Category Archives: Sport

Featured Sailing Travel

Weekend Visit: Bayfield, Wisconsin

On the waterfront, Bayfield
On the waterfront, Bayfield

Bayfield, Wisconsin: I spent the weekend looking over my schedule trying to make sure that the various calls of duty don’t manage to fully crowd out opportunities for fun and leisure.

For The Observer, those opportunities come in the form of sailing weekends and the best ones take place in the Apostles Islands, that beautiful cluster of islands lying scattered just off the coast of Bayfield. read more »

Featured Sailing Sport

Guide to the 2012 Autumn and Winter Sailing Season

2012 Sailing Season
Fleet after the start, Gaeta in the background, 2011 Maxi Volcano Race – © Rolex / Daniel Forster

Saint Paul, MN: We’ve just wrapped up a fantastic set of racing this summer. Bayfield Race Week saw terrific weather and great competition.  Chicago-Mackinac saw 350 boats compete in the 104th running of the race. The highlight, for us though, was the fast pace set by Team Shockwave in the Newport-Bermuda, whose finish two minutes ahead of Hap Fauth’s Bella Mente doesn’t immediately indicate the excellent sailing required for the achievement that its corrected time reveals. read more »

Sailing Sport

Guide to the 2012 Summer Sailing Season

Saint Paul, MN: Fans of big boat racing have four major events to keep track of this year – the Volvo Ocean Race, the Global Ocean Race, Newport to Bermuda, and the hotly-contested (legal and otherwise) series-racing portion of the America’s Cup with final match racing to be held September 2013 in San Francisco.

In addition to these spectacular and challenging contests, this summer is packed with a schedule of really terrific races: read more »

Featured Sailing Sport

Luna Rossa Wins America’s Cup World Series Naples

Naples, Italy – After extraordinarily high winds and rough seas caused a suspension of racing yesterday, competition resumed in Naples this morning with Luna Rossa, skippered by Chris Draper, winning the fleet championship.

The next competition in the AC Word Series begins in Venice in May.

More here.


Sailing Sport

Rolex Baltic Week kicks off in Flensburg, Germany

Glücksburg, Germany – This corner of the Baltic, off Flensburg, serves as the site for some classic yacht racing this season.  Tomorrow sees the start of racing for the 12-meter and 8-meter World Championships and the 6-meter Sterling Cup.  Forty four yachts – eight in the 12-meter class, 25 in the 8-meter class,  and 11 in the 6-meter class  – have been entered for this year’s competition, the 8th season in its history.

12-Metre fleet races upwind during 2010 Baltic Week | Photo credit: Rolex / Nico Krauss
12-Metre fleet races upwind during 2010 Baltic Week | Photo credit: Rolex / Nico Krauss

Training this week on the course near Glücksburg harbor, the yachts presented a wonderful scene. The strong winds in this section of sea between Denmark and Germany had these narrow-beamed yachts burying the rails as they beat upwind.

Among this year’s competitors will be 74-year old King Harald V of Norway.  Nine races will be held each day starting noon.  The competition is held June 29 through July 3.

For more information on this summer’s sailing events, view our Summer Sailing Guide.

Sailing Sport

Guide to the 2011 Summer Sailing Season

Although this week’s completion of two terrific races – Block Island Race Week here in the US, and the 59th run of the Giraglia Cup, that early summer sprint across the Mediterranean from St Tropez to Genoa – marks the unofficial kick-off to the summer sailing season, there are many wonderful near shore, offshore and big boat sailing events to look forward to this summer.

Here is a guide to some of what’s ahead.

Baltic Week –  June 28 through July 3, 2011, Flensburg, Germany

The eighth Rolex Baltic Week will be held on the Flensburg Fjord in Northern Germany close to the Danish border. Flensburger Segelclub is hosting the event in cooperation with Kieler Yacht Club. The event is open to the 6-, 8-, and 12-Metre classes, with the 12-Metre and 8-Metre World Championships set to be the highlight of the week.

Ilhabela Sailing Week – July 3 through July 9, 2011, Sao Paolo, Brazil

The beautiful island of Ilhabela provides a stunning setting and challenging conditions for Rolex Ilhabela Sailing Week. The event, which had its first edition in 1973, has become a tradition for Brazilian sailors and its unique blend of hospitality, competition and camaraderie attracts sailors from all over the world. The steady trade winds produce great sailing conditions that test a fleet facing a mix offshore and inshore racing.

Bayfield Race Week – July 4 through July 8, 2011, Bayfield, Wisconsin

This week of sailing, which occurs annually over the Independence Day holiday, is really one of the highlights of the summer. When trotting around Bayfield or La Pointe, you’d be forgiven if you thought you were in New England instead of northern Wisconsin. The islands, though, remote as they are rising above the deep, cold waters of Lake Superior have a decidedly Baltic feel.

Trans-Superior Race – August 6 through August 11, 2011, Sault Ste Marie, Michigan to Duluth, Minnesota:

Covering roughly the same distance as the biennial Newport to Bermuda Race, the race begins near the Gros Cap Reefs Light located at the entrance to St Mary’s River from the eastern most part of Lake Superior proceeds westward keeping the Keweenaw Peninsula to the portside and onward to the Duluth Entry at the western most part of Lake Superior.

Photo credit: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi
RAN, the 2009 overall winner, approaching Fastnet Rock

Rolex Fastnet Race – August 14 through August 19, 2011, Cowes, England to Fastnet Rock to Plymouth, England

The biennial Rolex Fastnet Race has been an established fixture on the ocean racing circuit since 1926 and attracts a diverse entry list capped at 300 yachts. The 608 nautical mile race is a test of strategy and skill with challenging tidal currents and changeable weather. The fleet starts from the Royal Yacht Squadron at Cowes, races out of the Solent down the English Channel to Land’s End and across the often tempestuous Celtic Sea to the Fastnet Rock, before returning on a reciprocal course to the finish off Plymouth.

International Women’s Keelboat Race – August 29 through September 1, 2011, Rochester, New York

In 1985, Rolex supported US SAILING in establishing a women’s international keelboat championship. Over thirteen editions the biennial Rolex International Women’s Keelboat Championship has hosted over 2,500 of the world’s best female sailors. It has helped alter the course of women’s sailing and is universally recognized as the pinnacle of competitive keelboat racing for women. In 2011, for the second consecutive time, the Rochester Yacht Club will host the regatta.

Maxi Yacht Cup – September 5 through September 10, 2011, Porto Cervo, Italy: The Costa Smeralda provides a unique backdrop and world-class sailing conditions for the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, one of the highlights of the Mediterranean yachting season. The event developed from the first-ever Maxi World Championship held in Sardinia in 1980: the brainchild of the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda and its president, the Aga Khan. The regatta is now an eagerly anticipated annual event and attracts a sizeable fleet of the biggest, fastest, most technologically advanced yachts to Porto Cervo each September.

Big Boat Series – September 8 through September 11, 2011, San Francisco, California

Established in 1964, the Rolex Big Boat Series takes place annually on San Francisco Bay. In 2005, Rolex became title sponsor of this prestigious regatta, which comprises extremely competitive one-design and handicap racing. Widely recognized as one of the most important sailing events in the USA, this grand-prix racing regatta attracts top competitors and boats from across the USA and abroad.

New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup – September 10 through September 17, 2011, Newport, Rhode Island

The first edition of this biennial event, hosted by the New York Yacht Club in 2009, proved a huge success: international Corinthian competition between yacht clubs was long overdue. The 2011 event promises to repeat the excitement, with a fleet that includes the top six finishers from the previous event, ten invited international clubs and three American yacht clubs determined by a qualification series. The Invitational Cup is raced in one-design NYYC Swan 42s, which are identically tuned and equipped with supplied sails. Racing is over five days on Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island Sound.

Photo credit: Rolex / Daniel Forster


Wild Oats XI Wins 2008 Sydney-Hobart

Wild Oats XI, the three-time winning supermaxi, ended the 2008 Sydney-Hobart Race as she began it: with the lead over its class rival, Skandia, winning line honors for the fourth year running, though fluky winds and a shark collision made it fall short of its hoped-for record. Clear skies and fair winds greeted the start of the race and mostly continued throughout the two days before the first finishers crossed the line off Battery Point in Hobart, Tasmania.

Wild Oats XI, a 30 meter/98 foot yacht – the largest allowed by the race’s rules – was designed by the team of Reichel/Pugh and skippered by Mark Richards, is owned by Bob Oatley.  80-year-old Oatley is a wine exporter and #9 on Forbes list of richest Australians. Its Supermaxi-class rival, Skandia, was designed by Don Jones and is owned by 42-year old Australian property developer Grant Wharington.

Despite the delightful and cooperative weather, however, the race was not without incident. Early in the race, 14 crew members had to be resced from the yacht Georgia, a Farr-designed 53-footer owned by Graeme Ainley. The boat, having lost its rudder and taking on water as a result, issued a Mayday call near midnight on the 26th. Nearby competitor Telcoinabox Merit was able to assist the damaged vessel which is expected to be lost at sea.

Wild Oats XI, after taking an immediate lead fell behind Skandia shortly into the race. The steady winds north of the Bass Strait favored the lighter weight Skandia.  As the winds decreased and became fluky in the strait, Wild Oats XI made up lost way. Her efforts were nearly scuttled, however, after she hit a 6 foot shark a few hundred miles from Hobart. The shark struck the bow and became caught in the rudder as the boat passed over. Crew members needed to execute a special maneuver – using the sails to put the boat into reverse – which allowed the shark to break free and the yacht was able to resume its course.

Wild Oats XI ultimately overcame this setback to regain the lead and win the race with an unadjusted time of 1 day, 20 hours, 34 minutes and 14 seconds. For comparison, recall that this year’s 635 nautical mile Newport to Bermuda race was won by supermaxi Privateer in 2 days, 12 hours.

Winning the IRC Division 2 slot was Ragtime, the race’s sole US entrant this year.  Ragtime (ex-Infidel – bad luck to rename a boat –Ed.) owned and skippered by Chris Welsh is a wooden-hull, fixed-keel 65-footer built in 1965.

Sailing Sport

Speedboat Wins Line Honors in 2008 Newport-Bermuda

Although it’s a terrific sport, it’s not difficult to see why sailing hasn’t become a widespread spectator favorite.  ‘Monday Night Sailing’ is something that holds more appeal for an active participant than it does as as a concept to pitch to a network executive. That is to say, often the things that make something fun and challlenging to do make it terrible to watch and vice-versa. The corollary ‘sport’ might be NASCAR.

There are a few reasons for this.  For one thing, it doesn’t start or finish quickly so a person needs to pay attention in order to discover and understand the drama of the event.  For another, there are many, complex rules some understanding of which is required to know what’s happening.

Finally, there’s plenty of math involved.  The boat that’s first over the finish line – the one that takes ‘line honors’ – is not necessarily the winner.  There are several divisions and classes – boats grouped in some fashion for scoring purposes – and the winner of a division is determined by various things including the dimensions of the boat and whether they broke any rules along the way. Oh, and there are two scoring methods used.

The 2008 Newport-Bermuda Race was a pleasant, though perhaps not historically noteworthy, event. It was well-run, had nearly record-level participation, and the gloriously beautiful weather would have made this a memorable running except for one thing – the wind.

Thwarted by strong breezes directly out of the south, Alex Jackson’s Speedboat was prevented from breaking any course records as it took line honors.  The yacht crossed the finish line near St David’s Lighthouse at 5am EDT Monday, June 23, several hours ahead of Il Mosto, its nearest competitor.

Winner of this year’s St David’s Lighthouse Trophy was Sinn Fein, a Cal 40 captained by Peter Rebovich who won with a corrected time (see what I mean?) of 100 hours, 13 minutes and 44 seconds, 25 hours ahead of Selkie.

The Gibb’s Hill Lighthouse Trophy was awarded to Capt Julien Dougherty of the 37-footer Tenacious with a corrected time of 107:01:26.

Sailing Sport

2008 Newport-Bermuda Race Off to a Strong Start

Jostling for position at the starting line amid steady southwest breezes and glorious summer sunshine, this year’s competitors in the 2008 Newport-Bermuda race got under weigh Friday as the starting cannon fired just after noon. In staggered starts based on entry class, nearly 200 boats dashed out of Narragansett Bay off Castle Hill making a southeasterly course for St David’s Head, Bermuda, 635 miles away.

How a boat finishes will be heavily influenced by how they perform the first night at sea. Being on the cold side of the Gulf Stream, this night will be spent in an area frequently blanketed in fog. Equally important, given the weather forecasts, is to get far offshore as quickly as possible to avoid the lighter winds near land expected in the evening.

A critical tactical decision is the point at which the boat crosses the Gulf Stream. While approaching and crossing it, the boat will encounter extreme variations of current, water and air temperatures, and wind directions which, taken together, can create unpredictable and dangerous weather. Making an efficient Gulf crossing is very important. Many skippers will opt to head straight for it to cross as quickly and early as possible.

Once across, the boat is on the warm side of the Gulf Stream, and the next 300 miles or so are typically very pleasant though occasionally an area of a frustrating calms. If the early part of the race has gone well, this stretch, known as ‘Happy Valley’, is where a skipper can make his boat run.

The barrier reef to the north of Bermuda poses the biggest challenge at the finish. Though GPS and radar have made the modern sailor’s navigational task much easier, the ancient risk of running aground is a real threat, especially during a nighttime finish.

All eyes are on the 99-foot Maxi yacht Speedboat skippered by Alex Jackson which is expected to take this year’s line honors – first to cross the finish line – some time late afternoon Sunday, a great start to its racing debut. Another fast boat making its debut this race is the Puma Volvo Ocean race team’s 70-footer. The 2006 line honors winner, Bella Mente, is near at hand but is not expected to overtake its faster competitors this year.

Sailing Sport

2008 Newport-Bermuda Will be Second Largest

If you’ve never done any sailing, you’re probably blissfully unaware of the basic elements that underlie the sport’s phenomenal attraction. Let me take a moment to describe them to you. First, the vehicle you’re on – variously called a ‘boat’, or ‘tub’, or ‘She’ – gets increasingly small the farther you get from land. Second, as wind speed increases, this boat becomes increasingly unstable. Third, a sailor spends most of the time cold or wet or tired and very likely all three at the same time. Finally, it’s very expensive.

Bella Mente, a Judel/Vrolijk 66 foot sloop owned by Minneapolis financier Hap FauthSo I’m sure you find it no surprise that the 2008 Newport-Bermuda Race, to be held next month, had a near-record number boats entered by the April 1st deadline to compete in this year’s 635 nautical mile blue ocean event.

At noon on June 20, 224 boats will be maneuvering around the starting buoys beneath the Castle Hill waiting for the starting cannon to fire, beginning what for the faster competitors will be a 3 day journey from Newport, Rhode Island across the Atlantic to the finish line near St David’s Lighthouse off Hamilton, Bermuda.

Taking line honors – first of all entrants to cross the finish line – in the 2006, centennial race was Bella Mente, a Judel/Vrolijk 66 foot sloop owned by Minneapolis financier Hap Fauth. Fauth and crew will be competing again in this year.