From the Boathouse: Approaching the Vuitton Cup finish line


Greetings from San Francisco Bay. I am visiting this week to watch the Louis Vuitton Cup final races between the Italian team, Luna Rossa, and the Emirates Team New Zealand.

As of my column's deadline, both teams had one win each from the weekend. However, each team suffered equipment problems on different days, and Luna Rossa could not finish on Saturday.

A scary thing happened Saturday when the Emirates Team nosedived rounding the third mark. Two crew members were ejected from the boat as its speed dropped instantly by almost 30 knots, but the Emirates Team still managed to capture first place.

Then, on Sunday, the Emirates Team lost hydraulics, which allowed Luna Rossa to take the win. Keep in mind that the AC72s are so big that the hydraulics help to operate the wing sail and adjust the boards. This would be physically impossible to perform manually.

These two boats are fast. The top speed during the weekend racing was set by the Kiwis at 41.53 knots, or 47.8 mph, with the Italians very close behind at 39.9 knots, or 45.9 mph. These new boats are pushing the limits so much that some have questioned whether the vessels are too dangerous for competition, especially after a British sailor died when his team's boat capsized.

The next races this week are scheduled for Monday, Wednesday and Saturday — two planned for each day. The first team to reach seven points will be the winner of the finals; it will then compete for the coveted cup against Oracle Team USA. One point is given per race to the team that crosses the finish line first and is not disqualified.

Theoretically, one of the teams could win the finals Saturday, but I do not see that happening unless a major equipment failure affects one of the boats. I will report back next week about my experience at the America's Cup media center.

Tip of the week is the "Call to Arms," issued by the Recreational Boaters of California (RBOC) for the Environmental Protection Agency, to adopt new standards for dissolved copper in bays and harbors. The RBOC is asking that boaters contact their state legislators for support of the Biotic Ligand Model (BLM) for saltwater.

The model is a tool for assessing the pH and carbon levels and other factors to determine copper levels in the water. Finally we may have a scientific approach to determine the actual chemical conditions for a specific site, marina and harbor.

This is an extremely important issue and a valuable topic of discussion, since copper is used in vessels' bottom paint to help keep marine growth off hulls. Concern has been raised about whether copper is toxic to the marine environment and, if so, at what dissolved amount does it affect water quality?

I have seen a couple of bottom paints that do not contain copper, but I do not know the effectiveness of these paints. Additionally, non-copper paints can be expensive.

Keeping your vessel's hull free of marine growth is important for protecting the hull and for fuel efficiency. The less resistance between the boat's hull and the water will save you dollars at the fuel dock, and vessels will respond better with a clean bottom.

Please be boat smart and boat safe. Lastly, please boat responsibly and look behind you before you turn the wheel at the helm. Labor Day is fast approaching, so enjoy the remaining summer days of boating.

Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, "Boathouse Radio Show," broadcasting live coast-to-coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network. See times at, and

Safe voyages!

MIKE WHITEHEAD is a boating columnist for the Daily Pilot. Send marine-related thoughts and story suggestions to or go to

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