Hood River sailor part of America’s Cup winner

Josh Belsky helps Alinghi take trophy

In the sport of sailing, winning the America’s Cup can be compared to winning the World Cup trophy in soccer.

It’s the ultimate test of teamwork where only the strong survive. But if a sailor can somehow survive it more than once and come out on top, he will have achieved sailing immortality.

Hood River sailor Josh Belsky is one such individual. Belsky, 36, recently returned from New Zealand, where he and his teammates aboard the Swiss-based “Alinghi” defeated the defending champs from New Zealand to claim the 2003 America’s Cup — the second Cup win of Belsky’s career.

“After coming up short a couple times, it felt good to be successful this time around,” said Belsky, a native of Rye, N.Y who moved to Hood River in 1995.

“I’ve raced in five America’s Cups now, but it’s been more than 10 years since I’ve been on the winning boat.”

Belsky, a world-class “pitman,” was a member of the “America 3” boat that won the Cup in 1992. He also competed with Dennis Connor aboard “Stars & Stripes” when the United States lost the Cup to New Zealand in 1995.

Alinghi’s win in early March marked the end of an era for New Zealand, and also for Belsky.

The Kiwis had held the Cup since 1995, when they became the first non-U.S. syndicate to win the trophy. Meanwhile, Belsky was sailing for a non-U.S. syndicate for the first time in his career.

“I was sailing in San Francisco in 2000 and was approached by a wealthy business man (Ernesto Bertarelli) looking to build a team for the next America’s Cup,” Belsky said.

“The experience showed me how similar running a team is to owning a small business. It’s extremely hard work.”

Belsky has signed on for the next four years, and will begin sailing again in June after he recovers from knee surgery.

He sustained the injury in the first series of the Louis Vuitton Cup — the international qualifying event for the America’s Cup final.

Nine teams compete in a round-robin, elimination-style event in which only one team survives.

Alinghi defeated teams from Italy, France, Sweden, England and the U.S. along the way, earning the right to face New Zealand in the final.

Besides manning the pits aboard the boat — pulling the sails up and down through a series of ropes — Belsky also works with the boat design and deck layouts.

“I help decide what equipment goes where,” he said. “We start with a blank sheet of paper and see what will work best for all 16 sailors aboard the boat.”

Belsky serves as a liaison between the sailing, design and construction processes, and he likens his duties to those of a project manager.

“Living in Hood River has helped me pick up on a lot of design ideas that windsurfing companies are using,” said Belsky, who has worked with Doug Hopkins of North Sports and Tony Logosz of Slingshot.

“We have adopted many of the same principles that windsurfing and kiteboarding are based on, and a lot of them can be applied to America’s Cup sailing,” he said.

“Tony is a clever guy who has a lot of interesting ideas about the future of kiting,” he said. “And a lot of those ideas can be transferred to big boat sailing.”

But Belsky doesn’t stop at the longer rally races such as the America’s Cup. He also competes on a worldwide stage in events like the Whitbread Round-the-World Race — an event he won for a Swedish team in 1998 along with fellow local Steve Erickson.

“Winning the Whitbread can be compared to climbing Mt. Everest,” Belsky said of the nine-month race that starts and finishes in England. “It’s much more of an endurance race, compared to America’s Cup racing, where you can sleep in your own bed every night.”

Belsky will be recovering from surgery for the next three months in Hood River, and will travel to the Mediterranean in June to

resume training.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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