Bond and Jobson inducted
For inductees Gary Jobson and Alan Bond there was honour in being ceremoniously rewarded for changing America's Cup history. For the evening's sponsor Rolex and the Herreshoff Marine Museum, which houses the 11-year-old Hall of Fame in Bristol, Rhode Island, there was heartfelt gratitude for supporting the sport of sailing worldwide. And for the 300-plus audience of America's Cup devotees, there was the reflection into the past, which - at least for one evening - made the fast track of the modern day America's Cup competition seem like a smooth country lane on which close-knit neighbours lived.
Doubling as a fund raiser for the America's Cup Hall of Fame, the Rolex Induction Ceremony attracted many who made their own special mark on the America's Cup. The big names included Bruno Bich, Russell Coutts, Halsey Herreshoff, Bill Koch, Dawn Riley, Bruno Trouble and Ted Turner, but still, no one was bigger than Jobson or Bond on this evening.
Jobson helped keep the Cup in Newport by serving as tactician aboard the winning 12-metre Courageous. Bond, after three unsuccessful Cup attempts, led a charge in 1983 with the Ben Lexcen-designed Australia II, the radical 12-metre with her never-before-seen winged keel, to finally unbolt the America's Cup from its 132-year resting place at the New York Yacht Club.
"It's a great privilege to be here," said Bond at the podium, emphasizing that he did not singlehandedly end the longest winning streak on record in sports. "We started with a crew of champions and ended up with a champion crew."
A video presentation showing racing footage reminded the audience that the 1983 America's Cup became the 'Race of the Century', coming down to a sudden-death match between Australia II, skippered by John Bertrand, and Liberty, sailed by Dennis Conner. At one point in the race, it looked as if Liberty had wrapped it up, but a fatal decision by Conner to leave Australia II uncovered handed the victory to Bond.
In a letter read by Selection Committee member John Rousmaniere, Bertrand reminisced: "The Australia II challenge was born when Alan leapt onto the after deck of Australia after the last race in 1980 and announced to his crew, myself included, that he was challenging again! ‘We now know enough to win!’ This was his fourth challenge. He was then 40 years old."
Russell Coutts and Alan Bond
Bertrand emphasised how important it was for Australia that Alan Bond won the America’s Cup, writing: "During Australia’s bicentennial year of 1988, the Australian Sports Hall of Fame voted the Australia II victory as the finest team performance in 200 years of Australian sport. In September this year, to mark the 20-year anniversary of Australia II’s victory, celebrations were held in Perth, Sydney, and Melbourne…the Australia II crew were driven in a motorcade around the Melbourne Cricket Ground in front of 85,000 football fans before the start of the Australian Rules Football Grand final. Alan rode in the front car with myself.
"Never before in Australia's history has an Australian sporting team been honoured in this way 20 years after the event," Bertrand added. "Alan never gave up in his pursuit of the ‘Holy Grail’ of yachting, and as a result he is now part of Australian folklore."
In another letter read at the induction dinner, Sir James Hardy (like Bertrand a member of the America’s Cup Hall of Fame and a skipper of Australian America’s Cup challengers), praised Alan Bond’s "legendary sheer tenacity."
After recalling the days when campaigns were administered out of "rented tin sheds on the dock" rather than futuristic complexes, Bond commented, "my only regret is that I didn't leave the America's Cup regatta in Newport."
In a similar nod to simpler times, Ted Turner - in his introduction of Jobson - recalled his approach to recruiting crew for Courageous. "I was just starting to get involved with the Atlanta Braves (baseball team), and I knew about scouting and athlete contracts. I figured in sailing, you could capture a crewman just by being a friend to him. I read about the best sailors…and I knew Gary Jobson was one of the best sailors out there. Turns out Gary and I became very close."
In fact, the entire crew of Courageous grew very close. In a show of solidarity for Jobson, who currently is undergoing treatment for cancer, each and every member of the boat's 26 deck and shore crew attended the induction.
"During the low ebb of my illness last summer," said Jobson, "I received this get well card. It had gone all around the country and was signed by every member of the 1977 Courageous crew. In the card, Richie Boyd remarked that we are still a 'team'. It's powerful to realise that once a team bonds, it sticks together forever."
Jobson enjoyed a hero's welcome to the podium and was presented with a signed half-model of Courageous by Turner and the crew. Those who had been anxious about the professional public speaker's stamina and ability to address the crowd with his trademark enthusiasm were immediately comforted. All that Jobson's entertainment package was missing was a full head of hair.
Gary Jobson with Ted Turner
"It is a true honour and quite humbling to be included in the America’s Cup Hall of Fame," said Jobson, after a colorful recap of his introduction to 12-metre sailing as a child. "Winning or losing in match racing is clear cut, but being selected for this kind of award is somewhat abstract."
Jobson's highlight video went beyond his 1977 Cup accomplishment to show his monumental achievements in broadcast and journalism. Having covered the last six America's Cup matches live for ESPN and hosted 424 sailing television shows on everything from the Olympics to the Volvo Ocean Race to Antarctic explorations, he also has authored 14 books and 853 articles on the sport and has given 1014 lectures since 1979. In the words of Halsey Herreshoff, "No one has brought the sailing knowledge to youth or specialties of the America's Cup to the world like Gary Jobson has."
"Sailing is a difficult sport to explain to the non-racer," said Jobson. "I have spent my whole career trying to make our sport understandable and in the process encourage more people to share the passion that we all enjoy."
To cheers and a standing ovation, Jobson left his audience with a final thought: "Over the years I have ended every single speech with the same message. But tonight I have two endings. First, the most important thing in our sport is simple: having a good time. That is what we all strive to achieve…. Secondly, the last six months have been challenging for me…. Tonight I want everyone here to know that I am on the road to recovery and plan to continue promoting this sport that we all love."
Having captured the moment with his perfect blend of professional and personal conviction, Jobson left no room for doubt that everything could indeed be "as it was" once again.