The Phoenicians had no idea when they pioneered sailing. The great naval battles throughout history would have turned out completely differently had this technology been available then. Even those who have cruised or raced on monohull sailboats of any size or design have absolutely no idea what this is like! The sensation of speed, the mind-boggling acceleration and yes, the flirtation with the border of your lifespan all contribute to the adrenalin-junkie-high these boats offer. Watching them sail alone stirs a true sailors loins! It's downright visceral.

Tempting Thanatos isn't mere hyperbole, either. This past week, the 72-foot America's Cup catamaran Artemis Racing capsized in San Francisco bay. Olympic Gold Medalist Andrew "Bart" Simpson died when the cat capsized and he became caught underwater beneath it. Artemis syndicate CEO Paul Cayard says that everyone involved in the group is completely devastated. Like most life-threatening sports, you never let the potentials ruin your fun.

The AC72 cats run at speeds in excess of 40 knots around a race course in San Francisco Bay. But the  French trimaran, Hydroptére, qualifies as the current world sailing speed record holder at more than 50 knots over a kilometer course. However, Hydroptére races offshore and plans to break the California to Hawaii speed record. It will take a sustainned average speed above 17.21 knots for 2215 56.3 knots (104.3 km/h; 64.8 mph). She followed that feat with her world-record speed run of 50.17 knots (92.91 km/h; 57.73 mph).

So yes, screaming across the water at warp speeds (for sailing vessels) must be truly thrilling. But unlike monohulls where you may have a more than a few moments to relax, take a deep breath, enjoy dinner, read while off watch, on these boats, you focus every second or you potentially pay the ultimate price! I can accept that. I love risky endeavors myself. But it 's very hard for me to imagine what kind of techno-breakthroughs could possibly be next to improve ultimate sailing performance!

 
Man just isn’t quite as smart as we think. Sure, we create technology to save all sorts of time and energy, but what is the ultimate impact? I remember back when computers in the workplace promised to save us all so much time that we'd be able to work four-day weeks! Yeah... right. Our productivity did skyrocket and then employers simply made a "productivity grab." Now we work more hours than ever!

I question whether all technology benefits us, or should in some cases, old school methods be better employed? A recent article in National Fisherman showcased some enterprising tuna boats fishing the Hawaiian Islands using handlines. They are doing quite well. Historically, the old tuna boats with the multiple bamboo rods did extremely well also. Both methods keep the tuna resource at sustainable levels. Introduce purse seines and other factory fishing methods and suddenly we’re taking fish before they ever get a chance to spawn. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to easily understand what less-than-zero population growth portends.

Cod fishing in New England dates back to before the Vikings visited our shores. Certainly long before Columbus "discovered" America (much to the surprise of the native Americans already living here). You can read a truly fascinating book called COD: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World by Mark Kurlansky for the complete story on how it established the European mercantile system.

Back then, the northeast cod fishery was all hook and line. Historical statistics show that the resource remained extremely healthy despite the fact that more cod were harvested back then than we can manage to find today with all our modern methods.

Don’t get me wrong. I certainly believe in progress. But sometimes, the old ways prove themselves better and should perhaps be readopted.                                                                --DTC

    Author

    Dean Travis Clarke is a licensed captain, author and has spent more than a quarter century as a highly respected marine journalist.

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    March 2013