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2019 12 Metre North American Championship: An exciting experiment

by Barby MacGowan 24 Sep 2019 04:09 PDT 19-22 September 2019
Courageous (US-26) won the Modern Division of the 2019 12 Metre North American Championship as well as the first-ever 12 Metre North American Cup. © Onne van der Wal

The 12 Metre North American Championship, hosted by Ida Lewis Yacht Club over September 19-22, finished with Courageous (US-26) at the top of the scoreboard to win not only its Modern Division but also the newly contested 12 Metre North American Cup.

"This was a different North Americans than in years past," said Event Chair Peter Gerard. "It was the first year we tried a handicap system, so actually we had two regattas going at the same time: the traditional North Americans, which is competed for by division, and a new event called the 12 Metre North American Cup, which is based on the handicapping of all the 12 Metres by the CRF MkII rating system managed by the Classic Yacht Owners Association. For the latter, it was the first time we started all of the 12 Metres on the same line and had them compete for the same trophy."

Courageous, the first all-aluminum hulled 12 Metre and the second 12 Metre to successfully defend the America's Cup twice (in 1974 and 1977) was co-skippered by Newport residents Ralph Isham and Alexander Auersperg and competed with the same crew (including helmsman Art Santry of Washington D.C./Newport, R.I.) that took third at this summer's 12 Metre World Championship in Newport and first in the global ROAD TO THE WORLDS Waypoints Series.

"It would have been nice to peak at the Worlds, but instead we peaked here," said Isham. "Our ability to tack and maintain speed was the best ever; we were pointing higher, and in our last two races (held "up the Bay" on Sunday in 8-14 knot winds) we really showed our colors and won by major margins." (Courageous also won Friday's two races held "outside" on Rhode Island Sound in a building breeze.)

Isham noted that Defender (US-33), which finished second in the Modern Division in the hands of charterer/tactician Andy Rose and helmsman Tom Purcell (both of Newport Beach, Calif.), beat Courageous "quite definitively" on Saturday, when two light-air races (six knots) were held on Rhode Island Sound. A scoring penalty, however, put Defender behind Courageous in race four, and with only one victory compared to five posted by Courageous in the six-race series that counted for the North American Championship, victory was not within reach.

"It was great fun," said Rose, who has been involved in four America's Cup campaigns and served as tactician on Australia (KA-5) in the Cup match of 1977. "Everyone else has been sailing these boats all summer and we just got here last week, practiced for two days, and did well!"

Intrepid (US-22), with owner Jack Curtin (Toronto, Ontario/New York, N.Y.) helming, was the third and final North American Championship finisher in the Modern Division. The Traditional and Vintage Divisions each had only one boat sailing - Columbia (US-16) and Onawa (US-6), respectively - so sailing under handicap in the North American Cup took precedence for them.

Gerard conceded that the concept of handicapping 12 Metres is a bit mind-blowing, considering that the first 12 Metre was built in 1907 and the last one in 2015 (to a 1938 design), but the fleet of five competing for the North American Cup here over the long weekend had no complaints. "Over that span of decades, technology has changed so much," said Gerard, "but this was a pretty good interesting perspective on the competition, and a worthy experiment that will continue."

In order of finish, the North American Cup results were as follows: Courageous (built in 1974), Defender (built in 1983), Columbia (built in 1958), Intrepid (built in 1967), and Onawa (built in 1928).

The Ted Hood Trophy, awarded in each division for the best performance over the season, went to: Vintage - Onawa, Traditional - Columbia, Modern - Challenge XII (KA-10), and Grand Prix - New Zealand.

Overall Results:

Modern Division (3 Boats)
1. Courageous (US-26), 12 Metre, Ralph Isham / Alex Auersperg, New York, NY, USA - 1 -1 -2 -1 -1 -1; 7pts
2. Defender (US-33), 12 Metre, Andrew Rose, Newport Beach, CA, USA - 2 -2 -1 -2 -2 -3; 12pts
3. Intrepid (US-22), 12 Metre, Jack Curtin, Toronto, Ont, Can - 3 -3 -3 -3 -3 -2; 17pts

Traditional Division (1 Boat)
1. Columbia (US-16), 12 Meter, Anthony Chiurco / Kevin Hegarty, Newport, RI, USA - 1 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1; 6pts

Vintage Division (1 Boat)
1. Onawa (US-6), Christopher Culver, Newport, RI, USA - 1 -2 -1 -1 -1 -1; 7pts

North American Cup (CRF MkII - 5 Boats)
1. Courageous (US-26), Ralph Isham / Alex Auersperg, New York, NY, USA - 1 -1 -1 -2 -1 -1 -1; 8pts
2. Defender (US-33), Andrew Rose, Newport Beach, CA, USA - 3.5 -3 -3 -1 -2 -3 -4; 19.5pts
3. Columbia (US-16), Anthony Chiurco / Kevin Hegarty, Newport, RI, USA - 2 -2 -6 -4 -5 -2 -2; 23pts
4. Intrepid (US-22), Jack Curtin, Toronto, Ont, Can - 5 -4 -2 -3 -3 -4 -3; 24pts
5. Onawa (US-6), Christopher Culver, Newport, RI, USA - 3.5 -6 -6 -5 -4 -5 -5; 34.5pts

For more information on the 12 Metre Class visit

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