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Oracle Launches Americas Cup Boat
Photo by BMW | CARLO BORLENGHI. Click on image for photo gallery.

On Tuesday evening, ORACLE TEAM USA held a ceremony at its team base to reveal its new America's Cup Class boat, "17", the foiling catamaran the team will race this summer in Bermuda.

"This is the boat we're racing to win the America's Cup," said skipper Jimmy Spithill, addressing a crowd of family, friends, team partners and dignitaries.

This week, "17" will be launched and testing and development begins in earnest and won't stop until the final race of the America's Cup.

"Many of the major design decisions have been made and have been built in already to what you see tonight," said Scott Ferguson, the design coordinator for ORACLE TEAM USA.

"But the refinement and optimization process never stops. We know there is still speed to be found between now and May 26 when racing begins in the Louis Vuitton America's Cup Qualifiers and that's our focus for the coming weeks."

Over 15 designers and 50 boat-builders have contributed to the design and build of "17", with more than 85,000 man-hours accumulated to date. Team partners like Airbus, BMW, Parker and Yanmar have provided technical expertise and support.

"This is a major milestone in our campaign to win the America's Cup for a third time," said Grant Simmer, the chief operating officer of ORACLE TEAM USA.

"These boats are highly-engineered, with complex systems, and built to perform under extreme conditions. It's a great achievement by our designers, builders and engineers to get us to this point where the race yacht gets handed over to the sailors."

With his 14-strong sailing team on the podium beside him, and flanked by the America's Cup trophy, skipper Spithill invited the guests to get a look at the yacht that will carry the aspirations of the team to win the prestigious trophy for the USA for a third consecutive time.

Clipper Race Signs First Four Year Deal With Sanya, China
Sanya, the energetic fast-developing holiday resort and sailing centre on Hainan Island in the south of China, has been signed up as a first-time Team Partner and Host Port for the next two editions of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, through to 2020.

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston signed the agreement with Sanya today (Wednesday 15 February 2017) in a press conference and ceremony hosted by the Mayor of the city at the award-winning Sanya Serenity Marina, where the fleet will be berthed.

A yacht named Sanya will carry its international team, including carefully selected Sanya crew, to sail around the world.

The Clipper Race has had a long association with China over the last twelve years. The north eastern port of Qingdao was the first Chinese city to host the Clipper Race and field a team entry in 2005. It has completed six biennial editions so far and recently agreed to participate in two further races in 2017-18 and 2019-20 and is the longest ever consecutive partner.

Qingdao hosted the sailing events of the Beijing 2008 Olympic games and has built a powerful legacy through the Clipper Race by establishing a strong calendar of annual regattas, growing public participation in sailing, a strong marine business economy and developing its international profile.

Sanya is aiming for similar success with an emphasis on tourism.

The Clipper Race fleet is anticipated to arrive in Sanya in the first quarter of 2018, and then again in 2020, as part of the Asia Pacific Leg.

Les Sables D'Olonne Prepares To Welcome Homecoming Hero
After the arrival last night of Eric Bellion, the French skipper who finished in ninth place and top 'rookie', Les Sables d'Olonne on the west coast of France prepares to welcome back their favourite adopted son, Arnaud Boissieres who is now due to finish into his own home marina on Thursday evening or first thing on Friday.

The solo skipper of La Mie Caline, who grew up in Arcachon, south-west of Bordeaux, but moved to Les Sables d'Olonne, will equal the record of Armel Le Cleac'h as the only two skippers to have finished three back to back Vendee Globe races.

Jean Le Cam, Jean Pierre Dick, Mike Golding, and Dominique Wavre but so far no one has finished three successive Vendee Globe races. Boissieres, 44, cherishes childhood memories of Vendee Globe finishes and lives in the La Chaume area of Les Sables d'Olonne, not far from the legendary 'canal'.

Yesterday, as he climbed northwards up with Portuguese coast, racing downwind in favourable breezes, he passed the latitude of the stricken Conrad Colman and so now holds tenth place with around 450 miles to the finish line. Expected to finish around 24 hours later is the rival he match raced from the Pacific, journalist turned ocean racer Fabric Amedeo.

Conrad Colman is reported to be taking time and care to ensure the jury rig he sets on Foresight Natural Energy is right first time and as efficient as he can make it. This morning he reported that he had completed the repairs to his boom and had appropriate supporting rigging in place. The former sailmaker was cutting and shaping part of his mainsail but did not anticipate stepping and setting the rig until all the component parts were in place. He is reported to have worked through as much of last night as he could.

The weather forecast is in his favour in the meantime with downwind conditions until Friday before a ridge of high pressure extends SW to NE across the Bay of Biscay which would mean even slower progress. That high pressure zone will likely affect the youngest skipper in the race who sees his ETA slip to Sunday.

Seahorse March 2017
What's in the Latest Edition Of Seahorse Magazine

The (furling) revolution continues
Just in time for the next Volvo Ocean Race, Future Fibres have completed final testing of their new TorqueLite 2.0 furling cables, which should make the writhing foredeck python a little easier to bring under control when you are bouncing around and holding on tight down in the Southern Ocean (as will now be the case once again in 2017/18)

Tick tock
Ian Walker debates just how late a team can risk leaving it to start a Volvo Ocean Race campaign for the 2017-2018 edition

When heads need banging together
Rob Weiland says that some well advised government intervention would not go amiss in offshore racing

The first gold - Part I
Tim Jeffery remembers an extraordinary life with friends and family of the Great Dane

World Sailing - A rigorous partnership
Tokyo 2020 qualification! Alastair Fox

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Phil Robertson To Skipper Oman Air In 2017 Extreme Sailing Series
Oman Air's bid to claim the Extreme Sailing Series crown will be led by World Match Racing Champion Phil Robertson, who has been appointed skipper for the 2017 campaign, which starts in Muscat, Oman, on 8 March.

In the 2016 season, having sat at the top of the leaderboard since the first Act, the Omani team's shot at the title was scuppered in the final Act by its main adversary, Alinghi. This season the team will look to retain that top spot to the very end, with Robertson at the helm.

Robertson will be teaming up once again with James Wierzbowski, who was a member of his $1Million World Match Racing Tour winning crew last year.

The Aussie bowman returns to Oman Air for 2017 along with core crew members Pete Greenhalgh, Nasser Al Mashari and Ed Smyth.

With the eleventh edition of the Extreme Sailing Series kicking off in Muscat, Oman, Robertson will start on the front foot, given that Omani-flagged teams have a track record of success on their home territory, backed by huge local support.

Oman Air will race alongside Alinghi and SAP Extreme Sailing Team in the 2017 season, with further team announcements to come ahead of the opening Extreme Sailing Series Act.

All-Star Lineup For Congressional Cup
Long Beach CA, USA: Joachim Aschenbrenner DEN, has been named the tenth competitor in the 2017 Congressional Cup regatta, rounding out, "A great line-up!" in the words of Chairman Joe Seibert.

Seibert announced Aschenbrenner's entry in the 53rd running of this esteemed World Match Racing Tour event, which will be held March 27 to April 2 in Long Beach, California.

Aschenbrenner (ranked no. 12 by World Sailing) returns to the Congressional Cup for the first time since his 2015 debut, where he finished in the top half of the fleet. The dynamic Dane, who has been winning match racing events since the age of nine, will face high-caliber opposition including seven of the top ten ranked match racing skippers in the world.

Those include defending champion Taylor Canfield, ISV (no.1), Ian Williams, GBR (no. 2), Sam Gilmour, AUS (no. 3), Phil Robertson, NZL (no. 4), Harry Price, AUS (no. 5), Chris Steele, NZL (no. 6) Eric Monnin, SUI (no. 9), Nicolai Sehested, DEN (no. 23) and Johnie Berntsson, SWE (no. 37). The final two entrants will be determined at the Ficker Cup held March 24 to 26.

Transat Jacques Vabre 2017
The 13th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre will kick off on Saturday, October 28, 2017, around the Bassin Paul Vatine (marina) in Le Havre, for a week of festivities that will mark the 500th anniversary of this maritime city. On Sunday, November 5, 2017, the competing skippers will cross the starting line of the longest transatlantic route to a legendary coffee port, Salvador in the state of Bahia in Brazil.

Salvador is the capital of the Bahia region, north of Rio. It is a city with an active port because of its position and easy access to the Bay of All Saints, the largest natural bay on the South American coast and the second largest in the world. The Transat Jacques Vabre will be welcomed at the foot of the Pelourinho, an historic quarter registered as a UNESCO world heritage site, in the port of Salvador.

"The 2017 edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre marks the return to an historic and iconic coffee region, which has already hosted several finishes of the race, and celebrated in the style the winners of our 'Route du cafe' from 2001 to 2007." Xavier Mitjavila, President of JDE France and the Transat Jacques Vabre organisation.

Class40, Multi50, Imoca and Ultime boats are expected on the starting line off Le Havre.

2015 Winners

Class 40
Le Conservateur
Yannick Bestaven & Pierre Brasseur
24d 08h 10' 09''

Multi 50
Fenetrea Prysmian
Erwan Le Roux & Giancarlo Pedote
16d 22h 29' 13''

Vincent Riou & Sebastien Col
17d 00h 22' 24''

Francois Gabart & Pascal Bidegorry
12d 17h 29' 27''

GC32 Championship
In a fortnight's time the first ever GC32 Championship for the combined fleets from the GC32 Racing Tour and Extreme Sailing Series will begin in Muscat, Oman.

The ultra high-speed foiling one design GC32 catamarans will be competing at the GC32 Championship from Tuesday 28th February until Sunday 5th March. Racing will take place off Al Mouj Marina (The Wave, Muscat), on the outskirts of Muscat where the event's host, Oman Sail, has its headquarters.

Run by the GC32 International Class Association in association with OC Sport, the 2017 GC32 Championship is the first of what, henceforth, will be an annual event.

A team greatly anticipating this first joint venture between the two GC32 circuits is Ernesto Bertarelli's Alinghi, which has previous experience of both: The former America's Cup defender won the 2016 Extreme Sailing Series and competed on the GC32 Racing Tour in 2015. Bertarelli, who has been campaigning racing multihulls since the early 1990s, has confirmed that he will helm for the GC32 Championship.

While Alinghi will sail with its usual line-up, co-skippers Jes Gram-Hansen and Rasmus Køstner have some new crew joining them on board SAP Extreme Sailing Team this season. Both competed on the GC32 Racing Tour last year: British sailor Richard Mason sailed on Malizia-Yacht Club de Monaco while former Match Racing World Champion and Volvo Ocean Race sailor, Adam Minoprio from New Zealand, was instrumental to NORAUTO's overall victory.

Belcher and Ryan Win Another 470 National Championship
Rio Silver Medallists, Mat Belcher and Will Ryan have won the 470 Australian National Championships held at Wangi RSL Amateur Sailing Club on Lake Macquarie from 10-12 February. While the Women's title was won by 2016 Olympian Carrie Smith and crew Amelia Catt.

As NSW sweltered in the heat, the sailors enjoyed some mixed conditions over the regatta, with strong seabreezes coming in across the weekend.

For Belcher and Ryan it was the first time they had sailed together in a 470 on Ryan's home waters of Lake Macquarie.

Meanwhile Rio 2016 Olympian Carrie Smith teamed up with Amelia Catt for the event. The pair finished second overall, and won the women's national title.

The event attracted a fleet of 10 boats, and included several Australian Sailing Team and Squad members including the Conway brothers, Patrick and Alexander (fourth place), and Victoria's Tom Klemens and Tim Hannah (fifth place). Chris Charlwood and Josh Dawson were the first juniors and finished third overall. Olympic 470 coach, 'medal-maker' Victor Kovalenko was also at the event working with the athletes.

Plans For Yachting High Performance Facility In Holding Pattern
Plans for an $8.5-million Yachting New Zealand high performance centre are in limbo, as funding from central and local government bodies comes under scrutiny.

The Weekend Herald revealed yesterday Sport New Zealand have come under fire from the Auditor General over their funding of the troubled project, initially known as the National Ocean Water Sports Centre, and later the Community Marine Hub.

Sport NZ has already sunk $800,000 of its planned $3 million investment on what critics called a "series of wasteful and abortive attempts" to get the facility built on reserve land in Takapuna.

Yachting NZ finally abandoned efforts to get consent to build on the Takapuna site in July last year, ending a protracted, at times bitter, battle with the local community board.

Seven years on from when the glossy architectural drawings for the centre were unveiled, Yachting NZ are no closer to getting the project off the ground, but the national body has not given up. -- Dana Johannsen

Eileen Ramsay
Eileen Ramsay, the Queen of British yachting photography during the post war years, has died aged 101.

Ms Ramsay recorded the explosion in small boat sailing during the 1950s and 60s, capturing not only the boats but also sailing pioneers such as Francis Chichester, Alec Rose, Col Blondie Hasler and Eric Tabarly.

Ms Ramsey was born in Sanderstead, Surrey in 1915. She began her career in 1937 as a 22 year-old receptionist to the Reading based Royal photographer Marcus Adams.

Cowes based yachting photographer Ken Beken recalls: "Eileen carved a name for herself with her creative skills shouting out from the pages of nautical books and magazines.

"Her style was unique and innovative and an 'Eileen Ramsey shot' was always easy to discern."

Ms Ramsay gave up photography in 1971 when her partner George Spiers was killed tragically in a riding accident, but later took up watercolour painting.

She remained fit and alert right up until her 102nd year able to recall almost every photograph she had taken and provide an amusing anecdote about each subject.

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The Last Word
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