January 24, 2017

San Francisco Sailing Couple Checks Sydney Hobart Off Bucket List

Jaclyn Manrique and Patrick Szeto, far right, get ready to start their first Rolex Sydney Hobart sailing with Edward Tooher’s Beneteau First 47.7 Chancellor.

Jaclyn Manrique and Patrick Szeto say watching the start of the Sydney Hobart race on TV is vastly different from experiencing it first-hand on the water, and offer tips for any racer eager to tick it off their bucket list.

The Rolex Sydney Hobart is one of sailing’s legendary regattas, in an elite class along with the Fastnet Race, Newport to Bermuda, and the Transpac. For Jaclyn Manrique, Sydney Hobart was a bucket list item; for her husband Patrick Szeto, it wasn’t a race he ever imagined he’d get to do. But when the opportunity came up to do the race this year, they jumped at it.

The 628-nautical mile regatta from Sydney, Australia, to Hobart, Tasmania, is known as one of the most grueling offshore races in the world with big breeze and waves, tricky, shifting conditions, and challenging currents to play. The course starts in the Sydney Harbor with the fleet short-tacking their way to the Sydney Heads and the open ocean. It continues down along the southeast coast of Australia, across the Bass Strait, and down the east coast of Tasmania to Storm Bay and the final upwind sail up the Derwent River.

It's a festival on the dock in Sydney in the days leading up to the start of the race. Photo: Rolex Sydney Hobart.

The couple is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and the skipper of a boat Jaclyn regularly sails on invited them to join the crew of Chancellor, Edward Tooher’s Sydney-based Beneteau First 47.7. Neither Jaclyn nor Patrick had ever been in Australia before. They landed in Sydney two weeks before the race so they’d have time to get over their jet lag and enjoy a bit of touring before diving into boat preparation and practicing with the crew.

The Sydney Hobart traditionally starts on December 26, which left a little bit of time with friends and family over the Christmas holiday. “Patrick’s whole family came in and my dad came in a couple of days before Christmas to watch the start, so we got to have Christmas dinner together,” said Jaclyn.

“On Boxing Day, there were definitely some nerves and a lot of excitement. There are tons of people on the dock—media, racers, and their family’s all taking pictures. It was just an amazing feeling and energy.”

The Rolex Sydney Hobart has one start but three start lines. Photo: Rolex Sydney Hobart.

The 88-boat fleet was divided between three different start lines, with the maxis starting first, the midsize boats starting second, and the smaller boats—if you can call a 49-foot boat “small”—starting third.

“It’s really crowded. On our start line there were 30 or 40 boats. That’s a pretty good fleet and it feels very crowded as you’re tacking up the harbor with spectator boats on either side,” said Patrick.

“You can’t win the race at the start, but you sure can lose it. The most important thing is to exit the Heads safely. The race starts once you’re in the ocean; the harbor is just a giant spectacle and there’s not much time to look around.”

The uncommon conditions of this year’s Sydney Hobart were widely reported in the media. Outside of the Heads, the top of fleet was treated to a downwind run the majority of the way gunning for a course record, while the slower boats faced rain, heavy fog, and a building sea state as they worked their way south. On the second night, Chancellor got a 12-foot tear up the center of its mainsail.

Jaclyn at the helm of Chancellor.

“We had a backup main that was not in as good condition so we had to preserve it until we got to the Derwent River and would have to turn upwind in light breeze. At one point, we were sailing with just a spinnaker in order to preserve the main. We were really rolling around with the sea state,” said Jaclyn.

The race typically parks at the entrance to the Derwent River having to fight the current and play the shifts for the final run up to Hobart, but the weather system sitting off the coast provided three days of consistent pressure, with just a couple of light patches along the way.

Anthony Bell’s Juan-K 100 Perpetual Loyal skippered by America’s Cup star Tom Slingsby grabbed line honors and crushed the course record finishing in 1 day 13 hours 31 minutes—almost five hours faster than Wild Oats XI’s 2012 time.

The unusual conditions provided the opportunity for that record; at one point 24 boats were on target to better Wild Oats XI’s time. Chancellor was not quite that fast, but they did set a boat record for the course finishing in just over 3 days and 13 hours.

A light moment for the international crew on Chancellor, somewhere in the Bass Strait.

“There were four other 47.7s. Our aim was to do well amongst that fleet and do well in our division. It was very relaxed, and safety was paramount,” said Patrick.

The 12-member Chancellor crew representing the U.S., the U.K., and Australia, was divided into two watches of five, with Tooher and the navigator on their own schedule.

“There’s always an uncertainty going into a race where you don’t know the other crew. Available skill sets, experience, interests, and social dynamic can become kind of an issue when you’re working with people you don’t know. That’s true on any boat of course, but with this one it’s maybe more important just because of the level of the race,” said Patrick.

“You can’t expect things to be perfect, you have to make it work. I think both watches did very well.”

The Chancellor crew celebrating a boat record for the course and a safe crossing in Hobart.

Patrick says if he could have done one thing differently in the race, he’d have put on his foulies at the start. “I was on the bow. It was really hot. When it’s 100-plus degrees you don’t want to put clothes on. But as soon as it starts, you get wet really quick. You don’t bring a change of clothes, you just add layers, and I ended up being wet the entire race.”

So would they do it again? “I think I would but it depends on the right factors: the right team, a good safe boat, and timing,” said Jaclyn.

Thinking of doing this year’s Sydney Hobart? Jaclyn and Patrick offer these tips:

Get good gear: Don’t cheapen out on gear. Get the guaranteed, well-known reliable gear. That’s definitely key,” said Jaclyn.

Pack layers: It’s hot in Sydney but gets progressively colder as you head south, so make sure you’ve got layers—up to four plus foul weather gear.

Prepare your body: Jaclyn and Patrick say they added weight training, running, and swimming to their regular workouts in order to prepare for the intense conditions they would likely face. “Train for it, have a training plan to work out and get stronger. If you can, do a few other offshore races to get used to the watch system,” said Jaclyn.

Keep hydrated and eat regularly: “It’s important to stay hydrated and eat, as well as sleep during your off watches in order to keep your energy levels up”, said Jaclyn.

Conserve your energy: It’s important to rest on your off-watch, especially if you’re on one of the smaller boats that take upwards of two days. “It’s more like a marathon than a sprint,” said Patrick.

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September 10, 2016

Whitecaps Proud to be the Official Green Partner of the 2016 Rolex Big Boat Series and J/70 World Championships

Photo © Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

Specially designed water bottles will be supplied to every crewmember sailing in San Francisco’s largest regattas of the season in an effort to eliminate plastic waste.

Whitecaps Marine Outfitters has partnered with the St. Francis Yacht Club in an effort to completely eliminate plastic waste in San Francisco Bay. As the official green partner of the club’s two biggest regattas of the season—Rolex Big Boat Series (Sept. 15 – 18) and Alcatel J/70 Worlds (Sept. 24 – Oct. 1)—Whitecaps will supply every crewmember with a reusable water bottle. St. Francis Yacht Club will provide refill stations at the top of the docks.

The 2016 Rolex Big Boat series boats a record number of entries—currently more than 120 boats—and the third-ever J/70 World Championships will have at least 81 boats on the line. With more than 1,000 sailors participating in both events, if every crew fully utilized their reusable water bottles, that could add up to several thousand bottles saved in the course of the two events.

According to The Ocean Cleanup project, some eight million tons of plastic enter the world’s oceans each year, with trash accumulating in five ocean garbage patches—the largest one is between Hawaii and California. In 2015, a number of San Francisco-based boats participated in the Mega Expedition, the largest ocean research expedition ever—30 boats mapped a 3.5 million-square-kilometer area of the Pacific Ocean. The samples are still being analyzed, but initial findings show that the concentration of plastic had been heavily underestimated.

“In San Francisco, we’re keenly aware of the plastic waste problem in our oceans. Many sailors in this year’s Pacific Cup and last year’s Transpac reported seeing numerous large plastic objects floating in the so-called ‘Pacific Garbage Patch,’ but the problem isn’t the plastic we can see—it’s the microscopic plastic particles we can’t see,” said Whitecaps owner Jen Canestra.

“While saving a few thousand plastic bottles from the garbage bin is but a symbolic gesture toward solving this massive problem, we believe it’s important to take these small steps and to set the precedence in our yachting community. We urge every sailor to utilize their water bottle for the good of our sport and our planet,” she added.

The 28 oz. H2Go water bottles with a convenient flip lid custom printed with logos of the event will be a great souvenir as well as help to reduce plastic bottle waste.

The club is also launching additional efforts to reduce waste during these two high-profile events: sailing instructions, results, and NORs will be issued digitally. During social events, all cups will be biodegradable and food waste will be composted.

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September 8, 2016

Team Barrows-Morris: 49er Sailors on the Road Home from Rio

Joseph Morris and Thomas Barrows represented Team USA in the 49er skiff in Rio di Janeiro.

US Olympic 49er sailors Joe Morris and Thomas Barrows give us the low-down on how they decided who got to helm, the new Zhik Avalare gear, and the likelihood of a Tokyo 2020 campaign.

Whitecaps Marine Outfitters was proud to support US 49er sailors Joe Morris and Thomas Barrows on their road to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio di Janeiro. Even though the games are over, their schedules are just as busy with a new Melges 20 team, Joe getting ready to coach at Yale (their Alma Mater) this fall and Thomas preparing for the J/70 Worlds in San Francisco. But we were able to catch up with them via email to learn about their experience in Brazil and find out what else is next for these two up-and-coming sailors.

Whitecaps: You met when you were both sailing as helmsman, but when you teamed up to sail the 49er, one would have to drive, one would have to crew—was it an obvious choice who would do what position and how did you decide?

Joe & Thomas: We get this question a lot. There were a number of pros and cons to each. Both Thomas and I were helms in our previous Olympic class experience—Thomas in the Laser in 2008 representing the US Virgin Islands and Joe on the US Sailing team helming in the 470. Thomas had been helming the 49er for about 18 months with a crew from the Virgin Islands when we teamed up. Joe was coming from working a desk job in Switzerland and wasn’t nearly in good enough shape to crew in the 49er at first so at the beginning, we traded off the helm, but Joe had a good amount of experience trapeze crewing while growing up and with Thomas’s experience on the helm of the 49er, that seemed to make the most sense. We moved out to San Francisco to challenge ourselves in the windy conditions while also running Joe through a 49er fitness bootcamp. With a lot of hard work in the gym, and an insane amount of food, after about seven months he’d put on 25 pounds to become a more efficient crew and Thomas got a lot more experience in breezy driving. In the end, this was a great strength of ours in the windy races during the trials.

Mark roundings were crowded in such a tight Olympic fleet.

Whitecaps: For Thomas, this was your second Olympics, for Joe your first—how were your perspectives and expectations for the Games the same or different?

Joe & Thomas: We talked a lot about this and in short, it really wasn’t very different for us. Thomas had experienced the circus that is the Games and Joe had not. Some people feel the pressure when they are looked at as contenders; for us, it was pretty easy to put the headphones in and just go do our jobs each day. It is a very special feeling because everyone recognizes that you are there to be professional and do your job, and sometimes that goes unrecognized in Olympic sailing.

Whitecaps: Besides Olympic qualification, what has been your greatest success to date (individually and together)?

Joe & Thomas: It’s funny—after doing an intense campaign in an extreme class, all the things that rush to mind are small victories, for example, the days when you’re not just able to survive in survival conditions, but actually start racing with the big dogs in the fleet. In terms of more concrete success, we won a J/70 East Coast Championship, which we were using mainly to work on our communication in a less stressful environment; our communication in the 49er was much more concrete after that. Individually, we were both four-time All Americans at Yale. Two of those years we overlapped, which laid the foundation for our friendship and our professional relationship.

Joe and Thomas say their time spent sailing together at Yale laid the foundation for their friendship and professional relationship.

Whitecaps: What has been the toughest hurdle on you “Road to Rio”?

Joe & Thomas: Our campaign was different than many in the sense that we basically ran on a shoestring budget from 2013 – 2015. Just having enough money to eat and train was a massive financial challenge, not to mention doing the full circuit of events in Europe. We had to take a lot of time off to do other sailing events in order to pay for the 49er campaign, which kind of held us at a plateau for a frustrating amount of time. After taking time off for an injury and using it to fundraise, we were able to hit the gas hard 2015 and sail full time like the other teams. We managed to scrape together enough money for a new boat for the trials. Funding is always a challenge for everyone, but without sponsors such as Whitecaps, who helped provide us with gear that we never would have been able to afford, the campaign wouldn’t have gotten very far. That being said, the struggle made us a whole lot stronger in the end, although maybe not as prepared for the Olympics as we would have liked.

Whitecaps: You were wearing Zhik gear in Rio including the new Avlare. How do you like it?

Joe & Thomas: The new Avlare line was fantastic. To sum it up in one word: versatility. We were amazed how well it performed on light, sunny, and flat water days inside the bay as well as breeze on, wavy, windy days out in the ocean. The Z Skin tops were also a favorite of ours. Everything they make is great, and it’s literally the only brand in our kit.

On behalf of our team, we just want to say a HUGE thank you to Whitecaps Marine & Zhik for their support over the past several years. We cannot say thank you enough for keeping us in the right gear to perform on the biggest sporting stage in the world!

Whitecaps: What was it like to pop that huge American flag spinnaker for the first time?

Joe & Thomas: We just couldn't stop smiling. I (Joe) had the picture of Erik Storck and Trevor Moore sailing with that kite in 2012 as the background of my computer for four entire years—I’m still staring at it right now. It just perfectly symbolized what the Games are all about. We were representing our country to the best of our abilities, and it really fired us up in a good way.

Joe and Thomas say that huge American flag spinnaker perfectly symbolized what the Games are all about.

Whitecaps: Before the Games, you both said that you’re committed to winning a gold medal in the 49er in Brazil, but sailing is a fickle sport—anything can happen—what final steps did you take to prepare and are you satisfied in the end with your result?

Joe & Thomas: Looking back as the dust is settling after the Games, it’s a mixed bag of emotions. We did not have a stellar performance, but having reflected on it a bit now, we may not have made any major changes to our approach in the final few months. We were behind the international curve once we qualified but showed that we could race in the top 20—and almost top 10—at major World Cup events. The Olympics is only 20 boats but it’s just as hard to pass from 20th to 19th as it is from 2nd to 1st—the level is so high and the class so deep. Our starts, which are usually a big strength and something we rely on, weren’t stellar, and a bad break here and there caused us to be behind from day one. We’re both still proud of how we sailed, know that it could have been better, and are taking some time to analyze the small things we could have changed during the event that would have helped us to a better performance. The learning never ends in sailing and when you have a poor regatta is when you can learn the most.

Whitecaps: 49er racing began in the second week of the Games and athletes typically can attend any of the events they would like as spectators—did you have an opportunity to watch any of the other competitions?

Joe & Thomas: Aside from the Opening ceremonies, watching other sports was the biggest highlight. Seeing all the diversity—the different body types, techniques, powerhouse countries, small island nations, people who excel under pressure and those who crumble—it was just amazing. We saw everything from diving to wrestling, beach volleyball (another highlight) to tennis. It was an experience we’ll never forget.

Whitecaps: What’s next for Team Barrows-Morris? Can we expect to see a run for Tokyo in 2020?

Joe & Thomas: As for our team, we are taking a little bit of time to reflect and do some soul searching. If we go again for 2020, the mission would be a medal and nothing short of it. We’re spending some time doing other sailing (Melges 20, J/70) and are planning to talk about our Olympic sailing futures in a few weeks. Whether it’s 49er sailing or not, we will definitely be working on some projects together for the future.

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August 9, 2016

What Olympic Sailors Will Be Wearing in Rio

Avlare is the latest in dinghy technology gear from Zhik.

Just weeks before the 2016 Olympic Games, Australian dinghy sailing gear specialist Zhik unveiled Avlare, a revolutionary new super light and extremely water repellent fabric. A number of sailors in Rio including Australian Nacra 17 duo Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin and US 49er sailors Joseph Morris and Thomas Barrows will we wearing Olympic uniforms made of the new material.

The Olympic suits made of Avlare are thinner, lighter and more comfortable than anything currently worn by top-level competitive sailors. Avlare actually prevents a sailor from getting wet, thereby significantly reducing their water weight and keeping them shielded from the elements while still being highly breathable.

Jason Waterhouse talks Zhik Avlare & the RIO Games from Zhik on Vimeo.

According to Zhik, Avlare is a completely new material, never before seen in the marine environment. Rather than have a hydrophobic coating, Avlare is completely hydrophobic. If the material ever does get wet through, the hydrophobic qualities can be reactivated through heat.

So what is Avlare? It’s not a wetsuit. It’s currently available as a long and short-sleeve top for men and women that can be worn as a stand-alone in warm weather or over a wetsuit in colder climates.

“The idea behind it was to provide something for the athletes in Rio allowing them to go into the water and as they stepped onto their boat the material would be completely dry and so there would be no additional water weight when they're sailing,” said Zhik’s Tristan Hutt.

Wearing Avlare, it feels like spandex. It’s as light and flexible, which is particularly important when sailing active Olympic class boats. “It’s like the ultimate spandex—it’s what spandex would love to be,” said Hutt. “Imagine effectively a spandex top that never gets wet. You get all of the benefits—it's breathable, flexible and allows water to pass through so you do get the water-cooling effect, but the material itself doesn’t take up water and wet out.”

Avlare also offers UPF 50+ sun protection.

“It’s light and flexible, but really insulating which is critical on the Nacra. We go so fast that I get cold just wearing spandex as soon as the wind picks up. I have been wearing it pretty much every day out on the water,” said Darmanin.

Avlare has been in a testing phase for a while with sailors on a number of national teams—British, Australian, New Zealand, Danish, and Singapore—for some time, and as of this summer is available on the retail market. A number of Avlare products are available in the Zhik store on Whitecaps marine. Look for more products to become available as they’re rolled out!

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