Archive for » September 8th, 2013«

trn/irs sailing gdrace

Team New Zealand’s hoping to sail even faster in this morning’s two America’s Cup finals races.

The Kiwi syndicate heads into today’s races two points up over Oracle in San Francisco.

But, boss Grant Dalton says there’s no time for complacency.

“Every race is going to be really hard.

“The thing is with these boats is that they’re going so fast that a little gap can appear to be quite a lot, but it’s not really.”

Dalton says distances between the two boats are actually a lot tighter than how it looks.

“So although it seemed a lot in the second race it could have easily gone the other way.

“But I thought we had pretty good pace up wind and I know that that’s going to be really important.”

Commentator Peter Montgomery says while there was not much between the boats on day one, the Team New Zealand crew looked sharper than Oracle.

Team New Zealand insists it’s too early on to decide who has the fastest boat in the America’s Cup finals series.

Skipper Dean Barker says yesterday’s tense racing proved neither syndicate can afford to miss a beat.

“I think what we will be seeing is two boats which are very close in performance downwind.

“The first race was just unbelievable, really close. We’ve just got to keep the hammer down.”

The first of today’s races begins at 8:15.

The forecast for this morning is for a westerly wind of 14 to 19 knots this morning.

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Sebastopol man teaches the healing power of sailing

Army veteran Cristina Baggese straightens the flag as she sails with Transformational Sailing in San Francisco Bay near Sausalito, Calif., aboard a 42-foot sloop named the Amakua, which means spirit in Hawaiian, on August 25, 2013. (Alvin Jornada / For The Press Democrat)

Army veteran Cristina Baggese straightens the flag as she sails with Transformational Sailing in San Francisco Bay near Sausalito, Calif., aboard a 42-foot sloop named the Amakua, which means “spirit” in Hawaiian, on August 25, 2013. (Alvin Jornada / For The Press Democrat)

By Andrea Granahan

The sun shone but patches of Pacific fog were scattered over San Francisco Bay, sometimes obscuring parts of the Golden Gate Bridge, sometimes making sailboats fade away. A small marina at the farthest reach of Fort Baker sheltered a collection of boats, mostly sailboats.

Tim Blair, 58, from Sebastopol, and his volunteer crewmate from the Presidio Yacht Club, B Carpenter, unwrapped the sails and readied the 42 foot sloop, Amakua (“spirit” in Hawaiian) for an afternoon on the bay.

Blair is the director, and heart and soul of Transformational Sailing, a group that uses the healing power of wind, sea and sky to help veterans and cancer patients.

Blair is a former counselor who studied clinical bio-feedback and stress management in college and worked in the former Evergreen Institute in Seattle. He returned to his native California, did some graduate work in counseling, and interned in San Bruno. He left the field to restore boats, and work in green construction. He is now returning to his first career, currently re-entering graduate school, intending to use his work at Transformational Sailing in his thesis. He is a firm believer in Ecopsychology which stresses the importance of man’s relationship to nature as a basis for mental health.

Crewmember B. Carpenter helps boat captain Tim Blair clean up the 42-foot sloop after sailing in San Francisco Bay near Sausalito, Calif., on August 25, 2013. (Alvin Jornada / For The Press Democrat)

Crewmember B. Carpenter helps boat captain Tim Blair clean up the 42-foot sloop after sailing in San Francisco Bay near Sausalito, Calif., on August 25, 2013. (Alvin Jornada / For The Press Democrat)

Transformational Sailing is a project of the Marin Boating Council, a non-profit in San Francisco but TS works primarily with Vet Connect in Santa Rosa where Blair offers the sailing experience to any vet, and especially seeks to provide it for those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

On this trip, no one is a wounded or especially stressed, and no one has cancer,  but Blair makes sailing available to any vet.

Lou Charette, a retired Air Force veteran, Cristina Baggese, a recently discharged US Army veteran now attending college, and 83 year old Harold Goldman, former US Navy vet who is a regular volunteer on the vessel pitched in to help.

“I saw it was available when I went to Vet Connect,” said Baggese, who had been a US Army cook. She was a victim of abuse when she joined the Army. “I did it because it was a way to get away from home and to go to college. A lot of my colleagues ran into sexual abuse in the Army. I managed to steer clear.”

The first time she takes the helm she is clearly excited to realize she is able to control the Amakua.

Lou Charette, seemed to have a hard time getting around when he first boarded, but was determined to do his share on the boat. Maggie Fries who sits on the TS advisory board used to do fund raising for ocean conservation groups. She is a professional realtor. After meeting Blair, she decided she liked what he does. She began volunteering, running a TS table every week at Vet Connect in Santa Rosa. There she met many vets having problems getting their cases processed, struggling to pay medical bills while they waited, and not able to get their housing vouchers from the government even though they were entitled to it.

Veterans Harold Goldman, left, and Cristina Baggese enjoy a sailing San Francisco Bay with Transformational Sailing, which provides sailing trips for veterans and their families, near Sausalito, Calif., on August 25, 2013. (Alvin Jornada / For The Press Democrat)

Veterans Harold Goldman, left, and Cristina Baggese enjoy a sailing San Francisco Bay with Transformational Sailing, which provides sailing trips for veterans and their families, near Sausalito, Calif., on August 25, 2013. (Alvin Jornada / For The Press Democrat)

“It’s a shame the way we treat our veterans, who have served us to protect what we do. I love what Tim does for them. I wish we were all better at fundraising for this,” Fries said. She pointed to Harold. “I have seen him grow young right in front of me since he started sailing. We keep forgetting he is 83. He decided to volunteer and help other vets as well. He is working on improving the web site, and he can sail the boat.”

A friend of Blair’s who knows how to sail and can help, has joined the group with two more women who are novices.

We left the harbor under motor power, but the instant the motor was cut off, just past the breakwater, the only sounds were of water lapping against the hull, distant crying gulls, and the wind occasionally rustling the sails.

At this point, Blair is trying to get the word out to counselors dealing with vets’ issues so they can incorporate it into their coaching. He does not offer follow up counseling himself at this point. He provides the experience as often as a vet wants to utilize it.

Rob Giedl is a US Navy veteran who found Transformational Sailing, truly transformational in his life. “When I left the service things began spiraling down. I lost parents, friends, pets. My marriage broke up. Then I got very sick from a service related virus and I spent a year in hospitals. I became completely reclusive and didn’t talk to anybody.

“I was in counseling, but then I ran into Tim and a porthole opened up in my life. Sailing changed my life. I didn’t have a clue how much of ‘me’ had slipped away into some cold stoic place. If one forgets who they are (which I did) they can forget their worth as a human being. I don’t think I could have found better therapy.”

Geidl went out three times a month. “I began talking to people. Sailing was military but with forgiving civilians. I finally actually wanted a social life again. I have even taken up dancing. For those who can use it like me it is a godsend. For those who don’t it’s just a lot of fun.”

Army veteran Cristina Baggese enjoys a sailing trip aboard Transformational Sailing's 42-foot sloop near Sausalito, Calif., on August 25, 2013. (Alvin Jornada / For The Press Democrat)

Army veteran Cristina Baggese enjoys a sailing trip aboard Transformational Sailing’s 42-foot sloop near Sausalito, Calif., on August 25, 2013. (Alvin Jornada / For The Press Democrat)

Blair began his love affair with the sea at 9, when he sailed his own dinghy on Long Island Sound.

“My dad and two friends had a boat and were terrible sailors. Whenever my father didn’t know what he was doing, he’d start yelling at the family. He almost wrecked us once,” recalled Blair, but the family dynamic couldn’t kill of his love of sailing. “When I was alone it was a totally different experience.”

Blair never yells on his boat, and he is eager to let people have a turn at the helm to get a feel for the wind and the sails. He has found that traumatized people begin to feel empowered when they realize they can exercise control over the boat by working with the wind.

Jessica Piazza, who founded Military Stress and Recovery Project in Santa Rosa operating out of Vet Connect, and is familiar with veterans’ PTSD problems,  said, “It’s like the work some do with the vets with horses – it’s a similar concept. PTSD vets get very isolated. That kind of experience builds security and trust. It helps them move through their blocks. So many vets are marginalized and are low income, some even homeless. Money and housing are problems. To be offered an opportunity to be on a boat, to directly experience nature, is a gift.”

Dr. Thomas Dogherty of Sustainable Self, a clinic in Portland, OR, specializes in ecopsychology. “This is part of a worldwide trend for dealing with veterans, especially combat veterans. High adrenaline outdoor activities reduce stress. The comraderie mimics that of combat but positively in a sfae environment. It is more acceptable to many male veterans than talk therapy which they can resist. They have used surfing with British vets, and white water rafting is also something that works well. After combat, which changes someone’s nervous system, life can seem flat, and a an emotional numbing sets in. Sailing, surfing, rafting requires that you be attuned to what’s going on, and you no longer focus on yourself.”

“Sailing is not a rich man’s sport,” Blair said. “There are lots of ways and programs to get on the water, like Call of Sea, a non-profit for youths or the Sea Scouts. Almost any yacht club has a way for people who can’t afford boats to get on the water. I once lived on this boat for two years. I am proof you don’t have to be rich to sail.”

Two years ago he made six trips over a few months with Concord Veterans Center and that’s when he realized the therapeutic affect it could have on veterans suffering from PTSD when the vets themselves began telling him about it. He formed TS in 2002, becoming dedicated to helping vets

“It takes them out of their shell. It allows them to get back into their bodies, to get with the here and now,” Blair said.

A trip with a friend who brought along a woman in Stage IV cancer made Blair realize how powerful the experience was for those facing life and death issues – another form of psychological trauma.

Blair’s friend called to tell him later that the cancer patient talked about her day on the water every day up until the day she died, recalling it with intense pleasure.

“At sea it is so basic. It is you and nature.

“It slows you down. You feel the motion of the boat. It’s a kinetic experience,” Blair explained. “Combined with peer counseling and support it is powerful because it is so life affirming to just be with the sea, the sky and the wind. It gives someone the desire to live fully again.”

Blair began getting referrals of cancer patients from Marin General Hospital through a friend who worked there with oncology patients, and through word of mouth.

“It was a one-man operation, and I was doing about one trip a month,” said Blair. Then he discovered Vet Connect in Santa Rosa. Now he tries to go out most weekends.

“Vet Connect is a great demonstration of the best of Sonoma County. People have great hearts and want to give back to the community. This last year I made 17 trips with veterans, including women veterans who had been sexually abused and were very traumatized,” he said.

The Amakua skimmed across the bay, past a boat with young people practicing a man overboard operation. They know Blair, wave to us all, then come up close to take a picture. We return the favor and Blair and the other captain promise to post them online.

“That’s the Blue Water Foundation that takes youngsters to sea. In the future, I’d like to work with an existing non-profit that helps high risk kids and give them the experience, too. Hands-on learning has so much greater an impact that books or digital learning. When a kid takes the helm it is very empowering. I’d love to combine that with trips with the vets. The kids could learn so much from them.”

Lou Charette definitely perked up on this trip and seemed to have become much more agile. He can’t stop grinning.

It is clearly a great passion for Blair to share sailing with people who could benefit from such a direct encounter with nature. Future plans for TS include extending sailing to first responders who often suffer from PTSD, and to other counselors so they can learn first-hand just how much powerful healing wind and sea can deliver.

His tanned and weather beaten face broke into a smile, “It’s amazing how getting on the water makes your senses come alive.”

You can learn more, see sailing videos with veterans, and make a donation at TS is supported entirely by private donations. The vets are not charged anything. TS has a table at Vet Connect every Tuesday at the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building from 9 a.m. to noon where vets can sign up for trips.

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On the water

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As the summer winds down, boaters on the Kanawha River and other waterways are looking to capitalize on what good days are left, after what some marine business owners called a disappointing season.

Some business along the rivers did well. But a rainy summer caused high water levels, which increased the amount of debris in water and reducing boaters’ vision in the water.

Between April 1 and Sept. 1 this year, Charleston had 24.84 inches of rainfall, compared to 17.61 inches of rainfall during the same time last year, according the National Weather Service in Charleston.

“It didn’t work out as well as we’d like for it to,” said Riley Brothers, president and general manger of Charleston Marina.

“We had some nice hot weather, which we like, but the issue seemed to be the weekends,” he said. “Weekends seemed to be the time the river was up or it was raining.”

Charleston Marina provides in water storage, building storage, parts and service assistance and accessories. Brothers said the goal is to be a one-stop marina.

“Although sales have been good people haven’t been able to user their boats much this year as they have in the past,” Brothers said. “It can rain everyday between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., we’ve got to have rain. Ideally, just so it doesn’t rain on the weekends.”

Charleston Marina carries Sea Ray cruisers and runabout boats, as well as Bennington pontoon boats. They have some cruisers that are more than $200,000, and some that are $40,000. Their pontoons range from $20,000 to $100,000.

Brothers saw an increase in boat sales from last year. They sold what small cruisers they had in stock and have not received new ones. At this point, Brothers said they still have 31- to 32-foot cruisers in stock. The store maintains a variety of roundabout boats ranging from 19 feet to 26 feet.

Because of the wide variety of types of boats and varying price range, setting definitive sales goals remains tricky.

“We set a budget and we’ve got to sell so many hundred thousand worth of pontoon boats,” Brothers said. “We’ll say our target is maybe 10 of the $25,000 ones, 10 of the $35,000 ones and so on to come up with that goal.”

Their consistent customer base comes from people who purchased boats from Charleston Marina. Brothers said they are careful to make sure those customers have their boats serviced in a timely manner.

“We’re constantly asked to work on boats,” he said. “Frankly, this year the demand hasn’t been as strong as it has other years because people haven’t boated as much.”

Nearby river is Trojan Landing. In the past three summers, business has expanded.

“The boat sales side was a whole new section of this business,” said Homer Graham, sales representative at Trojan. “They opened this about eight years ago and the function was dry stack storage, which is a unique thing in this area.”

Graham said Trojan Landing offers the only dry stack storage center in the state. If someone buys a boat from Trojan, then they have a storage place in the building where their boat stays.

When people want to ride, all they need to do is call and their boat will be moved via forklift from storage to the water. When boaters arrive, keys are in the boat.

This option allows people to boat solo. Loading and unloading boats onto to trailers for traveling takes two people.

“We have single women who come by themselves as well as single men,” said Graham. “They’ll come get their boat, go for a ride and when it’s over they drop their keys in the mailbox and go home. No sweat.”

Since carrying the Chaparral line, they have sold about 25 new boats. In the last three years, they sold about 105 new and used boats all together.

“It’s done pretty well for us,” said Philip Mullins, who’s worked at Trojan for about six years. He added the storage facility really helps the resell value of boats by about 15 percent.

Graham agreed, “As odd as it may seem, water and sunshine are kind of the enemy of your boat. If it’s in our building, in the shade, high and dry, it lives longer.”

Technology has helped Trojan Landing reach customers farther away.

“What’s really doing well for us is online sales,” Mullins said.

Right now, though, the boating business is gearing up for winter.

“These boats are water cooled like a car motor,” Mullins said. “We’ve got to get all the water out of your engine block or else water freezes and expands, and that’s not food for the inside of your motor.”

Last year they winterized about 250 boats. From start to finish, smaller boats take about two days to do a full service winterization. Bigger boats take about three to four days.

Both Charleston Marina and Trojan Landing provide boat transportation. Mullins said more people kept their boats at places like Summersville Lake, where water levels are more consistent, this year.

Mullins and Graham would like to see more local boating events like Live on the Levee.

“Before fuel became so expensive people would gather in groups and take trips up the Ohio River for a weekend,” Graham said. “That doesn’t happen so much anymore. Boaters still want to go but they’re not willing to spend the fuel it takes.”

Graham added, “We’re going to have a great summer next year. I’ll be there every weekend.”

Reach Caitlin Cook at caitlin.c… or 304-348-5113.

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Sailing-New Zealand outsails Oracle on day one of America's Cup finals

By Noel Randewich

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 7 (Reuters) – Emirates Team New Zealand outsailed billionaire Larry Ellison’s Oracle Team USA in the first day of the America’s Cup finals with near collisions and a man overboard as the high-tech catamarans crisscrossed San Francisco Bay in the first close-fought duels since the regatta began two months ago.

Maneuvering his 72-foot carbon-fiber yacht at speeds close to 45 miles per hour, Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker aggressively cut off Cup defender Oracle’s boat several times to win the first two races in the best-of-17 final series.

Already hobbled by a cheating penalty, Saturday’s results make it even harder for Oracle to defend the Cup it won in Valencia, Spain in 2010 and brought to San Francisco.

The final series of matches is the culmination of a regatta plagued by controversies including cheating by Oracle, dangerous catamarans, a fatal accident and accusations of mismanagement.

Fans along the shore at an America’s Cup park on San Francisco Bay cheered the Kiwis as their AC72 catamaran crossed the finish line with a lead of nearly a minute in the day’s second race.

Seconds before the first race, an Oracle crewman fell overboard, leaving his team to compete with only 10 sailors. New Zealand began that match with a small lead and was passed by Oracle for a short time before regaining its lead and winning by 36 seconds.

“Hopefully we can take some races and not have passes and just win,” Oracle tactician John Kostecki said at a post race press conference, when asked if the boats were evenly matched.

In pre-start maneuvering of the second race, the two boats appeared to touch each other as Oracle went for a controlling position just downwind of the Kiwis. Even a light collision could have cost New Zealand a penalty, but none was called.

Saturday’s was the first suspenseful racing in the regatta after two months of relatively tame qualifying matches easily dominated by the formidable Kiwis.

The latest setback for the America’s Cup came on Tuesday, when an international jury docked Oracle two points – the equivalent of two races – and kicked three team members out of the event for adding illegal weight to boats used in a previous preparatory Cup competition.

The penalties, unprecedented in the history of the 162-year-old event, are a big boost for New Zealand, which demolished other would-be challengers in qualifying races in July and August.

Bookmakers see the Kiwis as favorites to take the America’s Cup from Oracle although, in a twist of fate, they are now up against one of their country’s most accomplished sailors.

Due to the penalty, Oracle needs to win 11 races to retain the Cup, while New Zealand only needs to win a total of nine. With Saturday’s two victories, New Zealand now needs seven more.

Oracle is also sailing without a key crew member, Dirk de Ridder, a 40-year-old Dutchman who was banished from the event for his role in the weight scandal.

The cheating debacle first came to light in July, when 45-foot Oracle catamarans that had been used for a regatta known as the America’s Cup World Series of Racing – and were raced again last week in a youth competition – were found to have illegal bags of lead and resin wedged into their frames. Adding weight can help improve the yachts’ stability.

In most countries, sailboat racing is a niche sport, and this year’s America’s Cup so far has done little to change that. Ellison, who won the cup in 2010, and with it the right to set the rules for this year’s races, hoped to make the competition more accessible to everyday sports fans with super-fast, high-tech 72-foot boats called AC72s sailing close to shore on the picturesque Bay.

But the regatta stumbled from the start, with high costs scaring off many challengers and a fatal training accident in May throwing the four-team competition into chaos. Mounting a serious challenge in the America’s Cup costs $100 million or more, a pricey entry fee even for billionaires.

Sailing is not a big draw for US sports fans and the turnout in viewing areas set up along the Bay to watch the races has fallen short of expectations, with few local residents showing interest in the regatta, let alone rooting for Oracle.

But the sport is a major sport in New Zealand. New Zealand’s crew is made up entirely of people from that country, while Oracle Team USA’s crew has only a smattering of Americans.

New Zealand first won the Cup in 1995 and then successfully defended the Cup in 2000 under the leadership of Wellington-born skipper Russell Coutts.

Coutts was lured away by Swiss biotechnology billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli to take the helm of Alinghi. He took the Cup from New Zealand in 2003, then switched to Oracle and helped that team win the Cup in 2010, and he continues to lead the team. He has won the America’s Cup four times and never lost.

New Zealand skipper Barker’s aggressive starts against Oracle were foreshadowed by his scrappy pre-start tactics against Italy’s Luna Rossa in qualifying races leading up to the finals.

On the water on Saturday, Oracle’s catamaran was skippered by Australian James Spithill, who also skippered Oracle’s boat in its 2010 Cup victory.

“The boats are very close and tomorrow’s another day,” Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill said after the races.

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