Oct 31, 2012, 8:13 PM
Post #6 of 6
GOLDEN ERA OF OFFSHORE RACING
Re: [The Publisher] Book by Renowned Ocean Racer Jim Kilroy
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Famous for accumulating more sailing trophies and records than just about any other campaign was Californian Jim Kilroy and his Maxi race boats named Kialoa. From Kialoa 1 in the '50s through to Kialoa 5 in the '80s, it was a historic era in offshore racing.
Kilroy has released the beautifully illustrated autobiography - KIALOA US-1: Dare to Win - which recounts the adventures of the KIALOA teams as they raced around the world and the lessons in business, in sailing and in life that they took away from it all. Here is an excerpt:
KIALOA III (1975-1984) - S & S 79-foot
Six years after KIALOA II’s triumphant performance in the 1969 Transatlantic Race to Cork, Ireland, the Kialoa III crew was ready to test themselves once again in the North Atlantic. We all knew it would be a wonderful tribute to our ongoing campaigns if we could win “back to back” races across the rigorous Atlantic Ocean.
Ultimately, we would face two unanticipated challenges in the 1975 Transatlantic Race from Newport, Rhode Island to England’s Isle of Wight. One would come from the weather, specifically a tropical disturbance called “Amy.” The other would come from the New York Yacht Club race committee in charge of the event. Once again, the issue would be over handicaps and course distances. The handicap course distance for the race would be 3,160 miles, some 229 miles longer that the actual distance sailed, which was 2,932 miles.
The race started in a very light, 5-8 knot breeze at 1130 on June 29, 1975. For the first twelve hours we made little progress, but around midnight, both the fog and the wind rolled in. As the breeze rose from 19-26 knots, right on the button, the seas started to build and we made several sail changes in response. The log shows that we registered over 160 miles over the first 24-hours.
On Day 2, still thrashing to windward, the breeze increased to 40-45 knots. Amy, whose status was wavering between a tropical storm and a hurricane, had suddenly become very active. KIALOA III was to the north of the depression, and we knew that Amy would shadow us and then slowly cross our path as she followed the Gulf Stream to the north-northeast.
The third night was very rough. Sailing on port tack, we had KIALOA III fully reefed with our smallest headsail, the storm forstaysail, set on the inner forestay. It was a wild ride, but thanks to our excellent helmsmen and crew, we were always in control. At all times we had two capable drivers on station in the cockpit, one actually steering and the other calling waves or ready to lend a hand when necessary.
At the pre-race briefing, the meteorologists had said Amy was stalled and would be “no problem.” That was then. Now, Amy was proving to be problematic for everyone. Aboard KIALOA III, the brunt of Amy’s blow tore the boat’s 29-foot spinnaker pole, which had been secured to the weather foredeck by strong aluminum fittings, off the deck and into the air. In the process, it stripped off the row of stanchions to starboard as well as all the safety lines. Luckily, it missed the crew as it went flying into the sea. This was unfortunate, but nobody was hurt and we still had our port spinnaker pole as reinforcement.
Besides, we now had a more serious issue in the continuously building seas. A bad leak was filling the boat with water at an alarming rate, even though our manual and electric pumps were hard at work. To address this situation, we had to run off before the wind to reduce our 30-35 degree heel and level the boat so we could pump the water out. It took about two hours before the interior was dry and we could resume racing on our proper heading.
As anticipated, Amy continued to drift to the northeast, fueled by the warm Gulf Stream. Hoping to find smoother seas we tacked KIALOA III to starboard. In a 60-knot gust, we watched the Omega navigation antenna fly off the afterdeck. Still, even though the seas were heavy and confused, KIALOA III was sailing well. But the ride was wicked, the crew was in safety harnesses at all times on deck, and the only way to move around was on hands and knees.
Ironically, one of the biggest challenges was simply changing watches, and finding a secure place to sleep in the violent seaway as KIALOA III leapt off one wave and went crashing into another.
As KIALOA III approached Lizard’s Head along England’s south coast, the end of the race was drawing near. Once in the English Channel, we would have another 135 miles to the finish line, the “NAB Tower” off Cowes on the Isle of Wight. Conditions were superb: an excellent reaching breeze coupled with a fair tide.
We carried the chute right up to the NAB Tower, surfing and accelerating on each wave at about 14 knots, with every KIALOA crewmember at his station. With one final, perfectly executed, photographic jibe, we crossed the finish line first on elapsed time after a voyage of 14 days, 57 minutes, 12 seconds. Over the 2,931-mile course, we’d averaged 8.233 knots. Considering our early “dance” with Amy, it was excellent time. To cap it all off, we were all very pleased to receive a radio call from a fellow sailor named Prince Charles, extending his congratulations.
Despite the 229 miles not sailed, but handicapped, we believed a corrected-time victory was possible. And we were confident that the race committee would reject the added mileage penalty once they’d reviewed the facts, as they promised to do. We were aware that the racing rules required a protest to be filed within 24 hours of a yacht’s finish, but since the race committee had not yet announced their decision, there was nothing specific to protest. As more and more time went by, it appeared that we would be the winner under the normal distance handicap.
But then we received some unsettling news. The races U.S. partner, the New York Yacht Club, ruled that there would be no change in the handicap mileage. Based on the 3,160-mile racecourse, the corrected-time winner was Ted Hood’s Robin II, the smallest boat in the fleet, eking out victory over KIALOA III by just 1.05 hours. Had the actual distance been used, KIALOA III would’ve won on handicap, as well as elapsed time, by 7.06 hours.
We immediately filed a protest that was denied because it wasn’t filed within 24 hours after the finish. At the juncture we filed an appeal and were advised that any appeal would not be heard until later in the year, which meant that I would be required to return to England or have legal representation.
We knew who the real winner was, as did the rest of the fleet and our friends on Robin II. The only thing missing was KIALOA III’s name engraved on the trophy. Reluctantly, we dropped the appeal.