Archive for June, 2003


Around Alone Prizegiving 2002-2003

June 6, 2003   

by John Zisa

All good parties have two things in common, a live band and an open bar. It’s a given. Add to those vital ingredients a room full of family, friends, shore crew, volunteers and of course the adventurers; legends of the sport and you’ve got one hell of a shindig!

This was no ordinary regatta prize giving; skippers and organizers shook hands like suave newly elected politicians at their victory party, blue bloods positioned themselves to be seen with best of the ‘yachting crowd’, Irishmen translated for the Japanese, English translated for the Irish and free Tommy gear bags hung on the back of chairs ready to claimed. In the background support crews and family breathed a collective sigh of relief, friends and volunteers all happy to relax after months of urgent planning and scheming. Indeed this was less a prize-giving, more a party that was showing signs of finding its groove, and that groove was aimed at the stars.

Dinner was announced and the hungry herd piled under the big tent for a beautifully presented meal of beef and salmon, roasted potatoes and greens complimented by fine Dry Creek Vineyards red or white wine; a far cry from freeze dried grub. Brian Hancock introduced himself as the MC for the evening, thanking everyone in attendance with emphasis on the skippers and sponsors, as proper etiquette would dictate! Moving and amazing yarns of past and present adventurers convinced the crowd that the Around Alone event is more than just a race, but represents a whole way of life for many of the sailing hardcore.

The anticipated award ceremony took a long time coming and upon claiming their prizes each competitor reacted with differences that reflected their character. Two men of imposing presence, Brad Van Liew and Tim Kent shared their exhilaration with the whole assembly giving inspiring speeches; their facial expressions are permanently etched in my memory. Alan Paris professed his love for sailing as the reason for taking his time to finish each leg and laughingly condemned the fastest skippers as impatient sailors who obviously did not love their sport enough! A satellite telephone call to Spirit of Canada’s Derek Hatfield, still at sea enroute to Newport allowed him to give his thanks and give an update on his progress. Alan Paris nodded in approval at a kindred spirit who obviously wanted to spend as much time on his boat as possible and the whole assembly spared a thought to a man who was missing free Tommy gear! Derek was in attendance in every way but physical.

It was time for this gig to fire up and there is nothing better than a drunkard to get everyone into the party mood. Enter, Simone Bianchetti whose hilariously inebriated acceptance speech was coarse enough to make a construction worker cringe. If there was a woman’s leg to be humped, it was. Husbands, sons and boyfriends were advised to go home so he could teach their women how to be women; and that’s close as I can get to a quote! Hat’s off to Bruce Schwab for defending the honor of his mom.

As the tables were cleared, the band was introduced. Having gone down a storm at Emma Richard’s birthday party in England it was decided to fly them out from England to rock Newport. These professional entertainers had the dance floor filled within seconds of taking the stage. A stray passer by would have been impressed by an abundance of white man’s overbite (including mine), flashing arms, gyrating hips, swift footwork and a clumsy Italian “No guilt” approach to dancing from Simone. The party went on full bore for the rest of the evening, in fact there was clearly no desire to stop at mid night as most attended the after hours party which made this a two day party marathon! The massed assembly crowded the bar, dance floor and…..brickhouse, (Yes, the head was actually in a brick house).

The Around Alone race is presented as a professional event, which in a way it is, but what separates it from other high profile sailing events, is its focus on humanity. The race isn’t about winning for every skipper. Some are adventurers racing in highly tuned machines who end up in debt for years if not for life as a result of feeding their passion. The race is also about the shore crews who have traveled the world (and its no paid holiday!) to keep these race boats running, repaired and reliable. And there is the long suffering significant others who allow the skippers to disappear around the world for months at a time. Most important, perhaps are the supporters who cut high dollar value checks to the competitors, with little or absolutely no return apart from the knowledge that they feed a hungry but exhilarating sport with funds.

These people follow a different route in life. By choosing sailing as their occupation they forego following the normal route up the ladder of life, searching for riches, power and authority. Money is simply a necessary tool needed to accomplish a higher goal of pushing their sport to a new limit, making money is not the goal. So what do they get from it? Freedom, solitude, a personal test? Ask the skippers, there are as many different motivations as there are boats in the Around Alone race!

OceanPlanet – After Around Alone

June 2, 2003   

6/2/2003- Not really a singlehanded race….
To all of the supporters of Ocean Planet in the Around Alone:The feelings and sights of the last couple years are coming back to me in flashes…. Much of the trip is tucked away in my memory, still waiting to come out, so but so many images and faces now pop up unexpectedly, making me laugh or reflect. As the memories come up in my mind, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for how much everyone has put into Ocean Planet’s long journey. Many of you I knew well already, and a great many that I never met before.

I’m terrible with names (my memory only works well on boat parts and rigging…), but I’m going to give it a shot. If I miss you please drop me a note! Names are listed in no real order, other than as my memory pulls them out…To everyone below: Thank you thank you thank you thank you!!!! Your belief in me helped me believe in myself.

The creation of Ocean Planet:
A very special thanks to ALL of our early contributors, especially Kevin & Shauna Flanigan (who make it possible to BE Ocean Planet), Adrien Fournier (the very first!), Philippe Kahn & Sonia Lee (who gave us a VERY big push), all my friends in the Singlehanded Sailing Society, and of course the Encinal YC. How about Ellen McArthur, for christening the boat in Oakland! Mark Wiltz for creating our website! Impossible to list everyone here, just take a look at the contributor’s page on our website and you’ll see what I mean. What a boat, she made it around and she’s not even finished!

My team of fellow dreamers:
Tom Wylie, Steve Rander, Ted Van Dusen, Erich Chase, Paul Bogataj, Larry Tuttle, Liem Dao, Bill Colombo, Will Paxton, Don McCleish, and of course our supplier sponsors: AMD, MAS Epoxies, Forespar Composites, Samson Rope Technologies, The HSBC Education Trust, Spectra watermakers, Nexus Instruments, Schooner Creek Boat Works, Doyle Sails, Infomatrix, Nobeltec, Waypoint/HF Radio on Board,, and of course Mariner’s Vitamins! Joan Garrett for tons of work, drive, and sweat. T’lop (Louise Felsher) and Marcel Rampini for the great emails. Collective dreaming makes the world go around, or at least makes us go around the world!

For getting us out of California, to the east coast, and my qualifier:
Greg Nelson, Stephen Hodges, Frank Slootman, Lydia Vargas, Richard Ray, Hank Grandin, Howard Holmes, David Olson, Serge Martial, George “El Diablo” Luna, Dave & Beki Fullerton, the Antigua team, Bosse Svantesson, my Dad, Chris Flanigan, Stephen Buckingham, my Mom, Rich Jones, and Edie Felix. Also: all my friends at Svendsens, Marina Village, Matt Peterson, RBS Battens, Carol Snow, Charleston Boatworks, Gille Campan, Andrew “Bam Bam” Oleksiak, and our pal Quinn.

The core Ocean Planet Shore Team:
Fearless Leader Ashley (“don’t break anything else!”) Perrin, Betty Schmidt, Jason (Argo Rigging) Winkel, and Stephen (Capn Bayliner) Hodges. More of our team(s) at the stopovers coming up below….

Joining the fun in Newport, the prologue, and the start:
Billy & Joyce Black, Victor Pinheiro, Moe Roddy, Joe Colpitt, Barbara & Noel Davis, Newport Shipyard, Tim Leary, George & Mary Beth Pike, Margo Waite, Rob Mense, John Hanna, Mark Deppe, JB Currell, Jan Brandt, Lydia, Serge, Greg, Stephen B, Stephen H….I never thought we’d make it but we did.

The amazing first stopover in Brixham, where we put on the new boom, beefed up the ballast tanks, etc, etc:
Malcolm & Janice Cook, Richard Clifton, Calvin and Jane Moulder, John (a great fiddler!), Stuart, Roger, Reg Hill, Commodore Chris, and the great yacht club. For getting us the new boom against all odds: Ted Van Dusen (Composite Engineering), John Zisa (, Tim Danford, Lydia, and Andrew Roberts. Without all of these folks help our race would have been over after just one leg.

Thanks to the Monte Real YC in Bayonna, Spain, for hosting the unofficial “leg 2.1” stopover!

At our stop in magical Cape Town, South Africa:
Glenn & Fre Langridge, Jannie De Goede, Bryan Catley, all the great kids who volunteered, the HSBC Global Education Challenge Roadshow, and that little girl rap singer at the township school we visited…read my update from then, talk about inspiration! Thanks to Kevin & Shauna (again!) for the new main & jib. Our core shore crew outdid themselves in Cape Town, which only served to prepare them for:

Tauranga, New Zealand!:
What an amazing welcome and stopover. It would take ten updates to thank everyone who came our rescue in Tauranga, but here’s just a start: Don & the team at Hutcheson Boatbuilding (Bow mods/crash box), Southern Ocean Marine (water ballast tank), Bridge Marina travelift, Future Fibres, Marine Diesel, Superhero cruisers Garth and Wendy (what a duo!), Ayn Woodruff, Robyn Croft, Roy & Sue Walmsley and family, Alan & Barbara Morton, Gordon MacLeod, stopover Queen Mandy Scott-Mackie and husband David, all our friends in the race village especially John Panoho and the Te Aurere team; Hannah & Lou at the HSBC tent, and Trevor at Mayers Music for loaning me the Martin guitar! Also there: Kevin, Chris, Lydia, Rich, Edie…supplementing the heroic shore crew!

Leg “4.1” stopover, Port Stanley, Falkland Islands:
Colossal thanks to Erich Chase of Chase Boats who performed the now customary miracles! Joining me and Erich was a great group of friendly Falklanders: Adam Cockwell, Chris Harris, Robert, Stephen Dent….who am I forgetting?

Final stop in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil:
Ashley, Jason, and Stephen performed their coup de grace, in spite of brutal heat and nasty diseases…. Also thanks to Centro Nautico, Daisy, and Dominique, and of course Team Pindar for loaning us Nick and Lucy! Thanks to Antonio, for showing me the rich culture of Salvador.

Back in the US!:
Reentry has been made much easier due to the hospitality of Bill & BJ Stephens, Charlie Reade, Christie’s in Newport, Glenn Dewell and his Bain School Superkids, and of course Kathy Guzzo and the mighty Guzzo Gang! Thanks to the Herreshoff Museum in Bristol, if any of you haven’t been there, go!

And I won’t forget:
All my fellow competitors, who always helped me and each other whenever they could. Tools and advice were always there when needed. Serge Viviand for his help and humor, and the hardworking Around Alone race team of Kels Gilkison, Mary Ambler, and Brian Hancock. To Ann Thomas’ 5th grade kids. To Brad Van Liew, for the inspiration, advice, and jokes from ’99 all through the prep and the race. I seriously am going to miss all of you, and might have to go race this other little race I heard about in France next fall, just so I can run into many of you again….;-)

So, to everyone who helped:
All of you deserve to share the pride that I have for this great Team Accomplishment. It was not really a singlehanded race

And finally to my family: My Mom, my Dad, and especially my partner Jeanie.
All of them had their reservations about this whole endeavor (I don’t blame them!), and put up with a lot but supported me all the way though. BTW, I will keep these updates on our adventures, as we work towards the Vendee Globe race next year. Our job isn’t over yet, so stay aboard for the ride and watch for coming news and events!