Remembering Britt: Always Pushing The Edge

Published on October 19th, 2012

By John Longley

Very sad to hear of the passing of Britt Chance (in Scuttlebutt 3697). He was a terrific bloke and a lateral thinker in the mode of Ben Lexcen.

After the 1988 Deed of Gift America’s Cup, I was put in charge of running the first Cup Protocol that had been signed by the then existing and past Trustees of the Cup – NYYC, RPYC, SDYC and the current Challenger RYNZ.

One of the tasks was to decide on the class for the next match. Twelve metres remained in the frame (John Marshall was opting for a bigger rig) and the catamaran world was knocking on our door. But a group of us decided we needed a new class. That group was Derek Clarke from the UK, Iain Murray, Tom Ehman and Britt Chance. Ken MacAlpine provided the technical expertise and I pulled the project together.

The culmination of our efforts was a meeting in Southampton to which every recognized America’s Cup designer in the world was invited and most came. The rules of engagement were simple: You had to pay your own way, no fees, and you had to come for the whole 5 days.

At the end of what was an incredibly exciting, creative week, Rob Humphries was charged with designing the first IACC yacht which he did on the Thursday night. This design was tested at the Wolfson tank in Southampton and all attendees were subsequently given the lines and the test results.

The line in the sand had been drawn and the gun fired. One hundred one of these yachts were subsequently built over the next 18 years with their era ending in the final race of the 2007 match when Alinghi beat the Kiwis by one second.

Britt Chance was right in the thick of it. All week long he was running around lobbying everyone who would talk to him for elements of the class that he supported. He was always pushing the edge, for example he was a strong advocate of carbon spars when at the time many felt it was one step too far – seems weird from this distance but it was a major discussion point at the time.

Interesting to reflect on all this just after watching the sad sight of the Oracle 72 slowly being destroyed by the Bay ebb tide.

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