Inspiring Young Sailors Through History

Published on June 26th, 2013

On Saturday, June 22 the lunchtime crowd at Pequot Yacht Club in Southport, CT was treated to a unique sight: two 12 Metres of 1980s vintage – America II and Lionheart. It was no small challenge maneuvering these boats, measuring 67 feet in length and drawing 9 feet, to the gas dock. These boats had come to Pequot through the generosity of the 12 Metre Yacht Development Foundation, based in Greenwich, CT.

The following morning, supported by three adult advisors provided by the Foundation and with a Pequot instructor on each of the boats, fifteen of Pequot’s young sailors, aged 14-17, took control of the boats: steering, calling the tactics and handling the sails. This event was part of Pequot’s junior big boat program, which is a separate segment of the club’s junior sailing program.

Pequot’s race committee, organized by Dan Nash, more than rose to the occasion in running a series of short windward leeward races off Southport harbor to keep the action tight. While it was America II prevailing over Lionhearted in light and variable winds, it proved to be an eye opening experience for both teams as they took on the task of handling these powerful boats.

But the fun didn’t end there. When the racing was done in the early afternoon, the Twelves returned to Southport harbor and were at the docks with full colors on display when the other junior sailors arrived for the commissioning of the Pequot Junior Yacht Club and the kickoff of the 2013 Junior Sailing Program. The sight of sailors and parents alike crawling all over these boats was pretty special.

Our junior sailors left a strong impression on volunteer advisors onboard the Twelves. “It was a pleasure and an honor to sail with you, demonstrating the thrill of these classic ladies, the 12’s,” said Paul Savage, the captain of America II. “It has taken us a great deal of effort to restore and preserve these beautiful boats and we were able to see, first hand, what competitive sailing can be for the young at heart.”

The 12 Metre class was used in the America’s Cup from 1958 through 1987, and Pequot members played important roles in America’s Cup competition, both during the 12 Metre era and after. The timing of having the Twelves in the harbor was special for Pequot. It was 55 years ago this summer that the America’s Cup was first sailed in 12 Metres with Columbia, skippered by Pequot’s own Briggs Cunningham, beating Great Britain’s Sceptre in a successful Cup defense.

America II was the first of three Twelves by the same name commissioned by the New York Yacht Club for the 1987 America’s Cup, in an unsuccessful effort to be selected as the challenger. It has two wheels and was built as a heavy air boat for the 25+knots of breeze typical of the Indian Ocean off Freemantle, Australia, where the event was held. Lionheart was the British challenger in 1980 and was most notable as the first and only Twelve to sport a “bendy mast” in an effort to gain an advantage in the light winds normally found in Newport, RI.

The 12 Metre Yacht Development Foundation is a 501©3 charitable organization whose mission is to acquire, restore and preserve historic America’s Cup yachts to foster appreciation of the rich maritime history of the 12 Metre class. In addition, the Foundation is keenly aware of the link between America’s Cup 12 Metres and Long Island Sound, where many of these boats were built and where many of the skippers and crews came from. It has been devoting much effort in working the Long Island Sound junior programs to get their sailors into these boats.

For further information on the activities of the Foundation, please access the Foundation’s website (www.12mydf.org). If your Long Island Sound club has an interest in getting your junior sailors into 12 Metres for a different type of match race experience, of if you are an organization looking to provide an alternative sailing experience for your employees and/or customers, please and feel free to reach out to Patrick Sikorski, Executive Director, via e-mail at patrick@12mydf.org .

Source: Tim Clark, Pequot Junior Sailing Committee

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