The Maritime Report: What's Going On Out There?

The Maritime Report: What's Going On Out There?

Dave Bloch

OK, so this week really belongs to the Giants, who now are up against the team from my childhood home of Detroit. (Do you remember Al Kaline? Norm Cash? The 1968 World Series in which Detroit did what the Giants just did, beat the Cardinals after being down three games to one?) So I go into this World Series with divided loyalties, something like rooting for the Swedish America's Cup team, based here in Alameda, over the American one over there in San Francisco.

We've now had the story of the French Energy Team boat floating out into the Bay and being recovered by a man off Treasure Island who towed it to safety. At first that seemed like a Good Samaritan story, and then he got a lawyer and demanded a $200,000 salvage fee under maritime law There was all sorts of speculation about how the million-dollar boat got loose, including that the "Good Samaritan" cut the cable. In the end, it appears that the mooring line got caught in some of the concrete and rebar which litters the bottom of their mooring area. As the tide rose (did you read my "Tides" article in this space last week?), the boat pulled that line tighter and tighter until it broke. As this story moves into the legal system, it may be around for a while.

And then Oracle USA took their big AC72 (the name of the 72-foot catamarans to be used next year) out for practice and capsized it off the San Francisco waterfront near Marina Green. The huge wing broke into pieces and the boat was carried out into the ocean on a five-knot ebb current. (There's that "Tides" article again...) Oracle's team followed the main structure of the boat out about four miles, but had to wait until the current slowed down before they could tow it back in again. The boat will be out of the water for several months, which means they'll have to do their training on the smaller AC45's. Although Oracle is minimizing the impact of this on their training, it could make a huge difference. And was this just a mistake on the part of the skipper and crew, or a critical engineering flaw? Oracle isn't talking about any of that.

We're still hearing about fallout from the America's Cup Event Authority announcing that they will not be building hospitality facilities at Piers 30-32 next year, choosing instead to build more facilities at Marina Green. The decision especially impacts Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa Italy, which are reportedly well into their planning for activities at their bases on the pier. (Team Korea would also be impacted if they do indeed compete; Artemis Racing less so, because they are based here in Alameda.) Spokespersons for New Zealand and Italy are still expressing their preference to stay at Piers 30-32, but Alameda has definitely let them know we've got more hangars.

Our own Artemis Racing hit the news when they towed their boat out for structural testing. (This was only the hulls and frame; the mast and many other pieces were not mounted.) The team reported some strange sounds coming from the carbon fiber frame which are being closely investigated back in their hangar at Alameda Point. They'll delay the mounting of the mast - and the christening of the boat - until they're satisfied with its strength and integrity.

Meanwhile, the Emirates New Zealand AC72 has been out on the water doing over 40 knots. Luna Rossa, the Italian team, is preparing to launch their boat in Auckland, New Zealand, this Friday, October 26. According to the America's Cup website, "Luna Rossa Challenge has a technical and training agreement with Emirates Team New Zealand that has the teams scheduled to sail together on the waters off Auckland over the coming months."

The fourth team that has paid its America's Cup entry fee, Team Korea, has not posted any news about progress on building their AC72. But then again, their website still shows Nathan Outteridge as the skipper on their "About the Team" page. Since Outteridge left Team Korea for Artemis Racing about a month ago, they may just be slow in getting the word out. (Don't laugh Korea off; their new skipper is the 21-year-old New Zealander Peter Burling, who has considerable Olympic credentials. They pulled an impressive second place finish in Fleet Race 5 this month on the Bay, even though they came to San Francisco with one of the smallest support teams.)

It may be months before the next AC World Series races, but there will be a lot going on this winter!