An unexpected opportunity

(January 5, 2010) Bob Little has played the game of sailing at nearly every level, and would have likely been racing a Lido 14 with his kids last November if not for an unexpected phone call and opportunity. Here is his story:

It wasn’t the type of phone call a guy like me would expect on a random late October night on the way home from work. It was a message from Paul Cayard asking if I would be interested in joining him and his RC44 program ‘Katusha’ as the Helmsman in their next event called the Gold Cup in Dubai. “Interested? Dubai? Paul Cayard? Me? Helmsman? Is this for real, I thought?”

I dialed him back and learned that he needed a helmsman for the fleet racing portion of the event who is qualified as a category 1 sailor and willing to make the trip to the UAE during the entire week of the Thanksgiving holiday here in the states. It took all of two minutes to get the support of my wife “Mrs Peaches” (more on that name later), so I jumped at the opportunity.

Now… I have sailed with Paul before on John Kilroy’s Farr 40 program, so this was not a total cold call? but why me? in this amazing event 8,500+ miles from home? Let?s be fair, I am not out sailing on a daily basis these days. And as far as Paul Cayard goes, I presume I am like most other sailors… more used to reading about him sailing around the globe or keeping up on his Volvo or America’s Cup email updates rather than fielding phone calls from ‘the man’.

Anyway, on Saturday, November 21st before Thanksgiving I was off to the Dubai, passport in-hand, ground transportation instructions and a target weight for the morning after arrival crew weigh-in. Having no cell phone or email reception the next morning, I found my way down to the dock where I saw an amazing line-up of these RC44’s. The shore teams were already populating the dock that morning with work lists and projects that needed to be done. The boats are a true sailor?s machine, designed by Russell Coutts and outfitted with the best equipment and pro sailors available on the planet.

So let’s see… I am in the office Friday in Los Angeles and Monday I am standing on the dock in Dubai ?not bad. A 1:00 pm dock start for starting practice that day got things rolling quickly and I definitely felt a bit rusty getting plugged into this great team of sailors. Hopefully, I would be a quick study as I was asked to play tactician while Paul drove the match race practice drills! After starting drills I was able to get some driving time in preparation for the fleet racing series later in the week. I can tell you that these boats are as hard to drive as they are fun. If you are off the pace, guys like Marco Contant and Robbie Naismith are quick to let you know your deficiencies and keep you focused!

After a couple more days of practice, we were ready to begin the event with the match race portion starting on Wednesday. We had a great series finishing 3:1 in light and shifty conditions but were penalized for an incident causing damage which deducted a couple points from our overall match race series score. Somewhere along the line Paul had written a daily report about my nickname “peaches”, which apparently clogged his email with responses, for which I apologized to him about… “Sorry about that Mr. Cayard”.

But for those interested, approximately 24 years ago I got crossed-up with some guys named Craig Leweck, Kimo Worthington and Billy Worthington doing an IOR boat delivery from LA to San Francisco for Big Boat Series, and yes, all I brought to eat for the entire six days at sea was Del Monte canned peaches. They starved, I was fine. End of story (P.S. they also thought they were pretty cool back then).

Friday dawned, the first day of fleet racing, and I was psyched to be behind the wheel of Katusha and give it my best. The conditions remained fairly light requiring major concentration and feel for the boat. It also reminded me that on every level, sailing boils down to the basics; getting line sights, judging the wind strength for boat set-up, checking current, sailing upwind to check speed, keep your head out of the boat, look for pressure, etc. But like all competitive classes it seems the whole fleet arrives at the first mark at the same time regardless of how good you start and how smart you sail. Clear air and positioning were key and we did a good job of always being in the game with finishes of 4-9-5-6-3-7-8*-10-7-4 (the 8* representing double points for our 4th place finish in the distance race, which was a tough race and a great experience in itself).

It was great sailing with Paul and all the guys on Katusha, I was truly honored to join them in Dubai; the whole event was very organized and professionally managed on and off the water. We had such a good time and I learned a lot. Departed the UAE Monday morning after Thanksgiving and after gaining 12 hours, I arrived in LA noon the same day.

Tuesday I was back at work reflecting on what seemed like a dream. I imagined it would be akin to an amateur golfer with a real job, being invited to play a scramble at the Masters at St. Andrews with the likes of Michelson, Woods, Furyk or Westwood; and then after a week in that environment returning to the office with just the reflection of an opportunity seized… and it all started with a phone call on a late October night.

When Bob isn?t fielding dream phone calls, he is a Project Manager in the commercial real estate industry.

World Yacht Racing Forum press release and exclusive video

World Yacht Racing Forum brings light on future of the America’s Cup

Last week’s World Yacht Racing Forum America’s Cup session brought clear answers from both Alinghi and BMW ORACLE Racing. Publically united for the first time since two years, Russell Coutts and Brad Butterworth agreed on several key elements.

World Yacht Racing Forum exclusive videos: click on the links below to download and watch:

Clip 1: Brad Butterworth and Russell Coutts explain where and when – according to them – the next Cup will take place. They also discuss their views about the possibility of getting back to Court after the regatta.

WYRF 2009 – A new plan

World Yacht Racing Forum

Monte Carlo – Just leaving Monaco this morning following two days here for the World Yacht Racing Forum.

Now in its second year, the Forum is really growing into quite an event. There were two parts this year: a commercial, sports side and in another hall, running contemporaneously, a technical forum with subects ranging from composite rigging to standards for construction of racing yachts.

It is kind of a collection of who’s who in yacht racing from the designers like Juan K and Vincent Prevost to the sailors like Brad Butterworth, Russell Coutts and Michele Desjoyeaux. I participated with Russell and Brad in the forum on the America’s Cup. The tone was very friendly and there was a demontrative expression from both of the teams to get out on the water and have their race ASAP. Each team showed a very high energy video/slideshow of their extremely impressive sailing machines. The fact is that after all the frustration and ugliness of the past two years, the race between the two giant multihulls will be a special moment in our sports history and something to see.

In the midst of the Forum, a light bulb went off in my head; we may have missed a great opportunity in the past two years. Rather than just sitting around and waiting in frustration, we, the Challengers, should have taken the initiative to put forward a Protocol to resolve a lot of the problems plaguing the current match. We have a unique opportunity right now; neither Alinghi and BMW Oracle knows who will be holding the cards for the 34th America’s Cup. So this is a time where each may be more willing to agree to a “fair and independant” event managment structure. Either could find themselves on the Challenger side for 34th America’s Cup and that party would certainly want a modern and objective event organization.

So after I mentioned this idea, many people came to me and said, “Hey, that’s a great idea. Its not too late. Get to work!”

I am in Geneva today visiting Torbjorn Tornqvist, the Artemis chief, and then my friends at Rolex this afternoon. San Fran tomorrow. Anyone need some frequent flyer miles?

Nestle Brasil Match Cup

Well we wound up 1 spot off the top but still pretty good result.

We won the round robin and then had a one race final against the second place team. In the one final race, things were tight and close the whole way but we could not get past Daniel Glomb and his team. The field was pretty talented with Robert Scheidt, Torben Grael, and Xavier Rohart all competing.

I had a great 4 days down here. The people are very friendly and there is a special spirit around competitions in Brasil. They are obviously winners, Torben Grael and Robert Scheidt have a few Gold medals to prove that. But there is a relaxed happy spirit here that overlays everything. The other thing is that you are almost never late here. It is just a matter of figuring out how late is going to be on time.

I am staying here most of the day tomorrow before my flight to Monaco tomorrow night where I will participate in the World Yacht Racing Forum.

I am going to hit the outdoor gym on Ipanema Beach tomorrow morning. I know it will be cold in Europe and in SF when I get home next weekend so I am going to soak up the sun!

Complete results at www.matchcup.com.br

Nestle Brasil Match Cup

Unfortunately the wind did not cooperate today. No wind and no racing. Seems like I have been experiencing a lot of this lately.

We did manage to have the Pro Am race at the end of the day. We took four boats out, loaded with Nestle guests, and had a race that started and finished right in the inner harbor in front of the Yacht Club de Rio. It was about as exciting as we could make it in 5 knots of wind. They seemed to enjoy it so that’s what matters.

Tomorrow is the last day of the racing so we are hoping for wind. It looks like the bad weather is clearing out so I am optimistic.

Complete results at www.matchcup.com.br

Nestle Brasil Match Cup

It was a rainy, blustery day in Rio today, but pretty tropical conditions. You could even say down right miserable.

Still a lot of racing took place. We on Team Cayard had a great day winning all four of our matches. We led all the way around in three of the matches. In the most exciting one, we trailed Joao Signorini and his team all the way around the course. But we kept it close, kept the pressure on them and took the lead in the final 100 meters.

The only other team that is undefeated is Daniel Glomb’s, they are 5-0. We will race them tomorrow.

Tomorrow we should finish up the round robin at which point the top four teams will go into the semi-finals.

The forecast is for this cold front to still be in place tomorrow so more rain is likely.

For complete results go to www.matchcup.com.br

Nestle Brasil Match Cup

I am in Rio for the 7th annual Nestle Brasil Match Cup 2009 today through Sunday. It is pretty local but that is not to say it is not competitive. Amongst the competitors is Torben Grael, five time Olympic medalist and Star World Champion as well as, Robert Scheidt four time Olympic Medalist and Star World Champion and Xavier Rohart from France who is a two time Star World Champion and Bronze medalist from 2004. There are a many good local young sailors keen to beat one of the guys with all these titles.

After a press conference this morning, the teams went out for about 2 hours of training in the boats. At 1500 the flights started. There is a small fleet race component to this event and that is what they started with for the first four competitors.

There are 4 boats, but 8 competitors so we don’t all race all the time. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t get to race today as our first race is in the fourth flight and the race committee only got 2 flights in before the wind died. There is a womens division in the regatta and they sail in J-24’s, while the men race in Bennetau First 40.7’s.

My crew is a bunch of Star sailing friends and two young Brazilian kids. Ross MacDonald and his wife Marcia (a former 470 and Europe dinghy Olympian for Brazil), Flavio Marazzi and his crew Enrico de Maria (who finished 4th in Athens in 04). Then we have the two kids, Lucas Brun (son of Gastoa and nephew of Vince) who was part of the ABN Amro youth team in the 2006 Volvo Ocean Race and Thomas Low-Beer who is an up and coming 470 sailor for Brazil in 2012 and an engineering student here in Rio.

I started out my day today at 0600 with a run down Ipanema Beach. I found the most beautiful gym in the world. It is outdoor and on the beach. I am going tomorrow and will take pictures. Now I am off to my friend Alan Adler’s house for a Bar-B-Q. Alan is another Star World Champ. There are 6 of us down here in this regatta! Alan is the promoter of this event and has another event this weekend in Sao Paolo with Maria Sharapova.

For complete results go to www.matchcup.com.br

Bitter End Yacht Club, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands

We had three races this morning to finish off the round robin part of the Pro Am. Ken Read and I were tied this morning on 5 wins each. We got to 6 wins each and it boiled down to the last race. He and his crew did a better job and won the round robin 7 to 6 over us. Anna Tunnicliffe had a good morning winning a couple of points and so she finished up third. Since I have to fly to Nice tomorrow, Anna will race Ken in the finals.

I went snorkeling this afternoon with a nice group of people. We had a great captain whom I have known for a few years down here, his name is Kinto. We hit three good spots including Richard Branson’s Necker Island. I love to see all the little blue and yellow fish. It makes me want to have a salt water tank in my house.

The photo of the day is me launching off the beach here before the beer can race last night.

I am out of here at 0645 tomorrow so I will take it easy tonight and get some sleep. I have a long treck to Nice (France) tomorrow and when I get there I have to be “on”. I land at 1000 Saturday and I am racing with the Artemis team in the afternoon. We, Artemis, are competing in the Louis Vuitton Trophy. The Louis Vuitton Trophy is a match racing regatta using the 2007 America’s Cup boats. There are 8 teams competing including BMW Oracle and Emirates Team New Zealand. The event lasts two weeks and I will write updates each day.

Singing off from the Bitter End. Sad to do so but all good things must come to an end. Thanks so much to the Bitter End staff and the great crews I have had the pleasure of sailing with this week.

Bitter End Yacht Club, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands

Lay Day in Paradise

No racing today at the Bitter End Pro Am. This was not due to lack of wind or too much wind or any court order. Just a day off to enjoy the place!

I got up at 6 with Allie who had an early ferry to catch to get back to California and school. After she left, I did my pull up, sit up, push up routine, then went for a nice swim. After breakfast I did a little work. I know…a cardinal sin. Then I took a nap before lunch. This is something I never do. The a salad and a long Laser sail around the sound. Then I joined in the local beer can racing. Now I am at dinner at the Carvery which is my favorite restaurant here. Tonight is a wine tasting evening sponsored by Fosters Wine Group. Aussie stuff but very good none the less.

A large contingent went out to Anegada for lobster, etc. Others went snorkeling. It is hard to have a bad time down here.

Tomorrow, racing resumes at 1000 with the conclusion of the round robin.

Tom Leweck, the original Curmudgeon, is down here with his lovely wife Barbara, and wanted me to tell you all that he will not be filing a report today. He is taking the whole day off.

If you can’t tell, my batteries are getting recharged.