Nine 12 Metre teams made it a long weekend in Newport as they competed in their North American Championship, hosted by Ida Lewis Yacht Club from Friday through Sunday (September 23-25). Sailing on sloops best known as the America’s Cup boats during that event’s so-called “Golden Era” (1958-1987), the teams competed in three divisions – Grand Prix, Modern and Traditional – and completed eight races in 13-17 knot breezes that held for courses both on Rhode Island Sound (where the America’s Cup was held from 1930-1983) and upper Narragansett Bay.
Winning the three-boat Modern division was Victory ’83, skippered by Dennis Williams (Newport, R.I./Hobe Sound, Fla.), who won all three of his races on day one but had a tougher time of it on day two. “The second day it was very close racing,” said Williams. “Intrepid (skippered by Jack Curtin, New York, N.Y.) w`as going really well, and we were lucky to be able to edge them out twice at the finish line. That actually made the difference: we had a five-point lead after the first two days, and all we had to do on the third day was get two thirds (in the two races held) and not foul anyone or break down.” In the end, Intrepid finished third overall, conceding second to Courageous, skippered by Ralph Isham (Newport, R.I./New York, N.Y.).
In the hard-fought Traditional class, it was Alain and Dan Hanover’s (Boston, Mass.) Columbia that edged out Weatherly, skippered by Jay Schachne (Barrington, R.I.), by two points after a protest in the last race of the last day went its way. It resulted in the team posting a total of four victories in its score line along with three seconds and a third. Weatherly’s strong performance included three victories and a two-point lead in final scoring over Bob Morton’s (Newport, R.I.) American Eagle.
Winning Grand Prix division by eight points over its closest competitor was KZ-3, skippered by Gunther Buerman (Newport, R.I.). “It was really hard racing,” said Buerman, who has sailed with the same team for five years and is looking forward to competing in the 12 Metre Worlds here in 2019. “I doubt whether we finished more than a minute ahead in all the races (that we won), and the one race we lost was only by two seconds. The other teams are getting better and better, but I firmly believe I have the fastest 12 Metre and the best people. Things have gone well, and the team is clicking; I wish the worlds were right now!”
KZ-5, skippered by Kip Curren (Newport, R.I.) took second in Grand Prix division, while Lionheart, skippered by Harry Graves (Grand Isle, Vermont), finished third.
At the Awards Ceremony on Sunday afternoon at Ida Lewis Yacht Club, the Gubelmann Trophy was awarded to the three division winners, while the Ted Hood Trophy was awarded to the 12 Metre teams with the highest points overall for the season: KZ-3 (Grand Prix), Victory ’83 (Modern) and Weatherly (Traditional).
Ted Turner Trophy presented to Williams
Not only did Dennis Williams take home the Gubelmann Trophy for his team’s Modern Class victory at the 2016 12 Metre North American Championship and the Ted Hood Trophy for his team’s participation and performance in this year’s series of 12 Metre events leading up to the North Americans, but also he was awarded this year’s Ted Turner Trophy for his “noteworthy contributions to the 12 Metre Class both on and off the water.”
Along with Victory ’83 (with which he has won the 12 Metre Worlds and multiple North American Championships), Williams owns two other 12 Metres, USA (US-61) and Defender (US-33). They both need work to become race-ready, but if Williams has his way, they will be completed and have new owners by the 2019 12 Metre World Championship in Newport, when 30 of the boats are expected to converge on Newport from all over the world.
“We need some like-minded potential owners to come along and understand the importance of propagating this historic fleet and keeping it alive,” said Williams. “We’re starting to feel the buzz for the Worlds, and it’s generating interest in getting these and other 12 Metres that are out there ‘off the hard’ and into the water.”
Williams added that Defender is “almost put back together,” but USA “is a much bigger project,” due to its needing a new keel and underbody. “I’ve always said that we are only temporary guardians of these historic 12 Metres. We have to leave them better than when we found them. We maintain them, we improve them, but then we pass them along to somebody else who will do the same thing.”
2016 12 Metre North American Championship
KZ-3, Gunther Buerman, Newport, R.I., 1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1; 9
Laura (KZ-5), Kip Curren, Newport, R.I., 2-2-2-2-1-4-2-2; 17
Lionheart (K-18), Harry Graves, Grand Isle, Vermont, 3-4-3-3-3-2-3-3; 24
Victory ’83 (K-22) , Dennis Williams (Newport, R.I./Hobe Sound, Fla.) 1-1-1-2-1-2-3-3; 14
Courageous (US-26), Ralph Isham, Newport, R.I. 2-2-2-3-3-1-1-1; 15
Intrepid (US-22), Jack Curtin (New York, N.Y.) 3-4-4-1-2-3-2-2; 21
Columbia (US-16), Alain and Dan Hanover, Boston, Mass., 1-3-2-2-2-1-1-1; 14
Weatherly (US-17), Jay Schachne, Barrington, R.I., 2-1-3-1-1-2-3-4(DSQ); 17
American Eagle (US-21), Bob Morton, Newport, R.I., 3-2-1-3-3-3-2-2; 20