Brought to you by Seahorse magazine, Scuttlebutt Europe is a digest of sailing news and opinions, regatta results, new boat and gear information and letters from sailors -- with a European emphasis. Contributions welcome, send to

Good Conditions For The Vendee Globe Fleet
The conditions are not only good for the leaders who are sailing in the trade winds, but also for all the skippers in the South Atlantic and in the Pacific.

Armel Le Cleac'h and Alex Thomson are now sailing in the trade winds ranging from 15 to 20 knots, which are ideal conditions to progress quickly towards the Northern Hemisphere. Jeremie Beyou is still upwind, but the wind should quickly shift to the East for him also. The zone of trade winds is moving gradually southward. We see on the first image that Banque Populaire VIII made its latest tack further north than Hugo Boss who himself tacked further north than Maitre CoQ. The St. Helena high pressure system is moving southward every day, which gives a small advantage to those who are arriving from behind with a zone of trade winds growing in the next few days.

The weather conditions are rather clement for the rest of the fleet, whether it is in the Atlantic Ocean or in the Pacific. The wind should remain favourable for the next few days. No big storm is expected at the moment for the fleet.

* Back in the game

The New Zealand solo skipper Conrad Colman has now replaced the pin to re-attach his forestay and is back on course in the Vendee Globe heading towards Cape Horn at slower speeds as he tests his rig progressively. Colman's rig was threatened when the forestay, which helps support the mast, detached itself from the bow fitting in a violent storm between January 1st and 2nd. He has 1700 miles to sail to Cape Horn.

* SMA to return to europe aboard a cargo vessel

After attempting to fit the hydraulic ram borrowed from Jeremie Beyou's team, Paul Meilhat has been forced to bring his boat home on a cargo vessel. The MV AS Carelia will be leaving on 10th January to head for Europe via the Panama Canal

Eight days after discovering that the hydraulic ram used for canting the keel, had cracked, Paul Meilhat headed for Tahiti, and moored his SMA in the marina in Papeete, where he was joined by his shore team (Marcus Hutchinson, Marc Liardet, Philippe Thomas). Not only was the new part unsuitable, but they also discovered additional damage to the housing.

"We really thought the part from Maitre-CoQ was the same, but it didn't fit. To be able to use the ram would have taken a lot of work with a modification to the part using materials they don't have on the Pacific islands. It would have taken over a month, so we have decided to bring the boat home by cargo ship. When we removed the ram, we saw that there had been collateral damage to the housing as well."

Top ten ranking:
1. Armel Le Cleac'h, Banque Populaire VIII, 3417 nm to finish
2. Alex Thomson, Hugo Boss, 322 nm to leader
3. Jeremie Beyou, Maitre CoQ, 1004
4. Jean Le Cam, Finistere Mer Vent, 1606
5. Yann Elies, Queguiner - Leucemie Espoir, 1608
6. Jean-Pierre Dick, StMichel - Virbac, 1610
7. Louis Burton, Bureau Vallee, 3005
8. Nandor Fa, Spirit of Hungary, 4482
9. Conrad Colman, Foresight Natural Energy, 5239
10. Eric Bellion, COMMEUNSEULHOMME, 5443

Wight Vodka Best Yachting Bar Competition
The deadline for submissions is Friday, midnight GMT.

From all of the submissions, the team at Wight Vodka will choose the top 10 bars which are put forward for the online voting from Monday January 9 through Tuesday January 30.

Sending along photos, video links, colorful stories ("I met both my husbands there" is one of our favourites from past years) will definitely help get yours into the top ten. Drinking in a yachtie's bar is more than just drinking... it's a perspective on life and all that is good and decent in the world. Or something like that.

Here another very cool one that's a first time submission:

From reader Greg:

The Sloop Tavern is a dive bar in Ballard WA and home to the Sloop Tavern Yacht Club. The Tavern and the STYC are all about sailing for sailors. They run many races that are cheap to enter but attract the best competition. The Sloop Tavern is also a Ballard icon, with great cheeseburgers that attract the hipsters from the climbing gym across the street. It is also a much nicer place since they passed the no smoking ordinance in Seattle.

Seconded by reader Lynne:

Grunge bar with attitude. Home of the Sloop Tavern Yacht Club. We are drinkers with a sailing problem.

Tell us YOUR favourite:

Big Names, Powerful Boats
Key West, Florida: Just 11 days remain until the start of the 30th anniversary Quantum Key West Race Week and the fleet of more than 100 boats shows great strength throughout its ranks.

In fashion befitting a 30th anniversary, the celebratory regatta bristles with a plethora of racing stars from the U.S. and 10 countries, some of the most technically developed racing boats afloat and one of the largest growing classes in the world.

The daily schedule calls for up to three races per day. Registration is set for Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 14-15, and the warning signal for Race 1 is scheduled for 1100 hours on Monday, Jan. 16.

The fleet includes glamour classes like the 52 Super Series, featuring top professional sailors such as Ed Baird, John Kostecki, Terry Hutchinson, all past winners of the Rolex Yachtsman of the Year award, and past Italian America's Cup helmsman Vasco Vascotto.

The wildly popular J/70 Class is the largest at the event with 40 of the 23-footers entered this year. The design's larger sibling, the 36-foot J/111, begins a season long march towards the class's world championship in September.

ORC is the featured rating rule with nine boats entered, and classes such as the C&C 30 One-Design, Melges 24 and J/88 enhance the competitive nature of the race week fleet. ORC is also being used to rate boats in the Performance Cruising Class that is competing for its second consecutive year, and there are two entries in the Multihull Class.

On the water, competitors will be spread across three racing circles.

The racing at Quantum Key West Race Week will be conducted under permit in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The sanctuary protects 2,900 square nautical miles of critical marine habitat, including coral reef, hard bottom, seagrass meadow, mangrove communities and sand flats.

Star Mid Winter Championship
Josh and I are back at it here in Miami in the Star Mid Winter Championship, four days of racing with up to 8 races in total. The first two days races will count for the Bob Levin Memorial trophy. Today's racing was delayed while the race committee waited for the northwesterly wind to die and the southeasterly sea breeze to fill. This made the start of race 1 around 13:00 in 7 knots. The sea was flat and the maximum wind of the day was about 15:00 at 8 knots.

In the first race, Josh and I sailed pretty well and got up into the lead half way up the first leg. But a couple mistakes that kept us from winning. We finished 4th behind George Szabo in first, Charlie Buckingham in 2nd and Jack Jennings in 3rd. Buck senior was 5th.

In race 2, we were in a group of four boats called over early at the start down at the pin end of the line. The race committee took about 45 seconds to make the call (which they are not required to do but do regularly within 10-15 seconds). This put us and the other three boats about 1:30 behind the 26 boat fleet by the time we started. There was nothing remarkable about either race today so making a comeback in the second race was tough.

George Szabo leads the regatta with 6 points, Jack Jennings in 2nd with 7 and Augie Diaz, the current World Champion, in 3rd with 10 points. Josh and I got back to 15th in the 2nd race so we are in 10th overall with 19 points.

Tomorrow's forecast is for light sea breeze to fill in the afternoon again. Saturday is supposed to be 14-16 knots from the south and Sunday is forecast to be 22-26 knots with gusts well over 30 knots from the north northwest. -- Paul Cayard

Four complete results go to YachtScoring

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Polly Powrie Retires From Olympic Sailing
Polly Powrie, half of one of the most successful teams in New Zealand sailing history, has retired from Olympic yachting.

Powrie and Jo Aleh, colloquially known as Team Jolly, first teamed up in the women's 470 in 2009 and established an impressive record in their time together, winning gold at the 2012 London Olympics and backing that up with silver at last year's Rio Games. They are also former 470 world champions and in 2013 were named ISAF Female World Sailors of the Year. The 29-year-old Powrie recently decided she didn't want to commit to another Olympic campaign.

"I have been mulling it over for the last few months," she said. "Jo and I have been sailing together for eight years and achieved possibly everything we could have. I had to ask the question, `was I excited about going again and did I still feel like there was a challenge to achieve?' I also had to take family into consideration and decided it was time to move on and experience different things and challenge myself in different ways."

That has included picking up a job in the property industry and utilising the business degree she had been working towards over the past decade. One of the hardest things recently was breaking the news to Aleh.

"I was definitely a bit nervous telling Jo as we've had such a tight partnership but she understands the demands of what it takes to achieve at that level and the impact it has on you mentally and physically."

Aleh is taking a year out from the 470 boat and is looking to compete in the next Volvo Ocean Race, which starts in September 2017. Last month she was on board new supermaxi CQS for the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

Another One Bites The Dust - Super 12s
With the 12s and AC having s special place in Australia and the USA, a question posted on the Scuttlebutt Facebook page, 'Is the Super 12 thing still happening?', had been on our mind too. The short answer is no, it's not happening. But when something made as much noise as this project, a degree of closure in full view is necessary.

The project was led by Tom Ehman, whose involvement with the America's Cup began in 1980. Tom is also the Golden Gate Yacht Club Vice Commodore, a role he has continuously held since 2011. Tom wore many hats during the 34th Match in 2013 for the Defender, but now was hatless. Worse, his Club - the official Club of the Defender - had lost sight of the event after it moved from San Francisco Bay to Bermuda.

Ehman sought to change the view

In May 2015, Ehman announced his idea to launch a new international regatta to be sailed annually on San Francisco Bay, to begin in July 2017, in an updated version of the 12- Metre class. Ehman recruited his media pals to promote the concept, and he aggressively utilized social media to keep air in the balloon.

His vision was to use the history of the America's Cup, and specifically the golden years of the 12- Metre, to offer stability and style to his event. He promised prize purses, television coverage, nationality rules, and managed class care. But he called his 65-footer a Super 12, which soon ran afoul with the International Twelve Metre Class Association (ITMA). -- Craig Leweck

Full article in Scuttlebutt:

Letters To The Editor -
Letters are limited to 350 words. No personal attacks are permitted. We do require your name but your email address will not be published without your permission.

* From John Burnie: I trust everyone who has any interest in handicap racing has taken the opportunity to read Rob Weiland's masterful article in the latest copy of Seahorse. In the article Rob addresses key issues that will (or already affect) the future of how we race together in different concept or preference. Amongst his excellent observations I noted his comments regarding measuring anomalies in hull scans and inclination. This is something that clearly concerned one or two teams competing at the 2016 Swan World Cup where ORC was utilised for the first time - such precepts would go some way to explain a noted disparity observed between certain boats that one would have assumed to have had a closer rating due to their "one design" parameter.

I am a long term RORC / IRC supporter and I have frequently put on record my views in articles that I have written - often expressing my admiration of the empathic way ORC have addressed any difficult issues that have arisen at various regattas where their rule was being utilised. In particular you have to admire the good works of Paolo Masserini and Alessandro Nazareth at ORCsy regattas - a good rule, well run. But it is an unacceptable cliche for any guardian of a handicap rule to attempt to coin the phrase that you "cannot keep everyone happy" - particularly if there is the slightest suspicion of anyone "fudging things". Most participants in regattas appreciate how difficult it is to fairly rate dynamically different boats - this is not my point.

Bluntly what make matters worse is if there any suspicion or evidence of unfair play. Overtly competitive people will try to "bend the rules" - and ORC possibly have one highly visible case of that. To an outsider it appears there has been little intent to fully investigate and see if there has been any transgression - and if there has been, is there any serious intent to make punitive sanction against the transgressor? ORC may have to show some spine. As a junior schoolmaster in an earlier vocation I quickly learned to distribute reward and punishment in an equitable fashion or howls of dissent could be heard across most of Berkshire. All rule makers take note - fairness and clarity is paramount and proven transgression must be dealt with - otherwise people will simply vote with their feet.

Among the many good points in his article Rob succinctly covers the history as to how both IRC and ORC evolved. How refreshing it is to read that after years of difference (indifference?) and politically motivated ambition that finally there appears to be a more positive attitude as to the future direction of the two rating rules. The good works of Stan Honey, Rob and number of other interested parties (you know who you are) cannot be underestimated - in the long term their excellent efforts may finally lead to some balance and unification between to two good rating rules. Most of us have almost forgotten that at one time in history ORC had a London office address - wasn't it 20 St James's Place, SW1?

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The Last Word
Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man. -- Benjamin Franklin

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