1977 Slow Boat In Newport

by Stephen Lirakis

I was poking around boatyards as I had done most of my life; it was the fall of 1976 when I ran into Jeff Neuberth, the project manager for the Courageous-Independence Syndicate. Jeff had been told that I was sailing on Enterprise with Lowell North and was surprised to learn that was not the case. I was invited to join the Independence crew shortly after that.

Ted Hood designed and built Independence and had leased Courageous to Ted Turner. It was the first real two-boat program. Ideal for sail development and boat refinement.

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Ted Turner had said leading in to this program that he wanted a time tested boat; still smarting from the Mariner disaster in 1974. Independence being the “new boat” was always expected to be the ultimate selection. Courageous was referred to as the trial horse. It was difficult to know which boat was faster as most of our sailing in those early months (February-May) were long tacks sometimes 30 miles!

A mini-regatta was organized with racing between Courageous and Independence before we towed to Newport for the June trails. Courageous proved to be faster on every point of sail in those races. Reg Pierce who had been aboard Courageous for the successful 1974 defense looked up from the grinder handles and said: “It’s going to be a long summer.” These proved to be prophetic words.

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