Steve Clarke's 1996 challenger and winner, Cogito

Steve Clarke's 1996 challenger and winner, Cogito


As Little America's Cup trustees announce new event will be held in F18s

Friday March 7th 2003, Author: James Boyd, Location: United States
While there has been drama in the America's Cup with Alinghi's win and the Cup coming to Europe for the first time in 152 years, so there is now turmoil in the Little America's Cup.

This excellent event has traditionally been held in C-class catamarans where aside from the 25 x 14ft catamaran platform, the rig is limited by a maximum sail area of 300sqft.

As a result since the event was first held in 1961, the C-class catamarans used have evolved from having conventional soft sail rigs, to wingmasts and soft sails, to semi-solid rigs to the latest generation which have solid sails arranged in a bi-plane or tri-plane configuration. The extraordinary lift generated by these rigs make the latest generation of C-class catamarans the most efficient sailing machines on the water - bar none. This technology was used in Dennis Conner's catamaran defender in the America's Cup in 1988. To see Christian Fevrier's history of the C-class in the Little America's Cup (courtesy of BlueGreen) click here to see part 1 and here to see part 2.

However the Trustees of the International Catamaran Challenge Trophy (ICCT) - to give the Little America's Cup its proper title - have seen fit to modify the Trophy's Deed of Gift in a move that will certain attract more entries but at the expense of removing the very soul of the event.

The last Little America's Cup competition was last held in Australia in 1996 when Steve Clark's Cogito team won from its holders defending aboard Yellow Pages.

In the four years after Cogito's victory there were no challengers and so under the Deed of Gift for the ICCT it reverted back to the custody of the Sea Cliff Yacht Club, based in Long Island.

After much talk of challenges from different quarters - a British bid with Hugh Styles and Adam May driving has still to find funds, for example - in December 2002 a challenge was received by the Sea Cliff Yacht from the Nedlands Yacht Club near Perth representing a Western Australian syndicate led by Ian Jenkins wished to challenge Cogito in September 2004.

Unfortunately by this time The Board of Trustees for the International Catamaran Challenge Trophy had other plans, which they have just made public. They have changed the Deed of Gift for the ICCT so that from now on it will be raced annually in F18HT catamarans.

This year Bimare Javelin 2 F-18HTs are to be used to challenge for the Trophy in an event to run from 27 September-2 October out of the Sail Newport Sailing Center in Newport, Rhode Island. The event will see 10 Challengers (non-US) and 10 Defenders (US) race their own round robin elimination series over the first three days of the event before the winner of each series line up in a best four out of seven series for the International Catamaran Challenge Trophy itself.

The deadline for entries is 1 June 2003. There is an all-inclusive entry fee of $6,000 per team that provides for the boat and sails for the event and the week preceding it. The winning club will then get to host the next event.

The Bimare Javelin 2 F-18HT has had considerable success since it was launched in January 2002. It was the 2003 Sailing World Boat of the Year and is being used in the Worrell 1000.

John B. Dawson, Jr, Chairman for the ICCT Trustees stated that "the time has come to revive the trophy and to promote friendly international match racing competition as called for in the Deed of Gift. Catamaran classes have grown dramatically - we want to increase the reach to a broad field of cat sailors and emphasize skill and strategy on the water."

While one can understand the Trustees of the ICCT wishing to revitalise competition for the Little America's Cup, it seems extraordinary they should do so at a time when a legitimate challenge under the old Deed of Gift was forthcoming. While the new format for the event is unique to the sailing world and will certainly succeed in attracting entries, the Trustees have missed the point. A million and one events are now in the calendar for catamaran competition between nations be it Olympic Tornado campaigns to the F18 Worlds to any other number of one design catamaran World championships and open meetings all over the world. The main point about the ICCT Trophy was that it was a development class that produced the world's most advanced sailing machines.

"It had been our hope that with the return of the Trophy to the Northern Hemisphere, the great European catamaran designers and sailors would assemble challenges to try to knock Cogito off of the podium, but none came forward," Cogito's Steve Clark told The Daily Sail. "During the entire period, we have been willing to show our boat and wing to any interested party, and have published significant information that would help a potential challenger be competitive.

"Time passed and nothing was done about what happens next until December of 2002. A challenge was submitted by an Australian syndicate from Perth. The Trustees told them to go away!

"We have learned that the Trustees propose to replace the regatta which showcased the most efficient sailing machines on the planet with a round robin regatta in production beach cats. Talk about lowered standards! Talk about dumbing it down!

"In spite of the decision of the Sea Cliff Trustees, we have met with the Australians and believe they are a viable team. We anticipate proceeding with an event in the fall of 2004 to again determine who has the fastest course racing sailboat in the world. Stay tuned for new developments."

We most certainly will.

Feedback: Have the Board of Trustees done the right thing? Should the Little America's Cup be raced in F18s? Give us your thoughts or click here to open a message box.

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