The 1977 America’s Cup was done and dusted. Already plans for the 1980 cup were underway. Baron Bic built “France III”, designed by Johan Valentin. (who would co-design “Australia” with Ben Lexan for 1980)
Bic also owned “Intrepid”, which was being used as a trial horse against “France III.” In the summer of 1978 “Intrepid” had a host of skippers: Bill Ficker, Lowell North, Gerry Driscoll. “France III”also had a series of tryouts for skipper, including Bruno Trouble.
Gerry Driscoll arrived at an agreement with Baron Bic, who agreed to lease “Intrepid” to Gerry for the 1980 America’s Cup if he could find financing for the program.
1979, I was crew boss, downwind helmsman, and tactician. I was also responsible for maintenance of the boat; the actual work being carried out by the French shore crew.
In over 100 starts, we lost one. Gerry owned the starting line, and was the most consistent helmsman I ever sailed with, every tack was the same, which meant the crew could always have the same timing.
Many good stories came from this season, but no money was found for Intrepid’s comeback.
1970 brought more changes to the America’s cup. The story merits to be broken into segments, chapters if you like. The Americans have three boats: “Intrepid”, “Valiant” and “Heritage”. Ted Turner brings “American Eagle”, however she is not a real contender. Turner has raced her hard across the Atlantic, SORC, Annapolis-Newport; she was an ocean racing boat with milage.
As alluded to previously, Olin Stephens and others noted that displacement seemed to be good, while also recognizing that wetted surface was not. The eternal battle in displacement boats. “Valiant” represented the latest thinking by S&S, heavy, lots of bustle, short ends. This proved to be wrong, and S&S subsequently backed away from this direction.
Britton Chance, probably best known for his 5.5 meter successes at this point, re-designed “Intrepid” again, increasing the bustle, shortening the keel, and reducing the size of the rudder.
Charlie Morgan designed, built, skippered, and made the sails for “Heritage” Too much for one man to handle in an America’s Cup season.
As we all know “Intrepid” went on to become the second two time defender in 1970. The story of how she arrived there is an interesting one. Bill Ficker the skipper and helmsman it took all of his concentration to sail “Intrepid” with such a small rudder. The top half of her mast was titanium (the top two-thirds of “Valiant’s mast was titanium) with no jumpers. Low windage and low weight. The need for more control of both the mast and steering the boat would be re-visited later.
I must have photos of “Heritage”, as I worked on the shore crew under Paul Coble. 1970 was my final year in college, where we were ranked number 2 in the country, we certainly won our share. I arrived the morning of the Bermuda race from Wisconsin, site of the Intercollegiate national championships. Won the Bermuda Race aboard “Carina”; returning to Newport to work on Heritage.
I have not talked about the Challengers and will do in the next installment.
Remember that 1958 saw the first 12 meters built since before world war II. Now the America’s Cup is into it’s fourth event since 1937.
Tank testing has shown that the concept of a trim tab with a rudder much further aft would be a breakthrough. Other boats would add bustle, ie. additional displacement aft but S&S who carried out design modifications on ” Columbia” could not reveal what they had done in the design for “Intrepid”.
“Columbia” was capably steered by Bill Ficker, who kept her in the game until the end.
“Intrepid” would loose only once during the entire summer. She could outmanoeuvre the competition with ease. As far as I could tell most of the starts I saw, she would “sandbag” and still get to the weather mark first. It should be noted the Bus Mosbacher was helmsman and probably the finest of his generation.
“Dame Pattie” designed by Warrick Hood, might have been a worthy challenger had the defender been more like “Constellation”
With each defense came new ideas. As new information was developed, the problem was how to interpret properly that new information.
The entry about wire sheets reminded me of an incident while sailing on Intrepid in 1979. If you read far enough back in my blog there is an entry about my two seasons aboard Intrepid with Gerry Driscoll. It was an attempt by Gerry to come back in 1980 with Intrepid. It was contingent on finding financial backing. We were sailing against France 3 everyday, as Intrepid belonged to Baron Bic at the time.
We had no budget to speak of, so I would try to get an extra day or two out of the runner tails. They were 1/4 inch galvanized wire and took a great deal of abuse, particularly upwind tacking. Typically a set of runner tails would last 4 days, before they broke down.
Racing upwind on the fifth day of a set of runner tails; the windward tails exploded. Gerry,without a word, calmly tacked the boat. My arm was filled with small “splinters” of rusted wire, it stung. When we sorted out I looked at Gerry, who was still steering, not only was his arm covered with the same spikes, but one side of his face as well.
It was the last time I economized on runner tails.
1978-1979 I sailed aboard Intrepid about 100 days each season. I was the crew boss, responsible for scheduling crew as we were having tryouts. I was also the tactician, and sometime helmsman. additionally I had to make certain the boat was prepared each day.
Gerry Driscoll was the skipper, as good as I have ever sailed with. We raced France 3 again and again, Bic had visiting skippers, Bill Ficker, Lowell North and others. Gerry would quietly say to me , were do you want me to put them, He never lost a start and we failed to be first at the windward mark only once in the two seasons.