Jubilee officially open

HRH The Duke of Edinburgh greets America's Cup veterans

Saturday August 18th 2001, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom



America's Cup key players throughout the ages from left to right: Olin Stephens, Russell Coutts, Dean Barker, Ted Hood, John Bertrand, Bill Koch, Buddy Melges and HRH Prince Philip (hiding Bill Ficker)

The America's Cup Jubilee received its royal blessing today when HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, attended the opening ceremony held on the Cowes parade outside the Royal Yacht Squadron.

The greatest ever gathering of America's Cup talent throughout the ages has gathered in Cowes to compliment the outstanding collection of Cup yachts to be seen in the Yacht Haven here and off the Squadron for the Jubilee regatta which starts tomorrow. Take the Red Jet to Cowes over the last couple of days and you are likely to have found yourself sitting next to Russell Coutts or John Bertrand or one of the hundreds of lesser known individuals who have assembled here. Walk down Cowes High Street and you may bump into the big man himself Dennis Conner

At the Prada-sponsored opening ceremony US sailing TV presenter and former Ted Turner crewman Gary Jobson introduced the Cup 'names' one by one.
Olin Stephens' involvement with the Cup spanned 50 years from the designer of the Super J Ranger to the 12 metre Intrepid (1967/70). Ted Hood, founder of Hood Sailmakers, first a challenger in 1962 ( Nefertiti) and successfully defended in the Cup proper at the helm of Courageous in 1974. Bill Ficker helmed and was mastermind of the 1970 Intrepid defence. Buddy Melges was co-skipper with Bill Koch's America3 in 1992.

GBR Challenge boss Peter Harrison was present as was High Voltage owner John Caulcutt and Richard Matthews who has the last British 12m Defender. Several key designers were also present including Australian Iain Murray and Doug Petersen.

The America's Cup Jubilee proceedings started at dawn this morning when a group of Maoris clad in traditional dress delivered the America's Cup itself to the Royal Yacht Squadron for the first time in 150 years.

Down in the Yacht Haven it feels like a cross between Cowes Week and Nioulargue. The beer tent is the same with the same willing service, but the clientele is more international, well heeled and the crew jackets have a very different set of names embroidered on them.

The first day of racing is due tomorrow and it will be a hard toss up what to go and see. Should it be the amazing classic spectacle going on in the west Solent where the three J class boats Endeavour, Velsheda and Shamrock V will be showing off their combination of extreme elegance and power. They will be racing alongside other giant classics such as the 64m Adix, the 54m Shenandoah, the 42m Mariette, which as a group usually prefer the more glamorous surroundings of the Cote d'Azur or Caribbean. Then there are the modern giants such as Bob Miller's Atlantic record breaker Mari Cha III, Rebecca and Fiat boss Gianni Agnelli's Stealth.

Or perhaps on should go and see the 12m metres of which there will be 36 racing to the north of Cowes. Or should we go to see how the two modern GBR Challenge America's Cup Class yachts fare way down in the eastern Solent? It will be the first time they have lined up against any serious competition and it will be interesting to see their form against Prada's 1999 challenger Luna Rossa and Team New Zealand's '95 winner NZL32.

However the forecast is not looking great for tomorrow depending upon who you believe. The Atlantic is alive with depressions at the moment - one of 998mB is due to pass across the north of England tomorrow, while another of 982mB is trucking in behind it to the north and another less deep one is dissipating in the Bay of Biscay. One theory doing the rounds of the beer tent is that the racing may have to be postponed because there is too much breeze.

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