Big Cats and Bigger Yachts

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I never know how my column will progress or end. With no formal or informal writing background in my past, I just jot down what comes to mind and let it flow from memory relating to boats, boating and marine related items of my lifetime on the waterfront in Newport. For those with journalistic training, this is probably glaringly obvious.

The reason I mention this is I wanted to post a photo last week showing an AC 45 catamaran with hydrofoils which I will now include. The AC 45s have been used for the America’s Cup trials and eliminations leading up to races being held next summer in San Francisco Bay. I obtained this from an International Super Yacht magazine published in London that I read every month. I read a few more European yachting magazines which revolve around yachts of 100 feet to 400-plus feet that roam the Caribbean but mostly the Mediterranean Sea.

We have several 100-plus-foot yachts locally, but the depth of the bay and our surrounding ocean and islands limit their use. I have met and visited with a Harbor Island resident who has owned a 180-foot power yacht based in the Mediterranean and it is also set up to charter. His opinion is our harbor is too shallow for his 11-foot draft (waterline to bottom of yacht) and there’s nothing that interests him locally to cruise to.

While the yacht could cruise our harbor at high tide, and he has the room out front of his home to berth the vessel, I guess compared to the Mediterranean we have little to offer. From my side of the fence, I found this opinion a little jaded. But as you can tell, I am one of our biggest boosters of our beautiful harbor, coastline and Channel Islands.

Here I go getting sidetracked again.

An AC 45 up on its hydrofoils in San Francisco Bay.

Last week’s edition of the Newport Indy featured two photos of the AC 45s racing in San Francisco, taken by our own photographer Jim Collins. These races were preliminary and to generate interest for the larger catamarans that will be used next year for the formal and final America’s Cup event.

The catamarans with the hydrofoils were for testing only, but maybe Larry Ellison, the U.S. defender, will use them on the larger AC 72s that will be raced next year.

The San Francisco Bay area has much stronger winds than we have locally. As mentioned in previous writings, I have experienced the thrill of the high speeds generated by catamarans. Publishers and editors please take note, I would love to be sent to the Bay Area next year with credentials to observe and write about these time-honored international sailboat races.

When Dennis Connor won the America’s Cup and brought it to San Diego, I felt it a once-in-a-lifetime event similar to the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. At the time of both of these events, I owned and operated a local marine construction business which required 110 percent of my time and attention. With my catamaran and sailboat racing (and also power boat, tugboat, barge, commercial and sport fishing) experience, I offer a unique vantage from which to write.

If I can think of anything else to help promote myself for this position, I will offer it in future columns.

In a previous column I mentioned finding out the very famous locally owned black-hulled sailboat Ragtime”was in the 100th anniversary Mackinac sland sailboat race that starts outside Chicago on Lake Michigan. For the folks in that area the “Mac is as famous as we view our Transpac race from Los Angeles to Hawaii.

While the Mac isn’t as long a race, I do believe it is more than 1,000 miles. There have been some windless races, but mostly the winds have been quite hearty, and one year had hurricane force winds which resulted in some catastrophes.

I mention this because, as I said I would do previously, the owner of Ragtime is also the owner of the 100-foot plus catamaran in Newport Harbor moored near the Newport Landing restaurant on the Balboa Peninsula. The purpose of the cat now is to carry a new and innovative one-man submarine to the deepest areas of the oceans of the world. How international is that? Right here in Newport Harbor. From what I read, there have been issues with perfecting the clear canopy.

The catamaran had been purchased by Steve Fossett, international adventurer and multi-world record holder of ballooning, sailing and many other ventures prior to his untimely death. He would use the catamaran for his unbuilt “Deep Flight I” submarine. Our local sailor first purchased the catamaran and when he found out about the submarine, continued where Mr. Fossett left off. What an adventure!

Tom Perkins, another sailor, businessman, engineer and venture capitalist also has a new submarine from the same builder, San Francisco ocean engineer and inventor Graham Hawkes. He is well-known for owning and designing the sailing super-yacht Maltese Falcon. The Falcon was sold after helping invent winged sails and this huge sailboat won every super-yacht race in the Caribbean and Mediterranean.

The size of Perk’s sub is similar, but it has a 300-meter limit but can achieve 10 knots under water. He converted a Japanese trawler in Subic Bay, Philippines, to carry it and is on a multi-year voyage of adventure and scientific research throughout the South Pacific.

It’s amazing the worldwide inter-relations of our pretty little Newport Harbor.

Sea Ya,

Skipper Steve

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