I get most of my sailing news these days on the web, but I do still subscribe to that venerable magazine of yacht racing, Sailing World. It serves up fascinating articles and insightful go-faster tips that are worth the subscription. And then occasionally in its pages you find a real stunner - one of those titbits you have to read twice to make sure your eyes haven't deceived you. Sometimes the story is so astonishing that you have to check the date just to make certain it isn't an April Fool joke.
The March 2006 issue arrived a couple of days ago. By the way, why is that every print magazine always mails out its monthly issues before the month named on the cover? Are we supposed to think we are getting some special sneak preview edition because of our exalted subscriber status?
Where was I? Oh yes, some of the nuggets of noteworthy nautical news in the March 2006 issue of Sailing World.
There's a Winner's Debrief interview by Stuart Streuli with James Spithill and Jonathan McKee about their recent win at the Melges 24 Worlds in Key Largo. The crew list also includes Jonathan's brother Charlie, Manuel Modena and "11-year-old Optimist star Mac Agnese".
What? I don't care how brilliant an Optimist star he is, what's he doing with a bunch of sailing rock stars on a contender for the World Championship of one of the hottest boats around?
But what do I know? Turns out that having the kid on the boat made a lot of sense. Spithill and McKee explain in the interview that they wanted to be at maximum crew weight and they were a bit under with four people. Also, having one lightweight crew on the boat meant that he could attend to such jobs as adjusting the traveler and clearing weed off the rudder without taking too much weight off the rail. You learn something new every day!
Then there's an interview by Bob Ross with Aussie speed merchant, Sean Langman. In between the discussion of canting keels, rotating and canting wingmasts, and Sydney Hobart races, Langman shares his plans for building a foiler to break the 50-knot barrier. When I hear foils I think International Moth like the ones we can read about on Rohan Veal's and Scott Babbage's blogs. But no - Langman is thinking bigger. A lot bigger. He is planning to build a 55 feet foiler with 40 feet between the foils. But wait, it gets better. This is really a three-stage rocket like the Saturn V. Stage one the boat is floating, stage two it's up on it's "first set" of foils. At stage three it gets up on a very small foil "over which we are injecting air to super-cavitate the foil". Wow! But here is the final trick. Once up to speed, they are planning to jettison part of the wing's tail flap to reduce drag. I really had to check it's not April 1st on this one!
But the WTF award this month goes to Dick Rose for another excellent article on racing rules. In this one he discusses Rule 18.5 Passing a Continuing Obstruction. He reviews all the nuances of the rule with a practical well-illustrated example. But the kicker is in the penultimate paragraph in which he recalls a time when he was team racing in England on the River Trent and "had the distinct pleasure of calling for room to pass outside of a surprised cow that had waded into the river to drink".