America’s Cup: To reinvigorate US sailing
Published on October 8th, 2018
Their goal is to revive US sailing, but America’s Cup challenger American Magic is entrusting the job to a New Zealander. The US syndicate will have renowned Kiwi Dean Barker (above) as helmsman for the America’s Cup in 2021, plus an international crew of sailors for the New York Yacht Club’s first bid for the Auld Mug in 15 years.
With the clock ticking, the newly established team reckon buying in top talent — rather than relying on homegrown sailors at this stage — is the best way to achieve their ambition in New Zealand.
“To impact the sport the way that we want to, we have to win first,” American Magic skipper and executive director Terry Hutchinson told CNN Sport in Cowes, birthplace of the first America’s Cup in 1851.
American Magic is the only US challenger, alongside Italy’s Luna Rossa and Britain’s Ineos Team UK, bidding to topple defender Emirates Team New Zealand, which beat Larry Ellisson’s Oracle Team USA in Bermuda 2017.
Oracle, which itself was made up predominantly of Australian sailors, including skipper Jimmy Spithill, declined to enter the next Cup cycle after the Kiwis announced a move away from the hydro-foiling multihulls of Bermuda to unproven 75-foot foiling monohulls.
Hutchinson believes American Magic — bankrolled by US businessmen Hap Fauth, Doug DeVos and Roger Penske — can help “reengage the US sailing population” and “reinvigorate the marine industry” after criticism in some quarters that the cutting-edge catamarans of the last Cup alienated the grass roots of sailing.
Hutchinson said he had a “very clear vision” of his path. As a nine-year-old Laser sailor in 1977 he was inspired when Annapolis local Gary Jobson, now a Hall of Fame sailor and long-time mentor, won the America’s Cup in Newport (RI) as part of Ted Turner’s crew on Courageous.
Hutchinson then remembers as a 13-year-old watching from Marmaduke’s Pub in Annapolis (the owner was a fellow J/24 sailor and let him in) as Dennis Conner’s Liberty lost the Cup to Australia II. And he recalls staying up until 3 a.m. at college at Old Dominion University as Conner’s Stars and Stripes won back the Cup in Fremantle, Western Australia 1987.
“There was something about [sailing and the America’s Cup] that was a love affair you can never get enough of,” says Hutchinson.
He adds: “As a sailor you’d love to see more people engaged with the sport, buying sailboats and going on the water. It’s a great natural resource so whether it’s leisure sailing or you want to be a racer we need to figure out ways to make it more appealing to people.
“If we’re fortunate enough to be in a situation where we’ve won, that’s where the opportunity really lies.”
Having committed to the next Cup, American Magic’s management team identified time as their biggest weakness, in terms of both design and personnel.
“Very quickly we had to have a sailing team that could understand the challenges we’ll face,” says Hutchinson, who has so far assembled a mixed sailing crew of Americans, Brits, Antipodeans and an Argentine.
Barker — a five-time America’s Cup sailor who sailed with SoftBank Team Japan in Bermuda after a fallout with Team New Zealand — was the obvious choice as helmsman.
“There’s very few people in the world who possess big-boat monohull experience and also have experience of the 2013 and 2017 programmes,” said Hutchinson. “And I can’t think of another person who is more due to win the regatta than him so it seems like a safe bet.”
Key America’s Cup dates:
✔ September 28, 2017: 36th America’s Cup Protocol released
✔ November 30, 2017: AC75 Class concepts released to key stakeholders
✔ January 1, 2018: Entries for Challengers open
✔ March 31, 2018: AC75 Class Rule published
✔ June 30, 2018: Entries for Challengers close
✔ August 31, 2018: Location of the America’s Cup Match and The PRADA Cup confirmed
✔ August 31, 2018: Specific race course area confirmed
December 31, 2018: Late entries deadline
March 31, 2019: Boat 1 can be launched
2nd half of 2019: 2 x America’s Cup World Series Preliminary Events
February 1, 2020: Boat 2 can be launched
During 2020: 3 x America’s Cup World Series Preliminary Events
December 10-20, 2020: America’s Cup Christmas Race
January and February 2021: The PRADA Cup Challenger Selection Series
March 2021: The America’s Cup Match