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Enduring the GGR 2018, SailGP's Sydney debut and previewing the Caribbean 600

by David Schmidt 19 Feb 2019 10:00 PST February 15-16, 2019
Istvan Kopar now challenging for 3rd - Golden Globe Race, Day 218 © Christophe Favreau / PPL / GGR

Let's face it: We modern humans live soft lives. Take, for example, a recent business trip I made from Seattle to Florida. While my frequent-flyer status usually fetches me nice upgrades, it was aboard a short, sub-two-hour flight from Orlando to Miami that I found myself assigned to the dreaded middle seat. Fortunately, the person who owned the window seat never arrived and, as the flight attendants were closing the aircraft door, I was able to slide one seat to port, easing border relations with my aisle-seat neighbor. But just as I started to enjoy my newfound space, I started to consider the sailors still racing in the Golden Globe Race 2018, and specifically Istvan Kopar's (65; USA) ordeal involving a complete infestation of black mold aboard Puffin, his Tradewind 35.

Suddenly, my middle-seat blues seemed utterly and laughably pathetic in comparison.

According to an official GGR 2018 report, Kopar, who is currently sitting in fourth place in this retro circumnavigation race, is suffering from dental troubles (a reoccurring abscess under a tooth) and hygiene issues (fungal infections under his nails), which he believes are being exacerbated by a scourge that his boat contracted in the depths of the Southern Ocean.

"I could not ventilate the boat in the Southern Ocean and the interior is now covered in black mold," said Kopar in an official GGR 2018 communication. "The black stuff is everywhere: on the plywood, sail bags, just everywhere. It is becoming a serious health issue, which could weaken my resistance to infections. I am washing everything down with bleach, but so far this doesn't seem to be having much effect."

As of this writing, Kopar is some 2,494 miles from the race's Les Sables d'Olonne, France finishing line, a small distance compared to the 25,870 miles that he's left astern, but still a long and miserable march given the fungal stowaways that the American-flagged vessel has been lugging along.

Moreover, Kopar is also struggling with steering-related issues aboard his full-keeled steed and has had to jury-rig a new tiller system in order to limp his tired and infested boat back to France.

"I'm very proud of the new tiller," reported Kopar in an official GGR 2018 report. "I had to machine a new key from a piece of rigging, which I filed down by hand to make a perfect fit. The tiller is very long, so the big challenge now is getting around the cockpit because it gets in the way of everything. I'm keeping my safety line strapped on, because it is not easy so much so that I'm thinking of taking up Yoga classes! The big question is whether the tiller will last for the rest of the race. There is a wooden connecting piece which could break under load and I have no more epoxy resin."

Adding additional complication (and belowdecks moisture and vis-à-vis more mold) to the mix is the fact that sea and rainwater are freely able to run down the length of his makeshift rudderstock and into his hull and bilges, stopped only by the skipper's hot-water bottle, which he sacrificed as part of his jury-rigged solution.

In comparison, middle seats aboard 757s are sounding just fine, even on a transcontinental flight involving steerage class seating and no complimentary red wine.

Switching gears, last weekend (February 15-16, 2019) marked the first of five planned 2019 regattas for the SailGP tour, which played out on the waters off of Sydney, Australia. While none of the teams had the practice and polish that their skippers would have preferred prior to this prime-time airing, the event registered six races, including five fleet races and a final match race between the top two teams.

After a total of six races, skipper Tom Slingsby's (AUS) Australia SailGP Team dominated their five rivals, decisively capturing five bullets and proving that they are currently the team to beat. Slingsby and company were joined on the winner's podium by skipper Nathan Outteridge (AUS) with his Japan SailGP Team and skipper Dylan Fletcher with his Great Britain SailGP Team.

North American fans were no doubt disappointed to see the American-flagged team, led by former America's Cup winner and Volvo Ocean Race alumni Rome Kirby (USA), finish in last place, however it's critical to remember that these are still nascent days for all SailGP teams, and that there was scant foiling time available prior to this first SailGP event. Moreover, there's still plenty of time left for improvements before the next SailGP regatta (New York City, May 4-5, 2019), and before the season's finale (Marseille, France, September 20-22, 2019), which will see the top team foil-off with a $1,000,000 USD purse.

Finally, this week also marks the start of the Royal Ocean Racing Club's Caribbean 600 (February 18-22, 2019), which will see some of the planet's fastest hardware and brightest sailing minds attempting to break records and claim racecourse hardware. A glance at the entry list reveals two 70 foot trimarans, a Maxi 72, two Volvo Open 70s, a Volvo Ocean 65, a Paul Bieker-designed 53-foot catamaran, numerous Gunboats, and plenty of other potential racecourse record robbers.

Interestingly, the two 72-foot trimarans have agreed to a small postponement to allow Jason Carroll's Argo team to finish repairing the American-flagged MOD70 trimaran following an off-script and high-speed capsize during last Friday's Antigua 360 warm-up race.

"We're happy to let Argo participate in this beautiful race," said Giovanni Soldini, skipper of the Multi 70 trimaran Maserati in an official team press release. "And we've decided to accept the delayed start because we're here to compete on the water with one of the world's strongest teams, [and] I'm sure it will be a great challenge."

Sail-World.com wishes all crews competing in the Caribbean 600 safe and fast passage around this Bucket List racecourse, and we also wish Mr Kopar a safe and healthy passage back to Les Sables d'Olonne.

May the four winds blow you safely home.

David Schmidt
Sail-World.com North American Editor

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