Who's Who in Newport

As 12 Metre World Championship cranks into life

Wednesday September 23rd 2009, Author: Jan Harley, Location: United Kingdom
Some competitors at the 2009 12 Metre World Championship are certainly experiencing déjà vu as a veritable 'Who’s Who' of sailing walked the docks at Bannister and Bowen’s Wharves this morning as the first day of this long-anticipated event got underway.

From current America’s Cup poster boy Russell Coutts, who is sailing on Kiwi Magic with Cup patron and skipper Bill Koch, to Dawn Riley, who broke ground as team leader of the first women’s entry in the Cup, to noted British sailors Harold Cudmore and Andy Green, there is a surfeit of recognisable faces. 26 years ago when the America’s Cup was won by Australia 2 in Newport, it ended the longest winning streak in sporting history. Four years later, two more milestones in the event’s history were marked: Dennis Conner became the first person to lose and then win the Cup, and the Twelves were sailed for the last time as the America’s Cup yacht of choice after 29 years.

“It’s wonderful to wander about the docks at Bowen’s and Bannister’s Wharf and see the 12 Metres here again, where they were in ’83, many of them with their same crews from then,” said Robin Wallace, who was a member of Race Committee for the Challenger Series in ‘83 and is the Principal Race Officer for this event. “With the current legal squabbles going on, people have become disenchanted with the America’s Cup, but this is like a re-awakening of the class, a reinvention of a competition that celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the 12 Meters first being used in the Cup.”

Divided into four divisions - Grand Prix, Modern, Traditional and Vintage - the 17 competing yachts sailed three races today, all in different wind levels in the Twelves old stomping grounds off Brenton Point. The southwesterly breeze went from light, increasing to 12 knots for race two, and into the mid-teens for the third race, with a relatively flat sea state until race three.

"We broke a couple of sails,” said Dawn Riley who came to the event to participate in the Legends Forums and wound up racing on America II. “But, we’re kind of a slower boat in the Grand Prix so we were happy to beat one of the boats to the top mark and almost to the bottom mark. And, we improved from the first race to the second race and everybody on board had fun. The bad news is you break sails and you can’t race, the good news is it was full-on physical, athletic, screaming, swearing . . . and everyone came out with smiles.”

Racing resumes tomorrow, Thursday, September 24, and concludes Saturday, September 27.

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