Saturday, May 26, 2018

Changes bring forth speedy America's Cup

When the high-tech catamarans hit the water of San Francisco Bay for today's start of the America's Cup, don't expect the same deck-to-deck racing and nail-biting finishes to which sailing fans have grown accustomed.

"The America's Cup has always been about innovation and design," said St. Petersburg's Ed Baird, who led the Swiss team, Alinghi, to victory in the 2007 America's Cup. "That's how it started, with the U.K. saying to the U.S., 'Hey, we can build a better boat than you can.' "

But this 34th meeting of the world's top sailors will be nothing like the iconic Cup races fans have seen before. When Baird sailed with Team New Zealand in 1995 and Alinghi two years later, the International America's Cup Class boats were roughly 80 feet long and had an average speed of about 10 knots (11.5 mph).

"If you had a 1 percent advantage over the other boat, it was enough to go a little faster," he said. "But that was not enough to keep the other boat from maneuvering to try to regain the lead. That's what made it exciting."

But the AC72 boats competing this year are catamarans, inherently faster than monohulls. These speedsters don't have traditional sails — they have fixed wings — and the boats rise out of the water and fly across the surface on hydrofoils at speeds of nearly 50 mph.

"In the past, the technological improvements have been mostly incremental, so no team ever got a huge advantage," Baird said. "The boats were evenly matched, which is why tactics played such an important role."

Baird said there could be a big disparity between the new AC72s, the defender Oracle Team USA and the challenger Emirates Team New Zealand.

"If you have one boat going 30 knots and the other going 40 knots, whichever one gets out in front and rounds the mark first, there will be no catching them," he said. "The race will be won or lost in the first minute."

The race course will be shorter than those in previous Cups, in part to make it easier for spectators on shore to follow the action. And instead of the race running an hour or more, it could be over in 25 minutes.

"A yacht race doesn't have to move fast to be exciting," Baird said. "Just look at golf and baseball. It is the drama, the tension and the pressure that makes those sports fun to watch."

Former Olympic gold medalist Allison Jolly, St. Petersburg's other most famous sailor, said she has mixed feelings about this running of the America's Cup.

"The new technology is very cool," said Jolly, who now coaches sailing at USF St. Petersburg. "But sailors also want to see a good, even matchup.

"If one boat has distinct technological advantage," she added. "This could be a blowout."


Captainís Corner: Redfish bite strong on afternoon high tide

Early morning stops at jetty rock piles have produced excellent action for a variety of species. Snook, redfish and trout are the targets. Free-lining live pilchards against the rocks at the strong part of the tide is your best opportunity for snook,...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Captainís Corner: Swimmer crabs attract big permit

Captainís Corner: Swimmer crabs attract big permit

The outgoing tides of last weekendís new moon washed thousands of small swimmer crabs, known locally as "pass crabs," out of the estuaries and into the gulf. This suddenly abundant food source offshore works as a natural chum line and draws big permi...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18

Speckled trout are our most prevalent species around the bay area. They spawn year-round, so their numbers are sustained. They are a flourishing species. For sport, trout are easier to catch than almost everything else we have in the Gulf of Mexico. ...
Published: 05/21/18
Updated: 05/25/18

Captainís Corner: With full moon, tarpon are on the move

With the full moon this next week tarpon are moving down the beaches and making their way out of the bay and moving out to the bridges and the passes to feed before some of them leave to go out and spawn on the full moon. Early in the morning along t...
Published: 05/21/18
Updated: 05/22/18

Captainís Corner: Cloudier water improves the bite

Windy conditions this week have actually slightly improved fishing. The waters of Saint Joseph sound had become so clear that it made finding fish easy, but getting bites very difficult. Snook have been gathering in great numbers all along the beache...
Published: 05/19/18
Updated: 05/21/18

Captainís Corner: Red grouper fishing continues to be good

Red grouper fishing continues to be steady in depths of 100-120 feet. Large bait stacks are holding a fish or two, but larger concentrations are on very small rolls and potholes in those depths. Zooming in on the bottom 10-15 feet of the water column...
Published: 05/19/18
Updated: 05/20/18

Captainís Corner: Catching a giant cobia

Cobia is the topic this week. Capt. Tom Markham, aboard the Simply Hooked, was beginning his daily bait routine. It turned out that one of the markers located near Clearwater Pass, surprisingly, had a giant fish waiting for him. The captain slid up t...
Published: 05/16/18

Captainís Corner: Tarpon showing up on beaches, bridges

This week shouldnít be a total wash out. While there is a chance of rain every day, it should only be sporadic. Hopefully it wonít dirty up the water too much. If you are a tarpon fisherman and look forward to their arrival like I do, then you are in...
Published: 05/14/18
Updated: 05/15/18

Captainís Corner: This is best time of year for bay area fishing

Itís the best time of year for fishing in the area. Tarpon can be targeted off of any of the bridges. The Gandy, Howard Frankland and Skyway are my top choices. While awaiting a tarpon strike, I kill time by dropping smaller baits for Spanish mackere...
Published: 05/13/18

Captainís Corner: Change tactics for fly fishing success

Most fly fishers would prefer minimum wind and cloudless skies to increase chances for a banner day. This has been a problem lately. The wind makes casting more difficult, unless very experienced, and clouds interfere with sight casting opportunities...
Published: 05/11/18
Updated: 05/14/18