Archive for October, 2002


Ocean Planet’s new boom

October 15, 2002   

Ocean Planet’s New Boom

By John Zisa

Midway across the Atlantic during the first leg of the Around Alone Ocean Race from Newport, R.I. to Brixham, England, the yacht Ocean Planet, an Open 60 owned and skippered by Bruce Schwab snapped it’s 34′ carbon fiber boom requiring a replacement to be able to continue on the next leg of the race. Bruce called Ted Van Dusen of Composite Engineering in Concord, MA, the “go to” people of custom carbon fiber work. Composite Engineering dropped everything and went to work on building the boom under extremely tight time constraints.

Since Ocean Planet had no principle sponsors, Schwab was able to handle the $ 25,000.00 expense of the boom, but shipping from Boston to Brixham, through British customs all within one week was a problem. I caught wind of the dilemma through the online sailing community. I learned that they had been quoted $250,000.00 to charter a 747 as transport. A quote from the official Around Alone shipping company was more reasonable at $25,000. However, being familiar with international shipping, it was clear to me that the boom could be shipped at a more reasonable cost. Through contacts I was able to get a quote of $2,280.00, which I forwarded to Ocean Planet’s Shore Team Manager, Ashley Perrin. I immediately received a ‘GO’ response.

Quoting the transport was the easy part, executing it was the challenge. The plan was to pick up the 34′ spar at the factory in Concord MA at 8:30 Sat morning Oct 5 with my trailer (designed for a 20 foot boat), and take it to Logan Airport by 12:00 Noon. From there it would be trucked to JFK airport, flown to Preswick, Scotland, and trucked to Heathrow. From Heathrow the Ocean Planet Volunteer network would clear customs and transport it to Brixham. Simple? NO??

When I arrived at Composite Engineering, the boom was not ready. They were still grinding, sanding and fitting hardware. I was told it would be just a couple of hours. At 11:30 AM, I pulled Ted VanDusen aside and let him know that it was time to go. We loaded the boom plus a carbon fiber batten on my trailer and departed with no time to spare. Committing several traffic violations, things were looking good as we sped toward Logan Airport, aaannnd tthheennn STOP!!!!! Welcome to Boston traffic. The noon deadline came and went as we idled in bumper to bumper traffic. Maxing out my cell phone minutes, I arranged for the spar to be picked up later in the day in time to make the flight from JFK. The delivery was made successfully and we enjoyed a sense of accomplishment. But………

At 4:30 AM Monday, October 7th, I received a panic call from England. The boom was on its way to Paris! Since tracking options are limited at that hour of the morning, I told England I would get back to them later that morning. I learned that the original flight had been cancelled due to mechanical problems and the shipment was placed on a later departure that would go through Paris before arriving at Heathrow. The boom finally arrived in London at 1:30 AM Wednesday October 9th, a mere 20 hours behind schedule. Believe me, it could have been a lot worse. However, the story does not end here.

Wednesday I received another call from Ashley in England. Apparently there was a communication breakdown somewhere and two battens were supposed to be shipped instead of the one that went. Schwab was adamant the second batten was required. After checking with my usual shipping contacts I was advised that there was no way that the batten could be shipped by the Friday deadline. The problem was that the shipping service’s next day service limits the size to 48 linear inches. The batten was 10 feet in length. In addition it can take 24 hours to clear customs. I explained to Ashley that it could not happen. Now what? Then it occurred to me.

“Did you pack your own bags?” “Did anyone give you items to carry for them?” “Have you been in control of your bags since packing them?’ “Passport, please.” “Gate 21, sir.” “Enjoy your flight.”

After 10 long hours via Zurich, Switzerland, I was met at London City airport, and was easily identified as I exited customs with only a carry on and a ten foot bag. After a five hour drive, I met Bruce Schwab and Ashley Perrin in person for the first time as I handed to them the most expensive battens known to man. I was now ready for something warm and amber colored from a local pub and some rest. Little did I realize that what I thought was my free weekend in England would turn into 12 hour work days of hard manual labor in horizontal rainstorms. I learned just how high it feels to work at 85 feet up the mast and how hard it is to transport a 350 pound main sail by way of inflatable power boat. I became one of the shore team volunteers preparing Ocean Planet for its next leg to Cape Town, South Africa.

I watched the start of the next race leg and departed for home. This was an awesome adventure. A number of people who had never met worked toward accomplishing a complicated common goal and succeeded. It was team work at its finest. To date I still support Schwab and the Ocean Planet team with logistical and occasional public relations work. This was an experience that I will never forget.
You can follow Ocean Planet’s racing progress at