Tuesday, April 23, 2019


23 April 2019: When the cup challenge, immediately following the successful campaign by New Zealand in Bermuda a couple of years ago, started, it seemed like 2021 would be a banner year for the world's oldest sports competition. And on top of that, a new design was being inaugurated for the racers: a monohull foiling vessel of some 70 feet. 

Newshub NZ recently put out the following somewhat disappointing - if not totally surprising - announcement:

Newshub understands half the boats challenging for the America's Cup will not make it to the start line in Auckland in 2021.
All three teams that filed late entries have failed to get enough money together to stage a challenge.
It leaves Emirates Team New Zealand facing the prospect of losing millions of dollars, with its dreams of up to eight super-sized mono-hulls flying over the Waitematā now dead in the water.
Multiple sources have told Newshub three of the declared challengers won't make it to Auckland.
"It is not surprising that some of the challenges aren't going to make it to the start line," said veteran America's Cup skipper Chris Dickson.
"It's an expensive game, the America's Cup."
Newshub has been told that Malta's entry is "dead in the water" and "has gone dark".
DutchSail is resorting to crowdfunding and says "the pressure is on" and "the moment of truth is at hand."
Newshub understands that California's Stars & Stripes is currently drafting a media release announcing its withdrawal.
That leaves:
  • - Luna Rosa, the challenger of record;
  • - INEOS Team UK, backed by Sir Ben Ainslie;
  • - American Magic, from the New York Yacht Club.
Just last month, the latter showed off how advanced it was, by foiling in New York.

But the loss of three teams also leaves Emirates Team New Zealand out of pocket.
Newshub has been told it will miss out on selling a design and technology package worth $5 million per team.
"Team New Zealand has two jobs at hand - one is running the event and the other running their team," said Dickson. "The two are quite different operations and financially quite different.
"But Team New Zealand, like the other teams, to be competitive and to win this thing again, they need to be generating $20-30 million a year to win - and I'm sure they're working hard on that. "
The team would also be perilously close to breaching its agreement with the Government and Auckland Council.
Under its obligation, it must deliver at least three challengers. In return, the Government has pledged $136.5 million, while Auckland Council will gift $113 million for infrastructure.
The event is expected to pump between $600m-$1b into the economy.
Work has already begun demolishing part of the waterfront to make way for the challenger bases.
"More teams are always easier," Dickson said. "It's better for the media, it's better for publicity, it's better for everything - Team NZ will be disappointed.
"But four teams make an event and as long as those four teams are there, it's going be just fine."
Emirates Team New Zealand said no team had officially withdrawn yet - but it didn't expect all three to be there in 2021.

Time will tell, but it appears to us that the 2021 America's Cup races will be less well attended than past events, a real pity in our opinion. But the huge costs that seem to be rising with each challenge are daunting to say the least and, though hard to believe, the audience appears to be shrinking. 

More as it becomes available.

                                    Fair Winds, 
                                        Old Salt

Monday, April 15, 2019


15 April 2019: Given that today is "Income Tax Day" across the United States, and some folks are a bit stressed about that, we thought the following amising article might give our readers a chuckle - at least. And if you are a "flat earther" who finds this offensive, we can only offer: get over it. 

Flat-Earthers' Cruise Will Sail to Antarctica 'Ice Wall' at the Planet's Edge. Right.

Organizers of an annual conference that brings together people who believe that the Earth is flat are planning a cruise to the purported edge of the planet. They're looking for the ice wall that holds back the oceans.
The journey will take place in 2020, the Flat Earth International Conference (FEIC) recently announced on its website. The goal? To test so-called flat-Earthers' assertion that Earth is a flattened disk surrounded at its edge by a towering wall of ice.

Details about the event, including the dates, are forthcoming, according to the FEIC, which calls the cruise "the biggest, boldest adventure yet." However, it's worth noting that nautical maps and navigation technologies such as global positioning systems (GPS) work as they do because the Earth is … a globe. [7 Ways to Prove the Earth Is Round]
Believers in a flat Earth argue that images showing a curved horizon are fake and that photos of a round Earth from space are part of a vast conspiracy perpetrated by NASA and other space agencies to hide Earth's flatness. These and other flat-Earth assertions appear on the website of the Flat Earth Society (FES), allegedly the world's oldest official flat Earth organization, dating to the early 1800s.
However, the ancient Greeks demonstrated that Earth was a sphere more than 2,000 years ago, and the gravity that keeps everything on the planet from flying off into space could exist only on a spherical world.
But in diagrams shared on the FES website, the planet appears as a pancake-like disk with the North Pole smack in the center and an edge "surrounded on all sides by an ice wall that holds the oceans back." This ice wall — thought by some flat-Earthers to be Antarctica — is the destination of the promised FEIC cruise.

There's just one catch: Navigational charts and systems that guide cruise ships and other vessels around Earth's oceans are all based on the principle of a round Earth, Henk Keijer, a former cruise ship captain with 23 years of experience, told The Guardian.
GPS relies on a network of dozens of satellites orbiting thousands of miles above Earth; signals from the satellites beam down to the receiver inside of a GPS device, and at least three satellites are required to pinpoint a precise position because of Earth's curvature, Keijer explained.
"Had the Earth been flat, a total of three satellites would have been enough to provide this information to everyone on Earth," Keijer said. "But it is not enough, because the Earth is round."
Whether or not the FEIC cruise will rely on GPS or deploy an entirely new flat-Earth-based navigation system for finding the end of the world, remains to be seen.

We can't add anything to this, except to hope they don't fall off the edge! Enjoy!

Until next time, 
                                Fair Winds,
                                         Old Salt

Tuesday, April 9, 2019


9 April 2019: Several months back, we posted an article from England claiming the discovery of the Revolutionary War ship BonHomme Richard, John Paul Jones' commanding, which had fought the British HMS Serapis off Flamborough Head in 1779. The battle, and Jones' words, gave rise to the iconic quote, "I have not yet begun to fight!" Now, there appears to be other opinions on the find. The following is from the US Naval Institute.

U.K. Firm Claims it Found Famed U.S. Warship Bonhomme Richard; Experts Aren’t So Sure
A British raconteur says he found the wreckage of Capt. John Paul Jones’ flagship, USS Bonhomme Richard, but across the Atlantic historians and Navy officials aren’t as certain.
In November, a five-person team at Merlin Burrows, an English satellite imagery firm, announced they had pinpointed the wreck of Bonhomme Richard close to the Yorkshire shore.
Combining data from historical accounts of Bonhomme Richard’s Sept. 23, 1779, battle with HMS Serapis with publicly available satellite imagery and X-ray data, the Merlin Burrows team located a wreck in 2017 that they’re confident is Jones’ famed ship, said Bruce Blackburn, chief executive of Merlin Burrows.

“We go find stuff. We don’t look for it,” Blackburn told USNI News in a telephone interview earlier this year. “If there’s a myth and legend and historical principals, we’ll fire up the satellite.”
Scans of the wreck near Flamborough Head, where Bonhomme Richard battled Serapis nearly 240 years ago, show the location of what Blackburn believes is a ship’s bell and a figurehead. He’s convinced these are from Bonhomme Richard. The British press, including the BBC, ran stories of the find with posted photos of burnt timbers said to be from Bonhomme Richard.

The British tend to take a less sentimental view of John Paul Jones – he’s considered more of a pirate – than how he’s revered in the U.S., Blackburn said. Still, he is thrilled about the find, because the Jones story is compelling. The battle against Serapis is where Jones issued his famous response to the suggestion he surrender, saying “I have not yet begun to fight.”
Jones’ words have served as the model of grit and determination for generations of sailors in the Navy he’s said to have fathered. Definitively finding his flagship’s wreck, Blackburn said, could be a boon to the local tourist industry and a great bit of marketing for his firm.

Across the Atlantic, though, U.S.-based researchers who have for decades searched for Bonhomme Richard say not so fast.
The same historical documents Blackburn used, such as eyewitness accounts, ship logs and sea drift modeling, suggest Bonhomme Richard sank further away from shore, nearly at the horizon, researcher Melissa Ryan told USNI News.
Ryan, vice president of the Mystic, Conn., Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration and the foundation’s lead Bonhomme Richard researcher, has worked with U.S., British and French navy officials since 2006 to find the wreck. Wooden shipwrecks, such as the one Blackburn found, litter the seafloor close to shore along the eastern coast of Great Britain, Ryan said. Some probably date as far back to Viking times.
Perhaps 1,500 wrecks line the British coast, many relatively close to shore, Robert Neyland, head of the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command’s underwater archeology branch, told USNI News. Neyland has worked with Ryan in searching for Bonhomme Richard and shares her view the wreck is likely farther offshore.

Finding timbers dating from the 1700s provides circumstantial evidence that the wreck might be the right age but doesn’t prove its identity, Neyland said. Otherwise, from what he’s seen in media reports, Neyland thinks Blackburn’s proof is thin.
“We’ve been in contact with Historic England and they didn’t think it was worth a survey to verify,” Neyland said.
However, as searches move further away from the coast, Ryan said shipwrecks tend to be found further apart and tend to be modern in design – made of steel and with engine components. Ryan said this part of the coast is called torpedo alley because of the abundance of shipping sunk by German submarines during both World Wars.
In the middle of torpedo alley, Ryan’s team found in 2012 what she says is definitively a wooden shipwreck. They’ve found an anchor that corresponds in size to one believed to have been on Bonhomme Richard and rigging material including a spar and a deadeye with a lanyard still preserved that suggest the wreck is from an appropriate era to be Bonhomme Richard.
“We know we have a wooden sailing ship. We haven’t found any evidence of anything modern,” Ryan said.
Based on the history of Bonhomme Richard’s engagement with Serapis, Ryan said both ships moved toward the horizon. Jones, in victory, took over Serapis and salvaged what he could from Bonhomme Richard, which was severely damaged and drifting with the current.
“Why would a wooden ship sink that far offshore when it hadn’t run up against a rock or reef?” Ryan asks.
The answer is simple, Ryan said. The wreck her team found suffered damage in battle, such as the one recorded between Bonhomme Richard and Serapis.

Cliffs at Flamborough Head

"Common sense tells you if the ship sunk close to shore it would’ve been found,” Neyland said.

Blackburn knows other researchers are skeptical of his findings. Their hesitation, he says, is caused by a belief that Merlin Burrows is a disrupter to the heritage industry – those looking for sea wrecks or land-based archaeological sites.
“It’s obviously a bitter pill to swallow. Their ladder is up against the wrong wall,” Blackburn said about the skeptics. “We don’t expect them to be jumping for joy, but our discovery of the Bonhomme Richard is 100-percent absolutely true.”
Other researchers, Blackburn says, rely on fundraising to bankroll expeditions that may or may not yield results. The firm follows what Blackburn described as a transactional business model. Using satellite and X-ray data, Blackburn says he can provide historians and treasure hunters precise coordinates of where to search – but for a price.
“The etiquette is, whoever owns or has title of the wreck would reimburse the finder,” Blackburn said.
It’s not clear how much revenue Merlin Burrows is bringing in. Blackburn owns a minority 20-percent stake in the company, and another investor owns the remaining 80 percent, according to incorporation documents filed with the British government. Blackburn told USNI News the financial backing from the other shareholder is not enough to fund Merlin Burrows’ operations.
Blackburn offered to sell his data to the U.S. Navy, considered the owner of Bonhomme Richard.
“We were going to charge money,” Blackburn said. “We are a business.”
Paul Taylor, a spokesman for the Naval History and Heritage Command, provided USNI News with a statement about Blackburn’s offer.
“We are interested in hearing further details, look forward to examining data collected from the site, and, if Bonhomme Richard is located, would be very interested in ensuring the wreck is protected,” the statement said.

For Blackburn, more than recouping money for the search, he sees locating Bonhomme Richard as a potential boon to tourism in his home of North Yorkshire, where Blackburn has a stake in a variety of small businesses in the area, according to incorporation documents filed with the British government.
For Ryan, finding Bonhomme Richard offers the potential to get a first-hand glimpse at what life was like for sailors at the birth of the U.S. Navy. The wreck her team found is mostly buried by compacted sediment, which hopefully kept the ship’s remnants well preserved.
Ryan hopes the find will improve the understanding of what ships during the period were like, especially the technology to retrofit what was originally a merchant ship into the warship Bonhomme Richard. For example, Ryan said Jones insisted on using used iron knees to brace the ship and iron ballast, a rarity for the time because of the expense. Finding iron knees or ballast would be a distinctive clue because of their rarity, Ryan said.
Finding cannon would offer more definitive clues to the ship’s true identity because cannon typically carry markings from the foundry that made and sold them. Also, Jones’ personal belongings went down with the ship, which, if found, would help identify the wreck and add to what is known about Jones.
“The ship’s bell is the holy grail because it would have Duc de Duras, the ship’s original name,” Ryan said.
As for Blackburn’s find, Ryan isn’t ready to believe his wreck is Bonhomme Richard without more proof. But she thinks his wreck has the potential to be a significant find for historians.
“I think he found an incredible wreck,” Ryan said. “It’s an old wreck and it will tell us something. It’s going to be very interesting.”

There is sure to be more on this controversy and Maritime Maunder looks forward to following up with it as we find further information. 

Until next time, 
                                     Fair Winds,
                                         Old Salt