Photos from the 2013 Doc Fellows regatta in Center Sandwhich, New Hampshire.
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Sailing is as old as time itself. It is impossible to know when the first guy stuck a sail on his log canoe, but suffice it to say that it was a very long time ago. The sport has come a long way since the first sail went up and modern day sail boats currently exhibit some of the very best technology available in the world. However the rich history attached to the sport is something that has never stopped driving it. The Sydney-Hobart race is a perfect example of this.
The sport of sailing is a weird one. While composed primarily of amateurs there is an incredible amount of diversity within the sport when it comes to the level of competition and commitment. For many sailing is simply a leisure activity. Cruising and the occasional beer can race make a nice hobby if you live in an area conducive to it. However for those of us with competitive souls sailing is a chance to measure yourself. To see how you matchup with the best in the business and, occasionally, it’s a chance to make your mark on history. That is what Sydney-Hobart is to those who sail in it.
I remember when I was young watching my father sail for the New York Cup following the 2002 International Canoe World Championships in Bristol, RI. They didn’t win it – the British defended the cup thanks to an excellent performance by John Ellis – but seeing that race was one of the biggest factors in my decision to first jump in a canoe. Certainly there were other factors – the boats were as fast and exciting as anything I had ever seen, and the rush I got from sailing them was unlike any other. But I also wanted to get my name on that trophy. I wanted to make my mark on the history of the class and do something memorable, even if it were only remembered by a few for a short while. The Sydney-Hobart race is such an opportunity for others. The chance to get your name on that list of winners. The chance to cross the Bass Straight faster than ever before. These are the things that drive us as competitors – the opportunity to be remembered for something positive.
These opportunities are not all that common. Not every race has that, for lack of a better word, mystique, and it is hard to define why some do and some don’t. Perhaps it’s simply a question of time. I know that I desperately wanted to get my name on some of the canoe trophies that are still raced for at Sugar Island primarily because they were old and had a lot of other great names on them. However the Sydney-Hobart race is comparatively young (first sailed in 1945) and doesn’t have a well known perpetual trophy attached to it, but it has that same feel. It’s hard to explain why some races have that luster, but the Sydney-Hobart race is one of them. The chance to get your name on that list of winners and make your mark is something that will drive sailors for decades to come. There is something special about certain races. Winning the New York Cup in 2011 was a dream come true for me. A dream will be realized for someone else when the results of the 2012 Sydney-Hobart come in.
ClarkSail patriarch Steve Clark has been confirmed as Seahorse Magazine’s ”Sailor of the Month” for the month of February. Clark edged out Oracle Team USA skipper James Spithill to get the win. It is somewhat of a surprise – Spithill is a much larger name in the sailing world. However in this writer’s opinion American sailing is drastically different today without Steve Clark. Shout out to SailingAnarchy for giving Steve their endorsement.
The America’s Cup has made a number of changes to their racing format over the past few years. However, what with moving to hard wing multihulls and adopting fleet racing instead of match challenges, the removal of the nationality rules has been somewhat lost in the shuffle. The America’s Cup is not the only class to do this. The International C-Class Catamaran Championship did something similar only a few years prior. Yet while the removal of nationality rules has had a very positive effect on the C-Class, many wonder if it is right for the America’s Cup.
Strictly enforced nationality rules do have a lot of negative effects. In the C-Class it meant that, in order to get into the class, a boat must be built and sailed by a team made up entirely by people of one nationality. This was very restrictive in terms of class development and was a significant factor in the class almost folding entirely. There was no way to acquire an affordable boat and learn the ropes as it were unless it were from a former team of the same nationality. Thus what the french teams Challenge France and Franck Cammas Racing have done, entering the class by acquiring boats from Canada, would have been outlawed and thus their ability to enter the class would have been severely hampered. The only way to do it would have been to start completely from scratch, which isn’t always the most attractive option for such an expensive project.
These are doubtless the lines that the AC people were thinking along. Removes some of the restrictions and encourage fleet growth. After all when you adopt a fleet racing format, as they have with the America’s Cup World Series, the more boats on the line the better. It stands to reason doesn’t it? Yet the idea is somehow alien to the spirit of the America’s Cup which has always had a strong nationalist component associated with it.
The America’s Cup at its’ best imbibed a bit of the Olympic spirit in its’ followers. You felt proud when your country had the Cup. You were psyched when they were mounting a challenge. The Swiss went crazy when Alinghi first won the Cup. They are still talking about it almost 10 years later. At least in America this rarely happens. We are Red Sox fans or Yankees and we all hate each other as a rule. Yet with things like the Olympics or the America’s Cup suddenly we are all Americans and are all on the same side. At least we used to be. Now the situation is much more muddles.
Take Artemis Racing for example. The team is supposedly Swedish. Yet Iain Percy is British, Nathan Outteridge is Australian, Loick Peyron is French, Santiago Lange is Argentinian and Paul Cayard is American. The man in charge Torbjorn Tornqvist is decidedly Swedish, but the only swede on the boat is Magnus Augustson, yet swedes are supposed to be excited if they win? Somehow that doesn’t really make sense. If Artemis or Oracle Team USA come out on top it will supposedly be a victory for either Sweden or The United States. However it will feel more like an Australian victory. After all both boats are being driven by Australians.
Perhaps none of this really matters. At the end of the day the America’s Cup is just another regatta. A ridiculous big one, but a regatta all the same, and the goal of regattas is to encourage high end competition and high quality sailing. The new format certainly has that in spades. It just feels a little weird.