America’s Cup: An old soldier offers advice

Published on December 16th, 2013

Robert C. Keefe, staff commodore of St. Francis Yacht Club, shares the perspective of one that has seen it all…

The 35th Match for the America’s Cup should be conducted on San Francisco Bay in the same waters as this past match. And to do it right, this is what must be done…

Let’s forget speed. Speed in yacht racing is a relative thing, not an all-out objective. The only good thing about going 45 knots is that the race is over quickly. We should see a monohull with a keel and a spinnaker pole; a proper yacht. Jibe sets around reaching marks; spinnaker changes; all classic upwind and downwind activity. No more asymmetricals. But the yachts do have to be big enough to attract attention. No 45-foot boat is able to do that; for a short calendar they can, but not on an ongoing basis.

The yacht or class created must have the ability to go upwind; her best point of sail. Anything can go downwind, even just blow downwind. To win on San Francisco Bay you have to be able to go upwind well (old Bay adage). The Bay has proven this time and time again.

Those in the decision making process should have seen the likes of the two 83′ sloops, “Windward” and “Patalita” coming up the Bay in 1950 or the two 73′ almost sisters, “Baruna” and “Bolero”, match racing in 1960. The 1970’s saw the great battles between the 73′ ketch’s, “Blackfin” and “Windward Passage”, and later the 73′ aluminum ketches, “Kialoa” and “Ondine”. Even, two 83′ “AC” class sloops put on a fine show in 2003.

The Bay has seen it all; many of the world’s finest yachts racing here, and in front of millions of people.

All on board must be citizens of the country of the registered club. Not just a few, all of them. If that means that not every country can compete, so be it. There are enough others to more than fill the Bay. No boundary lines; if you want to put yours ashore or on the rock pile, go right ahead. No more imaginary circles around turning marks. No more wind restrictions; come prepared to race. And the match should be in August when the wind and currents on the Bay are at their best; full on with no extremes. And yes, you can have meaningful reaching legs on the Bay which the Big Boat Series since back in the 1960’s have successfully demonstrated.

I was born and raised in San Francisco, and been racing on the Bay for all of my 82 years. I have seen all of those mentioned above, and sailed on most of them. I had a Two Tonner designed and built just to race in the BBS. I think I have a rite of passage. If interested, ask around who thought up, and then ran the St. Francis Perpetual Trophy Series for its first ten years. That was well before it became the Big Boat Series. So, let’s get on with it.

The next match for the America’s Cup will be conducted on the waters of San Francisco Bay. If the San Francisco City Hall types balk at this, the same types in Newport, Rhode Island won’t.

Regards from an old soldier….

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