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:
Updated:
Original:

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

Vendee

VENDEÉ UPDATE: Macron Calls Le Cam, Escoffier

To activate English subtitles in the above video, click the button “CC After this week’s dramatic rescue, French President Emmanuel Macron called Jean Le Cam (Yes We Cam!) and Kevin Escoffier (PRB) to wish them well and congratulate them on their effort. Escoffier was slammed by ...read more

VG2048x

Vendeé Update: Escoffier Rescued in Southern Ocean

Around 1345 UTC on Monday afternoon, Vendee Globe competitor Kevin Escoffier (PRB) activated his EPIRB 840 miles southeast of The Cape of Good Hope, in the heart of the Southern Ocean amid some of the most violent water anywhere on Earth. Shortly after, he managed to get a ...read more

Shelly-forward-last-day

Charter Advice for First-Timers

Never chartered? No worries. A vacation under sail can be the most memorable time of your life. That said, it also pays to be prepared by doing some reading, building your skills and listening to what the experts say. First and foremost, not all charter grounds are created ...read more

HugoBoss

Video: Vendeé Update

Last week Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) led the fleet across the equator. As one of the class' top sailors who's been on the Vendeé Podium twice, it seemed possible that Thomson was going to grab an early lead and hold on to it all the way around the world. But early on Saturday, he ...read more

AdobeStock_229409051

Chartering Again for the First Time

It’s been a rocky road of late for the charter industry, especially here in the Western Hemisphere. First came hurricanes Irma and Maria in the Caribbean followed by Dorian in the Bahamas. There has also, of course, been the coronavirus, which burst into global prominence ...read more

01 LEAD cedaryachtclub_onedesign18_hike

An Interview with Ayme Sinclair

In recent months, US Sailing, like many organizations, has been taking a closer look at diversity to ensure it’s doing the best job it can of introducing people from all backgrounds and ethnicities to the sport. As part of this effort, this past summer it organized an online ...read more

125768940_10222759720523627_5373654001582879638_n

US Sailing Presents Adaptive Sailing Panel

On Tuesday, November 24, US Sailing’s Leadership Forum will present the latest panel discussion in their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion series. This event will focus on adaptive sailing and provide practical recommendations for organizations looking to expand their adaptive ...read more

02-IMG_5971

A Carbon Neutral Circumnav with Jimmy Cornell

Historic anniversaries have always held a special fascination for me, especially if they mark a significant nautical achievement. In 1992, on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ would-be voyage to India, I organized a transatlantic rally that followed the historic route of the ...read more