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An interview with Linda Lindquist-Bishop on the 2022 12 Metre World Championship

by David Schmidt 26 Jan 08:00 PST January 26, 2021
12 Metre World Championship at Ida Lewis Yacht Club day 2 © George Bekris / www.georgebekris.com

As any student of the America's Cup well knows, the 12 Metre class has a long and storied history on the waters off of Newport, Rhode Island. Given that the majestic-looking 12s contested the Cup here from 1958-1983, the "City by the Sea" can rightfully be considered one of the class' spiritual and historic homes, and while the America's Cup has moved on to considerably newer and faster designs that are currently racing on considerably more antipodean waters, the 12 Metre class is still smitten with beautiful Newport. This was exemplified by the news that the 2022 12 Metre World Championship regatta will be contested on these wind-blessed waters from September 19-24, 2022.

Late summer and early fall represented the traditional America's Cup racing season off of Newport, so it's not surprising that many classic 12 Metres were specifically designed for this venue's weather conditions during this seasonal window.

Some of these historic warhorses, including Columbia (US-16), American Eagle (US-21), Nefertiti (US-19), Intrepid (US-22), and Weatherly (US-17), are expected to return to these waters in early autumn of 2022, where they will be joined by Modern Division boats, including Enterprise (USA-27), Challenge XII (KA-10), and Freedom (US-30), as well as Grand Prix Division boats including Kookaburra II (KA-12) and New Zealand (KZ-3).

Some big-name teams are expected to race aboard these boats in 2022. These include Peter Askew's "Wizard" team, which will be racing aboard Enterprise, and Takashi Okura's "Sled" team, which will be racing aboard Freedom.

The event will be hosted by the 12 Metre Yacht Club's Newport Station and the Ida Lewis Yacht Club, the latter of which will serve as the regatta's official organizing authority.

I checked in with Linda Lindquist-Bishop, who serves as the North American 12 Metre fleet manager and executive director of the 12 Metre Yacht Club's Newport Station, via email, to learn more about this exciting world-championship regatta.

Newport obviously has a long and storied history with 12-metre racing, but what was the driving impetus that helped bring the 2022 12-Metre Worlds to Newport? Also, how long was this in the works before it could be made public?

The tremendous success of the 2019 12mR Worlds here in Newport was definitely the primary motivator of us holding a World Championship in 2022. Ida Lewis Yacht Club and her team were awarded the annual St. Petersburg trophy for the 2019 Worlds. This trophy is awarded by US Sailing for the best run regatta of the year. How could we not bring this outstanding team back together?!

Additionally-with the extreme cost of shipping 12mR's back and forth to Europe, we in the North American/ Newport Fleet have been working with our Northern Europe/ Baltic Fleet to establish a concentration of our boats on each side of the pond.

The Baltic Fleet is comprised primarily of Classic and Vintage boats - think [of] the 12mR's built before WWII. They are beautiful historic boats with wooden rigs, overnight interiors and full galleys. They were scheduled for a World Championship in Helsinki in July 2020, which has been postponed until 2021.

The North American/ Newport fleet is comprised primarily of Modern, Traditional and Grand Prix 12mR's - think [of] those who have raced in the America's Cup.

Holding World Championships concentrating on the specific divisions every other/ every few years allows us to get all the active 12mR's to a World Championship starting line without incurring the prohibitive cost of shipping and the unnecessary wear and tear on these historic boats back and forth across the ocean.

While these are still very early days, and obviously a lot rides on the still-raging pandemic, but how many 12 Metres are you hoping to see on the starting line come September 19, 2022? Also, in ballpark numbers, what percentage of these boats will be racing in the different divisions?

Great question! Looking into our 12mR crystal ball, we expect 14-17+ boats to compete in the 2022 Worlds.

While 2020 was a very difficult year with all our 12mR racing cancelled in North America, we are ecstatic to have had several new boats and new teams enter the class over the past 12 months.

The Modern Class will have the most boats most likely with six to eight [boats]. And there will also be a strong showing in our Traditional Division. The majority of the Traditional boats are managed for their owners by one of our two charter companies: America's Cup Charters and 12 Meter Yacht Charters, as well as boats at the USMMA Sailing Foundation.

Currently there are a few outstanding 12mR's available for sale including Australia I (KA-5), Courageous (US-26), [which was] made famous by Ted Turner, and Victory 83 (K-22), [which is] another top contender.

Our Newport fleet also enjoys three outstanding Vintage Class yachts who compete regularly - Gleam, Nyala, and Onawa.

Based on what you have seen in previous 12-Metre World Championship events, which division do you think will boast the most competitive racing? Also, why?

Both the Moderns and Traditionals will be hotly contested in 2022.

The Modern Division is attracting more and more competitive teams [who are] bringing in professional crews and optimizing their boats. Challenge XII, [who was the] winner of the 2019 Worlds, will have her hands full with the new teams on Freedom, Enterprise, Kookaburra and more.

We are excited to have new enthusiastic owners in the Traditional class, amongst them American Eagle, Nefertiti and Weatherly.

And we are excited to see our Grand Prix fleet growing with New Zealand (KZ-3) [and] Kookaburra II (KA-12), with interest in more [Grand Prix boats] stirring!

Can you tell us about the historical significance of holding this world-championship regatta on the waters off of Newport?

Most of these 12mRs were actually built for these waters! With the relocation of the America's Cup in 1930 to the waters off of Newport, [Rhode Island], Newport began its journey to become one of the premier sailboat racing capitals in the world.

In 1956, the New York Yacht Club announced 12 Metres would compete for the Americas Cup in 1958, with races to be held on Rhode Island Sound, and it was then that these waters and the 12mR Class were forever linked.

The convincing win by Columbia in 1958 ensured the longest winning streak in sports would continue, based in Newport. Then, in 1983, Newport was the center of the sailing world when Australia II came from 1-3 to win the Americas Cup 4-3.

Several challengers were built in by Newport Shipyard and Williams & Manchester. And the 12mR Newport America's Cup legacy continues with NYYC's Team American Magic - the US challenger competing this January in New Zealand for the 36th America's Cup

Our current North American 12mR fleet boats have all won titles in the Defender Series, America's Cup finals and Worlds/ Division Championships. These boats are the real deal- living history on the water today!

Five of the expected 2022 competing yachts won the America's Cup at this venue, boasting seven Cup titles combined:

Columbia (US-16) - 1958, Briggs Cunningham

Weatherly (US-17) - 1962, Emil (Bus) Mosbacher

Intrepid (US-22) - 1967, Emil (Bus) Mosbacher AND 1970, Bill Ficker

Courageous (US-26) - 1974, Ted Hood and 1977, Ted Turner

Freedom (US-30) - 1980, Dennis Conner

Nine recent 12mR World Champion / Division Champion yachts also expected to compete at Newport 2022:

Gleam (US-11) - Vintage - 2009

Nyala (US-12) - Vintage - 2001 (@Cowes*), 2014 (@Barcelona*), 2019

Onawa (US-6) - Vintage - 2005

American Eagle (US-21) - Traditional - 2005

Columbia (US-16) - Traditional - 2019

Victory '83 (K-22) - Traditional - 2009

Challenge XII (KA-10) - Modern 2019

Courageous (US-26) - Modern 2005

Legacy (KZ-5)- Grand Prix - 2005 (nee Hissar*), 2019

Given that a lot of these boats were originally designed for the conditions off of Newport, is it fair to say that this world-championship regatta was practically scripted for Newport? If so, can you please speak to this a bit?

Yes. Most of these boats were built to sail in Newport between 1958 and 1983. So, to see them out racing being pushed to their limits in 2021 will be both thrilling and the opportunity to witness living history.

As we saw in the ramp-up for the 2019 Worlds, teams invest in returning these yachts to their original power and speed. Some would argue that many of them are sailing at superior levels to their original racing days in the America's Cup.

Both the 2019 and 2022 World Championships in Newport attract new owners and teams to the 12mR class, as well as continued investment to maintain and optimize these historic treasurers.

Again, understanding that these are still early days, where do you anticipate that the racecourses will be physically situated? Also, what does this mean for interested spectators? Will boats be required to watch the action, or are there spots in Newport where spectators can take in the view from shore?

We hope to hold the event offshore in the ocean as much as possible. These boats are designed for the waters off Newport, and it brings about the best conditions for the class. However if the conditions are not suitable - too much or too little wind - we can hold the races up the bay off of Portsmouth.

While viewing is not visible from share for either location, we expect to have a large spectator fleet of boats as we did during the 2019 World Championship.

On-the-water spectating gives fantastic close viewing of starts, mark roundings, and finishing in addition to perspective of the entire race course. Land-based spectators will be able to see the fleet transiting to and from the Rhode Island Sound Racecourse from Fort Adams, Castle Hill and Beaver Tail (Jamestown).

The boats will be docked at Fort Adams, giving spectators the opportunity to see the boats and interact with sailors before and after racing each day.

Given the dearth of regattas in 2020 due to the pandemic, how important do you think the 2022 12-Metre Worlds will be for Newport?

It will be great for the sport of sailing and Newport as a community. Following on after the 2021 America's Cup in New Zealand, the 2022 12mR World Championship will provide a great source of enthusiasm for the local and global sailing community.

12mR racing keeps the historical momentum of the America's Cup in the public eye on the water. The 2022 opening of the National Sailing Hall of Fame will allow people to interact with the history of 12mR's and the America's Cup in the center of Newport.

The 12mR Class is part of the Newport DNA, and as such, a World Championship celebration will be an important statement that Newport is back and well after this challenging time.

As to how long the idea of this 2022 World Championship has been in the works, we wanted to capitalize on the tremendous success of the 2019 World Championship. There is always a normal 'lull' after a major World Championship event, and we knew it would be important to get the next World Championship on the calendar in Newport to encourage participation in the class.

Can you please tell us about any steps that you and the other regatta organizers are considering to make the 2022 12-Metre Worlds a greener, more environmentally friendly event?

As we are very much in the early planning stages of this event, we have not yet solidified our environmental partnership relationships. We look forward to announcing these programs in the months ahead.

Is there anything else that you'd like to add, for the record?

An exciting new component of 12mR racing in Newport is the 12 Metre Yacht Club - Newport Station www.12MYC.org

Founded in 2009, Jimmy Gubelmann stepped up in 2013 and built the 12MYC into a significant support organization for 12mR enthusiasts - creating historical programming, hosting events and dinners and creating a place for 12mR camaraderie.

As of January 2020 the North American Fleet racing - including the management of the 2022 World Championship - have been incorporated into the 12MYC,now a 501c3 organization committed to preserving the historical legacy and amateur competition of 12mR's in North America. Jack LeFort, Commodore of the 12MYC, VP of the North American Fleet, and [the] owner of Challenge XII cast the vision for our goals at the 12MYC:

1) get as many 12mR's out racing as possible,

2) to create an engaged community of active 12mR enthusiasts, partner organizations, alumni and current sailors,

3) to create a sustainable organization which can continue to support 'everything 12mR in Newport' on and off the water.

We encourage and welcome all to join the 12MYC community, follow our social media channels and engage! Tell us your stories, bring us your questions and ideas and come aboard to help build the future of 12mR racing in Newport.

We'd love to have you follow us on social media!

Instagram: www.instagram.com/accounts/login/?next=/12_metre_yacht_club

Facebook: www.facebook.com/12MetreYachtClub

Twitter: twitter.com/12myc_Newport

For more information:

12mR Worlds Official: 12mrworlds.com

12 Metre Yacht Club, Newport Station: 12myc.org

Ida Lewis Yacht Club: ilyc.org

International Twelve Metre Association: www.12mrclass.com

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