2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the launching and first successful defense by the 12 meter “Intrepid”. It also marks the second successful defense by the 12 meter “Courageous”. Each boat successfully defended the America’s Cup twice. Only one other boat can lay claim to that fact. That was “Columbia” 1899 & 1901. She is no longer with us.
I had the great privilege to sail “Columbia” the first twelve meter to defend the America’s Cup in 1958. at the America’s Cup Jubilee. There were 38 twelve meters there. This was a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the America’s Cup.
The idea of the Royal Yacht Squadron, from my prospective it exceeded all expectations. It was an endless parade of yachts each more beautiful and graceful the the next.
The Newport of my youth was a working waterfront. fishing boats, commercial boats and yachts co-existing side by side in the same water and the same docks.
Today, the is not a shred of evidence of this life.
There will be smiles around San Francisco Bay with the announcement that America’s Cup style racing is set to return to the venue of the 34th America’s Cup.
A bold plan by Tom Ehman, whose experience with the Cup dates back to 1977, will see racing resume on an annual basis in updated 12 Metre yachts – which were the preferred Cup class from 1956 to 1987.
The new event will reflect the true spirity of the America’s Cup Deed of Gift, with competition being between yacht club teams comprised only of nationals from that club’s country.
The new event is being masterminded by Tom Ehman who is currently the Vice Commodore of the Golden Gate Yacht Club, the body charged under the 19th century Deed of Gift, which governs the conduct of the America’s Cup, with the organisation of the 35th America’s Cup.
The America’s Cup Events Authority is the body responsible under the Protocol for the organisation of the next Match, but it created a great deal of angst amongst the San Francisco sailing fraternity when it decided not to Defend in its home waters, and took the Cup Defence to Bermuda.
That frustration has spawned the new event, coupled with the desire of San Francisco sailors to maintain their place on the international sailing vista.
Unlike the America’s Cup the new San Francisco event will carry half a million dollars in prizemoney, and will be a lot lower costs of entry, with a figure of $1million being touted as the annual cost to run a team.
The benefit for sponsors is that they will get annual exposure for their outlay, as opposed to the once every three/four years with the current Cup plus what can be obtained from the America’s Cup World Series – a three day event which will be sailed three times this year, and with only three venues announced for 2016
Speaking with Associated Press, Ehman said he envisions the Golden Gate Challenge as the Wimbledon of yacht racing in that it will be held every year at the same venue. Unlike the America’s Cup, all teams will be challengers, meaning they’ll start on equal footing each year.
To be named the Golden Gate Yacht Racing Challenge, the new event is being launched at a time when many in the sailing world have questioned the vision for the 35th America’s Cup of Larry Ellison and Russell Coutts, which has so far lost two of its Challengers of Record in the first 18 months of the 35th America’s Cup cycle.
Ehman said he hopes to attract team owners who have been priced out of the America’s Cup or turned off by recent turmoil.
‘This is an opportunity to do something for the sport and the former cup community,’ Ehman said from San Francisco.
Ehman told Bernie Wilson of the Associated Press that he’s working to secure event sponsors and teams.
‘I think this is the best venue in the world for showcasing yacht racing and that was shown in the last cup,’ he said. ‘There’s a crying need in the world of yacht racing for such an event, especially in monohulls and especially in a lot of breeze. We’re seeing that because of what’s happening or not happening in other parts of the sport and in other parts of the world.’
The move is sure to raise the hackles of the America’s Cup Events Authority, a privately owned company charged by the Golden Gate Yacht Club with the commercial and event management activities surrounding the 35th America’s Cup, now removed to Bermuda.
Technically Ehman is part of a management structure to which ACEA reports, however his position is also understood to be voluntary, and ACEA would have few options open to shut down this new initiative or Ehman’s involvement in promoting a new sailing event in a venue deserted by ACEA.
Ehman remains vice commodore of the Golden Gate Yacht Club, which is the America’s Cup trustee. He said his regatta is not affiliated with the GGYC and won’t compete with the America’s Cup. It is believed the new event will be hosted by all Bay area yacht clubs, and existing facilities will be used for team bases
‘I think the America’s Cup is off on its own and always has been,’ Ehman said. ‘The America’s Cup will survive the current situation. There is obviously strong interest in monohull racing with strong teams, in boats everyone has heard of and loves. There is a nostalgia and romance with the 12-meters, and to have those boats racing in a lot of breeze on San Francisco Bay where people can watch it, it will remind people of how great the America’s Cup was in Fremantle in 1987 in windy conditions in 12s.’
Ehman told AP that he’s having designers look at modernizing the 12s and hopes to keep the cost below $3 million per boat. All boats would have the same hull shape, which would make the regatta a test of sailing skill rather than a design competition, helping to hold down costs.
A reunion of the crews from 1964 and 1974 America’s Cup defenders was a wonderful event filled with tales of the past. All made possible by Jimmy Gubelmann, as I like to call him the glue that binds. I heard stories that I had not heard before and a few I knew.
Mariner, Courageous, Intrepid, Valiant were represented from 1974 and Constellation and American Eagle from 1964.
Looking back from today’s perspective makes the gear and sails in particular look primitive. I is hard to imagine that the 12 meters of the era were the cutting edge of sailing. Look at the boom vang in the earlier post. The mainsheet winch, practically the smallest winch on the boat for the largest sail; and four parts. Just think what that must have been like at the leeward mark.
Hanks were still used on headsails. I believe an argument could be mounted defending hanks, tactically, look at the photo of the bow of “Constellation”, Buddy Bombard is standing in the forward hatch, a jib would be stopped and hoisted through this hatch; sheets attached, at a leeward mark, a boat could carry the spinnaker right to the mark, breaking out the genoa at the last possible moment.
Wooden boats built to lloyd’s scantlings. Designers and builders did what they could to save weight. I would not be until 1974 when aluminum would be allowed and 1986 when the first fiberglass 12 meters came into being.
Weather, was not much beyond the farmer’s almanac. Statics accumulated over time were the only analysis available.
Ash blocks with bronze bearings were still common. Lines were still large and heavy. Change came slowly
With each new challenge the design race increased. “Constellation” the newest Sparkman&Stephens design was only second best entering the August trails. “American Eagle” the Bill Luders design and build, was up 21 and zero, appearing unbeatable and in the difficult position of not having lost a race; not knowing what if anything to change.
Eric Ridder stepped aside as skipper of “Connie”being replaced by Bob Bavier. Along with a few other changes and she went on to be selected to defend. Leaving Bill Cox the skipper of “American Eagle” stunned.
The American trials were the highlight of the summer, the English challenger “Sovereign” was hopelessly outclassed.
Olin Stephens, I believed, liked to make small incremental changes, As the season of 1967 would show; “Constellation” exhibited some of the genes that would become “Intrepid”.
The energy and enthusiasm ratcheted up with each challenge. The world was emerging from World War II, coupled with that was the easing of Taxes on the rich. America was truly on top of the world; and feeling that way.
There are more stories connected with the summer of 1964 and this challenge deserves more time.