracleteamusamedia.com/
Any sailor who has ever set hand to tiller has at least daydreamed of taking the helm of a wingsail-powered AC72-class catamaran. (Granted, of course, the vast majority of us simply don’t have the boathandling skills to drive something this twitchy, but why let fact stand in the way of a nice daydream?) While these foil-borne wonders are commanding international sailing headlines these days, the fact remains that precious few people on the planet have actually been handed the keys to one of these sophisticated wind machines.

Fortunately, Sail-World’s publisher, Rob Kothe, sat down with Oracle Team USA’s Jimmy Spithill for a two-part Q&A session that offers us 'everyman' sailors a chance to learn what life on the helm of an AC72 is really like, from the highs to the lows.


'It was a huge learning experience,' said Spithill of the team’s October 16, 2012 capsize on San Francisco Bay. 'I reckon the biggest thing to take from that is seeing how people react to a tough situation in basically the aftermath. It was a big test and it was pretty rewarding to see how our shore team, our boat building team the engineers how they dealt with it. From that point of view we have been tested more than any other team. It is a big statement for our competitors out there.'


As for where teams should be placing their efforts, design-wise, Spithill was forthcoming. 'You can’t just focus on one area,' he said. 'You really need to make sure you don’t have any weak links. Obviously foiling is very important. You can’t also disregard the sails or the wing. All the crew work—it all adds up.' Be sure to check out the first parts of Kothe’s report, inside this issue. Part II will be released in the next few hours, it shows the Oracle camp are getting quite irritated by the Kiwis and Spithill unloads as an Australian can.


Also Cup related, more great 'Am-Cam' footage of the AC72s have emerged, shot both on New Zealand’s Hauraki Gulf (where Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa Challenge are practicing) and on San Francisco Bay where the Defender, Oracle Team USA, has been training alone since Artemis returned to the shed a few weeks ago.

Much closer to home, tragedy struck this weekend during the Islands Race, which was hosted by the Newport Harbor Yacht Club and the San Diego Yacht Club, when James Gilmore’s 'Uncontrollable Urge' (a carbon-fiber Columbia 32) lost her rudder and went aground on the rocky shore of San Clemente Island. The USCG arrived on the scene as quickly as possible but, tragically, crewmember Craig Thomas Williams didn’t survive. Get the full report, inside, and stay tuned to the website for more information, as it emerges.


Also inside, be sure to get the wrap-up reports from the Melges 24 Atlantic Coast Championship and the Calema Midwinters, and don’t miss the preview reports from the Salt and Speed competition, which will pit the world’s fastest kiteboarders on a course in Salins-de-Giraud, France to determine bragging rights.

May the four winds blow you safely home,

Schaefer 2016 Ratchet Block 660x82Bakewell-White Yacht DesignWildwind 2016 660x82

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