Archive for the 'Sports – Sailing' Category

USA out of Americas Cup

Monday, May 21st, 2007

(See the introductory post for background and my previous race updates)

Well, for the third time in a row, and only the third time in the 150 year history of the America’s cup, an American team will not be in the America’s cup itself.  Team BMW Oracle, the lone USA representative, lost their 5th race to the Italian Luna Rossa team to be eliminated from the Louis Vuitton Cup (the winner of which gets to challenge for the America’s Cup) on Sunday.

Needless to say, I’m very disappointed.

It seems to me that 5 things went wrong for the American team:

  1. Having Chris Dickson run the campaign all by himself:  Chris Dickson is a great sailor who would kick my oversized behind in any and every race in any type of boat in any type of conditions on any day of any week of any year that we were both alive.  So while I don’t want to be overly critical of Dickson, I do think he was the wrong guy to have such ultimate control of the syndicate.  Dickson is a VERY fast sailor and can make any boat go its fastest.  He also seems to have a gift for working with designers to make fast boats.  In that sense, he was the right guy to lead the challenge up through the round-robins.  What Dickson lacks is that killer tactical instinct on the water.  He was just destroyed by James Spithill in the pre-start in all 6 races of the semi-finals.  Dickson looked utterly over his head and seemed shocked that the tactical intensity had made a big jump from the round-robins to the semi-finals.  While any idiot should have been ready for that jump, since it’s just not his strength, he was completely blind-sided.  What the team really needs is a guy like Paul Cayard or John Kostecki (both American I might add… we all seem to have that killer instinct us pesky Americans) on the helm for the pre-start and then hand the helm over to Dickson for the rest of the race so he can make the boat go fast.  This would have the added benefit of having a guy like Kostecki helping Dickson be more aggressive later in the race as well.
  2. Having a boat that was optimized for fast downwind sailing: I’ve touched on this before, but in retrospect, it just killed Oracle to have a boat that was a touch slower upwind than Luna Rossa by trading off fast downwind speed.  It’s really hard to pass downwind unless you’re right on the tail (<50 meters) of the competition rounding the windward mark.  But Luna Rossa did a great job of making sure they used their speed and resulting tactical advantage to work a 70+ meter advantage at each windward mark making it nearly impossible for Oracle to pass downwind.  It’s much more important that the boat be fast upwind that downwind and it showed in the semi-finals.
  3. Late changes to the boat: Along those lines, Oracle made a change to the boat after their come-from-behind win in race 2.  While I’m all for making improvements, that was not the time.  You could tell that after the change, whatever it was, the team just didn’t have the confidence in knowing how they would perform against the Italians.  Sometimes it’s better to know and risk not making an improvement, that being unsure of how you’re boat will perform.  It helps you have confidence in tactical situations knowing what you can and can not get away with.  If the change was indeed a larger rudder as was speculated for better pre-start performance, it’s quite clear that it didn’t make a lick of a difference in the pre-start while hurting their speed all around the race course.  That’s where a guy like Dickson, who lacks that killer instinct and doesn’t realize that it’s not the boat, it’s the personel that makes the difference in those situations, really hurts.
  4. Heavier wind as the regatta continued: I was suprised how little I heard about this in the TV commentary, but I think Oracle was the fastest boat in the light wind, perhaps by a great deal, but their speed advantage went away when the wind picked up.  In the first round-robin, one that was plagued by light wind, Oracle cleaned everyone’s clock, including both Luna Rossa and TNZ.  (OK, they did have one odd loss to the Spanish team).  In the second round-robin when the winds were more stable, although they beat everyone except TNZ (and the Chinese when they breakage issues), their victories were not nearly as decisive and their loss to TNZ showed a chink in their armor.  (As well, it should be noted that their win in round-robin 2 over Luna Rossa was one of the lightest days of round-robin 2.)  Moving to the semi-finals, the only time Oracle looked substantially faster was in the light stuff, and the come-from-behind wind was a fairly light day with dying breeze on the last leg.  With all of that data, I’m pretty convinced that Oracle wasn’t as fast as everyone thought when the wind was “normal”.  To some degree their fast light-air performance decieved everyone, perhaps even Oracle themselves.
  5. Holding cards close to one’s chest:  In this case, it was Oracle’s lack of doing so that was the problem.  They seemed to be out for blood from the start of the first round-robin.  Perhaps they even set their boat up for the lighter conditions of the first round-robin and weren’t able to make the mode changes in the heavier winds that were seen later.  It was almost as if the team didn’t realize that it was nearly a given that they’d be in the semi-finals along with TNZ and Luna Rossa and they’d likely have to beat both of them to get to the Cup.  The round-robins were nearly meaningless except for the 4th spot.  Oracle would have done well to spend more time experimenting and trying odd configurations, going for the kill in the pre-start and going for more tactical flyers during the round-robins knowing it would have cost them a couple of wins instead spending all their effort trying to kill the weak competition.  Sometimes it makes sense to hold one’s cards close to one’s chest and only step up the competition when it counts.  Luna Rossa seemed to time that perfectly and was ready to pounce in the semi-finals.  Despite losing 3 of the 4 races against the other big two in the round-robins, they look really strong going into the finals having destroyed the caught-by-surprise Oracle.

That’s the way I see it anyway.

As I said I’m extremely disappointed.  I was really looking forward to watching the America’s cup from the Golden Gate bridge.  The good news for the Cal Bear fans who read this site is that there will be no more sailing updates, although you can be sure that I’ll be watching the rest of the racing, albeit with a lot less ownership.

LVC cup takes a turn for the worse

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007

(See the introductory post for background and this post for my previous race update)

Well, today team Oracle couldn’t pull off the miracle that they did on Tuesday.  It’s funny how quick something like this can turn on its ear.  The reality is that Oracle has started all three races in a hole.  While it is awesome that they were able to dig out of one of the three, its unreasonable to expect that they’ll be able to do it consistently.  They need to start winning some starts and picking the correct side of the course off the start line if they’re going to have any hope.

Tomorrow is an off day.  Hopefully they can spend some time reflecting on their starting strategy and win some starts in the racing starting on Friday.

Great racing in the Louis Vuitton Cup

Tuesday, May 15th, 2007

(See the introductory post for background)

I didn’t write a post about the end of the 2nd round robins for the LVC because I was dissappointed.  Oracle, the lone American boat, had been in 1st place for the entire 1st and 2nd round robins until the last day when a painful loss to Team New Zealand (TNZ) saw TNZ leapfrog Oracle by one point.  That was important because it allowed TNZ to choose their opponent for the semi-finals (top 4 boats) and they naturally picked the 4th place boat, forcing Oracle to race the 3rd place, but far more dangerous Italian team called Luna Rossa.

The semi-finals started yesterday (they’re actually on live TV on “Versus” which is formerly OLN and is channel 608 on DirecTV… albeit at 5:30 AM PDT).  I didn’t post yesterday because Oracle got crushed by Luna Rossa (LR).  It was a horrible race where Oracle split from their competition at all the wrong times and stayed close at all the wrong times.  The only good news was that Oracle looked blazing fast downwind and managed to erase the big lead LR built on both windward legs.  Unfortunately, Oracle ran out of room on both downwind legs and couldn’t pull off the pass either time, losing by over a minute on the final run (the race consists of 2 upwind and 2 downwind legs).

So this morning I wake up at 5:30 to get my daily Oracle/LVC fix and the start of the race goes 10 times worse than Monday.  For the Cal Bear fans, imagine if last season the Bears in their 2nd game, after the humiliating Tennessee loss, got pummled in the 1st quarter by Minnesota.  Imagine being down 24-0 going into the 2nd quarter.  You’re thinking, “what they HECK happened to my team!?!  We were supposed to be good!”  That’s how bad it was.  The pre-start (the equivalent of the 1st quarter) went horribly wrong with LR able to nearly lockout Oracle from starting at all.  Heroics managed to get them out of the jam, but they started over 9 seconds back, an absolute eternity for a start and giving LR all kinds of opportunities to extend their lead on the 1st upwind leg, extending to a mindblowing 58 second lead at the windward mark.

Yes it was bleak.  It was looking for sure like they’d be down 0-2 in the best of 9 series and without a prayer unless they somehow got their act in gear.

Now imagine that after a middling 2nd quarter, the halftime score being 31-7, the Bears charge back in the 3rd quarter with 21 points to get to a 3-point deficit 31-28 before Minnesota scores another touchdown to stretch the lead to 38-28.  Well, that’s about what happened, as Oracle was able to make up most of the 58 second deficit they had dug themselves on the first leg of the race downwind.  Yet again they showed great speed downwind.  Yet unlike the Tennessee, er the 1st race on Monday, they mananged to stay tight with LR on the following upwind leg setting up a crucial yet still unlikely opportunity for a pass on the final downwind leg.

And they pulled it off.  Man is Oracle fast downwind.  They waited for the right opportunity to split away from LR and then just flew right by them.  It was a very impressive display of both tactics and boat speed.

Now the series is inexplicably tied 1-1 despite seeming down and out just an hour earlier.  The momentum is squarely in the US’s corner.  I’m sure their downwind speed has LR as nervous and Texas A&M was of DeSean Jackson and I wouldn’t be surprised to see LR make the kind of mistakes that nervous teams make.  What an awesome turn of events.

I expect to see all of you in front of your TV’s tomorrow at 5:30 AM to catch the next installment. ;-)

Go Oracle and the USofA!

Oracle the top boat!

Monday, April 30th, 2007

(See the introductory post for background)

The first round robin of the Louis Vuitton Cup wrapped up over the weekend.  The great news is that the Oracle team is in 1st place.  They only lost one race, a tight one to the hometown favorites Desafio Espanol.  In that race, the Spanish got a great start, squeezed Oracle out, forced them to tack away on the first beat and managed to hang onto that lead for the rest of the race.  More importantly, Oracle beat both of the other favorites, Luna Rossa and Team New Zealand (TNZ) in their races, concreting their spot as the boat to beat in the LV Cup.

Go BMW Oracle!  Bring the Cup home!

America’s Cup action

Monday, April 30th, 2007

For those who don’t know me well, my main sport is sailing.  I never played organized football in high school (and of course that means no college either), but I was one of the bay area’s best youth sailors.  I won’t bore you with my list of championships won as a teen, because the point of this post isn’t my accomplishments.  I’m just giving some background on the below post and follow up posts on the America’s Cup:

The Americas Cup is the superbowl of sailing.  It’s where the big boys go with their VERY expensive toys to prove that they’re the best.  The America’s cup happens every three to four years and the cost of a competitive campaign is around 200 million dollars.  Since sponsorship dollars can’t raise that much, most of the sydicates are owned by billionares like Larry Ellison (of Oracle fame) or Ernesto Bertarelli (a biotech billionare) or Patrizio Bertelli (of Prada fashion fame) and then supplimented by sponsorship dollars.

The America’s Cup dates back to 1851 when a US boat called “America” sailed to England and won a race around the Isle of Wright called the “One Hundred Guinea Cup”.  It then took the trophy back to the US and dared challengers from England to come take it back.  Over time, more countries became interested in winning the cup from the US.  With each successive victory, the cup more firmly established its name as the Americas Cup.  In fact, the winning streak of the US lasted 132 years (the longest sports winning streak ever) and 24 victories before the Austrailians won it in 1983.  In 1987, the next race after 1983, the US won it back, defended it twice in 1988 and 1992 before losing it to New Zealand in 1995.  New Zealand became the first country outside the US to successfully defend in 2000, in the first cup match that didn’t include a US team.  In 2003, New Zealand lost the cup to Switzerland.

Which brings us to the 2007 cup, currently going on in Valencia, Spain (nowhere to sail in Switzerland)…

The format of the America’s Cup is fairly complicated.  Unlike most boat races where there are lots of boats in the same race, the America’s Cup is what is called match racing.  There are only two boats in each race.  Furthermore, because one race isn’t very indicative of who the better boat is, there is a series of races, similar to how basketball and hockey have 7 game series to determine the winner.  In the America’s Cup, it’s a best of 9 series.

To add to the complication, more than one country is interested in challenging for the cup each time it is held.  Some times there is more than one challeger from a single country (Italy has 3 this time).  As a result, there is a long regatta held before the America’s Cup to determine who gets the right to challenge for the Cup.  That regatta is called the Louis Vuitton Cup.  For 2007 the format of the LV is as follows:

  • There will be two round robins, where each boat races every other boat.
  • At the end of those round robins, the top 4 teams (two points for each win in the round robins plus 1-4 points for seeding based on pre-LV Cup racing) will go to the semi-finals, a best of 9 series.
  • The winners will race in the LV Cup finals, another best of 9 series.
  • The winner of that series gets to race in the Americas Cup.

This year there are 11 challengers.  Only one of those teams is from the US, BMW Oracle Racing.  It’s funded by Larry Elison, CEO of Oracle and is sponsored by the Golden Gate Yacht club (each team needs a yacht club sponsor) in San Francisco.  Three different Bay Area yacht clubs (Golden Gate, St. Francis and San Francisco) have challenged for the Cup over the years and although they’ve come very close, they’ve never been able to win.  The Cup was always raced in New York during it’s first stint in the US for 132 years and was then in San Diego for its second stint.  If BMW Oracle were to win, the Cup would be brought back to the Bay Area for it’s next iteration in the 2011 timeframe.  For all Bay Area sailors, the idea of the Cup being in the Bay Area is very thrilling, and so we’ll all be rooting for BMW Oracle to win, as will most US sailors who want to see the America’s Cup back home.

Next up… the current LV Cup standings.

A great Laser picture

Monday, August 21st, 2006

Laser sailing is amazingly fun.  However, its got its downside: crash and burn.  I was looking through the recent pictures of the US Laser Master championships and came across this picture.  It pretty much sums up the downside.

A great e-mail exchange

Tuesday, August 8th, 2006

I’m going to do my best to make this relevant to non-sailors…

There was a great e-mail exchange on a Laser sailing e-mail list this morning.  It started with an answer to my question about a recent vote for a change in the rules.  The North American class president replied:

No word yet, but ILCA is most likely still in the process of verifying memberships. Sherri was presented a list of North Americans who caste ballots and has returned the verification already. So, while I don’t know how they voted, I can say that 272 people from the North American Region caste ballots. Of these, one was clearly fictitious (Barry Bonds) and nine others are not members so will have their votes removed.

Which everyone knew was just begging for a reply about Barry Bonds.  So far we’ve seen the following:

  1. I bet he might even try putting glide tape in his centerboard trunk! (note to blog readers: glide tape is illegal and very difficult to detect because it is hidden inside the hull)
  2. Barry Bonds has simply been doing research on how to help Masters Laser Sailors recover more quickly from the pain of heavy air sailing.
  3. I can’t wait for the grand jury investigation as to whether he purged himself when he said he didn’t realize Mylar (aka “the clear”) sails were illegal.  And I’m sure the owner of SailCo sails is not looking forward to the FBI sting. (note to blog readers: Mylar sails are clear)
Awesomely funny!

Names for boats

Wednesday, March 1st, 2006

Down in the comments for my post about my new sailboat my brother brought up that I can’t have a boat named Fran. What is my wife Wendy to think?

While I agre that the boat needs a new name (what you can’t see in the picture is that the subtext to FRAN is “The Singing Wombat”), I think it is important to clarify what the name is about:

Fran was the man (yes man) who built the boat. He built it around 1990 and sold it to the previous owner, Gary, in 1993. Fran was an active IC sailor in the Bay Area and spent years helping Gary get up to speed in the boat. Fran also met with an untimely end (in the late 1990’s I think) and I believe that Gray named the boat after Fran after his death. Gary sold me the boat last week but I didn’t get the explaination of why Fran was “The Singing Wombat”.

In any case, consider this post the appropriate place to post comments with suggestions for new names. Already being considered is:

-Way to go HOLMOE! (Inside Cal Bear fan joke)
-Did you feel that puff? (On the bottom of the boat/hiking board so only visible during a capsize)
-Let’s see you try it (Same as above)
-BEARing down (Cal Bear reference)
-Tedhead (Cal Bear reference which requires “tie-dye painting” the boat)

Already suggested and not being considered:

-Not Fran’s (too disrespectful)
-Waterworld Sucked (no vulgarities and I never saw the movie)
-Slowboat (?)
-She got a Grand Piano (too crass)

I bought a new sailboat

Monday, February 27th, 2006
A week ago I bought a new sailboat. It’s called an International Canoe (or IC for short). It’s called that because it is very narrow, like a canoe. But it also has a bunch of sail area, about 110 square feet. To make up for that, they added a hiking board so that the sailor can sit out on it to balance the boat. On the right, you’ll see a picture of me sailing it Saturday in Sacramento just before the storm came in on Saturday night. The hiking board is that big long board sticking out the side of the boat. There wasn’t enough wind to justify sitting out there on Saturday.