Lock Up Your Mothers, Hide The Booze…

“They” May Be Returning To Newport!


Click the kangaroo to hear the 1983 Australia II tribute song.

When owners and crew of 12 Metres gather at regattas or the 12 Metre Yacht Club at the Clarke Cooke House, it does not take long for a story to surface about America’s Cup campaigns. Hardly surprising considering a number of veterans from those campaigns circa 1970-87 are still sailing 12s.

As with most sports– it’s all about the people. Stories are less about tacking duels off Brenton Reef and more about the characters involved in designing, building and sailing the 12s. Shore-side supporters, particularly those from ‘Down Under’ who made it to Newport in 1983 add even more color to an already colorful story.  Similarly, the 2001 World Championship held in conjunction with the 150th ‘Jubilee’ off Cowes attracted thirty-six Twelve Metres and at least several hundred of those same characters.

In 2019 the 12 Metre World Championship is scheduled to be held in Newport, hosted by the New York Yacht Club in conjunction with a regatta celebrating the Club’s 175th Anniversary. As plans for that celebration get underway in New York and Newport, another plan is being hatched 10,500 miles away in Melbourne, Australia.

Challenge 12

Click to learn more about Challenge 12

The owner of the 1987 challenger Kookaburra I, who at one time also owned KZ-3, has been keeping his eye on Challenge Twelve, the trial horse for Australia II. She is currently in storage near Newport. He and his merry crew from ‘Down Under’ competed with ‘Kooka’ and KZ-3 at the ‘Jubilee.’ Reportedly, a recent conversation over a ‘quiet little drink’ at a Yacht Club near Melbourne resulted in a ‘why not’ decision.

“Let’s look in to the idea of acquiring Challenge Twelve and campaigning her in Newport, during the summers of 2017-18 and on to the World Championship in 2019.

Then bring her back to Melbourne.” The instigator was ‘egged on’ by several participants in that ‘quiet little drink’– they sailed on Challenge 12 in her duels with Australia II.

If this plan comes to fruition, the Syndicate will be aptly named. While fitting, ‘Geriatric Larrikins’ is already taken. Australian 12 Metre characters arrived on the docks of Newport from the 60s to the 80s, with a small kitbag, a large thirst, passion for the sport, a desire to win and a lovable sense of humor.  This mob from Melbourne will be no different.

Here’s hoping!
–Paul Buttrose

Wire Sheets by Steve Lirakis


1980 America’s Cup – Gerry Driscoll on-board Intrepid, Baron Bich’s trial horse to France III, for a practice session on RI Sound off Newport.

In 1978, 2-time defender Intrepid (US-22) was owned by Baron Bich. Gerry Driscoll was keen to charter her, provided that he could raise the funds for a campaign; his sights set on a 3-peat. Meanwhile, he sailed Intrepid as a trial horse to France III. (In 100 starts, France III reached the first mark ahead of Intrepid only once.)

As crew boss, I had more than 30 sailors try out for crew spots over two summers. I was also responsible for the maintenance and tuning of the rig. At this time rigging was made with galvanized wire, which was hard on everything including the winch drums and crew. And in order to economize, I tried to make the runner tails last as long as possible, they typically lasted just 4 (sailing) days. On one occasion, during day 5 or 6 of use on a set, and just after a tack, a wire tail wrapped on a winch drum exploded shooting out tiny shards of wire, it was like a porcupine had let loose!  I had “quills” stuck in my arms,  and they burned with the sweat. It was only after we made a quick tack on the other board that I was able to turn around to see that Gerry had wire quills in one side of his face and arm. He had never flinched or uttered a word, he just kept driving.– Steve Lirakis

Intrepid, designed by Olin Stephens was built of double-planked mahogany on white oak frames. She featured important innovations both above and below the waterline. The rudder was separated from the keel and a trim tab was added. This new general under-body type, with relatively minor refinements, was used on every subsequent Cup boat until the 12-metre Australia II’s winged keel of 1983.  Above decks, Intrepid featured a very low boom, made possible by locating the winches below decks. The low boom caused an “end-plate effect,”making the mainsail more efficient.
Photo Credit: ©Paul Mello/OUTSIDEIMAGES.COM Outside Images Photo Agency


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.

Hover over images to reveal captions, click to view any photo at full size…

Twelve Metre Class Rule Stability

by David Pedrick

David PedrickThe Class Rule for Twelves has changed very little since the time of the America’s Cup Jubilee in Cowes in 2001. The major change made prior to that event was Appendix E, created to categorize older yachts and grant rating credits for design obsolescence with age, including generational changes in appendage configuration. A Propeller Allowance was also created to give partial credit for the hydrodynamic drag of the propeller installation and the compromised weight distribution from the engine.

Prior to the 2001 Rule, the contents of the 1985 Rule for the final America’s Cup regatta in Twelves was substantially reorganized in 1994 and issued for the NYYC’s Sesquicentennial Regatta. The text format of the Rule has remained essentially unchanged since then, other than adding Appendix E in 2001.

Between 2001 and 2013, the principal Rule change was in sail materials for the Classics. Initially, Division C was defined solely as having a keel-hung rudder, with sub-divisions of C1 for post-WW II, C2 for pre WW II (under Rules 3 and 2), and C3 for the first Rule, gaff-rigged. The sail material specification for all of Division C had a maximum fiber modulus of 250 grams/denier. For reference, the modulus limit in the main Rule was 1000 gm/den, suitable for laminated Kevlar sails.

The Rule change voted earlier this year raises the permitted fiber modulus in the general Rule for Divisions A and B (Winged Keel and Modern) to 1550 grams/denier, proposed originally at 1400 gm/den. This allows the use of materials that have become more common generally in high-performance racing, notably carbon fiber.

Meanwhile, back in 2004, sail materials for the entire Classic Division C were restricted to be even more elastic, requiring woven construction and a maximum fiber modulus of 120 grams/denier, effectively limiting such sails to woven Dacron. The Rule declared the end of all use of existing 250 gm/den sails after 2004. This conservatism seems to have been driven by cost concerns within the Newport fleet.

However, the Northern European Fleet was quite happy with the 250 gm/den specification, and continued to build sails with materials and construction that had been allowed before 2004 by preference and without problems. This interest was confined to Division C2 (pre-WW II) – later changed to Division D, within which most of the active racing European yachts belong.

The 2011 revision of the Rule kept the woven-sail, 120 gm/den limitation for the newly designated Divisions C (post-WW II) and E (Rule 1 gaffers), and continued to accept the 250 gm/den fiber modulus for Division D, but in a peculiar way. It permitted the 250 gm/den modulus only for sails that had been measured before 2008 – an anomaly that was waived by fleet choice in European regattas. This was resolved in 2013 by eliminating the grandfather restriction.

Meanwhile, Classic Twelves in Divisions C and E are still limited to the woven-sail, 120 gm/den modulus limit from the 2004 Rule, while Division D has the 250 gm/den limit that was confirmed in 2013. It seems incongruous for Division C to require more elastic sails than Division D, inviting discussion about revising this for consistency with Division D before hosting the World Championship regatta in 2019.

Building Courageous

by Stephen Lirakis

In 1973 I accepted a job at Minneford’s Yacht Yard to build aluminum boats lured by the assurance that I would build the next Sparkman & Stephens twelve meter; the first in aluminum. Interestingly the decision had been taken to supply the offsets in metric; a departure from tradition. The reason being that it would be more precise– the plans for the keel were supplied in tenths of a foot. Finding metric rulers in 1973 was not as easy as today, as well having to find a tape in tenths.

The plans for a twelve meter were delivered in the fall of 1973. This boat was originally going to be sailed by Bill Ficker and his team. We even built a mock-up of the boat which we could heel, Bill and the crew came to try the layout and make suggestions. Due to circumstances Bill and his team were out. Olin instructed us to continue work on the boat as he looked for a new syndicate.

Only two of us were assigned to the build during this time. To further retard our progress; no scantlings existed for aluminum twelves meter. We developed scantlings that we proposed to Lloyds and then had to wait for their approval.

As we laid down the lines of Courageous it became clear that her design was an evolution of Constellation and Intrepid; with subtle and progressive innovations, all within The Rule.

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We built all the fittings at Minneford’s, Including the cauldron in which we melted 50,000 pounds of lead for the keel which we poured into the mould made of 50,000 pounds of cement. The pour took place over a 24 hour period with breaks for food.

Even though the keel mould had cured for at least 6 weeks, once we started the pour of molten lead into the mold the steam coming from the cement was frightening. I was concerned that the whole thing might explode. Happily it did not.

Looking back, I went to Minneford’s to be involved in building a 12 meter, never imagining Courageous would be the last two-time defender.

Joop Sloof Presentation, 5/1/16

Joop Sloof - The KeelMembers of the 12 Metre Yacht Club, Newport Station gathered at the Clarke Cooke House last evening for an event organized by 12MYC member, Dan Nerney. Retired Dutch fluid dynamacist, Joop Sloof, presented a slide show revealing his part in the design of the winged keel of the 12 Metre Yacht Australia II based on his newly published book “Australia II and the America’s Cup – The untold inside story of the Keel.”  As the photos reveal, the event was attended by many luminaries of Newport’s America’s Cup halcyon days including sailors, designers, race officials, supporters, photographers, members of the press, and NYYC Commodores- both past and present.

Click to view more photos here

Click to view more photos here