SAILING / RICH ROBERTS : To Duplicate Barcelona, Hold Your Nose

The Olympic Yachting Committee’s plan to duplicate Barcelona’s sailing conditions in its trials next year will go only so far, considering the experience of the past summer’s pre-Olympics in Spain.

“It was like sailing in a sewer,” said Penny Way, the British boardsailor who is favored to win the gold medal in 1992. “It really stinks.”

Others competing in last month’s International Yacht Racing Union World Women’s Sailing Championship off Long Beach offered similar descriptions.

Pam Healy, crew for 470 sailor J.J. Isler of La Jolla, said: “Things you shouldn’t see in the water we saw . . . unmentionables. Personal hygiene products. Human sewage.”

Jan Shearer of New Zealand, crew for Leslie Egnot on a 470 dinghy, said: “We sailed through raw sewage in some places. There was wind, but (the sewage) was so thick the water was glassy, like slime. The stench was unbelievable.”


With any breeze, it’s hard to stay dry on a 470 and avoid ingesting some water.

“And it just tasted awful,” said Jody Swanson, a 470 sailor from Eggertsville, N.Y. “Some people were getting sick to their stomachs while racing. There were times I didn’t want to talk to my crew because I didn’t want to get water in my mouth.”

Some sailors found that the normal cuts and abrasions they picked up in knocking about on their boats became septic. Many, including Isler and Swanson’s crew, Cory Sertl, reported to the medical center with sore throats.

The Spanish Olympic officials refused to admit that there was a problem, even after some sailors delivered water samples. The officials conducted some tests and declared the water “biologically” safe.

The IYRU didn’t buy it. Sailing’s governing body conducted its own tests but hasn’t released the results.

Mike Schoettle of Los Angeles, chairman of the U.S. Olympic Yachting Committee, said: “If it’s proved that the water is really polluted, I think we’ll get (the racing area) moved.”

Barcelona is on Spain’s northeast Mediterranean coast, where water flows down the Llobregat River from the Pyrenees Mountains. By the time it leaves the suburbs, the river is virtually an open sewer.

Way also said Barcelona isn’t the only sailing site with problems. In Long Beach, the boardsailors were sailing off the beach, and they had to watch their steps.

“Even here, (there are) syringes and hypodermics on the beach,” Way said. “You don’t want to get an AIDS-infected needle in your foot.”

Sailing Notes

LEGISLATION--The new federal Recreational Vessel Fee probably will be repealed, but not soon. According to David Pilvelait of the BOAT/U.S. lobby, the votes are there, but the House Ways and Means Committee is delaying action on HR 534, the repeal bill. The Coast Guard admits that it’s more a tax than a user’s fee, because no money goes to the Coast Guard. The grace period for noncompliance expired Oct 1. Mike Sciulla of BOAT/U.S. said only 9%, or 392,000, of the nation’s 4.1 million boat owners subject to the tax have bought their decals--apparently anticipating that the law will be repealed. But violators are subject to fines of up to $5,000. The decals cost $25 to $100, depending on the size of the boat, and if the law is repealed, it’s not clear whether there will be refunds. The law applies to private boats longer than 16 feet, except those used only on most inland lakes. BOAT/U.S.'s advice: “We’re telling people what their responsibilities are under the law,” Sciulla said. In other words, pay up--and protest. The Coast Guard isn’t bearing down very hard on the issue. Lt. (j.g.) Keith Smith at the 11th District office in Long Beach said “over 100" citations had been issued along the California coast since the law went into effect on Sept. 1, and most of those were incidental to other, primary violations. About 25 boaters received warnings. “We haven’t done any blitzes or blockades (to enforce the RVF),” Smith said, and the Coast Guard is not searching out those not in compliance in marinas or harbors. If a citation is issued, the maximum fine is $5,000, but most fines will be more like a those for traffic tickets. . . . The 37 delegates to the U.S. Yacht Racing Union will vote late this month on changing the name of the country’s governing body to U.S. Sailing Assn.--or “U.S. Sailing” for ready reference. The thinking is to drop racing as too narrowly focused in purpose and yacht as too elitist for appeal to the masses, and to streamline the whole operation for better marketing. It’s a hot issue between progressives and traditionalists.

RESULTS--Last weekend’s Watts Trophy event for ULDB 70s at Los Angeles Yacht Club was raced on an innovative course featuring a mid-course mark to prevent boats from sailing off to opposite sides, and a leeward mark “gate,” with two marks--an idea suggested by Peter Huston, director of sailing for Balboa YC. Boats could round either way. Although there were skeptics, the competitors generally liked both ideas--even a figure-eight course on the race chart that was actually a typographical error. Also, Les Crouch, whose Maverick placed a close second to Roy Disney’s Pyewacket, is gaining support to have owners steer all of the sleds’ around-the-buoy events, not just the Watts and Skylark events. . . . Terry Hutchinson, 26 and not well-known on the West Coast, came from nowhere--actually, Traverse City, Mich.--to win the Ficker Cup match-racing event, which carries an automatic invitation to the Congressional Cup at Long Beach next March 15-21. Hutchinson, a former intercollegiate sailor of the year at Old Dominion University, defeated Larry Klein of San Diego in the finals, 2-1. . . . Long Beach designer Alan Andrews scored a sweep with his two entries in the recent Big Boat Series at San Francisco--Brook Gifford’s Andrews 53 Cantata II in IMS-A class and Lew Beery’s Andrews 43 It’s OK from Balboa YC in IMS-B. With Craig Fletcher steering, It’s OK won four of six races, swapping 1-2s with Donald Smith’s Tripp 40 Falcon, including two victories by seven seconds.

RACE SCHEDULE--The Newport Ocean Racing Assn.'s 14-Mile Bank Race will be held Saturday. NOSA also is negotiating with some America’s Cup syndicates about forming their own class for next April’s Newport-to-Ensenada race. . . . The world’s top six match-racing sailors, among others, were scheduled to sail in the Mazda World Championship Oct. 23-26 off Bermuda, but New Zealand’s Rod Davis (No. 4) was told he would have to be back in Coronado for America’s Cup duty after the Omega Gold Cup event at the same site Oct. 12-20. New Zealand’s Chris Dickson and Russell Coutts are Nos. 1 and 2, with Australia’s Peter Gilmour third, Britain’s Eddie Warden-Owen fifth and La Jolla’s Peter Isler sixth.

SEMINARS, ETC.--Dennis Conner is scheduled to appear at Bullocks in South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa, Thursday, Oct. 24, 7-9 p.m. . . . Buddy Melges, co-helmsman for America-3, will be featured in the “Sailing U.” session at North Sails in Huntington Beach on Nov. 12. Admission is $5, attendance is limited and reservations are advised by calling co-sponsors North Sails at (213) 596-4462, West Marine at (213) 598-9408 or Santana magazine at (714) 840-0335.

AMERICA’S CUP--Two groups--one from Russia, the other from Estonia--now claim to represent the Red Star Syndicate, and each says it is building a carbon-fiber boat. The Russian Ocean Racing Club of St. Petersburg has succeeded the old Ocean Racing Club of Leningrad that filed the original challenge. The Estonians claim to represent the “Crazy Offshore Racing Club.” . . . The Trustees’ Committee will meet Tuesday at the San Diego Marriott Hotel to resolve the disputes about when the challengers must have their boats in San Diego and “identified by measurement.” The America’s Cup Organizing Committee demands a Dec. 20 deadline. The challengers say anytime before the start of their trials starting Jan. 25 should be OK. The richer syndicates would like more time for development, because the defenders can switch to new boats anytime before the final Cup match in May. . . . Chris Dickson’s Nippon Challenge won two of three from France’s Marc Pajot in an organized match-race skirmish. . . . ESPN will feature the ’87 competition at Fremantle, Australia, in a one-hour show Monday night at 7.

NOTEWORTHY--Lanee Butler, 21, of Dana Point and Robby Naish, 28, of Kailua, Hawaii, have been chosen for the Tudor Boardsailor of the Year awards by the U.S. Windsurfing Assn.