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Too many pro racers?
Kate
Posted: Thursday, April 22, 2010 2:55 PM
Joined: 01/05/2008
Posts: 41


Jim Clark, owner of newly launched J Class replica, Hanuman pulled out of the Antigua Classic earlier this week, sending a controversial letter to the rest of the fleet, in which he said that J-Class racing is a complete farce because his competition, two other Js, had "complete, paid professional racing crew." 

Clark stated, "I did not build Hanuman to let someone else drive it. But I also know that professionals are called that for a reason. I am not going to hire professionals to win a trophy.

"I have a group of fine men who came to sail for the pleasure of it, and got little more than the trip to Antigua and room and board. I will let them have that for free, or they can chose to go home but I am not going to race Hanuman under these conditions.

"To make things clear, however, if at any time, either the owner of Velsheda or Ranger agrees to drive their own boats for the pleasure of racing each other, and have no paid professional except the full-time crew members, I will happily do so in the spirit of gentlemen's racing, and, I emphasize, in the spirit of the J Class Association Rules. In the meantime, I wish them well and hope they don't crash into each other."

Today he wrote a follow-up letter, copied below, in which he proposes a new J Boat event:

There seems to quite a stir amongst the owners and the yachting press regarding my cancellation of Hanuman/Endeavour II participation in the races in Antigua. Let me explain my reasoning more fully and make a proposal for a J-Class event.

From the beginning, it has been my impression that for rule-conformance and safety, there were 4-6 professionals on each J-Class boat that is raced. This is the spirit of the J-Class rules that I was told, and everyone involved in my building of Endeavour II/Hanuman will attest to this.

As I slowly got drawn towards this Antigua event, I put together a team in this spirit, but I was adamant that I not spend a lot of money just to win a race. Then I heard for the first time that Ranger had 17 paid professionals, and I chose not to compete against a professional team.

The world of sail-boat racing can be quite fun, but spending obscene amounts of money to win a race, in the opinion of most reasonable people, is not a very worthy thing to do. It contributes to an elitist image of sailing, which I have never wanted to be a part of. As a result, I have never gotten involved in professional racing. No one begrudges the professionals who make their living doing this, but those of us who spend lavishly to win a race should at least contribute to the world in other ways.

Like all of you, I consider the J-Class boats the most spectacular and beautiful America’s Cup boats ever made, and it would certainly be a major event to see them all racing together in a highly visible venue. But we have the opportunity to improve this sport for such an event by setting an example, rather than continuing to contribute to its elitist image, such as in the current America’s Cup, where the spending has gotten completely out of control.

So I make the following proposal to the owners of the J-Boats:

For an event commensurate with the America’s Cup in San Francisco, we all race with completely professional crews, and for safety reasons, the owners who choose to drive have a professional standing near the helm to take over when appropriate. If this venue cannot be arranged, or we think it's too far in the future, we agree on another venue such as the Olympics in England in 2012. But for maximum impact, it should be in a highly visible venue, and it should be a regular event, say every two or three years. So perhaps we do one event in 2012 and another in 2014 at the America’s Cup venue.

As an entry fee, we each post $10 million of our own money to a non-profit of our choice devoted to preserving the world’s marine environment. This must be a legitimate, registered non-profit, and we cannot have any controlling, board member or similar affiliation with it.

We track what we spend, and it is audited and certified by professional auditors. Anyone can choose to spend what they want, but if any owner spends more than $5 million in preparation and competing for the event, that owner adds to his fund an amount equal to $2 for each dollar spent above the $5 million.

We can each have sponsors, but the sponsors’ contributions must go to the respective non-profit fund as well. I believe that if we can have this event in San Francisco with the America’s Cup, we will draw very large corporate sponsorship and thus greatly increase the contribution to the non-profits’ funds, as this is a natural and highly visible sailing amphitheater.

We race according to traditional yacht-racing rules, with adjustments as agreed upon by us, and we have an agreed-upon handicapping system. Perhaps the J-Class Association rules would be appropriate for this, since they have been designed to make the boats as equally competitive as possible.

The main purpose of rules is safety. Ranger and Velsheda have collided twice in their years of racing. To insure against the possibility of this, prior to the race, each of us posts an amount we all agree upon to separate escrow accounts, the proceeds of which will be paid if needed by the offending owner to the damaged owner, as judged by a racing committee established or sanctioned by us in advance.

We can negotiate the amounts I’ve proposed and the other conditions, but for maximum impact on our sport, and the awareness of the world, the money must be a non-trivial amount. Each of the owners has spent at least $10 million for sails, crew, and boat improvements for the purpose of racing in the past. Now, we should set an example and show the world that at least some “yacht” owners are concerned about more than themselves. It’s the only way I will engage in this type of competition.

I will volunteer to donate what is necessary to create a trophy, up to $500,000. The trophy will be held in a manner similar to the America's Cup. I suggest The Ocean’s Cup, because I feel it should be about the marine environment.

I believe this could have a tremendous impact on our sport and show the world that “yacht” owners are not just ostentatious exhibitionists racing out of ego to win a trophy. And if enough money can be raised with sponsors, we can have a real impact on the world's oceanic environment.

Gentlemen, we diminish our own standing and the image of the sport of sailing when we brag about our boats or their sizes. Let’s be bigger than that. We are each fortunate to have the money to spend owning these boats, and if we all do this in the spirit of friendship, dedication to the sport of sailing, and devotion to the oceans that they use, perhaps we can have an impact that makes our own indulgences worthwhile.

Regards,
Jim Clark

junior
Posted: Thursday, April 22, 2010 6:02 PM
Joined: 14/01/2009
Posts: 1026


Good Man Mr Jim Clark !!!! The difference between winning and coming second is always the talent of your crew. When you participate at Gran Prix level, its assumed that all yachts are staffed 100 percent with paid professionals. J Yachts are not grand prix. At J events, the yachts should be sailing at "celebration of sail " professional crewing levels. For my owner its discouraging for him when he puts together his "celebration of sail " team, supplies them with a professionally prepared yacht and first class regatta equipment , then gets blown away at the windward mark by a competitor who failed to honour the spirit of the event and crewed up with 100 percent pro sailors allowing his yacht to execute an Americas Cup level jibe set. Hold the line Mr Jim Clark, drive your own yacht and cultivate the spirit of the event or passionate sailors like the owner I work for will pull out of future " Celebration of Sail" events.
yachtone
Posted: Friday, April 23, 2010 7:03 PM
Joined: 27/07/2008
Posts: 96


        While I have some sympathy for what Jim Clark is saying regarding gaining an advantage by paying the most for the best sailors, I am reminded of the IOR maxi racing heyday where a leading owner voiced the same objections to spending money on crew to gain an advantage whilst at the same time saw no wrong in spending  to gain an advantage by building & modifying yachts at a prodigious rate. I suspect that Mr. Clark may have expected to have an advantage by spending the most on design & construction & would rather take his ball home than face the prospect of losing, a fairly common emotional response.
         Having said that may I thank Mr.Clark for building such a magnificent boat & wish him many years of pleasure racing her.

Anonymous
Posted: Friday, April 23, 2010 7:06 PM
Well that's strange, when I was sitting looking at Hanuman preparing for the St Barts Bucket I thought I saw Peter Holmberg and about 13 other 'pros' get onboard, guess they just felt like sailing for free that weekend. And they paid for their flights and accomodations? NOT!
Henning
Posted: Friday, April 23, 2010 8:24 PM
Joined: 01/06/2008
Posts: 1053


As I've always said, sailboat owners are cheap. Why should anyone crew a boat for free? Yeah, there's people who will, but they aren't very bright or talented because the bright and talented are recruited by people who recognize that and are willing to compensate them for the time and effort they put forth to learn their craft and the full time effort they put into making the boat right and honing their skills, knowledge and personal condition.Time is the only thing in life we can't replace, we should give it away for free? We're talking J-boats here, even if you have a fully profession paid crew, that is a pittance when considering the over all cost of the program. If he wants to drive the boat himself, no worries, but that guy working the foredeck, sheet trimming and pit, as well as the afterguard, they should be compensated as it's a full time job, not a lot of trust-fund dilettantes able to put forth the time and effort  doing  the practice required to win.

Marty
Posted: Saturday, April 24, 2010 9:26 AM
Joined: 15/08/2009
Posts: 8



These J´s produce immense loads and forces even in light smooth conditions. When it’s “game on” out there, weekend warriors in key positions can become a liability, and a danger not only to themselves. No one wants a wide eyed lost soul fumbling around on the fore deck during a hairy manoeuvre. The paid crew for the most part would see a potential problem before it arises, and prevent it from happening, or at least lessen the effects thereof. They provide a safety factor that cannot be ignored, and protect the owners investment from unnecessary damage, whilst improving the boats performance on the race course. None of the owners I have raced with in the past have come to the event to secure second place. The costs involved for the owner to participate in the event, make the payment to a pro a small stipend compared to the above mentioned benefits.

How the owner decides to prepare for the event, and to what level of competition he would like to participate, is up to him. However don’t pull up to the start line and spit the dummy because the team next to you has taken the even a bit more seriously, and are keen to get out there and make a race out of it. Rather anchor off the beach and have a nice cocktail.

Irrespective of the varying levels of pro´s, and daily rates, we all do the sport because we love it.

Sail safe.

Ex J crew.


junior
Posted: Saturday, April 24, 2010 11:06 AM
Joined: 14/01/2009
Posts: 1026


Gee Henning, the local sailing club is full of young guys sailing on the HOT 40 footer. These club amateurs have plenty of talent and sail for free. A classic Corinthian racing yacht carries a small core of professional crew , fills out the empty positions with amateur sailors from the club, takes on a pro tactician for important events and is driven by the owner. The formation and success of the team reflects the skill of the owner. Last week I was talking to a friend who runs a mid grade fast racer cruiser. They are crewing up for the summer regatta schedule and the owner has brought in a professional crew boss to assemble a full team of well paid international professional sailors, right down to an Americas Cup Helmsman. This owner sits on the sidelines and pays 75 to 100 thousand dollars per event to literally buy success. This " Trophy Hunter " mode of operation is acceptable at grand Prix level but looks foolish and is detrimental to the sport when sailing in Corinthian " celebration of sail" events. Talented, knowledgeable owners, the type you like to work for, will not simply bankroll the program from the sidelines and let the Rock stars take control
Henning
Posted: Saturday, April 24, 2010 1:59 PM
Joined: 01/06/2008
Posts: 1053


40'ers and your typical club boats are a small investment and not all that hazardous, all that is at stake is winning or losing a race. When you start talking J-Boat rigs, the ante increases substantially as does the cost both monetarily and in flesh and blood when people screw up, and Corinthians are much more prone to screw up. In fact, I doubt any of the J-boats  in the old days were Corinthian crewed.

Here's what you get with even highly experienced Corinthians....
http://www.dockwalk.com/Essentials/DockTalk.aspx?g=posts&t=28284

When you have multiple millions on the line, cheaping out on crew makes no sense. If the owner wants to drive, that's fine. The best ones I've sailed with though prefer to be in the afterguard where they really belong, because that's where, all else being equal, races are won and lost. You can't afford the deck crew screwing up, stuff gets broke and people get hurt. Most Corinthians aren't in the physical or mental condition required to handle big sail boats when things are going wrong.

junior
Posted: Saturday, April 24, 2010 3:33 PM
Joined: 14/01/2009
Posts: 1026


We are not in the old days Henning...J boat s are no longer racing machines, they are "spirit of tradition " Corinthian racer cruisers sailing around the course with poweredwinches, luxurious interiors, vacuum cleaners and stewardess'. Owners like Mr Clark are senior yachtsman with a long history of owning and operating the finest yachts on the water.... Hyperion, Athena.... I'm confident that the unpaid " amateur crew " he puts together will be a group of the most experienced sailors in the world. The competitive advantage enjoyed by a senior yachtsman is that he can tap into many years of experience to put together his team. This advantage is eroded when a less experienced owner, with a pile of money, purchase a team to bring home the trophy . Mr Clark is trying to stimulate development of the class by convincing other senior yachtsman to join the J class as owners and enjoy competitions. Addition J class owners creates enhanced employment opportunities for professional crew, riggers, sail makers, tacticians, mastmen, designers, boat builders.....
Henning
Posted: Saturday, April 24, 2010 11:23 PM
Joined: 01/06/2008
Posts: 1053


junior wrote:
We are not in the old days Henning...J boat s are no longer racing machines, they are "spirit of tradition " Corinthian racer cruisers sailing around the course with poweredwinches, luxurious interiors, vacuum cleaners and stewardess'. Owners like Mr Clark are senior yachtsman with a long history of owning and operating the finest yachts on the water.... Hyperion, Athena.... I'm confident that the unpaid " amateur crew " he puts together will be a group of the most experienced sailors in the world. The competitive advantage enjoyed by a senior yachtsman is that he can tap into many years of experience to put together his team. This advantage is eroded when a less experienced owner, with a pile of money, purchase a team to bring home the trophy . Mr Clark is trying to stimulate development of the class by convincing other senior yachtsman to join the J class as owners and enjoy competitions. Addition J class owners creates enhanced employment opportunities for professional crew, riggers, sail makers, tacticians, mastmen, designers, boat builders.....


Well, which is it? You contradict yourself there. In one sentence you say that the amateurs he puts together are the best sailors in the world, in the next you say they can't compete against pro sailors, so which is it?

junior
Posted: Sunday, April 25, 2010 10:04 AM
Joined: 14/01/2009
Posts: 1026


Henning an amateur means YOU...You do not derive your income by flying from world championship to world championship. In two weeks we participate in a Celebration of sail regatta. On the crew list I see a 50 something ex yacht captain who now works as a new build project manager in the Netherlands, a retired mast builder who engineered our carbon mast, our helmsman is a 67 year old banker ex 470 youth champ, our foredeck crew runs a sea school teaching yachtmasters, two young guys from the owners sailing club for shifting sails.....,none of these crew are being paid to sail with us. They are friends of the owner, people he enjoys sailing with, cracking jokes and drinking beer with. When we participate in the regatta we have plenty of talent onboard. Stand clear Henning or we will pinch you out on the start line , then dump on you at the mark rounding...but we will never be good enough to overcome another yacht with a full crew of professional sailors. When professionals invade a regatta they change the vibes.. It becomes an Arms Race, they raise the cost, logistical complication, isolate the owner from calling the tactics, forming his own team and inevitably the owner grows tired of participation. For the captain of a sailing yacht, the beauty of Celebration of sail regatta participation .... Antigua, St Tropez etc... is that it identifies a logical sailing season schedule and forces the owner to keep the yacht in a very high state of maintenance . The underwater surfaces are wetsanded, the sails and rigging are fresh, the instrument systems are calibrated ,the yacht is ready to"rumble" and you and your crew stay connected at the top level of yachting for another year. Very many first class crew around, who will sail for free in order to stay connected to the scene. This is the reason they call these events a Celebration of sail. When an owner wishes to go " full pro" there are class's and events specifically designed to highlight professionalism.
Marty
Posted: Sunday, April 25, 2010 10:05 AM
Joined: 15/08/2009
Posts: 8



Good arguments on both sides. Agreed that these are not the old sailing days, but the boats are raced almost as hard just the same, and the dangers and effects have not changed.
In addition, these boats were historically raced with mostly pro crews, and the attitude of the owners toward wining is probably much the same as today’s Americas Cup campaigns. This sport has always been about trophies and prestige at that level. A very small percentage of sailors are making money they can retire on.
The amount of effort and funding required to keep these boats in concourse condition and race ready is not insignificant, and the crews are proud of their efforts when they line up to race them. Having said that, who wants to look good at the back of the fleet?
If Jim wants to race mano a mano, there are plenty of other race formats and fleets out there that will serve him well. The J´s never were, and never will be one of them.
When the flag drops, the bullshit stops.
Regards
Marty


junior
Posted: Sunday, April 25, 2010 12:23 PM
Joined: 14/01/2009
Posts: 1026


Marty, many great yachting events put limits on Pro crew, the type of Gran Prix no holes bared sailing you speak of is rare. Are you familiar with the ISAF Sailor Classification Code ? Read it ........http://www.sailing.org/tools/documents/ClassificationCode2010ISAF-[8561].pdf Then review the Notice of Race sheet Annex 3.2 from the Bermauda race that I have just recieved. www.class40.com/contenu/67/en/Notice of Race.pdf Only two class devisions " Gibb " "OPEN" are without limits . The J class, no matter how much money the owners have , are not Gran Prix racing yachts. I dont have a copy of " one design " J class racing rules but when they compete at superyacht cup fleet level they ignore the ISAF Racing Rules of Sailing and abide COLREGS, maintain 40m separation between other yachts at all times and in all situations, do away with luffing rights, Proper course, maintain a 250 meter stand off zone at all marks and competitors may run theri engines to clear congestion. This is not a world in which you need pro sailors to compete. Best to simply conform to ISAF crewing rules limiting Pro involvment and enjoy sailing very fine yachts.
Henning
Posted: Sunday, April 25, 2010 12:56 PM
Joined: 01/06/2008
Posts: 1053


Well, if it's all about the fun, then why is he whining that he can't be competitive? If it's all about the fun of going out there and sailing with your buds and having some beers and "Celebrating Sail", then winning the trophy doesn't really mean anything and he should have still been out there racing. Hell, when the wind was right (strong), we used to beat pro crews sailing Santa Cruz 70 with 100 year old schooners running the same old sails we'd use on charters day in and day out.

junior
Posted: Sunday, April 25, 2010 1:32 PM
Joined: 14/01/2009
Posts: 1026


Henning its not about an individual yacht owner, its about the event. When an Arms race takes over you will be left with a regatta consisting of the two richest men on earth playing with themselves. The classic example is the Americas Cup. Runaway costs due to professionalism pollutes regattas. The Admirals Cup of 1979 had 19 countries sailing 57 yachts. By the year 2000 the Admirals Cup ceased to exist due to out of control professional campaign costs
 
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