Sailing on the ragged edge of disaster

I received this video clip last night via an e-mail list to which I belong.  I must admit, having sailed aboard yachts now and then during my younger days, I watched it with my mouth hanging open in amazement.  I “raced” according to the standards of 1970’s ocean yachts – not the pro’s, but weekend sailors out for some fun.  The high technology of these modern boats, and the speeds at which they move . . . it’s breathtaking!  I can’t imagine how the helmsmen keep them under control.  In fact, I wonder whether computer-assisted steering (possibly by adjusting the angles of the hydroplanes and “keels”) is being employed?  I wouldn’t be surprised.

Anyway, take a look and see for yourself how quickly things can go wrong.  Turn your volume DOWN – the soundtrack is far too loud and violent.

I’m afraid that’s no longer a “sport” in the old-fashioned sense of the term.  It’s professional, calculated to a nicety, and seems to offer little or no room for enthusiastic amateurs such as I used to be.  That’s a pity.



  1. Slightly off-topic, but another example of technology taking the fun out of a pastime in the name of efficiency.
    I had a friend who was a very keen & studious Bible scholar, and he often said that half the fun in studying was how much he absorbed from side-lines discovered while researching the original questions in the various Bible resources available.
    Then he found Logos software (now up to v.8 I believe), and found that the fun of researching and learning was considerably diminished by the incredibly quick searching and the comprehensive answers provided by the very efficient software.
    Yes, he was getting the answers to the specific questions asked – but the opportunity was no longer there to learn from the distractions of closely related questions & subjects….
    I know that re-inventing the wheel is inefficient, but sometimes just learning (or experimenting!) can just be more fun…

  2. Regarding the "yachting" video (not the previous commenter's comment), I thought I did, and do, some stupid stuff. This stuff is not for me, thank you. I liked it when the expendable crewmember fell off the black boat (at about :50) and several others looked back for a split second. I would be concerned about being run down by other boats. I guess that (as well as video possibilities is whey there are power boats nearby. Keep up the tremendous and varied blogging Peter……

  3. That looks like it could be a lot of fun, but the sea state seemed a bit rough for those boats. Of course, it's racing so those guys don't mind, and as the technology advances so do the boats. When those catamarans come up out of the water, it's as much like flying as sailing.

    Me, I like sailing in a nice calm sea.

  4. This is a thing that people do, sometimes for the doing of it. Even so, advances come into wider use. See also, rototiller races. Recently, a P-51 Mustang made an unofficial world record, exceeding the original "never exceed" speed by 50 MPH, in level flight, with the original engine type. The crew didn't say what they're burning in it, but did say the engine lost half its oil pressure in the course of four timing runs. That sounds like extreme bearing wear. Tellingly, they say they can do better.

  5. As near as I can tell on my tiny screen, those are the same AC72 wingsail hydrofoils that were used in the last Vuitton Cup/America’s Cup series in San Francisco. Very exciting, that, the US Oracle team came from eight races down to win.

    Racing at that level has never been about dedicated amateurs. Even when the boats were more traditional designs they were still monstrously expensive technological marvels.

    If you want the grassroots of sailing competition look to class racing, where the boats are pretty much all the same and the competition is between crews. Those boats can be very affordable, and in some cases can be built in your garage.

  6. I'll second Rusty's comment.

    Class racing — where everyone is sailing the same boat, usually with the same configuration, often down to the placement of equipment — the competition comes down to crew skill and some luck.

    Removes a lot of the 'spend more for more speed' element you see in the other sailing competitions.

  7. That really doesn't look like 'fun' to me, but then it's not intended to be. Big-money ocean racing is *serious* business. Give me a Sunday afternoon 'beer can race' any day.

    And why, why, why does it seem they always have to add some really annoying soundtrack to the clip? To me, the sounds of the wind in the rigging, the clash of the waves, and the groaning of the superstructure would add *way* more to the video experience.

  8. Well, as to money and technology moving the sport out of regular man's hands, that was one of the reasons the 'J' boats were moved away from. Beautiful, graceful, utilizing all the latest technologies of the day, and so expensive only a robber-baron could afford to sponsor them.

    Much can be said of the 12 meter class, and now the super-boats that have more computer power behind the design than many full-sized ships.

    The cutting edge of any vehicle sport is populated by either the rich or crazy. Sometimes they are combined.

  9. Have you seen the promotional video done for the J-Class Endeavour when she was for sale a couple of years ago ( Robber Baron indeed, I imagine her bottom paint alone cost more than our Beneteau 361! Expensive as they are, it is so cool that they are actively racing J-Class boats again (and even built a new one!).

  10. I raced Lasers and Windmills back in the day. Windmill class is great, you can spend money if you want to but a well-built and -set-up plywood homebuilt hull can be competitive.

  11. So in my youth I was a lower middle class kid that somehow had stumbled into friends who where upper middle class (and a bit). Summers I got to sail with them on a variety of small boats, Sunfish, Laser, Dhow, Flying Scot. But the hairiest one was a Hobie Cat 18' catamaran. Easy to do the wrong thing (don't tack ALWAYS jibe). Fun as all get out if you could get a hull out of the water and fast. Scarily fast 20+ knots easy in a stiff breeze that lazily moved the Dhow or the Flying Scot. On rough days with high winds you left it beached lest you need rescue by your buddies or the Coast Guard. The Oracle hydrofoil catamaran is like a Hobie Cat cubed on steroids. It must be making 40 knots plus. Screwing up in the Hobie and hitting the water at 10-20 knots hurt like heck. I suspect doing it at 40+ knots could be fatal as you might as well be hitting pavement at that speed.

    And yes what idiot decided on the musical accompaniment, I just muted the sound :-).

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