PxPixel
Cup Watch: Old and New Guards - Sail Magazine

Cup Watch: Old and New Guards

There was a time when getting your hands on the wheel of a U.S. America’s Cup boat was almost the same as saying, yes, I’ve won a Star Class world championship. Think Bill “Ficker Is Quicker” Ficker, Dennis Conner, Tom Blackaller, Buddy Melges.
Author:
Publish date:
Emirates-Nathan-Outteridge

There was a time when getting your hands on the wheel of a U.S. America’s Cup boat was almost the same as saying, yes, I’ve won a Star Class world championship. Think Bill “Ficker Is Quicker” Ficker, Dennis Conner, Tom Blackaller, Buddy Melges. 

So where is today’s talent coming from? You have your veterans—like Oracle Team USA’s Jimmy Spithill, who has been in the game since his 19-year-old debut in 1999—and you have your newcomers, like Spithill’s sparring partner, Ben Ainslie, who earned his spot by winning five Olympic medals in Lasers and Finns for the UK.

Emirates Team New Zealand is a band of brothers bound together by years of licking wounds and sucking rattlesnake poison out of the other guy’s ankle. Dean Barker launched with the heady experience of guest skippering for Russell Coutts and Team New Zealand in 2000. Next door, where design partner Luna Rossa is keeping shop until both teams ship from New Zealand to San Francisco, there is skipper Max Sirena with two sailors listed as “helmsman.” Did they come up through the ranks of catamaran sailing? No, skiffs would be more like it. In fact, Luna Rossa’s two British drivers, Paul Campbell-James and two-time

class world champion Chris Draper, are both 49er skiff veterans. 

Indeed, if you want to break into this game today, skiffs apparently give you the odds. It was another 49er sailor, silver medalist Peter Burling, who took over at Team Korea (which may or may not have a future) when yet another 49er sailor, gold medalist Nathan Outteridge, moved up to work for a team that does have at least an immediate future, challenger of record Artemis Racing.

Artemis, which in December “released” 42-year-old 2008 US Rolex Sailor of the Year Terry Hutchinson from his job as skipper, now has the hottest skiff sailor of the moment, 26-year-old Outteridge, and the most accomplished big-multihull sailor in the world, Loick Peyron, the acknowledged master at age 53. The goal, Outteridge declared, was to train to a point where “it doesn’t matter which of us is driving.”

 “Hutch” would have seen the hit coming, but his unremarkable public comments were perfectly in keeping with the new order of corporately unemployed athletes hungry for the next gig. These people often sound woefully bland compared to Conner-Blackaller-Melges in their prime. It was Buddy, after all, who once announced, expansively, to one and all, “I’m the only guy here who can sleep with the commodore and talk about it . . .” Mrs. Buddy (Gloria) Melges was, at the time, commodore of the Lake Geneva Yacht Club in Zenda, Wisconsin. Knowing Buddy, no doubt the shack was rockin’.

Photo courtesy of Gilles Martin-Raget/34th America's Cup

Related

3DiNordac_webheader

3Di NORDAC: One Year In

One year ago this month, North Sails launched a cruising revolution with the introduction of 3Di NORDAC. The product promised to deliver a better cruising experience for a market that had not seen true product innovation in over 60 years. Today we’re celebrating the team that ...read more

HB96k_EP

Sea Eagle’s HB96 inflatable SUP

What SUP?Dinghies and kayaks are all very well, but there’s nothing like a stand-up paddleboard for exploring interesting new shorelines while giving you a good workout. Sea Eagle’s HB96 inflatable SUP makes a fine addition to your boat’s armory of anchorage toys, either on its ...read more

DSC_0031-43

Charting the USVI and Spanish Virgins

When my friends and I booked a one-way bareboat charter with Sail Caribe, starting in the U.S. Virgin Islands and finishing in Puerto Rico, we were a little nervous about what we would find in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria—even seven months later.When our plane ...read more

SailRepairKit

Know How: Sail Repair Kit

Despite your best efforts, there will inevitably be times when your sail gets damaged while at sea and needs to be repaired. First, no matter what the job, you will need to do a quick damage assessment, a task that requires a flat wooden surface, sharp scissors and a helping ...read more

01-061018ROAC-8149

Coming of Age at the Atlantic Cup

Midway through the final race of the inshore portion of the 2018 Atlantic Cup, the three boats in the lead—Mike Dreese’s Toothface 2, Mike Hennessy’s Dragon and Oakcliff Racing, representing the Long Island Sound-based sailing school of the same name—suddenly broke free from the ...read more

01_silken_2018-03-08-0052

North U’s Regatta Experience Program

“Want to check the keel?” North U Coach Geoff Becker calls to me from back by the transom. We’ve just suffered our worst finish in the regatta and are absolutely flying on our way back to shore, spinnaker up and heeling at an angle that feels like maybe we’re tempting fate. ...read more

Navy-Sand-Dune_1080

Tucket Footwear’s Giller Shoes

Just for KicksMove over Crocs, there’s a new plastic shoe in town. Unlike the aforementioned fashion crimes, Tucket Footwear’s Giller shoes are made for boating. Water will get in, yes, but it will also run straight out again via rows of “scuppers” in the uppers and a dozen drain ...read more

01-m3113_git170829-294

France’s Maxi-tri Ultime class

It’s hard to believe how far foiling has come since the Moth class figured out how to reliably take to the air in the early 2000s.Was it really only in 2013 that the America’s Cup was dragged kicking and screaming into the foiling world by Emirates Team New Zealand back in San ...read more