Saturday, March 17, 2018

VOLVO OCEAN RACE: Vestas 11th Hour Racing Cautiously Optimistic Heading Into Leg 7

Enright In-Port racing, Auckland Jeremie Lecaudey/VOR

The Auckland layover has given Vestas 11th Hour Racing time to recover and regroup after their tragic collision in the latter stages of Leg 4 during the final approach to Hong Kong.The team is in 5th position following the incident and co-skipper Charlie Enright, is anxious to get back in the race. Catching up with Charlie in Auckland, he says his team is - cautiously - ready to for its next meeting with the Southern Oceans. 

How has the team recovered emotionally from the Hong Kong incident?
CE: Physically it’s easier to discern – the boat’s in great shape, it’s nothing short of amazing that the repair was coordinated in such a short amount of time and the level at which the boat came out – everybody’s ecstatic with it. It looks like there'll be a couple of windy first few days out to the east cape (of NZ) so hopefully the boat is pretty well tested by the time we get there.

On the emotional side, I trust our team more than any other team to deal with something like we went through and come out of it stronger. I’ll be able to give you a better answer on that when we get to Brazil – there’re all kinds of emotions with regard to being back on the boat again – anticipation, excitement, there’s probably some unspoken nervousness, but I think that’s all natural but there are no red flags and we’re all ready to go. We’ve done all the right things – it’s time to go sailing!

While you weren’t present at the time of the accident, as skipper what did you learn from the experience?
CE: It’s tough to say because the situation continues to evolve, and especially not being part of it in some ways was difficult because – as it should be – a shared experience for the team. There’s no right or wrong way to deal with something like this - it’s a big team and everyone deals in their own way so I think to provide unconditional support and understanding as best you possibly can is important but at the same time you have to know what everyone will deal with it in a different way – give people the space they need. It’s been a bit of a tightrope walk, that’s to be expected.

Vestas In-Port racing, Auckland Jeremie Lecaudey/VOR
Outlook for Leg 7?
This is the leg we all sign up for – this edition has more Southern Ocean miles and those are real miles from Cape Town to Melbourne, so if the forecast is anything like that, it should be pretty relentless. It looks like it’ll be a little colder on this leg though which is kind of ironic since there’s not a lot of ice as the ice gates are further south which means we can go further south…we’ve got that to look forward to! We do the race for competition and adventure and this is definitely on the adventure side for sure, but sometimes you lose sight of that when you’re crossing the equator and bobbing around and you’re just thinking about the competition but this next leg is pretty special. 

It's pretty relaxed around the docks - how's the intensity prior to Leg 7 ?
CE: For us relative to the last edition of the race, the intensity has ratcheted up – with experience comes expectation, right, so we’re looking at this race through a different lens but I can definitely see how walking around the village it may be a little different to what you may expect. It’s a probably a product of there being so much intensity on the water and having to keep it 24/7. That being said, with the one design format, there’s a lot less secrecy and more camaraderie among the teams.

We definitely have a lot more experience on the team this time and that’s proved to be a valuable thing as you can probably imagine. But we have a good mix of youthful exuberance with also some gray hair – we have a little bit of everything in all the key positions. The vibe and dynamic for us has been very strong even through some very difficult circumstances.

Vestas In-Port racing, Auckland Ainhoa Sanchez/VOR
How's racing been this edition?
CE: It’s closer than it was last time because you have folks from every single team sprinkled among this iteration’s current teams. Whatever “secrets’ everybody might have had are all kind of distributed among all the teams this race. It’s all close. I think we had a lot of people who sat out the last race as they weren’t sure about the one design concept. I think after seeing the tightness of the racing, they missed it and we’ve seen a lot of those people back.

Your thoughts on the one design aspect?

CE: Personally, I think it’s great because it’s what allowed us to compete in our first edition – we were literally over our heads as it was and added to that a boat build and the campaign cost would be twice as much. Tony Mutter on our team has won the race twice on boats like ABN AMRO and Ericcson 4 and I think he’s enjoying the close racing although the boats are certainly not what he’s accustomed to sailing because this one design racing is tight. While the boats have got a bad rap, I think they nailed the design brief on this one – we’re doing 550+ miles in a day, they do down wind really well.

Who are you chasing at this point?

Vestas In-Port racing, Auckland  Jesus Renado/VOR
CE: Everybody – in the last campaign we won the last leg, and in this campaign we won the first leg so that kind of tells you what expectations we’re up against. If everything had gone to plan, we would have sailed into Hong Kong 2 points off the lead. That’s not where we sit today but it doesn’t affect our perspective on the leader board. We view ourselves as one of the more consistent teams and that’s what we’re trying to do.

Anticipated days to finish this leg?
CE: About 19 days, just in time for my dad’s 60th birthday!

Sunday, February 5, 2017


It’s simply hard to beat racing in the Caribbean, and a week competing in the BVI Spring Regatta + Sailing Festival is no exception. A highlight is always the diversity of boats that participate across many classes - this year there will be some 18 classes - including boats who are in for the very first time, like the newly launched all-carbon HH66 NALA. Others, such as the J122 El Ocaso which has competed in Spring Regatta for the past 10 consecutive years, just keep coming back for more. Likewise, many crew will be racing BVI Spring Regatta for the first time, while others are event old timers, coming back again because they know just how good it all is.

NALA, the carbon rocket ship owned by Jim Vos, a dinghy sailor and long-time boat owner, is seriously fresh out of the yard in Xiamen, China. The brainchild of renown multi hull designers Morelli & Melvin, NALA’s just been unloaded in Fort Lauderdale and boat captain Collin Marshall, who lives in St John, US Virgin Islands, will be spending the next few weeks completing the commissioning work on her before heading into the Caribbean race circuit, including BVI Spring Regatta.

At 66’-long, NALA races with a turbo-charged rig and T-foil rudders that assist stability and reduce pitching in big seas. Curved daggerboards help create lift at higher boat speeds making her faster on all points of sail, Marshall explained. This all-carbon racing machine is super light and as Marshall described, is designed for racing in every condition.

“While we haven’t had a chance to really put it through her paces yet she seems do pretty well in chop. She’s going to love big breeze – being in the Caribbean is going to be fantastic once we figure out the bugs but she is really designed for both light and heavy air regattas.” Marshall expects to race with 10 crew on board who will be coming from all over the east and west coasts.  “We had quite a few Kiwis and Aussies working in China on this project so we’ll have a Kiwi or two on board - for good luck!” Marshall smiled.

Also new to BVI Spring Regatta this year is Challenger, a modified Whitbread 60 built for the ’97 Whitbread Round the World Race but which never made it further than Cape Town due to a financial situation. When Chris Stanmore-Major, owner/founder of Spartan Ocean Racing, bought the boat late 2015, she had just 6,000 miles on her, having been kept in storage for years.

“She is the lowest mileage Whitbread 60 in the world. We’ve since put 20,000 miles on her and she’s been modified for the kind of racing we do, with roller furling headsails and a change to the backstays that makes the rig a lot more secure and even to operate for the charter crews," he said.

Challenger will race Spring Regatta with a crew of 12 sailing guests all new to the boat and two Spartan crew. The team will spend a few days in Tortola pre regatta doing sail training aboard Challenger. Stanmore-Major, who lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, said the boat has done well in regattas this year, chalking up first, second and third places. He’s confident that with his staff’s collective sail training background they’ll be able to put together a competitive team for Spring Regatta, although, oddly enough, it’ll be his first time racing in the BVI. “All my racing has been Asia, Europe, around the world etc. so the idea of going to this part of the Caribbean is very exciting,” Stanmore-Majors laughed.” I’ve heard a lot about it but never had the opportunity. I’m interested to see what goes on…”

Complementing the lineup of new boats and new people are event veterans, like Doug Baker, from Long Beach, California. Baker first raced the event in 2000, took a break for a number of years but has been back for the past five events. While he’s owned plenty of fast racing boats in his time, these days Baker prefers to charter. This year he will be at the helm of Runaway, an ultralight sled 70 which will be racing Spring Regatta for the first time. From Peru, Runaway was the first across the line at the 2017 Cape2Rio, and will do several Caribbean events before Baker meets her in Tortola for Spring Regatta.

Doug Baker (red cap) & crew in the BVI
"For the most part chartering works well for me, it’s cost effective, it’s a little more for each regatta but then you don’t have the maintenance of the boat beyond the expense of owning a boat," Baker said. "We try to do our research - I understand Runaway's current owner has done a lot of work on the boat and it’s in really good condition so we’re excited.”

Baker says he'll need about 15 to race Runaway and will have a mix of pro sailors and “volunteers” on board, some whom he has sailed with for 30-40 years, and others 15-20 years. Ernie Richau will navigate and Chad Hough will call tactics, both are from Southern California. Baker has done all the Caribbean events over the years, some more than four or five times.

“I like the Caribbean, and my crew love coming with me,” Baker said, with a big smile. “The weather is always great, 99% of the time you have good wind, lots of competition – we get more competition down there than we do back on the West Coast, the parties are great, it’s hard to beat everything that the Caribbean has to offer!”

Andrew McIrvine, from the Isle of Wight, UK, is also a Spring Regatta veteran returning to the event for the first time in some 20 years. He’s chartered the Beneteau First 40 Olympia's Tigress, and will be racing with his crew, Team Larry.

“The boat we're chartering is a sister ship of my own boat in England on which we’ve been very successful; we’ve won a lot of RORC and other European events with my usual gang on board, we wonLes Voiles de Saint-Tropez a couple of years ago and Cowes Week last year in our class. Tony Mack (Mack Fly) won class at Spring Regatta last year on the same boat.”

The last time McIrvine sailed Spring Regatta was on a Jeanneau 47 and he’d always wanted to do it again. As Admiral of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, McIrvine was involved in the launching of the Caribbean 600 which he has competed in since that race’s inception. This year he wanted to do something different, and will have a team of 12 with him.

“It’s probably too many but everyone wanted to come,” McIrvine laughed. “We’ve hired a young foredeck guy as we’re mostly getting old so that should keep the front end sorted out. I do have Tasmanians on board – not just Australians but Tasmanians - so we could be in big trouble there. We expect to be reasonably competitive if only I can only keep them off the rum!”

The weeklong BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival takes racers throughout the beautiful British Virgin Islands. Starting at Nanny Cay, the Sailing Festival is two days of warm up racing: The Nanny Cay Round Tortola Race, and the Scrub Island Invitational. Next up, the BVI Spring Regatta kicks off three solid days of some of the best racing the Caribbean has to offer.  Check out the 2017 Preliminary Schedule of Events.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


Fun Day of Racing to New Destination

Team Hot Stuff
With one day of racing behind them, competitors in the 45th BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival rolled right into today’s race, the Scrub Island Invitational – a 12NM upwind ride for the CSA Cruising, Bareboat, and Multihull fleets, and a 17NM course for the CSA-Racing fleet. Conditions were again breezier than expected with 22 knots from the east and bumpy seas for the 10am start.

Located off the north east end of Tortola, Scrub Island is a new race destination for this year’s Spring Festival.

A private resort island with classic Caribbean white sand beaches and docks at the ready was a welcome sight for racegoers who, on arrival, didn’t waste any time stripping down to bathing suits and finding their way to the pool-side bar.

Said Norwood Smith, VP Marketing, Scrub Island, “This is our first-ever sailing regatta and it’s amazing to be part of the 45th legacy of this event, to be able to host all the boats here and to have Scrub Island as their destination is exciting. While we’re a private island resort, we’re thrilled to be hosting people from all over the world here today.”

SPOOKIE, the TP52 owned by Steve and Heidi Benjamin (USA), took first in CSA-Racing class, followed by Quokka – Performance Yacht Racing, the Grand Soleil 43 skippered by Christian Reynolds (GBR), and in third place, Northern Child, the Swan 51 skippered by Eric Bos (GBR).

Feeling very satisfied with a second place, Reynolds said, “We had a really good sail today. I’ve got people with varied experience onboard but everyone’s smart and enthusiastic. We won the start among some very serious racers and had a few challenging maneuvers out there – for some of the guys, they’re learning a whole new level of racing so it was great to take second.”

Renato Faria (BRA) helmed his Dufour 500 Ventaneiro 3 to another first place today, in the CSA-Cruising class, all the while claiming his boat really isn’t that fast, it’s his fabulous crew. 
Brazilian Stylin'

“It’s not so fast, it’s a cruising boat!” Faria laughed. “We had a nice sail today and were happy to win. We just tried to do our best. We got a good start and followed the coast closely all the time, it was easy racing. We’ve got really nice team work – one of our crew was trying to qualify for the Olympics in the 49’er, so we’re lucky to have him on board.”

Windward Spirit, the Jeanneau 54DS skippered by Serge Bisson (CAN) took second in the CSA-Cruising class, and Sam of Hamble, a Sigma 38 helmed by Peter Hopps (GBR), took third.

First place in the multihull division was Slow Motion, skippered by Werner Puche (GER), while the Outremer 51 Ten Directions, skippered by Glenn Davis (USA), took second. Puche and his family - wife Erena and sons Leon (11) and Robert (9), who are just learning to sail, are having a blast in the BVI.

“We made a few mistakes yesterday – we were seven minutes late for the start,” Puche laughed. “But today we hit it on the dot, which makes a big difference to one’s mood! The boat is easy to handle and I’m glad the wind was just at the limit where we didn’t have to reef so we were able to stay with full sails all the way – we had a good time, with no mistakes. The boys have been helping with the timing at the starts, and they’re my look-out guys.”

Two-Bullet Bubbly for the Dutch
Taking another win today in CSA-Bareboat was Warvor, helmed by Willem Ellemeet (NLD). This group of seven friends celebrated their win with a bottle of champagne on the dock on arrival at Scrub Island.

“We had a reasonable start but tacked away early so we could sail our own race and that was a good decision. We stayed as deep as possible to the shore and that also worked. Our boat is definitely sluggish but everyone’s got the same challenge. We’re really enjoying the sailing here and the more intimate feel of the Regatta compared to others.”

Mary Jewell, the Sunsail 50 skippered by Larry Caillouet (USA), took second in CSA-Bareboat, while ACTIFORCE-Ivoire (NLD), a Moorings 51, skippered by Willem Klomp, took third place in class.

Looking out to the start of the Regatta on Friday, Warwick Dunnett (USA), skipper of the Beneteau Oceanis 50 JogFund, is grateful for the practice racing over the past two days.

“I was glad to have this time to get the boat dialed in,” Dunnett commented. “While we had a great start today, first over the line, we were experimenting with jib set and figuring out the new SailRacer app which can be distracting. A navigational error also didn’t help us but we have the boat rigged well now so are looking forward to improved racing later in the week.”

Thursday is an official lay-day but there’ll be plenty happening at Nanny Cay, host for the Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival, with the Maritime Heritage Day featuring VP Banks 3rd Annual Tortola Sloop Spring Challenge - traditional Virgin Islands sloops competing for prizes and honours - starting at 11am, and presentation of the Sloop Awards following racing. The Regatta Skipper’s Meeting is at 5:30pm. The Mt Gay Welcome party kicks off 5-7pm, with live music – the MJ Blues Band - until midnight.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Triple Jack Takes Home Nanny Cay Cup
SPOOKIE Breaks Monohull Record for Nanny Cay Challenge

The BVI Sailing Festival Round Tortola Race for the Nanny Cay Cup and Nanny Cay Challenge started promptly at 9:30 on Tuesday morning in seas a little rougher than normal due to last week’s high winds, and an easterly breeze of 18+ knots. The trimaran Triple Jack, owned by Richard Wooldridge and Steve Davis (BVI), charged off the start to an early lead in the CSA-Multihull class, making its way around the island in corrected time of 3:46:38, taking first place overall in the 2016 Nanny Cay Cup. Their elapsed time of 3:19:30 was not enough, however, to break the current multihull record for the Nanny Cay Challenge of 2:33:40 which they set on April 30, 2015, nonetheless spirits were still high on the custom-design trimaran.

Woolridge commented, “It was a beautiful day for it, the wind was perhaps a little more than forecasted, blowing a good 18 at the start and gusting 20+. We had a very fast trip down the north side with the spinnaker up, jousting with SPOOKIE and while they started after us, it was
great finishing before them. We did break our main halyard on the last beat up from West End and there was also a large cruise ship in West End which made tacking through the Narrows interesting.”

Davis said, “Having raced Triple Jack since 1998, improving our performance over the years has been a combination of racing conditions and doing a lot of work on the boat as she was built in 1979. She’s like an old MG so we do have to be a little careful!”

Penalized by an over early in the start of the CSA Racing Class was not enough to hold back TP52 SPOOKIE, owned by Steve and Heidi Benjamin (USA), from taking first in class in the Nanny Cay Cup in corrected time of 3:48:43.

Most significantly, however, SPOOKIE broke the Monohull Nanny Cay Challenge record in an elapsed time of 3:08:43, a whopping 21 minutes off the previous record of 03:29:44, set in March 2013 by Peter Corr’s Aiyana, an Alia 82. With a new record under his belt, Steve Benjamin, SPOOKIE’s skipper, was one happy guy when his boat pulled into the dock after a fantastic ride around Tortola.

“We were really trying to get inside that record for the Nanny Cay Challenge,” Benjamin explained. “Once we got into the lead after our over early start, we beat all the way to the top of the island, fetched the rocks at the top then set a fractional code zero and took off on a screaming reach which was beautiful and proceeded to get lifted on starboard as the wind went right, so we set our 4A, our bigger spinnaker. I guess we hit 21 knots, saw gusts to 23 and had a beautiful run down the back side of the island, making it in one jibe and planing a lot of the time. It was really fantastic!”

The team will certainly enjoy their Nanny Cay Challenge prize: a jeroboam of “Drappier” champagne, sponsored by Tico, a BVI distributor, dinner for 15 crew at Peg Legs restaurant at Nanny Cay, and a donation of $250 to benefit BVI youth sailing, which the team has generously matched.

In the Racing class, John Bamberger’s Canadian Farr 45 Spitfire was also over early at the start, having to return to the line along with SPOOKIE, while the remainder of the 11-strong fleet took off in a tight bunch. TP52 Team Magnitude – Conviction, skippered by Doug Baker (USA) initially took the lead before being caught by SPOOKIE and finishing second in class. Quokka-Performance Yacht Charters, the Grand Soleil 43 skippered by Christian Reynolds, took third.

Renato Faria (BRA) steered his Dufour 500 Ventaneiro 3, to an early lead and first place in the CSA Cruising Class, while Warvor, the Sunsail 44i skippered by Willem Ellemeet (NED) took first in CSA Bareboat.

Wednesday takes the fleet racing to Scrub Island, located off the north east end of Tortola, for the Scrub Island Invitational. Race start time is 10am and the exact course will depend on weather and conditions. An afternoon of relaxation and fun is planned for crews, their families 

Monday, March 28, 2016


Almost Race-Ready!
Life couldn't be more perfect for the crews of 54 boats competing in Tuesday's Nanny Cay Cup (Round Tortola Race) with the breeze forecast in the upper teens for the first race day of the 45th BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival. Registration opened at noon today under blue sunny skies, the famed BVI trades keeping the heat at bay.

The Nanny Cay Cup not only sets the scene for a week of great racing with spectacular views of Tortola throughout the 31-nautical mile race, additionally, the teams can also race for the Nanny Cay Challenge - a perpetual challenge for the fastest mono and catamaran record around the island.

Team Magnitude - Conviction
Long Beach, Calif.
For racers to set a new elapsed time as they make the circumnavigation, starting and finishing at Nanny Cay, they must beat current records: Monohull record (3hrs 29mins 44secs) set at the 2013 Sailing Festival by Peter Corr's Aiyana, an Alia 82; Multihull record (2hrs 33mins 40secs) set in 2015 by BVI's Triple Jack, the trimaran owned by Richard Wooldridge and Steve Davis.

The Challenge has fantastic awards up for grabs if a team breaks either of the current records: a jeroboam of "Drappier" champagne, sponsored by Tico, dinner for 15 crew, and a suggestion to donate $250 towards a BVI charity of choice.

Spookie, winner of the 2015 Nanny Cay Cup, a Carkeek HP40 owned by Steve and Heidi Benjamin from Norwalk, CT (USA), is back with high hopes to retain the Cup.  They are psyched to put their best effort into taking the monohull Challenge record. Racing with them is Olympic silver medalist Peter Holmberg, one of the Caribbean's best known sailors who may help them set that record. Either way, the 15-strong Spookie crew loves the sailing conditions, scenery and atmosphere at Spring Regatta, especially when it's snowing back home.

Puche family from Berlin
Possibly the youngest sailors in Tuesday's fleet are Leon (11) and Robert Puche (10), all the way from Berlin, Germany. Their dad Werner will be skippering the Leopard 48 Slow Motion, which he bought 18 months ago to keep based in Tortola so they can enjoy events like Spring Regatta. "We're really looking forward to racing here and are only disappointed in that we have to leave early as the kids have to be back in school next week," Werner said. This is the first time for the family to be at the BVI Spring Regatta.

More first timers, Renato Faria, from Brazil, will be racing his Dufour 500 Ventaneiro 3, with friends from Brazil and Germany. A harbor pilot from Rio de Janeiro, Faria is used to sailing various Olympic class boats so he's not sure how racing Ventaneiro 3 will work out. "She's really a cruiser, but we'll try to race with her - we're looking forward to the best racing in the Caribbean and will keep the boat here to cruise and race in the future."

Team Slovakia, on board Arthur, a Beneteau First 40, have been in town for a few days now, taking time to soak up the beaches and a few cocktails while getting to know their way around the prevailing conditions. The group of seven friends are under the tutelage of Spring Regatta veteran Chris "Jacko" Jackson, owner's rep for Arthur. "This is a great regatta for these guys," Jackson said, "Everything's in one location, it's a two-minute walk to the parties from the boat, flat water and great sailing - what more could they want?"

Bob Phillips, Regatta Chairman, has chaired the BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival for 19 years so has a pretty good idea how conditions may shape up tomorrow. "We're looking at 15-20, pretty usual trade winds, maybe a little higher than normal. Of more importance is the direction - usually it's from the east which means a dead beat for the first part of the race...may not be record breaking conditions but it'll be close!"

Party's Started
The challenge is out! Start time for the CSA-Multihull class is 0930, CSA-Bareboat class at 0935; CSA-Cruising Class at 0940, and CSA-Racing class at 0945. NOR link

Sunday, March 27, 2016


Registration opens Monday at Nanny Cay, Tortola, British Virgin Islands, for some 110 boats and crews in the 45th BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival. The buzz is building shore-side, with the event Village under construction and docks filling up.

Lucy Jones, owner of the Swan 51 Northern Child & the Beneteau First 40 Southern Child, is back for her 7th BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival with two new race charter crews: a group of 24 from the company Samsin has chartered Northern Child & will race 12 guests on, 12 off, throughout the week. Tony Mac & his Team McFly have chartered the First 40.

Jones says, “These boats are completely race-ready – they’re both performance boats that people know they can go race and do well here in the BVIs.”

Damien Parnhouse, the Aussie skipper aboard Northern Child says, “This is my first Spring Regatta and I’m ready for it! I love sailing and sharing that with other people in a great place – where I live – Paris -  the snow is just melting!”

Jonathan Bamberger, from Toronto, Canada, has arrived with his Farr 45 Spitfire for his first Spring Regatta. Bamberger says, “It had to be done, look around - it’s a beautiful place - and the painkillers are great!”

Bamberger bought Spitfire in England last year and transferred her to the Caribbean a few weeks ago to participate in the Caribbean 600, and now this week, the BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival.

Christian Reynolds, a director of Performance Yacht Racing, is no stranger to the event, here for his 6th. One aspect of the event he welcomes is that the BVI Spring Regatta offers up some flat water racing, unlike other Caribbean racing. “The Sailing Festival is the “fun racing” and the Regatta is more serious – that mix is good, not to mention, it’s stunning here,” Reynolds says.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Tribute to Tom Blackaller, Bay Area Sailing Legend

A wave from Lisa Blackaller-Williams on TOMCAT
This past weekend a special event on San Francisco Bay commemorated the anniversary of the 25-year passing of Tom Blackaller one of the Bay Area’s most celebrated sailors.

ACSailingSF, operated by Brad and Karen Webb, celebrated the occasion by taking Tom’s family for a spin on TOMCAT, a performance racing Prosail 40 catamaran which has served as a platform and inspiration for multi-hull America’s Cup sailing.

TOMCAT, the latest addition to ACSailingSF’s charter fleet, is named after Blackaller who began campaigning a Formula 40 catamaran with the same name in the ProSail Professional Sailing Series in 1988, and was leading the 1989 series at the time of his passing.

“Tom passed away 25 years ago today and incidentally it was a year ago today that the first America’s Cup in catamarans began, a spectacle on the Bay and something that Tom actually foresaw more than quarter of a century before it even happened. For us that’s very special,” Brad Webb addressed the group gathered dockside at San Francisco’s Pier 39.
Brad Webb toasts Tom Blackaller

Sailing Journalist Kimball Livingstone helms USA-76
To that point, Blackaller was once quoted, “The fastest boats are catamarans…with the pedal to the metal, flying hulls…I’d be back in the America’s Cup in a minute if it was held in big fast boats on San Francisco Bay.”

Blackaller’s family - daughter Lisa sailing with husband Teddy Williams and two of their three children - left the dock on TOMCAT while the rest of the group piled onto USA-76, San Francisco’s entry for the 31st America’s Cup in 2003 and on which Webb sailed as bowman.

A spectacular late summer day on the Bay, a
Blackaller-Williams family: Lisa, Teddy, Allie & Max
warm breeze built to a steady 15 knots by 1pm, about the time the two boats rounded the Blackaller buoy located just north of the St Francis Yacht Club, on the south side of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Dockside later, Lisa commented, “Dad was a personality and a lot of fun. I love meeting people who knew him and to hear stories I still haven’t heard. The sailing world is a little less colorful without him - I don’t know how he would have ever done if he had to be “media-trained” as he didn’t hold back! My husband and my kids never met him so sailing today so was fantastic. To do that on honor of dad was so thrilling – he would have reveled in how thrilling AC34 was.”

Lisa described how her dad had become burned out after the 1987 Louis Vuitton Cup, when he was managing the syndicate USA (US-61), raising money and skippering the boat.

“He really had stopped sailing after that. It wasn’t until this Prosail series came along – these catamarans – that got him re-energized about sailing as he just loved fast things. I do wonder what role he would have played in the new AC as he would not have liked the politics of the whole thing and I am sure he would have had unvarnished things to say about it all…”

Paul Kaplan & daughter Sarah Kaplan
Paul Kaplan, co-owner of KKMI (Keefe Kaplan Maritime Inc.) and guest on board USA-76 first met Blackaller through racing, then the two became further acquainted as colleagues within the maritime industry.

“Tom sailed with us on our Quarter Ton yacht and we learned a great deal from him,” Kaplan recalled. “With regard to what Tom would have thought of AC 34, I’m sure that he would have been absolutely delighted to see the Cup finally held on the Bay. No doubt he would have had a few choice observations about what was wrong with the event and his observations most likely have been correct. In terms of the choice of AC 72’s catamarans becoming the yachts for the event, I can almost hear Tom say, “Well what the heck took you so “expletive” long to figure this out?"

USA-76 - Photo: ACSailingSF
Visit ACSailingSF for more info on catching a ride onUSA-76 or TOMCAT.

Editor’s Note: KKMI was responsible for making the necessary modifications so that USA 76 could obtain a USCG Certificate of Inspection allowing the yacht to take passengers for hire. The most significant changes included installing watertight bulkheads, an inboard diesel engine, modifications to the keel and the necessary safety equipment such as railings around the cockpit.

Because ‘Tom Cat’ carries fewer passengers, the USCG requirements are not as stringent. The work KKMI did included to get her charter-ready included painting the hulls above and below the waterline and assisting with the commissioning of the yacht.