In This Issue
Opportunity and Jeopardy | The Courage to Chart Your Own Course | Four-Horse Boat Race In Oxford To Decide The Series | Walk the course for the 2018 RORC Caribbean 600 with Wouter Verbraak | Finn battling to retain Olympic status | What's in the Latest Edition Of Seahorse Magazine | Sprit Sails & Clinker Boats on Lough Erne | OCC Azores Pursuit Rally | Normandy Channel Race | Letters to the Editor | Featured Brokerage

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

Opportunity and Jeopardy
The Volvo Ocean Race fleet is about to bump up against another transition zone, a patch of very light and unstable winds that will be slow and painful to cross.

This is the first sign of what appears to be a fairly untraditional doldrums crossing. As ever, the transition to the southern hemisphere offers opportunity for some and jeopardy for others.

On the jeopardy side, it is the crew on SHK/Scallywag, still furthest to the west, who are currently suffering. They’ve been dropping miles for the past 24 hours and have slid from second to fifth place, nearly 50 miles behind the leader, team AkzoNobel.

Alarmingly for Scallywag, while they’ve once again given back miles to the leader on the 1300 UTC position report on Thursday, every other boat in the fleet is making gains as AkzoNobel is first to hit the transition zone.

On Team Brunel, Kyle Langford says the speed comes at a cost - the living conditions are brutal.

“It’s pretty horrible down below. It’s very bouncy and very difficult to sleep. The water temperature is nearly 30-degrees, so it’s quite warm inside,” he says. “It’s hard to stay cool. And on top of that the boat is getting thrown around in 30 knots of wind. It’s very uncomfortable.

“Outside is better, but not by a lot. The worst thing is the salt water, which burns your eyes. We’re all wearing ski goggles. But the good thing is we’re making miles quickly. It’s tough conditions, but fast.

Positions at: 13:00 UTC 15 February
1. Team AkzoNobel, 2687.05 nm to leg finish
2. MAPFRE, 23.77 nm to leader
3. Team Brunel, 25.46
4. Dongfeng Race Team, 27.64
5. Team Sun Hung Kai / Scallywag, 47.41
6. Turn the Tide on Plastic, 51.01
7. Vestas 11th Hour Racing, Did not start

The Courage to Chart Your Own Course
Racing sailboats is like playing chess and like chess you need to be thinking five steps ahead to stay in front of your competition. It is, however, much more complicated than chess. With chess you have a static board and an even number of players. The board for the Volvo Ocean Race is a vast and dynamic ocean that is a minefield of traps. Low pressure systems swirl and loop. They bump up against high pressure systems and it’s hard to predict precisely what will happen. Navigators and skippers constantly run routing models to help them with their navigation decisions but in the end it’s gut instinct; and a tad bit of luck.

This week two boats saw something in that mass of swirling isobars that the rest of the fleet didn’t see. The Dutch team AkzoNobel and Team Sun Hung Kai Scallywag decided to tack away from the rest and head to the north at times actually sailing away from the finish. They had spotted a trough of low pressure and while the distance between them and the leaders increased alarmingly they both stayed the course. Their gutsy move and nerves of steel paid dividends. Forty eight hours later both boats had rocketed to the front of the fleet. Was it tactical brilliance, or luck?

One things is for sure that it takes courage to chart your own course and this time courage paid off. For the crew on Team Sun Hung Kai Scallywag it might just have been their lucky Dubarry Crosshaven boots that gave the crew the grit to stick with their decision even when things started to look a little bleak. The payoff is being at the front of the pack as the fleet hurtle south in a building breeze.

Four-Horse Boat Race In Oxford To Decide The Series
Farmoor is set to host a four-way fight to determine who will be crowned Champion of the GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series. The Oxford Blue is the seventh and final event in the Series which started last November and has seen hundreds of competitors contending with the coldest British winter of recent times. However this Saturday’s forecast suggests both the air temperature and wind strength will be fairly mild, with 6-8 knots of breeze forecast from the south-west.

Ben Schooling has been the bridesmaid before in the Series, and would probably be hoping for a bit more breeze to get his Musto Skiff really motoring against the three slower singlehanders that he’s up against for the title. However the Stokes Bay sailor is known for getting the best out of the Skiff in the lighter conditions and is a past winner of the Oxford Blue.

If Alistair Goodwin can hold on to his lead he would become the first Laser sailor to win the Series, although he’s got a battle on his hands to keep Andrew Snell’s K1 keelboat at bay. Both the K1 and Andy Couch’s Phantom are slippery in light airs and will be looking forward to the light forecast. On the other hand, with a huge entry of RS Aeros who are using the Oxford Blue as their class winter championship, traffic will be a problem for the hiking singlehanders. With around 130 boats already entered, and the entry limit of 150 almost reached, congestion around the marks will certainly play a factor in the outcome. If Schooling can find some clear air and get his Musto Skiff on the plane, his speed advantage could prove decisive. Phil Meakins, crewed by Tommo Tomson in his Osprey, currently lies in third overall and is also looking for a strong finish in the Series.

Walk the course for the 2018 RORC Caribbean 600 with Wouter Verbraak
The weather forecast for the 2018 RORC Caribbean 600 is predicting winds in excess of 20 knots for the duration of the 600 mile race, producing record-breaking conditions. Wouter Verbraak, Head of Sevenstar Racing Yacht Logistics walks the course with an in-depth video on the nuances of the race around 11 Caribbean islands. Wouter has competed in the race on many occasions, racing Maxis and Multihulls. The 10th edition of the RORC Caribbean 600 starts on Monday 19th February from Fort Charlotte, outside Nelson's Dockyard, Antigua.

Finn battling to retain Olympic status
The Finn - the classic power dinghy - was designed to test the best individual sailor at the Olympic Games. This thoroughly modern, but endearingly classic dinghy has been successfully doing that through 17 Olympics and is heading towards its 18th in Tokyo 2020.

However, it could also be its last Games too.

With the push by the International Olympic Committee to have equal medal events for men and women, World Sailing must determine how to get to that status for the 2024 Olympics. Currently the 10 events are tilted toward the men… because of the Finn.

To balance participation at Tokyo 2020, the number of Finns competing in the Games has been reduced from the 23 competitors at Rio 2016. With only 19 spots now available in Tokyo, competition will be intense. Fifteen of the 23 sailors who took part in Rio are now on the campaign trail and have their sights set on the land of the rising sun in two years time.

Of one thing we can be sure, it is going to be a gruesome battle to determine those places, and Finn sailors are not pretty when their backs are against the wall. Think fist meets wall.

From Robert Deaves and Craig Leweck in Scuttlebutt:

Seahorse March 2018
What's in the Latest Edition Of Seahorse Magazine

It’s not an easy time to be a wannabe America’s Cup challenger, the extraordinary CV of that Mapfre navigator and the complexities of modern campaigning. Plus modern real-time performance analysis... think again. Jack Griffin, Joan Vila, Carlos Pich, Terry Hutchinson

Design - Plenty (more) to come
Bernard Nivelt And Alexis Muratet have no intention of turning back the clock...

The game of life
Blue Robinson talks America’s Cup and an extraordinary career with Tom Whidden

What does it take...
A big picture hunt for the commonalities of a successful Olympian. Carol Cronin

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Sprit Sails & Clinker Boats on Lough Erne
Click on image to enlarge.

In the 1800s and into the 1930s, double ended Clinker built boats, yawls, were seen and used on Lower Lough Erne. These historic boats were about 17 or 18 feet in length and about 5 feet wide and were propelled by oars or a Sprit sail writes Fred Ternan of Lough Erne Heritage.

They were very similar to the Drontheim used around the North coast and as far south as Donegal Bay. Drontheims would have been seen by the people from Lough Erne when trading with Ballyshannon and this may have brought about the introduction of a similar boat to Lower Lough Erne, albeit on a smaller scale than the 27-footers used on the sea.

Gradually the shape of the yawl changed to a boat with a transom which was a better load carrier and was also a little simpler to build. The Sprit sail continued to be used and clinker boats continued to be built on and around Lough Erne into the 1960s and 1970s when wood was replaced by GRP. The Sprit sail was occasionally used into the 1960s by which time outboard engines had become more reliable. Another reason for its use on the long journeys on Lower Lough Erne was economy.

The moulds he used were retained and recently the first clinker boat built to those moulds since the 1960s, approximately 50 years ago has been built by George and Fred Ternan, cousins of Douglas Tiernan and members of Lough Erne Heritage. Using memories of the build and use of those wooden boats and the moulds, this boat when completed and launched will hopefully be as capable in the waves of the large expanse of Lower Lough Erne as the boats built by Douglas.

OCC Azores Pursuit Rally
At least 36 vessels have signed up to sail to Horta on the island of Faial in the Azores this coming June to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Peter Cafe Sport. The Ocean Cruising Club and Peter Cafe Sport are working together to organize this exciting event.

Participants may start from anywhere, a minimum of 500 miles away, at any time, but the aim is to cross the finishing line as close as possible to 12 noon on 18 June 2018. This will be a light-hearted and fun event, but a major one in the 2018 OCC calendar with many land based activities scheduled for the following six days, culminating in a formal dinner and prize-giving. Members of other cruising clubs are welcome, but registration will be closed as soon as the maximum nu mber of participants is reached. Participants must have applied and paid their fees by the cut-off date for entry (30th April 2018).

A rally description is available from the Rally Organisers John Franklin & Tony Brighton. Participants are required to register, and a small rally fee will be charged. A registration form is available from the rally organisers via email. Send your request to: .

Upon arrival in Horta there will be a celebratory event and a programme of social activities. “Jose Henrique Azevedo is preparing to welcome yachtsmen with great enthusiasm, as his father Peter and grandfather Ernesto did before him. Sponsored events include a pig roast at the Castle Fort on the shore,” said Past OCC Commodore John Franklin.

The Ocean Cruising Club exists to encourage long-distance sailing in small boats. A Full Member of the OCC must have completed a qualifying voyage of a non-stop port-to-port ocean passage, where the distance between the two ports is not less than 1,000 nautical miles as measured by the shortest practical Great Circle route, as skipper or member of the crew in a vessel of not more than 70ft (21.36 m) LOA; associate members are committed to the achievement of that goal. This standard distinguishes the OCC from all other sailing clubs. It’s not about what you are or who you know, but simply what you have done that matters. Our awards seek to bring to light the accomplishments of ordinary people doing extraordinary things on the world’s oceans.

Normandy Channel Race
With a little more than three months until the start of festivities for the 9th edition of the Normandy Channel Race, the Class40 skippers are now jostling to be included on the entry list. 21 boats are already signed up for this great Anglo-Norman classic and its promise of full-on, close-contact racing both offshore and hugging the coasts of Normandy, England and Ireland. With nearly a dozen more projects being finalised as we go to press, the 2018 vintage is shaping up to be particularly promising. As has been the case since the creation in 2010 of this fine event setting sail from and finishing in Caen, it’s impossible to even attempt a wager on the podium given how evenly matched this Class40 fleet is from one edition to the next. Though the most recent boats are naturally showing great promise, the complexity and the diversity of the weather conditions encountered in the English Channel, the Celtic Sea and the Irish Sea mean that the cards are constantly being reshuffled for all the participants, guaranteeing an action-packed race, laced with upset and drama.

The 2017 edition saw Jersey-based sailor Phil Sharp (Imerys) ultimately take the crown. Since that time he has been on the search for new craft but the brilliant runner-up, Jean Galfione (Serenis Consulting), is delighted to be back to confirm his status and will this year be supported by the master sailmaker Alan Pennaneac’h.

The last edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre back in the autumn revealed the Class40’s new star players of course. Naturally our thoughts go out here to the two driving forces in the transatlantic race, V and B skippered by Maxime Sorel and Aina Enfance et Avenir skippered by Aymeric Chappelier. The two men will continue their mano a mano here in the English Channel and the Irish Sea but we’ll have to wait till the race finish to see whether the young sailor from Saint Malo will once again have the edge.

François Lassort, winner in the Vintage category, is overjoyed at the prospect of racing aboard his venerable No.42, an Akilaria built in 2006

Another much awaited return is that of Nicolas Troussel. The 2015 winner will take the start in Caen at the helm of his brand new Manuard design Corum.

In this Route du Rhum year, Guadeloupe will also be represented in style in Normandy by a fireman from nearby Les Abymes, Carl Chipotel, who will be seconded by one Sidney Gavignet, who naturally needs no introduction.

Leaving Caen on Sunday 27 May. Race Village Quai Vendeuvre.

A course spanning around 1,000 miles and taking in the English Channel and the Celtic Sea, this double-handed race starts and finishes in the City of Caen. It boasts a varied course, half of which involves a coastal course off France, England and Ireland, and the other half an offshore course in the English Channel and the Celtic Sea.

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 Eric Peltosalo:

Do the boats not have radar--that is on and watched 24/7? Why didn't VESTAS pick up the fishing boat or PLASTICS pick up SEA NYMPH? If they only use AIS, they are taking a huge chance that EVERY other vessel will be so equipped. That is rarely the case. Radar use should be mandatory when offshore at night and in limited visibility.

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The Last Word
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