Archive for » August 14th, 2013«

Oracle’s Ellison Defends ‘Risky’ Tactics In America’s Cup

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS News) — Oracle CEO Larry Ellison is leading and sponsoring the American sailing team in the 2013 America’s Cup competition. The Oracle team won the last race and as such, Ellison was able to choose this year’s location, the San Francisco Bay. The Oracle Team also got to design the boats and set many of the rules.

“We’re competing with other sports to get kids attention. We’ve got to make our sport exciting and we’ve got to modernize it. … It can’t be unchanged since 1851,” Ellison told CBS News about his efforts to update the sport.

Today’s America’s Cup yachts are carbon fiber catamarans propelled by a 13-story rigid wing. The teams have the ability to fly the entire boat out of the water on small feet, in a dramatic-looking tactic known as foiling.

The new, cutting-edge boats are not without criticism and Ellison defends what some call risky engineering and sailing tactics, explaining, “People really criticize professional athletes going into the Olympics. People don’t like change. A bunch of people don’t like the Olympics now because we’ve added skateboarding. … We’re modernizing the sport.”

Modernization has been a pricey process — the estimated cost to mount an America’s Cup campaign in 2013 is over $100 million. And controversy has continued to swirl around Ellison’s envelope-pushing ways after several instances of boats capsizing on the San Francisco Bay.

Oracle Team USA capsized one of its boats last October, but no one was hurt. Tragedy struck one of Oracle’s competitors however. British sailor Andrew Simpson, 36 — nicknamed Bart — was trapped under the wreckage of a crash while racing with the Swedish team Artemis Racing, and died.

“The accident that we had on the Swedish boat was a freak accident,” Ellison said, explaining, “There was actually a structural failure on the boat. … The boat flipped over and Bart Simpson was actually trapped between the two hulls. And we couldn’t find him for seven minutes. We had divers in the water 30 seconds after that boat flipped over. We’ve taken, you know, lots of safety precautions.”

While Ellison said Simpson’s death had a profound personal impact on him, he maintains the sport has not gotten too dangerous.

“I thought about it. … I think we’ve made the right decision. I think to make this sport an economically viable sport, we have to have fast, modern boats. It has to be a popular TV sport. It has to be attractive to be kids. … It has to be a little bit risky.”

(© 2013 CBS San Francisco and CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Puffin Boats builds more than dinghies at Hampden marina

HAMPDEN, Maine — Hamlin’s Marine General Manager Dan Higgins was looking to hire a salesman late last year when a friend introduced him to a man whose family was in the boat building business.

Higgins wound up not only hiring Josh Cottrell, he also formed a new company and bought the rights, molds and tooling for the Puffin dinghies that Cottrell’s father, Dale Cottrell, designed and began making in the mid-1980s.

“It was designed as a tender for sailboats,” Josh Cottrell said of the Puffins, which were Frankfort Boat Works’ trademark fiberglass dinghies. Although primarily still used as tenders, or small boats used to transport passengers of larger boats to and from shore, dinghies are being used more and more on lakes and ponds, he noted.

The new company, called Puffin Boats LLC, has been building the small boats out of a workshop at the Hamlin’s Marine facility on the Penobscot River in Hampden since February.

“They used to sell about up to 300 units a year at peak production,” Higgins said of the Cottrell family business’s output, estimating that there are roughly 3,000 Puffins around the globe. About 45 Puffins were manufactured during the fledgling Hampden operation’s first four months.

“We’re just beginning. We’re going to be ramping up production,” he said.

Puffins come in two versions, the Utility Series and the Conservation Series, the latter of which is a special edition sailboat and rowing line, according to the company’s website.

The Utility Series boats come in 7½-, 8½- and 10½-foot lengths and can be rigged with oars, a small outboard motor or a sail package. Those models ranged in cost from $999 for a basic 7½-foot dinghy to $3,301 for a 10½-foot sailboat setup, according to prices listed by Hamilton Marine, part of the company’s small but growing network of retailers.

The Conservation Series, which come in the 10½-foot size, have upgrades that include varnished oak rails and breastplates, puffin-themed orange, black and white argyle vinyl wrap and a contrasting gray interior gelcoat finish.

The special edition sail models, listed at $4,299 on Hamilton Marine’s website, feature a custom black sail with orange stitching. For each Conservation Series boat sold, Puffin Boats adopts a puffin on the buyer’s behalf through Project Puffin.

In a recent interview at the company’s facilities on U.S. Route 1A, known as Main Road North in Hampden, Higgins said the latest addition to the family business could be part of the solution to the seasonal peaks and valleys inherent to the boat sales and servicing business.

“We’ve grown rapidly as a boat dealership with sales but our challenge is the fact that we sell boats, which means there is a very small window [of opportunity for sales and service],” Higgins said. “The challenge is when you have year round employees, you have times where you could use twice as many employees and times where you need half the employees, so it’s about balancing and diversifying.

“The reason that we took on this new opportunity was to create some diversity and to try to take out that seasonal curve, to keep better people and employ more skilled workers, pay better wages,” he said. “Really it’s just trying to make the business less seasonal for our employees and having our employees productive throughout the whole year so that we can keep better employees and have quality jobs. And hopefully make a profitable business some day.”

Hamlin’s Marine acquired the marina on the Penobscot River in Hampden in 2006 and the first several years were lean, he said. Business, however, really took off in 2011, when the company opened its showroom on busy U.S. Route 1A. Since then, the company’s workforce has tripled to 15, he said.

“We have two people dedicated to building the boats now and we anticipate that we will grow in the future,” Higgins said.

“One of the big things is that this spring, we partnered with [Bangor YMCA Wilderness Center at] Camp Jordan. We built them three new puffin sailing trainers and donated an Achilles, which is [serving as] an instructor boat and a lifeboat. We anticipate that we will do more building for summer camps and sailing instruction,” Higgins said.

Director Emerald Russell said Camp Jordan was thrilled to receive the boats, which replaced a fleet of six sailboats of varying size, age and quality — some too small to hold instructors and students. Ninety campers underwent sailing instruction over the course of this summer, she said.

“The Puffins are perfect,” she said. “They’re the perfect size and now everyone gets to learn on the same [style of] boats. It made a huge impact on our sailing program. We’re able to teach many more kids to sail. [Hamlin’s Marine is] just the definition of community.”

Puffins, however, might be just the beginning of a new chapter of the business Higgins’ wife Katie’s parents, Dave and Chris Hamlin, founded in 1984. He now is working to take diversification a step farther with plans to use Puffins as the basis for a new niche product: cottage furniture.

“My daughter is 3 and she needs a new bed,” Higgins said when asked how he came up with the concept. “She’s outgrown her crib and I looked at the 8½ foot boat and said, ‘That could be a bed.’ And I said ‘Would you like to have this as a bed and she got so excited. She started saying we need to make a canopy for the boat and we need to put lights on the boat and we need a reading light.” He said Cottrell, who is a carpenter, drew up some patterns.

“We found very quickly that this is a viable piece of furniture for a toddler bed,” he said.

“We went to McLaughlin’s [at the Marina] and saw they had a wine rack but it wasn’t a nice looking wine rack,” Higgins continued. “We said it would be really nice to have a Puffin wine rack and they agreed, so they’re going to have us build a Puffin wine rack to store their wine.

“I did some research and there are companies that just sell furniture for Maine cottages and camps with a nautical theme. So it was very easy to quickly look at the same boat and see it converted into a shelf or a TV stand or even a coffee table,” he said. “So we’re going to begin with the toddler bed, the wine rack, the shelf and the TV stand. They’re fairly simple.”

“Now that we’ve gotten through the bulk of our orders, we’re going to continue to build up our stock and then we’re going to build this furniture as sort of a test market. We’ll sell those direct, either on our website or in our stores, initially, to see if there is a market, “ Higgins said.

“We want to continue to manufacture fiberglass boats,” Higgins said. “Puffin’s the first step. If there are other companies in the area who want to outsource [fiberglass boat work], we are interested.

“For our own needs, I think once you get into it it’s hard to stop. I think there are some boats we’ve got in the back of our minds that we want to look at doing. Once you have the process down, it’s not too difficult to think larger because the process is what’s important — and getting the right people in place,” Higgins said.

Justin Hess of Orland and Justin Sass of Hampden are the right people, Higgins said.

Hess, who grew up in northern Vermont, summered in Bar Harbor as a child.

“I always knew I was going to come back to Maine and that’s what I did — I came back, got married and bought a home,” Hess said last month. After living in Alaska and several years working as a chef, he landed a job making Puffins.

“I’m building boats now, thank God. This was a savior. I was really lucky to fall into this. They weren’t advertising this. It was a friend of a friend who knew [Higgins]. I had never met him. I heard that they needed help and I came in. I was real fortunate.”

Sass said he worked for a large boat company early on in his career and dabbled in his own work for awhile before he was hired by Higgins.

“Once the process is [perfected], we should be able to produce a boat a day,” Sass said. “So our plan this winter is to stock them, to start warehousing … It’s what we need, some more diversity. And then to start making these into furniture and head in that direction, you know, this is going to be a very nice thing for everybody.”

After seven years on Hampden’s waterfront, Higgins likes what he’s seeing.

“Over the last two years, the waterfront has become sort of a community center and it’s pretty neat to watch because I always knew that it would be,” he said. “It took time for everybody to realize it was there and how nice the river’s become.”

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Vermont sailing barge may be model for carbon-free shipping

The 39-foot Ceres – built by volunteers – is an update on the type of cargo vessels that once plied inland waterways throughout the northeastern US.


Mat McDermottYale Environment 360 /
August 14, 2013

A sailing ship designed to replicate the vessel of explorer Ponce de Leon, who explored Florida in 1513, is seen near the port of Miami in April 2013. In Vermont, a group of volunteers is building the Ceres, a sailing ship that would carry cargo up and down the Hudson River using only wind power, returning to the days of sail-powered commerce.

Andrew Innerarity/Reuters/File


This week a new sailing barge was launched on Lake Champlain that its backers hope will soon be in the vanguard of a new carbon-neutral shipping alternative. The 39-foot Ceres — built by volunteers from the Vermont Sail Freight Project and farmer Erik Andrus — is an update on the type of cargo vessels that once plied the inland waterways throughout the northeastern US. Like them, the Ceres will sail without any sort of motorized assistance.

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With the Ceres, the Vermont Sail Freight Project, which is supported by the nonprofit Willowell Foundation, hopes to prove that carbon-neutral boats can be a viable shipping method for the 21st century, connecting small-scale farmers in Vermont and upstate New York with customers along the Hudson River south to New York City — all while reducing the substantial greenhouse gas emissions that come from conventional shipping of produce, which is dominated in the region by trucks.

For the next few weeks, the Ceres — which consists of a flat-bottomed plywood box hull covered in fiberglass and a rig borrowed from traditional English Thames barges — will undergo testing on Lake Champlain. If all goes as planned, this fall it will begin its 300-mile maiden voyage down the Hudson to New York, delivering pre-ordered shelf-stable produce to customers along the route.


10 organizations that protect the environment

With no refrigerator onboard, the Ceres will have to carry goods that will last the approximately 10-day trip without losing quality. Grains, dry beans, preserves, onions, squash, and potatoes will make the trip. Without a fixed sailing schedule, customers will learn their orders are approaching by phone, text, or email.

Though a blip on the transportation radar, the Vermont Sail Freight Project (VSFP) is one of a growing number of efforts to revive sail-powered transport in connection with sustainable agriculture, in both the United States and Europe.

There’s the Dragonfly Sail Transport Company, which delivers produce to shore communities along northern Lake Michigan; Washington State has the Salish Sea Trading Cooperative, delivering locally grown produce around Puget Sound; the Island Market Boat serves customers in Maine, bringing produce dockside and selling directly to customers as a sort-of floating farmer’s market. In New York City, HARVEST envisions something similar to the VSFP, hoping one day to develop a fleet of the sort of small vessels that once delivered produce and fish in New York and New Jersey.

Taking sail-based trade to another level entirely is the 105-foot brigantine Tres Hombres, now sailing a regular route between northern Europe, islands in the Atlantic and Caribbean, and North America, carrying rum, chocolate, and other freight. And efforts are under way to establish a Fair Transport eco-label, which would assure that goods bearing the mark would have a carbon-emissions reduction of 90 percent, compared to fossil-fuel-shipped maritime cargo.


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Operating on a shoestring budget, VSFP’s Ceres is clearly a demonstration project at this point, rather than a commercial venture. In the future, however, several voyages a year are possible — the goal being, eventually, to form a producer-owned shipping and marketing cooperative.

“I think people really get the project right away,” Hannah Mueller, Willowell’s administrative director, says. “People from all different economic and political backgrounds understand why you’d want to have carbon-neutral trade and local food combined in this way.”

It’s an understatement to say that a huge transformation in infrastructure, habits, and expectations would be required for this sort of vision and distribution model to expand beyond the niche or boutique pilot project state. However, in VSFP and the proposed trading model of which it is part, it’s possible to start visualizing what an ecologically sustainable low-carbon economy might look like — a combination of traditional knowledge revived, mixed with a dose of high-tech communication, tailored to specific regional needs.

 • Mat McDermott writes about environmental issues for a variety of print and online publications, including Motherboard, Earthtechling, Hinduism Today, and Dark Rye.

This article originally appeared at Yale Environment 360, a publication of the Yale School of Forestry Environmental Studies.

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Henry County boat dealer named top Ranger store in the nation

Where’s the top Ranger boat dealer in the country?

Henry County.

It’s hard to believe but the owners at Angler’s Choice on route 58 outside Martinsville say it makes perfect sense.

The company got the recognition for being the number one dealer in single market sales at the national Ranger Boat conference in Arkansas.

It means this store has better sells than any other Ranger boat dealer in the nation including stores along the coast and in bigger cities.

The owner credits his marketing and sales departments for reaching out beyond Southern Virginia.

“We do a lot of business in used boats as well. We reach out quite a bit of ways from here. Martinsville is not our only source of our business,” said co-owner Nick Loganadan.

Ranger Boats staff looks at customer service, how many boats the store orders and how many it sells in order to get the recognition.

Angler’s Choice also got the award in 2009.

Check out the store’s website at

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New Zealand Cup boss accuses Oracle of cheating

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The head of America’s Cup challenger Emirates Team New Zealand accused defending champion Oracle Team USA of cheating in the latest controversy in sailing’s premier regatta.

”You can’t actually get to any other point than the fact they were cheating,” Emirates Team New Zealand managing director Grant Dalton told the San Francisco Chronicle on Tuesday. ”I think it’s really serious.”

Oracle Racing last week admitted it modified its boats without permission of the Measurement Committee during four regattas in the America’s Cup World Series, a warm-up to this year’s regatta. Those regattas were sailed in 45-foot catamarans, which were prototypes of the 72-foot catamarans being sailed this summer in the Louis Vuitton Cup and then the America’s Cup match.

The international jury is investigating and could punish Oracle with a fine, forfeiture of races or disqualification from the America’s Cup. Any punishment would be another smudge on already troubled regatta.

The best-of-17 America’s Cup match begins Sept. 7 between Oracle and the winner of the Louis Vuitton Cup for challengers. Emirates Team New Zealand faces Italy’s Luna Rossa in the best-of-13 Louis Vuitton Cup final starting Saturday.

Oracle and regatta officials didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Oracle Team USA CEO Russell Coutts admitted last week that someone with the syndicate illegally placed weights in the bows of all three of its 45-foot catamarans during the America’s Cup World Series, without the knowledge of management. One of the boats was loaned to British Olympic star Ben Ainslie, who is sailing with Oracle Team USA this summer.

Coutts said it was ”a ridiculous mistake” because the weights ”didn’t affect the performance.”

Oracle forfeited its victories in four ACWS regattas and its two overall season championships.

”The modifications appear to be an intentional effort to circumvent the limitations of the 45 class rule,” the America’s Cup Measurement Committee said In a report to regatta director Iain Murray.

Dalton disputed Coutts’ contention that the weights didn’t affect the boats’ performance.

”Why would you actually do it, if it didn’t make a difference?” Dalton said in an interview with The Chronicle. ”Properly placed extra weight does improve the performance of the boat. Because of the design, you like the weight forward. You put one guy really far forward to keep the bow in the water.”

He called Coutts’ insistence that management didn’t know about the placement of the weights ”complete nonsense.” He said he felt Oracle was trying to ”snow” people with its explanations.

”It’s inconceivable that a shore crew member woke up one morning and decided it was a good idea – that management would think it was a good idea – that to make the boat faster you would put some weight in the boat, and then you’d come in to work one day and do it,” Dalton said.

He said if someone were to add weights or move them around on a Team New Zealand boat, the team would run tests to see if it would help performance. He didn’t buy the idea that rogue employees committed violations on their own at Oracle.

The violations were not discovered until July 26, when the boats were tested in preparation of the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup later this month.

Earlier this year, Dalton criticized Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison, who owns Oracle Team USA, for offering a grand vision of the America’s Cup that has failed to materialize. While Ellison and other organizers once projected a dozen or so challengers, only three made it to the trials, mostly because of the steep cost of running a campaign.

One of those challengers, Artemis Racing, suffered a crippling blow when its first catamaran capsized on May 9, killing crewman Andrew ”Bart” Simpson and destroying the boat. Artemis missed the Louis Vuitton Cup round-robins and was swept in four races by Luna Rossa in the semifinals.

Dalton didn’t accuse Coutts personally.

”I can only say that there’s a management failure,” he said.

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