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12 Metre North American Championship won by New Zealand and Columbia

by Barby MacGowan 27 Sep 17:26 PDT September 23-26, 2021
New Zealand, with Middletown, R.I.'s Brad Read at the helm, won the Modern/Grand Prix division at the 2021 12 Metre North American Championship, held Sept. 23-26 off Newport © Daniel Forster

Over three days of racing for their North American Championship, eight historic 12 Metres had every type of wind condition with which to contend. Starting Thursday (September 23), the fleet completed two races in marginally high winds of 16-18 knots with gusts in the high 20s. Friday followed with two additional races sailed in moderate 8-10 knot breezes after the Race Committee from Ida Lewis Yacht Club delayed starts until late afternoon due to a passing squall. Finally, on Saturday, racing started ahead of schedule because the Race Committee anticipated a dying breeze in the afternoon; for the two concluding races, sailors dealt with light breezes of 5-8 knots.

"If you would have said last Tuesday that we would get all six races in with the conditions forecasted, I would have said 'no way,'" said Brad Read (Middletown, R.I.), who steered Gunther Buerman's New Zealand (KZ-3) to North American victory over the Modern and Grand Prix boats, which for the purposes of this Championship started together and scored as a single class. "That the Race Committee delayed when they needed to delay and started early when they needed to start was brilliant. "

As for New Zealand's stellar performance (with all victories, save one, in its score line), Read says many of the team members have been sailing together for ten years. "The boat handling was flawless, which made it easy for us in the back of the boat to keep it dialed in. It felt very positive to sail that well with so many other seasoned crews around us."

Read commended the tough competition, especially from second-place finisher Enterprise (US-27), which showed its pedigree with Peter Askew (Baltimore, Md.) at the helm and his experienced offshore crew backing him. "This is the boat's fourth regatta, I believe, and it just keeps getting faster and faster." Enterprise, like third-place finisher and 2019 World Champion Challenger XII, with owner Jack LeFort (Jamestown, R.I.) at the helm, is laying the foundation for competing in next year's 12 Metre World Championship, set for September in Newport.

Winning the North American Trophy in Traditional/Vintage (also combined at this regatta) was 1958 America's Cup winner and 2019 World Champion Columbia (US-16) of veteran 12 Metre of owner/skipper Kevin Hegarty (Newport, R.I.) with Tony Chiurco at the helm. The victor's toughest competition came from second-place finisher and 1962 America's Cup winner Weatherly (US-17) and third-place finisher Onawa (US-6).

Harry H. Anderson Memorial Pursuit Race

The 12 Metre North American Championship featured a separately scored pursuit race on Sunday (September 26) that commemorated the life of Harry. H. Anderson, Jr. Won by New Zealand, it started and finished off Castle Hill, where spectators could take in the magnificence of these historical sloops (approximately 70 feet in length), many of which competed for the America's Cup between the years of 1958 to 1987.

It was magic," said 12 Metre North American PRO Peter Gerard of the 14-mile race that took the fleet under the Pell Bridge and to the north end of Conanicut Island and back. "A crisp, sunny fall sailing day with everyone, including the sailors, enjoying the spectacle - it couldn't have been more perfect."

Anderson, a Newporter who passed away in 2020 at age 98, devoted his life to racing and its rules and was instrumental in developing the 12 Metre Class during and after the 12 Metre America's Cup era. He served on the New York Yacht Club's (NYYC) Race Committee when it ran the America's Cup and the Club's Selection Committee for selecting the NYYC's defender for the America's Cup. He also co-founded the International 12 Metre Association and is one of the reasons the 12 Metre Class is vibrant and racing in Europe and the U.S. today.

The 12 Metre North American Championship was hosted by the 12 Metre Yacht Club, Newport Station and organized by Ida Lewis Yacht Club. Awards were held on Saturday (September 25), where, in addition to the North American Trophies given for Modern/Grand Prix and Traditional/Vintage, the Ted Hood Trophy was awarded in three divisions for the best overall performance for the season. Those recipients were Onawa (Vintage), Columbia (Traditional), Challenge XII (Modern).

More About 12 Metres

The first 12 Metres were built in 1907 and sailed at the Olympic Games in 1908, 1912 and 1920. One of the first International Rule classes, the boats enjoyed increasing popularity throughout the pre-War years when many were designed as elegant racer-cruisers. However, it was not until they were selected for America's Cup competition from 1958-87 that the 12 Metres gained their now iconic status. The 12 Metres raced for the America's Cup in Newport between the years of 1958 and 1983.

For more information and full results, visit or contact 12 Metre Yacht Club Executive Director Peggy Hersam at .

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