Racing Rio

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In a world where boating is threatened by too many alternatives vying for our free time (and disposable dollar), there are those who persevere—and in the process help the sport not only grow, but thrive. This is the story of a man who, once he discovered sailing in his mid-thirties, quickly made up for lost time.

Manouch Moshayedi made his fortune in the Southern California tech world. A highly driven and accomplished man, Moshayedi is one of those people who seem to manufacture time. While channeling his endless energy into a very lucrative career, he looked around for something else he could get into.

Moshayedi was well into his fourth decade when he was first introduced to sailing by his father-in-law, Jost Von Kursell, who took him out and literally showed him the ropes. “I tried sailing,” Moshayedi told me, adding a trademark understatement: “It was good.”

From this small spark, Moshayedi caught the bug. and quickly acquired a succession of big boats: a McGregor 65, a Farr IMS 50, and a couple of Transpac 52s. “The most exciting part was going fast, and it still is.”

Talking on the patio of his Newport Beach, CA waterfront home, Moshayedi is very practical and understated when discussing his sailing accomplishments; it’s clear he mixes equal parts passion and control in all he does, traits that have served him well on the sailboat racing circuit. He tells tales of losing rudders in mid-race, and raves about the accelerated learning curves that professional racing crews make possible. It’s clear he enjoys the planning, control and coordination of big boat racing over the past 25 years of sailing.

rio 100

BARN DOOR TROPHY

In 2014, Moshayedi purchased a 2003 Bakewell-White 98 footer named Lahana and revamped it into the 100 foot speedster Rio. The refurbished boat came out of a New Zealand yard in late 2014 and headed straight to Sydney, Australia, for the start of the Sydney-Hobart Race—quite a shakedown cruise.

Moshayedi didn’t just spiff up an existing yacht to sail on the gentleman’s racing circuit. His goal was to create a boat purpose-built to win the elusive Barn Door trophy for the West Coast’s Transpacific Yacht Race, which takes sailors from Long Beach, California to Honolulu, Hawaii. Run in odd-numbered years since 1906, this is the grand dame of offshore Pacific Ocean racing.

To qualify for the Barn Door honor, boats must sail the 2225-mile race in the shortest elapsed time (first to finish) with only manually-powered systems—no stored power, no canting keel, no water ballast, no daggerboards, no electric winches, and no hydraulic rams. Rio sailed with a crew of 19. As soon as I mentioned the challenges of choreographing a racing crew that large, I wished I could take my words back. For anyone who steers a company of thousands of employees, managing a crew of less than 20 must be child’s play.

No matter how many crew aboard, sailing a hundred-footer at top speed for six days is no small feat. And although Rio won the race, she came in a few hours too late to set a new race record—partly because midway to Hawaii, the crew had to stop and back down to untangle a fishing net wrapped around the keel. Of course, that near-miss gives Moshayedi something to shoot for in two years, when the race is run again. In the meantime, he’ll have to be satisfied with the “salad bowl,” as he refers to it; the take-home trophy is a large bowl made of Koa wood, somewhat reminiscent of the large Koa plaque that serves as the perpetual trophy for Transpac Barn Door honors.

When I ask Moshayedi about his plans now that he’s won the coveted Barn Door, his answer is matter-of-fact. “Well, we’ll win this a few more times and break the elapsed time record.” Of course, what was I thinking?

THE SAILOR BEHIND THE SAILOR

Jost Von Kursell

At 90, Moshayedi’s father-in-law Jost von Kursell is a charming man filled to the brim with life stories, any one of which would qualify as a movie. Born in Estonia, Kursell was first introduced to sailing (like many of us) through his father. From the age of seven, he and his brother were perpetually on the water. Unfortunately, the family had to relocate; Kursell went to Germany and then after World War II emigrated to Peru.

As a young man, Kursell worked in a Peruvian copper mine owned by a wealthy uncle. Missing his childhood pastime of sailing, Kursell asked his uncle to help him secure a card for the local yacht club in Lima. On his first day there, he and an Italian friend talked their way into borrowing a boat for the afternoon.

unexpectedly, they won a club race that day and suddenly, everyone wanted to know about the “gringo” who was so good on a boat. While Kursell was changing back from his sailing duds, his Italian friend manufactured a story that Kursell was an Olympian, which was picked up by La Cronica, the local newspaper. “It was the best introduction to Peruvian society,” laughs Kursell. “Of course, none of it was true.”

When Peru’s politics began to look a bit dubious, Kursell relocated to Spain and settled in Madrid, where there was little by way of sailing. He got his fix every summer in Newport Beach, where the family went to escape Spain’s seasonal heat—and where he eventually taught Moshayedi to sail.

Even with a dozen or so racing trophies on his mantle, Kursell never considered himself a professional racer. Instead, he always enjoyed the sport for its subtleties. “There is so much mystery in sailing,” he says. “A slight adjustment here and there and everything changes. Figuring out how to get a bit more speed is an art.”

Kursell’s quite tickled by the knowledge that he had a hand in making Moshayedi into a high-caliber sailor—and that one of his dusty old trophies has been revived into a prestigious award. In fact his only regret is not saving the page from La Cronica that described the gringo and his winning afternoon at the yacht club.

It is sometimes a surprise where great feats begin and what gets their momentum started. Thanks to a sail with his father-in-flaw, Moshayedi went from weekend warrior to a sailing force to be reckoned with—while giving the world of sailboat racing a nudge in the process. In a boating industry where sailing accounts for only 10 percent of the market, the individuals who manage to make a mark and highlight the beauty of the sport are rare. Moshayedi’s beginnings may have been humble, but he’s certainly reached new heights since.

Oh yeah, and when Moshayedi isn’t on the deck of his 100-footer, he zooms around Newport on a Harbor 20, just for fun. Different horses for different courses, but always ready to ride.

The west coast’s biggest warhorse

sailing-mag

the west coast’s biggest warhorse hugo boss dismasts One of the hottest, sexiest new West Coast boats is also the biggest. Watch out, ecause Rio100 is coming to town — Newport Harbor to be exact. If you followed  he Rolex Sydney Hobart race in December, you probably know that she was one of four 100-footers.

Built by Bakewell-White in 2003, RIO 100 had raced in that event previously in her original 98-ft confi guration, variously named Lahana, Konica Minolta, and Zana.

Early last year, Manouch Moshayedi of Corona del Mar purchased Lahana in Australia and delivered her to Cookson’s Yachts in New Zealand for a complete refit with the goal of creating a boat that would be suitable for and competitive in West Coast ocean racing, and which would qualify for the  trophy.

Manoush Moshayedi is the founder and former CEO and chairman of sTec, Inc., a computer data storage company with locations in Silicon Valley and Southern California. In  2013, the company was bought by Irvine-based West Digital.

When we checked in with him in January, Manoush explained:

“The boat used to have water ballast, and we removed the back half of the boat,  which had all the water ballast, and rebuilt the boat without it and without a canting keel, to qualify for the Barn Door.

So the boat has been purpose-built for the Barn Door. We are also looking to break the monohull record on a boat without the use of stored power. Wild Oats XI is also participating in the Transpac, but that boat has a canting keel, water ballast, DSS lifting boards and all-electric and mechanical winch systems.

This boat will get to Hawaii first, but it certainly is not a monohull in a traditional sense of the word.” Brett Bakewell-White redeveloped and modernized the design of Rio100. A crew of 20-25 people worked on the refit seven days a week for nine months.

She now sports a wider, longer stern, a longer boom and a longer bowsprit. The helm stations were moved aft, and Rio100 is now 6-7 tons lighter than was Lahana. Her winches are all manual.

A new engine was installed with a new lifting prop, and a new lifting keel (from 19 to 14 feet) will facilitate entry into at least some West Coast marinas.

Rio100’s first race was New Zealand’s 230-mile Yates Cup in November, and she won it. Her second race was the 628- mile Rolex Sydney Hobart, which started on Boxing Day, December 26, in Sydney Harbour.

Rio100 performed very well,” said Manouch Moshayedi about the Australian race. “Our primary goals were to get off the start line cleanly and make it to Hobart in one iece. The fact that we were in contention for third place up until a couple of  ours before the finish was icing on the cake.We were still very happy with our fourth-place finish just 11 minutes behind the third-place finisher, Ragamuffin 100, which is a canting-keel boat with water ballast and a much larger sail plan.

The crew saw 35 knots on the nose the first night, triple zeros the next morning, then 35 knots from behind, followed by triple zeros again.

The only low point was when we parked at the head of the Derwent River and waited for Ragamuffin 100, said Moshayedi.

Aboard for the Sydney Hobart were skipper Moshayedi, navigator Peter Isler, tactician Gavin Brady, boat captain Keith Kilpatrick, Jeff Mesaano, Mike Howard, Mike Van Dyke, Mike Pentecost, Mike Mottl, Peter Van Niekerk, Alastair Campbell, Brad Ferrand, Duncan Macleod, Nick Partridge, Steve Kemp, Julian Freeman, Tyler Wolk, Bill Jenkins, Nick Vindin, San Franciscan Joe Penrod, Sean ‘Doogie’ Couvreux and Morgan Gutenkunst. The latter two sailed as youth in the Bay Area.

Gutenkunst had raced with Moshayedi on his TP52 Rio, so when Rio100 was ready to go, he got the call to be one of the lead bowmen. “The Sydney Hobart has always been on my list of races to do,” said Gutenkunst. “The start in Sydney Harbour with all of the boats, media, and spectators was incredible. I also really enjoyed rounding Tasman Island — the cliffs did not disappoint.

“There is so much excitement about the race in Sydney,” said Manoush Moshayedi. “Everyone knew about the race. When you arrive in Hobart, there is a warm welcome from the locals. I had never seen this type of a reception around a sailboat race.” Rio100 has been pulled apart again for loading onto a ship bound from Sydney to San Pedro. The boat will live on its cradle at the Windward yard in Marina del Rey.

 

RIO makes it 70 for 70th race edition

Built as a 98 footer named Zana for its New Zealand owner in 2003, RIO 100, according to new proprietor Manouch Moshayedi, has been extensively modified and lengthened to 100 feet. She is also sporting a new silver/grey paint job, magnifying an undeniably sleek appearance.

Moshayedi, a computer technology magnate from the USA, who is basing his new acquisition at Newport Beach, California, said: “Brett Bakewell-White did a great job of redesigning his old boat; anyone who sailed on her before would probably not recognise her now.”

The yacht’s water ballast was removed by cutting off the back 50 foot section and a new wider, longer stern has made it six to seven tons lighter than it was as Lahana. It also sports a new, longer boom, a new longer bowsprit and the wheels have been pushed back.

Some other modifications, undertaken by Cooksons in New Zealand and overseen by Moshayedi’s boat captain Keith Kilpatrick, include a lifting keel (14′-19′) so it can be taken into western US marinas, and twin rudders. The refit took nine months with around 20-25 people working on it seven days a week. A new Doyle New Zealand sail wardrobe complements the structural changes.

“Keith moved to Auckland from California for nine months to supervise the build and was involved in every decision that was made about the boat. The success of the project is certainly due mainly to his hard work and dedication and attention to detail,” RIO 100’s owner, Manouch Moshayedi said.

Although his yacht has experienced the Rolex Sydney Hobart seven times under her various names and owners, it will be Moshayedi’s debut. “I have heard about the Sydney Hobart race and I thought since the boat is already Down Under, we might as well give it a try

“I doubt we’ll do well against the other 100’s with canting keels – but I think we will have a great time participating in the race – and of course there is always that one in a million chance that it becomes an 8-15 knot downwind race,” Manouch Moshayedi said of the yacht which finished the race third on line in 2010, ‘11 and ’12; her last Hobart.

Other interesting entries received include the return of New Zealand winemaker, Jim Delegat and his VOR70 Giacomo; Louise, a Custom 72 from the United Kingdom to be skippered by Morgan Morice; and the Farr 47 Ninety Seven, the smallest boat in modern times to claim line honours. It was 1993 and described by yachties as the worst prolonged weather they have ever encountered.

Unusually, five female skippers have already entered: South Australian Shevaun Bruland with Concubine; Sibby Ilzhofer (NSW) with Dare Devil; Danielle Ovenden (NSW) Let’s Go, and Adams/Radford 52 which last went to Hobart in the early 1990’s; and Tasmanians Jacinta Cooper and Laura Roper who will respectively skipper Mistraal and Natelle Two.

In celebration of the race’s 70th edition, the CYCA, in collaboration with the Australian National Maritime Museum, is assembling a static exhibition of photographs, yacht design plans and other material to be on display to the public at the Museum from early November through to the end of February.

The start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race will be broadcast live on the Seven Network throughout Australia and webcast live to a global audience on Yahoo!7.

Entries in the Rolex Sydney Hobart 2014 close on Friday 31 October 2014 at 1700hrs AEDT.