issue – 16
16 April 2014
by Richard Crockett
Reader response is welcome.
An attempt to move even further forward with the last bumper issue and take “Talking Sailing” deeper into the digital era unfortunately backfired. Due to the format and manner in which it was sent, the normal interaction with readers was lost as the reply function was non-existent. Pity as it was a bumper issue with many pertinent topics covered, and which in normal circumstances would have elicited many interesting comments.
So moving forward again, I trust that this issue ticks all the boxes and that reader interaction continues again. Apologies for the ‘temporary break in service’.
1984 Vasco da Gama Race – 30 Year Reunion
On Saturday 26 April 1984, 30 years ago next week, the fleet competing in the Wilbur Ellis Vasco da Gama Race between Durban and East London were clobbered by a massive south westerly gale that devastated the fleet.
On-board wind instruments showed wind speeds in excess of 60 knots. The Beaufort Scale of wind speed describes the wind as follows:
Storm – whole gale 48 – 55 knots
Violent Storm 56 – 63 knots
Hurricane force >64 knots
The south westerly wind pushed against the fast south flowing Agulhas current which in turn created massive waves. Wave height is very difficult to estimate, but when one loses merchant ships in troughs for minutes at a time, the waves were high. Plus the waves were breaking at their crests just for good measure.
And all this was at night too.
In a fleet of 29 boats, one boat, Rubicon, went missing with all hands and has never been seen again. Two sunk and one ran aground on the Wild Coast. The balance of 25 yachts made it back under their own steam or with the assistance of fellow competitors.
The storm experienced during this race was one of those life-changing and defining moments for most crew. Some literally hung up their sea boots and have never sailed since. Others took time out, reassessed their lives and gradually integrated themselves back into the sport, while others simply took it in their stride and chalked it up as another experience in their sailing careers.
One guy I spoke to recently said that he will never sail that stretch of coast again, yet since then he has circumnavigated the planet and survived wicked conditions in the north Atlantic.
On Friday 25 April at 18h00 the Point Yacht Club who organised the race that year will be holding a Rubicon Memorial evening where everyone involved in the race that year is welcome to attend. Feedback from around the world has been interesting with few believing it to have been 30 years since that race, so vivid are the memories.
Having been on that race myself, and having a personal passion for the Vasco da Gama Race as I competed in 23 of the 24 races to East London, I have been very fortunate to have received personal historical records from a number of people. I am attempting to create the definitive historical record of that race, and will make the info available once it is compiled. It’s a tough job with many faded bits of paper to wade through and scan, plus tons of press cuttings to scan as well.
If anyone has info to add to this, please let me have it (email@example.com). Material will be returned.
What SAMSA Can Learn From the ‘84 Vasco Da Gama Race
The stats that were produced after the ‘84 Vasco Race prove that there are lessons which SAMSA should take cognisance of today.
Of the 29 boats that started, 4 were lost and 25 came back without assistance from the rescue authorities. This says a lot for the quality of the skippers, the standards of the boats, and the ability of the crew – nearly 200 of them.
In those days, unlike the draconian SAMSA Regs we have today, there were no compulsory Certificates of Competence (CoC) or Certificates of Fitness (CoF) for boats. The regulations were simply voluntary. The national controlling body of the sport then was the Cruising Association of South Africa (CASA), which had its own voluntary sail-training scheme permitting its members to obtain, after examination, a CoC in four different categories. CASA firmly believed in “Education rather than Legislation”.
This is unlike today where SAMSA have regulations which are the law, and woe betide anyone who does not obey them.
Now here’s the rub. 27 skippers in the Vasco Race had ‘Pilots Exemptions’ for Durban and two for East London. These were the minimum qualification required.
• 7 skippers had CASA Yachtmaster Ocean Certificates.
• 4 skippers had CASA Yachtmaster Offshore Certificates.
• 1 skipper had a CASA Coastal Skipper’s Certificate.
• 6 skippers had CASA Local Waters Certificates.
• 1 skipper had an SA Navy Competence Certificate.
• Many crew members had CASA certificates; about five Yachtmaster Ocean Certificates and many Yachtmaster Offshore Certificates among them.
So the skippers were not under qualified.
The boats all had to comply with the CASA Category II Safety Regulations – regulations covering equipment and boat scantlings written by yachtsmen for yachtsmen.
The incredible seamanship shown that night proved conclusively that the boats and their skippers were fully equipped for the conditions sprung upon them, and that they pulled through due to their own individual strengths and the fact that CASA always encouraged education rather than legislation.
The current SAMSA regulations are overkill and in fact take away the very basics of seamanship by demanding, and in fact legislating, rules and regulations that have no place in our sport. Plus, they are implemented by people, many of them Master Mariners who are undoubtedly qualified and competent in terms of merchant shipping, but know little, if anything, about small craft and especially sailing yachts.
Because the SAMSA Regs are law, there is no self-motivation to improve one’s ability in terms of Certificates of Competence. SAMSA state what qualifications one has to have for various scenarios, so most people opt for the lowest possible qualification. In the old days, there was a pride in obtaining a CoC, and owners, skippers and crew all voluntarily looked to climb the CoC ladder as there were four levels, with Yachtmaster Ocean being the pinnacle. Today there is little pride in having a CoC – a pity as the CASA CoCs were well respected worldwide and well worth having.
Yachties should be making the rules and regulations for their sport like CASA did in the old days, and not SAMSA.
SAMSA is literally an acronym for ‘Suffocating AMateur SAiling’ – and our sport is suffocating fast under their rules.
Bernard Moitessier on the Optimist Dinghy
Chris Sutton a stalwart Durban cruising sailor and General Botha graduate, provided the following after the last issue of Talking Sailing and reference to the Optimist dinghy:
Although Bernard Moitessier did lose 3 boats ( 2 to navigational errors and 1 to a storm ) he covered an incredible number of miles in pretty basic boats. His motto was strength and simplicity before sophistication.
In his final book, ‘Tamata and the Alliance’, an autobiography, he makes some interesting comments about the Optimist and learning to sail.
“I must stress that Moitessier was not interested in racing – he abandoned the only race that he ever participated in, the inaugural Golden Globe Race, when he had a healthy lead – so his comments probably aren’t relevant to someone who wants to learn to race. I must say that I am puzzled about why the majority of South African sailors enter the sport to race rather than to simply enjoy sailing?” said Chris Sutton. “If you want to learn to sail a multihull in a fashion described by Moitessier the Hobie 14 is ideal – easy to sail, robust and relatively cheap.”
Quote from ‘Tamata and The Alliance’
“Together with what you learn in books, don’t hesitate to get your feet wet by sailing a small dinghy such as an Optimist. You’ll learn a tremendous amount. You may think, “Me, in an Optimist? That’s a kid’s boat! People will make fun of me!” To that I would say, “Beware of pride!”
A few years ago in Tahiti, my friends Ren and Jocelyne had acquired a 27-foot sloop. He was 33 and a real athlete; he did martial arts, parachute-jumping, body surfing, and some diving, among other things. At 25, Jocelyne wasn’t the least bit interested in sports, but she had good common sense. Neither had ever done any sailing, except for a trip to Moorea with a bunch of friends aboard a 60-foot ketch, and they asked me to show them the ropes. The Arue Yacht Club agreed to lend us a Caravelle, a big, dry-sailing centerboard boat that at first glance seemed ideal. But when we got to the yacht club, we were greeted by a swarm of 10 to 12-year old children who were about to go out on Optimists. We watched as they cleared the harbor area. One of the kids, though obviously at a loss, managed to get out of the channel despite the crowding and jeers of his friends. An hour later, the children returned like a swarm of bees. And we saw something eye-opening: the hapless kid of an hour before had been transformed. He was doing just as well as the others, yelling “starboard” at any challengers, deftly handling the crosswinds in the narrow channel before raising his centerboard and sailing up the ramp.
We helped him stow his gear and asked, “How long have you been sailing an Optimist?” Answer: “This is my first time.”In a blinding flash, we were struck by the obvious, so Ren, Jocelyne, and I immediately set sail, each aboard one of those marvellous dinghies. Close reach, reach, beam reach, coming about, gybing, backing with reverse rudder. We checked to see how well the boats hove to with the sail sheeted in and the tiller down at 45 degrees. The wind rose and we watched for gusts, learning to anticipate shifts as a Force 4 wind raised little whitecaps on the lagoon. Ren and Jocelyne were beginning to take charge of their boats. Just for the heck of it, we started racing. It was terrific fun: we were in seventh heaven!
When we headed back a couple of hours later, nobody could have said which of us had sailed the most miles in his life. It was extraordinary: in a single outing, Ren and Jocelyne had grasped the essentials because each was responsible for everything, from beginning to end.
When you’re sailing alone, you pay for the slightest mistake or lapse of attention. But an Optimist is a forgiving boat, and it gives you fair warning; you really have to work to turn one over. A 14-foot 420, on the other hand, is a temperamental racing dinghy that I feel is much too fast and unpredictable for a beginner. If nothing else is available, sailing a 420 is obviously a lot better that sitting on the yacht club terrace. But as soon as the wind rises a notch, a 420 will dump you without giving you the time to understand why or how. So I don’t think it’s the best way to quickly learn to sail well”.
‘Tamata and the Alliance’ and other Moitessier books are available from SAILING Books (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Blindly Following Tradition
Yacht Clubs are notoriously bad for not being innovative about anything. The words ‘innovate’ and ‘change’ simply do not belong in the vocabularies of most yacht club committee members. Strange, as prior to becoming committee members, many of these people advocate change and innovation, but forget those words after being elected!
So yacht clubs blindly follow tradition. I have used this phrase on numerous occasions over the years in an effort to get people to at least think about innovation change – all to no avail.
One can see which clubs in particular blindly follow tradition as the events they run continue to attract fewer numbers every year. Instead of being innovative and bringing in change, they blindly do things the traditional way – “as it used to work like this in the old days, so why not now”?
A fundamental rule of sports marketing and event management is to re-evaluate each event soon after it is complete. But few do this, simply being in denial about the success of the unsuccessful event and making excuses, then leaving it to the next committee to deal with. The next committee pick up on the event late so again blindly follow tradition as it’s the easy way out. The snowball simply keeps on rolling and getting bigger!
Wake up and smell the roses. We live in a modern society where we see change every single day – so why not in our clubs?
Why the Maniacal Emphasis on Racing?
Past issues have touched on the fact that we need to bring fun back into our sport, but it has not addressed the issue of too much emphasis being placed on racing. And in this country in particular the gung-ho racing types are in the minority!
Hello! Not everyone wants to race balls-to-the-wall weekend in and weekend out. There are some who simply like to be part of an event and will compete, but on a low key basis.
Our sport has many facets to it, yet again, our Clubs tend to place all emphasis on racing and do little to encourage the cruisers. More often than not they handicap them out too, or as one clown said to a mate when he challenged his handicap, was this: “empty your boat of all the crap it has aboard, throw your sails away and buy new sails – then you may do well”. Guess what – the cruiser no longer enters races.
Round the buoys racing is not everyone’s cup of tea, so spice things up with variety in terms of different shaped courses, pursuit races, Differential Distance Races (DDR) where the fast boats go to the farthest mark and the slow boats to a nearer one. Get some hot-shots to sail with the cruising guys and show them a few simple things to improve performance. The list is endless – but that’s only if one wants to encourage the cruisers – be innovative and introduce change.
Entry to Yacht Clubs Restricted
This was submitted by a “Talking Sailing” reader who is known to the Editor
I read with some concern the story of bona fidè visitors being denied entry into some Snottie Yacht Club, and sympathise with their annoyance, but I recently suffered a much worse experience at a similar establishment, being forcibly removed from its precincts, despite loud and vigorous protestations.
I had managed to get in to the Club unobserved by Security, which required an above average level of sly intelligence and cunning, and was happily enjoying some refreshment at the bar. When well into my second bottle, one of the co-imbibers started to get a bit stroppy when the discussion got on to some of the finer points of the Racing Rules, and when the old fool took exception to some quite justified queries as to his parentage and status (he had refused up to this point to produce his parents’ Marriage Certificate and his Birth Certificate), a brisk tussle ensued in which I was victorious, to the regrettable cost of some of the bar furniture and the sightglasses behind.
The defeated co-imbiber proceeded to get very noisy, and assembled a large crowd of very unattractive and generally disagreeable members who appeared to take exception to one of their own having been effectively put in his place, and threatened this visitor with severe physical harm.
I managed by dint of admirably nimble feints and lunges to elude this lynch mob, and proceeded to enjoy myself hugely by leading them on a high speed tour of both the upstairs and downstairs areas of the Club, having taken the precaution of liberating a third bottle along the way with which to refresh myself during the chase.
Unfortunately, being a visitor, I was slightly disadvantaged in not being able to recruit any supporters to my cause, so I took the opportunity of departing the premises through a closed upstairs plate glass window, legging it down the pontoons and making off into the night on a very nice large yacht conveniently moored close by.
The tumult ashore died down for a while, but then seemed to erupt again in the form of large numbers of members hurtling down the pontoons, boarding yachts and rapidly casting off into the harbour.
This seemed to be very curious behaviour on the part of Snottie Yacht Club Members, but no matter – the general confusion afloat meant that the Clubhouse was now empty of the unpleasant crowd of earlier, and so I returned to the dock and parked by ramming the yacht safely up onto the pontoons, it being too late to worry about mooring lines.
Unfortunately, this manoeuver caused me to lose my footing, and I was catupulted into their rather filthy marina. This seemed to attract the interest of Club Security, and it was only thanks to another very efficient and subtle bit of subterfuge that I was able to elude them and reach the cloakrooms. After a nice hot recovery shower, and a clean change of clothing kindly left by some well- meaning member (not like the rest of that rabble), I was able to return to the bar and secure another bottle for my troubles.
At this point, I must have lost concentration, for I did not perceive the hoards returning from their soireè around the harbour, and my “disguise” of the Commodore’s Reefer Jacket (with very tasteful red silk lining) that I had acquired after my shower failed to mislead them.
The assembly became even more unruly than it had been earlier, and this time, I’m afraid, they were possessed of an overwhelming argument for me to leave the Club’s premises, rather rapidly, in a horizontal plane, about 1m above the deck, doing about 35kn in a South Easterly direction, but fortunately with my bottle adequately protected from damage in the ensuing landing.
Needless to say,I will NOT be visiting this Snottie Yacht Club again, certainly not for a very long time, and I would encourage you through the print media that you so ably control to dissuade all other inncocent, fun-loving yachtsmen from having anything to do with such a snotty and intolerant establishment.
Yours in wrath!
America’s Cup captures five Emmy Award nominations
Media production for the 34th America’s Cup has received five Emmy Award nominations, including for Outstanding Live Sports Special.
The five nominations come on the heels of a previous Emmy Award for Outstanding Technical Achievement for AC LiveLine.
“When we started planning for the 34th America’s Cup in 2010, one of the initial priorities was to create an exciting television experience for viewers,” said Stan Honey, Director of Technology for the America’s Cup.
“These nominations from the media production of the America’s Cup in 2013 are a clear signal that the America’s Cup is now being recognized as a compelling television sport.”
The five Emmy Award nominations are for:
Outstanding Live Sports Special
Outstanding New Approaches – Sports Event Coverage – Official App
Outstanding Technical Team Remote
Outstanding Live Event Audio/Sound
The George Wensel Technical Achievement Award – AC LiveLine, “WingWash”
The America’s Cup Official App, for iOS and Android, was nominated in the Outstanding New Approaches – Sports Event Coverage category. The Official App allowed users to follow the racing live via video, race animation, or text updates and users could select from several audio streams, including commentary, or on-board audio from each of the competing teams. Users could also post comments, chat and interact with event media and officials.
AC LiveLine, the groundbreaking graphics technology that allows for information to be embedded in the broadcast, previously won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Technical Achievement. This time, AC LiveLine is nominated in the same category for a new feature that showed the flow of wind across the giant wingsails that powered the America’s Cup boats at speeds of up to 50mph, adding another dimension of information for viewers to aid in understanding the race tactics.
The 35th Sports Emmy Awards will take place on May 6th in New York City.
Kiting – the meaning of this word?
The last 2 issues have mentioned this, and here’s another from Gerhard Koper:
In issue 14 you asked if anyone knew where “kiting” originated from and in the following issue 15, Dave Hudson gave you the answer and the description of sailing down the Channel in Durban close to the sandbank in a stiff westerly where the water was smooth but still deep enough.
It so happens that I have a strip of a Movie Tone News film in black and white taken by a cameraman standing on the sand bank capturing the Sprog fleet ‘kiting’ down that same channel during the 1967 Nationals. The attached picture shows my crew Reidar Hansen and I in ‘Shea’ 545, chased by Arthur Stiles sailing ‘Style’ 624, and David Cox in ‘Sabu’ 575.
According to my records this was the biggest ever Sprog Nationals with 58 entries! We were lucky enough to win this regatta to give us three National wins back to back. Albert Bruins came 2nd and Dave Hudson 3rd.
ED. I will do my best to use the image in “From the Archives – A Blast From the Past” in a future SAILING Magazine, or even the clip and post it on SAILING Gybeset (www.sailing.co.za/gybeset)
Having Fun in a Boat
In response to the above heading in the last issue, Petr Muzik sent the following:
Port Owen Yacht Club will definitely be hosting its legendary West Coast Cruise at the end of the year. Dates and final details will follow soon . We want it to be a fun event ,as in the past, where the whole family can take part and have a good time. Those who want to race can race, but the emphasis is on having a good time, meeting new yachties from other ports and enjoying the hospitality of the West coast and the POYC. Dates are to be confirmed, and will be published in SAILING Gybeset (www.sailing.co.za/gybeset)
J22 Jiggery Pokery
I was hoping never to raise this again, but recent events have forced my hand.
There was another recent attempt to lodge another appeal on the J22 Nationals Results. Fortunately the Appeals Committee has dealt with it decisively, and nothing came of that appeal.
What is of concern is that the appeal was lodged by an individual without the blessing of the J22 Class Nationals Organising Committee, something which was required. The J22 Class has since sent out a notice distancing itself from that appeal as they had in fact closed the matter, reworked the results according to the valid protests and appeals results, and presented the trophies to the rightful winners.
I would think the person/s behind this latest appeal, must have been sailing very close to Rule 69 territory?
On a positive note the J22 Nationals are this weekend on the Vaal Dam followed by the Worlds after that. The Worlds have attracted 41 entries.
I sincerely hope that everyone involved in organising these events have learnt from the Nationals’ debacle, and that proper procedure is in place to avoid a repeat of the Nationals.
Good luck to everyone competing, and may the results show the winner to be the best team on the water and not a ‘protest room’ winner.
Fun and What’s Wrong with our sport?
READER RESPONSE. First of all I want to congratulate you and the team for going digital and social – the digitization of Sailing Mag made it possible for us who travel a lot easy to always keep an issue nearby on a tablet which makes a flight shorter. The addition of the social platforms will definitely help with the younger sailing community and giving them a platform to raise their concerns and opinions.
I think the Talking Sailing Newsletter is a great platform to create a more cohesive sailing community and keep in touch with the everyday sailor.
My 2 cents worth
My experience with the dinghy sailing scene is the following:
• In general, old classes are still the best represented and sometimes the only affordable means for a newcomer to enter the sport.
• Yacht/Dinghy Clubs still give a “members only” vibe off to the general public. For a newcomer the club is still a daunting place.
• The racing scene is dying down due to lack of initiative/creativity and around the cans is still the most sailed racing format.
• Hobie Cat beach sailing has died down considerably.
• Lack of new affordable & exciting dinghy designs.
For a new comer to the sport, your options are limited to Optimist, Laser, Enterprise, Mirror, etc which are all old designs and if you have a small budget you are looking at getting an old boat with old sails which will not be a contender on the race circuit and might dampen the enthusiasm of a new sailor.
If you have a big budget, you have quite a few designs to choose from, but class racing is limited to a few boats.
Affordable exciting designs are few, but the Dudley Dix’s Paperjet comes to mind. The only problem with a new design is the lack of class numbers and if no one is driving the class, it is sure to die down like a few other classes in the past (eg the GP14 in Western Cape).
What’s the answer?
I don’t know, but know that this problem is one that a lot of new sailors have.
One solution to this conundrum is maybe going the route of the original Mirror and Scamp conceptualization – Run a competition for the best design to a set number of constraints for a new design and link it to a publication campaign to create real buzz for the design and grow the numbers of the new class even before the first boat is built.
With SA’s rich natural resources (wood) it would be a viable option to have a new one design that can be home built, is affordable to ensure new people take to sailing and simple to rig so that you cut down rigging time and increase sailing time.
One of the fastest growing sport/s is Multi sports, people tend to not only focus on one discipline, but at least 2 or 3 (eg MTB, Trail run and Paddling). The current race formats at regattas are just not cutting it and going round-and-round is just fun for so long. Pursuit races are not always an option for certain clubs.
A lot of sailors these days have either forgotten/never learned some of the essential sailing skills (eg navigation, knots, etc) needed to keep safe out there since they only sail around the same buoys every week.
To increase these much needed skills a competent sailor needs, a multi-discipline regatta format might be an answer?
Possible Multi-Discipline Format
• A team/sailor will need to complete a set of knots to receive the race instructions (increase knowledge of essential knots). The instructions will give the coordinates of the buoys for the regatta as well as certain other information (basic navigation skills). Instead of instructions of how to round the buoys (eg ABCBA x 2) the sailor needs to layout a course to play to his boat’s strengths so he can round all the buoys twice in the fastest time(teach problem solving).
• With the boats not sailing all the same direction, sailors will need to learn the rules of the road/sea so they know what to do when being approached by a boat(basic navigational rules).
• Le Mans start and finish.
In South Africa the dinghy culture is a culture of racing…if you look at England and USA, to name a few, there is a strong culture of dinghy cruising. Why should South Africa be any different? I was at MAC the other day and a gentleman was just out cruising his Argie 15 (beautiful boat) while a Laser was just zipping by.
SA’s dinghy calender is mainly filled up with regattas, but only an opening and a closing cruise.
I think we are excluding a lot of cruising sailors by only focussing on racing. Surely we can have more cruising events and get as many boats and a big variety of different boats out on the water.
I myself am more a cruiser than a racer and would love to see more cruise events on the calendar.
Well, that’s my 2 cents worth. Keep the Talking Sailing Emails coming, they are great.
SAILING Gybeset portal
The SAILING Gybeset portal (www.sailing.co.za/gybeset) is updated almost daily with new and interesting information on our sport, both locally and internationally.
The ‘Event’ button takes one to an events calendar where key events are published – and where all info including all documentation can be obtained.
To be listed, simply send the name of the event; NOR and SIs; Entry form, even a pic or poster plus contact details timeously to (email@example.com). This is a very powerful tool, so use it to your advantage – and submit material for inclusion.
The only way for SAILING Gybeset to be successful and to be able to disseminate information that covers all aspects of our sport is for Clubs, Class Associations, event organisers and individual sailors to ensure that information and pictures flow our way timeously – so send your material to: firstname.lastname@example.org and we will do the rest.
Some Selected Responses to “Talking Sailing”
● You’ve uncovered an un-met need with “Talking Sailing”, and are meeting it expertly.
● Very well done! Congrats Richard.
● Good one Richard, very comprehensive and very interesting. Where do you find the time to write it?
● Just been so engrossed in reading the latest edition of TS over breakfast, I ended up having to eat cold & &rubberized fried eggs! Captain, it just gets better! Keep up the good work.
● I have just read your newsletter! I love it. Good job. It is also fantastic to see you not holding back. If there is something controversial you bring it up. Keep it up! And keep calling it like it is.
● Your last issue #15 of “Talking Sailing” was great and punched hard in some areas, which is very good, especially about Cheating and Sponsorship. Keep it up.
The Bitter End
SAMSA – an acronym for ‘Suffocating AMateur SAiling’
The ‘Bitter End’ is the inboard end of an anchor chain or rode which should be attached to the vessel so as not to be lost overboard in it’s entirety. In terms of “Talking Sailing” it’s things about our sport which get up peoples noses!
“Talking Sailing” is written by Richard Crockett, the Publisher & Editor of SAILING Magazine, South Africa’s monthly sailing mag.
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