Friday, October 22, 2010

Scott Ferguson nominated for sailor of month

BMW ORACLE Racing Design Team member Scott Ferguson is a man nearly seeing double these days. Ferguson has been head down on the computer, part of the group helping develop the wingsail for the new AC45 catamaran.

“The AC45 is engulfing our lives,” Ferguson said. “It’s more work than we expected, but it’s exciting, too. I hope it’ll be a cool craft.”

Ferguson recently was nominated for the November Seahorse Sailor of the Month for what he did in mid-September: the 49-year-old captured his second successive Laser Masters World Championship. Check that, he dominated the regatta.

He is the fourth BMW ORACLE Racing team member to gain nomination for Seahorse Sailor of the Month. Team afterguard member Larry Ellison and boatbuilders Tim Smyth/Mark Turner have previously won the award, and sailing team coach Glenn Ashby has also been nominated.

Ferguson won with the low score of 15 points on a scoreline of all top-three finishes: 3-1-1-1-3-2-1-2. He discarded a 6th and final race DNC and won by 21 points over Dutchman Arnoud Hummel.

“I’m happy to be nominated,” said the modest Ferguson, one of the gurus behind the towering wing that propelled USA 17 to victory in the 33rd America’s Cup. “It was exciting to win a second worlds. I dodged some bullets in the middle of the regatta, but a lot of things went right for me.”

Ferguson won last year’s championship in Nova Scotia also over Hummel, who won the 2008 Laser Masters Worlds. “Hummel started 1-1-1-2 and I thought he’d be tough. There are a lot of good sailors in that fleet.” Ferguson has also finished third and fourth in previous Laser masters worlds.

Ferguson, who races out of the Conanicut Yacht Club on Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island, said he felt comfortable sailing in the shifty conditions off Hayling in the U.K.

“We were racing on the Solent in huge chop and against the current,” said Ferguson. “I guess growing up on the East Coast; it didn’t faze me sailing in the shifty conditions. We sail that stuff all the time. You’re going to have your ups and downs, so you just have to be patient and let it all happen.”

Ferguson is going up against long-time campaigner Piet Vroon of the Netherlands, whose Ker 46 Tonnere de Breskens 3 was recently named the RORC’s yacht of the year for 2010.

(Photo courtesy Paul Wyeth)

A tuxedo affair

The gala Yachting Australia awards ceremony last Friday at the Deckhouse in Sydney saw a cavalcade of nattily dressed yachtsmen, yachtswomen, family members and supporters of the sport. BMW ORACLE Racing team skipper James Spithill won the Male Sailor of the Year award, which was presented to his father Arthur (above) because James was enjoying great success at the RC 44 World Championship in Lanzarote, Canary Islands.

Another team member, sailing coach Glenn Ashby (below), was presented the President’s Award for continual success and tireless work both on and off the water representing Australia around the world. Ashby had also been nominated for the Male Sailor of the Year, but was unaware he would receive the President’s Award. “It was great to see Jimmy take out the big one (Male Sailor of the Year) over a star-studded field. There were some hot contenders this year,” said Ashby. “I was very shocked to receive the President’s award.” (Photos courtesy Andrea Francolini)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Brad Webb helps replenish yacht club fund

(The following report is from BMW ORACLE Racing bowman Brad Webb)

Back home in New Zealand recently for a friend’s wedding I took the opportunity to return to Muritai Yacht Club on the shores of Wellington Harbor. Muritai is where I started sailing P Class and it still exemplifies the renowned, homegrown, kiwi yachting culture. I joined the club at the age of 12 and, despite rare appearances, maintain an active membership and interest in the club’s activities.

In 2003 I established a youth training fund by auctioning 10 years worth of sailing gear. Interest earned from the balance is available as a grant to kids participating in national and international events. George Gautry, Tim Coltman, Nichola Trudgen and Leah Trudgen are all past recipients and have gone on to compete overseas with commendable results.

To make the most of this visit the club sold tickets, ran a raffle and gave out spot prizes, posters and pins. The AV-savvy members rallied to provide plenty of technology, and we put on a show that would make Oracle and Hartmann Studios proud.

For more than an hour I entertained 130 people with stories old and new, slide shows and video, and concluded with a lively discussion on the future of the America’s Cup. With a healthy ratio of kids and cat sailors, there was plenty of positive feedback and the fund received a solid injection for the next wave of aspiring sailors.

Special thanks go to Alan Webb, Gilles Martin-Raget, John von Seeburg and Laurent du Roure.

Brad Webb (back left) and youth sailors at the Muritai Yacht Club in Wellington.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Reflecting on Lanzarote

The RC 44 World Championship was a rousing success. Team skipper James Spithill and the crew of 17 won overall honors, while CEO Russell Coutts placed second with BMW ORACLE Racing. This video recaps the week that was.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Soaring in the Canaries

It took a visit to an island in the Atlantic Ocean for Jimmy Spithill to shake the monkey that’s been dogging him since February. But he did it in style.

Spithill and the crew of the yacht 17, including guest helmsman Anders Myralf, wrapped up the RC 44 World Championship today by placing second in the fleet racing portion of the event. Coupled with their first in the match racing, 17 won the overall title by 1 point from BMW ORACLE Racing, led by Russell Coutts and guest helmsman Jose Juan Calero.

After entering the final day of fleet racing with the overall lead, 17 almost threw it all away. The crew was OCS in the first race and then had to do penalty turns in the next two. But a 7th in the final race, which featured a port-starboard altercation with Coutts and crew, was enough to wrap up the week.

“Congrats to the BMW ORACLE Racing boys for taking first, but it feels great to take the overall championship,” said Spithill.

“Funny enough we got tangled up with our teammates in the last race,” Spithill said. “We gave them some nice words after that. But at the end of the day we fought back and that was the key to the week, keeping calm and not giving up until the end. The guys thoroughly deserve the result.”

Coutts said: “They made an error there and left their tack late and we had to avoid them.”

Coutts, Calero and BMW ORACLE Racing won the fleet racing with the score of 49 points, 5 points ahead of 17. They were tied with No Way Back for the fleet lead going into the final race, but BMW ORACLE Racing worked the left side of the first beat to round in second, all but sealing the win.

Guest helmsman Calero said the week was a dream come true and that he was honored to be asked to helm in place of Larry Ellison. He summed up the week more succinctly at the awards ceremony.

“I’d like to thank Russell and the crew for a fantastic week,” said Calero. “I have to say that after three days with Russell yelling in my ear, this is a well deserved prize for sure.”

Friday, October 15, 2010

17 overhauls BWM ORACLE Racing

Russell Coutts, Jose Juan Calero and the BMW ORACLE Racing crew today were knocked from the top perch at the RC 44 Fleet Racing World Championship by none other than Jimmy Spithill, Anders Myralf and the crew of 17.

The crew of 17 posted the low score on the day, 13 points on finishes of 1-7-3-2, and leads the regatta by 4 points over BMW ORACLE Racing. Stronger winds up to 16 knots returned to the racecourse today and brought about lively action on the waters off Lanzarote after three days of very light winds.

“Suddenly the seabreeze came in. Although it was quite hard to find right lanes, Jimmy and crew did a fantastic job finding those lanes,” said Myralf, the Dane who races Farr 40s with the Prince of Denmark. “We had a good day. We had one race where we were unlucky with a seventh. We were leading that race at the first mark, but it only shows how close this racing is. It’s so close.

“We had about 16 knots of wind,” Myralf continued. “That’s a good nice breeze, especially with this weather: sunny, warm and flat water. I just enjoy it every time I’m asked to come and race.”

Earlier this week 17 won the RC 44 Match Racing World Championship. And while it holds the top spot, BMW ORACLE Racing’s fall was more due to extenuating circumstances.

In Race 6 BMW ORACLE Racing, on port tack, went to dip Artemis when the Swedish yacht tacked unexpectedly. In making the maneuver the port corner of Artemis’ stern scoop was caught by the bow of BMW ORACLE Racing. Artemis was docked 2 points by the on-water umpires for the infraction.

Although BMW ORACLE Racing finished the race in fourth, the crew was busy fixing the bow in between races and ran out of time before the next start to run the tapes of the spinnaker. When they went to set the sail at the first windward mark it was a tangled mess and they had to sail the first run without a spinnaker.

That dropped BMW ORACLE Racing into 11th place, and they wouldn’t recover. Despite the high points total, they only dropped to second in the standings, a testament to how consistently well they’ve raced the fleet racing portion of this world championship regatta.

Spithill garners Male Sailor of the Year in Australian Yachting Awards

BMW ORACLE Racing announces with great pride that team skipper James Spithill has won the Australian Male Sailor of the Year award for 2009-2010.

Spithill (31, Sydney, Australia) won the award for guiding BMW ORACLE Racing’s trimaran USA to victory in the 33rd America’s Cup Match last February.

“It’s an honor to have won the award. I’d like to congratulate all the other competitors and nominees, and especially thank my family, my father (Arthur) and brother (Tom),” Spithill said in his acceptance speech.

Spithill’s father and brother represented him at the ceremony hosted by the sport’s national authority, Australian Yachting, at The Deckhouse, Sydney Harbor.

“I’d love to be there, but I’m in the Canary Islands competing at the RC 44 World Championship,” Spithill said in a video message broadcast at the ceremony.

“We just wrapped up the RC 44 world match racing part of the series. That’s what the award is all about, going out and winning races,” said Spithill.

Spithill previously won the Australian Sailor of the Year award in 2005-06 for winning the ISAF World Match Racing Championship and the Melges 24 World Championship.

Spithill is just the second Australian to skipper a winning America’s Cup yacht. He follows John Bertrand who, in 1983, steered the first challenger to win the America’s Cup and broke the New York Yacht Club’s 132-year winning streak.

“It’s been a fantastic year,” Spithill said. “The America’s Cup has been a dream of mine. Ever since I was a kid in 1983 and John Bertrand won in Australia II.

“To Larry Ellison (team founder) and Russell Coutts (CEO), it was a fantastic effort to build up the team they did. I thought it was quite courageous to make a decision on the wingsail, which is the largest wing ever built.

“This award is an individual award, but I’m not standing here as an individual. There’s no way I could have achieved what I have without the help of the team and my family.

“BMW ORACLE Racing was a team of more than 150 people. To get that sort of coordination, communication and teamwork working together, it was incredible feeling when it all comes together at the end and you pull off the result.”

Additionally, BMW ORACLE Racing sailing team coach Glenn Ashby (33, Melbourne, Australia) received the President’s Award from Australian Yachting.

Ashby played a critical role in expanding the sailing team’s confidence aboard the 90-foot trimaran at the beginning of the year. Later in the year, he and Spithill teamed up to capture second place at the International C Class Catamaran Championship.

Glenn Ashby (left) and Jimmy Spithill
“Quite simply, there’s no way I could have been ready to sail USA 17 in the America’s Cup without Glenn’s help,” said Spithill. “I speak on behalf of the sailing team when I say that. We had a very limited amount of time to sail the boat, and myself and most of the team didn’t come from multihull backgrounds.

“It was those long days on the water when Glenn pushed us and the boat to go beyond our own limits. I have to put that down to Glenn and his drive and determination.”

Ashby clinched his seventh A Class Catamaran World Championship in Italy last July. It was his 14th world title.

Watch Jimmy Spithill's acceptance speech

Watch Jimmy Spithill's remarks about Glenn Ashby

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Match racing reflections

BMW ORACLE Racing skipper Jimmy Spithill reflects on winning the RC 44 Match Racing World Championship.

Strong showings continue

After strong showings in the RC 44 Match Racing World Champoinship, BMW ORACLE Racing team sailors are off to a solid start in the fleet racing portion of the regatta.

BMW ORACLE Racing, featuring team CEO Russell Coutts as tactician, holds first after three races with the low score of 9 points on finishes of 2-5-2.

The yacht 17, with Jimmy Spithill as tactician, is second with 15 points with a 3-11-1.

The fleet racing differs from the match racing in that amateurs are at the helm. In the case of BMW ORACLE Racing local sailor Jose Juan Calero (helm, above) is guiding BMW ORACLE Racing while Anders Myralf (helm, below) of Denmark is back for his third stint at the helm of 17.

“I was not supposed to sail this event, but at last moment they asked me if I could skipper. I’m really enjoying the situation as you could imagine,” said Jose Juan Calero. “I feel like I’m in heaven. I’m learning quite a lot with these guys. It’s a life experience. I’m so happy.”

Myralf said he was happy with the first and third races, but not the middle one when they placed 11th. “We just need to sail odd-numbered races,” he quipped.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

From the skipper

Jimmy Spithill comments on winning the RC 44 Match Racing World Championship:

It feels fantastic. We had some good preparation beforehand with our coach, Philippe Presti, and our teammates on BMW ORACLE Racing. As a team we’re sailing a lot better than when we first entered the class this year. It’s very satisfying; we had some tough conditions and some top competition.

We changed our J2, which we think is a big improvement. We’ve also incorporated some new crew. We have Piet van Nieuwenhuyzen on the bow in place of Brad Webb, who did a fantastic job, but piet is new for the event.

Kyle Langford, who sails with us and Torvar Mirsky, has been more involved in the tactics, which has helped out. That allows Skip Baxter and I to work on boatspeed and tactics. All in all, it was just a solid effort from everyone.

It was a close finish. We wanted the right-hand side at the start. We got it and unfortunately he crossed out to left. The key in the last few days has been damage control; try and hang in there and when the opportunity comes try and jump on it.

I’m really pleased with how boys went.

Gold and bronze in match racing at RC 44 Worlds

BMW ORACLE Racing skipper Jimmy Spithill and the crew of 17 – Skip Baxter, Jonas Hviid-Nielsen, Kyle Langford, Joey Newton, Bryce Ruthenberg, Piet van Nieuwenhuyzen and Matt von Bibra – have captured the gold medal in the match racing portion of the RC 44 World Championship for the Islas Canarias Puerto Calero Cup.

It is the first match racing victory for Spithill on the RC 44 circuit this year. Previously in 2005, Spithill won the ISAF World Match Racing Championship.

Spithill and 17 began their march towards the championship yesterday when they won the first race of the final against Terry Hutchinson and the Artemis crew in a light-air race. 

They completed the job today in continuing light winds by winning the second race on the finish line for a 2-0 victory. 17 trailed for a good portion of the race, but approaching the finish line 17 held the starboard-tack advantage and soaked low to poke its bow across 1 second before Artemis.

The team’s second entry at the world championship, BMW ORACLE Racing led by Russell Coutts, won the bronze medal. 

Coutts and crew – Juan Jose Calero, Dirk de Ridder, Ryan Godfrey, Ross Halcrow, Colin Orsini, Revelin Minihane and Chris Schirmer – also scored a 2-0 victory with a win over Paul Cayard and Katusha.

Coutts has previously won the ISAF World Match Racing Championship three times (1992, 93, 96).

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

RC 44 World Championship video

Team vs. team

Racing at the second day of the RC 44 Worlds was thrown into chaos due to light winds that were non-existent for most of the day. Of the two races sailed, however, one featured BMW ORACLE Racing’s two crews squaring off in a head-to-head match.

Skipper Jimmy Spithill exacted a measure of revenge on CEO Russell Coutts when he guided 17 to a victory over BMW ORACLE Racing. At the previous RC 44 event in Valencia in July it was Coutts who mastered Spithill.

Today, both crews fought for the right side of the racecourse off the start line, but it was 17 that got the favored side. On the right was a shift that 17 tacked into, and lifted away from BMW ORACLE Racing.

Coutts and crew kept it close at the leeward gate, rounding inside and tacking away to the right to clear air, but Spithill and 17 were able to maintain their cover and win the match.

It was an important win as Spithill and crew solidified the top spot on the leaderboard in the abbreviated format.

Spithill and 17 advanced to race Artemis in the championship for the match racing. They took a 1-0 lead this afternoon in light and streaky winds.

Day 1 at the RC 44 Worlds

Monday’s racing at the RC 44 World Championship saw varied results for BMW ORACLE Racing. Jimmy Spithill and the crew on 17 led their group with a 5-1 mark, while Russell Coutts and the BMW ORACE Racing crew finished tied for first with three others at 3-2.

According to crewmembers, Spithill was on fire in the pre-starts, which allowed 17 to get off the line with leads they could defend. Coutts and his crew, however, suffered through hard wind shifts and uncharacteristic breakdowns that hampered their record.

Said Joey Newton (below), headsail trimmer aboard 17:

We had a pretty good day. We lost one race to Cam Appleton (Team Aqua), but it was a close race all the way around. It’s tough to lose those races, but it was a good race. So we’re pretty happy.

Our race against Terry Hutchinson and Artemis ended up not being too close a race, fortunately for us. Jimmy did a real nice job in the pre-start and we cleared out a few boatlengths and just stayed there. It was nice for a change. Usually we end up back-strapping.

Jimmy was starting well. We had a few races where we were in front at the start with a penalty and well in front, so that makes it easy on the rest of the guys when you come off the line like that.

The conditions were challenging, it’s always challenging in offshore breeze. We expected heaps of breeze today and it turned out pretty nice at 12 to 16 knots, which is perfect.

Said Ross Halcrow (below), headsail trimmer on BMW ORACLE Racing:

We were a bit up and down, had a few problems. We lost a couple races we shouldn’t have.

In the race with the Austrians, AEZ RC 44 Racing, they had a good lead on us, then we overtook them and had a good lead and then they got a shift and overtook us. They came around the mark got a bit of pressure and rolled over us to the finish.

The last 2 or 3 races we sailed w/the smaller jib because we stripped the halyard cover and the hanks off the J2. So it was unfortunate we couldn’t sail with that sail. We sailed with the J3 and were happy to manage our way through to win those races.

We didn’t have the best of days and were up and down so happy to get wins we’ve got. It was just one of those days, unfortunately.