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Skiffs, cats and a dream regatta—Sailing news from the U.S. and beyond

by David Schmidt, Sail-World USA Editor on 18 Feb 2013
Gotta Love It 7 and Smeg power down to the leeward mark - JJ Giltinan 18ft Skiff Championship 2013, Race 2 Frank Quealey /Australian 18 Footers League http://www.18footers.com.au
If you love featherweight, rocketship-fast sailboats, tune-in to the 2013 JJ Giltinan 18ft Skiff Championship, which is currently playing out on Sydney Harbor, in Sydney, Australia. Here, three-person teams hang everything out on the wire, using their body weight to dramatically increase boatspeed, and, ultimately, to create what can only be described as one of the world’s most visually engaging regattas. And while the skiffs themselves might be small, one quick study of their sail plan reveals that these little thoroughbreds carry more than their share of horsepower (read: copious amounts of sail area).

Not surprisingly, this high-octane class attracts some of the fastest sailors afloat. And while the class typically only receives passing mention in the States, the boats are wildly popular in Australia and New Zealand (not surprisingly, both of these countries are extremely strong in the 49er Olympic class skiff, which, while quite different, shares some basic performance attributes).


This synergy of popularity and sailing talent has created a class with its own distinct culture and style, both of which are on full display at the 2013 JJ Giltinan 18ft Skiff Championship. Be sure to get the latest multimedia reports, including the great still-photography galleries and live tracking, inside this issue, and stay tuned to the website for more information from this event, as it unfurls.


Meanwhile, in offshore-sailing circles, the Caribbean 600 is about to kick off in Antigua (February 18 to February 22), offering sailors of all stripes the chance to play offshore in some of the best ocean-sailing conditions imaginable. This year’s fleet includes everything from sleek Gunboats to 'Leopard', Mike Slade’s Farr-designed 100-foot super maxi.

'At the moment, the forecasts seem to be quite stable,' advised Hugh Agnew, navigator aboard 'Leopard'. 'We can expect 20-26 knots of easterly wind, maybe slightly to the south of due east for the duration of our race. The longest leg of the course is from St. Barths to Guadeloupe and with this wind direction, coupled with the apparent wind created by 'Leopard', it will be forward of the beam, so we will be unlikely to fly a spinnaker. This will slow us down, but the other side of the coin is that this wind direction may be beneficial on a crucial part of the course-the south side of Guadeloupe. If we get a one-sided beat, requiring few tacks, this could really work in our favor.'


Get the full Caribbean 600 report, inside, and stay tuned for more news from this bucket-list-worthy event, as it becomes known.

And in Cup circles, both Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) have been logging some foiling time on their newly (re)launched AC72s. While the American-flagged Defender is sailing on a heavily modified version of 'USA 17' (their wingsail-powered catamaran that they dramatically capsized on October 16, 2012 on San Francisco Bay), ETNZ is sailing their second-generation AC72, which they will race this summer/fall in the Louis Vuitton Cup (July 4-August 30) and-most likely-in the 34th America’s Cup (September 7-21).


According to reports, video and still photography, both teams have successfully flown their mighty cats on their foils, much to the delight of their fans and (no doubt) to the relief of designers. Interestingly, ETNZ and Oracle Team USA both took different design routes to solve the foiling problem, and-from afar-both solutions appear to be working quite well. Inside, be sure to check out the great video footage of the powerful cats foiling around, as well as the commentary on the different design packages.


Also inside, be sure to check out the NOR for US Sailing’s International Women’s Keelboat Championship, check in with the Vendee Globe fleet, and get the latest news from the Southern California Yachting Association’s Midwinter Regatta.

May the four winds blow you safely home,

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