Scott Piper "PIPEDREAM" World Rally

J/160 Around The World with Dr. Scott Piper

Jeff Johnstone recently caught up with Dr. Scott Piper "in between" his trips around the world. Dr. Piper took delivery of his new J/160 PIPE DREAM in April of 1996 and has since logged 35,000 miles. PIPE DREAM recently finished the South Africa-to-Brazil leg of the Expo 98 Round the World Rally.

JJ - Why did you enter the World Rally?
SP - I always wanted to sail around the world like a lot of sailors, and when I was coming back from my trans-Atlantic cruise with the J/40, I stopped into the Canary Islands. The second Round the World Rally was just getting ready to come through. I had never heard of it until then. I was having such a good time cruising on the J/40, the Rally just made great sense to me. I figured the J/40 could have handled it but was just a little small. Thats when I began to look for a larger boat, the same time the J/160 was on the drawing board.

JJ - How did you balance work and play on this trip?
SP - I had a captain aboard so I could come and go. He would stay with the boat at all times, so it worked very well. Airfares these days are relatively cheap and somewhat reliable, so Im able to fly back and forth, while the captain handles all maintenance, provisioning and other footwork. When I arrive, the boats ready to go, and I dont have to spend 3 days preparing. It allowed me to sail for 3-4 weeks, then come home and work for 2-3. Over the past twelve months, Ive logged about 40% office time and 60% sailing. I sailed all but three legs. The big leg I missed was from Capetown to Brazil, but it allowed me to work for a month straight at home. The schedule did allow me to balance work and play. When we hit Australia, we had a four week layover to wait for the monsoon season to end in the Indian Ocean. So I used those four weeks to come home. We also had 6 weeks in South Africa.

JJ - What was your favorite leg of the Rally?
SP - My favorite area had to French Polynesia. It was absolutely gorgeous and a lot of fun. The biggest surprise was Vanuatu, roughly 1,200 miles before Australia. Its on the edge of the Coral Sea. Its volcanic, very black, very primitive. There was great diving and active volcanoes you could walk right to the rim of. Really interesting people and customs.

JJ - How many crewmembers were usually aboard and how did you organize the watches aboard?
SP - Most of our legs were done with five people. We started out feeling that the boat needed more. So we began with eight, then gradually filtered down to five. Five became ideal, although we did do two legs with four. Im very proud of our watch system. Ive never seen it anywhere else and it works perfectly. Its a five man watch system. Each person is on for 8 hours out of 20. So youre on 4, off 4, on 4, off 8. That allows each person to be on watch with two others. And it means that the two people who are the most experienced are not on a watch together. Conversely the people who are least experienced are not on a watch together. Because its a 20 hour watch system and not 24, you dont need to "dog" the watches.

Daugh & Gill Piper enjoy a Pacific Ocean sunsetJJ - How many miles have you logged on PIPE DREAM?
SP - Almost exactly 35,000. We logged about 5,000 before going around the world. That was going from Miami up to the Chesapeake, doing the Annapolis-Bermuda Race which we set the course record in. Then going through the Bahamas and doing Abaco Race Week. I also did the Miami Key West Race and Palm Beach Race, all before we went around the world.

JJ - What was your best 24 hour run?
SP - That actually disappointed me, because we had the boat so frequently up in the 18 knot speed range. I kept anticipating a 300 mile day. 270 miles was our longest day run, and we regularly with any breeze would do 230-240 miles per day. In fact, we had three separate occasions where we did 1,000 miles in four days, averaging 250 miles per day.

JJ - Can you remember any boatspeed polars?
SP - In winds less than 8 knots, going downwind, our target boatspeed is to be at or better than true wind speed. JJ - Can you remember any boatspeed polars?

JJ - What was your top speed?
SP - 18.6 knots. Like any easily driven boat, you get to a point where more horsepower doesnt make a lot of difference. When were seeing 18 knots on the surges, which means 12-12.5 steady, then we take the spinnaker down and sail wing and wing with the jib and go just as fast.

JJ - What were the toughest conditions you encountered?
SP - There is no second to this. There was only one place that truly awe-inspired the whole crew. That was off the coast of South Africa in the area they call the Cape of Storms. We were warned in all the guide books that this area was very hazardous, and it was. We ran into four 55 knot storms in the space of two weeks. The locals would say you just cant be out in it, its like being in a Northerly in the Gulf Stream. The Agulhas Current goes around the Cape of Good Hope at 3-4 knots and when you put the wind against it, the seas are just awful. They crack freighters in half. There are only a couple of spots in the world where theyve recorded 100 foot seas, and this is one of them.

JJ - Were you sailing during these storms?
SP - Unfortunately once. We were heading down to Port Elizabeth and we could see that the system was coming. The barometer was falling like a brick. We were making about 13-14 knots over the bottom, 11-12 through the water plus the current. We had just a little ways to go and the question was could we get there before the system hit. We called the local weather forecaster, and he said "no problem," it wont be here until 2pm tomorrow.


I figured, great, well be in port by 8am. Well at 5-6 in the morning it came through. We had 55 knots on the nose. The seas initially were very flat, because the wind had been behind (with the current), but then they did a 180. The sea tended to equate itself in the first hour, which was the saving grace. But by the end, the seas were building very rapidly.

JJ - What did you have up for sail?
SP - Main only with a reef. Even at that I was feathering it, with the engine on. We were sailing it about 10 degrees apparent, right into the sea. The sea hadnt built enough so we could do it. We were making 7-8 knots. Ive been through winds like that twice before. Neither time could my previous boats handle sailing into the wind with that much wind and sea. It was just too much. The seas would tend to knock the bow off. If you had enough sail area to keep the boat going, she was either overburdened or she wouldnt harden up. Most boats become unhandleable in that kind of wind, whereas the J/160 was easily handleable. It gave me a great deal of confidence in the boat.

JJ - How would you describe to another sailor what its like to sail a J/160 around the world?
SP - I had about 50 different people sail aboard PIPE DREAM during the various legs of the race. There were usually two new crewmembers every leg. I had some real old-time veteran sailors aboard with lots of miles who just couldnt believe it. Theyd say Ive never been on a boat like this in my entire life. When youre surfing with a chute up on the J/160, you can take your hands off the wheel. She tracks wonderfully. The boat doesnt tend to round up like other boats. Also the motion below is amazingly good. All the hype you guys do in terms of sea-kindliness is really true.

Pipe Dream resting in a lagoon near Bora Bora.

JJ - What was your comparative performance vs. other large sailboats in the Rally?
SP - The only boat that was really close to us in terms of performance, was the Swan 65. They were professionally crewed, and everyone on it was paid. They are making a documentary and they had TV crews, so they pushed the boat hard. The Swan 65 was almost never faster than us. In very heavy air, going downwind, it got to be that her overall longer waterline length could make up for the fact that we could plane. On most of the legs, we beat her boat for boat, but generally, she was only a matter of hours behind. She will win the European division, and we have a big lead in the American division. There was a Nelson-Marek ultra-light sled in our class. Not only was she 70 feet, but she weighs the same or less than Pipe Dream. She would take off, in the predominately downwind conditions we had. On the other hand, her rating was such that we always beat her. And she will not go to weather. Anytime we went to weather, which wasnt much, we could usually beat her boat for boat.

JJ - What sail inventory did you carry?
SP - First of all, no one should ever go distance cruising without having Spectra sails. All the BOC and Whitbread boats use them. Its very simple: they hold their shape, theyre light, and theyre durable as hell. Im sailing with my original main, after 35,000 miles of hard pushing. I cant believe how good it still looks. I also have the original jib (a 135% genoa). Its at the end of its life. But I have never had to repair it other than occasional re-stitching. It never chafed or tore so that I had to take it down. I also carried a #3 jib, a #4 jib which I called our large storm jib, a storm tri-sail which I never used, and three spinnakers.

JJ - Did you use an inner forestay?
SP - I dont have one. I would not recommend it to anyone. Its just not needed.

JJ - When you motored, what was your average speed and RPM?
SP - 3,400 is about max RPM. Ive been pulling it back more and more. I found if I pulled it back to 2,800, we had tremendously better fuel consumption, and only lost a fraction of a knot. Speed was about 8.5 knots at 2,800 RPMs

JJ - Whats next for PIPE DREAM and Scott Piper?
SP - Were going around the world again! This time on our own without the Rally. Like a lot of other American boats in the Rally, were not finishing up in Newport. Were going to leave Brazil in March, go to the Azores, then Portugal, and into the Mediterranean Sea, where well spend an entire summer cruising the Dalmation Islands, the Greek coast and Turkey. Well end up in Cyprus by the end of the year. By next winter, well go through the Suez Canal, through the Red Sea, across the Indian Ocean to Maldives. Then to Sri Lanka, Puket Thailand, Singapore, Bali, then Borneo, into the Solomon Islands, then back to Vanuatu. Then well either go north to keep out of the typhoon season or go south to New Zealand for the Americas Cup. Ultimately I want to go around Cape Horn on the way home, so I can say Ive been around both the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn, and through both the Suez and Panama Canals.