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Never mind a crane, pass the block and tackle
Never mind a crane, pass the block and tackle

The Oracle Says Rally Around the Shearlegs

The rallies are coming! Yes, it’s the time of year when fleets of boats from Europe and the US descend on the Caribbean. The ARC, the Caribbean 1500, the Salty Dawg and the new Christmas Caribbean Rally are all heading our way.

Having studied the rallies and what makes them tick, I have nothing bad to say about them. The oceans are there to be sailed on and not everyone wants to go it alone. The ARC was the first, they set the bar and they set it high. Any rally that doesn’t measure up to their standard would struggle to survive.

One thing I noted about this year’s rallies is the number of families taking part. It’s heartwarming to see youngsters crossing oceans with mum and dad. Just think about how everyone on board will benefit from the experience, even when the going gets tough. I’ve seen youngsters who have recently crossed an ocean swagger up the dock with the confidence of an old tar, and rightly so. And it sure gives the kids a leg up when the schoolteacher asks the class to write about what they did during the holidays.

The Christmas Caribbean Rally caught my attention for another reason. They have set the minimum boat length at 21.5ft (6.5m). That is a brave move and one to be admired. The trend is now for bigger, more expensive, and more complex yachts and it’s unfortunate that people with smaller boats and a limited budget are shunned by the established rallies. The argument that small boats have no place on a big ocean is one I have heard many times and one to which I do not subscribe.

In 2014 Stokey Woodall’s Atlantic Circuit (SWAC) International Sailing Rally will add to the numbers and All At Sea will bring you news of this new event in a future edition.

It’s not often that words escape me but the America’s Cup left me dumb. I was one of those who said it was nonsense and wouldn’t watch it, yet I was glued to the online stream for every race. For the reclusive, let me tell you about the AC 72 catamarans. They levitate, they fly, they soar and they should scare any normal sailor to death. This is maritime technology gone mad and not what the US Coast Guard had in mind when issuing a 100 ton captain’s license.

That billionaire Larry Ellison’s defenders, Oracle Team USA, had but one American onboard struck me as odd but it did add to the entertainment when the onboard microphones picked up what the crew were saying. On the final race, Ben Ainslie bellowing at the grinders to “work your arse off” (not ass) set him aside as a Brit, and so broad was skipper Jimmy Spithill’s Australian twang that I reached for my tucker bag. The highlight for Caribbean sailors was the presence onboard Oracle of Shannon Falcone and it was terrific to see someone in the crowd at America’s Cup Park waving the Antiguan flag.

Larry Ellison’s ability to levitate would have come in handy in the boatyard when they told me their crane was broken and unable to lift out my dead engine. Lacking the resources of the Oracle design team, it was back to basics: Shearlegs and a block and tackle. I built the legs without difficulty from wood found in the boatyard, and the four part block and tackle I had already. Now all that was required was a drop of sweat and a bit of swearing.

I’m happy to report that the engine came out of the boat with ease and at the time of going to press was in the workshop being assessed by experts who will decide whether it should live again or best become an anchor.

One thing I do know, the engine didn’t levitate but my money is hovering and heading for the window.

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