On International Waters

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Testing begins for the World Cup of Sailing

An umpire on a jet ski chases the AC catamaran during test runs in the San Francisco Bay. — Photo by Erik Simonson/Pressure Drop.

Local Newport Beach resident Mike Martin has taken on a significant role with the organizing committee for the upcoming 34th Annual America’s Cup World Series international sailing race in San Francisco.

Australian sailing website Pressure Drop was able to get a behind the scenes peek during trials and testing on SF Bay while the website Sail World interviewed Martin, Umpire in Chief.

“We are pretty much ready to roll,” Martin said. “But we will do some additional informal testing here (in San Francisco) and in Portugal just prior to the start of the first event. Practice makes perfect.”

Another local resident, David Blackman has also been involved with the organizing committee.

Blackman recently served as an umpire at the first America’s Cup Test Event in New Zealand. He followed the high performance AC catamarans around on jet-skis.

Another local connection is Martin’s wife, Stephanie, who will be serving as the Communications Director for the AC’s Organizing Authority.


Here is the interview in full:

How did the week work out overall?

These test sessions are always valuable. We get to test all the systems and work out any bugs that we might find. It is great to do this before the first competition begins. Like all of the teams, Oracle Racing really wants the AC World Series to be a great new circuit so they were very open to trying new ideas and race courses to see what works.

Keeping up with the 45’s is difficult enough, the 72’s a re a whole different animal. — Photo by Erik Simonson/Pressure Drop.

Besides electrical issue’s, were there any major surprises?

No major surprises.

The umpires on the ski’s are retired Seals, are they also sailors?

Yes. David Blackman was a college sailor at the US Naval Academy and is an active sailor in Southern California. Ryan Cox also went to the Naval Academy and was multi-time college All American as well as college sailor of the year in 1995.

How were they recruited? Trained?

It became clear pretty quickly that the jet ski drivers had to be very fit and very comfortable in the water. David Blackman is already a US Sailing Umpire and on the cusp of becoming an international umpire so he was an obvious choice. The training that Navy Seals go through made them very comfortable with vehicles like jet skis, so Ryan Cox was another easy pick.

A look behind the curtain. — Photo by Erik Simonson/Pressure Drop.

Did not notice the jet-ski driving umps using flags, are they primarily calling shots back to HQ with the head sets?

At the moment there is radio contact between the skis and the booth. All protest penalties are issued electronically so there are no flags. The biggest drawback to this is that spectators do not know when there has been a protest, and one of our goals with these events is to make them as spectator-friendly as possible. We are considering using flags as a back up or in conjunction with the electronic system so we might have a RIB with flags.

What’s the chance they will be able to keep up with 72’s in 3-4 ebb chop and 25 plus knots?

That is the question that we all are asking. Not just for the jet ski, but also for a RIB or any reasonably sized powerboat. That is why the electronic system is so promising. We will be testing different approaches like having the Ump Boats in different stations around the course and then the yachts sail to them instead of umpire boats chasing the yachts.

John Craig calling the shots off the borrowed Golden Retriever. — Photo by Erik Simonson/Pressure Drop.

The land based team has a bundle of guys working laptops simultaneously, have you come up with titles and brief job descriptions of each of those?

We will have two equal umpires in the booth. I suppose you could call them ‘Booth Umpires’ the other people you saw up there were the software developers. They were there to fix issues on the fly. They will not be in the booth during Real Races, but they will not be far away if we need them.

ACRM seemed to be focused primarily on a reaching start, can we anticipate that will be utilized on the 72’s?

In our testing the reaching starts have been very popular with the sailors, the spectators and the ACEA broadcast team. Our plan is to use these for the AC World Series. We will see how it goes before we make a decision on the finish AC course configuration.

Compared to the traditional W-L courses, how are the teams liking the reach starts? (looks way funner from the chase boat)

They like them. I think they like going fast and it keeps the racing very tight at the first mark rounding.

How much additional testing do you expect in Portugal,or are you ready to roll?

We are pretty much ready to roll, but we will do some additional informal testing here and in Portugal just prior to the start of the first event. Practice makes perfect.

Thanks again….You coming back in August for Skiffs?

I hope so. That is my favorite regatta. One day when the AC boats are here, we have to convince a team to sail their AC45 in the Ronstan Bridge to Bridge Race. Now that would be a sight!


Just keeping up with the ski can be difficult, and a good swim ensues. — Photo by Erik Simonson/Pressure Drop.



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