History of the Americas Cup
Big Boats Reborn
IACC || 1992 || 1995 || 2000
Rebirth of the Big BoatThe silver lining in Sir Michael Fays maverick challenge was the development of the International Americas Cup Class sailboat. He had argued that the 12-meter design, which originated in the early 1900s, was a dinosaur. He wanted it replaced by a modern design that reflected state of the art technology, reminiscent of the long-gone days when the Vanderbilts and Rockfellers pulled out all the stops to produce an Americas Cup winner.
The Americas Cup community agreed a change was needed, and a group of designers developed the International Americas Cup Class (IACC) rule. The IACC rule is actually a design formula for a lightweight sailboat approximately 75 feet long, constructed primarily of carbon fiber, and having a mast towering more than 10 stories tall. The new sailboat carries about 50 percent more sail area than a 12-meter, but weighs about a one-third less. The net result is obvious: a delerious increase in speed and maneuverability, returning the racing platform to the grand prix level the Americas Cup deserved.
1992 - America³ Surprises Il Moro di Venencia, 4-1
Bill Koch burst upon the Americas Cup scene with his mantra of technology, teamwork and talent, and one of the biggest war chests ever. The combination proved unbeatable as the rookiewho insisted on occasionally steering his own boatshowed the veterans how to build a fast sailboat. His America³ first dispatched Dennis Conner, then surprised most Americas Cup pundits by downing Italys Il Moro di Venenzia, 4-1.
Obviously sailing a slower boat, Il Moro skipper Paul Cayard and crew never relented as they pushed the faster American boat around the track in the match for the Americas Cup. In the nail-biter of a second race, Cayard won the start and employed classic match-racing tactics to fend off the hard-charging Americans. That set up the thrilling finish as the white American sailboat closed on its red Italian competitor, with Il Moro crossing the line just three seconds ahead for the closest finish in the history of the match.
The fact that Cayard and the Italian team, backed by the late industrialist Raul Gardini, were even in the final was a testiment to Cayards fortitude and sailing skill. The months-long challenger trials was a grueling elimination process involving eight sailboats from seven nations. Besides the Italian entry, there were teams from Australia (2), France, Japan, New Zealand, Spain and Sweden.
The New Zealand team, as it had done in Australia, was the early favorite and dominated the challenger races off San Diegos Point Loma. But controversy is part and parcel to the Americas Cup, and the Kiwis bowsprit became the focal point of dispute. After extensive protest hearings in which Cayard demonstrated how the bowsprit was used to an unfair advantage, the Kiwis not only lost that battle, they also seemed to lose heart. Cayards Il Moro di Venecia defeated New Zealandwhich also sported a radical tandem or "fork keelin the challenger finals for the Louis Vuitton Cup.
1995 - Kiwis Conquer Conner, 5-0, Take Cup Back Down Under
The persistent New Zealanders, like their Australian counterparts a decade earlier, proved relentless in their quest for the Cup. In the 29th defense, the Kiwis black boat became a symbol of supremacy on the seas off Point Loma, amassing the unprecedented record of 42-1 during the months-long competition. After decimating the challenger fleet, New Zealand wasted no time in dispatching Team Dennis Conner and Young America, 5-0, to win the Auld Mug for the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. The Americas Cup had changed hands again.
Conners loss came despite having some of the best sailing talent in the world on his boat, including helmsman Paul Cayard. But it was déja vu for Cayard, who for the second time in a row found himself in the Americas Cup final match, only to be handicapped once again by sailing the obviously slower boat.
Besides the Cup changing hands again, the 1995 defense was also remarkable on a number of counts:
- OneAustralia became the first sailboat to sink in the history of the storied event. Pounding in heavy seas, the sailboat began to break up during a race against New Zealand. In less than three minutes, all trace of the sailboat had disappeared. Fortunately, the entire crew escaped unscathed.
- OneAustralia skipper John Bertrand became only the second skipper to fall overboard during Americas Cup competition.
- In a deal that still has heads shaking, the never-say-die Dennis Conner was given new life after being virtually eliminated from the defender trials. That came back to haunt series-leader PACT 95, which was expected to win the Citizen Cup defender trials. A miracle comeback in the final race of the defender series by Conners Stars & Stripes over Mighty Mary gave Team Dennis Conner the Citizen Cup and the right to face New Zealand in the final match.
- Despite winning the defender trials with Stars & Stripes, a name he used for each of his Americas Cup sailboats for more than a decade, Conner chartered Young America from the rival PACT 95 syndicate to race against Team New Zealand.
- Dennis Conner became the first skipper to lose the Americas Cup twice.
- The first all-womens team (later the mostly womens team) sailed in Americas Cup competition.
Photos: Copyright Mystic Seaport Museum, from the book "America's Cup '95: The Official Record," published by Tehabi Books.
2000 - Kiwis to Defend Auld Mug Against All ComersThe 30th defense of the Americas Cup is set for early 2000 in Auckland, New Zealand, and will be hosted by defender Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.
The Challenger of Record is New York Yacht Club, which formed the Americas Cup Challenger Association, Inc., to conduct the challenger selection series, scheduled to begin in late 1999, also in Auckland. A number of yacht clubs from around the world, including San Franciscos St. Francis Yacht Club, have submitted challenges to the RNZYS.
The challenging clubs will conduct a months-long series of races amongst themselves to determine which one will face New Zealand in the showdown for the Americas Cup. See the America's Cup XXX Fact Sheet for current information on up-coming regatta.
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