Showing posts with label sailing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sailing. Show all posts

Monday, March 10, 2014

New concept in speed sailing

A fabulous French catamaran named the Flying Phantom was introduced to the international sailing world at the Paris Boat Show 2013. Its revolutionary J-shaped foils cause the craft to rise up out of the water as soon as the speed attains 10 or so knots. And the cat then appears to levitate above the surface.

The manufacturer’s headquarters are located in the beautiful Breton village of Saint-Lunaire, near Saint-Malo. (What a delightful name for a Breton saint: Lunatic.)

The company has a splendid website.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sinister name

In the following NASA image, the dense white horizontal bars that look like gigantic clouds indicate the shifting location of the Intertropical Convergence Zone [ITCZ], which is the equatorial region where winds of the northern hemisphere clash with those of the southern hemisphere.

Colossal storms rage constantly in these skies, and it's possible that lightning from one such violent eruption resulted in the loss of Air France Flight 447 a few days ago.

Seafarers have always dreaded this zone, where the friendly trade winds often cancel one another, meaning that vessels get stuck there, often in a blanket of dense fog. To designate the unfriendly ITCZ in the Atlantic, between West Africa and the New World, French mariners use the everyday term pot (recipient, as in chamber pot). The zone is referred to as the pot au noir, which might be translated as the black hole. [Click here to see my recent blog article entitled Loose language.] In fact, the origin of the adjective "black" is particularly sinister. During the terrible era of the slave trade, vessels leaving Africa with their human cargoes were often held up in this zone, because of a lack of winds. In such cases, the captain often gave the order to throw overboard any slaves who happened to be sick, because it was considered that the vessel would not have sufficient supplies to keep such individuals alive up until their arrival in America. So, the ITCZ "pot" was black in the sense that the murky depths received the bodies of black-skinned slaves.

Our planet has indeed been an ugly place at times. It's still ugly, today, when a plane full of people disappears without an adieu.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Australian liberator vessel

This evening on French TV, along with countless other followers of the Vendée Globe around-the-world yacht race, I was overjoyed to see an Australian warship from Fremantle, the HMAS Arunta, in the Indian Ocean down near Antarctica, moving towards the yacht of the Breton skipper Yann Eliès, who broke his leg on Thursday.

Click the image to see a short video taken by another skipper, Marc Guillemot, who had spent the last 48 hours hovering alongside the yacht of his stricken friend, but unable to assist him physically. As a privileged spectator of the rescue operations, Marc Guillemot was thrilled to receive a Xmas gift from the Australian marines in their dinghy: bread, fruit and a bottle of wine! Overcome with emotion, Guillemot explained that dozens of dolphins surrounded the yachts at the instant the Australian navy dinghy arrived on the scene. He added that, although he's not in any way superstitious, he looked upon the gathering of these dolphins as an extraordinary happening.

After the rapid and expertly-executed intervention of the Australian vessel and her crew of a hundred marines, the French prime minister François Fillon sent an appreciative message to his Australian counterpart, Kevin Rudd.

This is a photo of the injured skipper, Yann Eliès, in the hands of his Australian rescuers:

Here he is in the dinghy, just before boarding the Australian frigate:

Yann Eliès comes from a Breton city, Saint-Brieuc, which I happen to know quite well. Christine grew up there, and our son was born there.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Breakage in the Antipodes

Pursuing their attempt to break the round-the-world sailing record known as the Jules Verne Trophy, the 35-year-old Provençal yachtsman Franck Cammas and his nine crew members aboard the trimaran Groupama 3 were doing well when they reached New Zealand waters. Last night on French TV, in their daily live video clip, I saw them joking about the quality of their meals.

A few hours ago, after 24 days at sea, their adventure came to an end when an outrigger hull suddenly broke in two, causing the yacht to keel over. Thankfully, nobody was hurt, and the ten crew members were hoisted aboard a helicopter and taken to nearby New Zealand. So, the Frenchman Bruno Peyron retains his record time: about 51 days.

Friday, June 22, 2007

America's Cup

Tomorrow, in the opening race of the 32nd America's Cup in Valencia, the Swiss defender Alinghi will be meeting up with the Kiwi challenger named Emirates Team New Zealand. From a purely sporting viewpoint, in this millionaires' hobby based upon the notion of mano-a-mano match racing, there's an intriguing flaw. Whereas the challenger has just endured an arduous series of races, acquiring practical experience out on the water, the defender has been sitting on the sidelines and merely watching, as it were. [This was not entirely true, since the defenders have been constantly match racing among themselves.] So, the New Zealand team will arrive at the starting line with their muscles flexed and their tactics tested, whereas the Swiss boat will normally need a little time to adapt itself to the atmosphere of combat. In the boxing domain, where there's a similar dissymmetry between the defender of a title and his challengers, the former has an opportunity of analyzing the weaknesses of his future opponent. In yachting, the situation is hardly comparable. Consequently, I feel that the Kiwi boat is the hot favorite, at least for tomorrow's first race.

My box of souvenirs holds my press card for the America's Cup regattas in Perth, which started in October 1986, with the finals being held in January 1987. At that time, my son and I were crew members aboard a local twelve-meter yacht, Zigeuner, and we had friends in the teams French Kiss and Challenge France. That was a short but exciting sunny sea-sprayed season in my life. At the height of the regattas, I helped the owner/skipper of the Zigeuner, Charles Russell-Smith, in the organization of a gentlemanly race between fourteen old-time boats that happened to be berthed at Fremantle during the America's Cup season, including several magnificent multi-masted vessels. Here's a newspaper photo of our own boat competing in this race, in which we ended up coming third:

In the context of our planning, one of my tasks had consisted of meeting up with the captain of the visiting Italian cruise ship Achille Laura, berthed at Fremantle, to provide him with precise information about our regatta, informing him that our old boats would be racing on a certain course, at a certain time, so that he would avoid maneuvering his vessel in ways that could interfere with our event... which was to be watched by spectators on countless small craft. Well, the captain of the Achille Laura was a smart bugger: smarter than me, in any case. With the aim of giving his passengers a closeup view of our regatta, he used the information I had given him to anchor his bloody big ship, in the early hours of the morning, right in the middle of our course!

Another happy memory of that season was my winning the journalists' prize for predicting the winner of the Louis Vuitton Cup for challengers, and the average winning margin. I used the Pascal programming language on my little cubic Macintosh to create a software tool enabling me to record and compare the results of all the early races, and this helped me guess the final outcome with remarkable precision. The media-center organizers had proposed a first, a second and a third prize for this prediction competition, and my entry was so precise that they awarded me all three prizes! I've still got a couple of ugly reddish-plastic prize suitcases at Gamone, with the following label:

At our flat in Fremantle, the prize also enabled my son and me to drink M&H champagne for a few weeks.