America's Cup 12 Metre Era Reunion - Halcyon days revisted
by Jan Harley on 24 Sep 2010
America's Cup 12 Metre Era Reunion - Although they say you can never go home again, the return of hundreds of sailors to the 'City By The Sea' for the America’s Cup 12 Metre Era Reunion presented by Rolex was the closest thing to a homecoming that these Cup veterans could ever imagine.
The America’s Cup 12 Metre Era Reunion 2010 presented by Rolex
America’s Cup Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony pres
For the better part of a week they sported vintage crew gear, 'Ficker is Still Quicker' buttons, Sverige ties and other team regalia as the reminiscences flowed. And although they all had been to Newport numerous times, for many it was their first visit to Harbour Court, the waterfront station that the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) established in Newport five years after the Cup was last sailed there (1983).
The reunion, of which Jaguar North America was also a sponsor, overlapped the three-day 12 Metre North American Championship, which saw 11 boats race in four divisions. Racing on American Eagle, sailing icons Ted Turner (Atlanta, Ga.) and Gary Jobson (Annapolis, Md.) genially quibbled about when to tack and prevailed to win the Traditional Division. Ralph Isham (New York, N.Y.) and Alexander Auersperg, aboard Courageous, won the Candy Store Cup – the race that takes the fleet from a start off Castle Hill into the harbor to the finish line at Bannister’s Wharf – to the delight of tourists and locals walking the Newport waterfront. That evening, back at Harbour Court where most of the Reunion events were hosted, participants enjoyed the film premiere of Jobson’s '12 Metre Era Retrospective.'
For the Reunion Sail on Saturday, Dennis Conner (San Diego, Calif.), the renowned skipper of Freedom in 1980 and Stars & Stripes in 1987, was not only back at the wheel of Freedom, but was also in winning form. 'Dennis was very motivated to prove that he never needed me all those years,' said Tom Whidden (Essex, Conn.) in reference to his long-time role as Conner’s tactician. 'He’s always good at the start.'
Bruno Troublè (Paris, France), the skipper of France in 1977 and France III in 1980, was asked about sailing for syndicate head Baron Bic during one of the reunion panel sessions. 'I love this man, I hate this man,' he said, describing Bic sailing in a white silk jacket with gold buttons. 'When we were ahead he was peeling me oranges and cleaning my glasses; when we were behind, he was saying ‘Trouble, Trouble, take care or you go back to Paris tonight’ as he waved an Air France ticket he had taken out of his pocket.'
'We found Newport dynamic and exciting and it was a huge adventure,' said Peter de Savary (U.K.) who led the Victory 83 syndicate. 'It was a fantastic period in my life, and I think anyone who has taken part in a Cup campaign would say the same thing. It’s an adventure that stays with you forever. We made some wonderful friends here in Newport. The welcome we had, the friendship we had, and the kindness of the people – I’d like to say thank you for all of that.'
De Savary recounted an incident where he felt he was the winner on shore. 'We took a rubber tender and we equipped it with an antenna and all sorts of equipment, and it was painted in military colors. Every time Dennis would go out and sail, we followed him 25-35 yards back with men wearing headphones in the boat.
On one occasion Dennis was so frustrated he sailed all the way to Block Island hoping we’d run out of fuel. We sent the word out that MI5, the British secret service and the full might of British intelligence were with us, and we could hear everything they said, and see everything as secret cameras were filming.
Dennis actually complained to NYYC, and NYYC went to Secretary of something in the government and they came to arrest me. They arrested the boat and we were accused of interfering with the right to privacy of an American citizen.
So we tried to smooth everything over at the [team’s] Victory Ball at Marble House. With the lights on, the only thing you could see [looking over the lawn] was a big hedge and the ocean. Then the hedge, which we had put on wheels, parted, and we had flown over the band of the Irish Horse Guards, 54 of them in their bearskins, and they beat retreat, which we assumed we’d be doing anyway. Some American commented that this retreat business had been seen here in America a long time ago.'
On Saturday evening over 650 people turned out for the 17th America’s Cup Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony presented by Rolex Watch U.S.A. Simon Daubney, Mike Drummond, Warwick Fleury, Murray Jones, Dean Phipps (all New Zealand) and Halsey Herreshoff (Bristol, R.I.) were the new inductees joining the 69 legends of the Cup who have previously been selected.
Over the course of the reunion, talk inevitably turned to the just-announced protocol for the next Cup in which multihulls will be sailed. Directing his attention to Russell Coutts, Herreshoff noted that his grandfather, the great Captain Nathaniel Herreshoff, had designed a catamaran in 1875. 'But patents run out in 17 years in America, so I think you’ll be o.k.,' said Herreshoff, making a promise to bring the 1932 reproduction of Amaryllis, which is currently housed at the Herreshoff Marine Museum, to the next America’s Cup.
To no one’s surprise, it was the 12 Metre class that received the greatest applause when Gary Jobson asked the audience which boat (catamaran or 12 Metre) should be sailed in future Cup races during the final panel session of The 12 Metre Era Reunion presented by Rolex. And at least one great design mind has been giving serious thought to that prospect. Ted Hood (Portsmouth, R.I.), the skipper of Courageous in 1974, was asked if he were to build a 12 Metre today, was anything left in the 12 Metre Rule to design a faster boat. Answering in the affirmative, Hood mentioned several possibilities including 'chines on the stern and things like that.' When Jobson observed that he was obviously thinking about this, Hood tapped his head and said, 'Nothing on paper yet.'
The NYYC was founded in 1844 by John Cox Stevens and eight other New York yachtsmen aboard Stevens’s yacht Gimcrack, anchored in New York Harbor. In 1851, NYYC sent the yacht America to England, winning what became known as the 'America’s Cup,' one of the most prestigious prizes in sports. The club defended that trophy from 1870-1983. NYYC also supports round-the-buoys racing, one-design racing, handicap racing, team racing and cruising, and has a long tradition in ocean racing, having hosted or co-hosted 12 of the 26 transatlantic races that have been held since 1866.
Since Rolex Watch U.S.A. first presented timepieces to America’s Cup defenders in 1958, the company has consistently recognized and encouraged excellence in every important arena of competitive sailing, including elite athlete preparation, US SAILING championships, disabled sailing, and offshore, one-design and women’s events. Since 1994, Rolex Watch U.S.A. has been the exclusive presenting sponsor of NYYC events and is the club’s Official Timepiece.
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For more detailed information on The 12 Metre Era Reunion presented by Rolex Watch U.S.A., please visit the New York Yacht Club online.