America’s Cup and why Sailing the Hudson Still Sucks…

So, the America’s Cup came to New York earlier this season, and it was half empty.

The world’s best sailors and boats – and they couldn’t even get a series off on day one?  They lost half the weekend.  Was it sailable?  Eh….

It was at City Island.  We had a fine time.  But on the Hudson, they had strong enough currents to make it unsailable.  On Sunday, they were sometimes standing still after maneuvers.  Sure, the wind was a little light.  But not THAT light.

This is just one example.  It’s an historical conundrum.  Why do so many people (try to) learn to sail in NY Harbor and the Hudson, when pro sailors can’t figure it out?

  • Perceived proximity
  • Marketing hype
  • The ? factor (as in we just don’t get it)

Don’t take our word for it!  This shot, and the following article excerpts, sum it up nicely.  One of our instructors recently took this picture of a picture.  It was on the wall of another sailing school (down Mid-Atlantic way…)

krunch
Real? Photoshopped? Don’t know… but we know this scene has happened on numerous occasions with several schools in New York Harbor and the Hudson.

And now, back to the America’s Cup from earlier this summer…

Read the following article excerpts, or the whole article via link at bottom, and imagine trying to learn to sail or even enjoy new skills (if even acquired) in NY Harbor and the Hudson.

-from Extreme Sailing to Meet Extreme Conditions on Hudson by Cory Kilgannon (New York Times, May 5, 2016)

nb: we’ve inserted some editorial notes here and there, indented like this.

“Holding a world-class sailing race, part of the America’s Cup series, off Battery Park City may make for spectacular shoreline viewing, but it is not easy for organizers or racers, who may prefer a location farther offshore with easier winds to navigate and little interference from other boat traffic.”

“The race poses daunting logistical challenges. There is the harbor traffic — ferries, tugboats, barges and other large vessels that ply the Hudson — that must be diverted, along with a designated area for the more than 700 personal recreational boats expected to anchor for the event.”

…not to mention Circle Line, the Shark Speedboat Thrill Ride, various large booze cruise boats, etc.

“Then there is the rapid current of the Hudson River as well as effects on the wind by the tall buildings flanking the racecourse, both in Manhattan and on the other side of the river in Jersey City.”

The current is so strong that anyone who’s spent a little time sailing here has had their boat ‘in the groove,’ going full tilt, only to look at the shoreline and see that they’re just standing still.  All boats down there need engines to deal with this and usually get underway and stop under power.  Doesn’t teach how to do it under sail…

The wind sheers and downdrafts created by the buildings are neither pleasant nor productive.

“All of which complicates the task of timing the races to start precisely at 2 p.m. for live coverage of the regatta on Saturday and Sunday.  Races have been held near urban areas before, including in San Francisco and Gothenburg, Sweden, but they have never been staged this close to a downtown area.”

“Organizers have met for months with New York City officials and law enforcement agencies and other parties. Commercial shipping companies have agreed to work around the race times, and a separate lane will be established near the shoreline for ferries and other vessels.”

Sailing school activities (classes, club sails, and races), cruising boats visiting, sailing tours and charters, etc. don’t get this kind of special attention at all and must scurry out of the way of all the commercial traffic – which comes from every direction at once.

“For sailors, a major challenge will be the Hudson’s wind and current conditions. To adapt to the strong tidal current, which during the race will be running south with the outgoing tide, organizers are using heavier anchors and longer chains than usual to secure the race buoys, which are called marks.”

The strong current coupled with light winds wound up killing Saturday. Whole day lost.  (This is supposed to be a competition of the world’s best sailors on fast, high-tech boats capable of speeds over 40 knots.)

“As for the air, the canyon of high-rises in Manhattan’s financial district and in Jersey City could negatively affect the all-important wind that is the sailor’s fuel.”

“For sailors, a major challenge will be the Hudson’s wind and current conditions. To adapt to the strong tidal current, which during the race will be running south with the outgoing tide, organizers are using heavier anchors and longer chains than usual to secure the race buoys, which are called marks.”

“Practice races on Friday will be filmed for use in case conditions on Saturday or Sunday prevent the regatta.”

Welcome to Manhattan, the Mecca of metropolitan Sailing!..   NOT.

Here’s a link to the entire article with a few pics.

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America’s Cup: back across the Pond

 

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Looks like Team Oracle (USA) leads here, right? Wrong. Watch the video clip to see how Land Rover rolled right through this group and blew them away.  Use the link below to go to the AmCup site and get the app.

The cup action has moved to Portsmouth, England and is exciting as usual.  Local team Land Rover BAR, led by Sir Ben Ainslie, was in the lead after Saturday’s round of racing.  Ainslie is without a doubt one of the best sailboat racers in recent history, with Olympic medals and world championships under his belt in such tough classes as the Laser and Finn. Add foiling catamarans to the list, and his path to glory starts to resemble that of ‘The Great Dane’ – Paul Elvstrom.

Paul Elvstrøm 1960b.jpg
‘The Great Dane,’ Paul Elvstrom, in the 1960 Olympics in Rome. He’s in a Finn dinghy – the world’s hardest boat to sail. Period.

Elvstrom is arguably the most successful sailor in racing history.

Quick stats…

  • Sailed in 8 Olympiads
  • Won Gold Medals in 4 consecutive Olympiads, a feat duplicated by only 3 other athletes, including Ben Ainslie and Carl Lewis;
  • Medaled (1st, 2nd or 3rd) in 11 World Championships;
  • Did all this in 9 different classes of boat, running the full gamut: singlehanded dinghies, double handed dinghies, 2-man keelboats, 3-man keelboats, and catamarans.  Only thing he didn’t do was sailboards which became popular too late in his career.

Here is a list of racing classes he did all this in:

  • Firefly (singlehanded dinghy)
  • Finn (singlehanded dinshy)
  • Snipe (doublehanded dinghy)
  • 505 (doublehanded dinghy)
  • Flying Dutchman (doublehanded beast of a dinghy/boardboat)
  • Star (doublehanded keelboat)
  • 5.5 Metre (3-man keelboat)
  • Soling* (3-man keelboat)
  • Tornado (doublehanded catamaran)

*The Soling was a true pedigree racing class, but was also very commonly used in adult sailing school programs for a long time.  We used them in our first school.  Sweet ride, but not particularly comfortable or ergonomic for beginners.

On top of all that, he just missed an Olympic bronze medal by one place in the Tornado class catamaran in his 50’s with his teen daughter, Trina, crewing for him.  He also victored in numerous Pan-European Championships, including in the Dragon class keelboat which was very competitive back in the day.

On and off the race course, Elvstrom was developmental in many ways., ranging from sail and spar design and manufacturing to improvements in components (such as self bailing mechanisms), training techniques (his ground breaking hiking bench), and race organization (such as using gates, or two marks to pass between, for large fleets).  He wrote a few books too including Expert Dingy and Keelboat Racing.

Anyway, the times and boats were somewhat different, but all can agree that these are two of the greatest names in the sport of sailboat racing. Sir Ben Ainslie has the distinction of competing in the America’s Cup, the premier small fleet/match-racing event in the sport, and is doing a very good job.

CUPDATE: Ainslie and Team Land Rover (pictured below) won the Portsmouth regatta and have the America’s Cup trial series lead.  That makes them currently the boat to beat and if they maintain their lead, they challenge Team Oracle for the actual Cup.

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Team Land Rover foiling along during the July 23 action on the Solent. Note the stadium seating in background.

To watch previous races, both real-time with commentary and a variety of viewing angles, and really kewl virtual renditions, go to the official America’s Cup site and browse around or better still, get their app.  Racing resumes on Sunday (July 24).  Check it out…

https://www.americascup.com/en/home.html

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America’s Cup Comes to New York

As part of the training, hype and qualifying for the 35th America’s Cup, they’re taking their act on the road and that road leads to New York.

The America’s Cup is considered the oldest sporting event in the world, dating back to the 1850’s.  It’s a match race, meaning that two boats duke it out on a course and have only each other to contend with.  (There will be fleet racing, or rounds of match races, in preliminaries but the finals are one on one.)

City Island, the home of your friendly neighborhood Sailing Center, has a storied history of involvement in the America’s Cup going back to 1870!  Many, if not most, Cup boats were built, serviced and stored, or outfitted with sails here on City Island.  The US won the inaugural event, and held onto the Cup until 1983 when we first lost it – after the previous 5 successful defenders were built on City Island!  While Newport, RI seems to be more commonly associated with it due to notoriety/infamy/etc, City Island was more like the consistent, silent partner over most of the Cup’s history.  Sadly, all that’s left is memorabilia on display at the City Island Nautical Museum.

We won the Cup back, and lost it.  Maybe a few times.  But we surely took it back in style in 2013, when the Oracle team reversed a 8-1 deficit in one of the most spectacular comebacks in the history of sports.

ah cup shot
The Cup (or Auld Mug as it’s known) on temporary display downtown in Manhattan. That’s one of our students standing alongside – Adam Holmes, who learned to sail in Canada but came to us with some of his buddies from up North to do 103 and 104.  Then, they did their own bareboat charter in the Virgin Islands!

This weekend sees racing off lower Manhattan.  For those who can’t get on a boat in the viewing area, or a high enough perch to look down on it, not a drama.  You can watch a lot of it on cable and through the America’s Cup app on mobile.

For more info on City Island’s history with the cup, see the City Island Nautical Museum’s page on it here: http://www.cityislandmuseum.org/VSS-AmCup/AmericasCup.html

ps: the Museum, which is open on weekends, is well worth a visit.

For more info on this weekend’s Cup events and viewing options, go straight to the source.  You can see which networks are carrying it, and how to get the America’s Cup app and watch even more content live with that…
https://www.americascup.com/

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