A Tradition of America's Cup Involvement
St. Francis Yacht Club, situated on San Franciso Bay in the shadow of the famed Golden Gate, is mounting its second America's Cup challenge. It also has several members, most notably the late Tom Blackaller, Paul Cayard and John Kostecki, who have been the club's ambassadors to the America's Cup over the past three decades.
The current challenge is in association with the AmericaOne syndicate, headed by George "Fritz" Jewett, Jr., vice chairman of the Board of Directors of the Potlatch Corporation, and world-champion skipper Paul Cayard. The club challenged America's Cup-holder Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron on May 10, 1996, followed by the public unveiling of AmericaOne on June 1, 1996.
The club's earlier challenge was during the 1986-87 America's Cup defense, when the charismatic Tom Blackaller, with Cayard as tactician, led the Golden Gate Challenge to Fremantle, Australia. Sailing the radically designed 12-meter USA, they advanced to the semifinal round of the challenger trials before being eliminated by Stars & Stripes, the boat that went on to win the America's Cup.
Blackaller and Cayard first teamed up in 1983 in an effort to become the America's Cup defender for then Cup-holder New York Yacht Club. The hard-driving Blackaller first campaigned 12-Meters with Russell Long in 1980.
Cayard was also in the challenger ranks in 1992 as skipper of Italy's Il Moro di Venezia, which lost the final match to Bill Koch's technologically superior America³. In 1995, Cayard served as Dennis Conner's helmsman/tactical strategist aboard Stars & Stripes and the ultimately unsuccessful Young America, which lost in the final match to the "black boat," New Zealand.
Olympic silver-medalist John Kostecki, who Cayard describes as "the best sailor in the world," also competed in the 1995 America's Cup regatta, serving as tactician aboard Young America throughout the defender trials.
St. Francis members have raced aboard a number of Cup contenders. In addition to Blackaller, Cayard and Kostecki, double Olympic medalist Con Findlay raced aboard the 12-Meters Heritage, Mariner and Courageous in the 70s. Olympic silver medal winner John Bertrand sailed with Dennis Conner in 1992. Many other club members have also contributed to the depth of Cup tradition at St. Francis as coaches or crew on America's Cup boats.
Full Support for AmericaOneThen-Commodore P. Terry Anderlini (pictured at left) said it wasn't difficult convincing the club members to back Paul Cayard and AmericaOne.
"It's not hard to sell Paul Cayard to this club," Commodore Anderlini said. "We admire and respect him. We respect what he has done and what he is about to do."
The club's respect for Cayard goes beyond his sailing skills. "He's always a gentleman, he doesn't lose his cool, "Anderlini stated. "He respects his competitors and race officials."
Cayard said he's glad to be back sailing for his home-town club. The time spent sailing for Italy and other U.S. clubs garnering several world championships along the way was necessary for him to reach the point where he is now, leading the club's challenge to Auckland, New Zealand in 1999-2000.
"I guess you could say I went on tour, went to 'school,' and now I'm back in San Francisco. I'm back," he said.
Cayard is a symbol of what the club strives to achieve through its Junior Sailing Program.
"Paul came to us as an outsider. He wasn't born with a golden spoon in his mouth, his parents were not members of the club," Anderlini explained. "But he was enthusiastic and we are happy that we were able to help him through his involvement in our junior program. He fought hard for what he has achieved; he's earned his stripes."
A Distinguished HistoryFourteen challenges for the America's Cup had been raced before July 24, 1927, when the first clubhouse piling was driven on the San Francisco waterfront at Cressy Field. The St. Francis Yacht Club may be young in America's Cup terms, but it is distinguished in its contributions to racing and cruising. It has grown from the 21 founding members to more than 2500 members around the world today.
Along the way, the club has weathered some severe setbacks. Much of the original Willis Polk-designed clubhouse burned to the ground in December, 1976. The rebuilt clubhouse was opened 18 months later. Then, in 1989, the San Francisco earthquake precipitated the rebuilding of the remainder of the original structure.
Today the St. Francis YC is recognized as one of the leading yacht clubs in the world. The club's leadership in the development of young, world-class sailors through the annual sailing symposium and other activities, has received wide recognition.
In a typical year, up to 45 local, regional, national and international regattas are held at the St. Francis YC, including the most famous of all, the "Big Boat" Series every September.
The club is equally known for its cruising sailors, which have sailed to all points on the Pacific Rim and around the world. "This is a sailboat club," said Commodore Anderlini. "The people in this club love sailing."
In addition to competing for the America's Cup, its sailors have swept the SORC, won the Transpac, captured numerous world championships, and won Olympic medals. St. Francis sailors have collected, at one time or another, just about every sailboat racing trophy worth winning with the notable exception, of course, of the America's Cup, the most prestigious trophy in sailing competition.
Represented by the talented Jewett, Cayard and crew, the club is out to remedy that. Come March 2000, St. Francis Yacht Club figures to add the "Auld Mug" to its extensive collection of trophies.
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