1999: Dutch Win Cup
'Very well organised and a little bit of luck' is captain's verdict. Europe is second as Brits salvage third
by Malcolm McKeag
The Netherlands team of Innovision 7 (Judel/ Vrolijk 50, Hans Eekhof), Trust Computer Products (Sydney 40, Jochen Visser) and Mean Machine (Mumm 36, Michael Sanderson) lifted the Champagne Mumm Admiral's Cup high above Cowes Yacht Haven this morning in that 'little country's' first ever win of this historic event. A Netherlands team has competed in every Admiral's Cup event since 1959, the first year the contest opened up beyond Great Britain and the USA, but the best they have ever achieved has been third, in 1973 and again in 1975. 'This year' said Hans Eekhof, team captain 'it was preparation, preparation, preparation - putting the right people in the right boats - and having the right sponsor'. Trust Computer Products, brought in originally by Jochen Visser to fund the Sydney 40, were the overall sponsor of the Dutch team.
Visser himself paid tribute to the effort put in by his crew. The Dutch were one of those teams who took advantage of the Royal Ocean Racing Club special charter deal with Sydney Yachts and arrived in England just nine weeks before the first race to put together a campaign in a completely unknown yacht. Starting as good each-way bet, the team suffered an early set back when Visser clashed rigs with the US Big Boat Idler, in the second race of the series. Overnight work had a new rig in the boat to race next day, but a DNF is a big burden for any team to carry in this no discard series. Consistently good results from all three boats kept the team in the frame and slowly recovering points - and when first USA and then Great Britain began to falter, the Dutch were there. Significantly, all three Dutch boats finished second in their respective classes in the final individual points scores.
The team from Europe came second, their result boosted in the dying hours of the championship by a win by Brava Q8 in the Big Boat class after a second in the Sydney 40s by Merit Cup. But their chances of winning probably went with the same bang that sounded as the main halyard of Moby Lines parted. The Mumm 36 was off the Eddystone light when the mainsail came tumbling down, and could recover only to sixth. Moby Lines had already been erratic enough for owner Vincenzo Onorato to - in his own words - utilise the subs bench and move skipper Enrico Chieffi off the boat and replace him with America's Cup skipper Mauro Pelaschier.
The British began as one of the openly-fancied favourites, and led the series through the half way stage, but their weak link became apparent as team captain Stephen Bailey's Sydney 40 Nautica 40 skippered by Chris Law wavered then fell through the back. With early results of 4th, 1st, 2nd the boat looked good. Two thirds followed - then in the last three races Arbitrator was 7th, last and last. Even as the final race was being sailed Law, in a VHF interview for BBC Television with round-the-world skipper Mike Golding, was announcing his retirement from the sport. Britain's Big Boat, though erratic, was good more times than she was bad but the host team unstintingly acknowledged they owed even their third place to the tremendous sailing of a team of relative newcomers under Olympic and Whitbread sailor Adrian Stead in the Mumm 36. Barlo Plastics had four firsts to be top scoring individual boat of the series.
Germany and the USA had too many weak points in their teams to win. Thomas Friese's MK Cafe would have been top Sydney 40 - and the Germans higher up the rankings - but for a port-and-starboard DSQ in the middle distance race.
As the Dutch celebration in Cowes moved from cork-popping intensity to a slow realisation of the great satisfaction at what had been achieved and the sun burned away what breeze there was at sea, the Royal Ocean Racing Club committee boat at the finish line waited patiently for the last stragglers - Australia's Quest (Nelson/Marek 46, Bob Steel), and the Australian and French Mumm 36s - to finish. Even though final results are still to come, they cannot alter the top six places: Netherlands 124 points, Europe 133, Great Britain 141.5, Germany 147, USA 155.5, Italy 183.